Sunday, December 16, 2012

18.5 miles of air-bubbled bliss

It's hard to write about running when 20 children were senselessly gunned down a few days ago. It makes me realize how frivolous running is, and how much a luxury. Think of it! Even a bad bonk, even a run that's a struggle from start to finish is still a gift because we're alive, we're breathing and our bodies and lungs are healthy. I hope to always remember this and never take running for granted. I hope to always appreciate it.

My heart and prayers go out to the families of all the children, teachers and school administrators. What a terrible and brutal time. (I remember when my son was six, it's such an innocent and magical time.) And, not to get all political or anything, but what the f**k? I'm all for the right to bear arms but there must be limits, people. Limits.

Okay, my little rant is over. Now it's time to talk running.

This past week I had a bunch of dismal runs. We had weeks of cold, clear temps so that the trails were packed down and fast and oh, it was so lovely! Then the snows came, over 10 inches, and it immediately became colder so that the new snow froze into hardened chunks, and the trails are a mess of frozen footprints and ski grooves so that running becomes an ankle-twisting feat of endurance. It's okay for short runs but longer marathon paced runs? I don't think so.

I took it inside to the treadmill. Now the treadmill is great for anything up to eight miles. After that, it becomes hideous, trust me on this.

So Saturday, with a 17-miler scheduled and the trails still a mess, I took it inside. I took it to The Dome.

People who don't live in Alaska probably have no idea of the wonders of this odd and ugly building.

Doesn't it look like a giant insect or something? Or maybe a huge and breathing balloon.

It's supposedly the largest air-supported sports facility in the country. And yeah, I said air-supported. This is what the walls look like.

It's like running inside an inflatable swimming pool. And the lighting is weird, too, so that everything has a strange cast and really, it's all so very odd. But when one lives in Alaska, one becomes immune to oddities.

Plus, it has this:

And folks, this track is awesome. It's level and smooth and kind of the joints. And it's fast.

Here's what the Website says about it:

The Dome features one of the only 400 meter indoor tracks in the world; the same materials and markings used in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the 1984 Olympic Games. World class athletes still consider this the finest track ever installed in the United States.

Well, I've never actually seen world class athletes running on it, but who knows, eh? And all of this inside a balloonish, inhaling mass of rubberized walls. Crazy!

I ran 68 laps in the fifth and sixth lane, which I later figured out to be 18.52 miles. It went well, I must say. I felt strong until the last two miles, when that sly voice inside my head urged me to slow down and that other voice inside my head said, thank you very much but I'm maintaining my pace.

The track from above: See the field, I think it's big enough for indoor football, too. Wild. Photo credit: The Alaska Dome

The cool thing is that inside the track is a large stretch of green (artificial turf) where soccer games are held, and while I was running parents were sitting in the stands cheering on their kids. Each time I rounded this area I pretended that they were cheering for me. (Sorry, but one must amuse oneself how one can while running around a track 68 times like a demented gerbil.)

Today I'll do recovery miles on the treadmill, since I need to stop at the laundromat (our washer broke, such a shame, though I secretly love laundromats, love how warm they are inside and the churning and comforting sounds of so many machines cleaning so many clothes) and will throw my clothes in the washers, head to the gym, pound out 6-8 miles and return to, hopefully, find that no one swiped my heaps and heaps of work out clothes.

Have a great weekend, everyone. And hug your kids, okay? Even if they are oversized and sulky college students who think they're smarter than you are. They're still beautiful beyond words.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Speed ladder and Christmas dog

Last night it was 2 degrees outside and the air was sharp and cold, so I escaped to the gym for speedwork on the treadmill.

I used to hate the treadmill but I'm beginning to appreciate its charms. I like that I can set it to a pace and run evenly, without slow or fast lapses. I like that I can program in hills and make them last as long as I wish. But mostly, I love the treadmill because it causes me to sweat.

I love to sweat. It's the best of things.

Yesterday I did speedwork ladder: .25 miles @ 7 pace; .50 miles @ 7:30; .75 miles @ 7:41; 1 mile @ 8 pace, and then back down again: .75, .50 and .25. I kept the treadmill on 1 incline setting.

I hit my paces with effort but not agony. I love when that happens!

The only negative point is that after I finished my second interval, this muscular guy in a tank top hopped on the treadmill next to mine, looked over and smiled.

"I see you're running on your heels," he said (I wasn't; I had been watching my feet in the mirror). "You're gonna ruin your knees."

I nodded but didn't answer.

"Your arms are too stiff," he continued, "and your steps are too big. You're gonna mess up your legs."

"My stride is fine," I told him. "I've never had an injury."

"Soooo," he said, glancing down at my legs. "You run much?"

"I'm training for a marathon."

"I trained for a marathon once," he said. (The whole time he's walking, not running, on the treadmill.)

"How fast did you run?"

"Oh, I didn't run I just trained." A pause. "So where is this marathon?"


"I love Phoenix! Hey, have you ever been ..."

"Sorry," I said, "My next interval is coming up." I strapped my headphones back on and cranked the treadmill up to a 7 minute pace.

The dude stared at me a moment and then began running (stomping the treadmill), striking down hard with his heels, his arms swinging wildly, his knees wobbling with every step. After my interval was over he tapped me on the shoulder.

"Hey," he said, "how far is a marathon again?"

This dude was trying to give me running advice and he didn't even know how far a marathon is! Get real, okay.

But there are more important things happening. Like the Beebs, who is ready for Christmas, or at least tolerating Christmas, since her owners do stupid things like attach a hideous red bow around her neck and situate her beneath the tree.

Poor Beebs, she has since a hard life!

It's 8 degrees outside. It's supposed to reach 9 in an hour, which is when I'll pull on mass layers of clothes and head out the door for a 10 miles run.

Cheers and happy running, everyone.

Monday, December 3, 2012

16 miles and more moose

Well, we did it.

We suffered through 16 miles in 9 degree temps.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, either. The funny thing is that the distance didn't scare us, just the cold. So either we are becoming stronger runners or wimpier Alaskans.

We ran along the Coastal Trail, and in open areas the wet air drafting over the inlet was brutal. My face was so cold by the time I finished that I couldn't talk. I do need to get a face mask. I had a neck gator, which I pulled up over my mouth, but it became damp and then froze, whick only caused my face to become colder.

So sorry, no pics. I couldn't stop running, for fear of becoming chilled. When you are out running in skinny tights and a thin windbreaker and expecting your body energy to keep you warm, there is a thin margin for error. But we did run negative splits and finished strong and within my MP goal (I was trying for a much slower pace but I wanted to get it over before my face permanently froze into a runner's gasp).

Today, we were blessed with a visit from another moose, a big male with a huge rack, which I found sleeping in the yard when I went out to get the mail.

Without further ado, meet my new favorite moose.

Don't you love the blues? This is how the light looks each afternoon. It's like nothing else.

And one pic with the flash, which highlights the moose but fades out the beautiful blues.

Stay warm and safe, everyone.