Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sunrise, sunset, at Flattop

In Alaska, autumn comes fast and hard. Suddenly, it's dark at 10:30 p.m. and the air is crisp and the leaves are beginning to turn, and something inside your chest clenches because you realize that it's almost over, summer is almost over.

So you scurry out the door, intent on breathing in as much as is left of the short season.

Last night, it was a hike up Flattop late in the evening, so that we climbed up to the sunset and climbed down to the moonlight.

MM was catching a nasty cold and I had run a very hard and hilly 11-miler the day before, so we took it slow. We stopped at lot, looked around. We marveled.

There was a wonderful energy in the air. almost as if it were whispering to us: Hurry, hurry, soon it will all be gone.

And I wanted more than anything to keep on hiking, up past Peak 2 and over to Peak 3. I wanted to climb up high enough so that I could reach the moon, which was fat and hanging low in the sky.

But first, the sunset, which spread out across the sky in pinks and blues and lavenders. Sometimes I think that the color of the evening sky is what keep me grounded in Alaska, year after year after year.

MM in the sunset, at the top of the peak

It was cold on top of Flattop, so cold that I wore two long-sleeve tech shirts, a feece, windbreaker and mittens, and after sitting at the base of the other side for 15 minutes, facing Peak 2 and the beautiful moon, my teeth where chattering so much that I was afraid I might trip on the way down. But it was worth it. Seeing the moon rise above the mountains was worth any amount of chill.

These moon pics are disappointing. For the moon was big and fat! It hung in the sky like something ripe! Try and image it, okay?

On the way down we met up with a paraglider, his gear spread out before him. He was waiting for the wind to die down, he told us. We wished him luck and a few minutes later, looked up to see him floating across the sky. It was surreal and timeless. I wanted to know what it felt like to fly like that.

I'm off for a run in the partial sunshine. Hope everyone is out soaking up the last of summer.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Adventures with my sister

Whew! A busy, fun-filled and active week.

My sister just left. She was up here for 10 glorious and wonderful days

C lives in Philly, and I miss her terribly when we're apart. (Please move up to Alaska, C, okay?) But what is it about sisters that is so special, so warm and comforting? Maybe it's because, having grown up together, you feel connected in ways stronger than language, stronger than thought.

Growing up, C and I shared a room, and sometimes I think that all of those years of breathing together through the nights knotted us in a bond too tight to ever break. Whatever the case, she is my youngest sister, and I love her so much. (Sorry to get so mushy here.)

My younger sister, C, in her cool biking duds.

We started our adventures with a short run over the Campbell Creek Trails.

One of my favorite bridges (and there are often bears around this salmon-rich creek but thankfully not this time)

The next day, we ran the Big Wild Life Run half-marathon. Since I had just spent a sleepless week getting in my final pass novel edits, I opted to run, not race.

An hour before the race, catching some extra zzzzs on the futon. Yes, I was that tired.

I ended up with my slowest time ever (1:57) though one of the advantages of not pushing oneself is that the race actually becomes a training run and is therefore quite enjoyable (except, of course, it becomes a very expensive training run, once you figure in the entry fee, sigh, sigh).

Race day was dreary and rainy. This is what Anchorage looks like a good part of the summer: Overcast and dull. If I didn't run, I'd go crazy.

After C and spent a day eating pretzels and recovering from the race, we hit the trails. Oh, oh, oh, how I love Alaska on beautiful summer days!

The next day, we set out on a 26-mile bike ride over the Coastal Trail and other areas of Anchorage.

Westchester Lagoon, in the sunshine

The beach and mudflats, in the sunshine

My favorite bike sign, hee, hee. The hill coming down from Kincaid Park along Raspberry Road goes downhill for almost two miles. It's awesomely fast, and we couldn't stop smiling. It was like being a kid again.

The coolest thing is that there were three moose alongside the Coastal Trail up by Kincaid, and my sister got some really great pics.

Check out the rack on this bad boy.


The next day, we climbed Mt. Alyeska out in Girdwood and rode back down in the tram. It was another gorgeous day, no rain in sight plus almost no one else around. We passed only one other couple on the trail the whole climb.
View from almost the top, along with the tram rails.

View from the top. The buildings are part of Alyeska Resort.

The cool thing about the tram is that if you hike up the mountain, the ride down is free (!!). If you ride up and hike down, it'll cost you $20.

The day after our climb, we rode mountain bikes around Elkutna Lake. It was yet another sunny day (I think C brought the sun with her, because it prompty rained the day after she left)

The trail in the pic is actually part of an off-road trail and was fairly smooth. The beach trail wasn't. It was bumps and rocks and bumps and rocks so that my arms, shoulders and neck ached from the constant jolts. Still, it was a blast, and the scenery was to die for.

Not my pic (my camera battery died), but this is exactly how it looked during the ride.

Again,not my pic but wish it were, hee, hee. The water was brilliant green in places, just awesome.

My sister left late Saturday night and I miss her terribly.

Hope everyone got in some great family and outdoor time. And if you have a sister, give her a call, okay?

Running: 20 miles, weekly total
Writing: Not a damned word, baby

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sunset and blurry moose

Oh, we've had sunshine lately, days and days of sunshine!

Okay, the sun hasn't been out all the time, but it has been peeking in and out with much frequency. To anyone in Alaska, this equals summertime at its finest. (Sun + long days = pure bliss)

The sunsets have been incredible.

The running, however, hasn't been as great. I bonked on a 12.5 miler yesterday, have no idea why.

Well, of course I know why. My final pass novel edits arrived and I spent over a week with almost no sleep as I obsessed over every word (did I really need a comma there? That sentence there? Did that one word ruin the cadence of that one line of dialogue?). I was exhausted and stressed, and it was most noticeable during runs.

But I did get in my runs (slow as they may have been) and yesterday, after spending 14 hours of straight editing, where I stayed up until 9 a.m., I zapped my edits back to New York, crawled into bed and sleep like a rock for six hours.

When I woke up, I worked out on the elliptical and then scurried over to the airport to pick up my sister, who arrived from Philly to run the Big Wild Life half-marathon Sunday.

Fun times!

We went to the expo today but I forgot my camera, so no pics. But I do have a pic of a huge moose with a big rack that I saw on the Coastal Trail the other night. It's pretty dark but it you look hard you may be able to see it, hee, hee.

And more clearly, The Beebs at the beach.

Happy running everyone, and have a great weekend.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Trail runs in the sun

We've been having "hot" weather up here in Alaska! Yesterday it almost reached 70. This is a HUGE deal up here, especially since we had one of the coldest Julys on record.

This probably won't garner much sympathy from Lower 48ers wilting in the heat. But cold and rainy weather, day after day after day, with no hint of the sun, can really bum a peson out. Especially when snow falls two short months later.

So this is heaven:

Powerline Pass Trail. Look at the sun shadows over the mountains. Can anything be more gorgeous?

This was from a run earlier in the week but threw it in anyways 'cause it's sunny and there's a mountain.

I love how perplexed I look in this photo, hee, hee.

Note MM's socks. For months he was wearing calf-length socks on runs and it drove me crazy. He finally bought some "real" running socks, and I'm much, much happier running behind him.

Last week, SS and I took an evening run from McHugh Lake to Rabbit Lake, with her dog, Ika (poor Beebs was too limpy to make the 10.8 mile run, sigh, sigh). It was awesome, though cold when the wind hit us in the valley. Still, I'd rather be cold and out running trails than warm and inside.

SS and Ika.

Me and Ika. Look at the view in the background--awesome!

What I love about running in the mountains is the silence. SS and I passed three hikers early in the run and then no one else until Rabbit Creek. After that, we were alone again. I love that so, so much.

McHuge Lake, which is kinda scrappy. Rabbit Lake is much better but it was too cold; I couldn't get my fingers to unzip my pack pocket.

SS and Ika. Again, look at the views. Oh Alaska, I love thee in the summer!

Can you believe that when I first moved up to Alaska, years and years ago, I hated it? I lasted three months and then scurried back down to Arizona. I returned a year later, lasted three years and again scurried back to Arizona. Finally I came back for good. Alaska's like that. It's obstinate and moody and rough and unforgiving, but it gets under your skin. It won't let go. And for some reason, I love that.

As for running, I've been averaging 40-45 miles a week, mostly trail runs but some track speedwork and pavement tempo runs.

Good news: My sister arrives Thursday. We're running (not racing!) the Big Wild Life Half Marathon Sunday. We do this each year. It's kind of a tradition. And since MM is out of town (too bad, babe), we're taking over his house, his TV (I don't have a TV) and wireless (ditto on wireless--I live with almost no writing distractions) and plan of lounging around after the race eating pretzels and watching trashy movies.

We also might go ziplining out by Matanuska Glalcier: Wheeeee!!

Happy running, everyone. I'm off to soak up a little more sunshine. Hope you're all doing the same.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Running in the paradise

Oh, wow, Hawaii is awesome. We stayed in Kona, up in the mountains the first night, where we took one of the best trail runs. I loved running in the heat. I loved sweating. It was truly magical.

Then we drove down to the coast and stayed at the most wonderfully and outrageously touristy hotel, the Hilton WaikWaikoloa Village. It had everything: Paved walkways, waterfalls, a saltwater lagoon plus swimming pools galore.

We stuffed our rugged Alaska personas aside and became gluttonous tourists.

View from our hotel balcony. See what I mean? Over the top, but delicious.

MM had to trudge off to conferences most of the day while I suffered to find ways to amuse myself. Oh, life is so hard in paradise!

What I loved best were the evenings, so warm and balmy. MM and I walked the beach every night in just shorts and tee shirts, and after dark we lay in the sand and listened to the waves and watched the moon swim through the clouds. It was magical. (In Alaska, I wear fleece in the summer and my hands are always, always cold).

Still, it was so hot on the coast that I had to run on the treadmill, not a fun thing to do in the summer. Even though I miss the heat, it was nice to return home to the rain, cool temps and the Olympics.

Running: 35 miles (while on vacation)
Reading: How to Be Lost and Love Stories in This Town by Amanda Eyre Ward and Shadow Tag by
Louise Erdrich