Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The secret to running well

Photo from

I thought I'd try out my new foot for real last night and enter the Tuesday Night Race. The ones that are at Kincaid are all pretty much suffer fests with hill after steep hill. Amazingly I ran the farm league division (5K) and felt great.

I'd even go as far as to say I felt better last night and ran faster than I did at any of the Tuesday night races last fall, and last year I had been training to run long distances on trails.

The secret is to run sporadically for a year, about once a month. Then take off from all exercise in the month leading up to your race. You'll get faster and be more fit than ever before.

I should write for Runner's World Magazine.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wrapping up hiking week

Saturday morning we woke up to pouring rain and after breakfast I plopped myself down on the couch with a list of indoor things I wanted to get done. The main thing I wanted to do was to go through all of my photos and pick out ones to frame and hang in our house. What's the point of taking all of these beautiful pictures of Alaska if we never look at them?

But Jill and Ben called around noon and asked me to climb the Dome with them. Since I ran out of time on Wednesday when I was up there and didn't get to the top, they talked me into it, even though it was raining pretty hard.

This is Jill and Ben. They are fast and fun hikers.

As soon as we started hiking it cleared up magically.

We were surprised at how low the snowline was already. The sun felt hot though so it almost seemed like spring when all of the snow melts.

Niko was happy to be in the snow again.

At the top it was winter. It was cold and windy. We put on our hats and gloves and didn't stay long.

But long enough to snap some photos of the fabulous light that was seeping through the clouds.

The contrast between the yellow trees and the stark white snow was amazing.

We ran down, because Jill had to be back in town by 5pm. It felt good to run in the mountains again.

Sunday was a day of rest. It was the first time I felt really sore in about a month. That's my gauge for whether I'm doing enough. If I'm not feeling sore I feel guilty.

Moab is only 5 days away! After reading through some of the ride descriptions that are being proposed by Tim and Brian, I have to admit I'm a little nervous about riding in Moab. Phrases like "advanced technical downhill", "five foot drop offs", "skirting cliff edges" and "crash, crash, rocks, crash, hurt!, pain! crash! blood!" have been running through my head at night when I sleep.

Brian reassured me that most of the rides they have planned are not super technical, but I suppose I would like to try some of the really hard stuff, because that's what riding in Moab is supposed to be about, right? And it will make the most technical trail in Alaska (not many of these) feel really easy when we get back. So I got that going for me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall is disappearing

I've been meaning to post about fall, but haven't had time. And now it seems fall is leaving us already. Tuesday we woke up to a pretty thick blanket of new snow in the Chugach front range. It even came down as far as Flattop. We usually have to wait a few weeks for it to come down that far. Hopefully this is a sign of what's to come this winter.

I declared this week hiking week, for no better reason than the fact that I can hike now, and that on Saturday while hiking up Near Point I couldn't breath. I've been hiking with Niko every day after work and taking pictures of the fall foliage. I even got to sneak in a little shuffle run to test out how the toe feels. It feels fine.

I've been doing relatively mellow hikes this week, but wanted to get in some elevation gain, because hiking on flat ground really doesn't get my heart rate up. I didn't get to go all the way to the top of all of these hikes because we are running out of daylight! The sun is setting around 8pm now.

Monday, Near Point...

Tuesday, Flattop...

Wednesday, The Dome...

Niko looks like a scary smiling wolf dog in this picture...

Thursday, I took a brief break to go see the Lion King on stage. It was excellent by the way. I recommend you go see it before they leave town.

Friday, TBD...

I'm already starting to feel like I'm getting back in shape and even woke up feeling sore this morning, which was exciting after feeling kind of mushy for the past month.

Next week I plan on getting my bike legs spinning again. I went back to the doctor today and he said that I can pretty much do anything I want now, but to use my own judgment. If something feels like it's pulling too much on my tendon, maybe back off a little. But at least I can get back on a bike.

It's now one week before I leave for Moab so I don't expect to gain any fitness back before then, but maybe I can comfortable again on a bike, because I have literally ridden my bike ONE TIME since the Soggy Bottom, which was on August 1st. Moab, please be nice to me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swimming Update

I'm not that bad at swimming. I figured out if I practice a little bit, I may actually be able to do this AND Enjoy it! I have been swimming three days a week at the YMCA in the...get this... in the morning! Yes that's right I am getting up at 6:45 (early for me) and going to the pool to swim for 45 minutes.

Well, I'm not actually swimming the whole time. A lot of that time is spent resting on the side, or doing some floating drills on my back, but I'm enjoying my time in the pool.

This whole triathlon thing is looking like it may become a reality. I already participate in the other two sports regularly, so if I can figure out how to swim 500 yards in a row, I won't have any excuses left.

And let's face it, people have been telling me I have a swimmers body for years (big Perilla shoulders, not exactly a compliment if you don't actually swim). So it's time I put these Perilla shoulders to work. Time for them to stop hanging around taking up space in my sweaters.

Right now I can only do about two lengths at a time before I feel like I'm going to drown, but that's an improvement on what I started with two weeks ago. My friend Laura who has been swimming her whole life has given me an assignment. I should be able to swim two lengths (50 yards) in 1 minute and then rest for only 10 seconds before doing it again.

That's what I'm working towards right now. Oh and flip turns. I used to be able to do some form of flip turn, but never really knew if I was doing it right. I've actually been afraid to try it lately for fear of catching my little toe on the side or banging my foot and screaming and looking like a fool.

The toe is healing nicely. It's been five weeks since surgery and the doctor said at this point the chance of rupturing it again is pretty much zero. Which means this weekend I'm getting back on the bike in order to get comfortable again, because guess what? I'm leaving for Moab in a little over a week!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I suck at swimming

Despite growing up with two sets of grandparents that each had a pool (one above ground, one in ground) that both lived within a mile of my house, and despite the fact that I swam every day of every summer up through high school, I am not a great swimmer.

I mean I can swim. I can swim under water the length of a long pool. I can tread water forever. I play a mean game of Marco Polo. I know how to make a whirlpool. I can find pennies and/or golf balls at the bottom of any pool without looking when my brother throws them in. I know how to fill a wiffle ball bat up with water and shoot it across the bottom of the pool. I can catch a big ball while sliding off of the end of sliding board at top speed. Don't even get me started on my back dive. Ask me to choreograph a synchronized swimming/dance routine in the pool with my cousins Sara and Tara and I'm there.

But as far as swimming laps of freestyle stroke back and forth in an adult pool, I suck. I sink. I feel like I can't breath. I want to wear a snorkle, some floaties, and one of those dorky nose clips. I am out of breath after one length of the pool.

But since swimming is the only way for me to get some decent cardio in right now, and since I've been talked into doing a triathlon next spring, and since I don't think it would be acceptable to show up at the adult lap swim, do a pencil dive into the deep end and ask the lady that I'm sharing a lane with if she wants to do "Butt Bumpers" with me, I have to learn how to really swim like an adult. Ugh.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A weekend away, finally

This weekend we finally got away again after staying in Anchorage for a month. Anchorage is nice, and necessary for Brian and I to be able to live and work in Alaska, but it's not the reason we came here. I have a hard time staying in one place without getting bored, so we try not to spend too many weekends in town.

Brian rode the Lost Lake bike race/ride on Saturday that was new this year in the Alaska Endurance Series. The race went across the Lost Lake Trail from Primrose to Seward, along the road, and then picked up some new trail that they are calling the Iditarod trail. I'm not sure how a new trail can be a part of the Iditarod trail, but maybe it's where the start of the Iditarod trail was a long time ago.

Anyway, Laura and I decided to go down and camp too, take pictures of the racers and try to hike up part of the Lost Lake trail. It was rainy, we were low energy, and I didn't want to push it too much on my foot, but we did get about 3 miles up the trail, making it a 6 mile hike. That's the longest I've walked since before my surgery and it felt fine.

Because of my slow pace and the relative short length of the hike, I still didn't really feel like I got much exercise though. Only a few more weeks before I can get back to my regular routine and hopefully feel normal again. I'm hoping to be able to get up a few more peaks this fall before the snow starts flying in the mountains. That could happen any day now though.

The guys came in one by one, soaked and covered in mud from head to toe. It was a typical September weekend in Alaska, steady rain the whole time and cold. We even busted out the puffy jackets for the first time this season.

After everyone finished the race we made a fire and cooked out on the beach on Kenai Lake.

I love this picture because it captures what so many of our weekends here in Alaska are all about. A bunch of muddy, sweaty, tired people gathered round a fire with well earned beer in hand. It doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lovely Labor Day

I got out for another easy hike with Niko today and my friend Laura's dog who I've been watching over the weekend. I think I hiked three miles again, very slowly. The foot feels really good and I'm actually able to lift the toe a little bit. Check out all of this September sunshine we are having. My boot got a bit muddy, but I think I like it better this way.

Since I can only hike for about an hour, I have to fill my time with other activities. Before moving to Alaska I have always been into decorating whatever space I am living in as soon as I move in. I love a lot of bright colors and photos on the walls. But since we moved here there have been too many things going on outside our home that I haven't had time to decorate much at all.

Our house has become just a place where we store our gear, eat and sleep. There is always something better to do or something more fun to spend my money on. Besides, unless you plan on living here forever or have loads of expendable income, furnishing your house with expensive things in Alaska is just dumb. Eventually you are going to move and have to sell or give everything away.

But I have become painfully aware of the state of our home since I've been spending more time here over the past two weeks. I did manage to paint our bedroom and bathroom last fall, and Brian had the bathroom tiled and has been working on a few projects of his own, but the rest of the house is a series of unfinished projects and bare walls with colors that I don't like.

I have a dream of painting every room with different colors and framing all of my favorite photos for the walls. This weekend I managed to work on some projects that have been on my list for awhile. I even ordered some paint samples for a few rooms in the house.

Our backyard was an absolute mess. Brian started clearing out the weeds Saturday and I came in and finished and chopped up the hard soil, leveled it and put in a border where I plan on planting a perennial garden next year. In the rest of the yard we are going to plant grass with a path of stones that lead to the gate. I want to be able to come home from work, go out on the back deck with a beer and relax, instead of stressing out about the fact that it looks like we live in the ghetto.

I also got some silver spray paint and painted these two lamps that I loved, except for the fact that they were gold. They came from Brian's grandmother's house and I love the idea of keeping old stuff, but making it look new.

The last thing I did was go to value village and look for some cheap furniture that I could refurbish. I didn't find much, except this TV stand for 15 dollars that I painted brown. It will replace the old computer stand that we have the TV in our room teetering on.

I'm still looking for bookshelves to house the pile of about 100 books, some read, some half read, some new that are laying in piles on my side of the bed.

I'd like to try to find some time to work these projects into my routine even after my foot heals. So that I can slowly make our house a place that I love to come home to. By the time this is all done, though, we'll probably be moving again.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back to the Mountains

Thursday it was two weeks since I had been in the mountains, and two weeks since I had done any rigorous exercise. It would be an understatement to say that I have been feeling a little crazy at times.

The relaxing and getting stuff done around the house has been great, but I always do best when I have balance in my life. If I do too much of one thing, I start to feel, well, icky. I guess that's the only way I can describe it. Maybe irritable is a better word.

Saturday Brian was doing the Up and Over Challenge. The mountain bike race that starts at South Bivoac in FNBP and goes up to the Powerline Trail, back to the end of the valley, up and over the pass, and then down the steep backside to Indian.

I volunteered to shuttle him because I just needed to get out and my toe was feeling good enough to do a significant walk on it. I watched the start of the race at the trailhead and then drove up to Glen Alps to do an easy hike with Niko. The Powerline Trail is like a big wide road for the first few miles from Glen Alps so I figured it wouldn't put too much stress on my foot.

Niko and I hiked slowly down the trail while taking pictures of the racers coming by. It was so great to be back out in the mountains, even though I couldn't climb any of them. On Tuesday I stopped wearing the big black boot and started wearing this lovely surgical shoe. Despite its appearance it does allow me to move around a lot better. Walking is actually pretty easy right now.

I walked for about a mile and a half before I turned around. The end of the valley drew me in and I had the urge to take off running up to the pass. But I couldn't. Well that's not true. I probably could run just fine right now with very little pain, but I have to choose not to so that my tendon can heal properly. I thought three miles of walking was a good distance for now.

But summer is still going on here in Anchorage, so I'm hoping in a few weeks when I'm really able to hike, that it's still sunny. Actually I don't really care what the weather is like, I just can't wait to get back out into the mountains for some hiking before the snow comes.