Monday, April 7, 2014

Zion 50k Race Report~ in the company of friends

This race report is dedicated to my friends:  new and old.  I had a really rough day at work on Thursday and considered not going to my race in Virgin, Utah this weekend.  Friday morning was punctuated by frustration, sadness, and a few tears.  Stress that did not deserve a place in my life.  Thankfully, I drove to the race with a very optimistic friend, who took my mind off the maladies in life and helped me to reframe my outlook.  Throughout the race on Saturday, I told myself to just, "think positively" and to "smile, even if you don't feel like it".  Here is my report on how that went.

So, I already mentioned that I drove down to Virgin, Utah with my friend Britta.  She told me that she was trying to be more positive about people, not talk negatively about them, and be more positive, in general.  I can be a pretty negative person.  Most of my good friends know that.  I usually blame it on my half-German descent.  Spend any length of time in the town where my father grew up and you start to pick up on the fact that people talk sh*t about each other and don't bat an eye at the fact that they do so.  It's a problem.  You start focusing on all the bad sh*t in the world and how horrible things  might be if "A" leads to "B" and it's all just a load of hypothetical crap.  It's really not worth wasting your energy on 99% of it.

So after a communication break-down at work, which I like to blame on the fact that no one in my clinic ever wants to be criticized or they will defensively fly off the handle, I was in a pretty frustrated, bad mood.  I went to do a Girls on the Run site visit as an ambassador on Thursday afternoon and experienced the positive energy of over a dozen eight- to ten-year-olds which helped to put me back on track from the negativity that I had experienced earlier in the day.

Then Britta and I drove to Zion on Friday.  Then meeting up with some friends on Friday night for dinner, which turned into a bit of a fiasco because the credit card machine at the restaurant we went to wasn't working and we really just wanted to go to bed because we had to be awake at 4:30 to get to the race start... Yeah.  Isn't there some saying about "the best laid plans... blah, blah, blah... "?

I was determined to have a good race despite the fact that I hadn't run much elevation this winter and had only just barely been able to put together three solid weeks of training at 40 miles per week.  I would go to the start line with a smile on my face.  A forced smile.

I got to the hotel and took a shower and watched a couple of episodes of Modern Family.  I read my book for about an hour and started getting sleepy, so I decided to turn out the light.  I fell asleep quickly and slept soundly.  How do I know this?  Because I woke up in a panic at midnight when the hotel alarm clock went off.  Rookie move.  Forgot to check that.  I tried not to let it affect my sleep, and told myself if I had fallen asleep easily once, I would do it again.  Reality is:  I tossed and turned for 30-40 minutes and woke up two other times during the night.  The alarm went off at 4:40am and I forced a smile onto my face.  A supported 30-mile run in the desert with friends!  Positive attitude!  I was even able to force down a cup of coffee, banana, and a Larabar for breakfast at 5am (and didn't puke it up again).  My luck was continuing...

Many friends were in the start-finish pavilion at the Virgin town park.  Nearly everyone was smiling in anxious anticipation of the day.  A few 100-mile people were finishing as we were starting.  It was a great atmosphere.

I looked over at my friend Ryan (who is always smiling) and was like, "Oh, I left my headlamp in the car.  We probably won't really need them, huh?"  And he said, "Here, just take mine.  I run in the dark all the time, so I'll be fine."  And then we proceeded to start the race in the dark at 6am, run through the foothills above Virgin, Utah, and get off-course many times even with the use of the headlamp.

I ran with my friend Darcie for about a mile and felt good about that because she is way faster than I am.  Then Britta came up from behind me... What?  She is way faster than I am.  In fact, this happened not once, but twice (she had gotten off-course).  Then we came to the river crossing.  I watched as about 20-30 people tip-toed around the edge of the water, looking for a dry place to cross. Thanks, folks, but my feet will be dry again in about 20 minutes, and I just passed all of you.  I splashed right through the river.  Bam!  Oh, it was sweet.

I ran the entire 7-miles of the first climb.  I kept hearing Lindsay's (Ryan's wife) voice in my head from one of her recent blogposts:  "Run all of the uphills, even if you don't think you can.  Own the uphills!"  And I did.  Before I knew it, I was at the first aid station at 7.5 miles.  I sped through without taking anything and called out my number to the volunteers.  Sweet.  I just passed about 5 people who had stopped.

Then I saw my friend Renee, who was pacing Steven (didn't know him) and I gave them both a hug.  Steven was doing the 100-mile race and the two of them had been up all night.  They deserved hugs.  In fact, I said, "Good job", "Great job", or gave a pat on the shoulder to every single 100-mile runner that I passed.  It felt good to see them grimace a little smile after my acknowledgement of their efforts.  These runners were at approximately the 80-mile mark of the race and were all in the home stretch.  So sweet.

I saw my friend Matt (doing the 100-mile) and realized that I had gotten off-course.  I laughed, and ran backwards on the course to make up the mileage that I had lost (about a half a mile) and then caught up to him again.  He told me to "get going" and not slow down because of him.  In fact, I passed again the three women who had also taken a wrong turn and had not made the attempt to make up the mileage that they had lost.  Later, ladies!  I continuously looked at the pace-setting on my watch and it hovered right around 12 min-mi, exactly my target.

I caught Becky from Pocatello, a friend of my friend Kelly, and we ran together for about a mile.  She also skis at Pebble Creek, where my brother is the director of ski patrol.  She was really nice, but was running faster than I was on the downhill, so I told her to go on ahead.

We got down the road to the cut-off and had a small, 300 ft climb to grind up.  Becky and one other woman were ahead of me, just out of reach.  "How nice would it be to catch them?"  I thought to myself.  Through the next aid station very quickly just to fill a water bottle and they were still just ahead.  Dang.  Just out of reach.  Then the big climb came:  1,500ft in 1.5 miles.  I was calling Becky "red shirt" because before I knew her name, that's how I was identifying her.  I stubbed my toe and looked down a 300-foot precipice.  Pay attention!  Grind uphill.  Rope section.  Pull uphill.  Head down.  Breathe.  10 more minutes uphill.  Then, On Top of Smith Mesa!  And Becky was at the top.

I could hear Roch's voice in my head, "You'll be glad you have those Altra Olympus shoes on the way down off of Smith Mesa," and he was right, as always.  It was 3 miles of steep downhill on a paved road.  I switched gears and sped downhill.  Out in front of Becky and running 8 min-miles.  5 more miles and I would be finished.  "Your legs are going to hurt tomorrow!" a little voice inside said to me.  But I didn't care.  Tomorrow is not today, and today I have the fortitude to bust this last section out.  It had been a great day up until that point and I was determined to keep it that way.

I ran out of water on the downhill and shrugged it off.  I got a side stitch and did some deep belly-breathing to get it to go away.  Then, before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the hill and two women were standing by an SUV and yelled, "OH Yeah!  Girl Power!  Way to go, girl!"  And you know what?  They had water jugs set up there!  Sweet mother of baby Jesus, cool, refreshing water.  I asked, "How far, 2 miles?" as I was filling my bottle.  One of them said, "Maybe one and a half [miles]."  Hell yeah, let's get this b*tch done!  Still averaging 12 min-miles!

I cruised the last bit down the double-track dirt road and to the main highway.   There were cars coming from both directions.  I held out my hand to them and waved and smiled, forcing them to stop and let me cross.  I could finish well under 6 hr 30 min if I hustled down the last quarter mile... to the finish!  6 hours, 20 minutes!  I did it!!!  And I felt great the entire way.

I felt great, because I was determined to feel great.  I wasn't going to let a bit (or a lot) of negativity affect my race day.  I let the infectious optimism of my friends influence me instead.  I love my friends.  I wore my Happy Utah Mountain Runners shirt and am certain that I lived up to the name of this amazing group of people.  I sat with friends at the finish line and laughed and smiled.  I drank a beer which was quite possibly, the best beer I have ever tasted (it was a PBR, my favorite, and it was free:  even better).

I drove back to Salt Lake with Britta (she won the race, and my friend Darcie got 3rd!) and made it to the kennel before 6pm to pick up the dogs.  Had I arrived 5 minutes later, I would have perhaps had to pay a late-pick up fee.  My luck had continued on the drive home (no speeding tickets, either).

What a wonderful weekend.  What a great way to start the racing season.  Let the Summer of Running, 2014 edition begin!

Postscript:  it is now Monday evening and my legs have been killing me for two days, post-race.  I earned it.  I also have been an empty pit of hunger, eating almost an entire, large Este New York-style pizza in 2 1/2 days.  I have taken afternoon naps both Sunday and Monday and it feels great.  It all feels great.  I am pleased beyond belief.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Altra Olympus vs Hoka

Introduction:  why I chose to switch to a high-cushion shoe:

I was originally introduced to the Hoka Mafate (the original Hoka shoe) in January of 2011, when I was going through an IT band tendonitis injury.  The increased cushion of the shoe absolutely helped me to recover from my injury more quickly and allowed me to participate in active recovery without furthering my injury.  As 2011 went on, I continued to train in the Hoka shoe and realized that I had much less leg fatigue after longer runs than I had ever experienced with other shoes in the past.  The high stack height of the mid-sole allowed for this.  In September of 2011 I completed my first 100-mile race, the Wasatch 100, and owed much of my success to the shoes which allowed me to heal effectively from previous injury, train with less leg fatigue, and recover more quickly after long runs.

Subsequently, I finished my second and third 100s, the Bear 100 in 2012 and the Bighorn 100 in 2013, as well as the Trans Rockies Run stage race in 2012 (120 miles over 6 days).  In the Fall of 2012 I had heard good things about a new, local company called "Altra" and decided to give their shoes a try.  The shoes were much more minimal than I was used to running in, but the Hokas that I liked (the original Mafate and the original Stinson) were wearing out and the newer versions had changed quite a bit as far as the upper was concerned.  The new Hokas just weren't as comfortable as my previous Hokas and I was no longer in love with the brand.  The Hoka uppers seemed over-built and stiff, and many people (myself included) were having trouble with the low-profile toe box.

In January of 2013 I tried on the Altra Torin, a road shoe with a larger stack height than the trail series shoes, the Lone Peak and the Superior, and I was in love.  The comfort of the Altra upper along with the wider toe box and the cushion of the midsole quickly made this the favorite shoe in my quiver.  Running more than 30 miles in the Lone Peaks, I was experiencing foot fatigue and ankle pain, and knew that I needed a shoe with a thicker midsole:  more cushion and a higher stack height, to get me through my next 100 mile race.  The Torins were a good alternative as far as cushion was concerned, but didn't have the tread that I needed while running on the trails.
Hoka Mafate II (left) vs Altra Olympus (right)

Enter the Altra Olympus, March 2014.  The women's shoe release was a bit behind the men's shoe, and I had already heard good things about the men's version from several friends of mine who were running in it.  I've personally only done about 50 miles in the shoes, but from what I have experienced so far, I will tell you that I plan in running in them a lot (almost exclusively) this coming season.

Comparison:

I can tell you that for the following reasons, I prefer the Altra Olympus over the Hoka.

1) Upper/toebox:  the problems that I experienced with the newer versions of the Hoka are nonexistent with the Altra Olympus:  the Altra upper is of a lighter-weight, more breathable material, but plenty durable.  The Hokas seem to have become "over-built" and tended to cause a lot of rubbing and restriction of the toes.  The toe box in the Hokas is absolutely too restrictive.  Altra has gotten things right:  a wider toe box means absolutely no blisters experienced.  No rubbing, no chafing.  Each time I put the Olympuses (or any of the Altra shoe line) on my feet, I marvel at the comfort that is imparted on my feet and toes.

2) Midsole:  the Altra Olympus's midsole is similar to the Hoka, but with a little less "flair" making it a bit less wide and cumbersome.  The amount of cushion is comparable, however, and the Altra midsole seems to be a bit more energetic and "springy".  I feel like less energy is lost with each step.  This translates into less effort being put into each step and my pace (per min-mi) is faster in the Altra.  (Specifications:  Hoka Mafate 3:  Stack height 29 (toe) to 33mm (heel), and the Altra Olympus is 36mm, zero-drop.)

3) Outsole/tread:  another win for the Altra Olympus.  The more aggressive tread of the Olympus (although not knobby) simply grips better on all surfaces.  I feel more confident, especially on the downhills, and feel less likely to "slip out" than with the Hokas.

4) Toe rocker:  when standing on a hard, flat surface in the Altra Olympuses, the toe rocker is very noticeable and feels a bit odd underfoot.  I can tell you that once you get out on the trail, this sensation is nearly imperceptible.  The Hoka has a rocker as well, and is less noticeable when standing on a hard, flat surface.  The Altra Olympus might dominate a little bit as far as function, giving the runner the feeling that he or she is pushing off with a bit more ease.

5) Zero-drop factor:  Altras are a Zero-drop shoe, meaning that there is no difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe when measured from the ground.  Transitioning from a 4-5mm shoe like the Hoka to the zero drop of the Altra took me all of 3 months to do.  Transitioning from a higher drop (like 7mm or 9mm as some shoes are) might take a little bit longer, in an effort to avoid Achilles tendon stretch and over-use of the lower leg muscles.  However, as I have learned from Altra representatives, the more cushion there is in the zero-drop shoe that you transition to, the more forgiving that shoe will be.  You will likely experience an easier transition to the Olympus than, say, to the Superior which has a very minimal stack height of 14mm. Another thing that I love about the Zero-drop factor, is that my running stance is much improved.  My running partner has told me that over the past year of running in Altras, I have gone from a "slumped" stance, with my butt down and plodding along (in the Hokas) to a more active, taller, "forward lean" stance.  I have definitely noticed that my alignment (shoulders, hips, knees, feet) seems better and my running requires less effort than before.  I'm running faster on the whole with my new, more efficient running posture.

Considerations when buying a high-cushion shoe:  

The handling or "cornering" ability of my Altra Olympuses is definitely not as good as the Lone Peak or the Superior (more minimal trail shoes in the Altra line), but I feel that this is not a fault of the shoe, rather something that must be considered when buying a high-cushion shoe.  Hokas have the same flaw.  You just don't feel that "connection" with the ground that you do on lower-profile shoes.  I'm willing to give up a little handling-ability in the name of saving my quads over the course of a 100-mile run as I previously mentioned in the introduction.  As time goes on running in a high-profile shoe, the midsole actually compacts some and your foot "settles" into the midsole a bit more.  More miles on this type of shoe means that they will actually get better with time (no matter if they are Hoka, Altra, or some other brand of high-profile shoe).

I also feel that adding some cosmetic application to the mid-foot of the upper (a strapping-type system, first pioneered by Adidas with the "three stripes" logo) might help to anchor the foot better into the Altra Olympus.  This could be something to consider for future, updated models.  This system is in place in the Superior 1.0s and functions very well.

"Ankle-roll" factor is something that many people consider when buying a high cushion shoe.  I personally have never had a problem with it.  I roll my ankles every once in a while no matter what kind of shoe I am in.  I think if you roll your ankle in any high-cushion shoe, you are going to notice it more.  If you are a typical ankle roller, this type of shoe may not be for you.  For me, I'm willing to risk it, given the many positives that a high-cushion shoe imparts.

Conclusion:

When buying a high-cushion shoe, there are many factors to consider.  Transitioning to any new type of shoe will take some time.  I have been very pleased with my performance in high-cushion shoes, and feel that with the recent addition of the Altra Olympus to the high-cushion shoe options, my running will continue to improve.  The shoes will allow me to attain the goals of high-mileage running with less leg fatigue, faster recovery times, and fewer foot chafing issues than any shoe prior to it.

Here's how a few of the Altra shoes compare:

1) Altra Lone Peak 1.5, stack height 22mm
    vs. Altra Olympus, stack height 36mm




2) Altra Torin 1.5 (road shoe), stack height 27mm
    vs. Altra Olympus, stack height 36mm




3)  Altra Superior, stack height 14mm
     vs. Altra Olympus, stack height 36mm



Full specifications can be found at:
http://www.altrarunning.com
and http://www.hokaoneone.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Business

It's the third week in March, and it's time for me to get down to business.  Meaning:  time to get some serious running training started.  I've been "maintaining" fitness all winter with minimal running miles (about 20 per week) mostly on flat terrain.  I counted up my ski days:  14 days ski touring, 10 days skate skiing, and 5 days skiing in resorts.  Spring is here to stay, I'm afraid, and it looks like although winter still hangs on some days with a dusting of snow and some cooler temperatures (40s... not really "cold"), most days are 55-60.

So, getting down to business means:  an interval run once a week (6-10 times 1-2 minute intervals at 7:30min-mi pace, which is pretty fast for me), more trail running, higher weekly mileage, a weekly "long" run, and more elevation gain.  I looked back through my running log, and the last time I did an interval run was over 3 months ago:  Yikes!  So, last Thursday in the Park, I hit the intervals, and man did my hamstrings feel it for the next couple of days.  I did a longish run on Sunday (13 miles) and felt kind of/sort of worked by the end of it, but at least I'm feeling stronger.

Talk about getting stronger, even with the fair amount of skiing I did this winter, I am feeling my quads today after a 6-ish mile trail run and about 2,000 ft of elevation gain up to Mt Van Cott above the University.  I didn't push it:  just ran easy 11 min-mi pace average (with 20-25min-mi pace on the climb) and my legs are aching today!  I took the dogs for a walk in the Park this evening just to loosen things up before I hit a hill-interval/repeat session tomorrow.  Ouch!

So why all the focus on intervals and self-inflicted pain?  Well I have a bit of a schedule planned for the summer.  First race is coming up just a couple of short weeks away:  the Zion 50k (about 31 miles for those of you measuring in statute units).  I'm guessing that after my experience yesterday with the achy quads, my "race" in a couple of weeks will be more like a training run for what I have planned over the summer.

The other part of my plan is to start throwing down consistent 40+ mile weeks, working my way up to high 50s or low 60s by mid-summer (July).  I'll do one 50k race in early August and then start tapering for a big event.  Here's the line-up:

April 5th:  Zion 50k
May: 3 days in a row of 20 miles each day or a 40+ miler (self-supported)
June 7th:  sweep 20 or so miles at Scout Mountain 100k (formerly Pocatello 50)
June 14th:  Yellowstone Half-marathon (with my sis-in-law, this will be her first half-marathon)
June 20th:  Bighorn 100
July:  5 days in a row of 20 miles each day
August 5th:  El Vaquero Loco 50k, Afton, Wyoming
September 4th:  Wasatch 100

Honestly, I don't know how it happened that I signed up for all of these races!  (Or as I like to call them, "events".)  I guess I signed up for the Zion 50k because I needed a longer training run before Bighorn, and I wanted a cool hoody sweatshirt.  I'm helping friends out in Pocatello, and that's a dang tough race, so I'm happy to only be running 20 miles of it instead of being committed to the whole thing.  Yellowstone Half is self explanatory, because I want to support my sis-in-law, and it will be a good last longish run before Bighorn.  At Bighorn, I have a score to settle (not really, but I'd like to improve on my time from last year).  The July deal (100 miles in 5 days) I did in 2013 and felt super strong afterwards, so I want to do it again.  It was really fun to run local trails and have a daily routine where all I had to think about was:  wake up, run, eat, sleep, repeat.  It's the 10th anniversary of El Vaquero Loco, and the race director says he has big plans, so I can't miss out on that!  And, I will get another cool hoody, so that's an added bonus.  Wasatch 100:  yeah, what was I thinking?  I always sign up for that lottery and don't expect much and then I get in...  go figure!  A great race supported by an amazing, local trail running community.  Hard not to pass up the opportunity.

So, I have a lot to look forward to the next few months.  Big plans means getting down to business.  Wish me luck!  And happy trails...
Happy to be hitting the trails
on a chilly Spring day ~
Frank & Artie on Mt Van Cott

Monday, March 10, 2014

Heavy Heart

It was with a heavy heart that I walked into St Ambrose Catholic church today, for the funeral of a good friend's mother.  My friend's mom was the definition of the word "moxie".  She was tough, opinionated, strong, talented, athletic, loving, welcoming, and loved by many.  After the loss of my own mother (and father) years ago, I could empathize with my friend and her family of 8 other siblings in the loss of their mother, just a couple of years after the loss of their father.

The service was lovely.  A Catholic mass that went on past the hour mark, with eulogies telling countless memories of this wonderful woman.  It was so entertaining to hear the stories of how innovative she was in the face of so few resources and so many (9!) energetic children, who are so smart and talented in their own rites.

I've been blessed over the years to have shared Thanksgiving dinners, babysitting duties, time camping, and afternoon picnics with such a beautiful, loving family.  A family that accepted me into their circle more than once because, I guess, if there's 30 people at the table, it doesn't make much sense not to include one more.

Some of the members of this family I hadn't seen in a few years.  It was really great to see them again and share some stories and some hugs.  I'll always remember the kindness that they have shown me.

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” -- Dr. Seuss


Monday, February 10, 2014

I got angry today ~

 Today was not a good day, for multiple reasons.  I'm going to tell you about one of those reasons.

Salt Lake City has been plagued by "bad air" this winter.  Not just this year, but for many years.  In recent years, it's been getting a little more attention.  A combination of the geography of this beautiful valley and its mountains, the high pressure weather systems that move through, and the emissions created by heavy industry, automobiles, and just plain living (like heating our homes) all contribute to the problem of bad air.  Everyone agrees that it has to stop.  Very few people actually do anything about it, although that fact also seems to be changing in recent years and months.

I have been trying to "do my part" by riding the light rail train "Trax" to work.  It's not a long ride:  just 4 miles and 20 minutes each way.  But it's 20 minutes less each way that I am in my car, stopped at red lights, idling and adding to the problem of our bad air.

Every morning after getting off the Trax, I walk past a Century Link building, near the Madsen Health Center.  It seems to be some sort of maintenance building that house switchboards and servers.  Every morning, I walk past three (fat) guys in their utility trucks, with their engines idling.  I arrive anywhere between 8am and 9am, and there are always at least two or three trucks there.  Idling.  For an hour -- or more?

Someone asked me, "Well, it's cold outside.  Where are they supposed to go?  How will they keep warm?"  I don't care where they go, as long as they are not in their trucks with the engines running.  They can go to Dunkin Donuts for all I care.  It's warm in there and there's free WiFi.

There is an anti-idling law in Salt Lake City.  No resident, even if they are on their own property, is allowed to idle a vehicle for more than 2 minutes (the length of most stop lights).  Cutting down on idling can cut down significantly on the amount of pollution that is trapped in the valley, especially on cold-weather, high-pressure "inversion days".

Today, I'd had enough.  I walked past those Century Link guys in their idling trucks and I told them to "Turn the key.  Shut it OFF!"  And do you know what they did?  They smirked and shrugged their shoulders at me.  And they left their engines running.

Do you know what I did?  I called Salt Lake City police dispatch.  If you see idling vehicles, especially from utility companies or from the city or county, I encourage you to do the same.  The number is 801-799-3000.  These people are not going to do anything to change their ways unless we get angry.  Unless we decide to do something.  Unless we stand up and say, "I don't want to breathe bad air anymore, and WE ALL are part of the problem."  We all can do better.  We need to change our ways and we need to try.

I will walk past that building again on Wednesday.  I will let you know what happens.  I will also be writing down the license plate numbers of those trucks and turning them in to the police the next time I see them idling.  It's time to do something.  It's time we all do something.

2/1/13, 5:26pm
12/31/13, 3:14pm

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A New Year ~


Franklin & Artemis
waiting to open presents~
We are well into the New Year and I haven't posted since Christmas time.  I must admit, I didn't want Christmas to end.  I left the tree up well into the second week in January.  The Christmas season did get a bit extended for me, since I was up in Portland with a friend and her two daughters for a few days and wasn't around to celebrate with family.  So, for New Year's, my brother and sister-in-law came down to Salt Lake from Pocatello for a couple of days and we opened presents together.  We skied at Alta on New Year's Day, and despite the low snow conditions (we are currently at 70% of our normal snowpack) we had a really great time.

I've been out backcountry skiing some, although not as much as last year because of the conditions (I'm really getting tired of the term "monsters in the basement") but really have been skate skiing as much if not more than I have been out touring.  The Mirror Lake Highway is groomed and although a little bumpy from the snowmobile traffic, absolutely delightfully soft.  The skate tracks in Park City are getting a little firm and icy with all of this high pressure, but are hanging in there.

My brother, Stefan, and Mimi-kitty ~
I skied in area a couple of other times too:  Deer Valley hosted the World Freestyle Competition which was an Olympic qualifier for the Americans, and I got in on a friend's event pass for free (it pays to know people!).  My friend's boss, who gave us the event and day passes to Deer Valley, was set up right by the Audi cars on display in the finish area, and we were just a few feet away from Jonny Moseley and the NBC crew when they were filming the intro commentary for the event.  I  also skied at Brighton one day last week and was pleasantly surprised by the laid-back atmosphere of that hill.

This week's adventures featured the Outdoor Retailers' Show in downtown Salt Lake City, and the national outdoor crowd got to see how bad the inversion [smog] has been with all of this high pressure.  It was great to catch up with folks at the show and see a lot of really great outdoor gear.  I worked with the Trail and Ultra Running website and looked for gear at the show that we could potentially product test and review on the website.

Deer Valley Moguls Competition
The Altra booth at the show is always a good time, with Seth Wold, Brian Beckstead, and Golden Harper's great enthusiasm and positive energy.  I was pleasantly surprised that the women's promo product line samples are all in my size, so I was able to try on every shoe in the line. Super fun stuff!  I have some Olympus trail shoes ordered and on their way, and am looking forward to running in the super-cushiony comfort of this fabulous looking show.  The Lone Peak 2.0s got a little bit of an upgrade with 3mm more of stack height, so they will ride a little more cushioned as well, but are still a nice low-profile shoe.  The Superior 1.5 is a classy looking shoe with a new upper and color scheme.

I feel like for the last month I have had less time for adventuring, since I've been working 10-12 hours one day a week at an urgent care up in Ogden.  It takes about 45 minutes drive time each way as well.  A little tough to motivate for, because I get slammed all day seeing patients, and the intensity never really lets up, but the staff is really supportive and great, and the extra cash will be nice for buying gear (I already have another Patagonia puffy coat on order).  I'll be working there for three or four months, filling in for one of the other providers who is on leave right now.
2014 Altra Women's trail shoe lineup~
So when I finish up my stint up in Ogden, it will be just about time to run the Zion 50k down south in Hurricane, Utah on April 5th.  I'm still getting out running here and there, despite the skiing and skate skiing, and was pleasantly surprised recently when I ran 10 miles on the streets here in town and it still felt really easy, despite "only" running 20-30 miles per week.

Perhaps the most exciting news of the New Year is that I was asked to be a member of the HUMRs (Happy Utah Mountain Runners) group.  This is a group of totally-fabulous trail runners here in Northern Utah.  Everyone in the group absolutely lives and breathes trail running and having met many of them over the last year, I've learned that they are such a fun group to be around.  I'm looking forward to running, laughing, and socializing with them.  I'm apprehensively looking forward to my "initiation" rites, which will perhaps take place at Rooster's Brew Pub in Ogden.

Gotta hike up to ski down ~







The ski down was fine ~













Me and my brother skiing at Alta

The dogs and I skate skiing the Rail Trail
in Park City ~

Mirror Lake Highway, High Uintas, Utah ~

















Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas then and now ~

When I was a kid, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, Bavarian-style.  I remember dressing up in my German dirndl dress and sitting with my mom and brother on the stairs while my mom read us a Christmas story from a big, red book.  We were really antsy with anticipation of presents and a special dinner.  There was a special Bavarian mountain club record that my mom would put on the stereo, with German yodeling songs and carols.

Part-way through my mom's reading of the story, my dad, who was downstairs, would ring a cowbell and yell out, "He's here! He's here!"  And we would go racing down the stairs and into the glassed in porch to find the Christmas tree, that we had cut down from our back acreage and brought across the property on a toboggan, aglow with real candles.  The lighting of the candles was always a mystery to me.  Apparently, it was the Christ Child (Krist Kindl) who lit them.  This was kind of a fuzzy image in my mind, because the image of a baby or small boy somehow got mixed up with the traditional American image of Santa Claus, and I was never quite sure whom I was supposed to be looking for as my dad called out that "He" was here and had lit the candles on the tree and brought the presents.  (Come to find out, my brother, being two years older, knew for several years that it was my dad, not the Krist Kindl who was lighting the candles, but kept it a secret as not to spoil it for me.)

The best present of all was always a large box with pink butcher paper on it, and a string to hold it together.  It was addressed in black marker, and had probably a dozen stamps on it with blue "Luftpost" stickers as well.  It was a box from my grandparents in Germany.  The other Christmas presents were great, but this box was truly special.  There was always a Steiff stuffed animal for me, lots of chocolate, some model train kits for my brother, and hand-knit sweaters from Oma.

After opening presents, my dad was of course starving for dinner after embarking on process that took entirely too long.  We would sit down at the table by the wood stove with our cozy new sweaters on and eat traditional Bavarian cold cuts, cheese, and fresh bread.  My dad always had something gross like creamed, pickled herring (which I now, of course love!) and would try to get us to drink a special drink of red wine mixed with ginger ale (like a kids' wine spritzer?!?) that was totally gross.

Someone asked me the other day, "Well, if you celebrated on Christmas Eve, what did you do on Christmas Day?"  We played with our new loot, of course!  Oftentimes, after our cousins were done opening presents on Christmas Morning, we would meet up with them and go ice skating on the lake or cross country skiing in the woods or on the golf course.  I remember the stark whiteness of the snow, the sparkling crystals, the clear blue skies, and the laughter.

Although my Christmases are quite different these days (there are no candles on the tree), I do try to keep some traditions intact.  My brother and I typically celebrate with a Bavarian meal of cold cuts, cheese, and fresh bread.  My sister-in-law's family celebrates together on Christmas Eve, so that tradition has changed for me a bit, but I think of it as an extended "Christmas week" in which the festivities are carried out for a longer period of time because the last few years we have celebrated together on Christmas night, the day after her family celebration.  This year, I won't be headed up to Idaho to celebrate with my family until the New Year, which I'm really looking forward to.  Hopefully I can get some skiing in with my brother and sister-in-law, and I'm sure the dogs will score all kinds of loot.  Kitty won't be left out from the gift giving (or receiving), but she'll be guarding the house and taking cat toys (aka ornaments) off of the tree, no doubt.

Christmas time truly is a magical time of year.  Full of thankfulness and giving.  I am so thankful for everyone in my life and the good fortune that I have had.  I am thankful for being able to give gifts to those whom I love and appreciate.  I am thankful for the people who have mentored me, especially the ones who are not physically here anymore but who live on in my heart.  I am thankful for having good friends and family who support me in everything that I do.  I am thankful to those whom have been cruel to me, because I have learned so much from them on how not to live my life.  I am so thankful for having two very strong legs to carry me wherever I wish to travel and for two happy dogs who remind me to smile, no matter what.  I am thankful for a little black kitty who reminds me of a certain little gray kitty.

I wish everyone a peaceful celebration and a prosperous New Year.