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Bayes’ Theorem: K8 Learns to Ski

Four years ago François invited me on a hut trip, despite the fact that I hadn’t skied in 19 years. I borrowed an entire backcountry set up from Sully and carried 8 pounds of yogurt up the skintrack having no idea what to anticipate. Fortunately, everyone in the group was unbelievably kind for me being a newbie. Allison and Max Powers gave me pointers, Henri told me what to do in an avalanche (switch my beacon and get out of the way), François and Wayne made sure I didn’t get too big of a head— and met a whole another crew of humans who were friends of friends and now good friends (love it when that works out). It was so much fun and despite the fact that I thought the video Wayne took of me was in Slo-Mo (it was not) and where I picked up the Supernova nickname— it convinced me I wanted to take up skiing. 

I did a hut trip last March with most of the crew in Colorado where again I was on borrowed gear (I ended up getting the same pair of skis this year that I was on). It’s hard to remember much from that trip because I felt like I was still in such a freeze response (but certainly starting to thaw out). But remember how great it was to gather with friends, take some deep breaths in the mountains, and ski lines that seems inconceivable a few years before.

This year I had emailed them all about potentially going to Chamonix before I had to be in Geneva for work— they countered offer with a trip to Canada the same week and realizing I could make it work with work, signed on. It just required a lot of compartmentalizing when packing, dresses and heels for Switzerland, backcountry gear for Canada. And in true Kate fashion the days leading up to the trip I went skiing multiple times and postponed packing until 10pm the night before. 

I got to Calgary without much issue, my bags, however, did not. I met up with the rest of the crew and found out that Félix was also missing a bag. Both airlines guaranteed that when they arrived they would deliver them to us. We left Calgary and started the four hour drive to Revelstoke. 

Day 1: Revelstoke Ski Resort

We decided to ski the resort the first day and had a bit of a slow start to the morning. Danielle was able to outfit me with most of the gear I needed and the guys were able to get Félix going (including another ski set up). I decided to not ski Henri’s 190 skis (I ski 161 for context) and after dropping them off at the resort went to get a rental set up. Fortunately, I had packed my boots in my carry on. I got a similar set up to what I had, except a little longer skis (167). I made it back to the resort and took the two gondolas up to the top and met up with Max Powers to regroup with the others.

Max and I headed to the top after we touched base with the others to figure out a link up spot. The first run was a bit choppy as I got used to the new skis and the turning radius. I followed Max down to the bottom feeling somewhat like I was a rag doll that had just gotten tossed around. We found the others and headed back up the chair lift. I asked Max what all those bumps we hit were, if they were considered moguls. He informed me they were and I could just call them bumps— I said they were fun (they were despite getting tossed around) and that I wanted to work more on jump turns.

We got in another short run with everyone before taking the lift back up and boot packing to the top to get a different line going down. Danielle and Max gave me pointers for boot packing up the hill, hinging at the knee rather than the hip.

We got to the top and split into two teams of three, with Max P, Félix, and Henri taking one route down and François, Danielle, and I taking another. After entering through a slot in the rocks we had most of the run to ourselves and it lasted so long that I had to stop and delayer. We met back up and headed for one more lift as the resort was closing, we ended up dropping about 5,000 feet on the last run to get to the bottom, which was amazing and also a quad killer. We got done and learned that the aquatic center was not opened on Sunday ruining our plans for the evening but we rallied and packed the AirBnB hot tub. We met up with three more CO friends that evening who drove up to meet us.

Day 2: Christiana Glades

The next morning after Félix’s bag had shown up and mine had seem to have gotten lost somewhere between Seattle and Calgary, I went back to the rental shop to get what I’d need for the backcountry and some additional attire, we headed up to the visitor’s center on the pass.

Skiing on the pass requires a permit and registering with the park service. After getting our permits squared away we backtracked down the pass to head into Christiana Glades. We started up the skin track and I got use to all my new gear- we spent time swapping ski stories that we’d had thus far this season and all the fun things we’d get to do at the aquatic center later.

At some point the sun broke through the trees and I stopped to bask in it, feeling like it had been ages since it had really provided any warmth embrace. We went down and crossed through a gully to start skinning up the other side. After some discussion towards the top about how far till we turned around, we decided to keep going for at least 15 minutes and if we weren’t near the summit we would turn around. Soon after, the tree coverage broke and we were rewarded with views throughout the valley floor. I had Max Powers snap a few photos of me but in the process managed to fall over and get stuck in the snow. After I graciously got up, I went to put on my new helmet that I had got the day before and had tried on but this time it didn’t want to go on, what oh no, I readjusted my poorly tamed hair and looked at it, I had ended up with a kids helmet, well rung what ya brung and shoved it onto my head. I thought the color was maybe too much fun for an adult color… After that we split into teams again to pick our routes down. 

I looked around and it seemed like they had all disappeared into the woods, I followed a line down into the trees and was soon flowing in and out of the large trees and following similar lines down. Félix and Max P stayed in front of me and Félix would call things out for me, like you can hit that or it’s a soft landing. And it was true, the landings were soft which only helped to inspire my confidence knowing the landing would in fact be soft. I followed Félix down and stopped where a fallen tree had created a bit of a jump, seeing Félix take it he called back up saying it was good to go. I followed his line down but unlike him did not actually stick the landing but avoided crashing into Félix as well (which was really like sticking the landing).

We got done with the run and linked up again with the group. Danielle and I stuck together on the luge track of the skin track. I kept joking that it felt similar to Alaska with the light fading as we were coming out of the day. Félix and Max Powers met us at the bottom to provide some lights for our exit. As we were going up the last little pitch I said I was so excited for the aquatic center.

Upon cresting into the parking lot, we saw cars backed up on the highway. After some discussions with others in the parking lot we learned there had been a crash and the highway had been closed in both directions for nearly 2 hours. Not going to make it to the aquatic center. We hung out in the parking lot for about an hour before deciding to head in the opposite direction for dinner and wait for the highway to open up. We got dinner and then about 5 hours later we were back in Revelstoke. 

Day 3: McGill Shoulder

On Tuesday we split again, with the three from CO who had driven going to the resort and the 6 of us heading out to the same starting location. Instead of crossing down into the valley we would stay on the same side of the skin track and ski the shoulder (hence the name, McGill Shoulder). We got our permits and went back to the parking location, again having a bit of a slow morning to get going. We headed up the skin track and took a hard right to continue up the slope instead of venturing down the path we had hit the day before.

We climbed up again but not all the way to the top and transitioned. I took off both my skis which I learned why it was a big no-no when I fell into a tree well and couldn’t get out. My general approach is to tell them to not look at me as I fumble around but in true friendship form, they all grab their phones to document.

After I managed to get out we split up into teams again. I went with François and Danielle as we zipped and zagged through the trees. There were a few spots that were a bit more persnickety and we would go down one-by-one radioing when it was clear. The snow was so light as I moved through it, trying to use the natural objects to practice my jump turns and navigate tight spaces.

We got down and opted to go back up and do another lap, this time during the transition I left at least one ski on. Having some familiarity with the route I felt more confident going down and skiing a bit steeper things. Again meeting up after a wide opening with the group we navigated back to the skin track which was a bit more survival skiing through down trees.

Thank goodness Max Power had a super bright coat on so I would look for him and point my skis in that direction. We made it out and shot down the skin track and back to the cars. I waited with bated breath as we crested the last uphill before the parking lot. No cars backed up on the highway which was a good sign for the aquatic center.

We got back in time for the aquatic center which has a slide, a lazy river, and a diving board. I did a not so graceful entrance from the diving board, if you can imagine both my hands and feet hit the water at the same time as I was in an upside down U. After that I opted for the lazy river and hot tub while watching all the others take their turn on the diving board. We hyped up the aquatic center but for such a small town it was actually pretty great and a good way after three days of skiing to reset the body.

Day 4: Having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card

We were leaving Revy to go stay closer to Golden and we figured we would ski on the way. The only problem is that my ski bag was set to show up in Revy and could not be re-routed or delivered to Golden. Because we had two cars, we split into teams again. Henri and I stayed in Revy and went to the library to work and the others went and skied the Teddy Bear Trees. I was a bit bummed initially but overall happy to get my ski bag. I went for a run around the town and saw more parts of it. I currently have a friend who winters in the area and definitely keeping in mind coming back for a few more weeks next winter. My bag finally showed up and we did a quick stop at the grocery store on the way out of town. Because we had to pack everything up as we were checking out I had the realization that we would have to fit the three bags of groceries in the car– fortunately we made it to the house with only 4 eggs cracking on the way.

Day 5: Grizzly/Rodgers Run

We started the day as we had done previously, making large amounts of coffee and food and reading the avy forecast. What we had discussed doing the night before changed a bit with the addition of “deep persistent slabs” included for the first time in the avalanche forecast so we took a while to figure out a new route.

What we had thought about doing before would have required us to cross potential avy shoots but with this addition in we thought it was best to avoid those areas. We all settled on a plan for the day and headed out to get our permits. We didn’t go all the way to the summit and checked the slope angle a few times on the way up to make sure everything we’d be skiing wasn’t over the 34-35 degree range.

On the first lap I adjusted to my skis again, having wished I had been able to ski them in the resort, they were a little bit shorter and wider than my rental so the first few turns required getting reacquainted. We split into teams and my team went one by one down, we were weaving in and out of a previous avalanche run (it was totally safe mom) and the variable snow made me have to react quicker than previous days required. I was grateful for my skis and followed François’s line back into the trees before all meeting up at the bottom and deciding to do another lap.

On the skin up I struggled in a few spots with sliding backwards, even though D had been coaching me on more efficient kick turns. I caught up and the rest of the way it became a Kate therapy session with the boys and D, which was highly comical, cathartic, and reassuring.

Especially getting male friends’ perspectives on my dating life (probably best saved for a different blog post or my book) since they’ve known me for the duration of multiple relationships it’s always nice to have a check in on my choices. Like I’m probably asking for the right things just from the wrong people– and it’s okay if they don’t understand my work, it was pointed out that unless I wanted to date someone within the department of ag, it’s unlikely anyone will really understands what I do. We got back to the area we were just in to transition and planned to go the whole run down. Félix started by doing a star fish off a log jump.

I followed D and her lines through the trees and again took space for the avy path. We crossed over after it had run out and followed Félix off a log. Or more so stopped and watch Félix send it off a log into a very anti-climatic landing. We weaved in and out of the powder in the trees and I felt my turns come more easily. We got back on the skin track and waited to regroup. We looked at the chute nearby that a friend of a friend had skied before and talked about the approach and conditions for it- it was not something our group was comfortable undertaking in the conditions but everyone’s risk tolerance is different.

Day 6: Kickinghorse

Our final day we decided to go near the resort to ski a bowl in the out-of-bounds area. We ran into a very friendly guy in the parking lot who after we told him our plans actually suggested something closer that had been tracked out but was less prone to sliding at this point. We took his words and readjusted our plan and headed up towards his suggestion. We started skinning up one of the resort’s runs and I started talking about kickturns as the slope was gentle enough that I was able to practice. This led to Henri and Max Powers getting into a discussion about friction and mass and force and cars which carried on for a while as I just kept saying, “Kick….turn…kick….turn”.

I’m not sure what conclusion they reached but if anyone has any thoughts around if coefficient of friction is directly related to pressure, feel free to reach out. After that, François and Félix decided to opt out and take a half day pass and go ski the resort, Henri carried on for about 5 more minutes before also deciding to head down, leaving our team of three, Max Powers, D, and I. We kept going up, trying to figure out if we were even allowed to uphill at the resort but those that did come down didn’t say anything and there weren’t too many people on the run so we didn’t feel too weird about it.

We got to a juncture and ducked under the rope to get on a skin track. We chatted more about life, and the possibility or not possibility of kids, and the communities we want for the future, and what we like about our communities now. We got to the ridge and looked over, I was giddy with the possibility of skiing it but very quickly realized that the snow was not set for that step of an angle at the moment and we continued up to the summit where we would stay on the side of our skin track.

We transitioned, myself having practiced leaving both skis on and ripping the skins off (I can do it on my skimo skis but the heavier ones are a bit more challenging). And passed around the donuts and bacon I had packed for everyone from the left over breakfast.

Max P went first and I followed. I pushed off into low angle (29 degrees) glorious powder. I took bigger turns and floated through the apex, feeling the force pushing back into my skis at I pushed through the turns. I regrouped with Max P in some trees and waited for Danielle to come down. We went a bit further down before stopping and debating if we had time for one more one.

We all agreed we were okay either way and not coming to any real consensus I suggested we do one more. We got back up to the top and discussed taking a similar route down. I went first and focused on making tighter turns, planting my poles, and really looking down the fall line, and it all seemed to make a difference or at least felt like it.

We regrouped around the trees and party skied for the most part back to the skin track and out the way we came. Toward the bottom of the resort, soft sleet was falling making the snow sticky and grabbing our skis, cutting out any smooth skiing we thought we’d be having. We got down to the end and met up with the others to regroup and make our plan for the rest of the evening. We split up to get groceries and drinks and meet back at the house.

We spent the evening reliving parts from the week until it was nearly 1 am an we realized we needed to pack to leave the next day.

We all got off to our respected locations the next day, Félix checked my ski bag for me for Colorado so I wouldn’t have to haul it for Geneva for a few work meetings. Skiing with them I felt incredibly lucky for all the pointers and tips they gave me and in a way that only inspired confidence. I’ve realized how lucky I’ve been with ski partners this year and feel like I’ve been able to build out more of my skills as a result. Taking up a sport as an adult can be incredibly humbling but it’s also amazing to be able to see actual growth and progress happening. I’ve been cycling for so long that sometimes it’s hard to see any real marginal gains. It’s also really nice to be at point in my life and our lives where we can all take a week off and go ski somewhere. I’ve since mostly recovered from the jet-lag of Canada to Geneva. I finally got a pedicure as Henri pointed out that the only people with worse feet than skiers are ballet dancer so didn’t exactly set myself up for success this fall by getting back into ballet.

I thought a lot on this trip about snowpacks with the constant analyzing of the snow since we were all unfamiliar with it, we were constantly taking in information and adapting. Much like life they are never static, it’s ever changing even once it’s buried, changes in temperatures, precipitation, humidity and wind can all turn a benign snowpack into a deadly one and vice-versa. As I continue to unpack and repack things I think about this a lot the snapshot in time, the factors that go into it– I mean even digging a pit, unless you’re collecting season long data, only really tells you about the snow in that pit or the surrounding area but if you get on a different slope or different face or different wind exposure all the snow could be different underneath you. So while sometimes I wander into the world of “what ifs or I’m worried about” I remember to just dig my pit and take stock of the information I know now and trusting in myself that I can recalibrate if needed.

Bayes’ Theorem is is a mathematical formula for determining conditional probability. Conditional probability is the likelihood of an outcome occurring, based on a previous outcome having occurred in similar circumstances. Bayes’ theorem provides a way to revise existing predictions or theories (update probabilities) given new or additional evidence. Somehow the trip went from “K8 learns how to ski” to Bayesian K8 which was then pronounced Bay-shin…anyways you probably had to be there but if you want a souvenir sticker, holla!

Up next, the grandest of canyons!

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Fearless Knitting and Improv

After my brain injury in 2012, before I was cleared for any physical activity I took up knitting, again. Dorothy Fetters had taught me how to knit one Christmas when I was in high school but all of those projects remained unfinished. I guess past Kate knew that future Kate would need something like this at some point. After the panic attack I took it up again as it would at least give me some small task to do that engaged my brain enough that it wouldn’t wander too much. I finally finished the only project, despite all the ones I’ve started, which was a tube top for Alvin and currently working on a baby blanket for a friend’s first baby but at this rate she might have a few more kids before they get it. I asked a cousin for some knitting pointers and she sent me a few spools of yarn and a few books, one which was called Fearless Knitting. Reminding me that even the smallest things can require great feats of courage and fearlessness. The progress in Alvin’s tube top followed my mind trajectory at the time, the rows closer to the panic attack are a little more chaotic, with missing casts and a few more holes protruding, the ones further away from the panic attack are a little neater, less gaping holes and cleaner lines— mimicking the space in my mind during those times. I flipped through the fearless knitting book that I was sent, finding the title amusing but soon realized that I was not in the fearless knitting category with some of the techniques far above my skill level. 

I took a workshop from Jennifer England the other week that focused on intention vs improvisation. I hadn’t ever thought of improvisation as a skill that I use in my daily life. Rather it’s something reserved for the stage or outdoor pursuits when you have to pivot or adapt but sitting in this space it made me think of all the daily improvisations that creep in.

I had to write down what intentions I had come into 2022 with– and I thought back to pre-panic attack Kate, what did she want: finding grounding in the uncertainty, a greater sense of community, building out more of my own research, maintaining and building my relationships, getting the Maah Daah Hey course record, getting published in Teen Vogue, and down step energy only. I reflected on this thinking of the chaos I had entered the new year with and the lack of any clear direction or intentions.

Little did I know I would be climbing into a very dark hole mentally at the start of 2022

For the first 3-4 months I felt like I was bouncing off things, like a pin ball that was getting sent in all different directions. And I thought about those days when I couldn’t even conceive being here a year later, existing in this space as I do.  

I think so often of the improvisation that happens in the outdoor space— every trip we aren’t exactly winging it but we’re constantly adapting and reevaluating our original intention. Before I left town I had skied with Lang on Wednesday, being mindful of the avalanche conditions, we climbed up towards tequila bowl in Arctic Valley and were rewarded with abysmal lighting.

We talked about the different lines and opted for going near rocks to have some depth perception. Lang went first and when he gave me the all clear I followed. My body knew what to do but it felt lost in space as each turn left me more and more disoriented, and confused. I got to the end and despite feeling the spins told him we should definitely do another lap– probably similar to a little kid who spins herself sick and then after throwing up proceeds to do it again (or was that just me).

We climbed back up talking a bit more about the conditions and weather. We took another line down on the other side of a rock outcropping of what we did before. I let Lang go first again so he could put a line in and I could follow. Again I got to the end with a high sense of spins followed soon by the euphoric feeling. We opted for one more lap of the route we had just gone down before heading further down the valley and skinning back up to get a better line to get back to the car. We got up to the top where we ran into some other friends who had come out for a lap with their dogs. Realizing it’s much easier to recognize dogs than people in ski gear.

That night there were only two of us for Wednesday Worlds (if you build it, they will come…). We opted for just a chill Spencer loop as we had both been out skiing that day. We got about 900 yards in and ran into a moose that was compromising any continuation in that direction. We talked about options and knew of another location we could hop on to maintain the uni-direction of the loop. We headed up and after going about 500 yards on the loop realized that we were going the wrong way (and as I found out earlier this season the loop is in fact uni-directional not just like hey you should got this way). We discussed our options and there really wasn’t a good bail out option so we kept going, given the recent snow fall we didn’t anticipate seeing anyone else. We were wrong and we did, informing them that we had seen a moose and had to go this way. Once we got to the top of where we should have been going down, we ripped our skins and finished the loop the proper way. Improv.

On Wednesday, Lang and I had talked about skiing a line on O’Malley, thinking that maybe there was enough snow coverage to avoid the rocks and have a good line. We wouldn’t really know until we were up there and discussed that option as well. We had another friend, Morgan join us. We headed up a little early know that the skin might be a little long, especially if we had to put the track in. We left Glen Alps and despite the temperature showing 2 degrees when we warmed up rather quickly.

We saw another group headed up the Little O’Malley gully and were happy to know that we wouldn’t have to put a skin track in. We were about halfway up the skin track when I heard a familiar yell, having a friend ski down towards up, I didn’t recognize her until she was closer (as I never recognize anyone in ski gear) and we talked about the line and routes that they were taking and the ones that we were taking. I was glad to know the group as the sun and snow looked so good going down I was thinking I should grab a photo of whoever was about to descend and turns out I could send the photos to them.

We got up to the ridge line and looked at the line we wanted to ski. Ha! Lots of rocks exposed we discussed options as we really wanted the line and really tried to talk through how we could get it but finally realized that even if we avoided the exposed rocks there were probably plenty just below the surface and if we messed up it’d be like going through a cheese grater. Instead we headed up the same line we would have but cut it short to ski down False Peak. It required some boot packing and negotiating around some rocks but we finally reached the line to put in.

No one else had been here. Lang having gone a bit further up dropped in first that way if something happened we could respond. He took the line clean down and then I followed. I pushed off and flowed into the soft powder, trying to follow Lang’s squiggles but improvising into my own turns. Lang is pretty experienced and I still cut my turns pretty wide. After that we watched Morgan come down in untracked powder as well.

Feeling successful at getting first tracks we decided to opt for a few laps off of the gully of Little O’Malley. As we traversed we talked about skiing back to town and to either of our houses, we went through all the options and logistics as we took Lang’s car to the parking lot and our other car’s were at Lang’s. We talked about skiing to my house, and then skiing to a parking lot and finding a shuttle, and then we finally got to the point where we realized that both of our keys were in Lang’s car and the way we parked would require way too many logistics and a lot of improvisation. We decided to scrap it although we did give it a good go as even into our second lap we were still talking about how it might work. We got one final lap in as the sun was starting to tuck behind the mountains and then headed back to the parking lot.

The next day I headed out with Tyler to what ended up being Corn Biscuit but we thought was another mountain for most of the day. I’m always grateful for Tyler– he’s one of the people who convinced me I could live in Alaska just by the way he exists in Alaska. I always felt a little manic during COVID and with other things happening and felt like I was constantly running out of time to do what I wanted to do. Tyler has big days in the mountains and even more epic trips to glaciers and Denali (with Charlotte) but also takes ‘day of contemplation’ where he will chill at home and get caught up on life. I realized that this manic feeling of having to go go go didn’t have to exist and well I’m still here aren’t I.

We navigated through some alders as the snow had limited coverage and used his old Gaia track to figure out where we needed to be. We skinned up to an overlook but couldn’t exactly see the line below and how soon we would hit the alders so scrapped that for a place to do laps. We kept going up and found a good spot that would give us a pretty clean line down to the overlook we had just been at. Tyler went first and after getting the clear I followed. I was on different skis than the day before, these ones are a little lighter and wider so still adjusting but they perform well for me in the untracked powder we had found. Having another pair of skis has helped me to figure out what I like and don’t like. Last year I always lamented about how heavy my old set up was and got a lighter one this year. Except I’ve found myself taking the heavier one out more times than the lighter one, some of it is because rock exposure and some of it is the snow conditions but it’s been nice having the comparison to understand how exactly a heavier boot drives the ski or the different turn radius. I got to the bottom and we went up again, this time going a little bit further and off to the side. We got to the end of the run and talked to some of the avy forecasters who were out digging a pit about the snow conditions. We decided to do one more lap and then use that to head out on a different out track that Tyler had taken the time before. We got to the top and Tyler was talking about how when someone goes the person behind them can try and alternate their “S” turns. I took that as a challenge and after Tyler went I followed down but contradicting his turns and alternatively trying to match where he would start turning. It was a good challenge for me as I still struggle with control all the way through my turns. I got to the bottom and we decided to take a different track out to hopefully avoid some of the bushwhacking we had with the alders coming up, spoiler alert we did not avoid and in fact maybe found more. It resulted in a somewhat comical exit from the trail but we made it back to the car without too much fanfare.

After I got back to town I had just about an hour or so to pack before my I needed to leave for my flight– I ended up being later than I was planning as my roommates came home and we were catching up and swapping stories before we all scattered again. For living with 3 other people it’s very rare that we’re all home, and as it was there were only 3 of us at the house. I got to the airport and was the last one in line to check my bags but made it only to have my flight delayed. I spent time thinking of all the ways I had improvised in the past year– not just in the outdoors but how untethered I felt at the beginning of the year. Drifting aimlessly I was passive towards everything and felt like I was constantly improvising as I would wake up and feel “not healed” and spend the day in survival mode. I improvised trying not to word vomit everything all the time as a way to get the chatter out of my head, I improvised when the word vomit came out, I improvised through nervous laughter, and fumbling into the dark depths of my brain. And then I improvised during the 600 mile bike ride. And then I slowly started being more intentional, finding shallow bits of ground to base off of while the improvising continued. I feel like in June I started putting more things out into the universe, intentionally. I’ve also thought over the past year of all the people in my life who have face different/similar challenges and the resilience they have shown, the flexibility, creativity, adaptability, improvisation that comes with meeting those challenges. As I sat and thought about the intentions I had started 2022 and the improvisation that had resulted I realized that in a very round about way I had met a lot of my intentions, I have a greater sense of community, I feel more adaptable in the face on uncertainty, I’ve found a deep sense of gratitude towards my friends and family who have supported me, I got the MDH course record, and starting to build out some of my own arctic research. I’m still working on the Teen Vogue publication (if you have an in) and down step energy only is really more of a lifestyle commitment (#IYKYK). But thinking back on what brought me to this was also a lot of pain, grief, sadness, confusion, and uncertainty, in going to the darkest places without a light and sitting for a while as my eyes adjusted and finding solitude there.

The light can only show you so much

In thinking about my intention for this year one of the words I keep coming back to is ‘burn‘. I told my therapist this and she was like um, okay, I think she thought I was going to go on a tirade and burn all the bridges but instead I told her how for most of COVID (and probably for a multitude of reasons) I felt like my flame was diminished and/or completely out and so now I’m only burning for those things that burn me back, that set me on fire, that give me energy instead of taking it away– everything from work, to relationships, to outdoor pursuits. To be more intentional in how I show up and where I spend my energy. After being in the dark for so long it’s nice to get the light back.

I’m grateful for the darkness, the dark embraces everything just as it is and in that space without a light you can see things as they truly are, there are no shadows to dance with just the tranquil solitude that greets you as your eyes adjust to everything that is around you. I traveled to the messiest parts of my mind and have finally found beauty there. And I hope that if you ever find yourself on a similar journey you too remember that you are a living extension of the moon in the night a light that shines the brightest during the darkness.

Here’s to 2023 and setting the world on fire (but like not literally because climate change is already kind of doing that– sorry not full Pollyanna yet, Jane).

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The Storm Outside

This week Anchorage received a massive snow storm—schools were cancelled for 3 days because the plows were unable to tackle all the roads in time (a massive policy failure if you ask me). No matter, I didn’t have to drive and I don’t have kids. But waking up on Wednesday and seeing all the snow certainly made me giddy like a little kid. Text messages started flurrying, who was going to ski; where and when? I had a meeting that I could not miss at 9am so needed to find people willing to wait till 10. I found not one but two. We met to carpool at 10:20 and were headed to Turningan Pass by 10:30. There were a few cars in the parking lot and we saw 2 avalanche forecasters also heading out. We started skinning up and talk about death once again found me—I don’t even bring it up anymore because I’ve been told that I talk about it too much—but I’ve found that it’s a common topic in Alaska or maybe I just attract it. Like in the L48 snakes always seem to find me and since there aren’t any snakes in Alaska maybe I just attract people who are comfortable talking about death. But despite being told that it’s weird to talk about, we’re headed out into terrain and doing activities that could kill us all the time– I think it’s weird not to acknowledge it.

Anyways, back to death. We talked about the different risk that activities bring, snow vs. water, which ones carry higher consequences and how risk isn’t cumulative but we treat it as such. All the decisions that go into risk mitigation and how skewed everyone felt during COVID-19. I was almost relieved someone else said it, that they felt their risk perception had also changed during the pandemic. Mine certainly did but I also know others who became more riskier, like they were trying to get it out of their system somehow. That happened when I first started grad school and my racing took a back seat, I would get small adrenaline rushes by turning in assignments as close to the deadline as possible without it being late (it was never late and I soon learned how to channel that energy into more productive things). With all the new snow we talk about avalanche conditions and opted to start with a lap in the lower section in the trees where it would be more stable. We transitioned on a little knob and then talked about the different lines down and our next connection point.

After I pushed off, the snow parted as my skis carved through the powder and I felt like I was floating with the ground breaking away. I pushed into the snow to turn and would quickly (or what felt like) whip back the other way, trying to drive my skis through the deep powder without getting swamped. We regrouped at the bottom and transitioned back deciding to go back to where we were and do another lap from there. We skinned up, cursing those that had put in a steep skin track but we got back up there quick enough. We took a different line down but it was the same feeling of cutting through the snow and feeling like I’m the best skier ever (I’m absolutely not, very far from it) but powder is magical and it makes you feel magical. We got to the bottom and seeing the clouds break decided to make a push for the summit and if it socked back in we could take the skin track down.

On the way up this time we talked about breakups with one of the guys’ recently getting out of a relationship. I pointed out it’s been interesting because post breakup it’s like with COVID when you realize you just have different values than other people and how they show up in their lives—it’s like learning your cousin is an anti-vaxxer and you’re like okay well if this hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have known this and how do I continue to show this person grace. Same thing, post breakup when you see a different side or maybe not even different you just don’t have the same lenses on anymore and you’re like ohhhh well if we hadn’t broken up and/or even gotten together in the first place I wouldn’t have seen this side of you and how do I keep showing this human grace despite it all. How much does the unspoken assumptions do more damage than anything else but I mean we all have free will (right, Dave) so what are you going to do. And like most communities, Anchorage is pretty small so showing grace seems to be the best option, I recently realized just how small it is but that’s better left for a different medium. Anyways, back to skiing.

We got to the top and felt lucky that we were still in the weather window of the clouds breaking and we’d have a clean line all the way down. We ran into another friend at the top and talk about the conditions and where everyone might be skiing this weekend. Then one by one we pushed off, I followed lines down, trying to work on my turns and trying my best not to squeal at the amount of powder we were in. We regrouped and talk about the next line. I went second and was hooping and hollering when I hit a rock and rolled, even in powder the landings are soft. The guy behind me followed me and not realizing that I hit a rock also hit it and was soon on the ground by me, both of us laughing. We got up and followed each other through the trees, I saw the tracks going through a section and didn’t exactly peak, push, roll that I teach in mountain biking but instead followed the tracks thinking everything was mostly roll able. It was not and instead I slow-mo tumbled off the side of a rock and then rolled down onto a ledge where I did one more roll before landing. Again, the powder proved to be a soft landing and laughing I got up, apologizing for the delay it caused. They didn’t seem to mind and once they realized I was unscathed talked about how hilarious it was to watch. I gathered my ski that had come off and met them at the bottom. We talked about the next line and decided to head back to the car after that long run.

I got back in time to break trail for Wednesday Worlds—we slogged through about 2 feet of powder to put in a little skimo loop, the first lap being almost an hour of breaking trail and the second lap once it had been packed down was closer to 25-30 minutes. To give you perspective, the loop usually takes 15-20 minutes. I caught a ride to the trail thinking I would ski home but soon realized the normal 30 minute ski would probably be another 2 hours of breaking trail and caught a ride back–thanks again Maddy!

I got home and posted on Instagram to see if anyone had the next day off as I would finish my meetings early enough in the morning and could make up hours later in the evening when I was done skiing. I wasn’t sure anyone would bite but someone reached out but wasn’t sure it would work out so also starting thinking about how to ski from my house. In the morning we touched base again and I told her what I was thinking—it was loop I had run about 7 weeks before; it was about 13 miles but would put us on the top of Wolverine to ski down but it would be a bit of a slog to get up there. Much to my surprise she was game.

We decided to drive to a closer trailhead and start where we would take out on the trail just to save time and were skinning up the road by 10am. We didn’t think it would make much difference how we got to the top of the first hill because everything was covered in snow so we just started heading up, navigating through alders before finding what seemed like a little trail with clearing from the brush but the trail did not exist on any map so we decided to just keep taking it up figuring at some point we would get where we needed to be. We alternated breaking trail and I had much appreciation for those who put the skin tracks in that we all follow. Some of the navigation was rather comical, what seemed like a clean uphill track proved to be rather challenging with the angle and the loose snow.

We soon intersected with the actual trail up and laughed that there was an actual track that we could have been on for the first part but hopped onto it and saved some energy. We kept going up and about half a mile from the top the wind started picking up and blowing snow, we put on a few more layers and kept going. We made it to the top after getting in one persons downhill tracks that were quickly filling in with blowing snow. The top looked very different covered in snow, the wind had picked up and cornices were forming, like white caps in the ocean. We quickly had a snack and kept moving. We navigated the backside and dipped low to carve a wide angle into the hillside before looping back around to get onto the ridge line that we would boot pack to get closer to the summit to ski down (again, can’t believe someone was game for this).

Before the wind picked up

The last time I had done this run I listened to a podcast about a couple in Alaska who after a one received a terminal diagnosis decided to die together on their own terms (small world but after listening to that realized a friend had bought the guys’ sailboat). I thought about that time I was back here traversing the hillside going through my own death and rebirth. And also thought about what it meant to love a person so deeply that you simply don’t want to exist without them–is that the level of commitment people should be willing to undertake in a relationship? Again, good reasons that I’m single because that’s definitely not my thinking. I’m not even sure how we got on the topic but once again we landed on death, with my ski partner being in the medical profession we talked about how she navigates it and how I navigated it when I was in the hospital. We also talked about all the environmental impacts of embalming and when she questioned out loud how that even started I enthusiastically was able to respond having just read a book by a funeral director and the culture around the industry. We both agreed that our culture doesn’t do death very well and she recommended the book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

We still had to get to the ridge on the right in this picture

We skirted around to the ridge line, traversed between the rocks and tried to tuck behind a larger rock to gain shelter from the wind while we took our skis and attached them to our packs. The rock offered little protection and despite how heavy my skis are I was worried they would just get ripped out of my hands as I wrestled with the straps to attach them to my pack. I grabbed another snack as quickly as I could and we started hiking up. It proved to be pretty easy because the wind had moved enough of the snow and we could navigate from rock-to-rock-tundra to get some stability. Occasionally, I would step out onto what I assumed was solid ground and my entire leg would plunge through the snow quickly making me renegotiate my way across. The wind was vicious and the snow was getting whipped into the one spot on my body that was exposed, my left face cheek. I tried not to take it personally but realized that a nose guard might be in my future (another obscure thing that only seems to exist in Alaska).

After about an hour of hiking up we popped over to look at the run, huh, not great, we tucked back in and navigated up a bit further. We looked at the line we had initially thought of running but with all the wind activity thought dropping in would prove the most perilous. We moved again, finding a spot between rocks that gave us a clean view. The line didn’t seem to have much wind effect and it was low angle- we talked about the reasons we shouldn’t do it and decided we were okay with the amount of risk that it came with (very low, risk mom, don’t worry).

Still unclear if I have windburn or frost nip on my face

With the line I would take she would have eyes on me the whole time in case something went and then I would see her the whole time. Because it was my idea I felt like it was only fair that I went first–not for a clean line but in case I triggered an avalanche, sorry mom. I pushed off trusting our knowledge and ability to respond if something did happen. It didn’t and the snow proved to be the playground that you can only dream of as a kid. The minutes went by fast but the seconds went by slow as I took it all in. I got down to the meeting point and gave the signal. I watched similar turns to mine come down the mountain. I couldn’t believe it.

Totally worth the 6 hour uphill to get this line

We met up and talked about how great that was and the fact that we actually got our objective as we both doubted it would be do-able at multiple points. Where we stopped didn’t prove to be a steep enough angle and with all the powder and we had to work to get going again. Despite that we linked up with an uphill track and worked our way the rest of the way down the mountain. I would ski in the track and then pop out when I felt like I needed to slow down a bit with the powder doing enough to slow my momentum. We took our skis off twice to hike up short little hills to get out, as the snow proved too deep to want to do any side-steeping. We exited the trail just as the moon was rising and darkness was sweeping through the valley floor. We didn’t even need to pull out our headlamps. We were glad that we didn’t start from my house because that would have added 4 more miles to the route—but it’s on my list of things to do. We got done and went over the events of the day–we ended up skiing for about 7 hours but really to only go downhill for about 30-40 minutes of that and really with only about 4 minutes of powder turns but made those 4 minutes all the more magical. I felt lucky that I found someone last minute who had the day off to do it with me.  

I’m trying to get as many skis day in because I’m going to Canada with some of my friends from Colorado and well they can all ski laps around me so trying to at least get my legs ready for 7 days of skiing. I’m pretty excited but trying to act cool so they’ll invite me again—haven’t decided if it would be too much if I showed up with t-shirts that say, “Bayesian Kate Learns to Ski” – or “geological time is now” sorry that’s a joke that only 9 people might get and I’m sure none of them read this.

After Wednesday Worlds, we were in the parking lot talking and eating chocolate I had brought back from Italy when one of the guys said that he feels like he’s really coming into his time, like this is it. I was almost taken aback, are we allowed to admit these things out loud? I decided if he could, I could too and I said yeah, I feel like I’m also entering my time, and I’m really excited about everything and feel like it’s all coming together and I’m finally thriving, not just surviving. Then I thought about this book I was recently reading from an author that I’ve read a lot of books from and she told the story of how she kind of lost it on an airport worker and I was like what, you’ve been writing about how to operate in this world with kindness and grace for like 30 years. And I started thinking is she different than she was, have any of these things change the way she interacts with the world or do we just fall back into old habits at some point and write about what you did so others can learn but you don’t actually learn. I had an intense therapy session last week (probably why I wanted to get outside so much this week) where my therapist suggested meeting myself with compassion instead of judgement, for thanking myself for doing what it needed to do to survive, even if that felt like getting myself lost. I guess what I’m saying is that I still wonder, despite feeling like it’s my time and I’m finally on solid ground, what the future will look like and what I will look like and how I will navigate through it all, how will I show up in certain situations. But I suppose it’s just like a big outdoor objectives where you do what you need to survive until you can thrive, adapt as needed, pack a lot of sour patch kids and trust that you will see yourself through.  

And get by with a little help from my friends

the storm inside you isn’t trying to kill you. it’s trying to save you. from the mercilessness of the universe.

you are not meant to be at peace with yourself. they’re selling you lies. 

you are meant to rage. and to look where no one dares to look. 

you are meant to seek lightening. hell, even become it. 

genius is not born in quiet. 

it’s the child of chaos. 

you can either run from it or embrace it. but you sure as hell cannot be free from it. 

i imagine myself to be a writer. old wrinkly hands, and my children crying at the poems i wrote. 

pain, unleashed, is the real becoming.

–this was definitely taken from somewhere but I cannot find the credit but it’s not my words just seemed fitting

Jane said this blog was a little Debbie Downer and didn’t think it was reflective of how much joy I’ve been showing these days– but I suppose just like finding joy and happiness in the dark right now outside maybe that’s what I’m doing inside. Stay tuned for more Pollyanna. Oh, and Team Couch will be riding again! We all got into the White Mountains 100 in March– TBD if I’ll be biking, skiing, or running. Lolz

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Last Place Champ

I was looking for an email this morning and had searched Chamonix when something called Last Place Champ popped up, I didn’t recognize it so clicked to search and it took me to an email from February 10, 2020. It was for a profile someone was doing on me after getting last place at Nationals in the singlespeed category. That took me back to a life that seems so far away now. I was looking at my responses to the questions.

How did you feel once you crossed the finish line?

I had mix feelings crossing the finish line, on one hand I was proud of the effort I put in to get me across the finish line and on the other hand I was pretty disappointed that a mechanical had taken me out of contention and I spent the majority of the race running with my bike instead of riding. There are a lot of factors you can control with racing; training, nutrition, equipment choices, ect…., but you can’t control for everything and that’s part of the appeal is the chaos that you attempt to contain while racing.

What would you say was the hardest challenge in this race?

…I think it’s hard because a last place finish, doesn’t tell the whole story of the race, it only captures a brief moment of time, there is no asterisk there to explain anyone’s story. I kept joking that sometimes ‘I’m fast, sometimes I’m last’. During the race I also had to shake the expectations others had for me and that is not to say that I felt pressure from anyone else but during the race felt like spectators just assumed I was not here to really compete, I mean who runs with their bike during a bike race. I had to remind myself that these people don’t matter but that’s easier said than done.

What was the most rewarding thing about completing this race?

Gaining that mental toughness. Before the race I was joking with my mechanic that is something really went haywire I would just pull the plug, I was there mostly for fun and then to see how my body actually responded during that moment of deciding, it didn’t want to give up and wanted to keep racing, that was oddly exciting to see. This season was one of transition for me and at times I wondered if my body and mind were maybe just done with racing (I took the summer off from racing to study for the bar exam so had to race my way into shape throughout the seasons). It also taught me that it’s okay to have fun and still take things seriously. I didn’t want to put too many expectations on myself to perform so missed some key equipment checks because I didn’t want to come off as too serious because I didn’t think I would be a contended.

Any final words of encouragement and thoughts you’d like to share?

Racing opens you up to vulnerability and potentially criticism, but it also opens the door to an amazing supportive community that will share in your victories and buy you drinks to drown your sorrows. I’ve learned so much about myself by showing up to starting lines that I was minutes away from talking myself out of. I’ve never regretted doing a race, even the ones that I didn’t live up to my potential at, in fact those are the ones that keep me up at night and leave my hungry for more. I thought getting last would be devastating and it was for a bit, but the bright side is that when people ask you how you did in the race, no one expects you to say, “I got dead fucking last” and then laugh, which really sounds better than some random number, unless you’re first.

———

I don’t know if this ever actually got posted anywhere because as 2020 unfolded most things took a backseat to anything other than COVID. In a way it was weird to get transported back to that time and place, the girl who wrote that, past Kate must have known that future Kate was going to be going through some shit soon and maybe would find these words all these years later a little encouraging (I love when past Kate looks out for future Kate). I read through them and thought of how much the answers related to the trauma I’ve been carrying, about holding space for the duality, shaking others’ expectations and assumptions, being confident in my ability, leaning into the community, and how the finish results only serves a snap shot of the race. I think we should all come with asterisks, Kate*

*Kate had a panic attack at the end of December 2021 which she feels like was her own fault and the amount of pain and destruction it caused is complicated by the amount of joy and growth it brought, please proceed gently she is still sometimes anxious and occasionally gets an intrusive thought but loves playing outside and is really good at an extremely niche area of international law.

But we don’t come with asterisks. And in a lot of ways with writing and the past year I’ve been more vulnerable than I ever was when I was racing and while that vulnerability brought pain it also brought me into this amazing circle of others who are navigating choppy waters as well (I mean aren’t we all). I remember during the MDH 150 (yes, still working on that) my phone died and Barb gave me her phone with music on it and tee’d up Florence and the Machine– I told her that was perfect because the most recent song I had had on repeat was one of hers that starts, “Sometimes I wonder if I should be medicated…I’m on fire and I’m trying not to show it.” And isn’t that the theme for most of early 2022. But I suppose I have shown it and it’s taken a while to peel back all the layers and talk about them because well who knew what I would be peeling back. I’ve found that the space that used to be filled with so much grief, sadness, and anger didn’t go away, that space still exists but now has room for other things to fill it like joy, content, relief.

I kept thinking that once COVID was over my life would unpause and I could make plans, grow/strengthen my friendships, dance, laugh, cry, show any emotion. But that thinking did me in and instead I felt so numb for at least a few months leading up to the panic attack, joy was fleeting and even the highs were punctuated with bated breath to see if anyone would get COVID. As I said before life doesn’t pause and having to reschedule and cancel things or adapt comes with frustrations, even when not dealing with a pandemic. I feel like in the past year I saw my mind fail me in a way I had never experienced and am doing everything to make sure it never happens again. Fortunately (or unforunately) I’ve also seen friends in the same boat and some navigating having their bodies fail as they share the frustrations of having to reschedule or put things to a date to be determined. So we’re all adapting, navigating, and walking each other home.

One of the bigger loses I felt this past year was my relationship, I’d like to think the panic attack and the residual aftershocks killed it but it was probably more like death of 1,000 cuts and thinking that once I got footing and my narrative back from COVID, the panic attack, life, I could pick up where we left off before everything, back in March of 2020. Before the cascade of uncertainly crushed me in the chaos. I think of that post-race analysis and it’s like man, I don’t even know if he met that girl who was talking about how strong she was and how much fun I could be, if he did she was fleeting. And while certainly sad it’s also acknowledging that within every relationship is a time stamp of the events around it, with no asterisk. While I certainly grieved for the relationship I feel like I grieved more for the girl who didn’t show up, who had been knocked down and couldn’t figure out how to ask for help, who felt incredibly isolated, alone and awash with my own thoughts, who lost her laugh. I think I grieve mostly for what I lost in myself, who I used to be, and the amount of effort it’s taken to get back to her — the girl who breaks her bike and takes off running to keep up. My therapist (and I) think she’s still in there- and is making quite the moves to come back–but it’s almost like she had to retreat for how much she was trying to protect herself. As I move forward with healing and trying to untangle COVID, panic attack, relationships, I realize that they are all intertwined and figuring out the contact points of the specific fission isn’t exactly a productive use of time. It’s like when a race really goes sideways and it’s just a multitude of factors. And yes, sometimes I still get real annoyed at this trauma suitcase even though it is much smaller than it was a few months ago. Anyways, #SingleK8 is back (IYKYK) and I’m sure this is the start of a Hallmark movie….just kidding more like #SkimoK8 is back (just signed up for a race).

I thought about this all after I arrived back in Alaska after 30 hours of traveling from Italy and awoke early from jet-lag. I was waiting for the sun to come up and then headed out to ski with my roommate. We ran into some overflow early on and Hailey’s foot broke through exposing her to cold water. Realizing the potential damage that could come with a wet, cold exposure she turned around and I remained to do some laps and then ski home. I went up to the top and then dropped down a bit to do some hill repeats, up, down, up down, up down, my heartrate monitor still in a bag over the Atlantic. I kept going beyond what I was told to do, entering the flow state, breaking down the technique, wondering if I could just be a little bit better than the last time. I stopped just as the sun was about to crest the hill line and decided to rip my skins and go down. I took off thinking I should wax my skis at some point, the loop itself is short but there are a few tight corners and as I’ve worked on my technique I’m more comfortable leaning in and pushing through the apex. In those moments, right before the turn falls away, I feel a pushing back from the earth and yesterday as I rounded the corner I couldn’t help but to think it was mother earth kindly reminding me that she had me and would always have me. Alright, nerds don’t ruin that with the forces of gravity pushing back on you, I know logically how it works, just let me have this.

I did a writing that isn’t public yet about how my relationship changed with the outdoors during COVID, before once a place of refuge, became a place where anything and everything could kill me. After the panic attack it was the only place I could go that would quiet my thoughts and pull me back into the present being, however brief and I kept chasing that no matter how elusive it was on some days. I thought of that yesterday too as the quiet spots are no longer elusive or just contained to the outdoors, my resting heartrate is back to a normal 45-55bpm range, and while some days feel long and the trauma suitcase a bit heavy I know that over time this will become a footnote in my story.

On a side note, Italy was great, I was able to meet up with a former co-worker, Renu. Julia and I did some touristy things when we overlapped in Milan. Trento was lovely and I feel like once again I get the push and pull of do you return to a place you already know or to go explore somewhere new. I don’t have to answer the question just yet as I’m headed to Canada and Switzerland in January but sending the question into the universe to see what comes back.

I’m back for a few weeks before what will feel like another whirlwind tour and packing in all the days on snow I can. Charlotte and I once again got out today, with Lang, finding some nice fluffy snow on a less than existent base layer.

You’ll know how to build your own fire in a cold forest. You’ll find yourself in the middle of life’s wet howl and you’ll recognize how bright you are. You’ll reach for only what will burn you back.

Radical Hope

In the past months I have started and stopped writing more times than I can count, thinking I needed to find the right words for the right audience but I’ve realized that I don’t do this for you I do it for me and if I’m trying to craft the right words for the right reader well then that will never happened because who is the right audience (like besides my parents who already get mini life updates 3-4 times a week).

I still spend a lot of time working on COVID so it still occupies a lot of my mind (globally, we had our highest daily case count this week) but with the vaccines coming online here it feels like I can breathe easier knowing my parents, family, friends, and community are protected. Then I feel guilty because all of those individuals who still can’t access the vaccine while still tracking everything that is happening worldwide and knowing that our individuals actions can have large and lasting impacts beyond our immediate contacts. I’m sure it’s been a wild ride for my therapist and she’s probably learned more about pandemic preparedness and vaccine deployment than she probably ever anticipated knowing about. And it’s been exhausting to see peoples’ response and while I won’t get super deep into my thoughts I will say that I hope when this is over we invest in public health, education, and mental health resources.

Alvin did become a pretty good trail partner

To catch you up from last fall I drove through Canada while the border was closed, with Alvin- the best backseat driver. I didn’t think I could handle an Alaska winter during COVID and it was the longest I had not seen my parents in person like ever (which is very fortunate). We left here in late October (figured if there was a coup during the election resources to Alaska would be cut off first– and that was only funny to joke about until an insurrection happened).

When I drove up to Alaska I promised on my return I would not do it in that amount of time again, I’d take like 2-3 weeks really make a trip of it, well I at least kept half of that promise and did not do it in the same amount of time, but rather quicker. The border was closed (and still is) except for essential travel. My plan was to drive most of my things down before the roads got too bad in case work was like hey we need you in DC and honestly was not sure I could handle Alvin flying beneath me in cargo, let’s be real. I had to show way more documentation to get into Canada than I thought was possible (they did not even seem to care that Alvin was vaccinated). I was given strict instructions and a number to call if I developed symptoms on the drive. It wasn’t too bad just long, and having Alvin at least forced me to stop every few hours to get out and walk around.

When we got to the US border I was met with one question, “where did you stop” and well because I’m me had a list of all places that I had stopped even briefly in case they needed to contact trace, I handed them the list and he goes “oh no, we just need to know if you have any fruits or vegetables that could be carrying something” I looked at him as if I was not the potential carrier of something. I said I had no fruits or vegetables and he waived me through (again not concerned about this wild village dog). I turned my paperwork into the Canadians to avoid getting a bench warrant on me and entered the US. After another 12 hours of driving, and quarantining before hand, I finally made it to my parents and was oddly relieved to see them alive (even though weekly Facetime calls told me they were).

I planned on going back to Alaska and decided to sign up for a running race the first week of March figuring it would give Alvin and I something to do while we were home. And it did, I spent most of the time hiking, trail running, and entertaining both Tenzen and Alvin.

I found a friend to run with who knew the trails in Wind Cave, which I had never spent much time in because too many snakes in the summer but with winter only had to do a few bison detours. And she was even down to run 15 miles without thinking twice about it.

I left Alvin at home when I came back to Alaska because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying for. It was incredibly challenging, because we had basically spent the past 9 months together like all the time and obviously very worried about traumatizing him by leaving him with Tenzen but he seemed unfazed by it, probably had to put up with more in the village. I do get daily updates and pictures from my parents, and my sister has sworn that she will not be getting a dog (as my parents are currently watching both Frank and I’s…)

I came back to Alaska and continued running and started skiing more which was similar to a baby giraffe figuring out what to do with its legs but had kind friends who would take me out, share tips, and wait for me as I side stepped steep hills (you’re welcome mom).

I did the Homer Epic and raced (ran) 30 miles, it was a time trial start with each participant spaced out by about 30 seconds so I started alone and spent most of the day alone. I figured it was a good way to get to see Homer, albeit a bit slow but it was a blue bird day so could not complain.

I felt great until mile 12 and then the snow lost it’s firmness and it became soft and squishy with a sideways wind picking up the snow and whipping it around me, reminding me that it was in fact a winter race. I made it to the half way mark and recognized one of the aid workers from previous bike races, we briefly chatted and then I took off again. Because of COVID I didn’t make any plans to stop at aid stations and carried what I thought I would need in my backpack and then Kevin carried other things I thought I might need and met me at two points, mile 10 and around mile 21.

After the halfway point I started what seemed to be the only climb of the day, or at least memorable one, it seemed to go on for about 3 miles. It started with a short climb that made me think it was over but upon cresting the summit realize there was still more to come, I started the downhill before getting to the next uphill approach when a woman rode the opposite direction towards me, she yelled something like, “woohooo go lady!” And that was enough to make me cry, like full on sob, I think because in that moment everything felt so normal, like every other race before there there is always someone yelling “go lady” or “girl power” or cheering in some form and it felt just like that, except it wasn’t, we were (are) still in the midst of a pandemic that had claimed so many unnecessary lives, caused so much financial upheaval, and torn at the very fabric of our society. So I think it was a culmination of things, plus having ran like 17 miles before maybe didn’t help my ability to control my emotions but then I cried most of the way up the hill and just like embraced it, like let it all out and it felt real good (or maybe it was the runner’s high).

I met Kevin at mile 21 and was very much looking forward to the processed turkey meat I made him haul out for that mile. I ate the food from him, lamented on how much I wished I was running on concrete since the soft snow had been my nemesis for the past 10 miles. Kevin packed up to ski back to the finish line, but it was rather anti-climatic as he never fully disappeared from my viewpoint for a few miles. I finished in around 8 hours and got 2nd (but the field was very small, although more than 2). The finish was pretty anticlimatic too, I almost tripped going across the finish line and then walked to the car and convinced Kevin to get takeout food from Alice’s Champagne Palace and that was it.

I took a few weeks off and putz around going back to skiing and lifting and then realized it was March and should probably start thinking about biking–got a little thrown that spring was here given how much snow was still around. I loosely started training and have some things in mind for what I want to accomplish this summer/fall but feel like it’s still too premature to state concretely that I’ll be doing these things, like I’ll somehow jinx it and will spend another summer grieving for time that keeps marching on. It’s been nice to get back on my bike, last summer I struggled without much structure in place, among other things, and I feel like my risk factor assessment was skewed in being able to properly assess what was required of me and others.

My academic training taught me a lot about how to prepare for pandemics but in all of those years studying I never once stopped to think about the day-to-day life of the people living through an outbreak– again law focuses on facts and not feelings. But now I realize how detrimental it is to neglect feelings and human behavior and I’m sure all the behavioral scientists are like yeah, duh. After the Exxon/Valdez oil spill a lot of researchers moved to the area, scientists, toxic marine biologists but also sociologist and anthropologists. We had never dealt with an oil spill of that magnitude and weren’t exactly sure how to respond, like after the crash happened nothing happened for 3 days, the oil just stayed in the water while people tried to figure out the best course of action for retrieval, the 4th day a huge storm moved in and displaced the oil up and down the coast of Alaska going from an isolated area to impacting many small communities that rely on the water for fishing and other ways of life. A class action law suit happened, with something over 30,000 plaintiffs but as my dad will point out, justice is not always swift with the lawsuit dragging out for more than a decade. The lawsuit got appealed all the way to Supreme Court and they did in my opinion a terrible job of articulating what punitive damages are for– basically reducing them from an initial award of $5 billion to then $2.5 billion at the Court of Appeals and finally to the Supreme Court saying that punitive damages for maritime related cases should not exceed compensatory damages which was an award of $200 million. So Exxon went from losing one year of profits in punitive damages to 1-2 days. But in exchange we’ve recovered 8% of the oil that was lost. Why did I just tell you this rather depressing information, well because in addition to this legal information, we have sociology and anthropology research that came out it too. I’ve often found the law does an awful job of telling the true realities, which makes sense because you want facts and not feelings making legal precedent but as I’ve written about before, law school only teaches case law and not the human emotions that go into walking into someone’s life on their worst day, as I often felt when walking into a patients room to complete a Will so they could be discharged into hospice and die. My story stops at completing their will and their story stops shortly after but there is no mention of the turmoil one goes through in having weeks to get their affairs in order before leaving this earth. So what did a lot of the behavioral research show after the Valdez oil spill, well it showed that communities come together when dealing with a natural disaster (i.e., disease outbreak.acts of God) but they get torn apart based on acts of humans. Basically technological disasters (acts of humans) were more psychologically stressful than natural disasters, n=177. In addition to the trauma response to the disaster, the community became divided because the longer it went on the more people were split on how it should have been handled- if it should even be litigated vs. just moving on. But there is no playbook for things like this, there is no trauma response class in schools, some people going through the legal system is healing, for other’s it’s putting salt in a wound they don’t want to have open anymore. This is all to say that I’m not sure this leaves us post-COVID, it’s been hellacious seeing our response and I often think of the 1918 Flu because we don’t have a lot of information on that, and some of that was in part because of the sedition acts but I think a lot of it was it was probably really traumatizing for individuals. Now we have all the information but will it get suppressed because of human behaviors. I don’t know but that’s what I spend time thinking about, how do we heal, how do I heal.

I did my first big ride since before COVID this past weekend and it’s the moment I’ve been waiting a year for where this desire finally trickled up and I couldn’t put it off any longer (kind of like finally blogging). Before it wasn’t there, I would think about doing long rides and going on treks but just couldn’t get over whatever barrier was there in my mind. And they weren’t barriers put up by biking but more about how society functioned during COVID which I don’t need to get into here but they have been identified and working through it with my therapist. But I knew the moment was here when I was met with either driving 100 highway miles or riding my bike and riding my bike seemed easier and more enjoyable. Which I know you’re like what, and I would have been like what all last year too. And I was amazed at how quickly my body settled into the rhythm of riding, sure I’ve done longish rides at this point but nothing really over 2-3 hours. It became mechanical again when to eat, when to drink, like I had never stopped doing it. I got done and finished at 95 miles, Kevin suggested I go ride 5 more for a century but I thought best not to over do it right out of the gate.

Why ride 5 more miles when you can go eat hot dogs

I guess my hope is that whatever you have endured this past year, whether COVID related or something else, whatever barriers you had that made you stop, take a break, and question everything that you know, that when you pick up you don’t just think about going back to where you were but are in a place where you get to think about how to make things better than they were before for yourself, your community, wherever you feel called. I also got sent this article this morning by a friend on how the pandemic mental wounds are still wide open, it helped me so maybe it will help you.

I’m headed to Valdez this weekend, it’s been on my list to go for a while and missed the opportunity to get there this winter. I have a lot more thoughts I feel like I need to get out but seems like the best thing for me is to ride 300 miles and see how this community healed after trauma. And in a way all these things tell me that I’m healing.

“If you insist on entertaining hopes you might as well be ambitious in your desires do not bother fantasizing about a return to how things were before you might as well be ambitious in your desires hope that things will be better than they were before” -Plague Poems

Photo by Rachel Heath and I hope everyone has a friend like her in their lives

Weird Times

I’m not even sure how to start this post– honestly most days being in Alaska feels like I’m perched somewhere just watching the world burn. I’m grateful for the response that Anchorage’s Mayor took early on and Alaska as a state, our case increase has been a slow uptick, still under 300 and only a handful of deaths.

But we only have 880,000 people….cool, cool, cool.

Meanwhile, my parents in South Dakota still have no lockdown orders mandated state-wide. Some cities and counties are doing their part but most were slow to react and not everyone has an order. I’m proud of my parents for taking it seriously, finally got my dad to stop going to the jail (I wrote a motion on why inmate’s should be released– proud prosecutor’s daughter ha). Unfortunately, I also wrote a paper last year that focused on contrasting my community with another community which means I know there are 3,570 residents, 290 people (before COVID and people losing their jobs) without health insurance; 847 individuals have one or more disability and just over 1,000 individuals are over the age of 65. I know that our hospital has 25 beds and 2 ventilators. And I’m well over 3,000 miles away but even if I was closer, I know that if someone I love goes into the hospital I can’t go with them. And it’s terrifying because it’s like a ticking time bomb and we won’t know the extent of the damage for months to come.

Love the community that raised us– and yes after this is over I might be blonde again…

Beyond my family I think about the community that raised me, growing up in a small town (the same one as my mother) means that everyone knows everyone, so I think of my teachers, most of who are retired now, I think of my friends who work in the hospital, I think of the restaurateurs, the grocers, the ranchers, the funeral director, those in the assisted living facilities who became like second-grandmas.

Dug through some photos so needed to post more than one

I think of this virus and the response and I’m not sure I will ever forgive those in power who passively have let the virus wash over our communities. With recent cases, Sioux Falls just surged ahead of Chicago and Seattle with a higher per capita infection rate at 182.25 per 100,000 people [When I started this draft, SD had just over 600 cases, it’s now over 1,300 in the 2 days since…]. But I also know not every worse case scenario that is portrayed in the news is going to come true– but hard sometimes for my mind not to go there.

It’s just so good.

Did I need to find something to take my mind off of all of this, oh you betcha. Usually around this time I start training for the upcoming season but with COVID and most races getting pushed back haven’t felt the need to really jump into training–fortunately I planned on this year being most developmental and focusing on the Maah Daah Hey but now not wanting to suppress my immune system (check out this article my Godfather sent me about training loads during this time) and/or train for things that might not materialize means I’m actually in a pretty good mental state around bike racing right now (heyyyo, shout out to my law school therapist).

With physical activity focused less on gaining fitness and more on mental clarity, I decided to start cross-stitching again, it’s repetitive and I have to focus somewhat otherwise I tend to stab myself, perfect. I collected all my things and was engaged in a ‘this color or that color’ when my phone rang. “Hi, we have a dog that we think would be perfect for you.” As like most things in life until that moment I had forgotten that I put in an application for a foster dog. “He’s 6, we just got him in, he’s real sweet.” “Ummm, okay when do you need me to pick him up by.” “Can you get him before 3 today.” They texted me a few pictures and I confirmed with my roommates that they were okay with having a dog in the space. Alright, let’s do this.

I put an application in when I started working from home figuring it would be a good idea to take my mind off of everything– they said that they didn’t have any dogs at the moment so I mostly forgot about it until they called. I picked the dog up, he didn’t have a name, and they handed everything over to me, leash, food, poop bags, crate, and blankets. I got him home and unloaded all his things and took him for a walk. I had planned to go cross-country skiing with a friend later and one of my roommates said she would watch him so I could leave him out while I was gone. Perfect. I grabbed my gear and opened the door to leave when he squeezed by my legs–it took me a minute to realize what was happening, with Tenzen he’s allowed in the front yard because he stays there, when I realized this dog was not Tenzen I tried to grab him but he eluded my clutches and took off. I threw my ski boots down and took off sprinting behind him. I didn’t even have a name for him so couldn’t even yell anything. This dog is going to be gone and I’m going to have to tell these people, I’ve already failed. I kept sprinting with my heart rate not getting that high since cross nationals. Luckily the street he had turned down had a large fence at the end of the lane. He ran there and then kind of jogged around. I slowly approached without trying to spook him. Luckily, like most days, I had some jelly beans in my pocket so dug a few out and stuck them out to entice him to get close enough to grab his collar. Well my plan worked; in the 5 minutes I was sprinting after him I didn’t think once about the virus.

I had been mulling over a few names, I’ve had a few dog names in my mind for a while but only fostering him didn’t want to give him one of those. Upon catching him and bringing him back settled on the name Alvin. After Alvin McDonald, an early cave explorer in the Black Hills.

Since then we’ve settled into a routine of 3-4 walks during the day, which means I’ve reduced my running because I don’t want to leave him but have gained leisurely paced strolls with the occasional abrupt jerk when he pulls. It’s given me a reason to finally catch up on those podcast recommendations or call my family. After a week of feeding him several large heaps of dog food a day to get his weight up figured we were ready to try a short run. Run is a loosely applied term for what we did. It started off promising but with him being more interested in smelling things and I realizing he only has one speed (a bit too fast for walking sometimes, a bit too slow for running). We settled into some weird shuffle of 2.5 miles in 40 minutes.

Post first runish….

I’ve worked him up to accepting treats, and now we’re starting to broach commands [although my Dad has pointed out, he has me trained], although I’m not even sure he even recognizes his name at this point. The first weekend I had him I left him at home for the adventures, still unsure of his capabilities. One day I did a very mellow alpine touring ski which required some stream crossing and bush whacking, only to get within range of the summit and have it disappear.

Not wanting to loose ourselves in the abyss we turned around and followed our tracks down where the clouds dissipated and the sun seemed like it had always been there. Going down felt euphoric, as my skis seemed to float underneath me.

To avoid the stream crossing we did earlier we ended up skinning up and thought we had found a good place to cross the gully but after getting to the other side realized it wasn’t a good exit. We ended up skinning a bit up in the terrain trap, which just means that if an avalanche were to happen that’s where it would likely go. Obviously we assessed the risk, extremely low, but if something did get triggered it would be less than ideal. Basically we were kind of like sitting ducks and at mercy of others actions– and again thought about the virus because feel to some extent we’re all just sitting ducks waiting, feeling trapped at what might be headed towards us but unlike the current pandemic we were able to get out of the gully and to the other side quite quickly.

We then pitched our angle uphill a bit more so we could then gain enough speed to make it back to the car without having to put our skins on. I felt so bad about leaving Alvin at home for a few hours that I think I took him on close to a 90 minute walk that night.

I’m sure he must just stare out the window like this when I leave him.

The next day I did a shorter cross-country ski but again left Alvin at home. We ended up on the other side of the valley but the snow was a little more crusty.

What snow there was…

We had less of a finish in mind and more of a let’s see where this takes us approach. We skied for a bit, took our skis off, and hiked for a bit, and then had some lunch, deciding it was a good spot to turn around.

I’m not sure how much was the crust and how much was the champagne (I mean life is short, right) I drank for lunch that resulted in more than a few face plants. We skied down and stayed off the main trail to avoid as many people as possible.

The second week with Alvin I settled more into a routine, recognizing his favorite spots to poop and when he’s most likely to go. He started sleeping out of the crate and after the first night gave him multiple pillows off my bed to accommodate him. Was grateful when a friend offered one of her dog beds up– now those floor pillows have just become his second bed….

Maybe I should give him a bath….

He hasn’t had any real accidents in the house, other than peeing on my bike attached to the trainer. He wasn’t a fan of it to start with but then really showed his feelings during that moment. I was yelling at him to stop and he didn’t even flinch, didn’t break eye contact just kept going. He’s more tolerating of my trainer rides now but not sure I’ll ever get him close enough to a bike to be a proper trail dog.

This past weekend I took him on his first hike, but not before heading out on my own the day before. I headed up Wolverine Peak, which was 9 miles and definitely not one for the dog at the moment. It was pretty steep uphill with some icy spots that made me grateful I bought shoes with spikes in them last fall even though I thought it would be an overkill (lover of treadmills and trainers). The trail head had the most people which again for Alaska I guess is crowded but compared to most other places it was like 6-10 people and we were mostly able to avoid people and pull our masks over our faces. The trail traffic was a minimum and the view from the top was well worth taking in.

On the way down we stepped off the trail to give distance to older guys who jokingly covered their faces and said they had the virus yesterday and were better now. I responded a bit snarky to some effect saying, “you think this is a joke but people are dying.” I really wanted to follow-up with and ‘you’re more likely to die than I am’ but left it at that and instead of getting back on the main trail, bush whacked a bit to get down into a gully that would avoid more people. Everyone else seemed conscious of maintaining distance and trying to minimize any potential spread.

We’re both not exactly morning people

For Easter planned on doing an early morning hike (kind of like a sunrise service) with Alvin to see how he would do but upon waking couldn’t see the mountains so opted for a later departure date and a trail closer to the water and out of the mountains. Alvin is pretty great on the leash and just likes to stop and smell and mark most things–at least on the way out. We hiked about 2 miles out to a vantage point to take pictures of the good boy before turning around.

On the way back he was less interested in smelling things and oscillated between wanting to sprint and dilly-dallying down the trail. He did quite well, given my history with Tenzen was more than prepared to have to carry him for some of it. He also did well around other dogs, he seems to be mostly curious and not aggressive in anyway. I’m not sure he’ll ever be an off the dog leash, for one he still does not recognize his name, and two I’m not sure he would ever come back.

Look at this trail corgi

I’m now on my fifth week of work from home, which means I finally gave in and assembled my desk and office chair. At this point my contract ends mid-September and honestly not sure I will be back in the hospital before then. Mentally preparing for a marathon but hoping for a sprint….

I remain grateful that my life continues to have some semblance of normalcy (definitely recognize the privilege that comes with all of that) as my heart aches for all of those who have had massive shifts in their lives and livelihoods as a result. Again, if you are thinking we need to open up the economy and don’t understand why we aren’t, call your representatives and demand massive testing for COVID and for the anti-bodies. Testing and contact tracing is our best bet at the moment (until there is a vaccine) while continuing to socially isolate. Just because our government is incompetent doesn’t mean you need to be (looking at you, South Dakota).

The Abyss

Last weekend seemed like an indulgent, illicit activity and now a lifetime away. Many people are finding themselves in spaces that don’t allow for them to escape for empty trails (looking at you, CO) and fresh air all while being able to maintain 6 feet of distance apart. I was finding myself with feelings of isolation in Alaska this winter and have found that this might be as good of place as any to weather out the impending storm. As COVID-19 cases have slowly uptick in Anchorage I’m now trying to consciously recreate in a way that would reduce the need for me to access healthcare services or require a backcountry rescue so will in all likelihood find myself on the local trails for the impending future–but fortunate enough to squeak one more weekend in.

We headed out to another glacier, this one was 20 miles one way–the plan being we’d ski out, set up camp, ski back the next day. I did 20 miles total the weekend before but my biggest fault when it comes to mileage is I still operate in cycling miles, 20 miles, psh ain’t no thang. Little different when cross-country skiing and having 30-40 pounds on your back (realistically probably 20 since I didn’t pack my industrial strength hairdryer this time– and if you don’t get that reference guess we know what you’ll be doing in quarantine).

While we escaped from the constant news updates and feelings of impending doom it was hard to completely turn my mind off from the virus. I would float in and out of scenarios and do comparative analyses to past pandemics and outbreaks (fun fact my favorite pandemic to study is the 1918 flu (you never forget your first) but my favorite disease is tuberculosis). I worried about being out of service for 48 hours and the potential notifications that might be awaiting my arrival. I also thought about if we should even be out there– there is a lot of discussion right now about if people should be partaking in these activities (yes, no, responsibly…I’ll default to my favorite lawyer answer, “it depends” (not legal advice).

The first day called for cooler temps than last weekend and snow. Okay going to get my winter camping badge for real this weekend. We drove 2 hours out of Anchorage and pulled off on the side of the road. I know the saying, “be bold, start cold” but I’m always convinced I will stay cold and never get warm so I bundled on layers with the thought I would take them off as needed. I was told that it was a river bed of flatness out to a glacier so was slightly surprised when we started on a slight downhill, followed by a pretty steep uphill, some more downhill, and some fresh tracks. Stopping to go pee I mused that I’d probably just leave my skis on so I don’t sink in the snow to which there was thunderous chorus that exclaimed of course I should keep my skis on just try not to pee on the bindings (still so much to learn). We descended down for about four more miles before the reaching the river bed.

With the clouds still surrounding us we just began skiing towards this white abyss. And in a lot of ways the physical landscaped matched my internal feelings about the pandemic. Right now we can’t see what we’re working towards (all these measures social distancing, quarantine, isolation against an invisible enemy) we have projections of what will happen if it works and if it doesn’t work but we’re in this abyss right now where we have pushed off from one side and have yet to see a safe landing. And yet we kept moving, I would repeat the mantra in my head, “kick, glide, feel the rhythm, feel the ride” (and if you don’t get that reference also prime quarantine opportunity). We would stop and change layers as needed–adding, removing, snacking. Talking about what the view would have given us without the clouds. On an exposed section the wind had picked up and the soft, fleeting snow had turned into fierce pieces of ice striking my face, it reminded me of acupuncture needles and just imagined I was getting a free facial –one guy talked about doing 100 mile ski race (yeah, read that again) and how it was like this the whole way and at one point he remembered thinking he just wished the snow would stop hitting him in the face. We only dealt with it for maybe 15-20 minutes but imagine I would have different thoughts if it was 100 miles…

After skiing for 19 miles with about 6 hours of moving time we talked about setting up camp, we were within range of the glacier (maybe depending on route beta) but could still be 2-3 miles away, it was getting late and dark and still a lot of things that need to be done to set up camp. We found a spot perched out of the riverbed and got to work. I dug out a hole to put the tent in, which at least helped to warm me up, while one of the other guys started the stove to melt snow and boil water for our bottles and dinner.

We got it accomplished and set up without too many mishaps– and even dug out some more snow for cooking and eating.

Even adding on another area for a firepit (as one of the guys packed firewood and we stacked it on shovel to get it going). It was nice to warm up next to and abate my shivering if only for intermittent moments.

After we had gone through all the wood we headed to bed. At this point I took off my damp ski boots, put on wool socks and down slippers, and got into dry clothes which helped to really warm me up (the -20 degree bag also does wonders). I still slept with a puffy vest, jacket and a hat on. I even figured out how to work the sleeping bag this time and only woke up once with a cold face.

Before going to sleep one of the guys thought about checking the weather for the morning, I lamented, that it doesn’t matter what the weather is going to be we have to face whatever shows up so we can just not check and pretend it will be nice. Which again took me back to the pandemic as we don’t know what tomorrow will bring but we’re in it and regardless will have to wake up and face whatever shows up overnight. Luckily, the morning did not disappoint. I stepped out of the tent and was greeted by calm skies and the sun starting to creep over the horizon releasing a nice alpenglow that quickly bathed the valley in sunlight.

We made breakfast, packed up camp, leaving our bags and gear to ski over to the glacier. It was alluring but in a more subdued enchantment than the previous weekend. It wasn’t piercing blue but rather dingy with intricate crystal lattices where water had frozen onto the surface.

We skied around for a bit, I learned that you should just follow in the previous tracks and not put in your own tracks on a glacier–not because anything bad happened, it was just pointed out to me as I was frolicking around.

Here’s me in multiple puffy layers…frolicking

We headed back to our camp spot to pick up our things and I took off about three layers on the top and bottom. We started making our way back along the trail we came in on. The views were pretty spectacular so occasionally I would just stop to turn and take it in.

Skiing out was pretty uneventful, minus the view. I found myself more hungry than the day before and slowly made my way through all my snacks (and a few emergency ones-which made me a little nervous but never got to my emergency, emergency sour patch kid provisions so).

All those downhills became uphills in the later part of our day but saw it as an opportunity to try to get better at going uphill (spoiler alert, I did not) but at least it gave my legs a different position to be in for a while. We crested the last hill and could see the road off in the distance but there remained a false flat to get up to the car. I started on the slight incline that would lead up to the car but had no concept of how long or the distance it would be so pulled out another emergency provision when I saw the snow pile the car was situated behind and put the morsel back in my jacket for another time (because I had left a bag of Hippeas in the car as a post-ski snack, also learned that trick the week before).

We got to the car and my boots were frozen to my bindings so took the whole contraption off. Then got in and ate a bunch of Hippeas.

Putting the fun between the legs (mostly a cycling joke)

The whole time I kept making comparisons to being in the backcountry with the pandemic– feel free to keep reading but stop if this will contribute to your anxiety. I’ll also put some good websites that I follow you can check out at the end.

  1. Have a good leader: Going into the backcountry requires you to be putting your life in others’ hands if something happens. Our trip leader sent out a map, route guidance, and information on what to anticipate and expect. Right now I feel that most administrations are operating out of fear/unknown/uncertainty/poor planning and actively triaging while not doing anything to assuage the public’s anxiety about what we’re facing (don’t believe me, remember the 2009 pandemic, how long were you stuck in your house for that one?).
  2. Only take what you need: skiing 20 miles with a pack means making the conscious effort to really decide if you need an article of clothing or piece of gear. This is also relevant now with people buying insane amounts of toilet paper and hand sanitizer (pro tip: hand soap is better).
  3. But be prepared: It means I carried 4 pairs of socks, extra food, and multiple different layers to meet the potential challenges. Social distancing means reducing your interactions so be prepared to last a week between grocery store runs.
  4. Don’t be a dick: You’re in the backcountry with a long ski out, if you’re attitude goes south it’s going to impact everyone. Again, turn you speakers off at 11:30pm when ya know your next door neighbor has a small child and is also stuck at home all day.
  5. Communicate effectively: Talking about when to eat lunch, letting them know if you’re stopping to change layers or to take a rest. Giving others in the group time to anticipate (I usually announce that I’ll be peeing in 20-30 minutes to get everyone on the same page). Right now we don’t have one unified voice giving us direct messages (thank you federalism for reserving public health powers to the states; apparently the founding fathers did not know how viruses work and that they don’t respect boundaries). During Ebola the US had a Czar (what an amazing job title) right now you have the President saying one thing, State Governors enacting various orders, and Dr. Fauci trying to get a clear and accurate message out, but not one unified message telling you that this is going to be a long haul– are we up to the challenge yes, because we are responding by taking x,y,z steps and this is what the next few weeks/months are going to look like.
  6. Look out for one another: Checking in to make sure everyone is still feeling okay, do we need a break, how about some candy, how are people’s feet. When you’re in the backcountry you’re only as strong as your weakest member (i.e., me– also thank you to all my high school coaches who loved that saying and would occasionally linger their gaze a little too long on me when I had a lackluster performance.) For a pandemic, we’re only as strong as our most vulnerable, our most uninsured, our most elderly. Which means being willing to step up and take care of each other now- the cost of treatment of COVID-19 is estimated to be ~$34,000. Imagine not having insurance, are you going to go to the hospital unless it gets really bad and how many potential people will you be in contact with before it gets to that point. Our institutions are being challenged, health isn’t just the absence of disease but all the social determinants that make it up (access to food, water, housing…) all these things that provide stability so people can seek healthcare. I also don’t think it should take a pandemic for us to realize how broke some of our systems are but that’s a whole another blog post/paper.
  7. Don’t operate out of fear: Things can go wrong but staying calm and making decisions using logic will help you go a long way. My go to mantra for most things is: Facts over fear. The hysteria around contagious diseases is somewhat understandable; and only supports stronger legal regulations so that politicians cannot capitalize on this fear and uncertainty to gain political points. By enacting robust legal framework that safeguard civil liberties while taking into account an unprecedented necessity for quarantine we can avoid the mistakes of the past and abrogate the uncertainty of the future (lolz, this was a section from my conclusion on my paper on quarantine last year where I mostly argued that quarantine should only be used a tool of last resort because we have so many other provisions we can use to safeguard the health of the public– didn’t really factor into my analysis a 2 month lackluster response from the government for a contagious disease outbreak–jokes on me).

I remain angry at the situation because I don’t believe it needed to get to this point. China as the source of outbreak spent a lot of their time triaging and just trying to get ahead of it. They put other countries on notice and I believe our response is criminal because we had plenty of time to prepare and we squandered it away (it’s like getting a 30-day eviction notice and waiting till day 31 to take action). Lives will be lost because of the passive response our government (cutting funding to the CDC, designing their own test, not adequately providing healthworkers with protective equipment) has taken. I remain hopeful that communities are up to the challenge, we are up to the challenge, and just like the storm moving out and the blue sky shinning the next day, we will emerge from this cloud. Research actually shows that when disasters strike people become more pro-social, they cooperate and support each other, they’re better than ever. This storm isn’t going to blow over overnight and we won’t get through it quickly (Easter is highly aspirational– and without more tests to know what we’re really up against, highly unlikely) it definitely won’t be today, not this week, unlikely this month, maybe May we’ll take a breath and reassess. What I’m saying is it’s going to be a long haul at this point and things will probably get worse before they get better but we need to stay strong and do our part– oh yeah and call your congressional reps and demand mandatory testing and while you’re at it suggest that they commandeer private companies to start making PPE, ventilators, and getting respiratory therapists trained (grateful to the companies that have shifted their focus already–but the government should respond like a war effort, this is a war we are waging). Yah know, I love a good government overreach. But really if you think the free market will save us now, there has been a post circulating showing that Tuberculosis remains the number one killer in the world as if that means we should not be taking action with COVID-19. This actually shows why we need a strong government response. Antibiotics have existed for TB for nearly 70 years and yet it remains endemic in parts of the US (no, really, think about the last person you knew with TB in the US and now realize it’s still around circulating in communities– not your community? Maybe ask yourself why that is–happy to pass along a paper). Oh yeah and also tell them that the vaccine and treatment should be covered by federal funding. As much as it’s easy to get consumed with the negative I remain optimistic that this will shift our societal norms for the better. That doesn’t mean I don’t fluctuate between wondering if the tightness in my chest is anxiety or the virus–daily temperature checks and yoga to help assuage my fears. If you feel like this paragraph sounds exasperated with tones of eternally optimistic well welcome to the inside of my brain at the moment.

Unlike the 1918 Flu, I hope that when this is over we will not look backward and inward with fear and shame of our response. COVID-19 has exposed massive fault lines in domestic and global institutions but I remain hopeful that we will come out on the other side willing and ready to work towards a more perfect world. But as my brother would say, ‘hope springs eternal‘ with me.

I feel like I should apologize for how sassy this comes off as but I’m not going to because I don’t like having to counsel young parents who are in high risk categories of what documentation should be in place for their children because they have been informed by their physicians if they catch COVID they will likely die.

For your reading pleasure:

Duck of Minerva– Mostly focused on global politics but all the articles as of recent are focused on COVID-19 responses.

The Washington Post Monkey Cage– Also another political science based platform but mostly for domestic politics.

New England Journal of Medicine: Mostly focused on COVID-19 related science, stats.

And if you’ve made it this far here are some things I’ve combat my anxiety:

Down Dog: Free yoga!

These articles sent by my friend, Vega: The Science of Well-Being and one on the grief you’re feeling. She also shared a host of wellness tips, I won’t put them all here but my favorite was: Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems while we are in the thick of it, it will never end. It is unsettling to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Just remember we will return to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the months ahead. You can find more of her stuff, here.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, take a breath and remember those blue skies will be back.

Corona K8

I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to sleep in a tent, outside, in 0 degree weather.

Actually the only thing I was thinking was I need to get out of this place and away from people and that’s how I found myself sleeping in a tent in a -20 degree sleeping bag near a glacier with no one around. I was suppose to be in Albuquerque for training and was so close to getting a mountain bike on dirt trails that when the trip got cancelled as a result of COVID-19, selfishly I was upset because dirt, finally, but as a public health expert (heyyo master’s in pandemic preparedness ironically not a lot of funding for a job when I was looking) realized that the best thing is to stay put and remain as isolated as possible, and pray to God they start testing everyone, soon.

Also tried to convince my dad to stop going to the jail

As a result last week was weird, I spent Monday thinking I would be leaving, Tuesday cancelling flights, Wednesday and Thursday on calls, and Friday packing up what I thought I might need from my office in the hospital in anticipation of leaving indefinitely. I imagine everyone kind of had a week like that; a lot of moments where I’m like what is happening. And it’s weird because there is nothing I can do right now except wait for what feels like this cloud to engulf us and see how quickly it will blow over or how long we’ll be trapped in an endless fog. Researching and writing about every pandemic during graduate school has really made me jump to the worse case scenario because I know how it can potentially play out, especially when ineffective leadership and missteps will literally cost our country lives (but that’s for a research paper discussion and not my blog).

With all this going on in my brain I didn’t even realize there would be no fire with winter camping.

I had gone the weekend before on a backcountry nordic ski trip to a hut where there was a wood fire stove where we dried our boots out and a stream nearby to collect water to boil and drink. On that trip I was comfortable the whole time, temperature wise, which I got a few comments on how small my backpack was and honestly felt like I overpacked, I didn’t even get to wear the shorts I brought. One of the guys did carry my sleeping bag in his pack because apparently it’s not ideal to just hook it to the outside of my bag (so many things to learn).

It even came with it’s own out house….

The hut trip was really fun and we skied about 15 miles each day, the first day was prime skiing conditions and the weather was nice too. The second day left a little bit to be desired as new snow had fallen, creating a heavy snowpack, very ideal for creating snowballs, less ideal for sliding through it on toothpicks. The snow would pack up underneath my skis rendering them mostly useless and then I would get frustrated and then just kind of run/walk with awkwardly long sticks to my feet and then I would see a downhill and stop and scrapped the snow off my skis and try to get enough glide to gain momentum to go down. I definitely ate a lot of sour patch kids to get me through that dark time. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience with good company (that’s not sarcasm given the next picture).

Having gone through the hut trip meant I was ready for my next Pawnee Goddess Patch: Winter Camping.

I won’t bore you with too much of the details getting there, we skied in a about 10 miles along a mostly flat riverbed area and then found a camp spot near the glacier and set up before going exploring.

We shared the glacier with some snowmobilers and even a few dog sleds (so Alaskan) before they all left for the day and we seemed to be the only souls for miles.

Also did some falling

I dug a hole in the snow so that we had some sort of bench to eat dinner on (because are we not civilized haha).

As we sat there I talked about how my mom tells the story about when she was a kid and she asked her dad what would happen if a nuclear bomb went off and he responded that they would just go sit on the backside of the hill overlooking the river. She joked how as a kid she was slightly mortified but as an adult realized he probably didn’t want to be in a small crawl space with five young children. I concluded by saying this seemed like a good place to sit and take a minute with all the chaos and uncertainty that we had left miles away.

I survived that night with the mantra, you might not ever be comfortable but you won’t die. Being in a -20 degree sleeping bag and almost every piece of puffy clothing I owned I was actually quite comfortable and only found out the next morning I had slept with the back of the sleeping bag covering my face (thought it was a little hard to breath at times but was also quite warm so…). We packed up in the morning and skied by the glacier before running into some friends on bikes. The ski out was nicer than the day before and I slowly peeled off all my puffy layers.

Photo taken by Rachel from 6 feet away

I have spent this week working from home which has come with it’s own challenges (like that I convinced myself I would never need a desk at home) but also endless hot water for tea and real windows in my office.

And in weird ways living in Alaska has helped me prepare for this as I felt like I was having to Facetime and call to maintain a lot of my relationships but conveniently now all my friends who were four hours ahead are also working from home so are more available to talk. And also with my mom working from home, just means I can Facetime and see Tenzen more.

I’m sure like a lot of people (me) right now have a lot of anxiety and it can be hard not to get consumed by it all. I worry about the people I know who are sick or will become sick, I worry about how it will ravish our healthcare system, I worry about my parents, my communities, the small businesses that will be impacted. I know these are normal feelings and acknowledging them is okay, but also dwelling and being consumed by them is not–yes yoga has been helping. Alaska is a weird place to experience this, I feel the distance with my family more than ever, but also realize if I was closer I still wouldn’t be allowed to have contact. In a lot of way getting outside here seems like a completely selfish pursuit at the moment but so few other people are around that it’s maybe safer than going to the grocery story–almost a weird guilt that I can still do most things while others are having their lives upended in irreparable ways.

I know I’m beyond privilege/blessed to have the ability to work from home while still being able to access the outdoors and have some semblance of life. The fatbike race that was suppose to happen this weekend got cancelled which even though there weren’t that many participants I really thing the biggest thing we can all do right now is restrict our movement until more tests get deployed to test for asymptomatic and mild symptomatic people– realistically until we have that data we have no idea what we are actually up against. If you’ve made this far I will make my one political plug and that is to call your congressional delegates and demand mandatory testing for every individual — they want to send everyone a check, great, attach a test to it. Typhoid Mary is thought to have infected 3,000 people with typhoid and she presented as asymptomatic, she was isolated by judicial order for 23 years…

I am headed in the backcountry again this weekend– who knew a pandemic would ignite my love for winter camping but really I think it’s more being able to turn off the email, news cycles, and case counts. Mostly, I’m trying to act as if I was contagious and don’t want to infect others; because while there are some great ‘Kate’ nicknames: Kissing Kate, Rattlesnake Kate, Big Nose Kate, #singlek8 –no these aren’t all my nicknames but would rather not end up with Corona K8 added to the list and be an asymptomatic individuals that is transmitting the virus.

Cheese Pizza Just for Me

Wait a minute, I’ve been here before. I had just put the skin back on my ski and looked behind me to realize in those few moments I was struggling to wrangle it back on the entire field had blown by me. I looked ahead and saw what looked like a tiny ant line marching into the distance, I looked behind me to the edge of the hill which dropped off into darkness with no one behind me. Okay, so starting this race season like I ended last year’s. Dead last. I turned and began to make my way up the hill and made sure to consistently drag my feet and try not to allow any unnecessary movement that would knock my skin off again.

Photo from Callie

I got to the top and all muscle memory of removing my skins and switching my skis had dissipated, okay so it didn’t really help that the only muscle memory I had was from two days earlier when I had put skis on for the first time this season and watched a video of a ski racer during a transition, so hadn’t fully committed it to memory. I shoved my skins down my tights and pushed off the ledge, welp, here we go.

At this point if you’re trying to figure out what is happening, don’t worry I was trying to figure that out the entire race. A week before I had found myself volunteering at a 100 mile race. I’m not sure how it came up but by the end of my time there I had committed to meeting one of the other volunteers for a skimo race on Friday night. Perfect, first time on skis this season and my second time in oh about 19 years, why not start off racing.

Mile 90– yes that’s a space heater + straw very close by

Fortunately, I got a text that they would be going out on Wednesday to do a loop and bringing another friend who would be towing a baby so I should be able to keep up. I texted Sully that I don’t think this person understood that when I said I was a beginner he did not realize ‘I would be pulling my tags off my new gear in the parking lot’ beginner (I bought stuff in October but was still racing my bike till December and then it got super cold in January so really had no interest).

On our practice ski on Wednesday I only got one weird look at the start of the trail from a high school nordic skier, he was like “I’m not even going to ask” to which I responded, “just you wait, this is what you get to look forward to.” So we went up, down, up, down, and I practiced my transitions with lots of humility and openness to just about every piece of advice they could give me. I had hopes of practicing the transition in my backyard on Thursday but had some hard deadlines that meant I just watched videos of Killian Jornet transitioning and went over the steps in my head. I wasn’t too worried about how long it would take me, I didn’t really care about that, but more didn’t want to accidentally lock my ski in and blow out my knee going down or not lock my ski and and loose the stability in my knee going up.

The race started with us running to our skis, getting into the bindings and taking off uphill. I actually felt like I had a somewhat decent start for not knowing what I was doing. I made a comment to another cyclist that ‘this is a bit different than cyclocross’ and kept gliding uphill (trying to channel my inner Dottie Hansen, “gracefully and grandfully” but in reality probably looking more like Marla…). I was about halfway up when I looked up to see people starting to reach the top, and felt one of my leg’s lose traction, I looked down and my skin was lying in the snow behind me. I picked it up and shuffled off to the side taking my ski off to reapply it. I fumbled with it for a bit and put it back on, okay round 2, only to make it a few shuffles and have it pop off again. Por que, why is this happening. I stopped, put it back on again and looked up to realize I was dead last. I made it to the top without any more hiccups but was also conscious to have my ski keep contact with the ground. I got to the top, got a card, transitioned, stuck my skins down my tights as I was informed to do (cycling has left me with so little modesty #kiddingmom, kinda), and took off down the hill. Bonus about being last, not a lot of traffic going down, which I was grateful for because I’m still a bit cautious about the whole downhill speed/brain injury thing (you’re welcome mom).

Photo from Callie

I got to the bottom, handed in my card, put my skins back on and started working on the uphill segment again. I had passed some people, or they had passed me in their lapping of me, but either way had some company going up. Again, I got about halfway up when I lost my skin but had a hard time wrestling it back on, a dad who was with his young son stopped and gave me two ski straps to hold it in place to get to the top. Because of the rubber my ski turned into less of a glide and more of a grumble with an awkwardly long and heavy snow-shoe technique taking over. I got to the top, transitioned, and headed down hill. The downhill wasn’t steep, except for the last little bit before the transition area, I pizza’d so hard down that section as to not go very fast but also didn’t want to crash in front of everyone. I was 8 minutes from the cut-off when they were going to stop people from going back up, well it might take me 8 minutes to transition, it didn’t and I was back on my skis headed up with about 5-6 minutes to spare. I didn’t put the ski straps on and tried to limit any unnecessary movement. I made it to the top without losing a skin. I made it down and took some wider lines into the powder because why not at that point.

Photo from Callie

Before the race I thought that trying to do 3 laps was a good goal and I was able to get that with even the mechanicals (is that even what they are called in skiing, I have no idea). I also had a lot of fun for having no idea what I was doing– at the end of the race I realized I had never flipped my boots over from the ski mode the whole time but also as a beginner I have no idea how things are suppose to feel so just assume it must be how everyone feels.

After putting my legs up on the wall for an abnormally long time that night, I headed down to the resort to go skiing on Saturday. I did some snowboarding in the resort in Colorado when I first moved there but before I got my brain injury because after just didn’t feel like it was worth the risk. I don’t think I had been on skis in the resort since maybe a middle school ski trip.

Photo from Kevin

Fortunately, the two people I went with, while expert skiers were more than okay taking the day slow and spending time on only blue runs, and gave me pointers to practice turning, and showed incredible patience waiting for me at multiple points throughout the run.

Pizza for life– photo from Kevin

We were able to get about 7 runs in and I certainly felt a little more confident by the end of the day, not sending it down the mountain, but did have some french fry moments and not just all pizza.

Look at that french fry– photo from Rachel

In other non-activity news, death remains to feel exceptionally close in Alaska. At first I thought it was because of my position at the hospital, hearing all these ways people die or are injured that I normally wouldn’t be conscious of, and then I thought maybe it was because my counterpart in Fairbanks was violently killed, we were both fresh out of law school and she had only just started her career like mine when it was cut horrifically short, and then I thought maybe I’m just more aware of it–law school is a pretty selfish pursuit so often didn’t dedicate a lot of resources to things besides studying and training, so maybe I just wasn’t fully paying attention to how often death was happening.

Facetime with this dude at least once a week to say goodbye, just in case.

Then I finally realized, it’s just Alaska itself that reminds me of my mortality in so many ways, it remains the feeling that everything can kill you– the exposure, the isolation, the wildlife–being out all night in New York City and not being able to get home, something bad might happen but you probably won’t freeze to death– in Alaska getting your car stuck somewhere on a remote road that you’re trying to turn around on can become a perilous situation pretty quick (no that hasn’t happened but do have a shovel, blankets, and food in my car just in case). It just seems like the stakes are elevated all the time; you can do everything right and still die, you can do everything wrong and still survive, and that’s where I struggle- there are more wild parts of the equation that I can’t control. But like everything there is a certain amount of risk with everything involved and making sure that I’m prepared as best as possible just means maybe it won’t look totally terrible on the report–hope springs eternal.

And in more non-activities, activities, I keep thinking that the Fat Bike race is the week after it really is so now have about 3 weeks to get in shape-ish enough for 100 miles, oops. That is not going to look good on the report. Guess it’s time to finally start training.

The American Birkebeiner

My first year in Boulder, I lived in a house with mostly engineers–and if you want an idea of what that experiences was like I suggest watching The Big Bang Theory–I’ll give you a hint, I was Penny.

While many hilarious antidotes came out of this living situation, so did some learning moments like the Fermi Paradox, Schrodinger’s Cat, and most importantly when throwing stars come out it’s really best to go to bed.

I think mostly about Schrodinger’s Cat at the moment (and quick recap for those at home: it’s this theory that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was both “dead and alive”– or you can watch it here–just like Wayne explained it to me). I think about it because I’m still waiting to hear back from anything and all those decisions are in this box where in theory I have something lined up for next year and also don’t have anything lined up for next year (and I’m sure I botched that analogy- but you get the point).

When your roommate gets you.

February was mostly this state of anxiety because one of the applications said they send out responses in Feb/March so most of February was spent refreshing my email. At the end of the month my professor told me to relax that it probably wouldn’t show up till after spring break (that would have been helpful a month ago).

It was so much that I thought about pulling the plug on the Birkie to just sit at home and wallow in my state of being, while also constantly refreshing my email. Instead, my roommate kindly pointed out that I like to exercise for long periods of time, there was a group of us going and all staying in a cabin, and she made me homemade granola for trail snacks. She made excellent points and so we set out on an 8-hour car trip to Haywood, Wisconsin.

1 dog, 3 people, 2 sets of skis, a million snacks

There were six of us staying at the cabin, with 2 doing the Korte (the 18 mile version); 2 doing the Birkie (the 31 mile race); and 2 along to crew and provide support (really the hardest job). It was nice because the 2 doing the Korte raced on Friday so we were able to go through the production of getting to the start line. Which involves parking in one lot and getting bused to the start line. We saw them off at the start and took the bus back to our car to drive back into Haywood to see them at the finish line in approximately 2-4 hours. I had some work that needed finished so headed to the public library (seriously, public libraries are soooo amazing!). I got back to the finish line just in time and when I greeted Ann at the end she said, “I wouldn’t want to have to ski another 12 miles- ha!”. Gulp.

Ann finishing the Korte!

The two of us racing the Birkie did packet-pickup where I bought another pair of gloves, convinced that the two pairs I had brought would not be optimal (I tell ya, you get caught in a blizzard during one mountain bike race without adequate gloves and it’ll leave a mark). Afterwards, we both picked their brains on a little more course information and race tactics but still slightly unnerved about what was going to happen. It felt different than any other long distance race I had done because my longest ski at this point (pretty inadequate snow conditions) was about 10 miles. And some of it was worrying about how to dress, balancing higher nutritional needs, and generally having no idea how my body would preform after 10 miles. After a few outfit changes and packing different clothes entirely for the start I okay about starting.

Still unsure of this whole skiing business

The morning was smooth getting there, the other guy doing it had a start time 15 minutes before me so I was knew if I just followed his plan I would be there on time. Megan and Jeff came to the start which was nice so they could grab our things and I could wait until the last minute to take my jacket off. They have staging gates (which really reminded me of a cattle branding) they herd you into one and then when one wave goes off release you to the next holding area until you get to the start. I jumped in right before they got to the start when you run for position and have to start in a track. If this makes no sense to you, I assure you it made even less sense to me at the start of the race. Because I had never done this race I started in the very last wave and while I had a good starting position before the gun went off by the time I crossed the start line (less than 30 seconds later) I was in second to last place. I looked around and everyone had left, there was one guy to the side of me who was literally leap frogging in his skis to gain position and boy did he. I blame him because I was so memorized by this form that I just stood there shell shocked and then realized I needed to go.

The last wave start

Right from the start the course went uphill, it reminded me of baby turtles making their way back to the water from the sand, everyone’s skis were splayed out and we all neatly formed four lines. The first few miles were pretty uneventful. Around mile 4 we were stopped at the top of a hill where someone had crashed and needed a medic (they were able to get up but the people were apprehensive to go down until everyone was on the side). I looked at my watch…oh wow, it’s been an hour. Now, I’m not good at math but knew I had 8 hours to finish and in my mind that didn’t really calculate to enough time to do so. I turned to a guy next to me who had a bib indicating he had done it multiple times, “how strict is the cut-off, will they pull us at the aid station?” He told me not to worry as long as I didn’t take 20-30 minutes at each aid station. I thought that seemed do-able but also have found myself laying on cardboard slabs at aid stations for well over an hour so really it was anyone’s guess.

I made it through the first 10 miles feeling okay. As soon I passed the 10-mile mark it was like my body realized this was the furthest it had ever skied and started to hurt. I made sure to keep eating as best I could but also knew I was behind on nutrition. I found the whole carrying a ski-pole, having to take off gloves and unpack some food, made me less wanting to invest in eating.

Snow nice to see people on the course (get it?)

I saw Jeff and Megan around mile 15 and stopped for a bit to chat and eat some more food. It was maybe the last time I felt good on the course and was entering a somewhat delirious stage. I went downhill (not a pun, there weren’t a lot of downhills) pretty fast after that and entered a pretty dark place for the next 11 miles. It was totally food related, the course was a bit crowded now with the two styles (classic and skate) merging onto one, but in my mind people were working together to keep me boxed in (yeah they definitely weren’t). One guy kept sprinting by and then halfway up an uphill would just stop to rest and turn his skis to take up a good chunk of the course. In my moment of wanting to ski over his skis to show him how inconvenient of a place it was to stop, I instead opted to eat some granola which helped.

The one thing I noticed is that when biking long distances, I definitely get tired and enter similar mindsets but my body knows what to do. It has ridden enough to keep turning the pedals over (like the MDH when all I wanted to do was sleep, my legs at least knew what to do). With skiing, there was no familiarity in the muscle memory, so each movement required conscious thought to keep propelling myself forward.

I had been leap-frogging with Judy from TDA most of the day and was also nice when I saw her on course, we both joked how we were ready to start biking after this with it being both our first Birkie. In the last few miles she pulled ahead of me and figured I would see her after the race was done. In the last four miles, I caught my second, really my first wind. I felt like I was able to somehow get into a groove, the snow was less slushy and more crunchy/icy, which was similar to what I was used to skiing in South Bend. I even got my sense of humor back, when one spectator said we were looking good another participant yelled, “you are definitely lying there is no way we look good.” I poked back, “speak for yourself”. The last two miles contain a lake crossing (1 miles) and then a passage through town over a bridge and down main street. The lake route was groomed and I felt like I could really move–and I did, I put in my fastest mile of the day going over the lake around 7:30.

I came into town and up the bridge, I was a little concerned about going down because of how many people would see you crash but was able to navigate it successfully. I came up the main street and saw Judy stopped right before the finish line, I caught up to her as she picked up her glove. Woooohooo! We made it and skated across the line together.

Skating in with Judy

Ann greeted me with warm clothes and boots- the other part of the group was with Aaron who had finished only minutes before me. We then went to the beer tent, and Megan bought me a sausage to get some real food and because I had no cash. We all talked about various aspects of the day and then went back to the cabin to cook dinner and decompress.

Megan was right, it was a fun weekend, despite having to ski for 6 hours, it was nice to get out of South Bend and hangout in the woods for a few days. I took a few days off without too much soreness only in my shoulders, before I started biking again.

Not a bad place to spend a long weekend

While I’m still waiting to hear back on applications, March seems to be so busy with deadlines that I’ve mostly stopped constantly refreshing my email and focusing more on what I have to get done. I won a free entry into the TommyKnocker 10 in Silver City, New Mexico this weekend. I changed my flights to reroute through Phoenix for break, but earlier this week realized that I just didn’t have the mental energy to race for 10 hours. So I pulled back and decided to stay in Phoenix for the Cactus Cup, which has a short-track, 40 miler, and enduro. I’m currently signed up for all three but still waiting for my bike to show up so might just end up doing the 40-miler. I definitely was not planning on starting my season this year, but also realize that when I’m studying for the bar I’ll do little to no racing so might as well even if I’m not in racing shape (12 days on the bike won’t do too much for fitness levels).

I’ve also been hitting up therapy again, because as my friend Gen pointed out on her blog, exercise is a great tool, but not really a substitute for actual therapy. Also realizing that anxiety and excitement mask themselves in the exact same physical symptoms, so now just tricking myself to be excited at the endless opportunities that are available instead of anxious about none of them being available.