webmaster mike's blog

more KPBSD bloggery

Pro Tip: Never mistake pepper spray for an inhaler.

Posted in Thought of the Day on August 9, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

Weakend Warrior

Posted in P90X, Sports, Triathlons on August 7, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking.

Down in San Diego, pondering the possibilities of a job as Webmaster for a school district up in Alaska, something was grievously wrong with my grasp on reality.

To wit, I imagined me getting up, going to work, coming home, reading or perhaps catching up on movies and television, particularly during the dark winter months.

I could learn to juggle, do crossword puzzles, cultivate Bonsai trees, learn to speak Jive. A myriad of possibilities flashed through my mind. An 8 to 5 job, no entanglements, scads of free time. What couldn’t I do?

Turns out what I couldn’t do is any and all of the above. Somehow my free time became learning to cross country ski. Then teaching P90X classes. Then training for swimming. Learning how to road bike. Running hill repeats. Doing triathlons. Hiking mountains. Adventure racing. Running races. Mountain bike trekking… Things I never imagined doing whilst in Southern California.

I’ve been with KPBSD for a year now. This, if any, seems like a good time to ponder anew.

Since my weekday schedule seems to more or less bereft of free time, I thought I could put relaxation on my To-Do List during the weekends.

As you might imagine, this, too, was a complete failure.

Weekends are active for me. It’s the best way to explore this amazing state. The sun’s up most of the time these days. Sometimes you can even see it.

The weekend before last was a sun filled affair with pleasant people, beautiful scenery, blooming wildflowers, and a death march.

It began innocently enough; a planned mission up Skyline Trail, across the ridge and down to Upper Fuller Lake and the trailhead. 13 miles of hiking. Couldn’t be too difficult, right?

Wrong. Skyline itself is a bit of a trek. Not even two miles, but it’s more or less like ascending muddy stairs for said two miles. But the view is incredible. There were six of us, and we quickly fell into different groups according to hiking speed. I ended up hiking with a Liz, a former Peninsula resident and pro cross country skier. She runs marathons, and liked to hike like she had left ice cream in the car. We quickly made our way around the ridge, leaving the rest of the group behind. We talked about cross country skiing, training techniques, and diet. Well, Liz did. I focused on trying to hear her over my ragged breathing. Five hours after starting, we had completed the trek.

Finally, here was my chance to recuperate, to finally start trimming Bonsai. Alas, no.

The next day, I decided to give my hiking muscles a break. I jumped on my mountain bike and went up Resurrection Trail to Juneau Lake – a round trip of nearly 20 miles. I’ll make a quick aside here to note that the muscle group used primarily in hiking, we’ll call them “legs,” is precisely the same group used whilst biking.

Mine, however, began to falter, at times even flail, earning the new title of “flegs.”

Monday morning, my flegs were flummoxed.

I tried to recover as best I could during the week, but instead I tried my hand at “Active Recovery,” which is the ill-fated theory that the best thing to do for muscles in need of recovery is give them more to do. I ran for three evenings in a row, including the Salmon Run Race 4.

I had nearly recovered enough by the weekend to feel inspired to do the entire Resurrection Pass, a nearly 40 mile mountain bike trek from Hope to Cooper Landing.

It was amazing. Breathtaking scenery, marmots bounding hither and yon, and hemlock trees that look like Alaska’s version of the Bonsai. Perhaps here, then, I can enjoy my idle time. Midway during a five hour trek through the wilderness, a brief respite to behold the beauty of nature. This is what my free time has become, and I couldn’t be happier with this development.

Besides, learning Jive is exceedingly difficult.

Got whistled at constantly during yesterday’s bike ride.

Silly marmots.

Posted in Thought of the Day on August 6, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

Run-on Sentences…

Posted in Sports, Triathlons on July 30, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

This might be inconceivable to many, but I’ve actually more or less kept up with my attempts at running.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been trying to slowly increase my tolerance for running (also slowly).

Whereas, for the last several weeks I have attemped to stumble about the Tsalteshi Trails with the intent to teach myself how to run.

Whereas, initially I was a conventional, heel-striking runner, which has fallen out of fashion because there are other, more efficient and less painful ways to run.

Whereas, I’ve used these training missions to learn how to be a “forefoot runner,” which means more leaning forward, faster running cadence, and less impact.

I’m kind of getting there. My first real test was Wednesday, where I raced in the third installment of the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. This would be my first running only race since high school, where I had the dubious distinction of finishing dead last at one event. But, I knew from my triathlon training that I could do okay, and to that end, I had a very specific time goal of under 22 minutes.

With brilliant sunshine and 100 other participants, we were off and up the Incline Hill. I usually like to monitor my heart rate during exercise, as it allows me to gauge just how much effort I am expending. This time, it kind of scared me. My theoretical maximum heart rate is 184. My average during the run was 186, with a high of 194. So, in a good news, bad news kind of deal, my heart still believes I’m 26. The bad news is I’m nowhere near that, as my brain continually exhibits the behavior of a 12 year old.

I finished in 20:39, far under what I was hoping. So, the good news is I’m improving. The bad news is that it still takes me days to recover from even 20 minutes of running. Whereas my brain might be 12 and my heart 26, my knees, hips shins behave as if they’re 80. At least this allows me to think the goal of an under 20 minute 5k is achievable, should my body decide not to rattle apart.

So, it’s back to the Trails I go, intent on putting more mileage under my feet in an effort to strengthen my running muscles sufficiently to increase my efficiency, and hopefully reduce pain.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the demographic of 12/26/80, inexplicably writing Whereas in bold and running oh so slowly.

Hammer, man, et al.

Posted in Sports, Triathlons, Website on July 18, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

“Hey Mike, what have you been up to of late?”

“Oh, not much, just vacationing overseas, racing extreme offroad triathlons, running, and helping put together the latest District Annual Report.”

“Wait – you’re RUNNING?”

–          Imagined dialogue if you asked me, “Hey Mike, what have been up to of late?”

So, yes, it’s true, I’ve been running.

More importantly, I had an opportunity to take an all-too-brief hiatus from work and visit an amazing individual in New Zealand. You might realize that my trip fell more or less squarely in the dead winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but I was not to be deterred. We had a brilliant time, catching up, mountain biking, exploring…we even got to sail on an America’s Cup yacht. Absolutely incredible.

I managed to make it back just in time to enjoy the full brunt of a gorgeous Alaskan Summer. I hope it lasts longer than this week. Last week, I went up to Los Anchorage to do the Xterra Hammerman Triathlon. I went with two good friends, Angie and Adam, as we were part of a team, something that neither Adam nor I had done. The weather, lamentably, was a bit on the damp side, which made the mountain biking segment, the leg I was to complete, a bit of a challenge. 14 miles of slick, muddy, and overgrown singletrack awaited me. But I had a blast, and only fell three times, which was a personal best for me on that course. Angie had a great if cold swim, and Adam had a blisteringly fast run, but I think my crashing (and missing a turn – oops) led to a slower time than I had hoped. Still, we finished third of the coed teams. I’ll make a quick note about the winning team – their mountain biker was professional… But the main aspect worth noting is that we all had a really fun time, and no one got hurt.

Speaking of professions, in the Wide World of Webmastery, things are fantastic. Busy and varied, as I am splitting time between installing new computers in various schools around the district, and working in the office as needed. The latest project has been the KPBSD Annual Report, which provides a synopsis and interesting facts and stories from the previous school year to the public. Look for yours soon as an insert in the newspaper.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be running.

Seriously, this time…

Adventure Racing Revisited…

Posted in Sports on June 27, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

This is my version of the Adventure Race. Excerpts from this are recounted in this article by the Redoubt Reporter:


Ah, Adventure Racing.

Part Adventure, part Racing.

All Unmitigated Misery.

I’m kidding, of course. Some of it was mitigated. My point is, I had the chance to do some Adventure Racing a while back. And by “had the chance,” I mean my friend Yvonne forced me into it.

“Hey Mike, what are you doing the weekend after next?” She asked.

Before I could answer, she blurted, “That’s right! You’re going adventure racing. Get your stuff ready.”

Yvonne, who does a myriad of painful outdoor activities, such as running marathons and dog mushing, had done an Adventure Race before, but swore she’d never do it again. With that promising statistic, I hesitantly agreed to do it. But Yvonne has the tendency to get her way. I was in, whether I wanted to be or not.

The other member of our team was a very fit fellow with scads of outdoor experience named Clark. Clark climbs the Peninsula mountains with a frequency that would make mountain goats question his sanity. He sets a furious, steady pace, leaving most others in the dust. “Clark,” I believe, is just his civilian name; a far more appropriate moniker is “Quadzilla.”

The week before, the three of us met to go over recommended gear for the race, which would take approximately 12 hours for the fastest teams, and be comprised of mountain biking, hiking, and pack-rafting.

The gear list was intimidating.

The list recommended things like head nets – which I thought must imply there’d be a beekeeping leg of the race. Emergency blankets, flares, bear bells, whistles and glowsticks (obviously for impromptu raves), medical kit, wafflemaker, Space Station, fondue set… I can’t remember exactly what the list detailed, but we were all to provide and carry about the entire list. Luckily, I have experience as a sherpa.

Nearer to the actual race day, we got even better news; the 40 some odd mile race was going to begin AT MIDNIGHT FRIDAY. So, my Excitement Meter, which was already topping out, became absolutely pegged. Since nothing makes stumbling around in the woods more fun than doing it on no sleep and in the dark.

After driving up from the Kenai to a settlement near Palmer called Jonesville, which has the completely untrue distinction of being named after Jim Jones, we tried to get a nap in before the Midnight race start.

That proved impossible, as the Palmer recreationalists (Palmeranians?) enjoyed passing their time by discharging all manner of firearms into the woods. What we had envisioned as a tranquil, restful place turned out to be more like a Bad Day in Bosnia.

We met our fellow competitors and race organizers and received some elucidation regarding the course. People were ubiquitously nice and eager to get going. We apparently missed the memo about mandatory beards for serious adventure racers. Even the men had them. I’m kidding, of course. One interesting and great thing about adventure racing is that the most recognized dynamic is coed three-person teams. Like ours. This encourages strong and amazing women to compete hard, and quite often beat the tar out of those of us with a Y Chromosome.

In our case, Yvonne was our leader, as she was by far the most experienced. This was a perfect arrangement, as both Clark and I are used to taking orders from strong women; Clark having a teenage daughter, and me spending time with a strong-willed lady friend. Yvonne immediately poured over the course map, taking charge.

“We’ll take this road here, then make our way down to the river.” She said, pointing to a bundle of squiggles on the map.

Clark and I made thoughtful “hmmmm” sounds in vague agreement, and concentrated on growing our beards.

Soon, we mounted our bikes and assembled on the top of a hill. Thankfully, even near Midnight, the clear sky and proximity to the Summer Solstice provided decent ambient light, as the sun had set not quite a half hour before.

The start officially underway, we raced down the hill and into the woods. With our bear bells strapped to our bikes, the sound of nearly thirty racers ripping downhill sounded like a team of Christmas reindeer falling down a marble staircase.

Thankfully the woods proved sufficiently tamed, no doubt thanks to the gun-toting Palmeranians.

The trails, however, were a different story. Mostly made by another ubiquitous Palmeranian accessory, the four-wheeler, the trails were muddy, confusing, and everywhere. To add to the near-dark excitement, there were rocks, branches, deadfall trees, and puddles larger than some European countries.

But we did really well on the bike leg. We missed some of the first checkpoints, and I found I was of absolutely no help in this regard. I lacked the two basic qualities of successful checkpoint finding – knowing what a checkpoint looks like, the ability to see in the dark, good intuition, and I should probably add counting, since this list seems like more than two things.

In an effort to remove myself from any decision-making processes, I cleverly suggested that I carry the map in a waterproof case on my back. That way, when my team members needed to consult the map, all I had to do was get in front of them and make positive noises as they made decisions.

Being pragmatic by nature, Yvonne, more commonly known as the Yvonnergizer, suggested moving on if we couldn’t find the checkpoint in a given amount of time, as a late finish would prove detrimental to our overall point score.

We were the first team to the Transition Area, where we traded our bikes for backpacks filled with pack-rafts, grabbed quick snacks, and started up a mountain on rubbery legs.

Mine were rubbery, anyway, as I struggled to keep up with Quadzilla. Yvonne had an even better idea. She attached a length of shock cord to both Clark and me, thereby gaining some advantage climbing. Add in her years of dog mushing experience, and she was in charge of the dumbest and slowest sled dogs she could ever hope for. It didn’t help at all that we didn’t understand her commands.

“Gee! Haw! HAW! I SAID HAW!”

“Yvonne, is that laughter?”


We made record time up Bodenburg Butte, found our checkpoint as the sun rose, and jogged down the road, ready for the next leg.

First onto the trails east of the Knik River, we encountered some difficulties, allowing two teams to catch and pass us.

We arrived at Jim Lake, eager to give our legs a respite from the previous 10 hours of abuse. Now, I’m a decent mountain biker, an okay hiker, but I was breathtakingly new to pack rafting. The first time I had EVER SEEN a pack raft was when I pulled it out of the pack.

“Is this it?” I wondered, looking over about a square yard of rubber.

It was.

It turned out to be a brilliant day for a regatta as I inflated the raft, which looked suspiciously like a pool toy. I placed it gingerly into the lake and attempted to get in. It was rather like trying to step on an eel. In all honesty, you could simulate a pack raft perfectly by donning a pair of rubber pants, inflating them to maximum capacity, and simply sitting on the water with a paddle. I pushed my feet forward and fell into the raft’s bottom. I felt my kidneys move at least three inches up. Astonishingly, I had managed already to get a significant amount of water in the bottom of the raft, so perhaps my kidneys were merely trying to avoid drowning.

In my haste to inflate the raft, I had overlooked inflating the raft’s seat, which made me look more or less like a head resting on an inflatable sausage. An added bonus was that my wildly inefficient paddling did less to propel me forward and more to ship water directly into my lap.

Seat inflation corrected at the next portage to the river system, we made our way down the maze of connecting streams toward the Knik River and the finish line.

We had survived the race.

“That was fun. Let’s never do that ever again, ever.” I suggested.

In the off chance that we do, I’ll start growing my beard now.

Add Vent Sure Ray Sing Inn Palm Her.

Posted in Sports on June 21, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

Ah, Adventure Racing.

Part Adventure, part Racing.

All Unmitigated Misery.

I’m kidding, of course. Some of it was mitigated. My point is, I had the chance to do some Adventure Racing this past weekend. And by “had the chance,” I mean I was roped into it by my friend Yvonne, who had done this sort of race before, but swore she’d never do it again. With that promising statistic, I agreed to do it.

The other member of our team was a very fit fellow with scads of outdoor experience named Clark.

The week before, we met to go over recommended gear for the race, which would take approximately 12 hours for the fastest teams, and be comprised of mountain biking, hiking, and rafting.

The gear list was intimidating.

There were things like head nets recommended – which I thought must imply there’d be a beekeeping leg of the race.

Emergency blankets, flares, glowsticks (since you never know when a rave might break out), all of these things we were supposed to provide and carry about with us. Luckily, I have experience as a sherpa.

Nearer to the actual race day, we got even better news; the 40 some odd mile race was going to begin AT MIDNIGHT FRIDAY. So, my Excitement Meter, which was already topping out, became absolutely pegged. Since nothing makes stumbling around in the woods more fun than doing it on no sleep and in the dark.

I will fill you in on the gory details at a later date. Suffice it to say that the Beekeeping Rave was amazing.

Raise Dairy Salts

Posted in Sports, Triathlons on June 14, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

I could see my nearest competitors in front of me. The ones behind, I couldn’t see, but I could sense them. If I slipped up at all, they would seek to gain from it. Right on the heels of those in front, I saw an opportunity.

I took it, and in the process, made myself one step closer to finishing.

I had finally gotten my bib and race day packet for Tri the Kenai.

The next day, of course, was the actual 3rd Annual Tri the Kenai Triathlon. This was my first real triathlon. Pink Cheeks in Seward not being sanctioned by the USAT because of its out-of-order disciplines (Swim, then run-bike, instead of Swim-Bike-Run like nature intended.)

I had been training a good deal in the months prior to the event. In under three months, I had undergone a complete transformation. From never having swum competitively since high school, never ridden a road bike, and a terrible runner who hadn’t competed in nearly two decades; to a good swimmer, a diligent, aggressive biker, and a terrible runner. In all honesty, my run time had decreased a bit, but it was still nothing to write home about.

So I had some confidence leading up to the race, and I hoped all my hours of hard training would pay off.

Months ago, when I signed up for Tri the Kenai, I had wildly guessed at my estimated swim time. Apparently, I suggested an estimated time of 6:00. I’m not sure what prompted this confidence, perhaps someone had stipulated that they allowed speedboats or jetpacks for the event. With that time, I was seeded second overall in the men, which meant that I got to share a lane with Alaska’s fasted triathlete.

Shockingly, he was far faster than I was.

Perhaps more shockingly, I was only a minute behind him leaving the pool.

500 yards (and probably a similar number of grey hairs) later, I had recorded a swim time of 6:54 and ran out of the pool to my bike stand and transition zone. I was in fourth place.

My transition went flawless to begin. Heart rate monitor, bike shoes, and that’s where the problems began. I struggled getting into my shirt. I know this is a fairly pedestrian activity for most, but for some reason this proved remarkably difficult for me. With the crowd cheering me on, I flailed and struggled to don my shirt. I just could not figure out what the problem was. A too small shirt on a too wet torso. I should really stop wardrobe shopping at Baby Gap.

Several minutes later, I emerged from the transition zone, bike helmet on, and bib, which was once fastened to my shirt with four sturdy safety pins, flapping uselessly in the breeze, attached with but one lonely pin.

Luckily, my bike ride was far better than the events leading to it.

Celeste felt lively and wonderful under me, and we blasted out of the school parking lot. On the highway, I monitored my heart rate, got passed by one perennial triathlete with a bike that I imagined weighed less than my water bottle, and passed one of the few bikers ahead of me.

Soon I had company, as another fellow with a lovely all-carbon aero bike passed me on Echo Lake Road. I kept a reasonable distance from him, acutely aware of the no drafting rules of triathlons, and made my move, passing him on an uphill. We went back and forth for the remainder of the ride – him passing me on the flats and me passing him on the uphills.

Fortunately for Celeste and I, the route back to Skyview consisted of a hill. A big one. A big, very inclined uphill one.

I arrived into the run transition zone nearly a minute in front.

Whereas my first transition was a crucible of what not to do with a transition, this one was the opposite. I left my bike shoes clipped into the pedals, dismounted, and sprinted in bare feet to my area. Bike in rack, helmet off, shoes on, I was off on the trails.

That’s when everything went pear-shaped.

I’m not a natural runner, as you might have guessed if you’ve read this blog before.

Race day was a great example of this. My legs felt wrecked on the run, and I couldn’t get up to speed. Lamentably, some of those behind me eventually caught and passed me. My run time was a disappointing 23 minutes.

The good thing is that I know I can do better, and I have put into sharp relief what my problems areas are.


So, my overall time was good enough for Tenth place in the men’s category.

I was hoping for a top ten finish, but I somehow feel like I could have done much better if I had been able to run to my potential.

But, it’s useless to dwell on what could have been, and now I am saddled with the task of figuring out what to do next.

Fortunately, this has already been decided, as I am doing an adventure race near Palmer tomorrow.

Oh, and the best part? It’s at least a 12 hour race, and it starts at midnight…

If anyone needs me, I’ll be fighting with my shirt.


New Beginnings

Posted in P90X, Sports, Triathlons on May 23, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

Like sand in an hourglass…

…if you break it, it gets EVERYWHERE.

So, too, are the days of our lives.

As you might notice, I’m having a bit of a metaphor-mixing crisis. Such is the time.

A lot is going on around the District. Today is the last day of school for students in most schools. But for us, the journey continues. We have the formidable task of switching out a great many old computers with new machines in various schools throughout the District.

This starts tomorrow, and on this occasion, we’ve hired an additional 10 employees to help with the festivities. Things should get interesting. Meanwhile, the year-end frenzy is in full swing, so people are scrambling like mad to complete everything required to have a guilt-free summer of relaxation.

I’ve been adamantly keeping up with triathlon training, nearly to the point of meltdown last week. The week began with P90X on Monday morning, then running hill repeats in Soldotna in the evening. This was tough, but over the weekend, I had gone to Los Anchorage and picked up some new running shoes. I was very pleased that my entire body didn’t have that “I’m about to rattle into a bazillion pieces” feeling during OR after the run.

For Tuesday after work, my normally-scheduled Master Swimming was not active thanks to scheduled maintenance at the Skyview Pool. Therefore, instead of Skyview I opted to meet a group going up Skyline. Skyline is a mountain about 40 minutes out of town. It’s steep. Think a two mile stretch of muddy stairs. Straight. Up. I got there as quickly as I could (No, Officer, I didn’t speed. Not even a little). I saw several other cars in the lot, and sure that my group was already summit-bound, I made haste to catch them. I didn’t. It was not because of a lack of speed. It was a temporal problem. In that they managed to start after me. So all the way to the summit I climbed. Upon my descent, I encountered my group, still intent on a summit bid. I was ready to go again, so I did. My enthusiasm was somewhat diminished the second go around, but I had a great time, and came back down the hill on less-than-top-shape legs.

Bright and early the next morning, I had a P90X Legs & Back workout that left my Skyline-crippled legs hardly able to support my bodyweight. The evening’s workout was more hill repeats, this time via bicycle. Thankfully, Celeste is an aggressive hill-climber, and despite my reluctance to do meaningful exercise, she took up the slack. She’s awesome, that way.

My legs sufficiently impinged-upon, I took it upon myself to go to the Tsalteshi Trails and try to do the first “Real” mountain biking of the season. I failed rather miserably, as the trails were a mucky quagmire. Apologies to the groomers for being too eager to go biking. But I do love a good mud biking episode.

Friday’s Tri Class consisted of transition training, where speed is of the essence as one switches between sport disciplines, such as swimming to biking and biking to running. This means doffing and donning helmets, goggles, spandex, bowling shoes, wafflemakers, and assorted triathlon paraphernalia. Having stayed late to get some last minute details up on the website at work, I actually ended up skipping this workout, but observed the hardworking athletes of my tri class, many of whom were heading up to Anchorage for the Golden Nugget Triathlon. They crushed it, and I couldn’t be more proud of all of them.

On Saturday, I did nothing. I didn’t even leave the house. I did nothing and it was everything I thought it would be. It was glorious.

By Sunday, I was eager to get out again, so drove to Resurrection Trail and rode my mountain bike as far as I could. I got a bit over three miles in before the increasing amounts of snow and mud and fallen trees forced my turnaround. Oh, and the new bike, with full-suspension, was an absolute dream on the downhill sections. Just brilliant. After Resurrection I hit the Russian Lakes Trails, and managed all the way into the Falls, but the Upper Russian Trail and path around Lower Russian Lake to the cabin was well-blocked by a rather large avalanche. But the path to the Falls was perfection.

This week has seen hill repeats on Goat at lower Tsalteshi, the reopening of the pool, and even some mountain biking planned for tonight.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be picking up grains of sand.

Turns out that when an hourglass breaks, it gets EVERYWHERE.


Posted in P90X on May 21, 2012 by Webmaster Mike