Thursday, August 29, 2019

Summer, summer, summertime


How can the summer be over when it just started?! Chip started school yesterday, (his senior year!), and Will left for Ann Arbor this morning. The time just goes way too fast — the days are getting shorter and the temps are starting to cool... ah well, get cooler, anyway. It’s still hot. 

I’ve been getting in some short road rides and a few trail rides here and there but nothing too heavy. Since Alaska it’s been a lazy summer for me — a few weekends in Vermont, a trip to Montreal, and an occasional ride or run. (My running really took a hit in July).. Soon the weather will change and I’ll be back at it. I have a few 5Ks and a road ride (the King Challenge) on the calendar, so I need to get ready for that. I’m starting to see some of my former athletes returning to Zwift, and should take their lead and get back at it before they notice I’ve been slacking. Even my nutrition took a dive these last eight weeks. Time to rein it in. The dog days of summer are (almost) over.





Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The friends who make your world

Best of friends
Jennifer, Cate, Amy, Lila, Kristen, Alison, me, Lisa
July was a whirlwind of activity — the beginning of summer often is — so I took my time posting about Alaska. I’m still playing catch-up.

Immediately after returning to Boston, we had family staying with us from Norway, I spent a weekend in Vermont, and then got busy with summer activities. I fell out of a running routine, but more on that later.

First things first — I want to jump back to the day I landed in Boston after 16 hours of traveling from Alaska. (Anchorage to Seattle to Detroit, (on a red eye), and eventually to Boston.

The end of my Alaska trip was emotionally draining relative to Julia and the unsettled feeling she left me with. I was angry, disappointed, and sad, but had no regrets about ending our friendship. Still, I was exhausted from all of it.

I left Anchorage on a Monday morning, with several stops ahead in my itinerary, (aka the cheapest flights). I didn’t get much sleep, but there were no delays and the flights were easy.

When I landed in Boston early on a Tuesday, with plans to take the train and bus from Logan to Swampscott, I was shocked when I found Amy waiting for me in baggage claim, with Jennifer waiting in the car, curbside, with coffee! Oh my god, I cried. I couldn’t help it. I cried. I was just so shocked to see them.

(They had texted Will for my flight info and even asked him how I take my coffee. Ohmigosh, I’m still in disbelief.)

After all of the duplicity that transpired with Julia during race weekend, TRUE FRIENDS came through and picked me up, literally and figuratively. I’m so humbly grateful to both of them. They are the best, and I’m so damn lucky to have genuine friends in my life — Amy, Jennifer,  Lila, Alison, Cate, Kristen, and Lisa. (Ingrid, too.) Damn lucky.

“Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.” (William James)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Alaskaman DNF Meltdown


As I wrap up my posts from Alaska, I find I need to address what initially brought me there -- the Alaskaman XTri. It’s hard to write a race wrap-up to a race I didn’t compete in, but the 4 days I spent with Julia during Alaskaman are ones I’ll soon move on from. In short, they were regrettable. I’d trained for this event to support a friend I’d known for several years who, as it turns out, I didn’t really know at all. Very unfortunate. I could go into details of how things unfolded during those four days but I don’t want to put any more thought into it. Airing dirty laundry is not what I do, nor is it worthy of my energy. Instead, I’ll remember the AMAZING solo adventures I had exploring Alaska and leave it at that.

Take the high road. The view is better.

Alaska is forever in my heart.


Portage and Whittier


Portage Glacier
I wish I had more time to explore Portage and Whittier, but it was late in the day by the time I arrived at Portage. I caught site of the glacier in the distance and was disappointed to miss my opportunity to both hike to the glacier and bike in Girdwood by staying an extra day in Seward, but I'll just have to visit again one day. I underestimated the hugeness of Alaska and really needed another week to fit in everything I'd hoped to do.

After securing my site at Black Bear, I drove towards Whittier and through the tunnel — which is a crazy experience in itself. The tunnel is timed for one way traffic and costs $14 to travel the northbound direction to Whittier. I paid for the 7:00 pm entrance and waited for the gates to open allowing northbound traffic. In addition to car traffic, the narrow tunnel serves the Alaska Railroad, and driving on the train tracks was pretty sketchy. Sketch-y.

Whittier was quite chilly, enveloped in fog, and reminded me of Seward. I walked around the docks, watched some of the boats returning to shore, and found a small place to have dinner. I texted home, (finally having spotty 1X cell service), and reflected on the adventures of the day — leaving Seward early in the morning, hiking Exit Glacier, driving the Seward Highway with scenic stops along the way, nearly running out of gas... and finding a campsite at Black Bear campground after seeing a real black bear earlier in the day... it was a pretty eventful day.

The Alaska Railroad
Train gets priority passage through the Whittier Tunnel
Waterfall in Whittier

Whittier
Parked outside the Wild Catch Cafe

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Miller’s Landing

The sun and haze from the Swan Lake Fire over Resurrection Bay


Greetings from Girdwood

The Brooks saddle nails it

Salmonfest! This would have been fun to catch

Solo Adventuring Winds Down




Awwwww it was sad to see the solo part of my Alaska adventures come to an end. I had the best time exploring the peninsula, although sometimes pack living got a little old. I only managed two showers during the week, (#wildhairdontcare), and I lost my toothbrush somewhere and ended up brushing my teeth with toothpaste on a gauze pad. Overall, however, its been pretty cool. I only wished I had company! I think Mike and the boys would have enjoyed it.

A brief wrap up -- I loved the Jeep camper! After my near-disaster in Homer when I temporarily lost the pop-up crank, I was diligent about keeping track of its whereabouts. Setting up and breaking down camp was easy — less than a half an hour — and I liked the freedom the Jeep gave me. I’d definitely do that again.

I overpacked for the trip, but that was due my planned participation in Alaskaman. I had biking and running and hiking gear with me — extra stuff that I ended up not needing. That was unfortunate. I sent home a few things when I got to Moose Pass to lighten my pack, including some warm weather clothes eince I'd been cold in Seward and Homer. In retrospect, that turned out to be a mistake as a few days later a heat wave hit Anchorage.

I also sent home some of my running gear after Julia ditched me on the run. (Yes, it's true, she ditched me.) I knew she was looking for a runner through March, April, and May... but the odds of her finding a support runner on June 19th, a week before the race, were pretty long and I was all set for the run. So I was quite stunned when she dumped me via text message in Alaska while I was on my way to the Kenai.

“You’re off the hook for the run.” That’s. It. No phone call. No thank you for the commitment I'd made or the time I'd invested in training over the last three months... nothing. If I were paying attention, it was my first red flag to the insanity that would come later, but at that moment I didn’t have a clue.

Anyway, back to the Jeep and pack living...

I didn’t use the equipment Ron provided with the Jeep rental, except for the bear spray, (which I carried but didn’t need), and both sleeping bags, which I used as blankets. I slept in a Friendly Swede liner on a Klymit sleeping pad, and used the sleeping bag as a blanket. A few nights I needed both bags. I didn’t cook any meals and instead grabbed breakfast on the road and ate lunch/dinner in small restaurants because I didn’t want to keep food in the Jeep. (because of, ahem, bears).

Surprising things that came in handy: a microfiber pack towel, sleeping bag liner, uniqlo down jacket, and a sleeping mask.

Things I could have left behind (other than the race-related gear): journal, nutrition bars, headlamp, half of the first aid kit.

Race related gear I didn't need: microspikes (2 pairs), running shoes, trail running shoes, running clothes, compression shorts, a compass, Ultimate Direction hydration vest, Black Diamond folding trekking poles, and a fully stocked first aid kit.

I'll have a lighter pack the next time.

Some of the gear

Potter’s Marsh and Beluga Point


At Beluga Point
Beluga Point
Low tide on Turnagain Bay
An eagle soars over Potter's Marsh
Mama moose and two calves

Friday, August 2, 2019

Mountains, Lupine, and More






Minor glitches, no disasters


Running on Empty
After leaving Exit Glacier, I hit the road towards Girdwood, stopping a few times along the way. I had a half tank of gas when I left Seward in the morning, not thinking much about it. It wasn’t until the warning light popped on somewhere south of Portage that I began to wonder where the next gas station might be. I also had no cell service to figure it out (or call AAA if I got stuck). Eventually I arrived at the Alaskan Railroad’s Spencer Whistle Stop near Portage, and was able to ask where the next gas station might be — which I discovered was another 20 miles down the road and the only station for the 85 mile stretch between Girdwood and Seward. I feel like I should have known that. I wasn’t confident I’d make it 20 miles, but I made it. Phew! That was a close call.

Another Kind Rescue
My final night camping was at Black Bear Campground near Portage Glacier. What a great little find! It’s a tiny spot, not far from the popular (and larger) Williwaw campground. I found an open site (there were only a few) and returned to the kiosk to pay — the fee was $14.

I had a choice. I could overpay with a $20 bill or pay with twelve $1 bills and 8 quarters. I chose the later. Lol. The envelope was so thick it got jammed in the kiosk slot and wouldn’t budge! OMG. I couldn’t get it in or out! An RV pulled in, the driver got out, looked at my envelope stuck in the kiosk and said, “I guess it’s free then if I can’t pay.” and left! (WTF?) Meanwhile, another camper, (an older retiree who reminded me of the gentleman in Homer), saw me struggling to get it unstuck and offered to help. He walked to his camper and brought back some needle-nose pliers, gave it some muscle and got it free! Phew! I don’t know if the other guy ever paid, but an hour later all the sites were full.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Exit Glacier Hike

Black bear spotted near Exit Glacier!
(Yes, I had a telephoto lens)
Hiking day! My calf was starting to feel a little better after a few days rest, so on Tuesday I decided to hike to Marmot Meadows at Exit Glacier. Ohmigosh I’m so glad I didn’t skip this hike! The minute I could see the glacier in the distance, I felt my adrenaline spike and I couldn’t wait to start hiking. Wow. Just, wow.

First glimpse of Exit Glacier
It was still fairly early in the morning when I arrived at Exit Glacier National Park, with only a few dozen cars in the parking lot. It wasn’t a difficult hike to start, but as it started to take on some elevation, I noticed another woman about 50 yards ahead of me stop and take a photo and move on. When I reached the same spot, there was a gorgeous view of the glacial fields below and I, too, stopped and took a photo. That scenario played out again... she stopped for a photo and then I stopped for a photo... until I caught up to her on the third photo op and we both laughed. Her name was Annie and we hiked and took photos together for the remainder of the trek to Marmot Meadows.

On our way back down the trail, we were thrilled to see a black bear in the distance! So, so cool. It wasn’t a threat to either of us but a reminder that we were in bear country — and I was glad I wasn’t alone.

When I returned back to base, I stopped at the visitor’s center for water, checked out the exhibits that included historical photos of the glacier, (which sadly is rapidly receding), and made a donation towards the park’s conservation efforts. No doubt the next time I visit, if that opportunity ever comes, it will be a much different place. So sad.







Exit Glacier

Friday, July 26, 2019

Seward, Day 2

Resurrection Bay
I spent a second day in Seward for some much needed downtime. I visited the Alaska Sealife Center, browsed through all of the little shops on Fourth Avenue, and spent some time in Sea Bean Cafe where they had WiFi and good chai. I brought my book (a paperback I’d picked up at a used bookstore in Anchorage) down to the waterfront and relaxed and read for a while, sometimes distracted by the sea otters and eagles on Resurrection Bay. Late in the day I drove down to Miller’s Landng and explored a little there before returning to my perfect little campsite by the bay. It wasn’t an adventurous day, but I needed the break.









Early morning fog