Friday, August 27, 2010

Morning Run

I run in the mornings before work with Strelka two to three times a week; typically Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I usually run a four mile loop near my house. Mentally, it's a great way to start the day and it's physically good for both me and Strelka. I get up at 6:00 am, while Jesper is still sleeping, and am out the door at about 6:10. I take Strelka sans leash, since she knows the route well. We slip out the back gate and run 0.15 miles on pavement to the trail head to the City of Boulder Open Space near my house. From then on, it is all dirt.

As fall approaches, the mornings are getting cooler and the sunsets more beautiful. In the heat of summer, the sun is already way up by the time I head out. But now, it I start out in the coolness of dawn.

Heading east toward Gunbarrel Hill - you can barely see Strelka in the shadows

As we run up toward Gunbarrel Hill, Strelka sniffs everything and usually poops along this stretch. Then we head into a more open area with no houses nearby, just wide open rolling plains and scat evidence of coyotes and bears. While I've never seen the owner of the bear scat, we often encounter one or two coyotes in the morning as well as deer. But not today; only bunnies, prairie dogs and lots of birds.

Strelka posing as we get into the wide open prairie

As the sun comes up, the air gets warm fast. We are on our way to a 95 degree day and I am happy to be getting my run in before we reach that high. We run north up the series of rolling hills, the top of each presenting a view of the Front Range mountains to the west.

Strelka posing on the top of a roller with the mountains in the background

Then we get to the BIG hill up to the water tower. I prefer to do my running loop in this direction primarily because I like to run UP this sucker, sometimes doing hill repeats.

Chasing my shadow up the BIG hill

Strelka "dogging it" up the BIG hill

Since I do the same run every week, I meet up with many of the same neighbors out walking and running with their dogs. We are all on a schedule to get to work, so we end up passing each other in almost exactly the same place every day. There is always time to play when we meet up with other doggy friends of Strelka's.

Strelka and Sadie, her Cattle Dog friend, chasing each other in the prairie grass

Sometimes we see "the BIG Dogs" out on the trails. Strelka is not sure what to think about these critters, but I hold onto her collar tight just in case she thinks about running up to them.

Proof we live out West!

Strelka and I finish up the run with a drop off of her pooh in the bear-proof trashcans at a the main trail head. We continue down the trail and then onto the pavement and in through the back gate, arriving back at home a few minutes past 7:00 am. I wish I'd have taken a picture of the smile on Strelka's face when we finished!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The mosquito bites still itch, but I don't taste the DEET anymore when I lick my lips. It's hard to believe that just a few days ago, I was on a ridge overlooking Denali (aka Mt. McKinley), worried about a large black bear that seemed to think we were camped out on his berry patch.

I just returned from vacation in in Alaska with Jesper and his Dad, Ole. It was amazing.

Jesper and I have wanted to do an epic, active, outdoorsy trip with his Dad for several years. At 65, Ole is in great shape and he loves to hike and play in some pretty rugged terrain, so we were free to plan a physically rigorous trip. We selected Alaska because Ole, who has been almost everywhere on the planet, had not been there yet and Jesper and I had it on our "list" as well. We have been talking about a trip together for years and began making firm plans as early as late 2009, researching where exactly to go, then booking flights and reserving gear.

No - we did not go on a cruise. Our trip had two very active and outdoorsy phases:

1. Sea kayaking (and overnight camping) in Prince William Sound among the glaciers
2. Backpacking (and overnight camping) in Denali Sate Park just outside of Denali National Park, with views of Denali (Mt. McKinley) and the Alaska Range

Both Jesper and I (and his Dad) have done a lot of backpacking. We all felt pretty confident about what to bring and what to expect on that phase of the trip. None of us had done an overnight sea kayaking trip, especially one of several days in what could be an inhospitable and remote area. Well, I have done several overnight paddling expeditions, but in the context of adventure racing, where the objective is to go fast and not carry much. For our vacation, we were much more interested in traveling in comfort, relatively speaking. Some of our planning worked out very well; some of it not so well. Suffice it to say, we learned a lot for our next sea kayaking trip.

Jesper's parents flew to Colorado from Denmark a few days before Jesper, Ole and I needed to fly to Alaska. We spent the time introducing Vibeke, Jesper's Mom, to Strleka, our Rhodesian Ridgeback. Vibeke, who has no interest in tromping around for days with a pack on her back or paddling a kayak filled with gear, would be staying at our house watching Strelka while we were off in the wilds. We cannot thank her enough for taking such good care of our puppy and our home.

Early in the morning on Saturday, July 24th, we gave Vibeke and Strelka hugs and kisses and headed off to the airport with an enormous pile of gear. The luggage fees were going to add up on this trip. We flew directly to Anchorage and arrived to cloudy weather, just ready to spit rain. Apparently, the weather this summer in Alaska had been inordinately rainy; maybe we should have planned our trip on a Non-El Nino year.

We spent Saturday in the booming metropolis of Anchorage, enjoying fresh seafood and one of our rare nights in a hotel this trip. We awoke very early Sunday morning to make the drive to the small fishing village of Whittier on Prince William Sound. There we met up with Perry from the Prince William Kayak Center, where we rented kayaks and other essential gear we did not bring with us. A steady drizzle had begun and Perry concurred that it had been a very rainy summer. In addition to boats, paddles and PFDs, Perry and his staff provided us with additional dry bags and a big black tarp to use to help stay dry and to ward off the mosquitoes; apparently the bugs are attracted to to the tarp and not your body. Perry also outfitted us with Helly Hansen waterproof fisherman's bibs (yes - just like the kind the seafood counter guys at Whole Foods wear) and rubber boots. These items were life savers!

Finally, we had everything and we headed down to the marina to meet up with Capt. Gerry Sanger of Sound Eco Adventures. We had booked Capt. Gerry well in advance for a combination glacier/whale watching tour and water taxi out into Prince William Sound, from where we would take 3 days to paddle back to Whittier. Unfortunately, the conditions were worsening and Capt. Gerry made the call to cancel the tour part of the excursion. He was able to taxi us and our boats/gear out to a beach close to our originally selected drop off location, where he unloaded us on a rocky beach. We were bummed not to go on the tour, as it would have been a great opportunity to see some areas we would not be able to paddle to. However, we understood the priority of safety first and appreciate that he taxied us out in such bad weather.

Unloading the kayaks on a lonely stretch of beach

So, there we were on a cold, rainy beach in a remote area of Alaska, miles from civilization. We were a bit stymied as to what to do, since we were at our drop off location hours before we had intended to get there. We scoped out what looked like a decent place to set up camp and decided to stay put until the next day, hoping the weather would improve. It did not. In fact, it continuously rained hard and harder, a cold 45-ish degree rain.

We set up tents and the big tarp and then gathered 'fire wood'. Everything was saturated from the weeks of unending precipitation. I had brought along a jacket I thought was waterproof; however, it was clearly only water resistant and that was not enough for the kind of rain we were experiencing. And I had an insulating layer made of down, which was useless once wet. Big mistake; cold water soaked into the layers beneath my jacket. Wet to the skin, despite my waterproof pants, I sat under the tarp while Jesper valiantly attempted to start a fire. Jesper is very good at starting camp fires, but the sopping wet wood and the continued torrential rain proved his downfall. I would have given anything for a roaring fire....

Our first kayaking campsite during a brief lull in the torrential rain

We decided to get dinner going under another tarp located away from our sleeping area (for bear protection). We dined on our only fresh meal of the trip; steaks that had been frozen and thawing all day, sautéed veggies and instant mashed potatoes. As all meals are when you are out in the elements, it was quite tasty.

After dinner, we crawled into what we thought would be a warm dry tent. Unfortunately, the saturated ground beneath the water proof floor of our tent (under which was a brand new tarp we had purchased from REI in Anchorage that had holes in it) was soaking up through the floor. The result was that our sleeping pads, then our sleeping bags and finally our dry clothes gradually became wetter and wetter. Note to self - do not bring down sleeping bags (all we have), or down ANYTHING on a trip to Alaska ever again. It was not a warm night, but Jesper and I zipped our bags together and managed to get some sleep.

We could hear the rain on the tent wall all night and we woke up to what had to be even worse weather than the previous day. It was raining harder, it was colder and we could hardly see anything around us; we were that socked in.

To say I was cold is such a complete understatement; it's hard to describe the intense feeling of being wet and cold to the core for hours on end, teetering on the edge (over the edge) of hypothermia. I am no wussy, but if the weather didn't improve and allow me to get some of my clothes dry, I was considering paddling straight back to Whittier. In the end, my desire not to ruin our long-planned vacation lead me to agree to paddle away from Whittier, down into Blackstone Bay. We figured the paddling might get me warm. I was hoping we would not need to use the 911 function on the SPOT as a result of our decision to go further away from the warmth of civilization.

We dismantled the tents, loaded up all our gear into the kayaks and took off paddling in a windy downpour. We were not yet into the protective waters of Blackstone Bay, so the water was rough with choppy waves and wind. Visibility was not good. Nevertheless, the padding generated body heat and I was almost warm for the first time in more than 24 hours. Harbor seals, undeterred by the weather, came close to the boats to check us out. We paddled to the location we had originally scoped out in our planning sessions for the second night and found a good spot for the tents on drier ground than the first night's campsite.

I cooked a curry dinner that I had pre-packed back in Colorado. This meal, and all the others, was one of the successes of the trip. Instant rice, dehydrated veggies, dried coconut and curry powder and prepackaged chicken. I went to bed in a damp down sleeping back with damp clothes on, hoping my body heat would dry things out. Ha! I was cold, and progressively colder. Jesper and I had our sleeping bags apart (more comfortable to move around), so I didn't have his body heat to steal. I began shivering uncontrollably. I was so cold, I could barely think straight. I finally woke Jesper up, whimpering about how cold I was. My honey took charge! He commanded me to get out of my damp clothes. He zipped our bags together. Then he laid on top of me - a human blanket - until I was warm enough for him to spoon. I was too cold for this to be sexy...

The next day was not raining! I could not believe it! I wouldn't call it sunny, but it was not raining and we had good visibility to reveal that we were in an amazingly beautiful place of steep cliffs running straight down to the milky grey-blue glacial water. The air was warm-ish so we hung out clothes to dry and they complied quickly. The previous day, we had hung our clothes under the tarp but they stayed sopping wet from all the humidity in the air. We decided to leave the campsite set up with our drying laundry and paddle down to the end of Blackstone Bay to get up close and personal with the several glaciers that terminate in the bay. It was a beautiful day to kayak; the water was a smooth as glass and it was warm enough that everyone got delightfully overheated. I didn't even where my neoprene paddling gloves!

We could see a large glacier hovering over our campsite; we knew it was there but the visibility had been so bad the day before we could not see it. As we rounded a point of land jutting out into the water, we had a clear view of the glaciers at the end of the bay. Wow Wow Wow!!

Ole and Jesper kayaking past one of the many impressive waterfalls in Blackstone Bay

As we approached the end of Blackstone Bay, we passed scores of impressive waterfalls rushing down steep cliffs into the water. Once we reached the end of the bay, paddling among the icebergs calved off the glaciers was one of the highlights of our entire trip! We saw more harbor seals as well as sea lions; a large group of them lounging on a big iceberg. See otters also checked out our boats. There were so many different kinds of birds, diving into the water to pluck small fish in their beaks. The break in the weather could not have come at a better time.

Jesper paddling among the glaciers of Blackstone Bay

We spent hours exploring this magical place; enjoying the deep blue color of the glaciers, listening to the subtle tinkling sound of the water melting in the icebergs, touching the ice, trying to get close to the marine life. Many photographs were taken!

Glaciers and Icebergs

Finally we decided it was time to head back to camp. We planned to dismantle it and paddle some more to our next location. Good thing for the LONG daylight in Alaska in the summer! We ate a late lunch and, loaded up with all our gear again, paddled back out and across Blackstone Bay. We saw bald eagles, more sea otters and seals and what I think were Dall Porpoises and reached our final kayaking campsite at Decision Point hungry and tired, but still thrilled from the beauty of the day's exploration.

Snack time on the way to Decision Point - starburst and Danish licorice!

The Decision Point campsite was built up with sleeping platforms and elevated walkways over the wet ground of this rain forest area. There was even an outhouse! Ordinarily, I would eschew such man-made amenities on a camping trip, but after the overly wet conditions we had experienced for two days, I was thrilled with the prospect of a guaranteed dry night in my tent! We enjoyed a nice meal of pesto tuna on the beach and went to bed under a very late night twilight.

Outhouse in the mossy woods of Decision Point

Ole filtering water at Decision Point on our last foggy morning paddling

The next morning it was socked in again with clouds and drizzle. We felt lucky to have gotten a break the day before for tour among the glaciers. We dismantled camp and loaded the kayaks back up with our gear. At this point, we were back in the main channel into Whittier and we started to see a fair bit of commercial boat traffic. Around 3:00 pm, we paddled into the harbor we had left 4 days before, met back up again with Perry and unloaded/washed all our gear. Then, with dry clothes on, we sat down for the finest fried fish meal I have ever enjoyed; fresh Rock Fish caught earlier that very day, excellent salty french fries and a quenching Alaska White wheat beer. Simply delicious!

We had originally planned to drive straight to the Denali area and start backpacking into the wilderness that night, but we decided to make a stop in Anchorage, which we had to go through anyway, and stay overnight in a hotel. That way, we could wash and, more importantly, dry our very stinky clothes. We could also stop at REI in Anchorage and get me a jacket that was truly waterproof, as well as another layer of fleece I would save for campsite use only. In hindsight, I don't know what we were thinking when we planned to go straight to the backpacking leg from the kayaking leg.

Thursday morning after breakfast, we got back in the car for the 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage to Denali We were doing a point-to-point trip, so we had to figure out a way to get the car to point B and get us to Point A with our gear. We opted to drop Ole off at Point A, the Little Coal Creek Trailhead, upon which Jesper and I drove down to Point B, the Byers lake Campgound and then hitched a ride back up to Ole. It was Thursday afternoon and we finally began our hike of the Kesugi Ridge in the 325,240 acre Denali State Park, which lies to the southeast of and adjacent to Denali National Park. The hike along Kesugi Ridge provides impressive views of 20,320 foot high Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range.

Not that we could see any of the bigger mountains in the Alaska Range at the time; fog still hung low, obscuring the tops of the tall peaks. But the rain had abated and we were optimistic about getting some views of "The High One". We had originally planned to hike for 5 days (3 full days with two partial days on either end), but made changes to our intended mileage to accommodate the hotel stay prior and a hotel stay the last night. Although this cut out a full day of hiking, we felt confident we could make it up by hiking half days each on Thursday and Sunday and full days on Friday and Saturday.

We hiked up and up onto the ridge until we came to a large bowl area with relatively flat ground and somewhat out of the wind; this would be our first night's campsite. We dined quickly on Mulligatawny, as it was chilly out. I luxuriated in my warm fleecies and my dry tent that night.

The next morning was once again socked in with fog and a slight drizzle. Boo! We were up upon the ridge now and anxious for some views of Denali! As we hiked, it slowly began to clear, finally affording glimpses of more and more of the big mountains to the east. It was glorious!!! We still couldn't see the top of "The High One" yet, but we were hopeful.

Jesper and Ole hiking along the Kesugi Ridge

The hiking was fairly easy up on the ridge. I felt great and must say that running an insane amount of miles every week is excellent training for backpacking! Poor Jesper was suffering already from the bane of his hiking existence - blisters! He was such a trooper, as they would only get worse and worse.

Denali trying to show her face to two weary hikers

The trail rolled up and down along the ridge above the tree line. I LOVE the tundra and find it to be one of the most beautiful of landscapes. Rugged rocks thrown here and there. Teeny tiny miniature flowers. Brilliant green and yellow lichen. All intersected by stream crossings and waterfalls.

Lichen and tundra shrubs

There were also a shit ton of low, scrubby berry shrubs everywhere. This place was one gigantic berry patch! Soon we had our first bear sighting. A very large brown bear was sauntering along to the south of us, parallel to our trail. He was about 125 yards away and didn't seem to notice us. Did I mention he was very large? We were thrilled to see him but happy he didn't get any closer. We saw another bear, this one a black bear a bit further away, later that day.

We hiked about 9 or 10 miles on Friday and stopped when we arrived at a magnificent site for the night. It was high on a prominence overlooking the ever-clearing view of the Alaska Range. It had ample flat areas for placing the tents. It had a babbling stream running nearby for filtering water. The temps had warmed up all day into the comfortable realm and we had stopped early enough to enjoy a relaxing dinner of chicken polenta with wild mushrooms, along with some wine and beer. As we dined and moved onto dessert of biscottii and whiskey, the summit of Mt. McKinley finally showed her face (Jesper and Ole got some nice pics)! It was the perfect backpacking evening!

The next morning was somewhat cloudy again - dang! But we were happy to have had our little window of opportunity the previous day and especially the evening's unveiling of "The High One". We hiked up high for a bit and then finally arrived at a trail intersection with a sign, revealing we had gone a mile or two less than we had thought. We would have a LONG day of hiking on Saturday, since we wanted to be back to the car on Sunday by 3:00 pm.

Finally, after mostly hiking on the ridge, we began to go downhill into a large drainage area. We had entered an overground, boggy, spooky land with spiky Devil's Club plants and slippery steep slopes. It was NOT my favorite place to hike.

Overgrown bottom lands

Because of the difficult terrain, it took us a long time to make our way through this area back to the other side where we finally hiked back up to our beloved tundra. During this time, Jesper's blisters and raw spots really began to hurt him. Although the rest of his body was able to hike at a brisk pace, his feet rendered his pace to a shuffle as the long day of hiking continued. We were all happy to be back up above tree line again.

Jesper tending to his blistered feet

At about eight o'clock, we finally felt like we had made it far enough to call it a day. We were beat. Jesper's feet were chum. We set up camp on the summit of a prominence with good views of the Alaska Range if the clouds would go away. I went down to a nearby lake to pump water while Jesper and Ole set up the tents. As I prepared dinner (corn chowder with smoked salmon) a good distance from the tents, we observed our third bear, another black one and made note that there sure were a lot of berry shrubs in the area.

The next morning we actually set the alarm to ensure that we got going early, however our plans for a quick camp tear down were somewhat derailed by another visit from a black bear. It may have been the same bear from the night before. This time, he was approaching closer and closer and he most definitely knew we were there. His presence and direction of travel prevented me from pumping the water we would need for the rest of the trip, so we waited and waited. After half an hour or so, he finally ran off in the opposite direction. Like I said at the beginning, I'm pretty sure we were in his berry patch.

Last bit of Tundra before heading down to the car at Byers Lake

The trail planners for Alaska do not get the concept of switchbacking! Steep stuff!

We only had 5 or so miles to hike but we wanted to be done in time to make it back down to Anchorage before REI closed at 6:00 so we could return the bear canisters we had rented. So we pushed it. We hiked along the tundra until the ridge line dipped back down into a drainage area that lead to Byers Lake where our car was parked. It seemed to take forever, even though Jesper was setting a very good pace despite his blisters. It paid off and we arrived to back at the car around 2:00 pm, early enough to celebrate with the one beer left in the car and to stop for sandwiches in Trapper Creek on the way back to Anchorage.

After we dropped off the canisters at REI, we cleaned up in our hotel room and then enjoyed another fine meal of fried salmon, halibut and cod, all fantastically fresh and washed down by a cold beer. I must say, I have never eaten so much fried fish in my life, but Alaska does fried fish right!

The next day was filled with three flights back home. It was a long day but we were happy to have a day of rest.

This was a great vacation, despite the rains, but clearly not something everyone would appreciate. We most definitely plan to return to Alaska! We learned so much on our first overnight kayaking/camping trip; we know we can make the trip more comfortable next time. For the next Alaska visit, we plan to ski the Chugatch for several days and then kayak/camp for several days in the Prince William Sound Area. Sometime in late May, which should allow us to catch the start of the whale migration. I think we'll plan it during a non-El Nino year!

I will post more pics to my Picasa site soon. Here is Jesper's first post of our trip.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Race Stats

First things first, I finished! Not everybody did - there were many DNFs (all DNFs have been removed from the race results which I think is odd).

Secondly, it was a fantastic and rewarding experience. My training prepared me fairly well and I felt as good as can be expected during the race; no stomach problems, no blisters, no sunburn, no chafing - just super sore and tired muscles. I embraced the pain and enjoyed every minute of it, thankful for having a body that can do something like this.

I had the best cheering squad. I cannot thank my sweetie Jesper and friends Patrick and Suze enough for their efforts in supporting me and contributing mightily to make the day a great experience. They were out there all day cheering me on at four of the six aid stations and at a couple of locations out on the course. This was quite a feat, since they traveled by bike on trails not being used by the racers so as not to be a disruption. Many fellow racers commented to me, "Gee - you have a lot of fans out here!" After every aid station they were at, I had at least a 30 minute adrenaline pump.

Now for the stats:
  • 31.3 miles
  • 4,500 feet of climbing and 4,500 feet of descending
  • 95 degrees - the hottest day of the year so far up there and a dearth of shade through the burn areas
  • Altitude ranging from 6,700 feet to 8,000 feet above sea level
  • All dirt (a lot of it loose) ; mostly single track with some double track
  • My time was 6:32:45
  • I was the 24th runner to finish the 50K out of 77 finishers (top third)
  • I was the 9th woman to finish the 50K out of 37 who finished the race (top quarter)
I will post more later. For now, check out the link to Jesper's webpage, which has some pictures.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 - the Year of the Runner

OK - so I realize 2010 is actually the Year of the Ox under the Chinese Zodiac, but for me it has been the Year of the Runner. Last year was decidedly NOT the Year of the Runner. A bout with plantar fasciitis left me unable to run at all, and barely hike, from March through August.

For those unfamiliar with plantar fasciitis, it is an inflammation and micro-tearing of the fascia that runs along the bottom of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is quite painful and can debilitate a runner for years if not brought under control. I stopped running completely as soon as I knew I had it (in both feet!) and began a program of stretching, massage, running shoe changes and, eventually, running form modification via the ChiRunning method.

When I restarted my "running" routine in August, I began low and slow.

Walk 10 minutes, jog 5 minutes, walk 10 minutes - Done.

The next week: Walk 10 minutes, jog 5 minutes, walk 10 minutes, jog 5 minutes - Done.

And so on.

This from a person who had been running 3-4 days a week, up to about 7 or 8 miles at one time.

It was tough to start out doing so little, but fear of being hampered by plantar facsiitis for years motivated me to proceed cautiously. I was able to able to bike without foot pain, so I rode a lot; mountain, road, downhill. So, I guess 2009 could be called the Year of the Bike, but most years are the Year of the Bike for me. I digress...

I have long wanted to do an Ultra Marathon Trail event. Ultras are basically any race longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). Most Ultras are on trails, probably because all that pounding on pavement could not be good for you. As I slowly increased my running mileage throughout the fall and winter, I decided to sign up for an Ultra in 2010. It wasn't so much that I wanted to do a race, it was more that I wanted a goal to 'train' for. The process of 'training' - aka doing lots of running - was more of my goal than the actual race. I know, kind of Zen.

I discovered a new race in July not too far from my home. The North Fork 50, to be held on the schmoove trails of Buffalo Creek in the Pike National Forest, offered a 50 Km and a 50 mile race. I opted for the 50 Km version, signed up and booked lodging nearby for the night before. There - I was committed to run 31 miles in one event!

And so I began 'training'. I laid out a weekly plan for upgrading my mileage (or is that kilometerage, since I am doing the 50 Km race?). I have been good about sticking to that plan, but also flexible when LIFE happens. I started running two to three days a week before work. I added a progressively longer Wednesday after work run into the mix. And I gradually increased my weekend run distance; 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 23. That's where I topped out - 23 miles in one run. I will have to pull the other 8 miles out of my ass.

In early July I began to taper. I logged in over 140 miles for June. I've been a runner almost consistently since 1974, when my best friend in Junior High/High School got us into running to meet boys (it worked BTW). But this is by far the biggest volume of running I have done, even in my adventure racing training days. To some folks in Boulder, 140 miles in a month is not a lot, but it is for me and probably most people.

What has all this running done for me? And more importantly, how has the process of 'training' benefited me mentally and physically?

First off, I have lost weight. About 10 pounds (maybe more - I haven't weighed myself in almost a month). This is a lot on a 5'1" frame that wasn't exactly big to begin with. Even my bicycling has benefited - my climbing feels great! The weight loss has given me an excuse to buy new clothes too!

Oddly enough, I have MORE energy than I did before. Some of that may be due to other factors (namely that I am super motivated about my career again and that energizes me too), but I think a lot of it is due to the running.

My dog is in fantastic running shape. Strelka had been a bit of a wuss in becoming the trail dog I wanted her to be. She would get all out of breath and, being a complete creature of comfort, decide to stop and rest a lot. She would get hot and just lay down in the middle of the trail. Not any more! She now happily runs four to five miles in the morning with me before work. She runs the first four miles or so of my long weekend runs with me, sometimes even in the heat (I try to run her mostly early in the day, since I know that dogs are not as efficient at cooling themselves as humans are). In short, she has become a trail dog throughout this process and she has developed a love for running which will help keep her healthy and trim!

I have been able to think a lot on my solo runs; or not. I toyed with getting a little mp3 player for my long runs (and may still do that) but I have found the time alone in my head to be a good thing. I have planned out all kinds of things; solved all sorts of problems. I have also emptied my easily-distracted brain and meditated for long stretches.

I start my days off centered and content on the mornings I run before work. In addition to the physical results, my soul is lifted by the beauty of the mountains, the clear blue skies, the birds singing and my dog happily galloping and sniffing all over the open space next to my house. It's a good way to start the work day.

I have committed to stretching by doing yoga three days a week to keep from becoming a tight ball of constricted muscles and ligaments. Yoga is beneficial period, so any excuse to do more of it is a good thing in my book.

I decided to get regular massages, at least every 2 weeks. I realize not everyone can afford this 'luxury', but I'd rather pack my lunch everyday and not eat out so I can afford this. I think the massages are helping prevent injury and they also allow me (actually my massage therapist) monitor problem areas so I can focus stretching on these areas.

I have learned to enjoy ice baths. I knew ice baths would be a good idea once my mileage got up there. They are known to reduce inflammation and soreness with no negative side effects. Well, except they are freakin' COLD! At first I could barely stay in the water for a few minutes. I whimpered so loudly Jesper thought I was dying. But then, I employed some smart tactics to stay as warm as possible and I actually ended up kind liking the baths.

Me in my ice bath, staying as 'warm' as possible in fleece top and hat while drinking HOT tea

I am reaping HUGE satisfaction in my discipline of sticking to my running routine. There's something to be said about setting a goal and taking the steps to get to it. There are mornings when I do not want to get up early and run, but I set my clothes out the night before and I get up when that alarm sounds. I am always happy afterward, both from the immediate affect of running but also from the satisfaction of being disciplined.

My race is in 3 days. I have my own personal goals for a finishing time, but I have already reached and exceeded my goals through the process of 'training' these last several months. The race is just gravy.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Where do People Find the Time to Watch TV?

I feel like I'm a pretty 'together' chick with decent time-management skills. I can get shit done in a timely manner and I feel like I don't squander my time or dilly dally. However, I am at a loss: Where do people find the time to watch TV?

I am challenged to find time to use my neti pot on a daily basis (which takes five minutes), let alone sit down and do NOTHING for 2-4 hours, as apparently the average American does each day. Heck, I don't even have kids, which are a HUGE time suck! Come with me as I analyze my day; maybe we can scrounge up some time for TV watching.

During the week, I wake up at 6:00 am to either run or work out pretty much every day except Wednesday, when I get to 'sleep in' until 6:45 am and then read all the personal email I have disregarded for days. After running/working out/'sleeping in', I shower and get ready for work. I suppose most people do the 'get ready for work' part, but maybe they are sleeping when I am running/working out. Or are they watching TV?

Every weekday morning I drive about 30 minutes to work. I think this is probably a pretty normal commute time, so I don't think my TV deficit comes from this. I work until 5:00 pm or later, sometimes doing yoga or going for a bike ride at lunch to be more efficient with my time. After work, I drive the 30 minutes home, sometimes stopping for groceries. Home around 5:30 or 6:00 pm.

Upon scrutiny, it is clear I have no time for TV from the 6:00 am to 6:00 pm slot during the day on weekdays. Maybe evenings are the ticket.

On Monday evenings, I make a quick change into my yoga clothes and go to a wonderful 90 minute class with Jesper at a studio near our house. We get home around 8:20 - 8:30 pm and eat a late dinner, usually of leftovers. After a quick dip in the hot tub (15 minutes is about our max), it's time for bed at 9:45 or 10:00 pm. Maybe people stay up later and watch TV, but that would cut into my eight hours of sleep, the minimum I like to get each night.

Tuesday evenings are flexible. Sometimes I do a big mountain bike ride right after work that lasts until 10:30 pm or so; on those nights I go straight to bed after cleaning up. Or I do a road ride after work and then make a nice dinner and go to bed early. One Tuesday each month, I go to the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance Board meeting, have a late dinner and then go to bed. No time for TV on Tuesdays.

On Wednesday's, I have been going for a long-ish trail run with some girlfriends. I leave straight from work and we run from about 6:00 until 7:15 pm. Jesper often cooks dinner on Wednesday nights since I am not home until after 7:30 pm. We use the time while he cooks to get reacquainted and talk about how work was that day, plans we have for yard work, house work, upcoming vacations, etc.; whatever it is that's going on or should be going on in our lives. Or, we both get out in the yard and work on whatever project is pending. Then we hot tub it and go to bed around 9:30 or 10:00 pm. Hmmm... still no time for TV.

On Thursdays I go to the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance Gurlz Ridez. After riding and a quick dinner with my girlfriends, I am usually not home until after 9:00 pm. Putting my bike and gear away, showering and hot tub take my evening to about 10:00 pm. Time for bed. Maybe we could put a TV out near the hot tub, but we'd only get about 15 minutes to watch it, so that is clearly not the time for me to squeeze in American Idol or some other useless show.

Friday nights are reserved for Date Night with Jesper. We usually head out to a restaurant as soon as I get home from work, hot tub it and get to bed around 10:00 pm. I don't know about all of you, but I am pretty tired come Friday and not about to stay up after Date Night to watch TV.

On the rare weekday evening I have a few spare minutes, I try to read personal emails or maybe even read a BOOK.

So, I have failed to find time during the week to watch TV (heck - I have barely found time to read and reply to my personal email). Maybe I need to find the time on the weekend. Yeah right.....

In my view, weekends are for:
  1. Sleeping in (as much as my body will let me, which is usually no later than 7:30 am)
  2. Riding, Running
  3. Getting things done around the house and yard
  4. Cooking nice meals
  5. Getting reacquainted with my Honey
Clearly sleeping in takes away time from watching TV! That is not the solution.

I have been going for one really long trail run either on Saturday or Sunday, followed by an ice bath (brrrr...) When I say really long, I mean like 15 miles. The whole ordeal (getting ready, running first with the dog and then taking her home and heading back out to run the rest by myself, finally doing the gawdforesaken ice bath) takes over three hours. If Jesper and I don't have a big house or yard project going on, we try to get out on the day I don't do my big run for a bike ride. This can take up to four or five hours (or longer if we drive a ways to a cool biking trail). I realize many Americans do not dedicate this much time to exercise on their weekend days, although judging by how fat most are, maybe they should... Obviously, I am not able to watch TV while out trail running or riding my bike.

Before and after running or biking, there are always things to do around the house or yard; clean (vacuum, dust, mop, clean bathrooms, wash/fold clothes, on and on), pick up dog poop, weed. Then of course there are the Big Projects. We are into one right now, building a new back deck/patio/retaining wall/garden. When we are doing a Big Project, we spend every waking weekend minute (except for my run and for eating) working on the project, usually until dark. This past weekend, we were so busy (no ride, only my 3 hour run) we did not even make it into the hot tub in the evenings. Clearly no time for TV.

Somewhere in each busy weekend day Jesper and I like to cook a nice meal. Cooking takes some time, and I suppose I could put a TV in my kitchen. However I prefer to chit chat with my honey while listening to nice music. Besides, I am sure I would lose track of my recipe if I tried to cook while watching TV.

This is my warm weather schedule, but the winter schedule is jam packed with skiing.

So there is it. No time for TV. Clearly I am doing something most Americans are not that is sucking away my time. Hmmm... maybe I could find that elusive TV time if I gave up exercising, cooking healthy meals, sleeping, interacting with my significant other, or doing home improvement projects. But then I would be stressed out, overweight and out of shape, sleep-deprived and I'd have a crappy house and a poor relationship. No thanks - I don't think I need TV that much!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Snow - Dirt - Snow - Dirt

That is the pattern in Colorado.

From November through March - we ski. From April through October - we ride our mountain bikes.

In April and November, we tend to do both, getting pretty exhausted trying to do it all.

For our last foray on the sticks, Jesper and I went to Winter Park/Mary Jane for some spring skiing. I love spring skiing - nice corn snow and no crowds. We managed to get back into the Vasquez Cirque one last time this season, taking Suze and Patrick back there for their first time. This area is barely lift served - the nearest chair gets you about a mile from where you can drop in, so you need to skate ski or hoof it along a gradual uphill mile slog. Fortunately, the views as you make your way are completely spectacular. The runs down the Cirque are XX Black - steep but wide open at first. It is one of the prettiest areas at any ski resort I have been to.

Jesper dipping in to the Vasquez Cirque

Suze and Patrick shusshing down the Cirque

Jesper showing awesome form in the Cirque

We had a feeling this might have been our last ski day in the resorts this year, as the dirt has been calling....

HELLO - this is DIRT calling for Jen and Jesper!

The next day, we answered the call of the dirt for my first real ride of the season. We opted to ride the single speeds at the Devil's Backbone out and back on the Blue Sky Trail. Almost 20 miles on the SS for the first ride out this season was good enough to poop me out! The 'Bone starts out with some super fun technical trail for about 3 or 4 miles. Then the trail smooths out for some fantastic rolling hills. You get to enjoy the techy stuff all over again at the end. The scenery at the 'Bone is straight out of a cowboy western and true to this there were several groups out on horses. The day was picture perfect - low 70s and sunny - and we ended it with a trail head adult beverage. YUM!

Post ride perfection! (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Jesper rockin' it at the Bone

The following weekend, we decided it was over for the snow, at least for this season. We packed up the Durango and headed out to sample the buff-smooth trails at Buffalo Creek, this time, bringing Patrick along for his first visit to this wonderful riding destination. Once again, we rode the single speeds. Now I don't have anything against gears, but the trails that have been dry just seem to have been well suited for the single speeds. We hit Gashouse, Charlies' Cutoff and more, logging in a nice 25 mile ride; sufficient to work up a big appetite for food and brews at Buck Snorts. I had ulterior motives for going to Buff Creek - I am running my first ultra marathon there this summer and I was anxious to refresh my memory of the trails. I will be back there soon to hit the trail on foot in preparation for my 'race'.

Jesper at Buff Creek

Patrick zooming around the cool rocks at Buff Creek

This past weekend it was once again just Jesper and me on the single speeds again. Although the Front Range had received another wallop of snow (after a few days straight of rain), we managed to find trails that were reported to be dry on Sunday. Bobcat Ridge up past Loveland. OK - I know, this is not really a trail most people would think of as single speed friendly, but there is something eff'ed up with the bottom bracket on my Safire, so I didn't want to ride it. Let's just say we got a good work out in riding the single speeds! We ascended the rocky and steep Ginny trail and then did an about face and ripped down it! We were both so happy to have been able to get out on dirt that day, as we were not optimistic the day before. I wish that trail was closer, as it is simply a blast!

Jesper in a brief spot of sunshine on Bobcat Ridge

Me coming down the Ginny Trail (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

It's almost May now. The snow in the back country is a little iffy this year and I am focusing on running one day each weekend, leaving the other day for mountain biking. It looks like we have officially made the shift from SNOW to DIRT.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Best Birthday EVER!

This past weekend was my birthday. I turned 46 on Saturday, February 6th. It turned out to be one of the best birthdays ever (if not THE best). Why was it the best? Here's why:

After months of searching, I found a fantastic company with the perfect job opening. I interviewed in late January and was offered and accepted the position the evening of February 5th, the eve of my birthday. In addition to really needing a job due to my consulting practice dwindling away to almost nothing, I was really excited about this particular job and would have been crushed if I did not get it. I can't imagine a better birthday present than this job!

For my birthday itself, we slept in and I went for a LONG run. Later that day, Jesper set out a beautiful bouquet of flowers and then, over the course of five hours or so while I sat at the kitchen bar and chit-chatted with him, he prepared the most fabulous four course dinner:
  • First course - crisp bread with sushi grade salmon, spring onions, creme fraiche and caviar, accompanied by an inorganic Bonny Doon Albarino! Simply delish! Sorry - no pic.
  • Second course - shrimp and sea scallops sauteed in butter, white wine and saffron, served with a creamy curry soup and accompanied by the Albarino. WOW!!

  • Third course - veal roast stuffed with sage, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese, served with tiny potatoes, tomatoes, gigantic capers, cream and butter, green garlic olive cream purée, and artichoke salad. Accompanied by a Bonny Doon Cuvee Splendide Syrah. Dang my guy can cook!

  • Fourth course - homemade lemon eclairs with coffee (decaf). The yummy conclusion to a wonderful birthday dinner.

Although the new job was a fantastic present, Jesper continued to spoil me with a book my sister told him I would love (she knows what I like in the way of reading) and a Patagonia scarf. But that was not all - new wheels for my single speed!!! Hand built NoStans rims with Hope hubs!! I had no idea!! I had been wanting new wheels - mine were rather wonked and heavy - but could not afford them on my dwindling consulting pay. These babies are beautiful and svelte! Thanks Jesper (and Dave Chase at Redstone for making them)! I can't wait to put them on the Snow Queen and go for a ride!!!

To work off the amazing dinner, we then we skied for two days. We always take our birthdays off and since mine was on a Saturday, we took off Monday. Our friend Suze joined us for Superbowl Sunday with almost no lift lines and practically empty slopes. Then Jesper and I skied just the two of us to even fewer crowds on Monday.

Jesper in the POW we managed to find (we are good at that!)

Suze skiing with great form!

The long birthday weekend ended with me tired but excited to start the new job a couple days later. I cannot imagine a better birthday!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Good Bye 2009, Hello 2010!!!

2009 was a mixed bag for me. OK, OK - it kinda had some pretty sucky parts. But I'm the type of person who sees the glass half full and looks forward to the future. Despite some bad juju, 2009 was filled with many good things and I ended the year with a lot of family, fun and fluffy white stuff.

Just a few days after my Grand Targhee Cat Skiing early Christmas gift, Jesper and I packed up the Subaru, made all Santa-like with the Yakima Christmas Box loaded to the gills with gifts. This time Strelka came along for her longest road trip yet - Ohio; never thought that dog would ever set paw in Ohio, but I couldn't bear to board her again and I love to have her around for Christmas. Jesper and I drove the 1,300 miles straight through, opting not to stop in Kansas as tentatively planned. A massive winter storm was on our tails and we were fearful that an overnight rest stop might turn into Christmas in Kansas! We made it to Ohio in good time despite a rimey fog through most of Kansas. Dang - that's a long drive!

We had planned for all of my siblings to be together this Christmas, our first since my Dad died. But my younger brother Jeff was ill and did not make it. It was very disappointing not to have him there, but we decided to make sure each of us enjoyed the holiday regardless. Jesper, Strelka and I stayed with my younger sister Chris and her family (husband Steve, daughter Emma and son Ben). My older brother Vince, his wife Nanako and their two boys (Kyle and Eric) stayed with my older sister Vicki and her family (husband Doug, son Tyler who is grown up and moved out and daughters Tasha and Tara).

On Christmas Eve at Chris' house, we all symbolically donned one of the dozens of silly/trashy/ethnic T-Shirts my Dad had been fond of 'collecting' for a family photo. Jeff even put one on at his apartment in Saint Paul and we included him in the photo in effigy. Digging through the piles and piles of joke T-shirts reminded us all of Dad's raunchy sense of humor!

The family in Dad's T-Shirts with Jeff in effigy (photo cred Steve Webster)

Christmas morning came early in a house with a 9 year old! There were many, many presents for my sister's family and quite a lot for me, Jesper and Strelka. As usual, Jesper spoiled me! The 'best' gift was the warming, washing toilet seat my sister Chris received from her husband. Not only was it a most unusual gift, but my sister was absolutely thrilled that her beloved husband bought her a toilet seat!

Jesper helping Strelka open one of her presents

After a Christmas day run with my younger sister, we cleaned up and headed to our big sister's house. Big is relative. Although she sometimes seemed gigantic to me when I was young, Vicki is 5'2" and svelte. Funny how things change like that. It was good to hang out with the whole family (minus Jeff). My family is loud and fun and I thoroughly enjoy the chaos of our conversations.

Chris and Vicki had a few surprises up their sleeves. First off was a sweet and sentimental slide show Chris put together with some of the photographs my Dad took of us kids growing up. My parents had all five of us within just over 7 years, something I can't even imagine. We all grew up very close and affectionate. We also seem to have grown up half dressed and filthy, based on the pictures! But under the mud and dirt we played in, we were a happy lot. Might have been all the cake we ate - seems like there was always a birthday party for one of us! The slide show also featured numerous pictures of my parents before they started their family. I am very happy my Dad was a bit of a shutterbug.

One of the many cake-filled birthday parties of my childhood, my fourth - I'm in the chair with my back toward the camera (photo cred Victor Kwasniewski)

All five of us with Mom, from l to r in front - Vince, Chris and Vicki; in back - me, Jeff and Mom (photo cred Victor Kwasniewski)

After the slide show, we had our sibling gift exchange. We played the exchange game in a manner that allows and encourages stealing gifts from each other. It was a hoot! Especially funny was the gift I gave, which Jesper chose much to my chagrin. Earlier Christmas morning, I had opened a wonderful gift from Jesper - a kitchen mandolin. I have wanted one of these for years! I also purchased the very same mandolin as my sibling exchange gift. Hey, you often buy gifts you would like to receive yourself! Great - now we had two identical mandolins! Fortunately, my brother-in-law Doug stole the mandolin from Jesper, who ended up with a dutch oven (we needed one!) and the book/DVD "Julie and Julia", which I can't wait to read and watch! I ended up with some ear buds that actually fit my small ears and some body glide - perfect for the training I will be doing to run some long distance races this year.

Vince implementing the Eenie-Meanie-Minie Mo procedure in selecting his sibling gift (photo cred Tasha Carnes)

Box 'o catalogs! (photo cred Tasha Carnes)

Later that evening, Vicki's in-laws and family showed up for a dinner of various kinds of lasagna. Before long, it was time to go back to Chris' house; another Christmas had passed.

The next day, Vince and his family left early to fly to Colorado of all places for a week of skiing (Jesper and I would join them early the next week). I had a nice day visiting with some friends and former colleagues I had not seen in awhile - good to get caught up! On Sunday morning, Jesper and I packed up Rubie the Subie again for the long drive back to Colorado. I must confess, I was completely useless on this drive. Once it began to get dark (not that late this time of winter), I could not keep my eyes open! Jesper, rock star that he is, essentially drove straight through the whole way.

We arrived back at our house at 5:00 am Monday morning and tried to sleep until about 10:00 am; I had more luck than Jesper, whose head was still in DRIVE mode. That day, we did laundry and unpacked from one trip, only to pack again for another one; this time a week of skiing up in Summit County. Jesper and I rented a 2 bedroom, pet-friendly condo with our friends Suze and Patrick through January 4th. We headed up mid-day on Tuesday the 29th of December with plans to ski for four days straight with friends and my brother Vince and his family, who were staying at Copper.

We had a nice NYE dinner in Frisco to ring in the new year. It was wonderful to spend more time with Vince on the slopes and apres ski. I had to laugh when my girlfriend Sue proclaimed him "adorable", but upon reflection, he is pretty adorable; funny, always smiling and self-effacing. Not a bad skier either! I discovered that three days of hard tele skiing is just about right for me. I was completely cooked on day four!

Vince following Jesper down a steep slope

Me coming down under the S Chair (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

NYE dinner - Vince, Nanako, Sue Bushman, Suze Bragg, Patrick Bragg, me and Jesper (from l to r)

On Sunday January 4th, we had a leisurely morning at the condo. Vince and his family had departed the day prior and made it home safely. Jesper and I had only been home 5 out of the previous 23 days; I was ready to be home again too. Good Bye 2009, Hello 2010!

See more pics here!