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?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And then she mooned me

Okay, so there I was hiking Mt. Marathon Bowl with my faithful dog, The Beebs. It was about 8:30 p.m., hours of daylight left, the weather cool but mild: Perfect hiking opps.

And so we hiked.

We passed a couple of people I knew, their dogs and my dog sniffed butts and did their thang. The trail was overgrown and thick once we got out of the trees, and so I rang my bear bell and belted out that horrible old song, I don't even remember the name but parts of it go: "Hey has anybody seen my, sweet Gypsy she has rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes."

Such a crappy song had to keep the bears away, right?

On the way back, as I sang my silly song and rounded a curve, I came upon the large, pale shape of a woman's behind floating up from the brush and staring me smack in the face.

Well, I never!

It was the older woman with trekking poles I had passed earlier.

So I, you know, cleared my throat and yelled I was turning away until she was done.

"Okay,dear, " she said cheerfully.

The dog trotted over to investigate, hee, hee.

Was it awful that I had the most compelling urge to turn and take a picture? There was something aesthetic about her ass floating up from the brush, pale and large and round, the blue waters of the bay framed behind it. I could enter the shot in a photography show: "Bay, Ass and Brush, #1." Bet I'd place at least honorable mention (not!).

I refrained, though as soon as she finished and moved away, I snapped a picture, just 'cause I could.

The Beebster sniffing out the evidence, hee, hee.

What's up today: 19 miles of pure running enjoyment
Am I ready? No
Why not? Don't tell anyone, but I kinda made brownies last night and scarfed down half the batch myself. My head is buzzing from the sugar, which I'm not supposed to eat (oops!) My body is saying: Couch potato--please?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

9 totally awesome miles

Bet you wish you were me.

Well, okay, you probably don't want to be a moody, introspective writer. But I'll bet you wish you were visiting me and running here.

Yesterday I ran the Lowell Point Road loop. From my house, it's exactly 9.1 miles, if I supplement an extra section on back roads. The views are amazing. There's nothing like running with the sounds of the waves hitting the shore.

The run was awesome. I set out to only do 4 but just kinda ended up doing 9. Don't you love when that happens?

I got to watch boats rocking the bay as I ran.

On the way back I pushed the pace and oh, it was one of those runs when everything flowed and my legs felt effortless and my breathing was even and I truly felt on top of the world (even though there were damned RVs on the road).

I was thinking of my life as I ran, and how some parts of it have been unbearably difficult and others unbearably joyful, and how odd and perfect that I've ended up running along a bay in Alaska. And then I wondered where I would be five years from now and what I might see as I ran: A river? The lower and more rounded mountains of the East Coas? The red sandstone of the high desert? (Oh please, please let it be this last one).

Sometimes, not all the time, mind you, and not as often as I would like. But sometimes when I run I feel so happy it's as if my very blood sings. Do you know what I mean?

Running: 9.1 miles, 1:18:32
Reading: Finally finished "American Wife." Loved it for the most part, especially how nice it was to have a fat book to sink down with.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Me on the Mountain

I'm still not sure what to say about the Mount Marathon Race. I loved it, and I hated it. I was excited about it, and I dreaded it. It was, you know, just the usual climbing 3,022 feet in 1.5 miles anguish.

The day started out well. I ate a whole grain waffle, put on all of my rain gear plus a heavy sweatshirt and magically found a parking space about a 1/4 mile from the race.

This is important because during the Fourth of July, over 30,000 people swarm down on our small town of 2,000. It's admittedly crowded, and the number of RVs around town is obscene.

First off, I went to race headquarters and duct taped up my shoes to prevent scree from sliding inside my shoes.

Then I cheered in the junior racers as they ran down the homestretch. The junior race goes to the halfway point and then turns around. If you think that makes it a wimpy race, think again: The first half of the mountain is the steepest, the most grueling and dusty and agonizing.

Can you believe how small some of those kids are? Amazing that they tackle the mountain.

The race is devious. After struggling to the top, you run around a rock and then plunge down 3,022 feet, and baby, it's steep. Once you start running, you literally cannot stop. You lean back, punch with your heels, use your arms for leverage and pray to god that you'll miraculously remain upright.

I ran in the first wave this year, which contained the faster runners. (Gulp!) I started off well, ran the first half mile over pavement to the mountain. The trail narrows as you travel upward until it becomes skinny and steep and dusty. Passing is a pain in the butt, but if you don't pass you're stuck following the pace of whoever is in front of you. I passed, and then didn't pass when I should have--it was difficult to gauge. I made the wrong call and hit the half mile mark almost a minute slower than my last training run, not a good sign.

By then, I didn't care. Climbing for more than a half mile hunched over and grasping my thighs for mercy had left me in not the best humor. I look longingly at path the junior racers run down at the half point and a clever voice in my head said: Cindi, why not just run down? Why struggle to the top? You know you can do it--what do you have to prove?

What indeed!

Then I saw him, and I knew I could keep going. The dude I call Mr. Waiter Man. I don't know his name or anything about him but this guy (a volunteer) dresses up in a tux coat and stands at the halfway point each year with a tray balanced on his hand filled with dixie cups of water. I wish I had a pic, but I don't. I also wish I could tell this guy how much his efforts mean to those of us racing, how that little bit of humor is exactly what we need when we emerge from the humidty of the trees to tackle the open areas of the upper mountain. So thanks Mr. Waiter Man!

Climbing the last half I thought: I can scramble like hell and make up lost time, I can scramble moderately and finish within last year's time or I can take it easy and just, you know, chill with the mountain. Because I'm thick in the middle of marathon training and had a 19-miler scheduled for the coming weekend, I chose to scramble moderately. I'm still kinda disappointed with myself over that choice, yet I'm also kinda proud that I didn't get wrapped up in the competitive vibes and concentrated on my biggest goal: Finishing the August marathon in a decent it's-my-first-marathon-in-25-years time.

Wheeee! Photo credit: Loren Holems

The downhill was a blast. By the time I hit the cliffs, after almost a full mile of charging down steep slopes, my legs were shaking and I was afraid I might collapse, but I made it down the most technically challenging areas (the trail actually follows a stream through jump-offs and a waterfall. Basically, you run through the waterfall, which is slippery and wild). When I hit the road, and started running again I almost cried. Because I was almost done! And I was running! And I knew could run a half mile, no matter how crappy I felt. I passed five runners in the homestretch (love doing that!) and finished in 1:27, about a minute faster than last year, no great time but good enough to keep me in the first wave next year.

Check out Loren Holmes' incredible race photos on our newspaper Website. This dude rocks the pics at this link: Mt. Marathon pics

Wednesday I did a easy run to Tonsina Point and the beach with The Beebs. Nice steady pace, great run. The stuff summer is made of.

Monday, July 4, 2011

I survived Mt. Marathon

I survived the Mt. Marathon Race again. My time wasn't spectaular, 1:27, middle of the packish but the coolest thing is that I think I finished without totally trashing my legs and should still be able to get in my 19 miler later this week. Or at least I hope. (Last year my legs locked up later in the evening and I had to crawl out of my car on my hands and knees, hee, hee.)

Race recap coming soon.

Me, after the finish: A sweaty, dusty, scratched up mess, but happy:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mt. Marathon: Prepare to suffer, all ye lads and lasses

Gulp, it's almost time for the Mt. Marathon Race. In 36 hours I'll be struggling, gasping and wheezing up 3,000 feet in 1.5 miles and then hurling myself back down much too fast for my own damned good.

I am totally not ready. I've been training for long distance marathon miles, not short steep climbing miles. And believe me, there is a difference. My poor legs will be a shakin' and a twitchin' the whole way up. I'm sure they'll protest and I'm sure we'll have a couple of heated exchanges but hey, these things happen.

And now, a tribute to the mountain:

The roots at the beginning, where you pull yourself up and hold on for dear life, praying the roots don't snap--they will someday, you know.

Men's race a couple of years ago. Photo credit: Frank Baker (thanks, Frank!)

Women racers going up, 2009

Wheeeee! Women racers going down, 2009. The leaders run down in about 12-13 minutes.
 (Both of the above 2009 pics by Brookelyn Bellinger)

Rocked cliff at the bottom of the mountain.

Pics of men racers heading down to chute to the last 1/2 mile on the road in last year's race.

And last but not least, yours truly almost to the finish of my first Mt. Marathon Race in 2009. Notice how dirty I am--my hair is brown instead of blondish! (I collapsed after I crossed the finish, the the woman ahead of me puked on my shoes, hee, hee.)

And finally, a link to my essay in this week's newspaper: Loving and fearing the mountain.

Cheers and enjoy the Fourth and whatever runs/races/family time you have planned.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Six muddy, delicious miles

I love the rain. I especially love running in the rain. There's something about being out in the woods or up in the moutains when everything is drenched that is so life affirming.

So early this evening I dragged myself away from my computer (it seems I'm supposed to be finished with my book--oops!), threw on my windbreaker and hit the Iditarod Trail.

It was wet and muddy, and I splashed through the puddles like a kid--remember stepping in puddles just because you could? Well, I could, and I did.

I didn't have to worry about getting too muddy because the creek crossing was almost to my knees, the current so strong that it threatened to knock over my poor old dog. Nothing like wading through knee-high COLD water twice in the middle of a six-mile run, since I ran out and back. Guess I got my ice bath early, eh?

It was a great run, especially after my 17 miler on the roads--how nice to return to the trails! I never, ever wear my iPods on the trails but couldn't face a mile on the pavement without my tunes. I kinda admire people who can run on roads/paved trails without music.

I stopped about two miles from the trailhead to do my business and found myself squatting right next to bear scat. I was peeing right where a bear had pooped! It was like a communal bathroom.

After that excitement, I stopped at the Safeway on the way home (tracking mud all over their clean floors) and picked up a huge bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda 'cause I've been coming home so muddy lately that I've clogged the shower drain. (Here's what you do: Pour baking soda down the drain, add vinegar, listen to it fizz for 15 minutes and then flush with water. Works for minor and medium drain plugs, and no nasty chemicals.)

Running: 6 miles
Reading: I need to start a new book, any suggestions that don't have to do with serial killers, like AGR wrote about a couple of days ago, hee, hee, read about it here.
Riddle: How many pairs of running shoes are scattered in my entryway? (Okay, I"m a lousy housekeeper but I did clean them up later, sort of.)

Happy weekend running, everybody.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Birthday boy and 17 miles

Yesterday was my son's birthday. He's the greatest kid in the world, home from college for the summer and working the graveyard shift at the Safeway. Yesterday he worked overtime, and when he finally came home I asked if he was excited about his birthday. "I'm more excited at working 12 hours. It's a new landmark," he said.

I'd post a pic but he's asked me not to. He's at that age, doesn't want to be associated with his mother. Too funny!

Yesterday I also reached a landmark: 17.2 miles. It was glorious. I ran Nash Road, with the looonnnggg hills but also the beautfil views of the bay.

The run went well. I made sure to eat half a protein bar at mile 10 so I wouldn't bonk, and suffered a mild stomach upset during mile 11, but other than that, I felt good. My pace was great, the temps were great, there was almost no traffic and I had my groove on.

At mile 14 I saw this dude, Stephen, who has a horse and carriage company and gives rides to tourist. I ran on the road beside his horse, Ian, for a minute or two. I was running faster than the horse! Actually, the horse was going slow to give the tourist a chance to catch the views, but still.

(Sorry, dude, swiped this pic off your Facebook page, hee, hee)

And then at mile 16.5 when I was almost home, my legs began to protest. "Let's stop," they said. "Let's slow down and walk for a minute, okay?"

The rest of me felt great but my legs did NOT want to move any longer. They wanted to rest. They wanted to wade in the lagoon.

I didn't slow down or rest, but my legs were not happy and they rewarded me with a stumble that could have turned into a fall. "Ha, ha," they said. "See what happens when you don't listen to us?"

When I got home I took my first ice bath ever. I filled the bathtub with COLD water, turned on a space heater, brewed up some tea and then slowly lowered my poor skinny butt down into that hideously cold water. OMG, the brutality!

Once I became numb, it wasn't so bad. I read, I sipped tea, I talked to the cats, who sat on the closed toilet seat peering down with aloof fascination.

The ice bath worked, too. My legs were barely sore this morning. Pretty darned amazing.

Here are some pics from my Wednesday run on the Lost Lake Trail in the evening, a fantastic run (all trail runs are fantastic), no one else around by me and the dog. Awe--some!

 Next up: Mt. Marathon Race, Monday (I am SO gonna suffer, hee, hee)