Java is back! After a week on the doggie injury list, Java is back to running with the bike. We had an intense ride on Gilmore Trail picking up race signs on Sunday, and it was the first time she ever ran with a skilled mountain biker. Forrest is about 3Xs as fast as I am even with a backpack of stakes and signs and so Java went full out for 13 miles trying to keep up with him. Prior to that ride, the most miles she ever ran was a 6.2 miles and that was at my jog speed.
No surprise that she was sore and stiff on Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately, she also wore down her paw pads. No bleeding. Thank goodness. So a lot of gentle walking for most of the week. Yesterday, we slogged through a 5 mile rainy run on campus. She seemed fine afterwards. So today we tried an easy trail on the bike.
She was slow. Maybe she was tired though she sure seemed able to sprint after stuff she really wanted. My guess is that she was being gentle on her paws since they bother her worse when she pushes her full power.
Honestly, I was in worse shape. I started weightlifting again after a year off. Though I posted faster race times this year, I haven’t had the strength or the power to train all three disciplines needed for another Ironman. Weightlifting has always been the answer, and I know this. Unfortunately, it leaves me extremely sore and my brain has a hard time accepting that I am benefiting from a half hour session. Even when the proof shows in the stats.
Java will spend one more week on light duty before we head up Gilmore Trail again. This time we will either have someone drop us off at top and ride down (8 miles), or do an out and back that’s about the same distance. I need to get back into winter riding shape, which includes way more hills than I’ve been riding this summer.
Enjoying the last relaxing day until the weekend. Tomorrow I kick into high gear finalizing the last details for the 54th Annual Gold Discovery Run on Sunday. For the most part, I’ve been on top of things. For the most part. I did almost forget to pick up the medals. I haven’t yet seen the new part of the course up by the gold mine. And no matter how prepared I am on race day, I always seem to forget something. Even something as simple as trash bags.
This race is pretty unique in that the first 8 miles are on a trail the drops from the Kinross mine down to a paved neighborhood that continues across the highway to a brewery. The trail part is a multi-use trail and so you have both motorized and non-motorized traffic. No cars, but ATVs like four-wheelers and side-by-sides. And since we only half a day to mark all 16.8 miles, we take both a fourwheeler and side-by-side up the trail.
Originally, just Java and I were going to ride the 13-mile out and back of Gilmore trail on Sunday afternoon to pick up signs, but my friend Forrest volunteered to help. Two years ago he picked them up by himself because I was too tired to go. Last year Felipe and his friend too ATVs out. This will be Java’s first time going that distance. I told her she needed to start carb loading. She wisely chose raspberries growing in our yard.
It’s gonna be a tougher ride for me. I spend less time riding steep hills in the summer than I do in winter. And though I haven’t seen the new trail yet, the old one was already hilly. I anticipate a lot of pushing and some sore muscles Monday morning.
We are mid-May and while you can still find snow in places, most of Fairbanks is drying out. Now is the time when people get real eager to go on wet trails and those of us responsible for trails politely ask them to stop. Java and I are still hanging at Tanana Lakes though walking/reconnaissance trips up to the university have shown us drier trails. They are still soft and easily rutted, so I plan to hold out until June.
No, I didn’t report a lot on winter training. Hard to take pictures in Alaska when it’s nothing but darkness from November to March. The sunshine is out and today I remembered to take a pic of my early morning ride with Java.
It’s hard to see her in the lower left hard corner she is as brown as the dirt! After some time off while she was in heat, followed by my recovery from my race in the White Mountains 100 and a knee injury, we have found 1 fairly dry trail in this town to ride. Java is not used to me stopping for pictures and was really confused by the delay.
It was unusually warm in March, so everyone thought we were going to have a an early spring. But I have lived in this town too long to believe that. The last two weeks have been snowstorm/melt/snowstorm/melt. One day I rode my Fatbike in the morning with Java in two inches of fresh powder and then my MTB on dry pavement later in the afternoon on my commute. The road bike is still on the trainer. I am superstitious about taking it out before May 1st.
A ton of snow still covers the trails, or there is a lot of mud where it has melted. So Java and I are hanging tight at Tanana Lakes. Not that we have a problem with mud. We want to let the ground firm up so we aren’t driving ruts into them. Trails cost $$$ to rehabilitate. It costs nothing to wait.
This is Java’s first spring with us, so this is my first spring riding this area. She arrived in mid-June last year when the trails were already dry and she was too young to ride with a bike. The ground was already starting to freeze when I did take her onto the trails. However, we didn’t really start riding consistently until December. This year I hope to train her to go with me on afternoon rides versus early morning. Difficult because she loves all humans, dogs, and discarded food. I want her to be a well-behaved trail dog, not a heathen.
Sunday is my birthday. Five days later, Java will turn seven months. Normally, we have snow. Not just this fake frosty stuff that melts by 11am. I’ve pulled out the fat bike for our morning rides because I want wide, studded tires when I hit that frost. More so now that I’ve started training Java in the sport of bikejouring.
Until today, she has only been running off-leash at 5am when there is no one else around. But the reality is that she will have moments that she will need to be leashed. Whether it is to cross a busy road, pass a dog mushing team, or allow other trail users to enjoy the day uninterrupted. She is well behaved for a seven month old dog, but she does not know how to keep herself from jumping on people when she greets them. We work on it everyday, and it has gotten better. But not enough for a reliable performance on the trails. Besides there is a borough leash law. Not that everyone follows it. But the ones that don’t TEND to have well-trained dogs. There are lots that don’t. Believe me I would run into them ALL THE TIME in the bird refuge or at the university. I don’t want Java to be THAT DOG. So we continue training and face the fact that she will have to be on the leash while we run and ride from time to time.
P.S. Bikejouring is kinda scary from a human perspective because the dog pulls you really, really fast. I am a bit terrified by how fast and powerful she is at this size. I can only imagine what she will be like when she is older!
August is rainy season in Interior Alaska, which means the trails are filled with lake-sized puddles and some slippery terrain. Java and I are starting bike training in less than ideal conditions. The first bike ride was fine on the wood-chipped Skarland trail despite the freezing rain. The ride below was a little more precarious:
Gilmore trail, a.k.a the Gold Discovery Race route, is rutted and greasy with puddles so deep a Loch Ness monster could live down there. I haven’t been taking her far distance-wise, as we want to build her strength and endurance slowly. But this two miles had some elevations and downhills that she can’t help but barrel down. I held my breath praying that she didn’t slip and injure herself again.
Java, in true fashion, took the path of least resistance (pun always intended). She used her trail skills to find pathways around the puddles or her horizontal leap to jump them; unless she was thirsty, then she was all in.
The sun has been out all weekend, but we’ve also started to have frost in the morning. So my trail selection will probably go back to beginner areas. My friend Andrew got a concussion during a bike crash up at Birch Hill during a Cyclocross Race. Java is getting better at staying out from under the wheel and focusing on the trail instead of nipping at my feet or hands. Still, the last thing I need to do is get tripped up and crash on top of her. In many ways snow would be much easier. Fewer people are on the trails and landing on snow is much more bearable than rocks and roots.