Thursday, May 31, 2012


The coolest thing happened during last night's 14 mile run on the Coastal Trail.

I looked down at my Garmin and I was at exactly 8.31 miles and running exactly an 8:31 pace. I was matchy-matchy!

It was so exciting. I wanted to take a picture so I slowed down to get my camera out of my fuel pack, but when I slowed down my pace slowed and the numbers changed. Bummer.

Still, I could run for the rest of my life and never have that randomly happen.

Mood view from the Coastal Trail last night

We're up to almost 19 hours of daylight. Here's a pic of the Smokejumper Trail from last weekend. I took it around 10 p.m. on a sunny evening.

Love birches! They always remind me of a Robert Frost poem.

Notice how I'm not in any of the pictures? This is because I haven't washed my hair in five days. And in those five days I've run over 50 miles. It's like: Why wash my hair when I'm just going to run and get it sweaty? This is what happens when you're home writing all day. You become kind of crazy. You become, okay, a little slumpy.

I will have to wash my hair in October, though, because I'll be here:

I was awarded a month-long writing residency at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska.

When I applied, I listed September for my first choice, so that I could sneak away and run the Omaha Marathon, hee, hee. But I guess I'm not supposed to sneak away, eh? Whatever the case, I'm so thankful for the opportunity. Imagine: Nothing to do but write all day, all night. Oh-oh-oh!

Tonight, we're hiking/running Flattop. I'll post pics tomorrow.

Happy running, everyone.

Running: 14 miles
Writing: Finished my essay. I spent over 25 hours writing and editing an essay that might (but not for certain) be picked up by an obscure literary magazine, where I'll be graciously awarded two free copies as payment. Why, oh why, do I write?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

25 miles of trail-ful bliss

Oh, oh, is there anything in the world better than running trails?

Sunday MM and I took off from the Campbell Creek Science Center for a 25-mile run. It was raining and overcast, andwe encountered this in the parking lot.

This couple had just married and were posing for pictures in the rain. Wild!

After wishing them well, we took off. And really, the miles flew by. The trail was wet and muddy and gooey, all the things I love. I had a bit of a meltdown around mile 9, when we proceeded up what MM called a "slight" incline and I called a "mountain," but after that, we hit some killer hills, up and down and up and down, and my legs felt strong, and it rained on and off, and the mountains looked moody and mysterious and the trees were wet and the leaves so green and bright, and I was so happy that I could barely stand it.

There's something mesmerizing about running long distance over trails, how you travel through so many landscapes: Steep inclinces, valleys, creeks and wooded areas, and always, always, the magic of emerging in a clearing and looking up and seeing mountains. Each time feels like a gift.

Both MM and I sagged a little bit around mile 23 but I kicked it in and my last half-mile veered around an 8:24 pace, which is extraordinary for me and must have been a gift from the birthday gods ("We'll give the lady one last sprint, so she'll forget how old she really is.")

Mile 19: I look unhappy but really I'm trying not to laugh.
Monday, which was my birthday, we took it easy. Well, I took it easy while MM did yardwork. Basically, I ate EVERYTHING in sight. I couldn't seem to fill myself up. I devoured a bag of my favorite "junky" food:

In the evening we took The Beebs for a walk at Kincaid Park and saw lots 'o moose. One cow appeared to run straight at us. Scary! We had to jump in the weeds. Didn't get a picture of her but did get the backend of another.

Me, my cool new purple birthday rain jacket, The Beebs and a moose's backend.

It was a great walk. Except for one biker, we passed no one the whole four and a half miles. It was just us, the woods and the moose.

We did, however, encounter one of the funniest signs I've seen in a long time.

Isn't that hilarious? Of course The Beebs and I had to climb that hill, hee, hee.

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend, great runs, and great memories.

Running: 50 miles, weekly total
Reading: The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood (one of her first books, from waaayyy back)
Writing: Working on an literary essay about running (so much fun to write!)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Met my goal

I did it!

I ran the Trent/Waldron Glacier Half Marathon instead of racing it and perfectly hit my goal: 1:56:12

It was very, very difficult to hold back. It was, in fact, frustrating, especially since everyone went out fast. I picked off a lot of people on the way back, simply because I maintained an even pace. I chicked about 12 guys. Love doing that! A few of them really didn't want me to pass and sped up, and I drafted off their shoulders until they exhausted themselves, poor dudes.

Next up: 25 mile trail run in the mountains tomorrow: Lots of steep inclines, lots of sweat, lots of mud and roots and rocks and pain. Oh, I cannot wait.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My birthday race

How nice of the Anchorage Running Club to hold a race on my birthday weekend! (Thanks, guys)

Actually, the Trent/Waldron Glacier Half Marathon honors mother and son runners Marcie Trent and Larry Waldron, who were killed by a bear attack while running the Turnagain Arm Trails (my favorite trails!) about 13 years ago.

It's a low-key, local race over paved bicycle trails along Chester Creek. Mainly flat, with a few, brief hills.

Photo credit???
Basically, fast.

The agonizing thing is that I cannot (Can Not!) race fast, since I have a 25-30 mile trail run scheduled for the next day.

My goal is to run a conservative 1:55-1:57ish time.

I rarely race conservatively so it will be a great learning experience on holding back.

Another cool thing is that this race only costs $20 for members and $25 for all others. You simply cannot beat that.

Lucky 222--me hopes.

Wednesday night we took The Beebs and walked for miles along the trails past the sand dunes at Kincaid Park.

Yes, Alaska has sand dunes--wild.

Photo credit: Ben Anderson/Alaska Dispatch

It was about 10 p.m., not yet sunset, and the tide was coming in so that all the way back we heard the sing of the waves against the shore.

It was a magical walk. Silver-blue skies, sand in our shoes and cottonwood and alder trees lurching out around us.

Photo credit: Ben Anderson/Alaska Dispatch

Yesterday it rained, and I took The Beebs for a walk out by Campbell Creek and we saw a fox (again). I didn't have my camera but it was a beautiful reddish color with a gorgeous tail.

Alaska is SO awesome in the summer.

Race report coming soon.

Happy running, and Memorial Day, everyone (Memorial Day is my birthday. I'm so important that everyone gets the day off, hee, hee.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

60 miles, and bye bye bonking

Yesterday I hit a goal I hadn't hit in, oh, 25 years or so: a 60 mile week.

It was an awesome learning experience, too, because I bonked badly (and I mean badly) during the last five miles of last Monday's 20-miler.

I blame this:

Don't get me wrong: It's not the gel's fault (and I commend the Hammer folks for putting less sugar in their gels).

It's me and my quirky system. I have hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar), and eating any type of sugar results in a quick spike of my blood sugar, followed by a quick drop. When my blood sugar drops too low, I collapse. When it gets sorta low, I fall asleep and whoever is with me has to force orange juice down my throat (MM is a pro at this, hee, hee).

I've struggled with this during long runs. I know I need to keep my sugar levels up yet conventional methods contain too much sugar/carbs, which result in too much spiking. I've tried just about everything, and while protein bars work, they upset my stomach during long runs.

Then I found true love.

I found this:

This stuff is amazing! It contains no refined sugar, no high glycemic index sweetners and doesn't cause blood sugar spikes.

I picked up some at REI and I have to admit that I was dubious. I tried it out that night on a 10-miler MP run. I slurped down a pack at the 5-mile mark and ran waayy over my MP, finishing with an average 8:35 pace. I felt great the whole way.

The next day, I took two more packets and hit the Campbell Creek/Hilltop trails for 20 mile trail run with lots (and I mean lots!) of hills, mud, rough footing--all the things I love.

I love running through spruce forests, so quiet and peaceful.

I never bonked. My mood never slipped. I never felt foggy or irritable, the way I get when my blood sugar lowers.

And while my legs ached and the constant hills in the middle of the run took their toil, I finished smiling.

Yes, I finished a grueling 20-mile run with a dumb smile across my face.

It felt SO good to not experience blood sugar swings, to run and stay centered.

Something you probably don't see on trails in the Lower 48.
So today I'm feeling strangely optimistic. I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, I can finish a 50 mile race after all (how easy it is to dream of running while lounging on the sofa!).

Also hiked up Wolverine Peaks trail but the snow was too deep for The Beebs and we had to turn back (her poor old hips kept getting stuck, poor dear).

Me and The Beebs heading up Wolverine Peak

MM trying to look cool.

Snow--in mid-May!!

Sunset. Can't get enough of these.

Running: 60 miles (yippeee!!)

Writing: My book publication date has been set: Feb. 5 (!!)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hello, trails, I've missed you (and a visit from Captain Underpants)

Believe it or not, it's May 7th today and many of the trails are still covered in snow. Such is the price of living in Alaska.

But Thursday, which was MM's birthday (don't ask his age, hee, hee), we headed over Kincaid Park for an evening run. I forgot my camera, which is typical, but no matter, since the trails were mush: Lots of mud and standing water and ankle-deep snow. And oh-- how nice to be surrounded by trees again.

The birthday boy got this:

Can you believe he didn't have one? Now he can simply tune me out when I start bitching about how unfair it is that he runs faster than me, hee, hee.

Saturday we hit the Turnagain Arm Trail and oh, oh, oh! It was awesome, just a few small patches of snow and then ground! Mud! Muck! Mud puddles! All the things I love so, so much. And killer hills, too.

We ran out and back so that we had to run up the hill at Rainbow,which is over a mile long. Here's a pic from the trail at the top. The hill starts down by the road--see the road down there, that thin little speck?

Where, oh where, is all of the green??

Can't say enough about how great it was to get back on the trails again, away from the pavement and the people and the bicycles and dog walkers. It was glorious and heavenly. Beebs thought so too. The old gal turns 12 later this month and still ran strong and hardy and didn't seem to mind that we had to heave her old hips over a few fallen logs and trees.

It felt so awesome running back that I became reckless and charged down the long and rocky and rutted hill by McHugh Creek and face-planted smack in the mud.

What is it about falling that is so intriguing? Each time I fall (and I fall a lot), there is a moment of suspended time, a millisecond of my body falling before it hits the hard and rough ground that is so enticing yet so scary. Each time, even through the pain, I marvel.

This time I bruised my knee. No running for a few days, which is driving me crazy but, as Gloria Gaynor so bravely sang, I Will Survive.

And my favorite part of the whole run? A visit by my very own Captain Underpants (I'm such a lucky girl, hee, hee):

Gotta love MM's attitude, and the fact that he doesn't mind when I laugh so hard about his underwear peeking over his tights that I have to sit down in the middle of the trail. Okay, I'm childish and immature but I'm also a very entertaining running partner. (Or maybe not??)

Happy trails, everyone.

Weekly miles: 37 (yeah, kinda low, sigh, sigh)
Reading: Comfort Women, by Nora Okja Keller (a sometimes difficult read but oh, so worth it)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

So many miles ....

OK, this weekend I ran back-to-back 19-milers and really, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Truly!

I did have to fudge the runs up a day to Sunday and Monday, instead of Saturday and Sunday. But like Hal Hidgon says, you do what you gotta do. (I don't know if he ever really said that, but maybe he did.)

Anyway, Sunday afternoon, MM and I took off for the first 19-miler.

I was NOT in a good mood. I felt icky and my stomach was unsettled, and this was before we even ran a step.

So of course this soon became MM's fault. (Poor dude, don't know why he sticks with me.)

We ran from his house to the end of the Coastal Trail at Kincaid Park and back. This was exactly 19.2 miles.

This pic is from summer. Imagine it without the leaves and green and that's how it looked Sunday.

By the third mile, I told MM to please go ahead.

Then I became furious at him for running ahead. I mean, who did he think he was, running faster than me?

Well, he always runs faster than me but nicely runs my pace when we run together.

I got bitchy. I'm embarrassed to admit how childish I became.

So instead I'll throw in a few nice photos to soften the mood.

Cook Inlet on a spring day.

Those are the only pictures I took. MM tried to take some of me, but I screamed at him to please not. I know--I am so wonderful some times.

So this is a picture of me that isn't really a picture of me.

This is how I felt for most of the run. Like a blurry stretch of pavement. Like a bunch of old leaves beside the trail. Like .... okay, you probably get it.

I tried positive mantras. I tried writing in my head. Nothing lifted me out of my funk.

Finally I imagined that I was Deena Kastor and suddenly I was running, by god. My stride was fluid and I was moving because I was winning the Chicago Marathon and ....

I glanced down at my Garmin and I was running 1.5 minutes faster than my long run pace, which was not a good thing because a few miles later I ran out of steam.

Right before the last mile before the turnaround point, which is all uphill.

Photo credit: Not sure, got this pic from the Internet. Thanks, whoever took it. And isn't Anchorage nice in the summer?
So MM is running ahead of me up the hill. He's flying up that hill and I'm struggling and gasping and by the time I get to the top, there he is, standing there waiting for me. He looked so calm and rested that I became furious.

"You aren't supposed to stand," I yelled, like the big baby I am. "You're supposed to be running in place. You can't rest while I'm still running."

Yeah, I really said that. I'm really that mature. Needless to say we had a bit of a spat but finally cleared it up right around here, where the bridge is (this is also the turnaround point for the Big Wild Run Marathon, so I suppose it's my happy place). In fact, we had a wonderful and deep talk about some deep things we needed to discuss. It was actually very lovely and kinda romantic.

Again, a summer photo but what the heck, eh?
Running can tear down your defenses and leave you vulnerable and shivering and scared. It can bring out the worst in you, yes, but sooner or later, if you keep running, it will also bring out the best in you. Which is why I love, love, love long distance.

Yesterday's second 19-miler was uneventful. I was sore for the first 3 miles but then smoothed out. I ran alone, so there was no one to yell at when it got rough. I did get a lot of writing done in my head, which was nice. Wish I could remember now, though. At the time I was sure that it was really, really good stuff.

Running: Weekly total: 54 miles (!!)

Reading: Self-Help, by Loorie Moore. Love, love, love this collection of short stories. Awesome!