Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Byer's Lake trail, or What To Do On Your Day Off

I had Monday off of work, so my husband and I decided to go hiking. The weather website said it was raining in Turnagain Arm, and raining in Palmer, but it looked pretty clear heading north, so after some searching online, we decided to try the Byer's Lake trail.

This trail is at approximately milepost 147 of the Parks Highway, on the east side of the road. It starts at the Byer's Lake campground and circles the lake in a complete loop, about 5 miles in length. 

Since we hadn't hiked this trail before, and the weather looked iffy, we DEET'ed ourselves up, stuffed hoodies and rain jackets into our Camelbaks, and strapped on bear protection. Mine was .45 caliber, and his was .44 Magnum, our standard bear repellent. And off we went.

This was a great little trail. Well maintained but not too smooth. There was a isolated little camping area on the far side of the lake with fire rings and elevated wooden tent sites. There were simply amazing views of Denali:

I love that mountain. 

There is an old falling down log cabin on the side of the trail that was pretty picturesque:

There are also two bridges to cross, one over the inlet stream, and one over the outlet stream. The one over the inlet stream is suspended on cables, and very swingy and springy. It is also fairly decrepit and leans pretty far to the right, so if the person crossing with you bounces (that would be my dear, sweet husband), you feel like you are at risk of sliding off into the water. 

The bridge over the outlet stream is on big rock pilings and is much more substantial and solid feeling. And it's quite pretty: 

All in all, it was a really nice hike. Very flat, with boardwalks over the most marshy areas. If the weather had been a little more stable (we did get rained on through the second half of the hike), and we had had more in the way of emergency supplies, we could have climbed up to the ridge and merged with a long trail there.

This is one we will probably do again and camp on the far side of the lake and hike the ridge. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Midnight Sun Run 10K race report

I've really been enjoying running in races this summer. I'm not trying to win. I'm not even close to what you would call an elite runner... Anything under 10:00 miles are fast for me. The shirts and other swag is cool, but that's not it either. There's something about running with a whole bunch of people all striving for the same goal, that I have found I really enjoy. And running a race with a friend is even better. 

I live in Alaska, and one of the best things about living here is that it's always light in the summer. So when I heard that Fairbanks has a night run on the summer solstice, I was immediately interested. All I had to do was find someone else crazy enough to make a 5 hour drive there, and the same back. My friend Krista is just crazy enough. 

So at noon on the day of the race, Krista and I and her two little kids, and my teenage daughter as babysitter for said kids, loaded snacks and tents and sleeping bags and running gear into my little car and off we went.

It poured rain all the way to Fairbanks, plus there was tons of road construction, making the drive a little more than 5 hours. We got there around 7pm, with 3 hours to kill before the race. We checked in and picked up our bibs and shirts, and discovered the bibs each had coupons for free 6" subs at Subway. We didn't want to eat a lot before running, but it fed the kids well. Then we went to a random playground which luckily turned out to be only a block or so away from the finish line. We left the kids there and caught the shuttle to the start line.

The starting corral was divided according to the pace you thought you would run, so we dutifully stood by the sign that said "10:00 mile". 

There were a lot of people there, more than I thought there would be. There was a costume contest, a jazzercise warm-up and other festivities.  We didn't wear costumes, but we did get matching tank tops for the race.

The race started on the UAF campus, and ended at Pioneer Park, but the vast majority of the course wound through neighborhoods. This seemed to cause a miles-long block party, with people along the course sitting in lawn chairs, cheering, handing out water, and watching us run by. Teenaged boys wove in and out on skateboards, and one family was handing out cans of beer instead of water. One little girl had her hose out, and I ran through the spray, which after 4-ish miles of running, felt pretty good. 

The last little bit of the course was along a bike path beside the river. I gather that the course normally runs a little more along the river, but they had to change the course last minute due to flooding.

The entire course was essentially flat and paved. There was one short section of packed gravel where they were doing road construction. They did a good job of blocking off traffic to protect the runners. The race was 10K, so a little over 6 miles, and they had signs at each mile point. 

 For me, the first couple of miles are the hardest, and I ask myself over and over why the hell am I doing this??? Once I get past that point, though, I can usually just keep going, and that's what we did. Krista and I seem really well matched this year, and we stayed together throughout the race, and I think it challenged us both just enough, without making it a killer. I ran it a little faster than I usually do. Chronotrack results aren't out yet, but Runtastic said I averaged 10:13 a mile, which is about 15 seconds per mile faster than my last several runs. When we hit the 6 mile sign, I flashed Krista the "go" sign, she nodded, and we took off, practically sprinting to the finish line. I was thrilled to see the timer say just over 64 minutes when we crossed the line. 

We were worried that we would get rained on after driving the whole way in pouring rain, but we got only a few sprinkles. The finish line festivities included oranges, watermelon, protein shakes, baked potatoes, and mini cupcakes. If we didn't have to get back to the kids at the playground, we could have stuck around and really enjoyed it more. Maybe next year. This is definitely one we will do again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A run along the inlet

Yesterday was a crazy busy day. I woke up, got my daughter off to school, woke my youngest up and got him off to school, then left myself and worked all day, without even a lunch break. Then rushed home and had to leave again about 10 minutes later to take my daughter to a youth activity at our church. It is about a 20 minute drive to the church, so if I had driven there and back again to drop her off, and there and back again to pick her up, it would have meant an hour and 20 minutes of driving back and forth. So I did what I usually do, which is drop her off and wait in the parking lot for a couple of hours, then drive her home. Then a late dinner, and off to bed. This is what happens every single Wednesday, week after week.

The problem is, I also wanted to get in a run yesterday. Then I realized I had the perfect opportunity: the time spent waiting in the parking lot. So when I got to the church, I changed into my running gear and headed out. 

I didn't have a super long run planned: a 5 minute warm up walk, 30 minutes of running, and a 5 minute cool down walk. 

The route I took led along the north-ish side of Cook Inlet and I was thrilled to enjoy periodic views of the inlet throughout my run. It was really beautiful, and much more enjoyable than staring at the TV in front of the treadmill at the gym. I like running outside much better. 

Wouldn't you, if this was the view??

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


So, I've lost all this weight, and I'm determined to keep it off. However, my mouth has different ideas. Lately I have been allowing myself a little more dietary "freedom" ... Which really means I have been eating a crapton of fast food, fatty food, high carbohydrate food... All the things that if I don't get a handle on, will lead me back to being fat.
And I so don't ever want to be fat again!!!!
I'd gained a total of 8 pounds back when I decided I simply wasn't going to let that happen. And since the diet I was on was so effective, I decided to go back to it long enough to lose those 8 pounds... And another 5. 
I've been hesitant to put numbers out there, but I'm gonna do it, because it will help me be accountable. I started this journey at 171.2 pounds. I got to "goal" at 128.4, a total of 42.8 pounds gone. When I decided I needed to stop the regain, I was at 136.2, up 7.8 pounds. Ever since I got to "goal", I've actually thought I would love to actually lose another 5 pounds, so my new goal is 123.
That was about a week ago. The last time I weighed myself was two days ago and I was back down to 132.4.
Since then, I've mostly been "on plan", with one major pizza incident... We'll see how it goes, and I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Change

It must have been a midlife crisis. That's the only explanation that makes sense.

I was 43 years old, and happy with my life. I'm happily married, with 4 wonderful children. I have a satisfying, although highly stressful and demanding job, hobbies that I enjoy, lots of yarn, friends, etc, etc. A home, a garden, two cats and an aging dog. And... An extra 40 or 50 pounds.

Most of the time, I was able to ignore the fact that I was overweight. I didn't like it, but I was resigned to it and tried to not let it bother me. I'd been overweight to one degree or another for most of the last 20 years. I'd dieted before, with varying degrees of success. I'd tried lots of different diets. I'd reluctantly decided I needed to just make peace with my body the way it was. And then I ran into some people I hadn't seen in a while.

I saw both ends of the spectrum. One of the couples that I'm referring to have both been inactive and overweight since I've known them. And they were suffering because of it. Between the two of them, they have diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. One of them has to wear a machine when she sleeps to help her breathe. The other recently had a stroke and has a hard time just walking around. They get hot easily, get tired easily, and generally seemed physically uncomfortable most of the time.

The other person I'm thinking of is very thin, and always has been. And she seems to have pretty good health for the most part. She rarely gets sick. However, she gets very little physical exercise, and has almost no upper body strength. Unfortunately, she has had a series of knee injuries that make it difficult for her to walk more than a mile or so without pain, and running is out of the question. Then a few years ago, she fell and broke 4 bones, including her hip. She seems very fragile, although I know she would hate being described that way. I'm almost afraid to hug her, because it feels like I will break her if I squeeze too hard.

Looking at these people was profoundly difficult for me. For the first time, I actually thought about my age. I was 42 at the time, and my life was half over. And if I didn't want to end up like one of them (and I didn't want that, although I love them all dearly), I knew I had to make some major changes in my life.

Now, seeing these people didn't propel me into instant action. I thought about it, I dithered, I procrastinated. I tried a diet for a week or a few days, then saw something I wanted to eat, and bye-bye diet. I finally got motivated enough to actually stick with something, and on June 24, 2013, I began changing my life. I simultaneously began the lifestyle change (aka diet) that would help me shed 40 pounds, and began getting active.

Now I'm 44.  I've lost those 40 pounds and kept them off (knocking on wood). I've gone backpacking, done lots of hiking, totally fallen in love with yoga, and even started running. I ran/walked a 5k and a 5 mile race last summer, and this summer I'm doing them both again. Plus a half marathon. Even 6 months ago I would never have thought I would want to run 13.1 miles all at once. And I'm excited about it.

You know what? I think I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. And I'm loving it. I'm determined to keep the weight off, and keep moving. And I'm going to talk (well, write) about it...