Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Run. Sun. Fun.

It has been in the 70s here in Anchorage, incredibly and unbelievably. The sky is clear and the sun is bright and everyone walks around in shorts and sandals. Many of us have (dare I say it?) a bit of a tan across our faces and shoulders.

Running has been pure bliss. I haven't run in heat since I was in Nebraska last October, and I had forgotten the joy of sweating freely and easily, of feeling the air against my arms and legs.

As I said, pure bliss.

Look: Sunshine! A bridge without snow! Leaves popping out on the trees!

Saturday I ran 12 miles on the Coastal Trail (in the sunshine) at a medium pace. And Monday, MM and I tackled the Turnagain Arm Trail again. It was 72 degrees out, sunny and warm. We ran 12 miles through hills, rough footing and lots and lots of mud in the lower areas.

Nice a peaceful trail, eh? Actually, a huge hill looms at the top of the ridge.

This is how most of the trail looks: Lots of roots and rocks. Two points if you can spot me running ahead in the green shirt.

I bonked on the way back. I stupidly decided to try bee pollen for energy. I can't use traditional gels, since my body can't regulate normal sugar levels. I should have realized that bee pollen metabolizes as a simple sugar, but I didn't. My blood sugar surged and I felt fantastic for about a mile. And then my sugar level dropped and I crashed and had to lean against a tree to keep from collapsing.

Luckily MM had a Clif Builder's Protein Bar. These pack a solid 20 grams of protein. It took a good twenty minutes for my body to stabilize and I cried, too, I felt so miserable. But as soon as my sugar levels rose, I began running and I felt strong again, and the sun was still shining and the world was good and I was happy. (Thank you, Clif, for your nasty tasting bars that work such magic on my messed up endocrine system.)

Today, I ran with a friend for another 12 miles (I think 12 is my new lucky number), this time over the Campbell Creek Trails, but I didn't have my camera so no pics. I was impressed by how easily her dog kept up, even in the heat. (Imagine running 12 miles in 74-degree temps while wearing a fur coat.)

Sunday evening was a rest day and MM and I took The Beebs out to the trails by the sand dunes around Kincaid Park. I love the sand dunes. They are situated in the most unlikely place, and they rise as if out of nowhere and then sudden drop off into the forest.

Hope everyone had a sun-filled, run-filled and fun-filled Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Back in Anchorage, and missing my family

I'm back in Anchorage, after spending a week in Portland with my mother, sister and son, who recently graduated from Lewis and Clark College.

I love Portland. It's so very walkable, and so very green.

When I left Anchorage, the trees were bare. Three and a half hours later, I stepped off the plane to lush green and flowers.

Also love this guy, who has somehow grown from a boy into a man (how did that happen?).

After graduation, which was actually quite nice (the speeches were thankfully short and lively), we did the most exciting thing: We went to Trader Joe's.

I know it doesn't sound like much. But there are no Trader Joe's in Alaska (imagine sad music here) and I was so excited that I couldn't shut up about it until finally one of the nice employees gave me a free Trader Joe's shopping bag. (I'm terrified to use this up in Anchorage. I'm sure someone will steal it.)

The next day, we headed out to Seaside to relax at the beach.

Ahhh, the ocean! And a real beach! With sand! And water warm enough for wading!

My mom and my son.

My sister and my son.

One of the best reasons to visit Seaside, OR: Chocolate covered Twinkies.

Second reason to visit? Indoor carousel, and yes, we all rode it, hee, hee.

I kept up my running and workouts though I did most at the hotel gym, for convenience sake. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family, and if that meant forsaking a few long runs, so be it (priorities, people). I ran three days, swam three days and did the elliptical most evenings.

Wednesday afternoon, after my last swim, I took the light rail (so much fun!) to Powell's bookstore and signed a copy of my book.

Me, sopping wet from the constant rain but happy to be surrounded by books (books!)

Traveling is odd, isn't it? We fly from one location to another yet it takes our emotional selves so much longer to catch up. I still feel off-centered, part of me in Portland with my son, part of me in the hotel room with my sister and mother, part of me soaring through the air inside a metal structure that miraculously carried me from one place that I love in order to visit with people that I love. I still feel mushy inside, and soft, the way we always do when we fully open our hearts.

I read two books while on vacation: Old School by Tobias Wolff (loved it!) and Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café by Mary Simses, which was much better than I expected, and a surprisingly well-written and funny read. I recommend both, the former for a serious read and the later for a day at the beach.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

So happy, and so, so proud

I'm in Portland for the week, for my son's graduation from Lewis & Clark College. It was held indoors yesterday, due to rain (duh! It's Portland) and I was so proud I could barely stand it. My son is such a great young man, kind and sensitive and smart and funny and just great company.

Here's his listing from the graduation program. (Not bad for a kid raised by a single mother who received not one dime of child support, eh?)

Portland is very green and lush. I love it, though the city is too big and too busy for my tastes. I haven't been doing much except spending time with my mother, sister and son, just hanging out and talking. Basically, we just want to soak up one another's company, since we see each other so rarely. Right now I'm off to sit by the pool. It's such a luxury, an outdoor pool. I've been swimming instead of running because I can run in Alaska whenever I want. But swim in an outdoor pool with the sun on my shoulders? It's not something easily found around Anchorage. And added plus: No snow!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Of mud and grace (And more moose)

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love running in mud. I love splashing in mud. I love when my shoe gets stuck in mud and makes a delicious thuck sound as I pull it free.

So when we headed out to the Turnagain Arm Trail on Sunday and MM mentioned the that trail would be wet, I knew the conditions would slow us down and that the mud would cheer me up.

And it did. Except when it didn't.

We started at the Potter Trailhead and ran all the way to Rainbow and back, about 16 miles and over 3,000 feet elevation gain and loss.

It was a hazy, overcast day, no rain but the air felt damp.

Looks kind of eerie, eh? Welcome to spring in Alaska.

I felt great the first few miles and then had a breakdown around the four mile mark and sat on a rock and cried and cried. I'm not sure why I cried, though I think it was old stuff surfacing, that the solace of the trees and mountains supplied me with enough grace to let down my guard, and when I did, I realized I had been carrying around sadness. Funny how that happens.

After that, I felt better and we kept running. The trail slants gradually uphill for two miles and then dips into the valley and an almost mile and half of steep downhill, which is great. Except that we had to turn around and run back up that almost mile and half of uphill.

On the way back we ran into this critter.

Monday night we rode our bikes to Kincaid Park and back on the Coastal Trail (about 20 miles from our house) and saw more moose. It must be that time of year.

Bare trail--can there be a more beautiful sight?

Downtown Anchorage from across the inlet.

Tonight we ran 13.5 miles on the Coastal Trail to Kincaid Park. It was windy, and cold. It's supposed to snow tonight (yes, snow in the middle of May). The wind was so strong in places that it blew my earphones out of my ears. It also pulled the elastic band off my ponytail.

It was a great run, though. I kept a pace just past comfort, so that I was pushing the whole time. (MM didn't have to push, since he's naturally faster than I am, sigh, sigh.)

The last two miles were wicked. The wind was so cold that at one point I looked down and was surprised to see that I was wearing capris. In my mind, I truly believed I was running in my underwear, that's how sharp and fierce the wind blew.

I couldn't untie the car key from my sneaker or unlock the door; MM had to do it. I blasted the heater all the way home and then immediately took a hot bath. Crazy weather!

Tomorrow morning I leave for Portland to visit with my son and watch him graduate, with honors, from Lewis & Clark College (you go, Chris!).

Happy running, everyone. Hope it's warmer wherever you are.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I won, I won, and another beautiful Alaska sunset

The most exciting and incredible thing: I won a race Wednesday evening.

Yes, these old legs carried me to victory. I even received a shiny blue ribbon.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that only two women ran the 7.5K course (4.87 miles, according to my Garmin); everyone else opted for the 4-miler.

Still, I beat some men, which is a cool and worthwhile pursuit.

I didn't take many photos. How do people take photos during races? Do they carry their phones/cameras and snap shots while running? Sounds like too much work to me.

Anyway, the Anchorage Running Club's Do Run Run Race was the first club race of the season. What I love about the ARC races is that they're low-key and comfortable, and people of all running levels participate, and there's no strutting or preening, just a bunch of folks racing because they love to run.

We followed the Ship Creek bike trail, an out-and-back course that was fairly level and with enough curves that it never became boring (I don't much care for flat courses).

MM raced too, and of course he beat me. He did manage to take a blurry pic of me holding my ribbon. Look closely, folks: This will be the last time you'll ever, ever see me this close to a blue ribbon.

I wish this picture were larger because it includes another incredible thing: I'm wearing shorts! The first shorts of the season!

To celebrate my victory, we took The Beebs for another beach walk. Most of the ice bergs had melted and we caught the sunset over Sleeping Lady Mountain (which isn't really a mountain, more of a ridge, at least by Alaska standards).

See how indescribably beautiful the evenings are up in Anchorage? This is why I stay in Alaska. This is why I suffer through the long and cold and dark winters. Because where else is there such twilight, such silver/blue/lavender shadows stretching across the horizon?

Right now, we're up to 17 hours of daylight. These sunset photos were taken around 10:45 p.m.

Tomorrow we're running a 16-mile trail run. I can't wait, especially since today it hit 65 degrees in some areas of town. I sat out in the yard in shorts and a tee-shirt, even though there were still patches of snow around me. Such juxtapositions--I suppose that's what keeps Alaska interesting.

Can you see the woodpecker in this photo? (Remember those "Highlights for Children" puzzles where you had to find the objects hidden within the picture? I used to love to read those at the doctor and dentist office.)

Anyway, this little guy or gal visited while I was sitting out in the yard writing. It only stayed a few minutes but no matter, it was nice of it to fly in and say hello.

Happy weekend and running, everyone.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

And the trails finally cleared, and it was good

The big excitement in our house is that the Turnagain Arm Trail is cleared of snow. This is HUGE news, since MM and I are both trail runners. Yes, we do run the Coastal and Chester Creek trails, but our first love is being up in the mountains.

We ran 7 miles Sunday and my feet were thrilled (thrilled!) to find themselves on bare ground. I swear, I almost knelt down and kissed the muddy, cold earth.

It wasn't the fastest run. The trail was muddy and slick in places, with small patches of snow in wooded areas. I wasn't used to jumping over roots and rocks, either. Yet I can't begin to tell you how happy I felt being back on the trails again, how my heart sang, how my soul felt good and soothed and refreshed.

I almost cried when I saw this: Green shoots pushing bravely out of the cruel, obstinate Alaska earth. After six months of cold and darkness, of constant snow and single-digit temps, it was a welcomed and beautiful (beautiful!) sight.

In a few weeks, this will all be green and lush.

Turnagain Arm--love, love the lavender shadows

MM and I also took the dog for a sunset walk on the beach. Sunset, in early May, hits right around 10:30 p.m.; we are currently up to almost 17 glorious hours of daylight. The beach was clear, due to the tide and wave action, but artistically shaped ice bergs littered the shore. It felt surreal and ghostly to walk around these ice bergs in the twilight.

The beach right after sunset.

Tonight MM and I are running our first race of the season. Well, I'm running if I manage to finish Chapter Six of my next book. If I don't, I'll have to spectate instead (I have to give myself strict deadlines or I'll sit around blogging and reading all day, sigh, sigh).

Happy running, everyone.