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Northern Exposure: My Alaskan Adventure Vacation

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A New View

Our "slight detour" had doubled the length of our bike ride, and the remaining 12 miles was a test of sheer willpower. My legs wobbled. Thoughts of a better place flew through my head -- specifically, my bed, my pillows, and the warm oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins from room service at my hotel.

Each time the guide stopped on the path to wait for me, my frustration increased. I told him he didn't have to stop, that I was fine and I was going to take my time. He said he couldn't leave a journalist behind -- what if I was eaten by a bear? Everyone laughed.

But then something strange happened: I didn't care anymore. I started to ride my bike at my own pace. I didn't make an effort to keep up with anyone. Yes, they were stronger, faster, and better than me. So what? I felt strangely rebellious -- but against what? My own expectations? I'd been knocked off my high horse of physical prowess, and suddenly I realized I didn't want to climb back on. I was in Alaska, damn it, and I was going to enjoy it.

After a yoga class the next day, I sat in the tranquil lounge, sipping tea with two yogis and a couple of rock-climbing guides. Someone asked how my trip the day before had gone. As I recounted my story, I couldn't stop laughing. How could I convey my competitiveness to a group who had just preached peaceful self-affirmations for the past hour while I contorted my body into pretzel-like poses? I described the streams we'd biked over, the panoramic view of the Chugach Mountains from the waterfall, and everything else that I'd nearly forgotten to appreciate as I obsessed over keeping up with Kikkan. In fact, some of the most amazing photos I took during my trip were from that day.

Later that afternoon, my guides drove me to a rock outcropping between Anchorage and Girdwood. This time, with help from the yoga class, I climbed with grace: I concentrated on deep breathing to keep calm, overcame difficult holds in the rock by taking the time to strategize my moves, and when I made a mistake, I started over and went slowly. When I reached the top, I leaned back on my safety rope and surveyed my surroundings. From the expanse of the mountains to Cook Inlet and its beluga whales, I saw all that Alaska had to offer. And for the first time since I'd arrived, I took it in.

Outfit Yourself

Going on an adventure of your own? Check out Rachel's tried-and-tested picks for must-have gear, from layers to luggage.


Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2009.


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