Monday, November 29, 2010

Hugging a tree and SHOPPING!

It's Cyber Monday!

For those of us living in small Alaskan towns with limited shopping and NO running shops, this is almost as exciting as Christmas. Truly!

I had to work all day and am just getting down and dirty right now. The big moral dilemma, of course, is this: Because I have to cover a meeting in an hour (I'm a journalist, but please don't hate me, okay?) I have limited time. Do I spend it shopping for myself or for everyone else?


On more serious note: Shot pics of the basketball game for work and this is what most of my shots looked like:

Everything all blurry. Of over 150 shots, only five were doable, sigh, sigh.

Here's my fav. Tried to take a shot of two guys wrestling the ball and on the ground and got my feet and snowpants instead, hee, hee.

As far as the weather, it is WINDY. So windy that when I walked the dog by the beach I actually had to stop and hug a tree so that I wouldn't be blown away. Too funny!

These poor jellyfish on the beach were really taking a pounding from the wind and waves.

I'm off to buy, buy, buy all the things I so miss: Running shoes, running shorts, running tights and running socks and sports bras and fuel belts and extra water bottles and extra puches for my fuel belt and, and, and ....

Hope everyone else had a blast buying and browsing!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Me and Ryan Hall, running together (sorta of)

I am SO excited! I tapped into Ryan Hall's Garmin readout and realized that one day last week we both ran at almost the exact same time.

Here's my man Ryan at the Boston Marathon. Note his time, a mere 13 minutes slower than my fastest half-marathon time. This is another sign, 'cause 13 has always been my lucky number:

I think this is a message from Above. I think this means I am fated to actually meet RH in person one day and maybe even (oh, oh, oh!) touch his beautiful and big running shoes.

Black Friday, and I bought nothing (hooray)

I made it through Black Friday without buying a thing.
When you consider I'm living in a small town with a nothing but a Safeway, hardware store, a general store and a bunch of tourist shops, that's not saying much.
A cool thing is that except for the Subway, there are NO fast food places here. Nada. No McDonald's or Burger King or Taco Bell.
It's a pretty healthy place.
But you can bet your computer keys that I'll be ready for Cyber Monday. Yeah, baby, I'm getting my fingers prepped for all the online shopping I'm gonna do. (Does anyone else do this, set out to Christmas shop and end up buying themselves more than they buy for anyone else?)

This is what I have my eye on:

Icebugs! And the color is called Poison. Isn't that the greatest name? Imagine tearing past people during mountain races with my poison shoes.

I'm also liking this:

The pic is almost as big as the jacket, hee, hee. Anyway, it's the Nike Vapor jacket, supposedly double water resistant, which is much needed since it rains here ALL the time.

A bummer of living down here is that the Internet connection is horribly slow and I can't access the Nike Website the majority of the time. This has made my wallet very happy, though.

Took a run Thanksgiving late afternoon (to work off all the food, no?) which is almost the middle of the night here in Alaska since it gets dark so early, and stays dark. Right now we're down to about 5.5 hours of daylight and STILL losing light. If not for the full-spectrum light bulbs I have all around the living room, I'd be stuffing my face with Cheetos and crying over bad movies right this minutes.
Anyway, ran Tonsina Point at dusk, was a bit slick in places but still doable. This is the view from the first bridge, where the trail opens up alongside the bay:


There was an eagle flying overhead but wasn't able to get a decent picture.

Right now it's the middle of the night and I'm supposed to be working on my novel edits but I'm blogging instead (hee, hee) and eating Brussels sprouts, thanks to the influence of Heather over at Heather Eats Almond Butter who used to show pics of her Brussels sprouts creations so often that I began craving them at the oddest times.
Thanks, Heather!

Oh my gosh, we just had an earthquake!! The floor is still shaking but wait, now it's stopped.

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See

Too much!!

Wednesday: 21 miles on bike
Thursday: 4.5 miles, trails
Friday: 12 miles

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lost Lake (again)

I swear, this is quickly becoming my favorite trail run in Seward. I still miss the Chugach Mountain trails up around Anchorage so, so much, but Lost Lake is getting to me. It was a bit rough Sunday: The bottom portion was slick with patches of bare ice, and the upper areas had deep snow. There was a single path that was runnable, though at times it narrowed down so that I was forced to take very slow and short strides.

Still, it was worth it. Here's the view from the park service cabin, about a third of the way up the mountain:

Ran this in the evening with the dog, no one else around; we had the trail to ourselves. I hit the top right at twilight and got to see the moon coming up over the mountains behind us. Tried taking a picture but had the camera on the wrong setting and my hands were too cold to mess with it.

My blurry moon pic:

It looks like a space ship hovering above the mountains, eh? Imagine aliens watching me run down the mountains, snow up to my knees when I stumbled off the path. "Whatever is she doing?" they would wonder. "Is she being punished for something? Has she been banished by her tribe to this cold and empty place?"

Of course, it's not an empty place. The beauty of the mountains in the winter is immense, everything soft and muted, the bears hibernating (hopefully), the air so cold and clean.

It was dark by the time I hit the last mile, mostly through thick spruce forest, and even with my headlamp the footing was iffy: Snow one minute, ice the next, frozen mud the next. If not for the dog I think I would have become hopelessly lost, but The Beebs was able to pick up the trail, even in rough spots. Cooked her a nice piece of chicken when we got home, which she attacked while I mircrowaved my veggie burgers.

(Sad news: Think I fractured my finger. Slipped on the ice while walking the dog, which is SO depressing. I'm typing this with one hand. Of all the rugged mountain runs I've been on and then I break my finger walking the dog down the road; it's embarrassing.)

Sunday: 5 miles, trails
Monday: 5.5 miles, roads
Tuesday: 5 miles, with three mile repeats at 7:30 pace

Still hopelessly and utterly in love with Ana.

Mostly work stuff but did manage to revamp a scene in Chapter Five (one more chapter and I'm done--hooray!!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Horsing around

This is what I did Friday:

I left my pushing-for-deadline work stories on my desk and headed out to walk around the neighborhood with The Beebs, stopping to feed the carrots I paid waaaayyy too much for at the local Safeway to my best horse buds. This one is my favorite: How can you not love a face like that?

Or this:

Used to ride horses back when I was growing up on the farm. Miss them so much but since these are close to my house, I get to hang with them whenever I walk the dog.

On the way home we met up with The Beeb's mortal enemy, Lady:

Don't know why but my dog just DOES NOT like Lady one bit. They always have themselves a bit of a scuffle (you go, Beebs!).

Saturday I did nothing but work on my novel all day and take naps. Writing is exhausting, and naps are necessary. I worry sometimes that I write too much, that by writing about life I am missing large chunks of life. I remember something Marguerite Duras wrote about having no life: I have less life than anyone I know, she said. I can totally relate.

Late in the afternoon I took the dog for a walk on the beach, right in time to see the full moon rising over Resurrection Bay.

Around midnight, I took another walk. The moonlight was so bright that I could see my shadow. The mountains were white and shadowed and ghostly, and I almost couldn't stand how beautiful it all was. No one else was around, which I found peculiar: How could anyone stay indoors when the moon was so full and bright?

Running: Worked out in the gym, due to my writing schedule, 7 miles.

Reading:  "The Guardians" by Ana Castillo. This is SO good I can only read it in bits, to make it last longer.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Peaceful, easy feeling (and I did it!)

Woke up happy today, for no particular reason except the sun was shining and as soon as I opened my eyes I could see the mountains. Ate some oatmeal and took the dog for a walk through the forest trail that leads up to Mt. Marathon base.

Love how peaceful and quiet it is, and just minutes from our house.

Here's the frozen stream where I fell on my ass (note the blurry head of my dog, The Beebs):

The good news is that my novel rewrite is almost finished. I swear! This has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. Writing it was no picnic but rewriting has been a small (though I must admit sometimes glorious) agony.

And the other good news is: I did it! I met my goal of running 1,000 miles this year. Yipppeee! I'm currently at 1,015.3 miles.

Have been running my long runs and intervals on the treadmill at the gym. With the short daylight hours and my work and writing schedule, this is unavoidable. I run the trails on the weekends and roads once a week, but the other days I run for miles inside and stay in the same place, sigh, sigh.

Still, there's something about running longer distance that snags me. As soon as I hit the six or seven mile mark, I feel, well, I can't really explain how I feel. It's not a runner's high but more that I'm in The Zone, and I love it there, love how my mind slows down and the clutter empties out and there's just me and the movement of my body, and my breath. It's a type of meditation, a purity missing from the rest of my life.

Reading: Still reading Alix Kate Shulman plus picked up a couple of books from Cover to Cover bookstore including one by Ana Castillo that I CAN'T wait to read.

Running: 12 miles on treadmill tonight, averaged 9:35 pace with 1/4 mile at 4% grade every mile, just to spice things up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Winds 'R Us

The wind! Is wild tonight, rocking the house so that the windows shake and the dog cowers beneath the desk. It seeps in through the windowpanes, chilling the house and causing my plants to shiver, poor things. But the night is clear, the moon almost full, the mountains rising up in the background in white-coated glory. What is it about the wind that stirs up longings, causes the blood is run fast and hard, makes a person stare up into the sky and want to hurl herself into the stars?

The beauty of an Alaska cold night is that is follows an Alaska clear day. Here is the harbor this afternoon when I walked the dog:

Yesterday I had a bit of a breakdown. It happens sometimes, no? It was so cold in the house. The only source of heat is what looks to be a wood burning stove, except this beast burns diesel fuel. I light the fuel with a match, close the door and the house soons fills with the delightful smell of a truckstop.

Soon I'll wear my hair in a beehive and call everyone "honey" and "sweetheart."  

The diesel stove gives me fierce headaches, so I suffered the cold last night with no heat. It was 42 degrees in the house. I had on snowpants, a down vest, wool socks and hat and a heating pad on my stomach so my internal organs wouldn't freeze.

It was that cold.

Today I went to the friendly Spenard Builders Supply stove and bought a couple of small space heaters and oh baby! I have on shorts and a sweater. I am finally warm.


Didn't run but worked out at the gym, bike and elliptical for 1.5 hours and then upper body lifting. No one else was there and I got to watch two (two) episodes of "House Hunters" plus one "Property Virgins." For someone who doesn't own a TV, this was pure bliss.

Can life get any better?

Yes! Because I came home, had a big bowl of clam chowder followed by a muffin slathered in healthy margarine and took the dog for a walk. It was right past midnight, so clear and cold and dark outside that I almost wept.

Reading: Alix Kate Shulman's memoir "Drinking the Rain."

Love you, Alix honey!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blue day

It was literally a blue day today. This is what the bay looked like when I walked the dog this afternoon:

Everything was tinted a lavender-blue fog. Very dreamy and still, with the tide coming in, and all around were crows and ravens; they were so near we could hear the sounds of their wings flapping.

Blah day. Worked through most of it and still didn't make deadline. Which means I'll have to work tomorrow morning to make up for it.

This is one of the things I did, shot photos on the beach of Kris Peck riding the ultimate wheel for an upcoming story (oh, my job is so hard sometimes, hee, hee):

The ultimate wheel is a unicycle without the seat, and this dude rides it for miles. Balanced only by his thighs. On the rocky beach. Without falling. It's pretty amazing.

Really struggling with balancing work writing with novel and poetry writing while still finding time to run. Hate to say it but when things get thick and I'm up writing half the night, the first thing that has to go is my running. I end up reducing my miles waaaayy down and logging 3-4 miles instead of 8-9. At least I get out there, and that's one positive thing. But still, it barely seems worth tying my shoelaces if I'm only going to run three miles.

But still (drumroll please), by the end of tomorrow I shall hopefully reach my goal of 1,000 miles by the end of the year. Yes! At this point I need only 6.8 miles. I'm actually ahead of my goal, tra-la-la.

Must go write. I'm almost finished with a new poem. Ah, poems are so wonderful, like small whispers of breath against your bare arm. Or at least this one. Or at least it will be if I ever figure out how to smooth the ending.

Running: 8.5 miles, slowish 9.40 pace, with last two miles 8:30 pace
Reading: A short story collection by Elizabeth Berg that I'm not too excited about. It's okay but not great.
Craving: Vanilla soy ice cream, and they don't sell my fav brand down here, sigh, sigh.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Screwing around

The mission: To insert 24 screws in my trail shoes

The reason: Because the roads look like this (i.e., so I don't fall on my ass running on ice)

The shoes:

My dirty and beloved Adidas trail runners. LOVE these babies and just bought another pair. They'e actually a mid-level shoe but the best thing to run trails I've tried. They're and flexible, light and thankfully not overally cushioned (what's up with these cushioned shoes that feel like walking on pillows and totally mess up your gait?). I trust 'em more than the $125 models littering my closet.

The screws:

These are 3/8 inch hex metal screws I picked up at the Fish House True Value hardware store.

The total cost: $2.73. Much cheaper than the Icebug shoes (already with traction) for $159 I've had my eye on.

A Trail Runners article recommened I use a power drill to help insert the screws.

"Nah, don't waste your money," the guy at the hardware store said. "Shoe bottoms are rubber, these will go right in."

Cool, I thought.

I came home, got out the screwdriver and set to work.

I screwed. I muttered. I cursed.

It took me longer than it should have to realize while men might use screwdrivers, women totally need power drills.

Have no idea where to buy a reasonably priced power drill in Seward. Might have to wait until the next time I head up into Anchorage and wear clunky YakTrax until then.

Running: Sick today, no running, sigh, sigh (this is what happens when one does too many stories in the elementary school--all those cute kids, yeah, but all those germs)
Yesterday: 1 mile warmup/warmdown, 5.5 miles 8:27 pace (dreadmill, 1% grade)

Reading: Short story collection by Lee Smith. Gotta love southern humor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dracula for two bucks

So there I was, rushing around the Seward Community Library trying to print out the latest section of my novel before closing (out of printer cartridge and nowhere to buy it down here, sigh, sigh), when I look down and see a stack of discarded books, with this one the top:

Yes, an old copy of "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. It's copyright dated from 1897, the original publishing date (May 26, 1897). And I got it for two bucks.
I am SO excited.
Of course, it's falling apart and not in the best condition and the cover isn't original, which makes the retail sale value low, the library clerk explained to me as I held that book in my hands and refused to let go.

As if I care about retail value! As if I would sell one of my books!

What I love is the history, the hundreds of hands that must have held this book, the houses where it once lived, the many lives it viewed. Imagine it!

More intriguing is how it ended up in Seward. Has it been here the whole time, tucked in someone's home and later donated to the library upon his or her death? Did children read it and squirm with fright, did it keep them awake at night--how many nightmares did this book cause? How many lovers did it bring together, how many deceits did it witness, how much happiness did it bring?

I can't stop thinking about it. I'm totally hooked. I think I shall sleep with this old copy of "Dracula" on my pillow tonight. Who knows what I might dream, maybe of ol' Bram himself.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Swimming on the Iditarod Trail

Most of the snow melted today so I put on my trail shoes, called for the dog and headed out to Nash Road, to run on the Iditarod Trail to Bear Lake and back. The trail is through spruce (or douglas fur; I can never tell the difference) forests and weaves in and out along the creek for the first mile or so. It's very quiet and peaceful, though sometimes 4-wheelers whiz past.

Today, we had the trail to ourselves. It drizzled the first mile but then cleared up. The footing was tricky in places: Snow and then icy patches, followed by clear patches and wet areas.

Here's where I fell into a HUGE puddle that came up past my ankles. It was that deep.

I also had a bit of an argument with a devil's club branch. I'm sorry to say that it got the best of me.

The rest of the run was wet, with another HUGE puddle closer to the Bear Lake end of the trail.

By the time I got back to the trailhead, my shoes, tights and windbreaker were soaking and splattered with mud. The checkout woman at the Safeway wasn't too pleased to see me when I stopped off to buy hot salsa on the way home. Have no idea why, but having cold feet caused me to crave hot salsa.

A big cheer to Anchorage running group buddy Teresa, who is running the New York Marathon: You gooooo girl!

Finished "The Body is Water" and cried in the bathroom--it's that good. Now I'm reading a collection of short stories by southern writer Lee Smith.

Trying to get up the nerve to submit to poetry chapbook contests. Poetry is scary. I can write a short story in a few months, sometimes a few weeks, but one good poem can take years.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

First snow

I woke up to snow today, a slushy, wet snow that made walking the dog wet and gushy. This is what I will soon have to buy. I swore I wouldn't, but it's come to that:

Yeah, ugly, functional and oh-so sexy.

But the snow is lovely, especially against the water. The air is wet and everything feels so clean, even though everything is actually damp as hell.

This is what the harbor looked like this afternoon:

Sometimes I can't believe I'm really living in a little fishing town at the end of the road system. But I am. What I love most is the light. By late afternoon the water turns a silver-lavender shade that is haunting and mystical. I can't get enough of it. It makes me want to write.

 Ran 6.5 miles on the dreadmill at the AVTEC gym tonight. The treadmill faces a wall of mirror so that I am forced to watch myself running. My form looked great. But how tedious to run and run and go nowhere!  I was thinking that if someone from the 18th century, say Jane Austen or Keats' Fannie, suddenly appeared in the gym, they would assume I was being tortured. Why else would someone subject themselves to running on a machine that forced them to stay in place? They would think I was sweating from fear. They wouldn't understand.

Well, I don't understand, either. Why do I love running so much? And really, I don't know. I just do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dumber than a dog

My dog is smarter than I am.

She knew, when I tried to coax her out to run in the pouring rain, that it was going to be a miserable and thankless outing. She huddled on the porch. She refused to budge.

So I headed out for a supposedly easy 5-mile loop alone.

By the time I hit the bay, it was pouring. Before long it began to sleet, and I cruised along, huge gusts of wind pushing me easily past my goal pace.

Then I hit the turnaround point and found myself running directly into a wall of sleet. And wind.

For the next 2.5 miles, I struggled. My poor Sugoi sub-zero tights sagged around my knees; they were no match for such brutality. When I cleared the last hill and my house veered into view (my house!), I almost sobbed in relief.

This is what I looked like after I strangled up the steps:

Note the look of complete and abject misery on my face?

This is what my dog looked like, at home warm and dry:

Still reading "Wuthering Heights." Oh Heathcliff, let's run across the moors in expensive Asics running shoes and Nike thermal shirts and eat Shot Bloks and be gloriously and wonderfully brooding. Catherine can come too, if she promises not to run like a girl.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Writing + running + work = Help!!

My weekend was spent doing this:

Editing Chapter Four of my novel. It's a cumbersome, hair pulling, agonizing process, and the next person who says, "Oh, I could write a novel if I could only find the time," I shall smack alongside the head.

I also ran Lost Lake Trail but forgot to charge my digital camera batteries, so no pics. There was over a foot of snow in the higher elevations, and I followed a skinny little trail trampled out by a few people who had hiked earlier in the day. It was snowing, the wind was blowing through the trees, and it was so silent and vast that it felt magical. I couldn't stop smiling.

This is what I saw later in the evening at the town's Halloween carnival:

And this:

A grown man and woman dressed up as a bowling ball and bowling pin--yikes, what could be scarier? (By the way, that would be Chris and Sue Murphy. Gotta love their humor.)

This had to be one of the cutest things of the whole evening, little one-year-old Philip Trobaugh dressed up as Winnie the Pooh.

Hope everyone had a fun and scary Halloween.