Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Winter cabin camping

I am not a cold weather person. I suppose that's odd, seeing that I live in Alaska, but I do the best I can.

So when MM reserved the Dale Clemens cabin for Nov. 12, I wasn't worried. It was September at the time, and warm, and the Lost Lake Trail leading up to the cabin was in perfect running condition.

Fast forward a couple of months and I suddenly found myself dressed in winter running gear, a pack on my back, Yaktraxs strapped over my hiking boots and heading up a snowy trail for a night of winter cabin camping.

My goal: To make it up to the cabin (uphill the WHOLE way) without picking a fight with MM.

I thought it was a rather lofty goal, and I almost made it, too.

But the last hundred yards or so, when the trail became slick and MM placed his hand on my butt and literally pushed me up the last hill, well, the humiliation was too much--and I snarled.


The Dale Clemens cabin was recently remodeled and the interior sports new wood. It even smells new. We did our best to mess is up, scattering our gear all over and tracking snow over the clean floor.

Poor MM struggled with the obstinate stove while I ate pretzels and watched. This is why I like camping with MM: He does all the work and I daydream and read books, hee, hee.

The views from the cabin at sunset were awesome, and I mean totally and truly awesome.

We took a walk in the moonlight and the snow was silver, the mountains rising up so white and solemn that it was like looking at the face of God. It was silent and still, except for the wind; no one else existed but us.

The night was SO beautiful and magical except when I had to use the outhouse, which was ridiculously far (or so it seemed during that cold, cold time) from the cabin, so I drank as little fluids as possible and refused to brush me teeth (sorry, MM).

The next morning, more beauty:

Me and The Beebs ready to trek back to the trailhead (downhill the whole way--delicious!).

Notice how much heavier MM's pack is? I made him carry my laptop, hee, hee.

And the last view from the cabin door: Friggin' amazing.

Running: Seven miles in 25 mph winds yesterday--not a pretty picture

Writing: My book! Is moving over to copy editing down in New York. That's pre-publication stage--scary!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Running with bears

Last week I ran Exit Glacier Road, which is closed off from traffic for the winter.

About two miles up the road we came across these:

Bear prints. They followed the road for miles, and it was SO cool to run along the same path as a bear.

The tracks were fairly fresh, and when I turned around at the five mile mark, there were new tracks on the way back, too.

I loved that while I was running in one direction following one bear's prints, another, smaller bear was walking in the other direction following MY prints. It felt magaical, as if I were connecting with some wild and primal part of myself and the world.

The next day we got hit with a heavy snowfall, and I'm pretty sure that all the bears are tucked away in their cozy dens for the next few months.

Running: 1048 so far this year
Reading: "Anywhere But Here," by Mona Simpson. I've read this book at least five times and still love it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Four more miles

I'm presently four miles away from logging 1,000 miles, thanks to Tall Mom's 1,000 Mile Club, which has been a HUGE inspiration. Knowing that I'll later record my mileage has gotten my butt out the door on more than one rainy day.

Thanks, Tall Mom! Someday when I'm in Seattle I'll drive down and try to keep up with you on a run.

Other good news: An electric blanket.

For those of you who don't live in a northern climate in a house lined with huge windows offering both awesome views and a lot of wind seepage, you probably can't appreciate the thrill of finally lounging on the sofa in toasty glory: Ahhhh!

I've been reluctant to carry my camera on runs. After working 13 years as a journalist and having to think visually about each story plus often shoot my own photos, I'm rebelling by not taking photos, which makes for a very boring blog. So here are some of Mount Marathon Bowl Trail before it snowed. See all the rocks over the trail? This is why I'm always falling. This is why my knees are forever scraped.

I met up with these three crazy Coast Guard dudes on the way down. They were running and singing Coastie songs. It was a riot. Nice kids--did I ever have that much energy? Anyway, they were in on the Healy Cutter. Hope they're having fun zooming around the Arctic seas.

I was up in Anchorage last week interviewing for a criminal justice technician position. It paid well, sounded interesting and I liked the people I met.

Then I learned that one of the job duties was monitoring offenders' urine tests. I thought: Yeah, I can do that. I can stand outside the bathroom door and make sure no one goes in.

Then I learned that I'd have to actually be in the bathroom while the offenders peed and I thought, well, that might be a tad uncomfortable but I can do it.

Then I found out that I would actually have to witness the urine releasing from the offender's body and spraying into the sample cup and I thought: Is this really why I went to graduate school?

Oh well ....

But I did have some awesome runs while I was in the Big City. It was SO nice running on my favorite trails and seeing my old friends. Hopefully I'll be back living there soon.

Also went down to Homer with MM for the weekend. MM took the pics (sorry to steal them sweetie, hee, hee).

The cabin is out of town and very cozy. We had an awesome time.

Except (there's always an except, isn't there?) there's no running water. That's no big deal in the summer. But when it's below freezing and the middle of the night, it's not fun stumbling out to the outhouse and situating one's butt on a cold (COLD!) wooden outhouse toilet hole.

I suggested to MM that a cushioned toilet seat would be great to carry back and forth from the cabin to the outhouse. I suggested that perhaps he buy me one.

I don't think this is going to happen.

We also took a long walk on the beach with the Beebs. Here's a pic at sunset, taken during a trip earlier this summer.

We ate at Two Sisters Bakery, which has awesome food and even more awesome vegan muffins. I would run all the way to Homer (167 miles) for another one of those muffins.

Monday: 11 miles
Wednesday: 9.1 miles
Thursday: 4 miles

Reading: "The Age of Grief" by Jane Smiley. I recently finished "The Mystery of Breathing" by Parri Klass. Read it if you have a chance--the writing is beautiful and slyly funny in places.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lost my lunch on Lost Lake Trail

Here's a tip: Don't run up mountains when you're sick with a fever.

Not that I would ever heed such advice.

Yesterday was slated as the last possible sunny day before snow and even though I was sick, I couldn't stand the idea of not being out on the trails.

 I tied on my muddy shoes, called for the dog and headed for Lost Lake.

Of course I didn't run up the more gently-sloped summer trail. No, I struggled up the winter trail, which is half the distance but twice the steepness.

In my feverish mind, this made perfect sense. Why wouldn't someone who was sick and had no business being on the trails in the first place choose the most difficult route?

My chest ached. My head swirled in the most delicious of ways.

At about the half mile mark, I met Cedar coming down.

Cedar at the start of the 2010 Mt. Marathon Race. She's on the far right with the print tank. Photo credit: Roy Corral.

Cedar Bourgeois is kind of a mountain running legend down here in Seward. She's won the Mt. Marathon Race seven times. 

She breezed down in a pair of shorts and longsleeve tech top and I struggled up in a pair of capris and a windbreaker tied around my waist and I kind of felt like the girl in elementary school that never gets picked for dodgeball.
We stopped and chatted for a minute. I stupidly suggested that we run together sometime. Imagine me trying to keep up, eh?

Like I said, I was feverish.

A few minutes later I felt it in my throat. The Progresso no MSG, low salt veggie soup I had eaten for lunch was determined to come back up, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I lost my lunch on the Lost Lake Trail. In my dazed state, seemed right and true, almost poetic.

The moral of this story is that when I reached the cabin, where the relentless uphill finally tapers off, I glanced at my watch and discovered that I had shaved five minutes off last week's time.


It seems the secret of a faster time isn't rest or carbs, it's being struck silly by fever.

By the time I drove home I could barely make it up the steps.

I settled on the couch with "The Good Wive" TV series DVD. The show is fairly good (love Chris Noth) but the women wear way too much makeup and their hair is way too styled. I wanna see them messed and frazzled. I want them to kick off their ridiculous shoes and sweat through a trail race.

Running: 7.1 miles
Reading: "The Mystery of Breathing" by Perri Klass

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I can't believe that summer is over--where did it go?

But it is over, and I know this because today I ran through snow up in the higher elevations, after struggling up massive and muddy hills and almost colliding with an angry moose.

And suddenly there it was:

The dog was excited. She's a cold-weather type (granddaughter of an Iditarod racer) and took off. She came back with a piece of a dead and bloody animal, and I thought: "Oh shit, bears."

But nothing growled and charged so we continued running.

I passed three hikers sitting down on the trail. They were dressed in full winter gear, including mittens, and gaped at me as if I were naked as I ran by in my capris and tech shirt.

I love being up in the mountains, love the silence and the wind in my face and the smells and the freedom. Often I pass no one the whole 7-10 miles and it's as if I am alone in the world. Running in the mountains helps me shrug off my ego and dive down closer to the spirit.

What a luxury. What a gift.

Unfortunately, the run had to end and I drove home, ate dinner and started obsessing: Do I stay here in Seward, even though there are no jobs for someone with a master's in writing? Do I move back to Anchorage, where there are jobs and opportunities and creative energies and hundreds of miles of trails right outside the city but also, alas, noise and traffice and crime?

Who knows?

I ate a Larabar instead. Then I ate another.

Thank god for high-calorie sweet foods that are supposedly healthy so that you can eat a lot without feeling guilty.

P.S. I can't post on anyone's blog, think it's my shoddy Internet connection or maybe my settings are messed up. My apologies.

Runs: Monday: 9.4 miles, race pace
Tuesday: 7.1 miles, rough and glorious mountain trail

Reading: "The Pianist" by Wladyslaw Szpilman. So, so good but a tough and heart-wrenching read.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I'm back, and with more runs

I guess I took a little vacation from blogging, eh?

Much has happened in the past month. I've become a marathoner (hooray for me!), which is the good news.

And the company that ran the newspaper that I wrote/edited for the past four years suddenly folded (with, like, no warning) and I lost my job, which is the bad news.

I've presently joined the ranks of the unemployed and, in the meantime, am pushing to finish my second novel before someone actually hires my poor sorry ass and I have to go back to work.

In the meantime, pics of some of this summer and fall runs.

Mountain in Kenai, can't remember the name. Up so high we could hear the swish of birds' wings as they flew overhead.

The Beebs on top of said can't-remember-name-of-mountain. Not bad for a 77 year old.

Mount Marathon Bowl. It was snowing at the top of Mt. Marathon that day. Right now, the top is ridged in snow. Here in Alaska we call it the first snow "termination dust."

Muddy trail on Lost Lake winter loop to the cabin. I LOVE running in mud.
Autumn colors on Lost Lake, winter to summer loop.

More autumn colors, Lost Lake Trail.

View from about halfway up Mt. Marathon Bowl trail.

Lost Lake earlier this summer.

Me running Lost Lake Trail with MM (you can't see him because he's always ahead of me, hee, hee).

Lost Lake Trail again. That's me running my heart out in the mountains, my favorite thing to do.

My oh-so-usual position when running trails with MM, who is faster than me. I refuse to admit this so I end up gasping for breath a lot.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I am a marathoner (!!)

Quick post: I am now officially a marathoner. Toooo friggin' cool. And so is my sis. I'll post pics and race recap in a few days. Right now it's off to do exciting things in Seward, like sit in the Sea Bean Cafe and eat and then walk on the beach in the pouring (and I mean pouring!) rain, and sit in the Sea Bean and eat some more.

And guess what my sister got me? Okay, it's just a loan until next summer, but still. A pink Garmin--can life truly get any better?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Not So Fast

Oh, oh, oh, summer in Seward!

The weather has been mostly great, which means the running has been incredibly great. Thursday evening I did a nice 10 miles on hilly roads and felt super. So when J called Friday morning to see if I was up for 10 miles on the Primrose side of Lost Lake Trail, I said, "Totally."

It was an awesome morning, sunny and, dare I say it, hot. I mean like Lower 48 hot. I mean temps in the (gasp!) 70s.

The trail travels up and up and up before leveling off at around 2,200 feet in elevation before going down and down and down. The climb was fairly gradual and runnable, and the views were breathtaking.

The trail looks so peaceful before the climb.

J. getting ready to tackle yet another incline.

Right before we got to the turnaround point, my watch beeped and I knew it was noon, and of course that line from Richard Siken's poem ran through my head: "That means it's noon, that means we're inconsolable." I wasn't inconsolable, of course, but running throgh all of that beauty I wondered if Siken ever imagined that part of his poem would play through the head of an Alaska writer as she ran mountain trails. Then I wondered if anyone ever recited lines of any of my poems as they ran or hiked or walked.

Then we started running downhill and I gave myself over to the motion of my body and the speed of my legs and yes, the joy of flying over rocks and tree roots and uneven footing.

After I dropped J back at her house, I stopped my sweaty, stinky self at the pet store to pick up more doggie biscuits for The Beebs. When I got back into the car, the universe threw me a little surprise.

My gearshift wouldn't budge, guess the cable snapped. No one could get it to work so I had to call a tow truck.

My beloved Ford Escort wagon.

A few minutes later a HUGE tow truck barreled in the parking lot and this manly looking man swung down from the cab with a small dog perched on his neck. He lumbered over to me.

"Heard you got a car that won't work," he said, and then instead of waitng for a replay, he turned and kissed his little dog right on the nose.

This dude had another dog in the truck cab, along with his cat. Yeah, he takes his cat along with him on tow truck jobs. Really wild. And the dog inside his cab was none other than Lady, The Beebs' arch enemy. It is truly a small world in this very small town.

I sadly watched my poor car as it towed away, all the while wondering if it was perhaps mocking me. Because the name of the pet store?

Wait for it.


Get it? My car chooses to break down in this parking lot after I return from a run, and it kinda like it's saying, 'Hey, lady, you think you're a runner? I say, you're Not So Fast.'

So much for impressing my car, eh?

Knots-So-Fast pet/feed store

Running: 10 miles Thursday, 1:26; 10 trail miles Friday; 10 miles Sunday, 1:28
Writing: I'm like three hours away from finishing my final novel edits. SO exciting!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Me and Alice, hanging tight

Last night I hiked Mount Alice with my trusty dog. It was my third day of not running after my oh-so-clumsy fall on Lost Lake Trail Sunday and I was restless and crazy with the need To Move.

My foot and knee were still too tender to run, so I thought: Well, why not climb a mountain instead?

Why, indeed.

At 8 p.m. I loaded my trembling dog (she hates riding in the car when we drive over bumps, and the poor thing stands in the back, her legs a-shaking) and headed to the trailhead.

The Mt. Alice trail is kinda hidden along the side of Nash Road, and the cool thing is that most people, except for locals, don't even know that it's there. So it never becomes overpopulated with tourists slipping around in flip-flops and designer jeans.

The beginning is spruce forest: Ahhhh .....

It goes gradually up and up and up until you hit the treeline, and OMG, the views, especially in the evening twilight, are amazing.

Up farther, and the bay came into view. I love, love, love the silver colors. It just does something to me.

And last but not least, my fearless companion (imitating Rin-Tin-Tin, no doubt) on the ridge before the final push to the top.

Today I get to run for the first time in four days. I Can. Not. Wait.

Have a good one, everybody.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


So there I was, with my limpy sore leg and my limpy sore dog, all packed up in my limpy old Escort hatchback and headed out to do a couple miles of light running on one of my favorite trails.

Forget the fact that I knew I should wait longer before stressing my gashed knee. I wanted to run.

So I strapped on my waterbelt and hobbled over to the trailhead, only to encounter this cheery news:

Hope your day is going better.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And then she fell

It happened. God punished me for making fun the woman taking a pee on the Mt. Marathon Bowl trail last night.

My penance? I fell on the last mile of my 18 miler. One minute I was cruising, fast, on the downhill, and the next I had a rock sticking out of my knee.


But it gets kinda strange because the cut is in a perfect half moon shape. Get it? I made fun of the woman mooning me and then I fall and get a moon-shaped gash.

A coincidence? I think not.

But back to the run. I did 9 miles out and 9 miles back on the Lost Lake Trail. If you've never run it, the trail goes up to the top of the peak, about 2,100 feet around mile 6, and then starts going down the other side. So if you run out and back you get the pleasure of running uphill twice.

One last ridge to the top

The devious thing about this run is that the uphill is so gradual that you often don't even realize that you're running uphill. I know this. I've run this trail enough that I should realize: Hey, the reason I feel so plodding is that I'm running up a small mountain.

But I forget. I wonder why I'm going so slow. I worry I've lost all of my training benefits. I struggle. And then I glance to the side of the trail and notice that it's a long, long ways down and it's like: Oh yeah, I'm running uphill.

Then, around mile 6, the hill finally (finally!) crests and it's down to the lake. It's such a relief and of course I stupidly didn't stop to think: Hey, if I'm running down now, I'll have to turn around and run up on the way back.

Three miles of up and down but mostly down later, I turned around and started back. I came to this:

Snow, in July. Kinda fun yet kinda depressing.

The lake is really beautiful but my pic is all awful and lopsided--sorry.

And then back up to the crest from the other side and it's all downhill, baby, for 6 glorious miles through alpine forests and tall grasses with lupine and all sorts of wonders.

Down, down, down .....

View of the mountains across from the trail.

You can fun fast on the downhill, and I mean you can fly through the wooded area, where the trail is soft. Closer to the bottom, the trail becomes rockier and rougher, and that's where I fell, less than a mile from the trailhead. I was flying.

And then I wasn't. The odd thing is that it seemed to take me forever to hit the ground. I know it probably took less than a second, but I felt suspended in midair, and so many thoughts went through my mind. How could I think so much in such a short amount of time?

Regardless, I caught myself with my hands and managed to absorb the bulk of the shock in my wrists (poor dears, they do so much for me), and once I pulled the rock out of my knee, it didn't look so bad. So I started running this little limpy run because I was NOT going to walk the last mile. I passed three hikers right before the trailhead and they stared at me funny and I thought, well of course they're staring, the way I'm jerking and limping.

When I got to the trailhead, I discovered blood running down my leg. It made me look tough, but it also hurt so much on the short drive home that I almost veered off the the emergency room.

Now, hours later, it's not so bad. I'm going to have a nice scar and won't be able to run for a few days but I think I'll get by without stitches.

Moral of the story: She who laughs, falls.

Running: 18 miles
Reading: Zone 3 literary magazine
Writing: Must I?