Monday, October 13, 2014

Autumn

Wow, I forgot how much I miss Fall here in Alaska. It's windy, it's wet, it's getting darker by the day, and there are many reasons to feel like this is the worst time of year to be in Juneau, but for some reason it's also striking me as a really amazing time right now. I guess it's because I have been getting out in the mountains almost every chance I get. Winter is most certainly right around the corner, but right now I just keep noticing how precious each and every day of this autumn has been. This week it's supposed to be nice and sunny almost every day. I wish I had the endurance/energy to go out for long hours each day, but I still look very forward to juggling things around and finding the best times for my body and my daily routine to sustainably be able to spend several hours out and about.

Also, if you missed the news, I am doing a winter session of my running camps this coming February. Super stoked about this. It's going to be really fun. All the info is here:  http://www.akultracamp.blogspot.com/p/winter-session.html

Another thing: here is a link to a lengthy interview I did a couple weeks ago which touches on my journey through illness for the past 26+ months: http://trailrunnernation.com/2014/10/geoff-roes-working-my-way-back/

And lastly, here are my favorite photos from my last few weeks of playing in the mountains:








Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Catching Up

Wow, it's been 6 months since I last posted anything here. I suppose as I've been less and less into racing the past couple years I've become less and less into documenting my running in general. This isn't to say that I haven't been running. I had a very vibrant spring and summer of running. We did 3 more very successful sessions of Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp this summer, and I just returned from a 2 week trip in which I attended 3 races: Wasatch 100 (as a pacer); UROC 100k (as an aid station volunteer); and The Rut 50k (as an organizational volunteer). I was also able to squeeze in some long exploratory runs in the mountains here in Juneau this summer, although maybe not quite as many as I would have liked if it had been a better summer of weather and/or I was feeling healthier. My health has continued to improve ever so gradually over this time, but it is still most definitely a limiting factor in how often and for how long I can get out and push myself in the mountains.

I am also in the midst of settling back into living full time here in Alaska. With Corle finishing her studies in Colorado in May we are now back here in Juneau year round. As summer is quickly fading into autumn here it's been weird to experience this place at a time of year that I haven't in 5 years. Each day when I'm out and about I see, hear, or smell things which remind me of being here in autumn, and it's strange and fascinating to notice how long faded in my mind these memories seem to be. I'm excited to see what memories, and new experiences unfold with being back here full time over the next several months.

At any rate, this is also the time of year that we start making plans for the following season of running camp. We have just finalized the dates for 2015, and all the info for that can be found on the camp website.  We will be doing three sessions next summer: June 21-27; August 1-7; and August 10-16. If the early response is any indication I suspect we might fill up a bit quicker this year than the previous few years so be sure to jump on that as soon as possible if you are wanting to have choice of any session. I'm sure we will have space available in one or more sessions past the first of the year (as we typically do), but I wouldn't be surprised at all if the first session to fill does so before the end of the year.

I'll close with several pictures from my past 6 months of exploring the mountains and living life. More to follow soon:







































Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12, 2014

Last Thursday I sat down to write a letter to my friend, Glenn Frick. I knew this would be one of the most difficult letters I would ever write. Glenn was in a hospital in Seattle fighting lung cancer, and the doctors had recently declared that his condition was terminal, and all they could do was keep him as comfortable as possible in his remaining days. No matter how much I wanted to remain hopeful, I knew that the reality was that I was writing him to say goodbye. I've never been very comfortable with goodbyes, so this ultimate goodbye was certain to be anything but easy to write.

I have written about Glenn, and the impact that Glenn has had on me, at least a couple times in the past: Here and Here. Glenn is without question one of the kindest, wisest, strongest, happiest, most generous, and most inspirational people I have ever known. If I've ever had a hero in running, or in life in general it has been Glenn. Certainly Glenn is the closest thing I have ever had to a running mentor. I have learned more about the complex and yet so simple activity that is running from Glenn than from everyone else combined.

As I finished the letter and walked it to the mailbox I had a very ominous feeling that Glenn would never read it. I last talked to Glenn less than two weeks prior, and although he didn't have any definite diagnosis at that time, he sounded vulnerable, weak, and scared. This was a side of Glenn that I had never seen. Glenn has more intuition about his body than anyone I know. I couldn't stop thinking about how serious this must be if Glenn was feeling that it was serious. I've learned to always trust Glenn's intuition, and now I was wanting so badly for him to be wrong.

As usual, Glenn's intuition was correct. He passed away Friday morning after 5 days in the hospital.

Later that morning I walked down to the mailbox to retrieve the goodbye letter that Glenn will never read. The letter had turned out to be surprisingly easy to write. It seemed strangely simple to say goodbye to him, and I didn't feel much of a sense of regret that I wasn't able to communicate these words to him before he moved on. I wondered if I was just so sad and shocked by all of this that I was in denial, and was closing off my emotions as a defense mechanism? I'm sure this was the case to some degree, but I also could tell that there was something else going on.

As I walked back from the mailbox with the letter in hand, tears running down my face, and the sun warming my bare neck and arms, I realized then the other reason why the letter had been easier to write that I would have expected, and why I didn't feel a strong sense of regret at not getting the letter to Glenn before he died. The reason was that with Glenn I had already told him everything. Glenn was one of those people that you couldn't help but admire. To know him is to be inspired by him. There was never anything subtle about Glenn's admirable qualities. So much so that I had, on numerous occasions, expressed my admiration, respect, appreciation, and love for him. The letter was just a reiteration of all of that. It would have been nice to say it all to him one last time, but in the end it didn't really matter. Glenn was such a one in a million person that I had already expressed some form of everything in the letter, not because he was sick and dying, but because with Glenn I couldn't help but express how great I thought he was long before he was sick. I later found out that he had even made the joke that my article from this past fall (that I linked above) sounded like an obituary. Glenn always had a great sense of humor, and as I already touched on, an other worldly sense of intuition - even when making sarcastic jokes.

Here is what the letter I wrote last week said. Outside of a few specifics, not really anything I hadn't already expressed to Glenn in the past:
   
 Glenn, I've been thinking about you a lot these last couple weeks. I'm sorry for the pain and discomfort you are feeling. I just wanted to say thank you, though. Thank you for all your kindness, joy, and wisdom. I have learned more about how to live a happy, healthy, and satisfying life from you than you'll ever know. Juneau has become a very special place for me, and a large part of this has to do with you. You have taught me to appreciate and fully understand the things that are positive in that place. I keep thinking about how much I wish I could still go into those mountains with you, but then I get so much joy in remembering everything we have shared on those mountain ridges. Taku back to town was the last run we did together, and was one of the best days of running ever for me (even if I had a hard time keeping up with you). I've heard you often say that you have no regrets. I certainly have no regrets about all the amazing times we have  shared in those mountains. I plan to take you with me in my heart and my mind every time I venture out there. I love you friend. 
   
Of course the fact that I told Glenn exactly how I felt about him while he was alive, and before he was sick, doesn't make his death any easier to come to terms with, only a little easier to not feel regret at not being able to say goodbye to him. I can't stop thinking about how vital, healthy, and strong he was just a few months ago. The last run I did with Glenn was this past August. We rode 3 hours in a boat, got dropped off several miles up Taku Inlet, and ran a series of mountain peaks all the way back to town. In all it was a 12 hour 'run' with about 10,000-12,000 feet of vertical gain in 20-25 miles. I was lucky enough to do dozens (or hundreds) of these types of runs with Glenn in the past 6 years. I could write pages and pages of stories about the amazing runs we've done together, and the amazing things he's done on each and every one.

One thing I do find myself taking comfort in is knowing how full of a 75 years this man lived. He seemingly only ever knew a month or two of physical weakness in his entire life. A few weeks ago he took what I'm pretty sure was his first pain medication of his life. I don't think he had ever even taken an aspirin or ibuprofen until last month! I honestly thought Glenn might out live me even though he was born nearly 40 years before me. I believed we would be running mountain ridges together when he was 85 or 90 years old. It feels horrible right now to know that I'm never going to get to do any of this with Glenn, but I do find great comfort in the knowledge that he lived well over 100 years worth of life in his 75 years, and that we spent several hundred hours together running mountain ridges in the 6 or so years that we knew each other.

Glenn's influence and impact on the Juneau community, and especially the running community is beyond measure. He inspired, encouraged, and taught so many people to be better runners and better people. Even though he is gone there remains a community of hundreds of people who are each several times better people and better runners for having shared time with Glenn. As a collective group we are a hundred times stronger, closer, and better off because of Glenn's influence. Glenn was the heart and soul of the Juneau running community for the past 50 years, and he helped make this community so vibrant and strong that even in his absence we remain immeasurably better off than we ever could have been without him. Steve Davis, a longtime member of this amazing running community summed it up perfectly last Friday upon hearing of Glenn's passing:

"Our old friend and running buddy, Glenn Frick, has once more gone ahead of us to check out the trail that lies before us all. But do not worry, as always he'll wait for us, we'll round that bend and there he'll be, baggy running shorts, torn and tattered tyvek jacket, well worn running shoes. We'll see his lithe and sturdy frame, peer into his pale blue eyes, he'll begin to tell us a story that is more like a riddle. As we follow him we'll once more marvel at his sure and agile stride as he leads us home".

My memories of Glenn would be incomplete without mention of how much he did the past few years to help turn my running camp into what it has become. It turns out that Glenn had a plan to start a very similar camp in Juneau many years ago. I'm very proud of what my camps have become, but I'm very aware that the time, energy, and effort that Glenn has volunteered has been a huge reason for the success of these camps. The simple joy, humor, knowledge, and grace which he shared with every participant he interacted with was without question one of the most valuable aspects of attending camp. I'm going to try my best (with the help of so many other great Juneau runners) to use what I learned from Glenn to offer as close as possible to the same great experience to future campers, but anyone who has attended camp in the past knows that the experience for future campers just won't be quite as rich and valuable without Glenn there to lead us up into the mountains.

Perhaps the thing that I will miss the most is the way Glenn brought people together, made people feel good about themselves, and made people appreciate everyone and everything around them. He knew when to treat people with tenderness and when to treat them with firmness. It seemed like no matter the situation, Glenn had a way of making everyone around him enjoy that moment in their life more than they otherwise would have. That is such a special gift. A talent that Glenn possessed more than anyone I have ever known.

Thanks for everything Glenn. I will never run into the mountains without thinking of you.




Friday, February 21, 2014

Special Guest

I've already posted this on Facebook and on our running camp website, but I wanted to throw a quick post up here announcing that Krissy Moehl will be joining the June session of Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp this summer. She will be joining as a 'guest runner', which will mean that she will be attending this session as another highly experienced and qualified resource that anyone participating in this session will be certain to benefit from. Krissy has vast experience as a racer, coach, and adventurer that will be a huge asset at this session. I'm looking forward to learning from her myself as a result of spending an entire week hanging out with her and running long runs each day with her. Not many spaces left in this June session though, so if you want to be a part of the "Krissy session" be sure to sign up as soon as possible.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Another Big Step Forward

I Headed out to Moab this past weekend and finished my first trail race (excluding races on snow) in about 27 months! If you haven't run the Moab Red Hot before I highly recommend checking it out next year. One of the best events I've ever been a part of for sure. If you don't want to wait until next year to run a great trail race in Moab be sure to check out the other upcoming races from the folks who put on this race: GrassRoots Events . I've explored the trails around Moab quite a bit over the years, and I can only imagine that their other races are also top notch in terms of organization, scenery, and overall experience.

Anyway, the race went more or less as planned for me. I had no intention of going there and trying to push myself at too high of a level. I'm still a long ways from feeling fully recovered from whatever has been ailing me for these last 18 months, and the last thing I wanted to do was to suffer any significant set backs from pushing myself too hard.

I started out really mellow and was planning to run the first 10 miles really mellow and then maybe push myself a bit if I was feeling well. A few miles in though, I realized that there was pretty much no way I was going to feel that great after 10 miles. After 4 miles I was already feeling like I had run quite a long way, and I realized that there was just no way that I was going to feel good in the second half of a 20 mile race (no matter how slow I ran) when my average week of running for the last several months has been less than 20 miles. At this point I decided that I would push myself hard for several miles in the middle part of the race and then just find a way to get myself to the finish. At least this way I would have the satisfaction of pushing a decent bit for part of the race, because it was very obvious that no matter how slow I ran early on I wasn't going to have much left in the tank to push hard late in the race.

Just after the first aid station the 'short course' (I was running the 33k, not the 55k) begins what is by far the most enjoyable and challenging part of the course. This was the perfect time to push a little harder for awhile. I wasn't at all focused on the competition, but I do know that I began passing a lot of people in this stretch.

Eventually I found my way to a group of folks that I didn't really pull away from as I passed them and ended up running the rest of the race at a more mellow effort, staying more or less in that same position. By the time I got to the last few miles I was moving pretty slow, but was still feeling pretty decent. I just didn't really have it in my legs to go any faster, but I was pretty happy with the pace I was moving. In the end I finished at least 15 minutes faster than I would have expected for the effort I put in. This combined with feeling pretty good after the race definitely has me even more excited about my potential return to 'normal' health than I have been at any point in a long time.

It felt really nice to get out on the trails in this capacity again, but one of my takeaways from this race is that I'm not going to continue to run races to get back in shape. I do want to race again. I might even race again by this coming summer, but racing when I'm as out of shape as I am right now is just kind of silly (especially considering that racing too much is likely what got me into this health mess in the first place). If my health continues to improve I want to spend the next several months trying to get myself back into legitimate shape such that the next time I line up for a race I have the possibility of pushing myself hard for the entire distance. It's hard to say when this will be, but certainly I do have an event or two in mind later in the year that I would like to take a stab at if my body cooperates. Time will tell.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Time Flies...

... When you're busy and having fun.

This last couple weeks has been a full on whirlwind for me. Sometimes this can be exhausting, but in this case it's been really energizing and uplifting.

Since I last posted here I have launched a small business, begun running most everyday again, gone on a wonderful little 3 day camping trip with my family, and run my first legitimate race in nearly two years!

If you missed it on my Facebook, I have started a very small scale coffee roasting business out of my garage. I have been roasting my own coffee for about 4 years and decided to turn it in to a little side business.

The story of how this came to be is actually quite funny: We are moving back to Juneau to live year round this coming June. For several months now I thought that I might like to start a small coffee roasting business once we are living there again. I would get people to subscribe to a certain amount of beans per week, roast it up fresh, and deliver it to them by bicycle. Juneau seemed like the perfect place to do this. I know hundreds of people in town who would help with word of mouth advertising, and the type of community there is in Juneau is without question the type that would make a point to support something like this. The city is also so crammed into a small space that you could deliver just as quickly and efficiently on bike as you could in a car. Perfect idea. Except for the reality that another guy I know in town recently bought a small roasting company (who was already doing a fairly similar thing), and has plans to do exactly the same thing, even down to the bike delivery. He knows most of the same people in town, and has plans to roast and distribute beans to as many Juneauites as he can. I'm stoked for him. He's an awesome guy, and I'm quite certain his business will succeed. I tried a bit of his first batch of coffee last month, and it was tasty for sure. And that was pretty much the end of my business.

I got thinking though, why not do the same type of thing here in Boulder. Obviously the market is a lot more flooded with dozens (if not hundreds) of other local roasters, but there is also a much larger population here. And thus I decided to just go for it and launched Sugarloaf Coffee less than two weeks ago now. Business has been decent so far. I've sold about 25 pounds of coffee already, which is about as much as I would ever want to sell per two weeks. This said, it would be great to pick up some more local consistent customers (as many of my customers so far have been one time customers not from this area), so if you are in the Boulder area and are interested in this kind of thing be sure to check it out. I've had nothing but positive reviews so far.

Due to the the interest in my coffee from people outside of the Boulder area I also started selling my beans through the mail. Corle and I have talked for a couple years now about starting a "camp store" as part of our Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp. Last week I decided to combine the two. I decided to offer mail order coffee as the flagship product to the new camp store, under the label: Juneau Mountain Coffee. The coolest thing about it (besides really good, really fresh coffee), is that we have decided that we are going to use a large portion of the proceeds from all camp store items to help fund the camp scholarship fund for upcoming years. $4 from each pound of coffee sold will go towards the scholarship fund.

Speaking of running camp, we also awarded the scholarships for this coming season a couple weeks ago. We are super excited about the applicants we had, and wish we could have given all of them a scholarship. If you are interested in attending camp this summer there are still spaces remaining for all 3 sessions. If you are interested in attending on a need based scholarship you would need to apply at the end of this year for 2015, as the scholarship period is over for this year. The scholarship program has been a huge success though, and we intend to do it as long as we continue to do the camps (which we also intend to do for at least a few more years).

One more quick camp related bit: JB and Jen Benna of JourneyFilm (makers of "Unbreakable", among other films) have generously offered to donate 50% of all proceeds on the JourneyFilm Store to my camp scholarship fund for one month (January 15 - February 15th)! Click here to check that out. They've got a lot of great stuff. I know you've all always wanted a shirt with me on it.

Oh, and now a bit about my running. I've been running more consistently the past couple weeks than I have in a long time. I've been feeling pretty good, and I find myself wanting to get out most everyday for the first time in a very long time. I'm being careful to not jump back in to it way too soon, but I did just run a 30k snowshoe race yesterday! OK, so maybe I'm not doing a very good job of not jumping in to soon. Be sure to check out my iRunFar column this coming Wednesday which will have a lot more details about how that race went for me.

And lastly, Corle, Elle, and I went on a lovely little camping trip last weekend. It was so nice to spend 3 straight days outside with the two of them. It was a really nice weekend, but was getting down below 20 degrees each night. Elle is so amazing now at dealing with such cold weather. She didn't complain about the cold once. I feel so lucky to have a 7 year old who will go camping in conditions that most adults would consider too cold. Hoping to go again this coming weekend. Maybe Utah. Here are a few photos from that trip to end with:






Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy New Year

Gosh, it's been a month again now since I last posted. Not sure how I used to post here a dozen or more times a month. I guess when I was running every day; a hundred or more miles a week; 4,000 or so a year, running related blogging was a little more relevant and appealing to me.

At any rate, my New Year,s resolution is to write on my blog more. Actually, I just made that up, and if I did believe in making New Year's resolutions that would probably not be it. I do want to try to keep this website updated a bit more regularly though. Although I've been running a lot less in the past year than any other year in quite some time, I do still enjoy being involved in the running community, and am still living (at least partially) a running related lifestyle. If you didn't see it yet you might want to check out my recent article on IrunFar that talks more about all of this.

The reality is though, that running is not nearly as much a part of my day to day life as it was a few years ago. For a lot of the past 18 months I have had a hard time accepting and adapting to this reality, but just now, over the past few months, I've started to notice a more distinct shift in which I've begun to see these changes as an opportunity to have a little more balance in  my life that running as much as I did (as well as thinking about running and writing about running as much as I did) from 2007-2012 didn't really allow for. I don't at all regret how much running consumed my life in those years, and I very consciously choose for it to be that way at the time. Now though, I've come to a point of really appreciating a little break from having nearly everything all the time be about running. Sure, I miss it all sometimes, but not as much as I thought I did a year ago at this time. It's been really nice to start to move forward with a life and a lifestyle that doesn't revolve so much around running. I still go out for runs when I feel like it, and as my health continues to improve I will continue to do so even more regularly. Maybe I'll even start to run everyday again at some point, and try to get myself into shape to race at some point, but I've certainly given up on feeling like this is something that I'm losing out on if it doesn't happen. If it happens it will be because I choose to make it happen, and if it doesn't happen it will be because I choose something else. In this sense I feel like I have more flexibility with my running and my relationship with running than I have had in nearly a decade, and that feels good.

The only things I really know for sure are that I want to continue getting out in the mountains on foot on a fairly regular basis and that I want to continue to host my running camps for the foreseeable future. Beyond this I know that I don't need anything more from running right now. This said, I do plan to, and am excited about keeping my life loosely tied to this sport and this community. I love writing about running, and plan to continue to do so both here and on IrunFar. I really enjoy being around races, even if I'm not running. Regardless of where my health takes me, and whether I'm racing myself anytime soon, I intend to check out races every now and then. I'm really hoping to make it to Hardrock this year, and am planning to be at UROC again for sure. Hell, I'm even registered to run a 30k snowshoe race in a few weeks. Not sure yet if I'll actually do it, but the good thing about where I'm at right now is that it doesn't really matter. My day to day contentedness simply doesn't have as much to do with running as it once did. It's taken me the better part of a year to see that this isn't automatically a bad thing, but now that I see this, it feels really good to notice all the other things in my present life and in my future that do bring me contentedness. For the first time in several years I don't really know what my day to day life will look like a year from now, and for this I am really excited. I have some ideas of things that I want to do in the next few years, but this is made up of so many seemingly unrelated random things that I won't even attempt to guess right now which ones will take hold and which ones won't. Time will tell.

So yes, this will remaining primarily a running related blog, but if I actually do manage to post here more regularly don't be surprised if you find me writing as much about other random topics/activities as I do about running.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Never a Dull Moment in San Francisco

Just returned from a great trip out to San Francisco this past weekend to check out the always exciting North Face Endurance Challenge. This year's race might have been as exciting as ever, and every time I go to San Francisco I come away with the feeling that even though I'm not a city person (by any stretch of the imagination), I really like that city. It seems to have a flow and an energy that just really works well for me. I doubt I'll ever in my life live in a large city, but if I do I kind of hope that it's San Francisco.

If you missed the link on my social media pages here's a short but sweet little video of Mike Wolfe, Chris Vargo, and Rob Krar running the singletrack into Muir Beach at about mile 38 of the race on Saturday:

 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152161092430695&set=vb.539560694&type=2&theater

I jumped in at that point and ran about a mile with them. It seemed like they were running pretty relaxed at the time (as they must have been for me to stay with them for a mile), but you could just sense that they were entirely dialed in and getting ready for the battle ahead. No one spoke a word, but I could just tell that the silence was a result of being both relaxed and very focused. Year in and year out this race is decided on the climb out of Muir Beach at about mile 40. I think this is the 8th running of this race and at least 5 times that climb has decided the race. This year was certainly no exception. Rob made a move on that climb and by the time they arrived in Tennessee Valley (4 miles later) he had an 8 minute lead! He ran through the Tennessee Valley aid station faster and more determined than anyone I had ever seen in a 50 mile race. Folks who were there this past weekend who had also seen Miquel Heras come through there chasing me on his eventually victory in 2010 said that Rob was running significantly faster and more focused than Miquel had been that day, even though I heard about 30 people after that race talk about how Miquel came blowing through faster and more focused than anything they had ever seen.

To me this kind of race and this kind of focus is one of the most impressive and inspiring things to watch in the sport of ultrarunning. In most cases ultrarunning isn't really about who can run the fastest, but instead who can avoid running the slowest. Sometimes though you get these amazing performances where someone just gets completely dialed in late in a race, makes an aggressive move, and they don't just win by being the one to hold on the longest, they win by completely blowing the competition out of the water with nearly unfathomable strength and speed. I've done this myself a couple times, I've had it happen to me a time or two, and I've now seen it a couple times as a spectator. It never gets old. Thanks for the show, Rob. Super impressive. A year ago almost no one in the sport knew who Rob Krar was, and now he's likely (in my mind) to walk away with UROY in a landslide. Impressive stuff from a super cool guy.

For my own part, I was able to get out on the course a lot on Saturday. I ran about 6 or 7 miles out to some of the more remote parts of the course to check out the action, and then I ran in the last 6 miles with Anna Frost as her pacer. Was super stoked for her to be back out in the action of such a high competition race. She has a ways to go to be back to racing at the level she was a couple years ago, but this weekend made it clear to me that she is well on her way to being able to do so, if that's the route she chooses to take. It was great to share a bit of this journey with her, as she has been one of my favorite people in the sport since I first met her a few years back.

I myself also have a long way to go to be back to where I was a few years ago, but it feels nice to have come back to the point I am at. I have no idea what direction my continued improved health will take me in terms of running and racing, but for the first time in over a 15 months I really feel like my body is definitively bouncing back. I'm far from feeling strong or what I would have previously thought of as normal, but more and more with the passing weeks I feel confident that I will get there over time. Not sure where everything else in my life will fit in, and exactly how running will play into all of this, but I feel like I am slowly getting back a life of health and prosperity that I wasn't sure I would ever have again. It's really a pretty exciting place to be after so much time of fear and doubt.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bikepacking

Many readers of this blog (if I still have readers with how little I post lately) probably "know" me exclusively because of my running. The reality is though, that as I came to endurance athletics I was at times as much or more of an endurance mountain biker as I was runner. In 2007 and 2008 I almost certainly spent more time on my bikes than I did running. My main focus as an endurance cyclists culminated in my attempt at the Great Divide Race in 2008. When that event was over for me I packed up my bike, shipped it back to Alaska, and have hardly ridden since. I would be surprised if I have ridden a total of 500 miles in the more than 5 years since that ride. Slowly these past couple months this has begun to change though.

I've actually started to go out and do some rides for the sake of going out for a ride (not just as a means to get around town). I've begun to walk into the garage once again and see my bike as something that can take me on so many great adventures (as opposed to something that I should probably just sell because I don't use it enough). This past weekend I even loaded up my bike and headed West, to Utah, for the specific purpose of travelling around in the desert on my bike for a few days. I wasn't sure what my health would allow, but surprisingly I felt really good and was able to do a 140 mile loop over the course of 3 days. In doing so, I was blown away myself to see how much I missed doing long self-supported rides.

Bikepacking is an unknown thing to a lot of people. It's essentially bike touring, but with much less stuff and through much more rugged terrain. Backpacking with a bike, but essentially more like fastpacking with a bike. To be able to ride on trails and rugged jeep roads on a bike you can't be carrying much gear and you need to be strategic about how you carry it. Racks and panniers are almost certainly not the best options and you really just don't want to carry much more than 10 or 15 pounds of gear or your riding ability is greatly diminished. The cool thing is that if you keep your weight low enough, and you have it positioned properly on the bike, you can pretty much go anywhere you would ever ride on a mountain bike and you have everything with you to stay out for as long as you desire. In a place like Utah this can get you to some pretty incredible places that even with a Jeep would take more effort to get to than almost anyone is willing to put in. In the 140 miles that I rode this past week I saw one other person and accessed some areas of the desert that probably see fewer than a handful of people a year.

I have no idea if this renewed interest is something that will continue to grow in me, but this whole week I've been almost constantly dreaming about bikepacking trips I want to do in the near future. At the very least I'm going to find a time in the spring to do this 500+ mile loop in Southern Utah that I've had in my mind for nearly 7 years now. This would include all three districts of Canyonlands N.P., The Henry Mountains, Glen Canyon N.R.A., The San Rafael Swell, Capitol Reef N.P., A large portion of The Kokopelli Trail, Canyon Rims R.A., as well as countless other miles of BLM and National Forest land. The route would be 99% on dirt and take me through some of the most remote, scenic, and inspiring land anywhere in the world. By packing light I'd be able to move quickly on my bike and could ride the whole route in 7-10 days fairly comfortably. With the exception of a motor bike there just isn't any other mode of travel that would be as efficient and as ideal as doing this on a properly equipped bicycle. I like that aspect of the whole thing. I really like to travel through places where my mode of travel is the most efficient and most logical, otherwise it just feels somewhat contrived. I thought a lot about this on my ride this past week. I was consistently aware that most of the places I was riding there was no other way to travel that would be as efficient and logical as the bike I was riding.  Here are some photos from my recent journey:

                                                            Typical Utah evening light

                                                         A very smooth stretch of trail

                                                          A not so smooth stretch of trail

                                                    Simple little campsite the first night

                                                                     Endless desert

                                                               The ride fully loaded

                                                                 Campsite night two

                              The sun going down at the end of an incredible few days