Sunday, February 28, 2021

Chena River to Ridge on Skis

I love the Chena River to Ridge (CR2R) race.  For those that don’t know the course, it starts with about 5 miles of fairly flat trail with some overflow.  Then there is a several mile very long climb to the ridge followed by some small ups and down but still trending up on the ridge. Then 10 miles mostly downhill on the Compeau Trail but with a few soul-sucking uphills if you aren’t prepared for them.  Then back to the start and out for a second loop on the Stiles Creek Trail with another big climb and another long downhill (but this time with steeper ups and downs) followed by about 8 miles of flat at the end.  That's 55 miles with over 5000 feet of climbing. You can do either one or both loops. Either way there is a lot of climbing and great views.  

This year I had signed up to do the 55-mile course on bike and Eric had opted to run the 26-mile course. This would be the fifth time that I have started the race and the sixth time for Eric (we DNF’d once due to a huge storm coming in just when we would have headed out on our second lap).  But Eric injured his calf muscle a month ago and had to drop out. When I saw the forecast called for 6 inches of new snow, I switched to skiing the 26-mile course instead. I had no desire to push my bike for miles, and I had not trained enough to ski the 55-mile event. It ended up being a really good call on my part.

The entire day was beautiful. It was about 10F above zero with some winds (but not too bad), and it was plenty warm compared to the last couple of weeks.  I took way more stuff than I needed. I probably could have just gone with a fanny pack, but I figured it’s always better to be prepared when out in Alaska.  

The trail was soft and got even softer as I started climbing up from the Colorado Creek Cabin.  It was mashed potato snow for all of the climb and the traverse along the ridge.  The trail finally firmed up a bit for the 10 mile descent after the check point.  One good thing about all of the new snow was that the downhill was not a scary, out-of-control, snowplow-until-your-quads-scream-at-you descent.  In fact, I hardly had to snowplow at all.  I still managed to fall several times after getting my ski tips stuck in the deeper snow near the edge of the trail.  Oh well, soft snow made for soft landings and no injuries except to my pride!

Mashed potato snow - Yuck!

A few runners started passing me about 4 miles into the course.  Pretty sad when runners are faster than skiers.  But such was the case.  More runners passed me as we made our way up the big climb.  It was slippy on skis with the new snow, so I had to mostly walk and herringbone instead of actually ski. But on the long downhill back to the start I was able to pass almost all of them back.  It was so fun to finally make miles without a lot of effort.  I think the runners were a bit envious of me swooping by them.

Laura McDonough, a well known Anchorage endurance runner, catches up to me on the climb.

More runners catch up to me on the climb.

I started passing the bikers around Colorado Creek Cabin, 6-7 miles in.  Before that, some of them had already decided to turn around and DNF.  I ended up passing most of the bikers.  They had to push most of the 10 miles between the cabin and the checkpoint.   And even when the bikers could ride, it was pretty slow.  It did not look like fun although they seemed to be making the best of it.  What else could they do? I was extremely glad I had made the decision to ski. Skis were the way to go out there on the course.

This was Alyssa's first fat bike race.  If she can do this, she should do great with other races.

I was back and forth with a lot of the 26-mile skiers. About 8 of us showed up at the checkpoint within 5 minutes of each other.  We were all in good moods and having fun. I don’t think any of us were really racing. About 4 miles from the finish, I had to stop and refuel.  In the couple of minutes that I stopped, four skiers passed me.  They were all faster than me on the downhill, so I never caught any of them.  Oh well, no podium finish for me!!  But I was happy to have that sugar and caffeine in my system for the last uphill that was ahead.  And it allowed me to push on the flat and stay ahead of a runner who I passed just a half-mile from the finish.  I guess there was a little competitive spirit left inside of me.

Taking a break at the check point/aid station.

Finisher photo with Becky, who finished a few minutes in front of me.

My stomach didn’t do well all day, and I had a hard time eating enough.  At only four hours in, I tried to eat some Skratch chews but couldn’t get them to go down.  I ended up spitting them out, which set up a gag response.  That doesn’t usually happen until about 10 hours into an event, not at only four hours.  I’m not sure what happened, though I haven’t really done any hard efforts this winter. Maybe not enough training?  Doesn’t matter, except I didn’t eat much for a seven-hour effort, and when I don’t eat, I definitely slow down.

Snow art by one of the bikers.

The last 2 times I skied this race, I was able to ski the first 26 miles in 5.5 hours.  This time it took me just under 7 hours.  My excuse is the conditions. And not fueling enough. But I know it’s inevitable that I will start slowing down.  I think I still have visions of what I should be able to do, which may not actually line up with reality.  I probably am already slowing down compared to five years ago, but I don’t want to admit that!  I’m really hoping I have a few faster (for me) years left.  I still do intervals and have started being more consistent with strength workouts, but I'm not sure they are making a difference.  Maybe it’s time to start adjusting my goals to be more realistic about my age? 

Nah, not yet, but maybe soon.  I still have a few goals out there that I want to accomplish.  Like the Unbound Gravel 350 and the Trans South Dakota.  And that Everest that I didn’t finish.  Might have to go for that again, too.  But for today, I’m just going to relax and rest.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Troyer-Leistikow 2020 Year End Letter: Quite a Year

The year 2020 brought many changes to the world, and to our lives as well. But for us, much remained the same. We still live in Fairbanks, Eric still volunteers for several causes and does some writing, and Corrine is still a family physician at Tanana Valley Clinic. And we still get outdoors a ton (including doing the twice-a-year Fairbanks Trails Challenge!). Read about many of our adventures on earlier posts on this blog. 

We started off our year with a couple of trips, one to Idaho to take on the 60-kilometer version of the Fat Pursuit winter multi-sport race on skis. Then we headed to Hawaii for a medical conference.

Corrine finishes a bike ride up Haleakala Volcano during our trip to Hawaii.

Back at home we continued with our winter pursuits, including doing the Winter Trails Challenge in a day and participating in some races. Though by the time of the Sonot Kkaazoot, a 50-kilometer ski race at the end of March, COVID-19 was here, so that race was run as a DIY event. 

Eric celebrates finishing the 45-mile Tanana River Challenge on skis, 
finishing last but proud.

Corrine put her quilting skills to good use!

With a couple of out-of-state travel summer trips canceled by the pandemic, we spent our free time exploring Alaska. We revisited old favorites and sought out some new ones, like the Nabesna Road area in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and the Petersville Road area. And, of course, we did the Summer Trails Challenge!

Eric takes in the view of Denali from Peters Hills off the Petersville Road.

Corrine was on her bike a lot. She did some long day rides, a couple of solo bikepacking overnighters, and attempted an “Everest.” Eric got to do a couple of backpacking trips to new places he wanted to explore. 

Eventually, winter came, and we slowed down a bit. But we didn’t stop! We took a couple of fatbike cabin trips in the White Mountains National Recreation Area and once again did the Ski Your Age in Kilometers event. 

We had some incredible morning light on a trip to the White Mountains National Recreation Area.

The pandemic didn’t upend our lives like it did for a lot of people. There was some scrambling at work for Corrine as they tried to figure out how to see patients safely, including using telemedicine. Also at work, Corrine stepped down as the medical director of family medicine, handing the reins over to a co-worker. She’s now back to being a full-time doc. 

And because of the pandemic we did have to cancel a couple of out-of-state trips. But since much of our free time is spent in the outdoors far away from others, we didn’t have to change things drastically. We were grateful for that.

Unfortunately, we did miss out on a visit from our son Riley. He had planned to come visit in December, but we all agreed it wasn’t worth the risk. Our daughter Montana had visited earlier, so it was great to see her. Both our kids are doing well. 

Montana is in Montana. She is living in Missoula, working for Hertz Rental Cars. Her hours were cut drastically for a while, but slowly things started to pick back up. She is also learning to be a DJ, dancing, and working on her music while trying to decide where else life will take her. She and Eric started having weekly Spanish chats together to better learn the language.  

We really enjoyed a visit from Montana in August/September.

Riley is at the University of Iowa in Iowa City working toward his doctorate in physics. His area of focus is the pulsating aurora. His girlfriend, Sam (another physics geek!), is working as a pharmacy assistant while applying to the university’s Master’s in Science Education program. Both are weathering the pandemic well. They moved into a new, more spacious, apartment and recently got a cat. Riley took Sam on her first backpacking trip using whatever equipment they had (which resulted in some Christmas backpack presents!). 

Riley, Sam, and their cat, Cassiopeia.

Hope you are all doing well despite the pandemic and all the other craziness life is throwing at us. (And feel free to congratulate us for getting our year-end letter out before June!) 

P.S. A year-end letter for this past year surely wouldn't be complete without a Zoom family gathering photo, so here's ours! 

Clockwise from top left: Corrine, Eric, LuRue (Eric's mom), Janice (Eric's sister), Mark (Eric's bro-in-law), and Teresa (Eric's sister).