Thursday, January 31, 2008
Now I'll admit I was running slowly. And I walked through the iciest bits just to guard against slipping and falling. I only ran 5.2 miles, but it took me as long as a typical 5.5 miler, or even a 5.8.
But you know, a layer of snow creates a soft, forgiving surfaces to run on--softer than the usual sidewalk and street. I am sure if there had been six or eight inches of new snow things might have been different (I would have gotten out the snowshoes), but with a partially packed base layer and maybe a couple of inches of fresh soft snow, my feet did not even get wet. And I was wearing my regular running shoes with a mesh top.
I suspected we had gotten snow long before I got up to run in it. Sometime in the early morning hours I got up to go to the bathroom, and although my bathroom window is the usual kind of obscured glass, there was a brightness showing through it that was not typical for 3 a.m. When it snows, when there is snow on the ground, everything seems light and bright even amidst the darkness. I guess every source of light--the moon, stars, and streetlights--reflects off the bright white snow. So, seeing that gleaming outside the window, I went back to my bedroom and pulled aside a window shade and saw that it was true--the ground was covered with snow.
Other than the aforementioned softness, slickness, and slowness, it was a pretty typical run for a Monday morning. I always make Monday an easy run, since it's usually the day after a long run (not to mention that getting up on Monday mornings is just hard). I was pretty stiff and achy this Monday, probably because of Sunday's long run, and extra hills, and 25 minute sprint at the end. (Now that I think about it, all that could also have contributed to my slow pace!)
As usual, snow created an exciting yet chaotic environment for work. About half of the attorneys and staff couldn't make it in, and at least half of the clients called in as well, so the rest of us were scrambling to fill in and move things around.
The sun actually came out and melted most of the snow by the end of the day (at least in Everett), but the weather forecasters were promising even more snow on Tuesday. So I had some hope--although rather dim--of being able to snowshoe to work on Tuesday morning. More realistically, I decided to skip going to the Y on early Tuesday and planned to walk to work instead.
I got up several times during the night on Monday night and Tuesday morning, but each time I looked out the ground was still wet and snowless. By 4 or 5 a.m. I doubted we would get any snow...but there was no point in changing my plans now.
So I took the hike to work anyway. At midday I walked to my favorite Starbucks for a latte and then back to my office and court, a round trip of 3.5 miles or more. Finally, at about 7:30 p.m. I headed out of the office and briskly walked the final mile home. Throughout the day, my walks added up to about 6.8 miles. (Too bad I didn't think of wearing a pedometer!)
If it weren't for all the files I frequently need to tote to and from court, I would walk to work more often.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
But before I get to the run itself, let me mention my faithful running companion—my iPod. Almost every mile I've run has been with the accompaniment of the music on my iPod. Last year I put together a lengthy playlist, ostensibly for use in the Whidbey half marathon. As it turns out, I use it almost all the time when I'm running. The whole playlist is about 4½ hours long (suspiciously long for someone who swears she has no intention of running a full marathon), and includes a wide variety of songs that I believe help me run better. Way back when I published a portion of my list as an iTunes mix (iTunes only includes songs that are available through them, so a bunch of favorites that I got from oddball CD's are omitted).
A bunch of the songs are one that have "run" in the title (e.g., Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, Eric Clapton's Run, The Indigo Girls' Run, Sheryl Crow's Run Baby Run, The Eagles' The Long Run, and Neil Young's Long May You Run). (My very favorite running song, by the way, even though it doesn't have "run" in the title, is Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.) Even though none of the songs are literally about running, most of the lyrics can be twisted into a running theme. For example...
"Baby we were born to run."
"Something inside of me keeps on telling me to run, run run...."
"And you run, that's all you've ever done, It's all you know to do, I can't hold that against you...."
"Run baby run baby run baby run..." The name speaks for itself doesn't it? As does Long May You Run.
But today was all about The Long Run. "You can go the distance, we'll find out, in the long run." Today was the end of the first week of this round of half marathon training, and it was slated to be a 90 minute run, with the first three quarters at an easy pace and the final quarter (about 25 minutes) faster. My total run turned out to be about 15 minutes extra, in part because I added in some extra hills.
I really want to work on hills this time, because both Portland (15K) and Whidbey (half marathon) are quite hilly. But I'm not quite sure how I would work in hill training during the work week, so at least this weekend I decided to combine it with my long run.
The way I did it was, every time I ran up or down a significant hill, I turned around and doubled it. For example, I ran down a hill between Rucker and Grand. Before I went on, I turned around and ran back up it, and then down again. There were several hill opportunities on the pedestrian ramps crossing Marine View Drive (I got at least three hills out of that), and finally the big hill was a long hill up Marine View Drive by Legion Park. After my first trip up, I went back down and then up again, which I counted as two hills altogether, although each one was about three times longer than any other hill I did.
After that I didn't do any more hill repeats. By that time it was almost time to go into the final accelerated portion. So at 2:00 I put myself into race mode (as best I could), and pushed myself hard for the next 25 minutes; which coincidentally, took me exactly to the QFC parking lot, my semi-final destination.
A quick shopping trip through QFC, a latte from Starbucks, and then I happily walked myself home to a hot bath. You can go the distance, in the long run.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I believe this movie would be enjoyable for any viewer. But I could kind of tell that most of the audience was a running crowd. There was a certain lean, athletic look to most of the people filing into the theatre. (Not everyone--my mom said she felt a bit self-conscious sitting there, and was happy when the lights finally went down. And I heard a man a few seats away from me comment, not unkindly, as a rather round woman with a big bucket of popcorn came in, that she did not look like a marathon runner! I then waited to pull out my South Beach snack bars until I heard him and his companion rattling some snacks....)
Even though the popcorn was scarce in the theatre, the crowd ate up the movie. We laughed at the humorous bits, we choked up at the touching parts (at least I did), we watched tensely as the runners neared the end of the marathon. Both Deena Castor and Daniel Djenga were trying for their first marathon wins in this race (I won't spoil the suspense by giving it away). The amateurs were just trying to finish!
The January 24th showing was supposed to be a one-time event, but there is now an encore showing scheduled for February 21 in selected cities. It is definitely worth seeing.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Three months before the Whidbey Island Half Marathon, I gleefully (temporarily) abandoned running and headed for the mountains for a week of skiing. It’s pretty difficult to run too much—at least for long distances—when pretty much all the surrounding surface areas are covered with a deep pack of snow and ice! I suppose it’s not impossible, but really, I had no interest in trying to figure out how and where to do it. Winter sports only, please!
My opportunity to go skiing arose from a purchase at the legal services fundraising auction almost two years ago. A local attorney offered a week at his ski condo and I, enchanted by my first experience of cross country skiing in Sun Valley that January, bid and won the item. Then, throughout all of last winter and ski season, I could not figure out a time to get away from work long enough to go skiing for a whole week. (Primarily this was due to a trial that I kept postponing again and again, until the ski season was over, and I ended up doing and finishing the trial on the last two days before I left for England in the spring!)
I did manage to use the two free lift tickets that came with the prize, taking a friend up for a day of downhill skiing in late winter, my first return to the slopes in twenty years! Happily, my ski legs came right back to me, and though I was a bit more timid than I was at 20, I was soon schussing gracefully down the easier slopes. I got enough of a taste of skiing that I vowed to come back this year (if the donor would still honor my auction purchase so much later—assuming he still even owned the condo by then!).
So last fall I called up the donor (George) to make the arrangements. Luckily he was able to accommodate a week in mid-January, which was far enough in the future that I could block out the week and keep it as clear of court hearings as possible. I invited my parents to come along, even though they don’t ski, because I hoped they might enjoy a week in the snow!
I really had no idea what to expect of our accommodations. The last ski condo I stayed in (during the summer), was a cross between a luxury hotel and someone’s really nice home. I am still ahh-ing over the wonderful mattresses (someday I hope to have one as nice in my own house!). And since the owners frequently rented their condo out, it was managed by a rental company and all the pertinent details were available on a website. Plus the owner emailed me with lots of other information as well. Parking, by the way, was in a ground floor garage.
I didn’t really expect that much luxury here. I have also stayed at my friend Jenifer’s family condo in Sun Valley, which is more do-it-yourself—we brought our bed linens and towels along in a laundry basket. Her condo had been furnished back in the seventies, probably, and not changed much since then. Parking was down the road in a shared parking lot for condo residents. The condo was pretty big, though, with two big bedrooms—one with a king-sized bed and the other with several bunks—and a combined living room-dining room-kitchen area. So, a "bunk room" having been mentioned in the little information I had, I was kind of expecting something similar.
On Saturday morning we set out with the Volvo Cross Country packed to the gills with our suitcases, skis (downhill and cross country), two sets of snowshoes, three ice chests (yes, three), and many, many bags of groceries, both paper and plastic. After all, we were going to be gone for an entire week without a grocery store nearby!
After several weeks of snow accumulation in the mountains, on the Saturday we left the weather changed—for the worse. We arrived at the pass with heavy rain turning the roads and parking lots to slush and puddles. Which would have been bad enough, if we could only figure out how to get to the condo! We spotted the building fairly easily—it was signed on the side—but it was up above the parking lot and we could not find a driveway. Finally we parked and I set out to find my way by foot. Ominously, I recalled one of the few bits of descriptive information I had from the owner—“ski in, ski out,” and wondered if that meant the condo was only accessible by skis?!
As I climbed up a short hill toward the ski patrol building and began walking down a long, snow-covered road/trail in the direction of the condo, I knew there was no way we could transport my parents and all our stuff down that long road. I wasn’t sure what we would do! But when I did get to the condo building, I finally spotted a much shorter trail that headed directly down to the parking lot. It was still a bit of a walk, but much shorter and quite direct. At least my parents could walk up it, even if hauling all our stuff was going to be a chore. (Did I mention it was raining?)
I returned to the car and was able to move it to a spot fairly close to the trail and started back up with my dad and a first load. He had a little trouble with slipping on the snow—a kind passerby took the bag he was carrying and brought it up the hill for him—so I left him at the door while I headed back to haul stuff. Lucky for us, one of the neighbors let us borrow their sled so I was able to load it up and probably cut my number of trips by half, or even two thirds! Still, it took at least four sled trips (probably five or six, actually) (and did I mention it was raining?) before I was able to transport all our luggage, ice chests, grocery bags, and ski equipment up the hill. On the last trip I brought my mother along, and with ski poles to assist her balance, she was able to get up the hill with no problem.
So, the condo itself—not exactly a luxury townhouse like the one in Canada. And not nearly as big as Jenifer’s place in Sun Valley. What it was like, really, was a cross between an Ocean Shores motel room (with living room, dining area and kitchenette all together in one room) and our cabin at the beach (a converted boat house filled with our old family furniture cast-offs and stuffed to the gills with beachy relics and souvenirs). The condo building—four floors of apartment-style units—sits at the foot of the ski slopes, between two chairlifts. George’s unit is on the second floor, which is very conveniently same level as the main entrance. (We discovered that after carrying all our things up the back stairs!) The unit is one medium-large room, with a kitchenette and a dining table, and it appears to have been furnished in the seventies and not updated since. The walls are decorated with old-style skis and snowshoes, as well as various posters and pictures, and various spaces are stuffed with ski equipment, clothing, and other necessities. The couch in the living room pulls out to a queen size bed, and there is a small bunk room with a double bunk (that I used) and a single bunk above. Although claustrophic in its coziness, the bunk I slept in was quite comfortable (especially when made up with flannel sheets), apparently much more so than the typically lumpy hide-away bed!
There was a rather scary-looking woodstove, which we soon learned is George’s primary source of heat, after cranking the thermostat up to 80 and not raising the room temperature above 65. We didn’t really want to mess with a smoky stove however, so we planned to tough it out wearing extra layers of clothing. Although the first day or so seemed chilly, we soon learned a few tricks that allowed us to keep the room comfortable (as long as we continued to dress in layers). The bathroom heater worked well, and by keeping the bathroom door open, some heat would leak out into the main room. We also found the stovetop—which we used frequently to boil water—and the oven, which we heated up most days to bake something or other—helped warm the room as well. I especially found the condo’s temperature quite sufficient when I came inside after spending hours outside skiing in the cold.
There was also—hip hip hurrah—satellite TV! I must admit that when we finally learned how to turn on the TV and select the channels (aided by a neighbor who came by), our moods improved considerably. I think the prospect of spending a week together in silence scared all of us! TV would not only entertain us and pass the time, but be a sort of friendly fourth personality in our little group. (I should mention that we all came equipped with plenty of books and magazines. I also had a bag of DVD’s and a portable DVD player. But still, we needed the comforting presence of the TV to get by!)
I think that on that first day, after the mini-trauma of trying to find the condo and having to haul our voluminous possessions up a snowy hill, and then finding ourselves in a small, rather rustic and humble abode, we all wondered how, and if, we would get through an entire week together. Despite a history (rather long ago, now) of spending summers in our own very rustic one-room beach house, we have over the years become somewhat accustomed to comfort and luxury—and solitude. (Take for example the trip to England, where we had a large cottage with several bedrooms, as well separate rooms in our B&B’s.) But I must say we also have a knack for adapting to our surroundings, and after a few days, it was as if the condo was our own. (In fact, my dad took to wearing one of the owner's ski jackets when going out in the snow!)
By the time we were settled in on Saturday, it was early evening. I fixed dinner—a roasted turkey breast I bought at Safeway before leaving town—and my ubiquitous big salad, greens with vinaigrette and lots of chopped vegetables. We put Rachael Ray on TV to entertain us, and called it an evening. (Selection of the TV channels would be an on-going point of dispute. I had a few things I wanted to watch during the week, and otherwise pretty much ceded control of the TV to my father. But despite the wide variety of programming available to us, except for one viewing of Last Holiday with Queen Latifah, we generally ended up watching reruns of Frasier and Everyone Loves Raymond, as sort of a non-offensive compromise for all.)
Sunday—ski day one. Before hitting the slopes I strapped my father and I into our snowshoes for a short tramp. This would become a routine each morning, hiking to the lodge to buy my lift ticket and then back to the condo. The snowshoe was was, at least, a little bit of real exercise each day. (I don’t consider downhill skiing particularly vigorous exercise. You spend at least half your time sitting on the chairlift, and the rest of it sliding downhill with the assistance of gravity! Oh sure, there’s some effort and muscle work in skiing well. But it’s certainly not a high cardio activity, in my opinion.) I also had to do a bit of walking and hiking uphill in the skis to get to a chairlift each morning. That was definitely cardio!
On Sunday I was able to buy my lift ticket at the ski school near the condo, and both the chairlifts that are closest to the condo were open. So I spent the entire afternoon switching back and forth between them. Okay, they’re both sort of baby slopes. (One, in fact, is largely dominated by ski school babies from age three up!) But keep in mind, up until my one ski outing last spring, I had not skied for at least twenty years. I found out last year that it comes right back to you, in large part. My body easily remembered how to shift my weight and turn gracefully. But I have never been especially daring and I was probably more cautious than I really needed to be. But at least these chairs were convenient to our condo, allowing me to go in for lunch and get right back out to the slopes without delay (or unnecessary effort).
While I was eating my late lunch, Gretchen, Todd and Nissa showed up to visit and check out the snow (and our accommodations). They headed out for a short walk on the snowshoes while I finished my day’s skiing. They also enjoyed big bowls of the yummy fish and seafood stew that mother had made for our dinner. Good thing they were there to help—even after we all ate heartily, there was enough left over for my parents’ lunch the next day.
Monday—ski day two. On Monday the weather was not favorable. The morning began with rain. Or perhaps it was sleet. Just one step short of freezing rain. And even though it wasn’t snowing, it seemed very cold. Today, of course, I was reluctant to be too adventurous because of the poor visibility. The two runs nearest us were not open, so I hiked in my skis all the way over past the lodge to the easy slope that was open on weekdays. (I didn’t resent the hiking because, like the snowshoeing, it was actual exercise.) I skied run after run until I was so cold and wet that I had to go into the lodge to warm up with a latte. Then out again, and repeat. I think I went in for another little break later on.
I went back out for my final round of skiing before calling it quits for the day. I planned to stop around 3:30 and head back toward the condo in time for Oprah at 4:00. It’s not like I was going to do that every day, I just wanted to watch Oprah on Monday. The weather was pretty nasty, anyway. Although, during my last outing, the rain/sleet started to turn to snow… and by the time I was back at the condo, big, heavy snowflakes were falling thickly. It was a winter wonderland!
Later that evening, mother and I went out to take a walk in the snow, and check on the car down in the parking lot. Although now covered with a thick blanket of snow, the car seemed fine, parked with several other cars along a snow bank. While I opened up the car to look for our missing boxes of tea (which remained unfound the entire week), mother struck out to walk the perimeter of the nearly deserted parking lot. I joined her and suggested we walk down to the other end of the lot and up the road by the ski patrol, so I could show her the original route I had taken to the condo when I thought we would have to hike in. By this time the ground was completely covered with fresh snow, and our footprints were the only marks in the unbroken snow surface.
Tuesday—ski day three. During the night the snow had stopped falling, and Tuesday morning began bright and sunny and with a ground cover of fresh snow. A skier’s dream day, really. As we trekked to the lodge, our snowshoes broke a path in the snow, unmarred except for where the snow cats had groomed a trail. There was so much new snow on the ground that I was able to walk directly to the lift ticket window in my snowshoes (normally the paved area around the lodge is clear of snow).
We had left mother minding the oatmeal cooking on the stove while we walked to the lodge. We returned to the condo for breakfast, and then I packed myself a lunch to carry to the lodge in a backpack—a turkey sandwich and soup in a thermos. (Lucky thing I brought that thermos along on a whim!) Today I would ski until my ticket expired at 5 p.m.
After a few easy runs, it was time to venture onto a more challenging slope. I skied over to the Central Express chair, a fast moving quad. Since there were virtually no lines, I was able to ski right up to the chair without delay, and most of the time I had a whole chair to myself. I really preferred that, because I could pull down the safety bar without infringing on my seat companions. I have no idea why most people don’t use the safety bar—I find the chair ride much more enjoyable with a bar in front of me!
Now that I had moved on to steeper, more challenging slopes, I began using my body and muscles to ski with. I really felt my runner’s legs and Pilates-strengthened core muscles were making me a stronger, more powerful skier. I don’t like to go too horribly fast, so I was able to use frequent turns and shifts in body weight to control my speed or pull back if I wanted to slow down a bit. Instead of my legs, I felt like I was skiing with my body, my torso, shoulder to hips, and where my body wanted to go, the skis would follow. Of course, every once in a while, I just let myself go and flew!
I quickly developed a pattern where I would ski for a while—usually until I got too cold for another ride on the chair lift—then I would go into the lodge for my first break and a latte. (I also packed a book in my backpack to read during my breaks.) Then it was back out for another couple of hours of skiing, before coming in for a lunch break (it was usually late in the afternoon by then). On most days my lunch break was late enough in the day that it would be my last break before quitting time, so I would take my backpack along and ski with the pack until I headed back to the condo. On those first few days, I could not figure out a way to get all the way to the condo skiing downhill, and ended up walking and hiking part of the way—which was okay, after all it’s exercise!
I have a hard time thinking of downhill skiing as legitimate exercise. After all, you spend at least half your time sitting on a chair lift (not including time spent standing in the lift line and taking breaks in the lodge), and the rest of the time you are basically sliding downhill! After I got home I looked up downhill skiing on the internet to see how many calories you actually use. I was a little surprised that it came up as good as it did, almost as high as running, at 443 calories per hour. Now I’m assuming that is for actual skiing time, not line standing or lift riding time! Still, even after subtracting all the non-skiing time, I must have had several hours of actual skiing each day. Not too bad, after all. (Although, keep in mind, an average run takes about 5 minutes, which means about 37 calories—so it takes three runs to burn off a South Beach snack bar. Good thing I wasn’t indulging in chili and French fries!) Snowshoeing comes up as 517 calories per hour (based on my weight—skinny people burn less, sorry!). Cross country skiing comes up even higher, but I never did get manage to go cross country skiing on this trip, despite my original plans (and rental of skis, and purchase of a sno-park pass).
It’s a good thing that downhill skiing may, in fact, have some calorie expending effects because skiing certainly does encourage eating! There is something about spending hours outside in the cold that makes you crave hot drinks and hearty food. Now, I think I was pretty restrained. I resisted the chili and pizza and real hot chocolate that is so ubiquitous in ski lodges. Still, I ate as much and perhaps more than I do at home, with my running and working out at the Y every day. Plus there were a few more cookies and snack bars than I usually indulge in. So I was pretty nervous about gaining weight while I was gone! Not to mention that I was spending every day wearing stretchy pants, which presumably would continue to stretch along with potential extra pounds. So every few days I tried on my jeans to make sure they weren’t getting too tight. They seemed okay. (As of Sunday morning I was a few pounds up, but nothing that I don’t feel will drop off after a few days of careful eating.)
I did drink a lot of hot beverages, but restrained myself to nonfat lattes in the lodge and my own concoctions back at the condo. I had brought a couple of cartons of almond milk, as well as a jar of instant espresso powder, which allowed me to make pretty nice latte-like drinks with the help of the microwave. I also came up with a sublime mocha hot chocolate involving diet hot cocoa powder (25 calories per packet). After a bit of experimentation I determined that the ideal proportion is one packet per 8 ounces of water (so, 1.5 packets in a 12-oz mug), plus 1-2 teaspoons of espresso powder (depending on the size of mug and whether you want to taste the espresso or just use it to enhance the chocolate). This delightful invention will be very enjoyable at home as well!
Tuesday night back at the condo I settled down with my dinner and forced everyone to watch The Biggest Loser and then Boston Legal. Watching “my shows” is not nearly as enjoyable when you are watching them with others (for example my father) who would really rather be watching something else. I never realized how nice it was to live alone!
Wednesday—ski day four. Today I decided to get a 1-10 ticket, starting later and skiing into the evening (though probably not till 10 p.m.). That would allow us to have a nice leisurely snowshoe walk and also—more importantly—make oat pancakes for breakfast.
At the lodge I talked the guy at the ticket window into selling me my afternoon ticket early (normally they don’t go on sale till 12:45) since I had “hiked” over especially to get it. Then I went into the lodge and bought lattes, one which I poured into my thermos to bring back to the condo, the other which I shared with my father before heading back.
When I started to stir up the batter for our oat pancakes, a crisis occurred. I could not tell whether my mother had included the Scottish oats in with the whole wheat flour in the zipper bag—and she hadn’t written down the recipe so even measuring the flour did not answer the question. I could not see the oats in the bag, but later conceded that perhaps the Scottish oats are just indistinguishable from the flour…. At the time, however, it was a crisis. I got a little bit pissy, I must admit. Then I finally decided to be flexible and dumped in a couple of packets of Nature’s Path Hemp Oatmeal (with all kinds of seeds and oats), along with some wheat bran. Because of the extra grains, it took an entire quart of buttermilk to make the batter (instead of about half the quart, as usual). (A couple days later it also appeared that I may have poured in part of a bag of whole wheat flour and oatmeal that had been brought along to make scones… which may explain why it took so much liquid to moisten!)
The result was delicious, hearty pancakes, and plenty of them! We saved half the batter for the next day’s breakfast. Even so, we were well filled with whole grains and fiber. I left for skiing with a full stomach.
Choosing Wednesday for afternoon and evening skiing was not the most well thought out decision, because apparently late Wednesday afternoon (and early evening) was a time when a lot of ski buses arrived with loads of students! By mid-afternoon the lift lines were swelled with groups of kids. It wasn’t too bad, though, and the wait in line was never more than a few minutes.
I didn’t know until the week was over how lucky I had been to take advantage of midweek skiing. Most of the time I barely had to wait in line at all, and could ski right up to the chair. At the worst (which was probably Friday evening) I had to endure about a five minute wait. When the Central chair got a bit of a line, I was able to go to Triple 60, which never had a line at all until later on Friday.
I don’t think I ventured onto Triple 60 until Thursday, though, and as darkness fell on Wednesday night, I took a run on Central that seemed very poorly lit. I was not thrilled about skiing in the dark (being a coward of sorts), so I moved to the Gallery chair, a beginning-to-intermediate lift, and zipped up and down for the rest of the evening. I sent myself back to the condo around 8 or 8:30.
Thursday—ski day five. (And a second round of super-oat-pancakes for breakfast… sending me out with a full tummy again.) This was my day to expand my horizons. Yes, I should have been skiing all the chairs by Tuesday, but as I said, I am a bit of a nervous Nellie and after all, I hadn’t been skiing for 20 years up until now (except for that one trip last year). So I ventured onto the Golden Nugget trail off the Central chair (which would also provide me a route to more easily return to the condo at the end of the day), and immediately wondered what I had been waiting for! I think this was my favorite run in the whole place. It started out with some open slopes and funneled into a narrower chute which came out above the slopes above Reggie’s chair and looked quite directly down toward the condo. Veering back to the left would bring me back to the Central chair. I skied that run several times in a row to make sure I would be comfortable with it in the evening when I headed back. Then I skied it some more because I really liked it.
My next goal was the Triple 60 chair. I had been studying the trail map and the slopes and I was quite certain I could ski across from the top of the chair to meet up with the second half of the Alpine slope on the Central chair. I sucked up my nerve and hopped into the chair. And once again, I wondered why I had waited so long. The traverse trail was pretty gentle and a lot of fun, and the rest was the same slopes I had skied many times already.
When I finished my late afternoon lunch break, I headed back out for my last few runs. My final run was on the Central chair, Golden Nugget trail, of course. When I came out of the chute I paused to look down at the condo and plan my route. The only problem I saw was that since Reggie’s chair wasn’t running, the slope was ungroomed and still had a thick layer of heavy powder from Monday night’s snowfall. I don’t really know how to ski in this type of snow. You certainly can’t make quick turns and stops (as I found out). I started forward, and I don’t know if I tried to turn or leaned too far forward, but next thing I knew, I was on the ground! I picked myself up and started again—and then fell again! I knew that I had to lean back a little, so I did, and I only fell one more time. That was a hard fall, jarring me enough so that my hat and goggles fell off and my iPod earbuds popped out of my ears. That was it, though. I was able to make it to the groomed path above the condo, and then of course down to the condo. I was not enamored of skiing in soft snow!
Plus, I had foolishly called my mom when I was heading back so she could watch me ski in. So both my parents were outside the condo watching me go splat in the snow! At least it was too dark out for picture taking.
The evening did improve with dinner—steak! (My vegan days are long forgotten….)
Friday—ski day six. This was my last day of skiing, so I wanted to maximize it. Instead of snowshoeing over to get my lift ticket, I headed out directly on skis, almost first thing in the morning. Okay, at 10:00. Or maybe 10:30. (After breakfast—veggie scramble and the last of the turkey bacon. And sort-of-scones—made with the last of the flour & oat mixture that I had inadvertently used up, stretched out with packets of Nature’s Path instant oatmeal and wheat bran, plus the other usual ingredients including dried cherries. Normally you would pat them out into rounds and cut into wedges, but these were so gloppy that I made them as drop scones. Here’s the recipe for the real thing….)
Dried Cherry Oatmeal Scones
2 cups all purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup honey
2/3 cup half-and-half (or buttermilk)
½ cup dried sour cherries or other dried fruit such as cranberries
Additional half-and-half for glazing
1. In a medium mixing bow, combine flour, oats, and baking powder. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is coarse grained. Add eggs, honey and half-and-half, stirring only until mixture is combined. Fold cherries into dough.
2. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead several times to distribute ingredients evenly. Divide in two and pat into 8-inch round cakes (3/4 to 1 inch in height) on a greased cookie sheet. Cut each cake into 6 or eight wedges, but do not separate. Brush with additional half-and-half.
3. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes until nicely browned. Separate the wedges, cool slightly and serve.
Anyhow, back to the skiing. Since it was my last day of skiing, I forked over an extra three dollars to get the full day ticket, 9 a.m. to close, so I wouldn’t be forced to shut down at 5 p.m. Since I did have a longer evening to ski, this time instead of packing a lunch I decided to go back to the condo for lunch. That wasn’t until about 2:30 in the afternoon, though. I wasn’t ready to leave the slopes until I got a good morning (early afternoon) in. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny, and so far the lines were not bad (I moved to Triple 60 when there was a bit of a line at Central).
But, you gotta eat sometime, so around 2:30 I headed down Golden Nugget. This time I was going to get across the ungroomed field without a spill. So I headed across on a traverse, not too much downhill (so I wouldn’t pick up too much speed), and I’m afraid in a bit of a snowplow stance. Along the way I passed a big splotch in the snow which was undoubtedly one of my fall spots from the night before! But it was also much easier in daylight, since I could see what was ahead of me much better. I successfully made it to the condo on two feet (skis).
Lunch was low-cal fajitas. I like them open-faced, but you can also make them sandwich style with two tortillas. Use the 50-calorie low carb whole wheat tortillas, spread with about ¼ cup fat-free refried beans and sprinkle with 2% cheddar cheese (or Mexican cheese mix). Then grill in a nonfat skillet so the tortilla browns a bit and the cheese melts (you might have to pop it in the microwave if the cheese resists melting). Top with skinny slices of avocado, cut into wedges, and eat with lots of salsa or pico de gallo—scrumptious! And I think they are modest enough to afford a second serving. (I also like to use these tortillas to make yummy veggie wraps. Take a tortilla and warm for a few seconds in the microwave to soften it, then spread with a couple tablespoons of hummus—I like the eggplant hummus from Trader Joe’s, it’s super-delicious and lower in calories than regular hummus, only 15 per tablespoon. Top half of the tortilla with chopped bell pepper, cucumber, sweet onion, and sliced avocado; pile the other half with baby spinach or arugula. Carefully fold in half and eat taco-style.)
After my delicious lunch, it was back out to the slopes. I convince my mother to walk along as I ski-hiked over to the Central chair so she could watch me ski and take some pictures. I waved wildly at her from the chair lift, but she appeared oblivious…. However, thanks to my handy cell phone, I called her before I started skiing down so she could be on the alert for me.
I spent the rest of the afternoon skiing between the Central and Triple 60 chairs. Actually I took a number of runs on Central, then when the line started to build up a little, switched to Triple 60. Around 6:00 or so I went in for a break. My breaks usually have nothing to do with skiing or being tired—I usually decide it’s time for a break when I cannot bear thinking of another ride on the chair lift, either because I am so cold or because the line is too long (or both).
I quickly learned that 6:00 on a Friday night is not the very best time for a break, since that is when all the kids—and apparently everyone else also—break for dinner. Luckily I had no interest in the food line, which stretched halfway into the middle of the lodge. I opted instead for the espresso line, which was quite short, for a warming latte and a refreshing diet pepsi.
When I headed back out at 7:00 the night had turned very cold and the lines had turned quite long. I heard from my mother that the Easy Street chair by the condo had opened, so after one run on Triple 60 and one excrutiatingly cold chair ride up Central and down the Golden Nugget, I headed back over that way.
The Easy Street chair and vicinity was swarming with little ski school children in red jackets (so adorable) but the lift line was blessedly short. I finished my ski night by zipping up and down that chair a few times, till I finally called it quits around 8:30.
The next day, our last day, Saturday, was the day to pack up and move out. I had already decided not to ski that day, and I didn’t regret that decision on Saturday morning when I saw the crowds of people and lift lines getting long by 10 a.m. I had hoped to stop at the Nordic Center for some cross country skiing, but in the end we decided just to head home.
But before departure my father and I headed out for one last snowshoe walk. I was determined to get a good walk out of it, since there was to be no skiing that day. I struck out for the lodge, then walked around the perimeter of the lodge before turning back to meet up with my father along the path. On the way back I passed the condo to head down to the Silver Fir chair, then past the chair to the snowshoe center building. On my way back up the hill I saw a trail into the woods which seemed to be a shortcut, and better yet, was an opportunity to go off path and walk on softer, deeper snow like a real snowshoer. My entire walk, by the time I returned to the condo, was more than an hour long.
After several snowless days (since Monday night), on Saturday we awoke to falling snow. The wet snowflakes continued to fall throughout the morning, as we packed up our stuff and hauled it to the car. Let me make it clear—I hauled it to the car. George had a sled which I loaded with first our ice chests, then on the next trip our suitcases, and finally our other bags and grocery bags, for a total of four sled trips to the car. My father stayed down at the car to load it, and my mother stayed up in the condo until the last trip. The last trip was without sled, and all I had left to carry was a thermal mug of hot chocolate and a paper cup of hot chocolate for my dad. (I had already made and packed my almond milk latte for the road.)
It wasn’t until we were in the car and heading for the road that I made the final decision to ditch the cross country skiing plans. It was still snowing rather hard (and wet), and I didn’t think that skiing would be that pleasant, especially with my mother waiting nervously and impatiently in the car. So instead we headed west on I-90, back toward civilization. It didn’t take all too many miles before the slush on the road turned into just wet roads, and soon even the snow on the roadside disappeared. By North Bend it was as if we weren’t even in the mountains!
In North Bend we stopped at Starbucks, then sat in the car to eat the sandwiches we had packed along for lunch. I guess this was the end of our ski/snow trip. On our way back through Everett we stopped at the ski shop and dropped off all our rental equipment. (Except for my cross country boots, which I forgot about. I dropped those off on Monday.)
My only postscript is that I later did some internet research on snowshoes, and learned that there is also a type of snowshoe meant for running.
That intrigues me—I think I might like to get a pair of those in case I want to try a little snow running.
I’m also going to get my snowshoes from my parents’ house (where I originally thought I would want to store them) just in case we get some snow sometime and I want to tramp around outside. Who knows, maybe we might get enough so I could snowshoe to work! Now that would be fun!
(I'll be back at a later time to add pictures from my ski trip!)
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Today (can't say this morning because it was definitely afternoon) I went for my first run in more than a week, after being away in the mountains where there are no good running surfaces. I did 7.5 miles, a little farther than I had planned, but I had the time so I figured I might as well go for it.
I'm happy to say my legs still work. I'm always afraid that if I take a break from running, I will never go again. Probably a flashback from when I stopped running in college to recover from wisdom teeth surgery... and didn't run again for 20 years. I think I have enough dedication to running to prevent that from happening again—I actually like running now—but still, I am afraid.
Another run tomorrow will put me back on schedule (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday).
Of course, the whole trip could be summarized thus:
Take a break and get a latte. Eat a snack bar.
Take a break and have lunch.
Another break and another snack bar.
Go to bed.
That pretty much covers it—but I can stretch it out into so much more!
So I'll put it up when I finally finish. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Obviously that was not my plan when I went there. My plan was to do a short 30-40 minute workout on the cross-trainer and get home by 8:00. But due to lingering at work, I didn't get to the Y until 7:10, which meant that I had to be on a machine by 7:15 to even accomplish 30 minutes in that time frame.
And, as is often common in the post-New Year's January crush at the gym, all the cross-trainers were occupied when I arrived. Checking the sign-up sheets, I saw that at least two of the machine users looked likely to finish in a few minutes, so I decided to wait for one to open up. So I stood around, periodically looking from one machine to the next, checking the signup sheets again, hoping that someone would feel guilty and abandon their machine (rather than continuing to hog it past the 30 minute time limit).
Unfortunately, the woman that I most expected to be finishing up, who had been on her machine for 40 minutes, was absorbed in a book and seemed to have no intention of moving. (She was also moving at a snail's pace. I know I am not the fastest on the cross-trainer--I go for resistance more than speed--but this was a little pathetic. She was fairly young and had no physical ailments that I could see, so I am not being that mean in making this comment!)
At 7:14 I decided this was pointless, so I crossed my name off the signup sheet--with a rather dark, angry line, I must admit--picked up my bag, and left.
Now, I had spent an hour on the cross-trainer this morning--with no one on the surrounding machines, or waiting, I must point out--so I didn't really feel like I was making too big a sacrifice by leaving instead of waiting around indefinitely to get on a machine.
By leaving early I was able to use that extra half hour or so to put out the garbage, make lunch for tomorrow, and also get my dinner ready by 8:00.
I am constantly struggling to balance my need and desire to spend significant amounts of time running and working out, with my need (if not desire) to spend appropriate time on other pursuits, such as work, housecleaning, rest and sleep, and some kind of social life. (I still do manage to work in adequate amounts of TV-watching time, so that's not too much of a problem.)
In the last few months I have made an effort to almost always go home after my evening Pilates or yoga class, instead of staying longer to work out. In order to make this work, I try to get to the Y 30-60 minutes before the class to work out in advance. If work obligations mean I only have 25 minutes on the cross-trainer, so be it. Sometimes I'll stay later, but most of the time I feel okay going home.
Last spring I switched from running five days a week to running four, using the other days for more low-impact exercise. Over the holidays, needing to spend time cleaning, decorating, and preparing for Christmas, I limited my evenings at the Y to two nights a week, the nights of my Pilates classes. (I also chose to forgo a number of yoga classes in order to spend extra time doing cardio in order to combat cookie eating. I'm not sure that's a great example of balance, though--it probably tends a little toward the obsessive.)
Sometimes I really do have to stay late at work instead of going to the Y. That's one type of balance. But most of the time I make myself leave work at a reasonable time so I can go work out, particularly to the Pilates classes, which are a challenge because they are early in the evening, but are so important for core and strength building. And I almost always take Friday evenings off. (During better weather I did like to go walk at Green Lake occasionally.)
I could have made this a rant about people who start going to the gym in January, hog the machines, then disappear in February. I could have worked myself up to that as I stood waiting for a machine to open up. (I have actually done that to myself in the past.) But you know, in a few weeks those people will probably be gone and I'll have my choice of machines back again.
Instead, I gave myself a little bit more of an evening. Maybe I'll get 15 minutes more sleep tonight because I had dinner at 8:30 instead of 9:00 and didn't have to put the garbage out during the commercials in my TV show. (As I said, I always seem to have time for TV.) Tomorrow morning I'll be out running; tomorrow evening I'll be back at the Y to work out and go to Pilates. And then, after Pilates class, I'll go home.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Of course, when I wake up on an ordinary morning and it's time to go out for a run, I just wonder why I possibly think that I could get out of bed and go running at all! Hence the liberal use of the snooze alarm, until I throw myself out of bed in desperation, throw on my running clothes, and rush out the door at least ten minutes later than I should have left.
Even on a Sunday morning like today, when thank goodness I had no need to go out at 6 (6:30) a.m., I still have to drag myself out of bed. But once I'm dressed, I muster up a little more energy and head out to the street.
Today I really let myself lounge, watching the Food Network (my favorite weekend channel) until after 11 a.m., and not getting outside until 11:30. I headed west with a slow warmup jog.
Since I had no time consuming commitments today, I headed for the waterfront route that constitutes one of my "long run" routes. The entire route (should I choose to complete it) is about 8.85 miles (painstakingly measured in my car). The weather was cool, but not cold; halfway between cloudy and sunny (with a few rain spatters by the end); and my legs and heel were a little sore, but not debilitatingly painful.
As usual, it took the first few miles to warm up and shake off most of the soreness. I took a bathroom stop down by the marina, and as is typical when I take a few minutes rest in a run, I came out feeling more energized and refreshed. There's something about a short stop that makes me run better when I resume.
There's a long hill up Marine View Drive as you leave the waterfront area. It's fairly steep, but not so much as to be impossible to run up. I think that it would be a good hill to run up and down if (when?) I want to work on hill repeats this winter/spring. But today, I was happy just to get to the top and back to level ground.
I took the long route along East Grand Avenue toward Riverside Park and Everett Avenue. This makes the run about a mile longer than if I had stayed on Walnut. The roadway is a little dicey, but I was careful watching for cars when I passed the freeway on and off ramps!
As usual in a long run, I was running at an easy pace that felt good to me but not overly difficult. "Slow" would probably be a good word for it.
When I was on the last stretch, heading west on Everett Avenue toward QFC, I thought (as I did in another past long run) how this was like the end of a 15K. I pictured myself up in Fairhaven approaching the finish line in that 15K. And then, somehow, the race adrenaline did take over and I found myself speeding up, breaking into that fast easy run that I am somehow able to sustain in long races like the Fairhaven 15K. It's different than the fast portions of my pace and tempo runs, because those usually feel forced and difficult. This was smooth, powerful. I was in the zone.
And then I got to the QFC parking lot and had to stop to avoid being run over by cars forcing their way in. Just like that, the magic moment was over.
But it wasn't completely over. I still had the triumphant feeling of finishing well, of being able to pick up the pace and run fast after already running eight miles or so. That's a skill worth having. It gets you across the finish line in style!
Thursday, January 3, 2008
I'm afraid I'm a little more shallow.
Not horribly so—the reason for my short term conversion is health and diet (as opposed to, for example, trying to impress someone, which would be quite shallow).
However, I can't say I've embraced a vegan lifestyle fully, except for the diet modification. This is perhaps illustrated by the fact that on my first day (January 2), I seriously considered whether I should wear a leather jacket to work, without any realization of the irony and perhaps even inappropriateness of that choice. (In the end, by pure chance, I wore something else.)
So anyhow, I'm doing this vegan diet for the next 10 days in an effort to recuperate from all the cookies and candy and various bad-for-me things I ate over Christmas. Yes, to lose a few pounds, but also just sort of purify my system with fresh foods, fiber, and a change of pace.
I saw this vegan-inspired mini-plan in a magazine a few weeks before Christmas and thought it would be a good change of pace after the new year started. I'm only doing 10 days because then I'm going on a ski trip and it would be too complicated to maintain. Also, I have no real interest in becoming permanently vegan (or vegetarian at all). I love my meat and dairy too much. Salmon, chicken, turkey, eggs & egg whites, yoghurt, and nonfat lattes are my life!
But the diet plan was pretty simple and very much like my typical diet, only with beans and nuts instead of meat, fish, eggs. So adapting has not been too hard (for all of two days). The most challenging aspect was giving up dairy and my beloved lattes! I am not too interested in soy milk so I have come up with a different alternative. In another magazine, I read about Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk, with half the calories of skim mile (only 40 calories per 8 oz.). So I have been heating some up in the morning and carrying it in a thermos, then going to Starbucks to get shots of espresso and sugar free caramel syrup. I mix them up in the Starbucks cup and have my own almost-latte! It's pretty tasty—actually it tastes so rich and creamy I feel like I'm drinking whole milk. (I sure hope they're right about the calories.) I don't think I'd want it as a permanent substitute (it has less calcium than milk and it's just a pain to make my own lattes, really), but I think that almond milk may have a place in my diet even after I'm done being vegan. (Especially the chocolate unsweetened almond milk—5 calories more per cup but very, very nice in the faux latte!)
Last night I made a huge pot of vegetarian chili, which I expect I will be eating for days. I took this recipe I found on the internet and took it up a notch by adding extra onion, bell peppers (red and green), and a little more jalapeno and cumin. I did use part no-salt-added tomatoes and beans, because I don't like too much sodium in my food, but many people might find it a little flat that way. Also, I didn't bother with the vegetarian burger crumbles, and used a can of tiny black beluga lentils in its place. I ended up with so much chili that it almost overflowed my LeCrueset cookpot! Needless to say, I have been eating it for dinner every day since.
The best thing about this vegan thing, diet-wise, is that it creates an extra incentive to avoid cookies, chocolate, and other fattening treats (including various samples at the grocery store, like cheese, or salmon spread). Whenever I have the urge to grab a goody, I warn myself "it's not vegan!" Amazingly, it works. For some reason, it is more effective than just reminding myself that I'm avoiding sugar and such. Probably because I am able to rationalize the sugar. There is just no way to make products containing butter and eggs appropriately vegan! (There are vegan chocolates, but I'm not sticking with it long enough to seek them out. Except for the chocolate covered espresso beans that I bought at Whole Foods. The ingredients list seems to be appropriate—instead of confectioner's glaze they have something called "pure food glaze," at least I think that's what it is. I'm not asking too many questions there. My research on confectioner's glaze was distressing enough. And I have to have my chocolate espresso beans! I have a few every morning before I go running or to the Y.)
So I'm still waiting for the miraculous weight loss (all I ask is to shed the Christmas pounds plus a few extra). (And yes, I know it's only been a few days, but the Christmas pounds came on in a very short period, days really, and I don't think it's too much to ask that they go away equally quickly.) I don't really believe that this type of diet is really any better than my typical lean protein, good carb plan, but I think the the change of pace (and the strict vegan rules) is good to kick me out of the self-indulgent slump of the holidays. And beans (the main protein source here) are really very good for you, so this is a good opportunity to work them into my diet.
And now I think I've passed enough time to go have dinner (it's actually Saturday night, even though I started writing this on Thursday). So, vegetarian chili and salad it is! Yummo! (No really, I mean it. Although if I were not vegan I could top the chili with a little yoghurt or nonfat sour cream—I do love my dairy!)
But before I go, let me mention what I plan to have for my dessert/evening snack later on. Haagen Dazs has a new açai berry sorbet, which presumably has all the superfood properties that the açai berry is reputed to have. I'll have a scoop atop a bowl of thawed (previously frozen) mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, and boysenberries). I had this last night, and it was scrumptious!
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Luckily for them—and for all for us, actually—the weather cooperated as best it could on January 1. It didn't snow, it didn't even rain, and it wasn't particularly cold by the time the run started at about 10:40 a.m. I even felt a little too warmly dressed, stripping off my gloves halfway through the race and carrying them the rest of the way.
I'm sure the run was full of people who had stayed up late partying in the New Year last night. I wasn't one of them. The most exciting thing I did was read magazines and eat cookies. But for someone without a hangover, I felt surprisingly sluggish in the race. I was sure I was running unusually slowly.
So I was a bit surprised, but encouraged, when the person with a stopwatch called out nine minutes as I passed the 1-mile mark. 5K's are not my favorite length run—I like a longer run where you have a chance to warm up and hit your pace—so nine minutes for the first mile was not bad. Not all that sluggish after all.
I must have been running sort of hard because by the time I was in the last mile I was was breathing heavily (which I usually don't do running) and I was hot and sweaty (which doesn't happen so much in the winter). I could see by the clock as I approached the finish line that I was going to finish under 27 minutes, but once I did cross the line all my memory was wiped out and I had no idea what my time was (as I staggered off in search of water).
The chip times were posted later in the afternoon (fast!) and my official time was 26:17— a personal record for me in the 5K. Hurrah! Not too shabby. (Even if I didn't jump in the lake.)
6/15/06 - Race for the Cure 5K, Seattle - 29:19
7/4/06 - Yankee Doodle Dash 10K, Everett - 53:46
8/19/06 - Dog Day Dash 5K, Burlington
8/26/06 - Run-a-Muk 10K, Mukilteo - 52:54
12/10/06 - Jingle Bell Run 5K, Seattle - 32:48*
2/11/07 - Love 'em or Leave 'em 5K, Seattle - 27:18
2/24/07 - Smelt Run 10K, LaConner - 54:30
3/3/07 - Invest in Youth 10.3 miles, Lake Stevens - 100 minutes
3/10/07 - Shamrock Run 15K, Portland OR - 1:26:55
4/7/07 - Tulip Run 5 mile, Mount Vernon - 42:37
4/15/07 - Whidbey Island Half Marathon, Oak Harbor to Coupeville - 1:54:30
5/27/07 - Wells Fun Run 5K, Wells, UK - 28:17
6/16/07 - Race for the Cure 5K, Seattle - 26:57
6/23/07 - Run with the Cops 5K, Redmond (untimed)
7/4/07 - Yankee Doodle Dash 10K, Everett - 55:02
7/28/07 - Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon, Anacortes - 2:06:50
8/25/07 - Run-a-Muk 10K, Mukilteo - 54:51
9/15/07 - Fairhaven Waterfront 15K, Bellingham - 1:24:04
9/29/07 - River to Rails 10K, Arlington - 53:17
10/20/07 - Halloween Marathon 10K, Olympia - 57:20
10/27/07 - Trick or Treat Fun Run 5 mile, Marysville - 42:42
11/10/07 - Fowl Fun Run 10K, Mount Vernon - 54:37
12/9/07 - Jingle Bell Run 5K, Seattle - 30:04*
*The times on the Jingle Bell Runs are totally off due to the mob scene which causes excessive delay before crossing the start line!