Friday, November 30, 2012

Moose madness

This cute moose paid us a visit this afternoon, right before dark. Good looking, no? (I think it has a crush on me. It followed me and The Beebs home from the park.)

There's something so magical about encountering moose, even though it happens often in the winter, when they move in closer to town and use the trails instead of trudging through deep snow. I often see them in neighborhood yards when I walk the dog, stripping the heck out of people's prized trees and shrubs.

Some people make jewelery from the nuggets (i.e., poop) and sell them in the tourist stores down on Fourth Avenue. I'm ashamed to admit that I've actually bought these for Christmas presents for out-of-state relatives. I'm sure they were a big hit. How many people can say they have a piece of Alaska moose poop dangling from their ears?


Have a moosey weekend, everyone. And send me some good energy. I have a 16-miler scheduled for Sunday. The expected high? Nine big, fat degrees.

Sucky speed work and vegan muffins

I knew I was in trouble when I hopped on the treadmill at Planet Fitness (temps were a balmy 2 degrees outside) and I could barely handle my warm-up, a generous three minutes slower than my interval pace.

It was not good.

After a looonnggg mile, I skipped my iPod to a fast song and cranked the treadmill up to a hearty 7:35 pace.

It was one of the longest half miles of my life.

My eyes frantically glued to the treadmill program, I watched each number inch by (ever so slowly!). I struggled. My legs flailed. My arms pumped in useless time with my body.

I'd like to say that the next five intervals became easier, but they didn't. The only thing that got me through was Alicia Bridge's "I Love the Nightlife," and a few hearty tunes by Prince, back when he was still Prince and hadn't changed his name to something unpronounceable and then back again.

Ah Prince, you wanna come up to Alaska and run with me?

The coolest thing, though. After I finished my workout, as I was sweating over the weight machines with my puny arms, a twenty-something man who had been on the treadmill next to mine complimented me on my running.

"You make it look so easy," he said. "You ran without effort."

Well! Imagine that. I told him that it had indeed struggled but he didn't believe me. He said that I was an inspiration. I kind of made me teary-eyed. I had to escape to the bathroom to blow my nose.

Who would have thunk that as I was struggling and fighting someone else would view me as running confidently and easily?

After that, I braved the 2 degree weather (brrr!) and came home to this:

Vegan blueberry muffins to die for (I ate three in one night, hee, hee)

I adapted the recipe from The Vegan Mom blog (thanks, VM!), added nuts, an extra half banana, and substituted the maple syrup for honey, and they are SO good! You must try these muffins. They are moist and filling and awesome.

Blueberry Walnut Muffins (Vegan)

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup plus small handful pastry flour

Tsp baking soda

Tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Tblsp cinnamon

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup canola/light olive oil

1 cup soy/almond/hemp milk

1 ½ bananas, mashed

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all dry ingredients, fold in wet ingredients, pour into baking cups (I used a large six-count muffin tin) and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick or knife pulls clean. Makes 12 standard or six large sized muffins.

So freaking good!

Happy eating, everyone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winter running in cold temps (oh, yeah!)

This is why I stay in Alaska and fight the cold and freeze my face off almost every winter run. It's the blues. I love the blue shadows, and the way the snow turns lavender, and how everywhere I look, there's more and more blues, and in every possible shade.

View from the Coastal Trail at sunset
It's cold, though. It was 12 when I set off for my 11 miler this afternoon, and 7 when I finished. I need to get a hat with an attached mask. My poor face, the only exposed part of my whole body, can't take much more. The cold is exhilarating, but only to a point. After that it simply becomes painful.

I didn't take any photos of today's run, but I have some from this weekend.

Saturday, MM and I did our marathon pace runs on the treadmill at Planet Fitness. I love Planet Fitness, love how it caters to everyone and doesn't allow grunting and everywhere you look, there's such a wide variety of people, from tired housewives to young things in matching outfits to serious athletes, all of us flocking through the doors the moment the temps dip lower than 15 degrees.

It was MM's first time running on a treadmill, can you believe that? He lost his virginity! Poor guy stumbled around at but soon got the hang of it. It was fun running side-by-side while watching "House Hunters" on the overhead TV.

Sunday was a marathon training kick-back week, and our long run was only 10 miles. It was about 15 degrees was we set out, with a cold wind blowing off the inlet so that by the second mile, our hair froze and our mouths became numb.

The reversible side of my insulated running skirt is hot pink, how cool is that?

See the moon peeking out from the trees?

Sunset/moonrise over Westchester Lagoon

The return portion of the run was brutal. The sun had set and the temps soared downward. I pumped out the miles at faster-than-my-half-marathon-pace, just to try and keep warm.

The Chester Creek Trail is lit up to halfway around Westchester Lagoon and then the lights quit, thank god. I love running in the snow in the dark. It feel surreal and magical.

This weekend we have a 16-miler scheduled. The high both days is forecasted as 12. Along the inlet it will be even colder. MM bought me some new mittens (supposedly a Christmas present but I couldn't wait that long) and finally, my hands are warm. Such a blessing, these small things.

If anyone has any running tips for single digits and below zero temps, I'd love to hear them.

Stay warm!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turnagain Arm with The Beebs

Today we took The Beebs out for a short, four-mile run on Turnagain Arm to work off all of that Thanksgiving turkey (MM and Beebs) and tofu (me).

This is one of my favorite trails. The footing is gritty, the hills are obstinate, and there are enough curves and dips that the run never becomes stale.

We ran on hard-packed snow, and I fell in love all over again with the screws on the bottom of my shoes. I never slipped! I charged down the hills without a care!

Perfect running conditions

Beebs is 13 this year, so we have to be careful not to overtax her. But she loves to run. She loves being out on the trails. She refuses to slow down. Her heart is so, so big.

The Beebs taking a breather at the two-mile point.

While it was a short run, it was refreshing to be outside in the cold, right before sunset, when the air was lavender and everything was quiet and the birch trees spread out before us in milky shadows.

Ridge above the trail.

Turnagain Arm: Isn't it gorgeous?

MM and The Beebs, cruising down the last hill

Sunset over the water through the trees.

Sun almost set: Right now we're down to about 6 hours of daylight, with sunset around 4 p.m.

Sunset reflected in blocks of ice over the inlet.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and didn't spend too much money during Black Friday (I stayed home and shopped online, hee, hee).

So far:
Monday: 90 minutes, elliptical
Tuesday: 9 miles, MP
Wednesday: 70 minutes, elliptical
Thursday: Rest (power eating)
Friday: 4 miles trails, 60 minutes elliptical

Monday, November 19, 2012

Screwing around

Well, I think I've finally beaten the worst of my cold/flu (knock on coffee table). It took me countless packets of Emergen-C, golden seal root, calendula leaves tea and lemon water, but I think (hope, pray) the worst is over.

I started working out at the gym again on Thursday and Friday--how nice to sweat again! I ran for the first time in a week on Saturday, six miles at MP. It felt so, so good to run again, even though I didn't feel as strong as normal.

Sunday I drilled screws in the bottom of my running shoes, for traction. This was great fun. I followed these instructions, and it was SO easy.

Tiggy Mon holding watch over the drill.

I used 3/8 inche hex screws, which were hard to find. They didn't have them at Lowe's, Home Depot or Alaska Industrial Hardware. We finally found them in this odd little store called Fasteners and Fire Equipment, Inc., which was filled with screws and fasteners of every imaginable size. The service was wonderful, too, and we were able to choose the width and length of our screws. Best of all, a box of 100 was about $3.

Here's how I attached the screws: First I drilled starter holes in the bottom tread. If you have a drill with a magnetic tip, you could skip this step. I placed the screws along the outside and then added a row through the middle. I used 19 on the right shoe and 20 on the left. Probably that was overkill but better too many than not enough.

I hand screwed the screws, which was easy since I had already pre-drilled the holes. The entire process took less than 15 minutes.

Then I put on my running gear and headed out the door with MM for our 14 miler long run. It was about 20 degrees at the start, with a wind coming off that inlet that was brutal and unforgiving.

I didn't feel strong, since I'm still not fully recovered from the flu, and the wind was so cold on the way back that I was sure my face was going to shatter. But my shoes felt great. The screws gripped the ice, and the only time I slipped was in areas of deeper snow; for that I think I'll need Yak Traks.

My feet, so happy in their non-slid screwed shoes. See how the snow is lavender tintede? It's always like that in late afternoon. I love it!

No, I'm not flapping my arms or trying to fly. This is one unflattering running photo, but I had to include it because this is how Alaska looks in the winter around sunset: all blues and lavenders and pinks. Isn't it beautiful?

We passed this moose around the six mile mark, when we crossed the road by the wastewater plant (and yeah, it doesn't smell very sweet running past it, either). The moose often stroll along the side of the road and sometimes even down the middle of the road, and they pay no mind to cars or traffic noise. They simply walk along, in that knobby-kneed walk of theirs, and stop whenever they find a tasty tree or bush to nibble. They remind me of teenagers walking around trying to look cool.

And finally, a photo of my poor face, frozen into a permanent blank and agonized expression, hee, hee. I'm wearing the new Nike insulated running skirt I got on Ebay for $20 (regularly $80). I love it! Finally, a way of keeping my behind warm when I run. These things are important! Still, it's ridiculous how much I wear to run up here. I have on a tank, sleeveless running shirt, insulated half-zip, windbreaker, heavy tights, insulated running skirt, shoes and two pair of mittens. And we haven't even hit single digits yet!

Don't I look like one of those kids so bundled up in snowsuits that they can barely move?

Stay warm, everyone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Me and Emergen-C

I haven't run for four days.

Four days, people.

Not only have I not run, I haven't swum, biked, worked out or so much as lowered myself into plank position.

I have been sick with a ghastly cold that is so clever that, just when I think I finally have it kicked, it slyly turns up the volume and slams me with a bout of coughing so strong and wicked I end up I slumped on the couch, sweaty and breathless.

(But wait! Coughing can be counted as ab work, no?)

I am in an evil mood. I can barely stand myself. Earlier tonight I decided that this all MM's fault. I tried to tell him, too. I wanted to yell and scream, hurl accusations and blame but alas, since I had lost my voice hours before nothing came out but a squeak. So I retired to the couch, coughed and worked on my abs.

I have been popping Emergen-C packets like crazy. Heck, I think I'd snort them if they didn't make me sneeze. I took five today. The back of the box advises to take no more than two. I hope I don't die of an overdose. That would be embarrassing.

My drug of choice.

I haven't run for four days yet by not running I realize how thankful I am that I can run, that I am healthy and live in a country and environment that allows me to follow my heart and passions. That is no small thing. Many people spend their whole lives searching for their passions. I've managed to find two, running and writing.

But enough of the sappy talk. It's getting late and I'm going to take my sixth dose of Emergen-C of the day, put in a strong set of coughing, brush my teeth and take my box of tissues to bed.

As Judy Garland once sang, there's always tomorrow. (I wonder if I could beat the Scarecrow in a marathon?)

Definitely not a heel striker.

'Night, everyone. Hope you don't catch this nasty bug. (If you need some Emergen-C I can sell you some real cheap, hee, hee.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Too young to run?

Anyone see this story in the New York Times about the two young runners, Kaytlynn, 12, and Heather, 10, Welsch, who run tough adult trail races?

It's a long article but I recommend. It's fascinating and causes one to wonder: Do these girls really want to run or are they running mainly to please/fulfill their father's dreams and ambitions?

Photo credit: New York Times

Look how small these girls are! They barely reach the others' elbows. And Heather, the youngest, pins stuffed animals on her shirt before each race. She also cries during most races.

Granted, they are talented runners. The oldest clocked a 1:28 half marathon. Yet the father's attitude is unsettling.

The article followed the pair through a rugged and steep trail race in Utah. Kaytlynn was expected to place in the top 5 female finishers (adult finishers, I must stress). She stubbed her toe the day before and it was black and blue on race day. She ran anyways and place 30th out of 75 women, darned good for a 12-year-old.

Her father didn't seem to think so. Here is what he was quoted as saying in the car on the ride home.

“You quit on us today,” he said.
“No, I didn’t,” she responded.
“Yes, you did. A lot of people run with a stubbed toe, even a broken toe. They put it aside and do their best. Did you do your best?”
“Your time shows you certainly didn’t.”
Deep down she believed he was right, and she kept her eyes on her phone.

Heather, 10, after a race. Photo credit: New York Times.

Jesus, she's 12. She should be out playing with friends, not racing every weekend and especially not racing with a stubbed toe. I've been there, done that and it hurts.

At the same time, I admire these girls. It sounded as if they really love to run, really love to feel their bodies move, and really love to compete.

They also compete in tris and both have bikes worth about $5,500, each. At ages 12 and 10. If that doesn't set up the expectation to succeed at all costs not sure what does.

I think the article's title sums it up best, "Too Fast, Too Soon?"

Let me know what you think, if you have a chance. It's long yet fascinating read.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bread, snow and cold hands

Yes, I am still alive. And right now I'm back in Anchorage, baking bread and homemade pizza and watching the election results (Go, Big O!). Regardless of your political mindset, I hope you all got out and voted. It's our right, and especially our right as women, since so many of those before us suffered to allow us this luxury that we so often take for granted.

Enough of serious talk. Let's chat about something better. Something like food.

Ain't it pretty? My homemade pizza with tofu and goat cheese. Yum!

I don't know if it's the cold weather or the rapidly leaving light (the sun doesn't rise until almost 9 a.m. and it's dark by 4:30 p.m., and we haven't hit the worst of it yet), but I have become horribly domesticated and have this deep, overwhelming urge to cook. To bake, actually. Go figure. I'm thinking it's like a virus, bakeitis or something. Maybe there's a herbal remedy I can take or maybe I'm doomed to bake (and pack on the pounds from said baking) all winter long.

Regardless, there is something primal in kneading dough. Why is that? Sometimes, as I'm folding and kneading, I imagine all of the millions of women before me who have done the same thing, and I feel connected and warm.

Oh, dough, how I love to knead you!

And I know you're waiting breathlessly for the finished product, so here it is.


Okay, now that I've devoured two pieces of pizza (imagine a ladylike burp here), it's time to move over to the good stuff: Running.

Returning to Anchorage and 20-degree temps last week was a bit of a culture shock after balmy Nebraska City. I had to pull out the tights, the long sleeve tech shirt covered by the windbreaker, the hat and mittens, and still I was cold.

It's sad how easily my body adjusted to the warm climate and how stubbornly it's resisting the cold (I think it wants me to move to a more moderate town).  My first run was a 10 mile tempo with MM, and it went great.

That, unfortunately, was the last outdoor run that went well. Every single one since I've been cold. I even wore two (two!) pairs of gloves on our 12 miler Sunday and my hands were so cold by the end that I couldn't even shut off my Garmin. I screamed at MM, "Shut it off! Shut it off!" as he looked around the wooded trail, wondering what the hell I was yelling about.

Do people ride fat tire bikes where you live? I bikes look plump and cheerful, though they do take up a lot of room.

Basically, my runs have been going well. I'm hitting my paces. Heck, I'm going faster than my paces in many cases, in desperate attempts to stay warm. I feel strong. My body wants to move, and I love that. I'm just bummed at how cold I've been.

And it's still in the 20s.

Time to bring out more layers. The sad thing is that I'm wearing now what I wore last year while runnng in single digits. My body is wimping out on me, sigh, sigh.

Funny, isn't it? I was moaning and complaining about running in Nebraska, and now I'm moaning and complaining about running in Alaska. I need to shut my mouth and just run. I need to be grateful that at my age (spoiler alert: I ain't exactly young) I am still able to run, and that it brings me such joy.

I am working on that. I am baking bread and working on my attitude (now that song is in my head, "New Attitude" by Patti LaBelle).

Weekly stats (from last week):
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 90 minutes elliptical and stair torture machine
Wednesday: 10 miles nighttime trail run (awesome!)
Thursday: 8 mile speedwork on treadmill while watching "House Hunters"
Friday: 1 mile, swim
Saturday: 7.3 miles, tempo, paved Coastal Trail
Sunday: 12 miles, slowish, trails

"Pretty is What Changes," by Jessica Queller
"Wilderness Tips," Margaret Atwood (love you, Margie!)

A lot of promo and publicity brainstorming for my book--ahhhhh!
A lot of contest and resideny deadlines. My brain feels as if it's run a marathon