Sunday, June 30, 2013

Oh summer, how I love thee ...

Today was my son's birthday. Happy birthday, CMR!

Wearing a mu-mu in Seaside, OR (posting this is payback for 19 hours of natural childbirth labor, hee, hee)

It's still warm up here in Anchorage. It's been an incredible summer. I'm getting spoiled by the heat, which I love, love, love. We broke the record for the most June days in the 70s. Mother Nature, please keep it coming, okay?

I had to get a job, since it's seems I've pretty much spent my novel money and won't get the rest until I finish my next book (waaa!), but it's part-time and I can ride my bike, which makes going to work in the morning so much more of a pleasure.

So of course I had to spend the money I just made, and guess what I bought?

I'm hooked on Brooks (a great slogan, no? Maybe they should hire me). These are the Cascadia 8 trail shoes and I love them so much that I haven't taken them off since I biked home. I love the way Brooks shoes fit my feet. Mostly I love the wide toe box. The tread on these isn't as wickedly impressive as other shoes but it's good enough.

Enough talk of shoes. It's summer and we've been out every night, running, hiking and walking the dog along the beach or around the lagoon.

Beebs at the beach. This was taken around midnight. It's about as dark as it gets.

Heading down the mountain to Powerline Pass Trail.

Bull moose, and yes, we were that close.

One of my favorite trails, Middle Fork to Willawaw

Sunset: This was taken just after midnight as we headed toward Flattop.

Happy running, hiking, biking, reading, and summer living.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

18 miles, Yasso 800s and hot temps

Yes, we're still holding out in the 70s here in Anchorage. It's been an amazing couple of weeks, especially after our long and obstinate winter. I love running in the sunshine, love feeling the sweat over my shoulders, love the luxury of wearing less clothing.

Sunday I did my first 18 miler of marathon training (Big Wildlife, though I haven't registered yet). It was 82 degrees when I began, and so I filled my water bottles with cold water and also carried my Nathan handheld.

I LOVE this handheld! The pouch is large enough for my protein bars, gels, etc., plus there's a separate pocket for a key. It's so light and comfortable that I don't even notice I'm carrying it.

The run went amazingly well. I ran the Coastal Trail out to Kincaid Park and refilled my water bottles at the chalet. I also crossed my favorite bridge, which is the turnaround point in the marathon.

Two more months and I will see you again. Well, probably before then but I will be so thankful to see you in two months.

I felt strong until about 16 miles, when I began burping my Builders Bar. It was a chocolate mint flavor, and I didn't like it much the first time. I liked it even less by the end of the run. I need to do something about my nutrition. The Builders Bars are the best thing for my low blood sugar problems but taste dreadful and don't digest well. I can't handle gels or my beloved Shot Bloks on long runs; too much "fast" sugar causes me to crash, fast. When I eat the Builders I don't crash and always finish strong, no matter the distance. Except that I also finish with a queasy stomach. Suggestions, anyone?

But oh, this weather! I feel positively infatuated. Monday I hiked Flattop with The Beebs. It was 76 degrees when we set out at 11 p.m. Beebs is part husky and because of her thick undercoat, doesn't do well in the heat and so we took it slow. I love hiking in the evening twilight, love how still the air feels, and how hushed. Mostly I love the silver/lavender/grey shadows.

I bought a new camera, a Nikon Coolpix S4200, and either I'm using it incorrectly or it takes lousy pictures. The colors are off and distant shots are blurry. I'm returning it this weekend.

I took this around 12:30 a.m. See how light it still is? Would you be able to sleep or would you be out hiking, even though you have to work in the morning? (No wonder I'm so damned tired all summer.)

Tuesday I did Yasso 800s (the track was actually 880). What I love about Alaska is that there are always people out, no matter the time. It's nice having others on the track, it feels so companionable, especially when you pass. I hit consistent paces: 3:46, 3:48, 3:44, 3:46, 3:47, 3:44, 3:46 (I miscounted and only ran seven instead of eight).

But Bart lies. According to his theory, I should be able to run a 3:50ish marathon. Yeah, right. I'd be thrilled with a 4:10.

Solstice is almost here, the longest day of the year. MM returns home tomorrow so probably we will head up in the mountains with the Beebs. We'll take it slow, and linger. I'm so grateful for Beebs because she forces me to slow down, to hike and walk instead of running, to just be without having to worry about times or paces or goals. Dogs just are. They live entirely in the moment. I want to be more like that.

You are the best, Beebs!

Happy solstice, everyone.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

More Alaska stupidness

A lot of stupidity takes place in Alaska in the summertime. Much of this is happens to tourist, who come up here with fuzzy illusions and get charged by "cute" moose or lost on steep hiking trails that they have no business hiking in the first place (some dude was just rescued on Mount Marathon last week. Please! The trailhead warns against recreational hikers. It's a tough mother of a mountain).

But today's stupidity was performed by an Alaskan, who darned well should have known better.

The story in brief: A guy drinking at a church picnic out by Elkutna Lake (drinking at a church picnic??) fed a bear BBQ and was later mauled by the same bear.

Duh! Like what did he expect?

Help! I'm training for a marathon! Please feed me BBQ!

Here's the story from my old alma mater paper, the Anchorage Daily News.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sunny 16-miler, first place and MM wins his first ribbon

It's been quite the week.

Temps soared to the high 70s, an almost unheard of occurrence here in Anchorage, and after one quick rain, everything suddenly became green. The lilacs are blooming in our yard, along with orange poppies, and the neighborhood is so green that it almost makes my eyes hurt, it is such a beautiful sight.

Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures, since my skinny digital camera died (and who can blame it, after the abuse it's seen in my hands these past four years. The poor thing has been dropped in the mud, banged against trees, left out overnight in the rain and carried along on thousands of miles of sweaty runs, where it's been jammed inside my pack, Gus and gels oozing across its little lens).

I did get this:

Another first place finish at the very small Anchorage Running Club races. This time it was a 10K. More exciting: MM picked up his first running ribbon ever in the men's division.

So proud of him!

Friday I ran a fast 12 miles over the freshly paved section of the Coastal Trail and wow, the new asphalt was so soft it felt as if I were flying (I wasn't, trust me).

Sunday I ran 16 miles over trails in 77 degree temps. I only had two small water bottles in my pack and planned to circle back to the car and refill after eight miles.

Instead, I became lost on the hilliest sections, the BLM and Ritcher loop trails, which led me to the Hilltop ski area cross country trails, which are up, up, up and down, down, down the whole friggin' way. I spent over five miles on that hilly section and by the time I found my way back, I was out of water and still five miles from the trailhead.

I'm not used to having to drink so much on long runs. But, oh my! My throat was parched, my mouth was dry, and the only thing I could think of was ice cubes clinking into a glass. I thought of this for five long and thirsty miles. And yes, that first post-run chug of water was pure heaven.

I'm also spending time at the beach with my favorite girlfriend.

This is at about 9 p.m. So much sunlight!

Downtown Anchorage, from the beach. I can't imagine living without mountains.

See how high the sun still is, even in the evening? Love. It.

Enjoy the sunshine, everyone.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Goodbye sun, hello Flattop

Sadly, the sun left, along with the rare 70 degree temps.

Saturday I ran a 14-miler in cool and cloudy weather and averaged below goal pace the whole way. I was so excited that I didn't shut up about this most of the night. ("It felt effortless," I said, over and over until MM was sick of me. "I felt as if I were gliding.")

Today we woke to a drizzly rain that lasted most of the afternoon. By early evening, we were restless and needing to get out so we headed up to Flattop Mountain.

Flattop is supposedly the most hiked mountain in Alaska. It's about 3,500 feet (or somewhere around there) and is fairly easy yet rocky and unstable enough that someone dies on it every few years.

Today, June 2, it was still partially covered with snow.

Welcome to my world, people. This is summer hiking, Alaska style.

It was wet, muddy and cold. The wind was fierce yet exhilarating.

Top of the peak. People were sliding and sledding down the snow fields.

I hurt my knee coming down. I was crouched to jump over a rock and suddenly something behind my knee went bing!, and I collapsed to the ground in pain. I got up a minute later and the back of my knee ached but there was little pain, so I kept going.

The valley. MM took this picture, I think.

Did I mention that the wind was fierce?

Running down the mountain.

By the time I got home, my leg was throbbing, and when I tried to climb down the stairs to my writing room, my knee collapsed again. I'm icing it as I write. I'm hoping that it's a sprained muscle or something minor. After the long, long winter it would totally suck to be injured most of the summer.

OMG, I forgot to mention: While we were hiking Flattop (and you saw how messy and snowy the trail still is), we passed three tourists, and the two women were wearing street shoes with heels. The one woman had on open-toed sandals with heels and was climbing a rocky and snowy mountain trail. They were about halfway up. I have no idea how they got down, since we were sliding in our trail shoes. Makes you wonder where their heads were. Plus it was cold up there. My hands were so numb when we got back to the car that MM had to put my seatbelt on for me. And this woman had on open-toes sandals and was hiking in the snow. Friggin' unbelievable.

Weekly running:
Monday: 12 miles over steep trails
Tuesday: 12 miles over more mild trails
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 9 miles, trails (with a huge (!) incline
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 14 miles, fastish pace
Sunday: Hiking

What I'm reading:
"The Mango Season" by Amulya Malladi