Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coach Kastning

September Snow

The UAA Ski Team had another successful week of raining.... oops, I mean training... this week. Our team is comprised of 50% returning athletes this year, and 50% are new to our team.  In other words, 50% of our team thinks that it only rains in Alaska.  That is, until today, when it started snowing.

The team let me practice with them three times this week, so I was able to join them for skating intervals on Clark's Road on Wednesday.  The road was re-paved this summer, so it's a perfect place for rollerskiing.  It's steep enough and long enough that the team was able to do 12-minute intervals from bottom to top, but not so steep that it's impossible to ski back down. I heard a rumor that Viktor has been calling it "the best rollerskiing road ever". But then again, Viktor hasn't rollerskied up Hatcher Pass yet.





On Friday, I was able to join the team for a hike in the hills above town.  Andrew was looking for a place that would allow 50% running and 50% hiking, and hopefully not too muddy, so Near Point was our destination.  Neither I nor Lasse bothered to mention that the trail up to Near Point has one of the biggest mud bogs in the Chugach Range.  I don't know if this team would know what to do if they didn't have to slog through some mud during each workout.  It would be completely unfamiliar territory, and would probably only confuse our skiers.


We almost lost Viktor here.

Davis, Galen, Viktor, Lucky

Put your own caption here:

Anchorage is down there somewhere.

Today was the day for a long rollerski - 3.5 hours for the men and 4.5 hours for the women, on a loop around Anchorage's multi-use trail system.  This has been a hard week of training, finished with a long workout, so Calisa, Rianne, Molly and Sylvie were kind enough to prepare a deluxe, post-workout waffle breakfast for the team at Andrew and Calisa's house.  I can tell you that after the 4-hour mark, the main topic of conversation among our group was waffles, sausages, and bacon, and how much we love them all!  Our workout ended at Andrew and Calisa's door, where we were able to barge straight in and start snarfing down all the food in their house.  We started the workout in an inch of new snow, and it was snowing for the first hour of our workout.  But the snow gave way to sunshine for the last hour of our workout.  So the team got to see two kinds of weather today that we have not seen much of yet this year.  Winter isn't far away...

Patti & Marine


Maya and Cara.

I think Karina is pointing at the sun, wondering what it is.

Still smiling after 4 hours, 15 minutes

Thank you to Calisa, Rianne, Molly and Sylvie for the delicious brunch!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Anchorage gets its water and a little bit of its electricity from Eklutna Lake.  If you want to get to Eklutna Lake, all you have to do is ride your motorcycle ten miles uphill to the end of the road.  Or you can rollerski. We wanted a 3-hour workout, so we put our running shoes on when we arrived at Eklutna Lake and made it into a combination ski/run workout.

You have probably already noticed that not all of these women are UAA skiers.  That's Theresia Schnurr in the pink sleeves, who came down from UAF in Fairbanks to ski with us today.

If you look close, you'll see where the team vans are parked. We always park them under the end of a rainbow, with our unicorns.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mud Guppies

I've never heard anyone here in Alaska say anything about mud guppies, but where I grew up in New England we were obsessed with them when we were kids.  You could go out and root around in the swamp behind the school and find all kinds of little tadpoles, pollywogs, mutant fish, and other strange little animals squirming around in that brackish water.  And mud guppies had all kinds of uses.  You could bring them into the lunch room and put them in someone's spaghetti-o's.  You could put them down the back of a classmate's shirt during a spelling test.  The list goes on and on... 

Last winter Anchorage broke the all-time snowfall record.  A couple months ago, I think we had the coldest July in history.  And with all the storms we're getting now, we must be on track to beat the September rainfall record.  It's been insane:  trees blowing over, rivers and streams flooding.  Today, the town of Seward closed school and sections of the road were washing away.  Yesterday, the UAA team rollerskied through a puddle that was deeper than ski-boot deep.  On our way to practice today, Galen was showing me pictures from his hometown of Talkeetna, two hours north of Anchorage by car, where the roads were underwater.  Driving home after practice, they made an announcement over the radio that the entire town of Talkeetna is being evacuated this afternoon because the river has breached its banks and is flooding into town! 

Marine told me that she's never seen so much rain and she's shopping for a full-spectrum light so she doesn't get too depressed.  I try to tell her that's it's not usually so rainy here, but I don't think she believes me. 

But this morning, the rain stopped!  I saw the sun and at first I didn't know what it was.  Our practice today was a 2-hour run with plyometric excercises in the middle of the workout.  Running on the trails, it was kind of hard to stay dry with all those puddles out there.  At one point I heard a shriek, looked behind me, and saw Karina up to her waist in mud.  It was like the LaBrea tar pits out there.  I thought maybe we were going to lose Karina - that she'd be found thousands of years from now by an archaeologist, just like they're now finding those saber-tooth tigers in LaBrea.

...And is the part of our team that didn't get muddy.

Tonight's weather forecast:  Rain with wind up to 65 mph on the upper hillside.  I can already see the clouds coming in.  In fact, I just looked out my office window and realized that it's already started raining again...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Global Warming

I'm sure most of the readers of this blog think "global warming" is just a hoax foisted on the populace by tree-huggers and socialists to stymie development, hurt businesses, keep people from getting jobs, and limit people's freedom.  But it's pretty clear to anyone who goes outdoors from time to time that the weather is changing.  Icecaps are melting, hurricanes are getting stronger, tornadoes are more frequent, storms are getting stronger, and animals are showing up in places where they never used to roam.  A weather phenomenon that has always been a part of Anchorage's wintertime meteorological landscape is the "Chinook":  winter storms sweep into the Gulf of Alaska, moisture-laden winds drop their moisture as snow in Prince William Sound and continue over the Chugach Range, picking up speed as the air is squeezed through the passes.  In Anchorage, we get warm wintertime winds swooping down out of the mountains, often exceeding 100 miles per hour in Turnagain Pass and on the upper Hillside, bringing rain and 30mph+ winds to the rest of the city.  But Chinooks during summer don't really happen... at least not until this year.  Last week, we had a powerful storm that knocked down trees all over town.  Most of the city lost power for at least a few hours and some parts of town lost power for five days.  During wintertime, the ground is frozen and all the leaf-bearing trees have lost their leaves, so there is generally little damage from chinooks except for icy sidewalks, soggy ski trails, and spruce needles and sticks on the ski trails.  But at this time of year all the trees still have their leaves and the ground is soft, so we lost a lot of trees, which ripped out of the ground at root level.

(This person is not on the UAA Ski Team)
(this picture is about the trees, not the dog)

Tonight's weather forecast is for another of these storms.  Predictions are for 110 mile per hour winds on the hillside and up to 65 mph winds in the city.  The last storm took down a lot of trees, but there are still plenty standing, so it's anyone's guess whether we're going to have any electrical power in this town tomorrow. 

The UAA Ski Team's plan was to go for a 2-hour hike on Bird Ridge today, but this is an exposed, alpine area that will get 100mph+ winds later today.  The storm was already starting this morning as we left campus for practice, so we "called an audible" and went to Symphony Lakes above Eagle River for a 2.5 hour run instead.  This trail kept us at the bottom of a valley where there was a lot less wind.  There was rain and plenty of mud, but everyone was dressed for it and it was a lot more comfortable than it would have been on the ridgetops.

Galen of the Mountains at Symphony Lake

Davis took the opportunity to work a few pull-ups into today's run.

I noticed that several of the guys packed extra clothes, and changed into dry shirts at the halfway point - smart!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The UAA Ski Team spent the weekend in Hope, about fifteen miles east of Anchorage as the crow flies, but about 80 miles away by car.  Every year around this time, the Alpine and Nordic skiers get together for a weekend of fun and exercise. It's a good chance for the alpine and cross-country skiers to get to know each other a little better because we spend so much of the year training separately.  This year, we rafted Six Mile Creek, and afterward we hiked up Point Hope.  I don't have any rafting photos, but I do have some hiking photos.  After the hike on Saturday, most of the team camped overnight in Hope.  I hope they had warm sleeping bags because it is is getting close to freezing at night these days.

While the team went rafting, I went for a bike ride.  Not my warmest bike ride ever.

Point Hope.  Most of the Nordic team.

Cara, Marine, Karina, Patricia

At the peak.  A majority of the Nordic Team.
 On Sunday, Danielle and I went hiking above Arctic Valley, near Anchorage.  The days are getting cooler for sure.

Symphony Lakes

Anchorage from Arctic Valley.