Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Raffle! Wanna win an iPod Shuffle?

I'm raffling off an iPod Shuffle to raise money for my race. Here's how it works, go to the link on the right and pledge any amount you want. Starting today, for every dollar that you pledge, your name will get entered into the raffle once. That means $25, 25 entries.

On December 24th, a name will be picked at random and I will ship you a shuffle in the color of your choice. The more dollars you pledge, the more chances you have to win! Please be sure to include your address and email so that I can contact you if you win.

Click here and click on "Donate Now!" to enter

Good luck!



The plan to go to Ouray, Colorado in January for the Ice Festival is final. I bought my plane ticket this past weekend. Hooray! Ouray! With no ice to be found anywhere in South Central, Alaska, we will have to go "outside" to find some ice to climb!

Last year at this time I had done my first lead at Candyland, climbed the Beer climbs, and climbed Ripple twice in Eklutna Canyon. Right now Candyland has no ice, not even a dribble. Eklutna River is still flowing freely, so no access to the canyon. The beer climbs are in a sad state. I planned to head out to Echo Bend with some friends this weekend, but we most likely cannot get across Eagle River. The ice forum is dead, not even any mention of people out looking for ice. Why would you when it's been in the upper 30's? Global warming or climate cycles, whatever it is, this sucks...

To Ouray! January 9th Kim and I are headed down to Ouray, Colorado to climb some crazy ice, fend off the climbing snobs, and maybe meet Will Gadd (Kim's hero). We are both participating in three climbing clinics each. Three different clinics each, which is our ploy to beat the system and really get six clinics for the price of three, by sharing what we learned with each other. I'll be learning "Advanced Ice", "Fundamental Footwork" (much needed), and kicking it bad ass style at a "Mixed Climbing for Women" clinic.

Mixed climbing is climbing a combination of rock and ice with your ice tools. Last year at the Canmore Ice Festival in Alberta I met Ines Papert, the best woman ice climber in the world (if not the best ice climber in the world), and watched as she danced up a mixed climb and made it look so easy. I have been itching to try mixed climbing ever since, but we don't have many opportunities for mixed in Alaska that I know of.

So off to Ouray in January and then I will head back over to Pennsylvania for a late Christmas and some East Coast skiing in the Poconos.

photo courtesy of

Monday, November 26, 2007

Team in Training Update

Quick Team in Training update...I have finished week 3 of the season and things are going well. As you can see on the right I have already raised $540, which is 12% of my goal! Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far! I still have 5 months left and may have to get creative to reach my final goal.

Yesterday we had our third practice and we ran for 70 minutes, with a few short pickups in the middle. Unfortunately all of the team practices have been inside at the Subway Track. Running on a track is tedious, especially when two miles is 11 1/2 laps, but the workouts go pretty fast. There are usually little kids (like age 3-5) playing hockey on the rinks down below, so that is always entertaining. Yesterday we ran close to 8 miles, so the goal of 13 seems super easy right now. What I need to work on is the 13 miles in 1:45.

On Thanksgiving day I ran the Turkey Trot. Back in September I set a goal to run this 5K in 22 minutes, which I am realizing now was ridiculous. The results are not yet posted but I think I finished a little over 26 minutes. This is a good time for me, but way off from 22. I have to take into account that half of the course was like an ice rink and I forgot to put the spikes on the bottom of my sneakers, but I don't think they would have gained me 4 minutes. I'm not too worried about it because I still have 5 months to get faster, which in the world of running is a long time.

I'm taking a rest day today, because I have some ankle pain. I may have over done it this weekend with skijoring, a bike race, and running, but I felt good. Tonight the hot tub calls!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gaining on the pack

So I very quickly took my position as sweep last night in the 4th Frigid Bits ride of the season. It was a balmy 35 degrees as we took off at the start. I believe I was in first place for a brief moment of glory (about 3 seconds) and then just as quickly the riders and their lights vanished off into the darkness.

There I was again in last place, ready for a peaceful ride under a full moon on crusty snow and ice in Far North Bicentennial Park. The course was not really marked and it took us along some trails that I have never been on. Manny was leading a fun ride for people who didn't know where they were going, but I decided to race and just figure out the course for myself. Luckily Brian had ridden it earlier that day and gave me some detailed directions.

Most of the rides start out the same. Around Goose Lake, through the UAA parking lot, along Bragaw, over the Tudor Bridge and onto the Tour of Anchorage Trail. I got into my usual pace as I thought about how it was a bad idea to not wear a bra on a fully rigid bike. As I was contemplating this, I saw a blinking red light off in the distance. I realized that the pack was not that far ahead of me and some sort of competitive neuron was fired in my brain as I started to vigorously pedal faster and faster. I thought I would take it easy as usual, because I knew I had running practice the next morning, but something took over me when I realized that maybe I didn't have to come in last all the time.

Through the narrow twisting Moose Track trail, to the Lore Road Trail, up the ViewPoint, left on the Homestead trail.. I kept pedaling hard. I was searching for the Speedway Singletrack when a moose stepped in front of me on the trail and would not budge. And because I am not about messing with moose when I am by myself in the dark, I turned around to make my own route. Eventually I got back on course as I found myself rolling up and down on the gloomy and dark Moose Meadow trail. Still jamming I hit Rover's run, a super fun trail that is littered with roots and a gradual down grade. I found my way to the creek trail to finally meet back up with the Tour of Anchorage.

I felt really good and was amazed at how fast I could actually go. I'm not sure what my time was because everyone was half in the bag by the time I got back to the burn barrel and I'm pretty sure Carlos just made up a time for me. I never did catch that blinking red light, but it was enough for me to know that it was not that far ahead and maybe someday soon I will catch it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

We're learning

Since the snow has all melted in town and there is no ice to speak of anywhere, Kim and I took Niko up to Hatcher's pass again. We met Kim's friend and his three dogs at the start of Archangel road with the hopes that his dogs could help Niko out with his skijoring. This trip proved to be more eventful than our first attempt.

After getting all four dogs untangled at the trailhead, we started out on the trail. It's mostly uphill on the way out so the dogs got tired out pulling us up. We skied out about 2-3 miles and then turned around to ski back down the hill. Niko did well at first but I was a little nervous about going down hill because he really doesn't yet understand the command for stop, "Whoa!" and frankly I don't really know how to stop on cross country skis. I usually just glide to a stop, or fall over.

We started picking up speed and naturally I was saying, "Easy, easy.." to Niko and trying to snow plow to slow him down. Every time I talked he sped up. So eventually we are flying down this hill and I am yelling, "Whoa! Whoa Niko!" to no avail. So I fell over. And Niko got yanked back and came running over to me to cuddle up to me.

Okay, so I think, let's try again. Once again we get going too fast and I yell, "Whoa!" as I'm falling to the ground and Niko gets pulled back violently. This happened about two more times until I finally gave up on the downhill and let Niko off the leash. When I got back to a flat area, I hooked him up again.

Now he's been conditioned to stop abruptly when he thinks I am going to fall. He does not understand that the command, "Whoa!" means stop. He thinks that if I say ANYTHING that means that I'm going to fall and he needs to stop. So we get going pretty fast and I say, "Good boy!" and Niko halts to a stop and sits down on the tracks. Naturally I ski right into him, he yelps and runs behind me, around the back and then continues forward, clotheslining my legs with the leash. So now this is his new routine. Just as this happened one time, a couple happened to be skiing in the opposite direction and witnessed the whole sequence of events. I looked up and they were staring at me as if to say, "Why don't you get control of your dog?" I thought, that's rude, but just smiled at them and said, "We're learning."

Monday, November 19, 2007

A first attempt at Skijoring

Since I am having a rest day from running, and Niko needs a ton of exercise, I decided to prematurely take him out for a skijor on the Chester Creek Trail. The reason I say prematurely is because he has not even remotely learned any of the commands, most importantly, "Whoa" which means stop. But it's been snowing so much that it seemed like the thing to do.

I wish I had a funny story about how it was a total disaster like usual but this time it actually worked out. Considering Niko's latest behavior problems, which include barking viscously at every dog he sees (only when he's on the leash), and running out into the street to say, "hi" to a homeless guy and then chasing him down, I was totally expecting the worst.

The first time I said, "Hike", he turned his head and gave me a, "Why do you think I can understand these words?" look. But he quickly caught on, and by the end would immediately start moving forward on command. Aside from getting tangled up in the long leash a few times he did really well. It's amazing that what they say about giving a dog a job to do is actually true. Niko was mostly focused on the fact that he had to pull me and could not be bothered even by a poodle that was barking within ten feet of him. I've got to think of more jobs for him to do.

And I actually got to take some pictures while he was pulling me. Nice job, Niiks.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hatcher's Pass

After my second Team in Training Practice today I felt really good. We ran for an hour and I felt like I could keep going for 3 more. More exercise was needed. It was such a nice day I had to get out. Kim picked me up at 12:30 and we decided to take our ice climbing packs and our cross country skis and just drive figuring out what we would do along the way. Since we got a late start and were most likely not going to find any ice (sad, but true), we decided that we would head up to Hatcher's pass for a ski.

I think the pictures can speak for themselves, but Hatcher's Pass is one of the more beautiful places that you can get to in an hour from Anchorage. In the summer and the winter. But of course, I love winter and just cannot get enough of these snow landscapes. This is one of the many reasons that I love Alaska so much. I have witnessed this scene hundreds of times and I never tire of it.

Did I mention that winter is here? We finished off the day with some Irish Coffee and cheese fondue at lodge. Life is good.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sponser Me! - Two big challenges

So last week I joined Team in Training. I committed to run the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon in May, and raise $4500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I have to admit, I am a little bit nervous about the fundraising. Last time I entered a Team in Training race, I had to raise $2200. I didn't really have a problem. I guess I am just freaking out a bit. That's the first challenge.

I will also be using this race as my Crow Pass Crossing qualifying race, which means I need to run it sub 1:45. That is the second challenge. If you've read any of my previous posts about running, you know that I'm pretty slow when it comes to endurance races. But I figured out that is because I really haven't pushed myself to run faster. Until now. I've been running a lot lately, doing speed work and tempo runs, hill runs, etc.

Last Saturday was our first team practice. We ran for an hour and I held about a 9:30 minute pace, which is fine for the long run. From what I have read the long run, should be run at about 1 to 1:30 minutes slower than my goal pace (8:00). That is because the long run is used to build endurance, not speed.

Alright, enough about paces. I'm running the race in memory of my dad, who died of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in 1998, when I was 22. But the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has raised so much money for research in the past 10 years that many people with leukemia and other blood cancers are now living in remission. Another sad fact is that Leukemia is genetic and it's very possible that I or someone else in my family might contract the disease in the future. I'd like to do what I can to help find a cure.

So I'm asking anyone who is reading this to help me reach my first goal. You can sponsor me by going to my Team in Training Website. Any amount is greatly appreciated! Thank you! I put a link to the site on the right side of my blog as well, if you'd like to come back and make a donation in the future. I'll keep everyone posted on my progress in fundraising and running!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Official Sweep

Someone's gotta come in last right? I've realized that my position as sweep for the Frigid Bits races has become official. I take my job as sweep very seriously. Don't want to leave anyone out on the trails right?

To be honest, I really don't have a chance. While I love to ride and am in good shape, I'm riding against men and an occasional woman who ride almost every day. Commuting to work has help me move up close behind the pack, but I am still just that.. behind the pack. At the start of this race I very quickly was behind. There was a pack of about 12 people, and then there was me about 50 yards behind. By the time we were a quarter mile into the race, I was alone. I passed a man and woman walking their dog on the trail and they said, laughing, "Are you the chase pack?" Ha. Ha.

And that's okay. I love to just get out and ride, and I am quickly discovering riding in the winter is pretty amazing. But two other things are holding me back from being a cycling enthusiast. Running. Ice climbing. Oh yeah... and I have a job too. This is what I'm focusing on right now. And I will be for most of the winter. I plan on biking and skiing to cross train and to exercise my dog, but as far as winning any races anytime soon, it's not gonna happen. And it's kinda nice being out there all by yourself in the snow at night.

This race was called "Find Uranus". For those of you who don't live in Anchorage, I'll explain. The Coastal Trail, obviously runs along the "coast" of Anchorage. Along the trail there is some sort of planet walk going on. Anyway, information about all of the planets are spaced out along the miles of the trail. So we started the race at Goose Lake, rode to the Coastal trail, found Uranus and back to Goose Lake. About 14 miles.

The trail had been dusted with snow and was slushy in places. The ride back was around 8pm so the snow had crusted up a bit. I thought I would cruise back on the Chester Creek Trail, but it is a slight uphill the whole way and the new crust was slowing me down. I had run for an hour in the morning and only ate one meal. Needless to say I bonked. It was only 14 miles, I ride that commuting to work, but all of these other factors contributed to me not feeling well at the end. And so I rode into the finish line, brining up the rear, to the other racers already on their second or third beer and surprised to see that someone was still out there.

This scene is becoming all too familiar to me...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Battle with the Chugach wind

You would have never known it if you spent the day in Anchorage on Sunday, but the wind coming over the front range of the Chugach was 50 to 60 mph. Unsuspecting Kim and I decided to do a hike to Near Point. On a normal day, it's a pretty easy hike. About 8 miles total distance, and only 2000 feet of elevation gain. It sounded like the perfect leisurely hike. The kind that we needed after Kim's dinner party extended into the wee hours Saturday night, as we drank away the extra hour and drowned our sorrows at the thought that the next day the sun would set at 5pm.

The wind started to pick up midway through the hike, but it was tolerable. It was slowly getting more intense, but when weather comes on slowly and you are nearing your destination you don't really notice it. We got to about 500 feet below the summit and saw some people running down who yelled to us, "Be careful. It gets really windy up there." But we kept going. How bad could it be?

Kim was behind me as we were climbing the final ridge to the summit. The wind really picked up. And then it picked up more. The wind was pounding at my side, my gortex jacket flapping in the wind, and the snow was whipping through the air and stinging my face. I could lean into the wind at a 60 degree angle with the ground and still stay standing. Niko huddled up close to me and I grabbed his collar as we tried to push our way up the final 200 feet. I kept falling to the ground. The wind was so strong it was knocking us over.

Why did I keep going? Did I really need to summit Near Point this day? The wind became a challenge and I was pushing against it. About 50 feet below the summit, I looked back at Kim and saw that she was struggling. As I was facing down hill, a strong gust came through and knocked Kim down to the ground. Niko and I ran down to Kim and we all huddled together. The snow was swirling and twisting around us as we were being pushed to the ground, when we realized we could not get up and walk. The three of us sat their paralyzed trying to figure out what to do.

Since we couldn't stand up, we actually considered rolling down the side of the mountain to get to a place out of the wind. Picturing this in my head now makes me laugh. Kim, my dog and I barrel rolling down the side of Near Point. We tried to move but we couldn't. The wind was literally holding us down on the ground. I looked at Kim and for a moment I saw the look of panic in her eyes. I'm sure I had a similar look. Here we were, just outside of town, on a day hike, but in sort of a dangerous situation. How did we get here? Why didn't we just turn around when the wind picked up? Did the cold and wind really have the power to sway our judgement? Even when the wind got really bad, we kept pushing on with our minds on the summit.

Finally the wind died down a bit and we knew we had to make a run for it. We started running down the side of the mountain getting tossed by the wind. While I was waiting for Kim I tried to take my backpack off, but had lost the ability to use my fingers. I didn't feel cold at all, but my body was definitely affected by the wind.

We never did reach Near Point. It's amazing that just a few miles out of town on foot, and you can be at the mercy of the Alaskan wilderness. But our decision on just this short day hike makes me think about all of the accidents that happen in the mountains of Alaska. When you have your mind set on a destination, you will push through anything to get to it. Your ego steps in and you think if you turn around it makes you a weak person. Or you think you've come this far, you might as well bear the weather and finish it. But being able to make that decision to turn around is probably the most important survival skill you can obtain. Where is that fine line between pushing yourself to finish and knowing when to turn back?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Running in the snow

So I've decided if winter refuses to come to us in Anchorage, we'll just have to start going out to find it. Niko and I headed up into the foothills of Anchorage yesterday to run in the snow. The intent was to try and climb Near Point, but we ended up getting lost in the network of trails that leave from the Prospect Heights trailhead. I never had so much fun getting lost.

We made the drive up to Prospect Heights Saturday morning. As we neared the trailhead, their was a light dusting of snow on the roads, that eventually turned into two inches, then six. Niko saw the snow from the front seat of my car and could not contain himself. I had a similar reaction. I think I have myself a little sled dog here.

When we started out on the trail I had forgotten how difficult it can be to run in the snow. At first it feels like an immense effort to even propel yourself forward. Your feet slip and your legs use up a ton of energy for balance. Your body is trying to warm up, so you are burning twice as many calories as normal and your muscles are working hard. I was huffing and puffing within the first mile. Niko was running full speed back and forth on the trail.

I pushed myself to get through the first couple of miles, eventually getting into the zone. Then I remembered how I love to run in the snow. When it snows and I go outside, even to just get into my car, I run. When I come out of the grocery store and it is snowing, I run to the car. I think it is something that is ingrained into me from childhood. Like when we had a big snowstorm back in Pennsylvania and all I wanted to do was go outside and run and play in it, but I always had to wait for something. Wait until mom put my coat on, then my gloves... "Now can I go?"... "No, don't forget your hat." ... "Now?" So when she would finally unleash me out into the snow covered lawn, all I could do was run.

Niko is the same way. I keep him on the leash until we get away from the cars in the parking lot. He is whimpering and jumping up and down and looking up at me as if to say, "Now? Now, can I go?" When I finally let him off the leash he takes off down the trail and he is at his happiest. I get it Niko, I totally get it.