This time of year is a small scsle version of the bipolar craziness that comes with living in Alaska. Daylight is now darkness that gets worse with daylight savings time. We get cold then we get warm. Then we get warmer, then we get freezing rain. That turns to snow then rain and suddenly we have two inches of fluff on the ground.
You saw it in the last vid. I swore it was here. But now its not.
The ground was still frozen, so Java and I headed out to Tanana Lakes for a ride on the island trail. In the winter this trail is buried under snow and only accessible by canoe or paddleboard in summer. There are only a few short weeks in the spring and fall when the ground is hard and dry enough to walk, run, or bike to it.
Today we biked. Here’s Java’s tour of the island trail:
We have gotten 5 or 6 inches of snow since this ride. And it’s staying. Most likely our next video will highlight our new riding spot now that we’ve moved to Ester– Standard Creek.
November 1 is the opening of The White Mountains 100 lottery. Not sure if I’ll sign up. After 3 consecutive years racing the course, and last year’s craziness with the Susitna 100 and it’s 10 inch snowfall, I’m not so motivated. It sounds nice just to ride without a goal though goals frequently make me ride more.
Run the course of the Musk Ox Trail Run without actually racing. This course is hilly, slightly technical, and easy to get lost on if you aren’t paying attention. Plus the race insurance doesn’t allow dogs, and…
I needed to take Java somewhere for the afternoon so the guys could move the beds and couch to the new house.
The easiest way to accomplish all this was to pick up pin flags after the race was over. And what should have been a straightforward training run had some adventurous moments thrown in there.
First, was the iffy trail conditions. It had rained heavily the day before and so I expected the trail to be sloppy. On my own this wouldn’t be a problem; however, Java is a powerful 16 month old dog that we affectionately call “the huskador” because she likes to pull on her leash. And though she used to be so much worse, it is something she does when we run to get me to go faster, and not give up when I face something challenging like a really big hill. Unfortunately, when we are facing a really steep downhill with wet roots and mud, things can get dangerous. Only once did I lose footing on a root during the very steepest part of this race. And when Java heard me come to a halt in a crouched position she completely stopped. That didn’t stop her from trying to pull me, especially in the last two miles when I was completely tired.
Second, we had to deal with an aggressive dog with an owner that couldn’t control him, nor gave a real inclination that I should worry. Let me breakdown the conversation:
Her: Is your dog friendly?
Me: Yeah. She’s just a puppy.
Her: Well, my dog has the tendency to bring out the worse in other dogs.
Me: My dog just likes to play.
Her: Yeah. She won’t want to play after meeting my dog.
I barely think What? when her dog lunges at us, drags his owner across the trail to attack Java. Java yelps and I fall down the hill behind me as Java is trying to escape this dog. I have no idea if the owner even has a hold of the leash anymore and am fully ready to be bitten.
Eventually, we get out of reach of this crazy dog and the owner, who is sitting on the ground pulling her dog back to the trail. Java is sitting at my heels no blood and no sign of anxiety at this point. She is quiet and stoic as this lady apologizes. She then asks her dog why he is such a jerk. I don’t know how I managed to stay calm when I really wanted to ream her for not admonishing her dog’s behavior more.
She then told me that she was just going to sit there until we climbed out of the thorny brush ahead of her. I looked at all the stumps we had to climb over and told her that was not possible. We waited until she got up and got a down the trail. We climbed out and saw this dog trying to pull his owner back towards us.
From here on out Java is leery of every dog we meet on the trail. She does eventually warm up to another chocolate lab that we meet about a mile after the attack. I warn the owner about this crazy dog. He decides to go to the Secret Trail. Java and I make it to the turnaround point and begin to collect pin flags. We drop piles in several roadside areas and pick them up later.
If I were racing, I would probably finished the Musk Ox Trail Run in 2:45:00 or just a bit more. But picking up pin flags requires a lot of pausing, and we stopped a bit because of the dog attack and to let her play with the other Labrador. It was 3:39:00 before we made it back to the Musk Ox Farm where I finally got a photo of said beautiful animal. I thought Java might bark at it, but she was too preoccupied with food to care.
For the next couple of days I struggled to walk without grimacing. Java was running around the new house by 6pm that night. Oh to be young again…
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.
This is advice I didn’t take with my human child. As an unusually energetic 19-year-old, I thought I don’t need to sleep when Ivan naps. At 43, this is a whole different story. I napped regularly before Java. I nap more so now.
I have reduced my regular triathlon training to spend time with Java. This was the plan going into this whole puppy parenthood gig. I knew that having an obedient dog required a lot of consistent work. And with my schedule being unpredictable and often full, I knew I was going to have to say no to a lot of things until we got her trained.
Training a dog is mentally hard. So when she sleeps I sleep.
Other than that she seems to be happy living here. We try to keep her busy and introduce her to new experiences. Of course, we live in Fairbanks, Alaska so the experiences are seasonal and there are limited places to explore nearby. But fall and then winter will be here soon and she will get to learn about snow!