Sunday, June 28, 2009

Congratulations Hal and Anita...

...Nuff said. If you don't know what I'm talking about you probably wouldn't care anyway.

Photo taken by Matt Hart:

Anita ortiz & Hal Koerner receiving their 1st place awards #w... on Twitpic

Friday, June 26, 2009

When Opportunity Knocks...

...Open the door.

I was going to do a really mellow hike/run after work today but when my friend Dan came into my work about an hour before I got off and offered to shuttle his car so we could do a point to point ridge run all it took was one look outside at the high clouds to decide to join him. Turns out I made the right decision:

At the top of the ridge we found a bottle of beer, unopened, that someone had likely left up there while skiing in the winter. We didn't let that opportunity slide either:

When we got back to Dan's car his battery was dead. Luckily someone had left a van parked next to us, with the keys in it... and we had jumper cables. Sweet.

One of these days soon I'm going to rest a bit. Maybe.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Mountain Running Paradise

I've written about it some in the past but not with much detail: Juneau really is the best place I have ever been for running in the mountains. When most people talk about living close to trails they mean they have a couple nice trails a few miles away and then several more that they can drive to in an hour or less. In Juneau there is a nice trail about 5 blocks away from pretty much anywhere you are... and if you drive in any direction for 10 minutes you'll give yourself access to several (if not a dozen) other trails.

I live at sea level (or technically about 20 feet above sea level). 2 blocks from my condo there is a trail that climbs for about 2.5 miles to just over 3,300 feet. About a mile up this trail there is another trail that branches off and traverses along the 1,000 foot elevation for about 16 miles one way with several different access points that create options for loops of any distance between 3 and 30 miles.

I work about 3.5 miles from where I live. Within a few blocks of my work there are 2 different trails that then branch out into several options. You can go fairly long with a more gradual climb (around Juneau anything less than about 750 feet per mile is considered gradual), or you can climb trails that gain more than 1,500 feet per mile. If you hop on your bike and ride for 15 minutes in any of 3 different directions you will have access to about a half dozen other trails.

The real beauty of the trails around here though aren't the established trails themselves but rather the terrain you can access once you climb up onto the ridges that these trails lead to. The options are pretty much unlimited. The only limiting factor tends to be the weather. When the clouds are low it can be pretty miserable (and dangerous) to be up on these ridges. When the weather is good though one can't help but want to climb up to the mountain tops every day.

Today a group of 10 of us assembled under some decent weather to climb up Mt. Juneau (about 3,500 ft.) and follow the ridge back behind it for several miles until eventually dropping down into Granite Creek Basin and looping back around on the most popular trail in town, The Perseverance Trail. Of all the ridge traverses in Juneau this is likely the most travelled one. Partly because it's so close to town and also because it's a fairly mellow route with no scrambling and very little route finding difficulties. All told though it's a 14 mile loop with about 4,500 feet of total climbing and tends to take most strong runners 3-4 hours.

We had 3 high school runners with us today who had never done this route and 7 others ranging between 20 something on up to 70. An unlikely group of companions for sure, but that's the way the running community is here. So many different personalities/ages but when we get together for a run like this we all seem to be so similar for that 3 or 4 hours. It's great. Today's run was great. I just wish I could decide which mountain I'm going to climb up next...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Afternoon's Random Thoughts...

All the climbing during my runs last week left me pretty tired out most of this week. I kept planning to do long runs up on the ridges each day this week but then I would get out of work and feel tired and end up running something much more mellow. After how much I pushed myself last week this was probably a good thing, but I do feel kind of lame for not getting very far up into the mountains at all this week... Hope to do something about that tomorrow morning.

Western States is coming up one week from today. For the first time since my DNF at Miwok I began to feel pretty bummed this week about not being in Western States. I've been enjoying being back here in Juneau, but I must say I would love to be lining up next week in Squaw Valley. I would not be one of the top few favorites to win but it sure would be exciting to test myself against the field that will be there this year. For now that will have to wait I guess.

At any rate though it feels pretty nice to be getting the drive back to compete in big races. After a DNF in the Ultrasport and the Miwok I needed some time away from too much focus on racing, but slowly over the past several weeks I've started to think more and more about wanting to be out there in the mountains testing myself against the trails and against other runners. I'm not decided for certain yet which ultras I'll be racing the rest of this year, but I do know that I will be showing up as determined as ever to push myself as hard as possible.

One other thing that's been brewing in my mind a lot again this past week has been The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The Tour Divide started over a week ago and The Great Divide Race started yesterday. Since dropping out halfway through The Great Divide Race a year ago I've done almost no biking (aside from my 7 mile commute to work each day), but with the nicer weather now I've been riding a bit more and this combined with "following" the riders out on the route has me thinking more seriously about wanting to ride this route again someday. Maybe next year. Maybe a few years down the road. We'll see.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Up Up And Away

Got in one of the most fun weeks of "training" of my life this week. I hesitate to even call it training because it was so much fun. The snow conditions in the mountains here are perfect right now. Good and firm but with just enough give so you can climb up impossibly steep pitches by kicking into the snow and glissade down a few thousand feet in a matter of minutes. I live at sea level and have gotten up over 3,000 feet no less than 5 times in the past 10 days. I might take a day off from the climbing tomorrow but then on Tuesday I'm going to try to do a ridge route above town at pretty near 100% effort. The fastest known time for this route is about 2.5 hours. I did it very comfortably the other day in 3 hours. I think with how nice the snow is right now I might be able to do it around 2 or 2:15. We'll see.

I've also put some time into getting my bike set up to do some bike touring trips the rest of this summer. I haven't really done much biking at all since the Great Divide Race last year but I'm pretty excited to just load up my gear, get on the ferry to some small towns here in Southeast Alaska and explore old logging roads and trails. Places most people outside of Alaska have never heard of: Gustavus, Petersburg, Haines, Sitka, Wrangell, Prince of Wales Island, Yakatat, Hoonah, Tenakee, Angoon. They're all accessible by the state ferry system and I've only ever been to a couple of them. Hope to take at least two or three trips on the ferry with my bike in the next 6 or 8 weeks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No Web

I've not been posting on my blog much lately. The reason being that for the first time in the last 14 years I have no internet access at home. It's been shockingly liberating. I still get online 5 days a week at work to check email, weather forecasts, and look at fun stuff that I want to buy. Beyond that though I haven't spent any time online simply for the sake of killing time like I always have in the past. On top of this I no longer have a phone line at home and my cell phone has pretty marginal reception at home. Also, I have not had television at home in about 5 years.

Thus, for the first time in my adult life I feel like going home is a place of refuge where I get away from most everything else that's going on in the world. I find myself not spending nearly as much time at home as usual because sometimes it's just plain lonely and boring, but I also find that the time I do spend at home seems really revitalizing and refreshing. I listen to lots of music, work on crossword puzzles, and read magazines and books... things that stimulate my mind while allowing my body to rest.

I'll probably break down and get internet again soon but right now it's summer in Alaska, the weather has been amazingly beautiful, the days are filled with seemingly endless sunlight, and I have dozens of exciting things lined up in my head that I want to do the next few months. None of which involve spending time sitting at home staring at a computer screen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crow Pass IV

I hardly ever do races more than once. There are so many great races out there that I like to try new ones. However, next month I'll be running The Crow Pass Crossing for the 4th year in a row. That certainly says something about the appeal of this race. Simply put it's a near perfect course that has a little bit of everything. This year's race is going to be all about pushing what has previously proven to be possible on that course. No one has ever done this race in less than 3 hours (the official course record is 3:05 something). I think the 3 hour barrier is possible and I know I'm not the only one. I think to have a shot at winning the race I will need to go under 3:05. we'll see. It could always be a really sloppy trail and someone could run 3:15 and win. That's the excitement with trail racing. So many variables.

I turned down an offer yesterday to get into Hardrock from the waitlist. This decision was surprisingly easy for me. At this point I feel much more excited about spending most (if not all) of my summer in Alaska and there's just no way I could afford to do Hardrock this year. It's a race that I'm only willing to do when I know I can put 100% effort into it, which would include at least 2 weeks in Colorado to acclimatize before race day. We'll see if this works out better for me next year.

Still undecided about my race plans for the rest of the summer. Thinking about Wasatch or the Bear in September, but maybe another race or two before that too. We'll see. For now I'm just going to focus on being 100% ready to kick some ass on July 18th at Crow Pass. And even more importantly I'm going to focus on enjoying time in the mountains in Southeast Alaska. This is an amazing place to be in the summer and there are so many places to explore that I haven't had a chance to because I'm usually off running around somewhere else in the world in the summer time.