Cycling in Denali National Park

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I have been so busy getting ready for Alaska summer, prepping my garden to plant my starters and now working on grad school applications that I just now have time to breathe and share with you all this ridiculous bike trip I recently took.

 

It started as two. I saw some great pictures of my friend biking in Denali and wondered why I hadn’t done it. So I convinced my friend do it with me. We set a date for a long day trip down to Denali, which is only two hours away. I sent out an email to the LOL all-female biking group I’m in and the Fairbanks Cycling Club to see if anyone else wanted to join us. I ended up coordinating an entire trip down, carpooling and all, and we ended up with 9 people total. My friend said my detailed emails were so ridiculous and helpful, I should always be the one coordinating trips like this.

 

We all met up at 7:00am in the local grocery store parking lot. Bathroom breaks, coffee-fixes, going over the plan for the drive down, etc… and we were off. We managed to make it to the visitor’s center at the Denali Entrance around 10:15am, regrouped, got our passes and went over the plan to meet at Teklanika campground at 29.1 mile on the Park Rd. We chose the last day you chose drive in to Teklanika without a campground pass. We also managed to choose the only day in the past 2 weeks that it was sunny and warm. We would likely be doing this true Alaskan-style – which we did.

 

We regrouped at Teklanika Campground at 29.1 mile. The plan was to hit the Park Rd and ride over Sable Pass and crest Polychrome Pass and stop at the overlook for lunch, then head back. Roundtrip it was approximately 34 miles. I just finished a Triathlon and was training for another, had been cycling quite a bit, but this would still end up being the toughest ride I had ever done. It ended up raining, snowing, hailing and did I mention I love going really fast downhill? The catch is, I love doing it on pavement, not dirt and gravel. That was a little unnerving for me but once I got comfortable, it wasn’t so bad.

 

I did this ride on my 2014 Specialized Arial hybrid. 34 miles in the rain and mud was probably equivalent to 60 miles on my road bike. Some of the musts on my pack list included TWO extra tubes, travel pump, patch kit, plenty of layers prepared for rain, snow and wind (the passes are definitely windy), snacks, extra water, and a camera. My funny story on layers is that I was a layer short for wind pants. I had two layers on, but should have brought an extra wind layer – my cross-country ski pants would have been idea. I ended up borrowing a very stylish blue pair from a friend in the group for the windy ride back down Polychrome Pass. It made for some laughs and a hilarious picture-op.

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Denali is a most awe-inspiring place to be. It is peaceful; it is overwhelming larger than you, and even when it’s snowing with no sign of big Denali in sight, it is still one of the most beautiful places in the world to be. We saw one grizzly, caribou, and plenty of birds. I’m pretty sure the Ptarmigan were laughing at me when I was chugging up Sable Pass on the way back.

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If you are a cyclist, make sure Denali, any part of it, is on your to-do list. I’m still debating on if I’ll do it again on days that are beautiful, sunny and clear. The adventurous possibilities are really endless. Biking the Denali Highway and biking Anchorage to Seward are also on my list. This was the toughest ride for me to date and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. We did it Alaska style – rough and tough. You might want to check the weather first.

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 #fearless2014

do not take or share any photographs without permission

 

 

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Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies? Finally!

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies – delicious?! You bet!

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So, I was craving cookies. Like real, delicious cookies. I usually stay in the realm of RAW desserts because they’re easy and I’m good at making them. BUT I WANTED A DANG COOKIE! Being dairy-free and gluten-free because of intolerances and cutting out refined sugar all together, you can imagine how I feel sometimes when I see baked goods. I actually love to bake, but now everything I bake – I pretty much can’t eat! I tried this recipe last night from  Against All Grain and I just have to share it! They came out soft and delicious. I still want to try out a few other gluten-free cookies recipes, but for someone who has not been able to have a real cookie for a long time, I am so happy to be trying and succeeding at baking! I’ll copy and past the recipe from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain website for you below.

Real-Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Serves approx. 1 dozen. Pre-heat to 350 degrees. Prep time: 15 minutes. Bake 9-12 minutes.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor, cream the palm shortening, coconut sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla for about 15 seconds until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda and sea salt and mix again until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed in order to incorporate all of the flour. Pulse once or twice more.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
  5. Place golf-ball sized balls of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a SilPat. Using another sheet of parchment on top of the dough, flatten them slightly with the palm or your hand or a spatula. The cookies don’t spread much so create the size and thickness you want prior to baking them.
  6. Bake for 9-12 minutes, until slightly golden around the edges.

My own notes on this recipe:

  • I used 1/2 cup of dark chocolate pieces instead of mixing them with the Enjoy Life chocolate chips. You can use dark chocolate chunks, chips, or break up a bar.
  • Use aluminum-free baking soda. Red Mills Natural Brand sells it in a bag.
  • Ghee butter is grass-fed butter that has all the good fats and none of the bad stuff from butter in it. It should be your cupboard. I put it in my cup of organic coffee every morning with coconut oil and vanilla mixed for 30 seconds in a blender (look up ‘Bulletproof Coffee’).
  • You can make your own almond flour with the leftover almond meal from making almond milk. It’s super easy and you don’t waste any of your almond when making milk.
  • I didn’t use a food processor – I instead used my high-speed hand mixer. It worked great.
  • I used local unprocessed honey (and I mean LOCAL – my friend has bees). Since using strictly local honey, I notice a difference in my baked goods and RAW desserts.

 

 

Surviving my first Triathlon

Lets start from the beginning, shall we? I have this friend, sometimes we are more like twins, and she is also my training partner. She convinces me to do these crazy things – like sign up for Triathlons. Well, now I can’t thank her enough. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it through training. But when I start something, I finish it. When the buzzer went off and I pushed off the wall to start my 500 yard swim, the same thing went through my mind during lap 2 – when I panicked.

Yes, my worst nightmare (next to drowning, of course) happened. The adrenaline of race day, the swishing of all of the people in the water (mind you this swim took place in a pool), and the fact that there were 4 people to a lane circle swimming hit me all at once. I can’t even tell you what exactly happened, but I no longer was able to breathe under water as I took each stroke. I tried and tried, even stopped 3 times during the swim, but once the anxiety hit me, that seemed to be it. I talked myself down, I tried to calm my breathing, but nothing worked. SO, I tried my backup – the breast-stroke. I still couldn’t get my breathing rhythm under control. So I just swam with the crawl stroke – without my face in the water, and it was exhausting. But I finished my laps, ran to my bike, and shook it off.

I cut 20+ minutes off my bike time from training and ran hard to SOMEHOW crush my goal time of 2:00 hours. I finished my first Sprint TRI in 1:56:42. I conquered those killer hills, had my transitions set up great for successful and smooth transition times and ran to the finish line to find my huge support system cheering me on and as tired as I was, I couldn’t help but sprint it to the finish. It was amazing and despite the swim, I am hooked on Triathlons. I know with different training, I’ll rid myself of that swim anxiety on race day and go on to set and crush more goals.

So, if you’ve ever thought about doing a TRI, DO IT. You can do it. I promise you. I trained hard for all parts of it and do you know what got me through that killer swim? My training and endurance. Surprisingly, my 8-week training (btw – I totally suggest Triathlons for Women by Sally Edwards) was a lot of fun. I didn’t have to find other things to do, because (duh) there is built-in cross-training! What’s better than that?

Set goal. Work hard. Crush goal. Repeat. #fearless2014