Tuesday, January 31, 2012

run your [fluffy] buns off!

I've had a rough few days emotionally.  I started getting really irritable the end of last week, and it seemed that the only thing that made me feel better was getting out with the dogs:  running, skate skiing, dogwalk, whatever!  I just had to get out to feel better.

Several things added up to make it a stressful time for me.  I got a bunch of paperwork done and sent off to Germany to deal with the house over there.  I felt a lot of pressure to get it done, because my brother and sister-in-law don't speak German, so the bulk of the responsibility to get it done has been up to me.  My dad didn't have a will when he died, so it's been a real nightmare trying to figure out what all needed to be done.

I also worked a full 5 days last week.  I know, I know... all of you who work five days a week anyway, my hat's off to you.  I haven't worked 5 days a week since I was in Gillette, Wyoming (and we don't need to revisit how miserable that experience was).  I've been doing Monday-Wednesday-Friday at the Student Clinic since June, and it has been a dream because I get to take care of errands and still get a lot of training in.  So last week, I started working at the Community College Student Health clinic as well, and by the end of the week, my brain was fried!  Then I had to get all the German paperwork done... and I also decided to start working on my taxes (stupid),  so when Monday rolled around I was really just spent.

I asked a coworker if the patients seemed extra "needy" on Monday, and she said she didn't think so.  I think it's just that I had all this personal stress going on, so it was harder for me to have the energy to be compassionate towards them.  I muscled through, but by Monday night I was at home on the couch with a beer and feeling pretty low.  I also realized that it was the (11th) anniversary of my mom's death.  Talk about getting kicked while you are down.  I'm certain that missing my mom with all of this stuff going on played a big part in my mood as well.

So what's a girl to do?  Leash those dogs up, put on a headlamp, head to the rich (ie:  safe) neighborhood, and go running in the dark.  I also did a similar run on Friday.  Both runs made me feel a ton better.  The run on Monday night was nearly effortless.  I kept thinking that the dogs were lagging, but it was really that I just wanted to go faster than normal because I started feeling so much better.

I talked with my sister-in-law yesterday evening and she gave me a great pep talk (like she always does).  It's really nice to have someone who will unconditionally listen to you tell your tales of woe once in a while.  I hope I don't burn her out!

Today the dogs and I went up to Park City and skated the Rail Trail.  It was the first day that it has been groomed this winter by Mountain Trails Foundation because of the low snow totals.  It was sunny and spectacular.  Needless to say, after two night runs, a day at Snowbasin skate skiing and another day in Park City today, the dogs are feeling it!  I think I might have to give them the day off tomorrow.  They have been running their fluffy little buns off trying to keep up with my need to relieve stress!  I am so thankful that I am healthy and able to exercise to feel better throughout this whole process.  And happy that I have healthy companions who love to get out too!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nordic girl, Nordic dogs

dogs posing with the 2002 Olympic flagpole in the background.

Missy, the happy Nordie!

tired pups ~ post skate.
Thankfully we have gotten a little bit of snow over the last week and a half.  Although it's been raining in the Salt Lake Valley with each storm, the mountains have gotten quite a bit of snow (4 feet?) but we are still at about 70% of our snowpack.  And compared to the stellar snow-year that we had last year (when I was in Nevada and Wyoming, unfortunately) we have about half of what we had last year at this time.

The recent snow has fallen on an ice crust layer, so the backcountry avalanche danger has been high.  What does this mean for me?  Unfortunately, no backcountry skiing.  I'm afraid of avalanches.  Really afraid.  And I wouldn't say that it's ignorance that makes me afraid of them, but I do recognize that my backcountry skills could be a lot stronger, so I tend to stay away when the danger is moderate to high.

So what else does that mean for me?  It means the dogs and I are still on the trails, running, and also on the loipe: the cross country skate track.  The loipe in Park City was pretty good last week, but several days of warm-sunny weather had tufts of grass sticking out through the snowpack.  So today I took the dogs up to Snowbasin.  They only had about 3k of track groomed, but man were the conditions nice.  Short but sweet, smooth skating. 

I had to meet my sister-in-law up at the Denny's in Tremonton (she lives in Pocatello, and Tremonton is about half-way in the middle) to do some legal paperwork.  I decided that since I was going to be in the neighborhood of Snowbasin anyway, I would check out the loipe there.  I don't think I've skated there in probably at least 6 or 8 years.  It's changed some, but for the better.  And best of all, dogs are welcome.  There were many happy dogs on the Snowbasin loipe today.

If I could spend everyday nordic skiing on conditions like they were today, I would be a happy girl.  And the dogs would be happy nordic dogs as well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Girls on the Run

photo credit ~ Girls on the Run
A few weeks ago, a coworker of mine, who has two super-cool girls (I think they are 10 and 12) asked me if I wanted to volunteer for a program to get girls psyched about running.  It's a national, after-school, volunteer-based program called Girls on the Run.  She said, "I think you could be a really great mentor for this age-group of girls,"  and I said, sign me up.  I had spent Christmas Eve with my coworker and her family, and apparently the girls thought that I was a lot of fun:  (Go figure!  I think of myself as just an overgrown kid!).

photo credit ~ lvrunningscene.com
photo credit ~ GOTR Los Angeles
The program will be based out of one of the local elementary schools, and to tell you the truth, each time I get an email update about training or what this will entail, I kind of get chills.  I am super-psyched to be working with elementary school-aged girls and inspiring them to run.  Running is where I find my clarity.  It's where when I have so many things going on, I figure out how I will get them all done.  It's where I feel strong.  It's where I feel vulnerable, but am thankful just for the strength and health to be on my feet.  It's where when everything else seems to be "wrong" in life, the running (especially with my dogs) feels "right".  I can't wait to share with the girls how running can translate into a balanced, successful lifestyle.  As stated on the website, one of the goals of the program is, "To positively transform how girls and women perceive themselves and their place in society."

photo credit ~ GOTR
When I anticipate telling these girls that I ran 100 miles (yes, all at once, without stopping), and got a sweet cowboy-style belt buckle for my finish prize, that will be inspiration enough.  For the elementary program, we will be shooting for a 5k the end of May.  I can't wait to see the smiles on their faces when they finish.  Especially after the grimacing they go through on the road to their destination.  Seriously, how sweet is it going to be to set up fun training programs for these girls every week?  It brings tears to my eyes to think of them in their pink t-shirts with finish medals around their necks at their race in May.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this program (girls, potential coaches, or volunteers), contact the directors at the link above, or let me know.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coffee and Cobwebs

The new machine getting her first clean-water run through.
First things first ~ coffee.  You all might know how much I love coffee.  If not, let me update you:  I LOVE COFFEE!  I go to bed at night anticipating my first cup of coffee in the morning.  While I drink my first cup of coffee, I anticipate my refill from the K-cup dispenser at work.  When I hit lunchtime, I anticipate my 3pm cup of coffee (in the German tradition... except I try to go without the slice of cake.  But sometimes I give in and eat a cookie).  When I get home around 5pm, I think maybe I should have one more cup before it gets too late to drink another cup that might keep me up all night, restlessly thinking of my morning cup of coffee as I try desperately to drift off to sleep, "I shouldn't have had that last cup!"... so yes, as you can see, I love coffee.

You might wonder what apparatus I use to brew my coffee.  As of late (the last couple of years) I have been using a Melitta single-cup dripper.  I think it makes the most fabulous coffee in the world.  Before that, I was mostly using the French Press to make my coffee, which is also good, but you are left with a chalky mess at the bottom of your cup, and the clean up leaves something to be desired.  Problem with the Melitta ~ I have to wait about 10 minutes to heat the water in the kettle on the stove in order to brew.  That can be a long 10 minutes for a non-morning person like me, who would rather just stay in bed until about 9am.

So a couple of months ago, I started paying attention to the coffee makers at friends' houses, and started noticing a trend of Cuisinart coffee makers.  You even see them on television show episodes if you pay attention.  The Cuisinart dcc-1200 is a classic:  sturdy, sleek chrome finish, and from the online reviews, it brews great coffee.  Best of all, on Amazon dot com, you can find it for half-price and get free shipping.  Better yet, it has a timer that you can set *before you go to bed* and have hot coffee waiting for you in the morning as you stumble out of bed.  The warmer doesn't overly-heat the coffee, so if you lounge in bed for an extra half hour, the coffee doesn't taste burned or "cooked".

Another thing that made me choose the Cuisinart is the name:  I still have my mother's original Cuisinart food processor circa 1985.  Despite the fact that the dogs have "customized" several of the plastic parts, it still works like a charm.  Durability.  You gotta love that.

So, I broke down and bought the coffee maker, and let me tell you (I've had it 2 days) it is a dream.  And let me tell you something else:  I've been drinking *way* too much coffee for the last couple of days.  My body aches all over because I'm likely dehydrated from the amount of coffee I'm ingesting.  I counteract the potential gastro-intestinal side effects (fellow coffee drinkers will know what I mean) by putting two teaspoons of Benefiber in my first cup in the morning.
It's a fact ~ Dogs Love Round Valley.

Now for the cobwebs.  We finally got enough snow over the last couple of days to be able to go skate skiing in Park City.  The dogs were thrilled by this news.  We got up there today (Sunday) and enjoyed the sunshine, blue skies and freshly groomed skate track.  Conditions were not the best, but I expect them to improve after all the skier (and dog) traffic that was up there today (it's pretty soft, but will get packed down nicely in the next couple of days before the next storm rolls through).  Apparently everyone else and their dogs had the same idea I had, so it was not a fast day on world-class conditions, but it was the first skate skiing day of the season.

The first skate day of the season is typically pretty tough, and I use it to skate slowly and find my form again, and get the cobwebs out.  Even though I've been running a lot lately, there's something about that first day skate skiing each season that totally kicks my ass.  And because of the plentitude of coffee I have been ingesting to put myself in a state of forced dehydration, the cobwebs came out of my legs that much slower today.  I had to stop a couple of times on the uphills to tell myself that I was not going to get sick.  Watching the happy dogs romping around quickly diverted my attention away from my own misery.

It was a doggie-social day today, and I saw several people up there that I knew.  It was fantastic.  Honestly, I haven't seen that many people and dogs in Round Valley for months.  Even the busiest weekend days up there in the summertime were not as busy as today.

I can't wait for my next cup of coffee (wait a minute, I'm drinking one right now!) or my next skate with the dogs.  Heaven on both counts.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Round Valley Roundup

No photos today, and you will soon realize why after I tell you the story of my adventure in Round Valley (Park City) with the dogs today.

The run started out innocently enough:  me, Franklin, Artemis, and Vernon with our sights on 8 to 10 miles today.  The trail conditions were "packed powder" with very little ice and mud today.  I was just enjoying myself, about 3 miles into the run, cruising downhill, daydreaming, but occasionally bringing myself back to present thinking that I was actually running faster than I had anticipated today (I started out with a bit of a tummy ache) when I heard Artemis yipping downhill through the sagebrush.

She was cruising at top speed, headed for a heard of a dozen elk.  Vernon was close behind (I'm sure he could have overtaken her, but he was being a bit more cautious).  Franklin, ever the angel, was about 20 yards ahead of me on the trail watching the other dogs go after the elk.

Vernon came back after about 5 calls of his name, and Artemis continued to barrel downhill after the elk.  She came within about 50 yards of them, which was too close for my comfort level.  I finally screamed (literally bloody-murder scream... I felt bad for the other people who had to listen to me trying to get my dog back) "NOOOOooooo!!!"  and she actually, miraculously, came back to me.  I don't think she would have done that a year ago.

I had a couple of lightweight travel-leashes with me (thankfully I thought ahead and decided to bring those along!) and put both Artie and Vernon on the leashes for about 15 minutes.  I kept Artie on a little bit longer, until we were a good mile away from the elk.

We circled up and around on the route, and came over a rise and low and behold:  twenty more elk (another herd).  Crap-ola, is all I could think.  But the dogs had chosen the wrong side of the trail to sniff and I spotted the elk actually before Vernon and Artie did (Frank saw them too, but stuck near me.  He looked at me like, "those other dogs are going the wrong way.  Duh").

We saw another runner with a very well behaved Golden Retriever who wasn't even interested in the elk (lucky her!) and she told me she had started up the trail where I was headed, and got a "funny feeling".  I decided to change our route a bit, and instead of taking the route where she had gotten that feeling (I'm sure it was just the energy from the elk.  I've never seen nor heard coyotes or signs of big cats up there) I decided to take the dogs down the shady, north-facing slope instead (because elk prefer to hang out on the sunny, south-facing exposures).

I had Vernon and Artie on the leash for a bit longer and when I felt that we were out of range of the elk, I let them off again.  Not five minutes later though, I would lose them again.  Halfway around the backside, Vernon and Artemis took off again, up a gully and Frank and I were left alone on the trail waiting and calling for them and thinking to ourselves, "Where in the Hell did those two go now?!?".  Seriously, I was *over it*.  These two dogs are just so darn instinctual it's ridiculous.

I backtracked on the trail a hundred yards and saw the two of them snooping around on the side-hill in the scrub oak.  Vernon came right back when he realized I was calling him, and Artie was another story.  I was talking to her, "Artie, COME!" (nothing.) "I see you up there.  You need to come back *right now*.  I mean it.  We will leave without you.  Get over here!  Come!  NOW!"  and she finally came after much cajoling.  SHEESH!  When she came back, she was munching on something gross and her tongue was green.  (Gag.)

Artie spent the next 2 miles on the leash and was lagging behind me, being stubborn (I'm sure she had enough energy in her to chase another heard of elk, but was playing it up like she was tired and was pulling back on the leash as we were trying to run the single track).  I let her off for the final half mile, but then had to put Vernon back on the leash because he tends to dart across the road by the trailhead if he's not restrained.

I felt like all I did for 2 hours was take dogs on and off of leashes!  Holy Hell...  my hands were full, which meant no time for taking pictures (sigh).

I drove into Park City to Starbucks and got myself a coffee for the drive home (Fyi ~ I tried the new Blonde roast.  Double Gag.  It tastes like hot water.  I opted for a Pikes Place roast instead).  What an adventure!  After today, I decided the dogs needed the following Native American names:

Artemis = Runs with Elk  (alternate name:  Unabashedly Eats Carrion)
Franklin = Listens to Human (alternate name:  I Know who gives me my Dinner)
Vernon = Dances through Sagebrush (he is rarely on the trail, but if you look off to the side, he is darting and dashing through the brush with magical grace).

We did get over 8 1/2 miles today at a pretty good clip, considering all of the distractions.  It was a gorgeous day, and no one go hurt, so I'm going to put a mark in the win column.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Long Time Comin'

I have to say, I was getting really used to the 50 degree weather and the open trails this winter.  At some point, it had to change.  That change came overnight last night.  A dusting, but nevertheless, a bit of the white stuff.  My heart kind of sunk this morning as I looked out the window and saw everything covered in white, because I had planned on doing a nice long run on the trails in Park City today.

I changed my plans and decided to get the house cleaned up while I had the chance.  First, I went to breakfast with my friend Kim at the Park Cafe.  Seriously, after eating that nice, yummy food I wanted to just go back to bed.  But I rallied, and got a lot done around the house before noon.  Then, I decided the weather wasn't so horrible that I couldn't hit the trails in the foothills.  And the dogs were looking at me longingly from the couch as I mopped the floors.

So I rallied again, and we got out on our favorite loop of trails for about 5 miles.  It was a little slower-going because of the snow, but I wore my Kahtoola spikes on my Hoka One One shoes, and it made the going a little easier.  The dogs sure enjoyed it.  And I caught myself smiling several times because of the dogs romping in the snow:  they are just so dang cute!

On the way home I got one of my current favorite cookies:  from the Corner Bakery Cafe, it's a chocolate chip cookie that is covered (top and bottom) with mini m&m's.  It is simply divine.  And I waited to eat it until I stopped by Starbucks to get a fresh, hot cup of coffee to go with it (the coffee at Corner Bakery is simply not divine and the extra stop to Starbucks was worth it to make the combo complete).

The dogs and I got home, I took a shower and gave the dogs a biscuit, and then we all took a nice nap.  The snow was a long time coming today ~ we really haven't had any snow for close to two months (early November).  As much as I was liking our Spring-like Winter, I guess it will be okay to switch gears and have some fun in the snow from now on!  Bring it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mud Slinging

I had Round Valley on my radar for today, and then my friend Meghan posted this great blog post about being happy, doing the things that make you happy, and being okay with yourself and the things that do not make you so happy.  I think if you look at your failings, it gives you room to grow and improve and it's just as important to look at those things as the things that make you happy, but to remember not to get so mired down in your faults that you end up miserable and cannot get out.

Yesterday was a tough day dealing with German probate issues (still resolving my dad's estate, over a year after the fact.  But things are moving along, and it gives me and my brother a chance to improve our communication along the way...  see how I just spun that into a positive thing?  Yeah, that's what it's all about!)  Anyway, after dealing with really difficult German translations and paperwork yesterday and an argument with my brother, I started to feel quite overwhelmed.  I called my sister-in-law and she gave me a pep talk.  I sent off a couple of emails to friends in Germany who might be willing to help out with this, and *thankfully* they replied this morning and are willing to take on the task.

I figured instead of diving right into the paperwork again this morning, I would have a little "me" time and take the dogs up to Round Valley.  Hearing Meghan's words in my head to "do the things that make you happy"...  I was definitely motivated, even if not feeling at my fastest or strongest.

But the day was beautiful, and if anything was going to cheer me and give me strength, it would be running in the sunshine with the dogs in Park City.  Just remembering to put a smile on your face (sometimes you have to force it at first... but you know what?  after a little while, it really starts to make you feel better, and happy, and stronger... ) really can make all the difference and change your world around.  Luckily with dogs as cute as mine, I don't have to force the smile so much.

The trailhead at Quinn's Junction of Round Valley was deceptively dry today!  As we got up into the network of trails, the slipping and sliding became more frequent.  Indeed, the dogs were covered in mud and even elicited some comments from passersby.  My response was that they would have a date with the hose when we returned back to the house (I held true to my word once we got home.  The dogs were not happy with that).

The temperature was about 50 degrees (warmer than Salt Lake, at 44 degrees) and brilliant sunshine.  The high peaks and the ski slopes still have some snow on them, but the lower trails are relatively clear ~ except for the ice and mud in the shady patches, that is.

On the descent back down to the car, I slipped to one side, tried to hang on, and then just decided not to twist and hurt myself.  Instead, I took a hard whack to the knee and landed in the sagebrush.  I laid there for a minute, rubbing my knee, and Vernon came back to check on me and give me a kiss on the cheek (he's the German Shorthair Pointer in the photo above).  Well, at least the sagebrush smelled really good when I landed!

I walked for about 20 yards, and my knee felt fine, so I ran the 2 miles back to the car (we did a total of about 8 today).  What a gorgeous day!  And it gave me the strength to tackle that nasty German paperwork when I got home (I really got a lot done today as far as that was concerned).  A bad day running is better than a good day working, but actually I'm kind of looking forward to three soft days at work after my hard fall on the ice!