Tag Archives: Running

Despite this Pansy, it’s Fall

 I found a pansy today that I didn’t plant. I don’t know where it came from, but there it perches, under our back deck, beautiful and strong despite the snow a few days ago and the damp fall weather we’ve been having. 

So when I ran this afternoon–in long pants, knee-high socks, long sleeved undershirt, and t-shirt, it struck me how determined that pansy is. And how much it’s humble little picture deserves its moment of fame. 

  
  

Cold Weather Miles

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A long, subzero run is different from other runs. Challenging for different reasons. Instead of focusing on the stitch in your side, you focus on the way your eyelashes are freezing shut so that you can’t see the road or cars approaching. You try to breathe less so that your breath doesn’t add icicles to your lashes, so that your face warmer doesn’t condense and harden. Your nose runs like a faucet, but you only notice when it starts to slick the fabric in front of your mouth. Then you can taste it. It tastes like hard work, like sweat.

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You’re running in goose down. No, seriously. You have so many layers on that you shouldn’t be able to move, yet they’re thin layers, and you can’t just move–you can run. And it feels good. It feels like freedom, like nothing can keep you down, nothing can stop you. Because instead of being curled up under a blanket, on a couch, like others who let the weather win, you’re out there running.

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The snow crunches underneath your winter running shoes. You wear two pairs of socks, three shirts, three pairs of pants, plus a down jacket, two neck warmers, a hat, and thick down mittens. You want to be prepared. You can always take layers off, but can’t put them on once you start. Once you’re five miles from home, there’s nothing you can do.

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And once you start, it’s cold. Once you start to sweat, a chill sets in. Your body isn’t used to this. It’s not natural, it’s not expected. How do you train for this? But still, you run. You trick yourself into completing the entire run, running out away from home to as close a halfway point as possible so that you can’t cheat and end before it’s time.

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It works. That technique always works. You can’t stop or else you’re stranded. But today the temptation to call for a rescue ride runs through your mind. Today’s run is uncomfortable.

So you put one foot in front of the other, pausing only to step into the soft shoulder for lines of cars to pass you safely. You run because you’re an Alaskan. And Alaskans don’t let the weather stop them from doing much.

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Three Hours and Forty-Eight Minutes

It’s that day again.

That day where we stop losing daylight and start to (finally) gain it again.

I don’t think most of the world looks forward to this day as much as Alaskans do. After all, today in Fairbanks, Alaska, we had a mere three hours and forty-eight minutes of daylight.

The sun rose at 10:59 a.m. and set at 2:37 p.m.

In high school, I remember arriving at school in the dark and leaving school in the dark. It seemed I’d missed an entire day.

Now, as an adult, I have a bit more freedom to seek out the sunlight.

Today, I took my first ever solstice run. It was a short, unscheduled run, only 3 miles, but it felt good. I ran it fast, racing the sunset, wanting to get home and off the roads before darkness hit. Up here there are a lot of dangers other than cars out at night.

I didn’t take any pictures of today’s run, but I did of yesterday’s long run, so I’ll post those here instead. After all, what’s a solstice run without an appreciation of the beauty a low, setting sun offers to frostbitten trees?

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How Did it Get So Late?

Is it just me, or has December been crazy busy for everyone else too?

I’ve only posted on this blog once this month! Once! Even my camera has been collecting dust.

Granted, it’s been a very white December, and when it snows, the skies are nearly as white as the ground. So pictures go by the wayside.

But now, as the Christmas arrival begins its final countdown, and presents are purchased and placed under the tree (no Santa here!), it’s catch-up season.

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Presents…or cats?

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I’ve kept myself so busy lately that I hardly know where to start.

The days continue to shorten, but we are soon to be gaining daylight. Many look forward to December 21st most of all, as it marks the turn from when we lose daylight to gaining. Currently we enjoy just 3 hours and 45 minutes of sunlight a day.

There are a few benefits to this lack of daylight hours though. For one, you get amazing shots of the moon, especially when full. Second, even if you’re not an early bird, you get to experience awesome sunrises (and sunsets).

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So far this year we have had a warm winter. It’s rarely dipped below zero, and in the hills where we live, we enjoy temperatures in the teens or higher. Thankfully, it’s stayed below freezing, but we’ve had a few days of pretty nasty roads as well. The city of Fairbanks keeps the roads well-maintained, spreading gravel on the icy curves and at the stoplights to offer traction. The downside of this gravel use is that a windshield that makes it through the winter unscathed is a rare phenomenon. (I got my first winter chip the other week, which will probably spread soon if not treated.) Chips in windshields up here rarely stay chips for long, as well. With the cold temperatures, a big bump is all that’s needed to go from chip to crack.

It’s been great running weather though. Although I do have to “bundle,” with hat, neck warmer, light gloves, two pairs of pants and tall socks, two to three shirts and a light jacket, I’m toasty warm while moving without a lot of weight. And keeping my son warm in the stroller is easy so far: a base layer followed by a warm pair of pants and a long sleeved shirt with a fleece over it, a warm hat, then topped with a double layer snowsuit (fleece and windbreaker Columbia suit), and his Alaskan mukluks, placed in the stroller in a zip-up fleece bag, then on colder days, a blanket on top of him, and he stays toasty warm, snoozing as I exert myself up and down the surrounding hills.

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Dripping mascara is a small price to pay for an excellent run.

I’m a goal-oriented person who needs a push in order to push myself, so I “signed up” to follow a half-marathon training regime. And, I must say, I’ve been doing pretty good. It’s definitely gotten me back into shape, and I’ve been pushing myself. (I certainly wouldn’t go on hour and a half runs without being pushed.) It gives me a schedule and makes me stick to it.

I’ve been baking bread, canning my highbush cranberries, and decorating the house for Christmas.

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Meat sauce!

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I love having this bannister to decorate!

 

Winter Running

Even though I grew up in North Pole, Alaska, about fifteen miles from where I currently live (as the crow flies–in reality, those fifteen miles are a forty minute drive), I was never one to engage in winter running.

But when I moved to Washington five years ago, I got more into running than ever before. I did track for a year or two in high school, but I wasn’t good enough to be super interested in it, and my interests lay more in soccer than boring running. I think I was talked into joining track by a friend of mine. (It was more social than anything, and I never distinguished myself.)

Anyway, in Washington, I began running. There was a fantastic trail near where I lived that went on for over thirty miles. I could run and run and run and not grow tired not run out of paved trails. I had finally found the enjoyment of running, and I began to see just how far I could push myself.

I began to run longer distances. I upped my distance from three miles to five. Five to six. Six to seven. Seven soon became ten, and ten finally became thirteen. I ran half marathon distance.

Not only was it great for me, but great exercise for the high-energy dogs too.

Like most runners, I’ve combated injury. After running half-marathon distance for the first time, I injured my foot and ended up in a boot because I could hardly put weight on it. After that healed, I got back into running, but stayed shy of that distance for awhile. I was finally working my way back up to it when I got pregnant.

Pregnancy does weird things to your body, and although I didn’t disagree with running while pregnant, I didn’t feel good, and felt tired most of the time. Motivation was difficult to come by, and my running slipped off the daily “to-do” list. Ironically, toward the end of my pregnancy, I developed “runner’s knee,” which usually afflicts runners due to a weaker inside quad muscle. (I never had this problem while running, mind you, just when I stopped running.)

Now, I have a seven and a half month old. And I just started running (for real) again. Dare I say I’ve found the pleasure in running again? It’s not that I haven’t run with my baby before, I’ve done the sporadic, guilt-induced exercise, knowing I needed to get out there and do something, but I didn’t really feel any pleasure in it. This past week, I’ve found the pleasure. Finally.

After my first two runs this week, realizing how much I missed it, and, even though the roads around my house are hills and hills have never been my friend, I knew I needed new shoes. I had some old Adidas trail shoes that I used the first couple of times, but I’m running on ice now. Pushing a stroller. It’s not so much a matter of my own safety, but the safety of my baby that I’m worried about. What if I slip and lose control of his stroller? He’ll go zooming off down the hill, and I may be injured–unable to run after him.

So I headed out to a local outdoors store that is popular in Fairbanks: Beaver’s Sports. I’ve been there before, lots before. It’s a local place with a great variety of winter gear. They have bikes, skies, snowboards, shoes, coats, hats, gloves, sunglasses, camping gear, pretty much anything you can need for outdoors in Alaska. Think REI, but think Alaskan, and local.

It was there that I purchased my first pair of winter running shoes. I half expected to get studded shoes, like snow tires, you know? But the helpful young man there showed me two pairs, a couple of Icebug shoes and a pair of Salomon shoes. I had heard of the Icebug shoes, and even gone so far as to look them up online. But I’m glad I didn’t buy them online. When I tried them on, they felt quite uncomfortable for my feet. My toes were a little smushed, and my foot almost felt as though it were slipping over the sides of the sole. The Salomon, on the other hand, fit extremely comfortably.

And so, I found my new shoes.

Aren’t they pretty?

I'm in love.

I’m in love.

Recalled to Life

Oh it felt good to hit the trails today.

Okay, it wasn’t a trail. And it didn’t feel so much as I was hitting it as it hitting me, especially now, eight hours post run.

But that first half mile, before the cramping sets in, and before you recall that your lungs aren’t in the condition they used to be, and it’s cold out, so they start to burn anyway, before all that, on that downhill slope, there was a spring in my toes propelling me on.

It felt good. No, not good–awesome.

Running these days is a little different from pre-baby runs. My knees hurt more lately, partly from lack of exercise, and pushing a baby in a jogging stroller over packed down snow and ice isn’t exactly what I envisioned for myself when I started running years ago. But it works. True, it takes a nap time to complete the run, but mental and physical health is worth it.

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And when you have a running partner as cute as this, who can resist a good jog?