Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter ~ it's ON!

Haven't blogged in a little while, so I want to catch you all up on a few things.  Mainly ~ it's finally winter!  We have gotten so much snow in the last week or so, and the mountains are shaping up nicely. Haven't been up skate skiing in Park City since our first storm cycle over a month ago, but I'm holding out for the guys at Round Valley to get some good grooming in.  Next week, I'll be up there for sure (with the pups).

I've gotten out ski touring several times in the last week.  My neighbors, Kate and Brett, have asked me to join them for weekly Dawn Patrol (starting out skiing before it's light out).  We've gotten out twice so far.  We start out in the dark with headlamps and make our way up the mountain on the skin track, and as it's getting light we transition to the downhill.  It is so gorgeous up on the mountain with the light coming up and the peaceful quiet all around.  I am calling our group of three "Roberta Street Dawn Patrol" (because we are neighbors on Roberta Street in Salt Lake City).  As an aside, when we got home this morning (at about 10:30am) the cops were at one of our neighbors' houses checking out what looked like a domestic dispute ~ ahh... Roberta Street.  Takes all kinds.  Gotta love it.

We've been hitting up an area that's relatively close to home and low-angle (not very steep) with lots of aspen trees to keep the safety factor up and the danger-level down.  I can't believe how much better it's gotten just in the past week with the snow that we've gotten.  Not much happening as far as avalanches so far this year (which is good) and we are keeping our eyes on the forecast and conditions.

Saw my brother's old friend John Carlquist up on the hill today, and hopefully I'll be able to contact him and get out with him a few times this year.  It was nice to see him, and he recognized me straight away even though we hadn't seen each other in several years.

Lots of people out today, and as we got back down to the highway after skiing, we sort of had to scurry across the road because there were so many cars going up to the resorts.  Kate, Brett, and I all rejoiced as we got to the full parking lot, with dozens of people just starting up the hill at 9:30 am and we were all done and had gotten what very likely were much fresher tracks than they will get today!  We also were so thankful that we weren't skiing in the resorts today with the holiday crowds.  We are lucky folks, indeed, that we ascend the mountain under our own power!

Christmas Eve I got up to Pocatello for a couple of days with my brother, Stefan and my sister-in-law, Abigail.  Nice thing ~ we opened presents just a little early (on the 23rd)!  Yay.  My brother totally styled me out with some nice garb from Patagonia.  We ate traditional Bavarian "brotzeit" dinner and had a great time.  Stefan and I took all the dogs for a snowy walk on Christmas Eve day before I went back to Salt Lake.  The dogs had a great time, especially Artemis and Ali (Abigail's dog) who found some dead deer bones on the hill.  Yum!

And finally, I want to share with you a video that our friend Brendan Nicholson made about Kate and her battle with breast cancer in 2010.  I still remember the call when she told me that she had been diagnosed.  I feel so fortunate to know her ~ she is such a fighter!  Ski touring can be hard, but I'm sure it must pale in comparison to the battle she fought against cancer.  She is a true survivor and a shining spirit.  I feel blessed that I got to be in the video that tells a little bit of her story.  Click here for the link to view the video.

The following photos are from Christmas Eve (dog hike), Dawn Patrol (day one, last week) and Dawn Patrol (day two, today).
It is dark at 5:30am on December 20th ~
Kate & Brett on the skin track
Morning light coming through the aspens ~
Gorgeous morning view of Mt Kessler and
the Salt Lake valley below ~
Mt Raymond (left) and Gobbler's Knob (right)
me ~ on the ridge ~
Dogs getting a Christmas treat ~
Franklin & Artemis are ready to rock the Idaho snow ~
Stefan and dogs on the Blackrock Road ~
Me and my brother, Stefan ~
Artemis loves that fresh mountain air ~
Ali girl, very tired after the hike ~
Are you beeping?  (or were you sleeping,
while we were beeping?)  Avalanche
beacon check station ~
Kate & Brett on the skin track,
Roberta Street Dawn Patrol day two ~

Feelin' the burn ~
Kate finding some nice turns ~ rippin' ~

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gray-bird days, stinky dogs, and cosmic curling

So far this winter is shaping up to be a lot like last winter ~ warm and brown.  Not my favorite combination.   If I were to think of other situations where those two things occur naturally together, it would bring me back to my ICU nursing days... yuck.

The skies have been gray and depressing, and I think the last time I was in the sunshine was over a week ago when I ran the Draper Shoreline with Ann.  That was the day that Artie rolled in deer poop and all three dogs ended up at the Dirty Johnson's Dogwash for a thorough scrubbing.  The gray-bird days are bringing my mood down and sapping my energy.  I just want to take naps and eat carbs all day!  Dang Trader Joe's coming to Salt Lake City (they opened on November 30th) and their large assortment of delicious cookies.  I'm fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder which has made me feel as though I'm on the verge of getting a cold for the last two weeks, but realizing that the only thing that really will make me feel better is exercising in the sunshine.  Maybe it's time for a trip to San Diego.

All this mild weather is bad for the skiing, but good for the running.  Hopefully at this rate, I'll be ready for the Buffalo 100 which is my next "for sure" event on March 22nd.  I hope to be able to cross train with some ski touring and cross country skate skiing for a couple of months before that.  We will see what the weather brings.  We are supposed to get a bit of a storm this weekend, but it looks right now to be a southerly flow, so likely we will not see very much snow accumulation.  Probably just a lot of wind.

I went curling at the Olympic Oval a few nights ago with a group of friends, and my brother and sister in law came down from Pocatello to join us.  What a blast we had!  Already thinking of starting up a team for leagues that will begin in January.  Public curling runs Monday nights from 8 to 10pm, and you get instruction from one of the ice-sheet staff.  Totally worth the $7 admission price, and we had 2 for 1 coupons from the website.  I highly recommend you check it out.

For now ~ some photos of the pathetic pups as they received their punishment at the dogwash. Think snow!

Vernon wondering why he hangs out with troublemakers.

Poor pathetic Franklin just wants a cookie.

Artie knows she is guilty, but is trying to look innocent.

And some photos from curling night (the cosmic lights were turned on after 9pm).

Prepping the ice.

Sue Lee throwing down a 40 pound stone.
Britta and Jeremy are ready to sweep.
Nick Francis takes his turn.

Abigail under the cosmic lights.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Summoning the Snow Gods

The first winter storm of the year was weeks ago and the weather has remained warm.  After skate skiing once in Park City, the weather turned warm again and although the highest reaches still have some snow, the trails are either dry or dotted with mud.  I hit the streets for the past couple of weeks, and this past week decided to re-institute my weekly interval running session, at least until the snow flies again.

In order to summon the Snow Gods, I have done several things ~

1)  Laid out a 4 month running training plan that includes those weekly interval sessions and a weekly mid- to long-ish run (10 to 20 miles).

2)  Committed to commuting by foot (walking 2 miles per day) and Trax train twice a week.  (I figure once the snow does fly, I won't be wanting to walk alongside a busy street with slush-water getting splashed up on me, potentially slipping on un-shoveled sidewalks, and walking said street in the dark.)

3)  Bought a new pair of touring skis.  Yes, another pair for my quiver.  I got a screamin' deal thanks to my Speedgoats Mountain Racing Team discount at Backcountry dot com.  I also did not buy a ski pass this year, which saved me upwards of $500, so I figure I just spent my ski pass money on a worthy investment, and will have a much more productive season (exercise-wise, and quality of turns) out of bounds.

By increasing my weekly running mileage and commitment, I figure by way of Murphy's Law it is bound to snow... unless by buying new skis I just negated the whole process.  We will see...

The dogs and I made it out to the West Desert yesterday to do some running on the dirt roads.  I got a bit chilled about 5 miles into it and felt down-right ill by mile 9 (of 10).  But I figure running while feeling somewhat ill can be good practice for those race days, middle to the end of a 100-miler, when you really don't feel good and want to quit, but you don't.  You tough it out.  So that's what I did yesterday (that, and I did an out and back run and I had no choice but to turn around and head back to where I started by way of the route that I had come, because I didn't know the area and there didn't appear to be any shortcuts.)

It was gorgeous running though ~ only saw one sheepherder and a couple of dogs, otherwise it was quiet except for the wind.  Gorgeous sunset when driving home, and someone was shooting off fireworks near Eagle Mountain, which was lighting up the sky.  The following pictures are from the run near the Pony Express Trail (road) near Faust, Utah.

The wind is blowing and a bit of scattered rain is starting to hit the ground.  Hopefully my efforts have been productive and we will get a real winter storm out of this ~ one that lasts ~
View to the west ~ House, Deep Creek, and Fish Springs Ranges ~

Near Red Pine Mountain ~

Dogs enjoying the view ~

Holding Vernon back from going to check out the people
shooting guns (he loves to chase the bullets) ~ Franklin
peaks through the window behind me ~

Fireworks in the desert ~

The day-after run-hangover ~

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Transition to the Loipe

This section of trail is only snowmobile-packed.
The rest of it is in much better shape, but likely
will not hold up long without a bit more snow and
warmer temps on the horizon.  Like my new
"Buff headwear"?  It was awesome!  I'm a fan.
I got about a half-dozen nice mountain bike rides in this Fall before the snow started flying!  In the last month, I have transitioned from running to biking to skate skiing.  It feels so good to be back out gliding along on the loipe up at Round Valley!

Indeed, a lot of people thought similarly today~ it was the most "crowded" I've seen my favorite trails in a long time.  The last few weeks I saw just a handful of people in the period of a couple of hours.  Now, today, I saw nearly two dozen people (and their dogs!) enjoying the groomed track.

Due to the thin snow conditions, the track is a bit narrow and a bit rutted in places.  But that didn't stop a couple of guys from feeling like it was their own personal race track.  Kind of funny~ as I was easily moseying up the big long hill I could hear a guy grunting and working behind me to catch up and attempt to pass.  The dogs stayed well out of his way and I wasn't worried about them tripping, when suddenly he struck my pole with his pole which threw his balance off just enough that he did a half-spin and landed, spread-eagle on his face in the snow.

It's true ~ three out of three dogs agree,
Round Valley rocks.  Any time, any season.
It was all I could do to contain my laughter.  "Yeah, nice form show-off," is what I was thinking to myself.  In reality, I said, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I think you hit my pole with yours," and then half-heartedly I added, "Are you ok?" And he replied that he was.  I knew he was alright and that only his pride was injured.

I kept skating up the hill and when I heard him coming the second time, I slowed down and rounded up the dogs so that he would have plenty of room to grunt his way past us without falling.

It was a gorgeous day up on the trails today, and I am so grateful for a change in activities!  It was a long summer of running.  I've logged nearly 1500 miles this year so far (just running miles) and my muscles are happy to do something just a little bit different.  I chose the correct wax today too, which made gliding that much easier and more enjoyable.  I can't wait to hit the loipe again!  But I think I will skip it this weekend.  With nice weather on the way (40s in Park City) there's bound to be even more people out taking advantage.  The dogs and I will have to hit one of our secret places this weekend to avoid the crowds!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Energy ~

Sometimes I have to look at my recent photos for a bit of inspiration to write ~ I remind myself that yes, I have gotten out of the house to experience some awesome trails and be in the company of some pretty great people and dogs.

I've hit my seasonal low-point in the past couple of weeks.  Indeed, I looked back on a blogpost from last year at this time and it looks as though I was feeling exactly the same way.   It's hard, after a successful summer of very rewarding running adventures, to hit this in-between season without any specific goals other than to rest up and try to conserve some energy to be ready to go again a few months from now.  I almost don't even want to think about what my next event will be, because I don't feel all that awesome right now.  I canceled my plans to attend a race in the Las Vegas area next week and am really disappointed with my decision, but realize that although I have the physical strength to go do the event, my mind just isn't in it at this point.

Getting out with the dogs always makes me laugh and smile, and I am so thankful to draw upon their happy, boundless energy.  I'm looking forward to the snow flying and getting some miles in on the skate-skis up in Park City with the dogs.  The trails are still really dry right now, and although the sun is shining, it's perceptibly lower on the horizon, and I don't draw as much energy from it as I did during the summer months.  I've been hitting the trails with my mountain bike once or twice a week which has helped to make my aching back and hips feel a lot better.

I also went down to Moab this past weekend to volunteer for a race, and got out for a trail run while I was down there.  Unfortunately, the condo where I was staying didn't allow dogs, so the pups didn't make the trip with me.  Would have been much more enjoyable if they had.  And although the event was not the most rewarding experience I've had volunteering, I realized that the other events that I have volunteered for and taken part in are truly top-notch.  This recent event reinforced for me how much it takes to not only pull off a successful event, but also how a race director's and committee's attitude can be make-or-break for not only the racers, but also for the volunteers who are donating hours and sometimes days of their personal time and resources.

Sometimes it's all about energy ~ the energy you give off and that which you receive.  I'll continue to try and place myself in rewarding situations, drawing on positive energy and in the process boosting my own.  Sometimes it is a struggle this time of year, but I'm nothing if not persistent.

With that being said, as promised here are some photos, mostly of dogs, that are sure to lift anyone's spirits.
Sugarhouse Park dogwalk ~

Dogwalk above the Avenues with a view of the Wasatch ~

Moab Long Canyon Road ~ near Potash ~

View up the Long Canyon Road ~

Needles District of Canyonlands NP and
the La Sal Mountains in the background ~

Tires pups after a mountain bike ride in Park City ~
Goofball, furballs greet me on my return home from work ~

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Riding Roundup (wait... what?)

dogs sitting on the new bench at Round Valley ~
"Dedicated to all the joyful dogs who leap,
 swim, run, and play together in Round Valley." 
Since my hips and lower back have been tight from the summer of running, I've decided to start (or re-start... ) mountain biking a bit.  I have a really sweet bike that I got about 5 years ago, so I really have no excuses.  The only thing that is really tough about mountain biking for me, is that it's not really very good for the dogs.  Dogs are better adapted to hiking and running (my fluffy dogs, anyway...  Vernon the speckled dog is another story!  That dog could run for days).

For that reason, I ride a bit slower when I'm with the fluffy dogs, but I will probably end up leaving them at home a bit and just heading out with Vernon here and there or going by myself. It breaks my heart to think of leaving the dogs alone at home and not letting them be part of the fun, but they could use a rest now and then, I suppose.

So I'm committing to riding at least a couple of times a week to give my legs a bit of a break but to still stay in shape.  At least until winter starts, and I can start skate skiing and ski touring!  I have to say, I know some pretty sweet biking trails with very few people on them, so it's really nice riding with the dogs.  Part of it is the time of year (the lack of crowds) ~ it's kind of the in-between season, so there's lots of people who are probably just done with riding for the year.  People start looking to winter at this time of year.  But if you ask me, this is the perfect time to ride.  50-60 degrees, not too hot and not too cold, beautiful Fall colors, solitary trails.  Just me and the dogs.
in the home stretch

Here's a few shots from our ride today ~  I took the fluffy dogs with the speckled dog for a good 7-mile loop, then put the fluffies in the car and took speckled-dog out for another two mile loop.  Sadly, partway into the bonus loop, my rear brake started doing a weird locking-up vibration kind of thing.  My bike is going to spend the night in the shop and I should get her back tomorrow, so I can ride this weekend as well.

The guy at the bike shop started going through all the things that I probably "should" do to maintenance my bike, since not a lot has ever been done over the 5 years that I had her.  Thing is, I started running lots and riding lots less after I got my bike.  I've probably only ridden her about two-dozen times over the last 5 years...  but things like rubber and hydraulic fluid wear out with time, so I probably will be looking at throwing down a bit of cash come the Spring.  A good investment, all in all, but makes me see how much more expensive riding is compared to running.

any day is a good day to hit the swimming hole
So far so good with the riding.  My butt doesn't hurt too bad and my legs are super strong from all of the endurance I built up running over the summer.  I'll probably look into riding some enduro-events next summer along with my handful of trail-running ultras.  It's never too soon to start looking at events!  But for the time being I'm just going to enjoy rolling along with the dogs...

tired fluffy dogs ~ after the ride

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Here's to the little things ~

morning hike w dogs on Roxie's Trail
Artie in the pink maples
Wow, I put in some great miles this weekend for my birthday.  What an awesome weekend it has been!  It started out kind of cold and rainy on Friday and I have to admit, I was super-psyched to see the rain and have the cooler weather.  This type of weather always reminds me of my birthdays growing up as a kid in Michigan ~ it always seemed to rain on my birthday, but it made staying inside with the fire crackling in the fireplace and the smell of birthday cake baking in the oven that much more special.  I used to look out the kitchen window at the beautiful red maple leaves and watch the birds and squirrels in the bird feeders.  One year I had friends over and after playing games inside, we all carved our own personal pumpkins on the front porch.  Good times!
me and my buddy, Frank

Artie & Frank posing at Roxie's rest spot
This year for my birthday, I first slept in and enjoyed coffee on the couch with my favorite two pups.  I heard the UPS truck outside make a stop about mid-morning, just as I was trying to motivate to change my clothes and take the dogs out for a hike.  I wasn't expecting a package... yet there was one left on my front step!  I called, "Thank you" after the UPS man as he jogged back to his truck, and took the surprise package inside to see what it was all about.  Inside was my favorite thing ever ~ COOKIES!  It took me a while to find the message to figure out who they were from, but as it turns out they were from my sister-in-law and brother in Idaho.  Happy day!
beautiful Fall colors

I took the dogs for one of our favorite hikes up at Red Butte.  It's a 4-mile loop that I like to call "Roxie's Loop" as it is named after my old yellow lab who did the loop countless times with me over the years.  I swear, Roxie was deaf and half-blind towards the end, but she never missed a turn on that loop through the maples and over the ridges.  Franklin, Artemis, and I took a few minutes to sit at Roxie's and my favorite sitting-spot and enjoy the views before cruising down to the creek for a splash and a drink (the dogs, not me).

Vernon on the afternoon mountain bike ride
I went home for a quick bite to eat, and then was met by G who loaded up the bikes into the truck and we went for a mountain bike ride up near Park City.  It was kind of cold and dreary, but the ride up the hill warmed us up quickly and when we got near the top, the colors and views were absolutely spectacular.  The ride down was a bit technical, but I'm proud to say that I made it around 90% of the switchbacks without putting my feet down to touch the ground and felt pretty good about my skills despite only riding a couple of times per year.
Leaves of Gold ~ mtn biking in PC

After getting cleaned up at home, my friend Mark picked me up a short while later and we went to dinner with a small group of friends at my favorite sushi restaurant.  Yum!  I am a bottomless pit when it comes to eating sushi.  I got flowers and chocolates, and Mark even let me drive his rental car ~ one of the sweet, cute new little Fiats.  We all told stories and laughed lots and I felt so fortunate to have such a great group of friends who were all from different backgrounds, yet hit it off so smashingly!  Yeah, baby!

Now it's the day after my birthday and the fun never stops.  My friend Ann and I went up to the Living Room (a group of rocks that are arranged in "chair" and "couch" formations) and Mt Wire (a peak above Salt Lake with some big radio reflector panels on it) with the dogs of course, and the weather and views were gorgeous!  (Ann is my friend who a few weeks ago spent the night pacing me through the longest, coldest section of the Bear 100.)

stormy skies over Snyderville
I got home and it kind of hit me that a couple of years ago, I went up Mt Wire on my birthday and missed a call from my dad, who was in the hospital in Germany.  It was pretty significant that he had called, because he never really remembered my birthday through the years and always had to be reminded (by myself, my mom, or my brother) that it was my birthday.  I called him back that day and was able to have a short conversation with him.  He died about a week and a half later, and my brother, sister-in-law and I all went over to Germany to deal with the funeral and stuff.  I reflect on it now and think how important those seemingly little things are in life.  How important a phone call can be, or just hearing someone's voice for a few minutes.

Vernon, trail-bud
Lots of great little things this weekend added up to a super-fantastic series of events.  I can honestly say that it has been one of my best birthdays ever.  Here's to happy trails, great friends, and loyal dogs.  Here's to 41 years!  Cheers!