Big miles and big knee pain

I got a fright with a pain in my left knee the day I left Fairbanks. It started out easy enough – flat for 40 miles (yeah!) – just a slight headwind that resulted in a mild discomfort in my left knee. The plan was to go for 70 miles – but the wind changed to a tailwind at this point. As today’s tailwind could always change to be tomorrow’s headwind, I carried on towards a recommended camp site at Quartz Lake (95 miles). It was a bit of a detour to get there (I could quite happily camped by the road a 92 miles!) but the view over the lake was great:
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and I ate like a king with some family produced smoked salmon from Barry and Lisa:
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During the day I caught up with a guy called Kye (sp?) who was cycling from Alaska to California. Here’s a photo of him, a dot on the near horizon:
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Kye, if you’re reading this and want the original of this photo, send me a message. I also met a guy and two ladies (sorry, I’ve forgotten your names) who were heading from Fairbanks to Tok, with the guy riding all the way (and beyond) with the ladies taking it in turn to cycle and drive a support car. A clever way for cyclists with mixed abilities to ride together. They were looking out for me after meeting up with Dan & Christine  (the couple on the tandem). Small world here!

At the campsite, as the evening wore on my knee went from mild discomfort to a pain that prevented me from getting to sleep. This was not good. If it’s stopping me from sleeping, its going to stop me from riding. I tried walking, stretching, massaging,  ibuprofen – even niteol to help me sleep – but none of it was working. If I’m honest, I was starting to think the worst – “Is this it? Big trip over already?”, “How come now and not on the many previous hilly days?”,  and thinking would I be able to get back to Fairbanks to get it checked out? I eventually got to sleep (paracetamol & dried mango). I woke up the next morning, and my knee was fine –  like nothing had ever happened! But I’d been given a fright – maybe this was a one off, getting used to a lesser but constant push into a headwind on the flat. But I didn’t want a repeat of what had happened – so it was a short 10 mile ride to Delta – the end of my first 1000km stage 🙂 I booked into an Inn (a motel, not a pub) and got a good nights sleep and waited to see if my knee is still OK then.

I decided to change the way I cycle on the flat – 30 minutes push (pressing forwards on the pedals, even on down hill sections), followed by 30 minutes rolling (less pressure, using hamstrings for a even, lighter pressure through out the stroke, using any downhill sections as a chance to stretch the back of the legs). Not a hard and fast regime – I’d still stop if there was something interesting, but could be a good way to vary the ride rather than doing the same thing for hours on end. And stretching – much more stretching than I’d been doing before.

After a rest day at Delta, I tried this new routine for the 60 miles to Dot Lake, then the following day on the 70 miles to Mile Post 1290 – and it seems to be working well (or at least not doing any harm!). Fingers crossed the pain in my knee was a one off!!!

Finally at a quirky petrol station between Delta and Dot Lake, I got a really good photo of an (ex) Musk Ox:
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And Sue, this is where we should have bought the decoration for above the fireplace!
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(And the bear would look cool where the Xmas tree was, no?)(NOOOO !!!! from Sue )

Also sad to read that Harry Mcalinden (a friend from Jersey) had to pull out of his attempt to run from John O’Grotes to Land’s End through injury. A huge amount of respect to him for attempting such a massive challenge. Get well soon Harry!

Cycling details:
June 1st – 95 miles to Quartz Lake. An 11 hour day – with many stops for lunch (with a snooze in the tent – worked well), phones to make call from, chatting with other cyclists and trying to find the campsite!
June 2nd – 15 miles to Delta Junction. Rest day, catching up on sleep!
June 3rd – 60 miles to Dot Lake. Just 5 hours from a late start – getting results from push sessions and knee going well.
June 4th – 70 miles to Mile Post 1290 (half way between Dot Lake and Canada!). Covered the 45 mikes to Tok in just 3 hours, stopped for dinner, then a further 25 miles in 1.5 hours – flying along!

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Pancakes 1 – Keith 0

After the milestone of reaching the end of the Dalton highway, I was looking forward to my first full day on fully asphalted roads. But despite the cuttings and contouring that were missing from the previous 400 miles, it was still hill after hill after hill – including the second highest one of the ride so far. And it was hot. Very hot.
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After one section that was cloudless and particularly well sheltered from any breeze, I resorted to lying down in the shade of a crash barrier for half an hour to cool off. This was not fun. Shortly after this, still nowhere near the next town (Fox) I saw signs for a cafe that included “ice cream” – was I that far gone I was seeing things? I turned into the “Hit and run cafe” that was a bit ramshackle and was being run by people who looked to be lacking in a bit of gene pool diversity.
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But they were the smart ones – it was a hot day and they had a freezer with ice cream and a fridge with cool sugary drinks – and I was happily handing over my dollars. I left the place cooler and on a sugar high, and onto a downhill that went on for miles. This was fun! 
After 9 hours of heat and hills, I got to the Hill Top Diner, and had my first proper meal for 4 days – it was awesome (both main courses) and I was stuffed!

Most of the place names are recognisable from British surnames or places, some are of local historical origin (eg “Bonanza Creek”) and others are just comic (eg “At Your Own Risk Road”). Though the humour of the last one was turned to irony by a collection tin at the till for a family who’s house had burned down on that road. I guess that the choice of affordable house insurance quotes is limited if your address is “At Your Own Risk Road”!

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I camped nearby, and went back there for breakfast. That’s where I learnt a lesson – never go for the largest option on an American menu! It went something like this:
Me: “can I order some pancakes”
Waitress: “sure, how many, 1, 2, or 3?”
Me: (embolden by having cycled a tough 500 miles, and with a sweet tooth) “3 please”
Waitress: “you want a full stack then”
>>> this should have been my first warning – never order the “full” of anything.
Me: “yeah, that would be great”
I sat down, and overheard this between the waitress and the chef:
Chef: “are you sure he’s going to manage this?”
>>> should have been my second warning – the chef always knows better !!!
Waitress: “he looks like he’s been working out”
Chef: “well, if he does, he’s a better man than me”
>>> at this point I should have said “changed my mind, 2 will be fine.” But no, it had become a challenge – one that would end up offending the chef either way (by not returning an empty plate, or by making him to be less of a man)
The pancakes arrived, and they were HUGE! I finished of the first one quickly, the second took a lot longer, with increasing pauses between mouthfuls. The third one? I was so full after the second one, it was time to admit defeat before I stopped enjoying them. Moral of this tale – a hungry American can out eat a hungry (non american) cyclist any day!

Just before I left, I bumped into Dan and Christine – the couple riding from Deadhorse back to Anchorage on their new tandem. They were making better progress than I was, making me think that fatter tires might have helped me on the Dalton Highway.

I cycled the largely downhill 15 miles to Fairbanks, where I caught up on washing, supplies, and spent a very relaxing couple of hours at Art’s place with a couple of his friends, drinking some beer, chatting and watching the float planes take off and “land” right beside us. I then met up with Barry and his wife Lisa, and had a great chat over some whisky. They very kindly let me stay the night at theirs. I would like to have spent more time in Fairbanks, with the people and seeing the place, but the clock was ticking, and it was time to move on towards Delta Junction and then Canada!

Cycling Details:

May 30th – 65 miles to the Hilltop cafe (just north of Fox), long very hot 9 hour day with second highest hill of the tour, but good progress on fully tarred (but hilly) roads.
May 31st – 15 miles to Fairbanks. Good roads and mostly down hill 🙂 a nice ride for a rest day

Dalton Highway 0 – Keith 1

As you’ve probably seen from my photo on facebook, I’ve successfully completed the Dalton Highway – as featured in series 3 & 4 of Ice Road Truckers, and described as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. OK, so there wasn’t any ice (it only snowed once) but I did it on a bicycle with skinny tires & 30kg of luggage – not in a 475 horsepower truck with a cab to protect from bears and wolves!

Talking of predators, on Friday the 27th, the mozzies started tucking in, mostly my ankles. I also got my first sunburn, and my last view of the Brookes Mountains (from the view point on Gobblers Knob – yes, that’s its name)

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After Coldfoot there were more people around – most were tourists like me. There was the couple who were at the end of their travels by campervan from Seattle, two French cyclists at the start of a tour across northern Alaska/Canada, a couple of Germans on a cycle from Anchorage to Deadhorse – all from different places doing their own thing. At the Arctic Circle I met Barry and his brother Dave who were on motor bikes for a short adventure from Fairbanks, and they kindly took this photo of me leaving the Arctic:

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They were impressed about my adventure, and I was impressed at their good judgement in using motor bikes!
Last and by no means least there was Art the Alaska Wildlife Guide who became honourary support crew because each time met along the way he was full of enthusiasm and some spare bananas and cookies – all were greatfully received!

Finally, after countless attempts to upload, here are a couple of video clips of the muskoxs wandering past my tent last week:
The muskox boss
And
The muskox family

Apologies for the lack of photos – I’ve got plenty showing the expansive Alaskan countryside, but it takes an age to upload anything to this blog (one reason it’s running behind).

Next stop: Fairbanks.

Details of the cycling:

May 27th – 60 miles from Coldfoot to the Arctic Circle – road surface was relatively good with occasional gravel & potholes. Good to get a higher milage over rolling hills in about 7 hours.
May 28th – 55 miles to the Hot Spot cafe – hot day with 8 hours of hills, hills and more hills. Roads getting rougher – packed “lumpy” earth.
May 29th – 60 miles to the end of the highway on poor hilly roads. The last 10 miles of relentless dirt track hills were very very tiring – I possibly hadn’t eat enough over the previous 24 hours, or maybe it was just the end of a 10 hour day!