Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fight for Air Climb (Day 39)

This morning I woke up at 6:30 and dragged myself to the City with a hangover (courtesy of the Warriors) and in the midst of sideways rain caused by gale force winds.

I arrived at the tallest building around, rather wet, collected my bib and timing chip (after multiple attempts and a relocation of the registration tables to somewhere dry), checked my gear, and then proceeded to climb to the top of the building, 52 stories and 1197 steps. This was the 2012 American Lung Association Fight for Air Climb, and I participated as part of the Bank of America Community Volunteers team courtesy of a TNT ski buddy. We were the third team to climb after the firefighters and CrossFit. Many of the fire fighters climbed in full gear - I cannot imagine how much that weighs.

I obviously hadn't trained for this event and was rather nervous about how difficult it was going to be, but it turned out to go much faster and easier than I had expected. I finished in under 13 minutes. At the top, there were spreads of bagels and fruit, a DJ, and amazing views, looking down on everything else around. There were a million volunteers for this event and they were fantastic.

I had worried about claustrophobia in the stairwell, but it was rather big, and they stagger starts by 8 seconds so there were never all that many people around. The elevator ride back down was much worse.

Overall, it was a fun time, and I am sure it would have been even better without the terrible weather and consequent clusterf*** surrounding registration, as well as all the people packed into the lobby creating a din. It was so much nicer to be on top. I would definitely do this event again, and so should you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ant Infestation (Day 37)

On Tuesday it poured. While walking to BART with my laptop in a bag and under my umbrella (or so I thought anyway), my laptop got wet through my bag. When I arrived home and stepped under cover to dig my keys out, I noticed thousands of tiny ant swarming up on the threshold. I hoped upon hope that they had not gone inside. I imagined millions of ants eating every errant crumb in the kitchen, coating the counters.

When I walked in, there were hundreds of ants, but luckily they had not seemed to find a trail yet so were mostly milling around just inside the door and around the door frame. This is not the first time we have had ants inside the house, so I reached for my spray bottle of soapy water and took aim. Soon, I had masses of dead ants. I wiped up the dead ants on the threshold and door frame to avoid creating any juice when I shut the door, but I did not clean up all the many other dead ants inside the house. I guess maybe I was hoping Matt would take care of it.

Matt did not, but when I approached the door yesterday, I realized that the huge mass of dead ants had disappeared. I guess the ants cleaned up themselves. I will have to remember to thank them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Engineering (Day 36)

Matt likes to make fun of engineers a lot. He thinks all they do is plug numbers into equations. He considers them "less than" scientists. I like to defend engineers because I spent two and a half years in an engineering program before dropping out. In addition, both of us have graduate degrees from a college of engineering (although our program is no longer in that college).

Many of my jobs have bordered on engineering, and my first job out of grad school was even classified as Environmental Engineer. I have developed models, reviewed savings calculations from energy efficiency measures, and tried to understand various technologies as I help develop federal energy efficiency standards.

I am spending three days in a class about pumping systems, which will culminate in a test to become a qualified pump systems specialist, or some such designation. This test is really all about plugging numbers into equations, and in particular a tool that does all the calculations for you. This is definitely the part of engineering that Matt likes to make fun of, and it is certainly boring me to no end. I am glad I get to spend most of my days thinking about bigger picture issues like how to regulate pumps and other equipment instead of using these equations over and over again. (And I realize regulations probably sounds amazingly boring to a lot of other people! And it certainly can be.) One of the girls in my class (two others finally showed up) has her own company that does things such as performing audits to improve energy efficiency, and she noted that she likes being able to see a result at the end of every day. I may not see a result for three years, if ever. So I guess there are trade offs to everything!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pumps, pumps, pumps (Day 35)

Three days of pumps.
What more could a girl ask for?
And I didn't even do my homework.
Note to self: probably not ready to go back to school.
Bernoulli is enough.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cupcakes for a Penny?! (Day 34)

I have complained about my neighborhood before, I'm sure. It's very nice and pretty and well-maintained, and we see all sorts of people out walking about, but people just aren't friendly. They try to avoid eye contact. They don't respond when you say hi. They yell at their dogs for taking an interest in you.

Today as I walked home, a little girl was drawing in chalk on the sidewalk. As I approached she suddenly shot up and said, "Cupcakes for sale! Would you like a cupcake?" I stopped. Her little brother was sitting at a tiny table with a tray of cupcakes in front of him.

"How much?" I asked.

"One dollar," she proclaimed. Then, "One penny or one nickel."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"One penny or one nickel. How does that make you feel?" she responded.

"Well I think you should charge more," I offered.

I opened my wallet to find I had no dollar bills. "Do you have change?" I asked. This concept was a bit beyond them.

The father, who had been sitting on the steps, walked over and said, "It's one coin. Here's the deal: After we sell seven more of these cupcakes, I get to go inside."

I laughed and dropped my approximately 40 cents in change into their cup.

The little girl picked up a cupcake and held it towards me. "Would you like whipped cream or sprinkles?"

I declined, and continued on my way home. Quite a steal for a cupcake - the coffee shop down the road sells them for about $3.

I'm not sure if this was a spring break adventure. I'm kind of sad that the father was bored of hanging outside with his cute children who seemed to be quite enjoying themselves. It was a fairly nice day. But hey - at least I finally talked to someone in my neighborhood.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Oakland Running Festival Race Report (Day 33)

Well, I downgraded to the half, and as a result I got to sleep in for several hours. As I was heading to the BART station past all the full marathoners running through mile 5, a woman on the side of the road exclaimed, "Oh no, did you have to drop out?" I informed her I was running the half and it hadn't started just yet. When I arrived at BART, the platform was covered with many other runners heading to the race, and when we exited two stops later, I really don't think I had ever seen so many people in that station, even at rush hour.

The race started right across the street from where I used to work. I wished I still had the key card to get in the building because it was freezing outside and I had to use the restroom. But I headed into the park with the masses and shortly ran into a friend. When they let us into the corrals, it became claustrophobic. I am not sure there was quite enough room for the 4000 people that were supposedly starting the half. The pace markers were not very far apart.

The mayor greeted us, to not much cheering. I don't think she is very popular. However, the Oaktown pride was still alive, as someone near me in the corral yelled,"I love Oakland." People jumped up and down to the "I Work Out" song. Finally we started. The course was full of potholes, and it was difficult to deal with all the runners and try not to turn your ankles. There were also numerous turns on the course, and at every one, numerous jerks listening to music cut me off to cut the corner tight. I realize that ideally you should run the inside of the course, but when you are as slow as me (or really anybody who is not going to win the race), you should probably just hold a line.

There were not too many spectators along the first part of the course. At one point some people with a stroller went through the cross walk not far in front of me and not very fast. Someone in a "Half Full Running Club" shirt yelled at them, telling them we were in a race. Now, they could have crossed much faster, but it didn't slow this girl down much and she clearly wasn't going to win the race either way. I have no idea why you would want to make the local neighbors hate the race more than they might already. All her running club buddies commiserated with her. Net to self: do not join that running club.

Near the BART stations and by Lake Merritt, there were huge crowds of spectators. It was fabulous to have so many people out cheering for us. The TNT cheer and water station was a noisy tunnel of support, and of course I saw several people I knew there, although Matt did not notice me. I also saw one of my coworkers at a water station.

I can't say I enjoyed the course and event as much as I did last year when I ran 18 miles of the full as a bandit. The full takes you to more of the city, and there were not nearly so many runners packed so close together. I on't remember ever getting cut off at turns. And there was enough space to see and avoid all the potholes and uneven pavement.

In the end, I PRd. 1:56:20, about four and a half minutes faster than the PR I set last year at Kaiser. This course was definitely flatter, and the weather was perfect for running - 50 and cloudy. I didn't even rain. So I am glad I did this race. It was nice to roll out of bed and BART over to the start. But definitely not one of my favorite races. (Could be that I was just trying too hard.) Thanks to Matt and everyone else who was out there cheering or volunteering!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It Could Be Worse (Day 32)

As I was getting off the train on my way home from the Oakland Running Festival expo, the man next to me told me good luck. As we was also carrying expo goods, I told him the same and asked which race he was doing.

"I won't be running," he said. "I signed up for the full, but it's not going to happen this year."

His face and voice were deflated. I understood. And I will count myself lucky that at least I will be able to run and probably finish the half. A little rain, a little sore throat and cough, and a little toe problem never hurt anyone, right? Plus I will have TNTers cheering for me! Maybe I should wear purple.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Toast (Day 30)

A reclassification and 20% raise calls for two pints with friends on a week night. And sleep. In a happy coincidence, I have no more early meetings on Friday either. This calls for sleeping in.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skewer Drama (Day 29)

(Clearly I have nothing valuable to contribute to the writing sphere today and you should probably just stop reading now...)

This winter I have been attending my XC Ski coach's free spin classes at Sports Basement. My coach had been nice enough to bring me a trainer to borrow for several classes, but it had become time to acquire my own trainer so he could accommodate other new people in his classes. Luckily one of my teammates offered me his trainer as he has a fancy new device. He claimed his trainer was nice enough not to ruin skewers, so I was not supposed to need a special trainer skewer. However my skewer turned out to be square and would not sit properly in the trainer.

So my coach told me he would bring me a skewer to borrow for that week's class if I ordered a trainer skewer online. S that's what happened, and he even let me take the skewer home with me so I could spin at home. (Which was great because I discovered running after spinning is awesome.) My new trainer skewer arrived in the mail last weekend, and I promptly put it on my bike. Because a little extra weight never bothered me (I have a steel bike after all), I figured I would just leave the trainer skewer in rather than having to change it every week for spin class. So when my bike went to the shop this week, it went in with the trainer skewer. It apparently did not come out with it.

When I showed up at spin class this evening, I returned my coach's skewer to him, and he lent it to someone else for the class. I then promptly discovered that my local bike shop had replaced my trainer skewer with a new skewer matching the lever up front. I am sure they thought they were doing me a favor.

Luckily my coach was able to get the new square skewer to sit in the trainer sufficiently for the class. I called the bike shop and they were very apologetic and told me to come in anytime to pick up the skewer. My coach said, "So much for hearting your local bike shop." Not sure what their deal is with skewers. The last time I had my bike in for service, they called me the next day and told me they had left their trainer skewer in my bike and could I come in to return it to them. I was skeptical of this based on the appearance of my skewer, and when I went in they confirmed, that no, I did not have the trainer skewer. Luckily I do not live far from the bike shop, and they are still nice enough to make it worth it.

Ah the skewer drama!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Alma Mater (Day 28)

Today I stopped in a shop by the shuttle stop in Downtown Berkeley to get some tea prior to Technovation. My cup of hot water emerged surrounded by this:


That's right, my alma mater is apparently advertising in the heart of Bears country. 

While I actually feel as though I received an excellent education from Arizona State, I doubt it compares to Cal. All I can figure is that they are trying to sop up the people who can't quite cut it at Cal? Perhaps I'm not giving them enough credit. But it's kind of like the billboard in Phoenix proclaiming, "This is Wildcat Country." Not so, not so.

Maybe I should look at what they're offering?

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Heart My Local Bike Shop (Day 27)

Today I dropped my bike off for its semi-annual tune-up and inspection at Tip Top Bike Shop in Temescal. The co-owner, Richard, greeted me by name and proceeded to lead me through an assessment. New brake pads, new chain, possibly new rear cassette, new rear tire. Yikes! Bikes are an expensive proposition. Then I asked about a new saddle, so he and his co-owner, Charlotte, took me over to the saddles and discussed which I should try, which ultimately was not in stock at the time. So Charlotte took my name down to call me next week when they come in. Meanwhile Richard found the brake pads for my bike so he could price the estimate for work. While Sam, one of the mechanics, ran the estimate for me, Richard talked to me about how my ski season had gone. In between, Charlotte and Richard greeted and bade farewell to other customers like old friends.

Tip Top is where I originally purchased my bike last year, and it comes with free maintenance. They were the fourth shop I visited when searching for a bike following: Montano Velo (which I liked but did not really have a good bike for me in stock), Missing Link, and Mike's Bikes. Charlotte was super friendly, extremely patient with me, and totally not one of those bike snobs who seems to mock you for knowing nothing about bikes. In fact, today Richard had to tell me that my front wheel was not on completely straight and didn't make me feel bad about it at all. This couple really knows how to make a person feel good about dropping a couple hundred bucks on a toy. Although for them, the toy is really a useful method of transportation. I generally just ride my bike in a circle...

I just found this cool video on their website today. Check out the video and next time you're in Oakland, check out the shop!

Tip Top Bike Shop from Video For The People on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Basketball (Day 26)

The thrills,
The tears,
The shots,
The moves,
Jukes and fakes,
Around the back,
Reverse lay-up,
Make them lose their shoes.

The glory,
The pain.
Maybe the next day
You do it all again.

For the love of the game.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring Runs (Day 25)

Running in the spring, after the rain.
Or in a lull or light drizzle.
Streaks of silver sun low across the surface of the bay.
Mud and puddles, the right size.
Bright green, dark earth everywhere.
A bit chilly.
Reminds me I love running.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness (Day 24)

As most of you know, I'm sure, I grew up in a basketball family. And by that I mean that I was basically forced to play basketball as a child, as was my sister. We also watched a lot of basketball, especially the Detroit Pistons, as they won back-to-back championships when we were young. We loved to watch the celebration video, Pure Pistons, and sing along with the raps ("Jump ball, tip to Isiah..."). We loved The Worm and The Microwave. We especially loved Joe Dumars. One day while we were at the ticket counter at the Detroit airport, the agent leaned toward us and asked, "Do you like basketball?" "Boy, do they ever," my aunt responded. "Well that's Joe Dumars," the agent said, indicating toward a ticket counter further down. I remember barely being able to see him, but being excited nevertheless. A brush with greatness.

Although I was raised to root for Ohio State and hate Michigan, I do not remember being very into college basketball until we lived in Tucson. We attended a high school with a rather stellar boy's basketball team, and the coach had connections in the college world. One year the first rounds of the NCAA tournament were in town, and the Stanford team came to practice in our gym. My team of course went to the gym to get a glimpse of them. My parents were also nice enough to buy my sister and me tickets to the tournament. It was quite exciting!

My sophomore year of high school, the Wildcats won the national championship. Not only were they the local team, but one of the boys from our high school was a walk-on there. We had all been smitten with him since our freshman year when our coach had the varsity boys bring us roses before our first game. He rarely played at UA but sat at the end of the bench looking cute next to Josh Pastner, now the head coach of Memphis. The 1997 tournament run was amazing and nail-biting, and I remember watching games with my friends, all basketball players, and screaming at the TV. It truly was March Madness.

For the last many years, I have stopped paying much attention to sports, partly because I am away from my sister's influence and we don't have a TV. In addition, Matt likes hockey and baseball while I prefer football and basketball. But it is still fun to fill out a bracket. Two years ago I used Barack Obama's, but it did not do me very much good after the first couple rounds. This year I spent about 37 seconds filling out my bracket while the first game was playing, and I am now losing miserably to Matt, having lost 11 of the first 28 games including one of my final four picks. But we paid $3.99 to watch all the games online, and we have been enjoying some nail-biters this evening. Two crazy upsets! I guess that's why it's March Madness!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Training (Day 23)

I feel like there's a chance Matt and I have been in Phoenix for Spring Training every year since we've been together. And that in fact I've potentially been to Spring Training every year since at least junior year of college. I'm not entirely sure if that's true. I remember one year a game got rained out and I don't recall if we had a chance to replace it. Some years we go to multiple games. It's a great time to hang out with friends and family and enjoy the fabulous Arizona weather! If only it were warm enough here for me to wear shorts and a t-shirt right now! Instead I'm about to go run in the rain.

This year, it just didn't happen for us. In between my XC Ski race, a half marathon, and other events I planned, and Matt's ridiculous work schedule, and a lack of proper advance planning, we will be missing out on Spring Training.

I hope everyone has fun at the games without us!

(Let's see, this must be 2009)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Technovation (Day 22)

I recently became a mentor in a program called Technovation Challenge, which is designed to expose high school girls to careers in technology and entrepreneurship. Of course, I have no experience in either of those areas, but this year the app they design has to be about science education, so the Lab hosted a site and invited its scientists to be mentors. I also qualify loosely as a scientist, but I guess that is neither here nor there.

Today we were unexpectedly joined by the Lab Director, Paul Alvisatos. I am not sure many of the girls comprehended how exciting it was that he had taken a few minutes of his busy time to speak to them, but after I squealed about it to my group of girls, they at least feigned some amount of interest.

I was extremely impressed by the director's talk; I thought it was perfectly suited to the audience. He talked about how the lab is designed to provide an environment in which people can do exciting science, particularly by allowing collaboration. He dispelled the notion of scientists sitting by themselves in a corner and talking to no one all day. He noted that even though all science and math classes may not come easy or be enjoyable, we have all been there, and there are always better things to come. Finally he got out his smart phone and talked about all the science apps he had on it, including of course a periodic table and scientific calculator, but also about climate change and other diverse topics. I had never even thought to download a science app before! The girls were also rather impressed, as they have a hard time believing that adults use smart phones and apps, probably more than students do. I am sure I am forgetting a key piece of his talk, but his presence there and the care he had clearly taken to prepare the talk certainly will leave a lasting, positive impression on me, as one of his thousands of employees.

We also heard from likely one of the highest ranking females at the lab, Kathy Yelick, who is the associate lab director for computing science and the director of the lab's large supercomputer. She gave a fascinating talk about world problems that can be solved with computing science, such as health and environmental problems. And she even showed similarities between video games and simulations.

My team previously expressed sadness that their app had to be about science, as they originally signed up for the program because of the technology side of it. I am glad that the lab was able to offer two enigmatic speakers and role models to share the benefits and fun of science with them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Deleting Contacts (Day 21)

Today I was thinking of writing about my other grandmother, Grandma Doris. In the midst of this endeavor, I became distracted by cleaning up my cell phone contact list. I realized that I still had Grandma's phone number stored. I stared at it. I had run into this problem before. First, when a friend passed away in college. Then, when my Grandma Nore died. It seemed so strange to look at the phone numbers and think that if you dialed it, no one would answer the phone. This time, nearly a year has passed, so the concept is not as strange. And I am lucky to have only faced this situation a few times.

I think Grandma Doris used to cross people out in her physical address book, with a note that said deceased. It seems too final on a cell phone. When you delete the contact, there is no proof that it ever existed. No name crossed out. It just disappears into the ether. I did it finally, again this time. The last two times I left them for awhile after I realized they were still there, but eventually I removed them too. It is just a phone number after all. But still it seems almost disrespectful. More evidence of the change technology places on the world. Would I rather have an address book with a record of all the people I had ever known and lost, or simply lost touch with? Maybe as I get older I will wish I had that record. But a cell phone does not hold my memories.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grandma Nore (Day 20)

My grandmother was a trail blazer and a rebel. She played basketball before Title IX when girls wore skirts and could not dribble. She drove the car to the post office at the age of 12 because she had not explicitly been told to walk. She put off having children until the age of 29 and "time was running out"* while she pursued a career at a bank, which she only had because no one thought to ask her during her interview if she was married. She later became one of the first female loan officers at the same company.

She once wrote:

I suppose one of the biggest satisfactions in my life has to be the small part I played in helping to prove that ability has nothing to do with gender; that women's talents should be recognized, used, and rewarded. And that women should have the right to choose what to do with their lives.

As a woman, I am truly thankful for her efforts. I certainly inherited many of her "trouble-making" (I prefer "fairness-seeking") tendencies. Despite all the advancements she and others in previous generations made, it is still troubling to have to fight for a job because you are a woman and try to stop the talk that your success is a result of your looks or your dress. (Yes, these situations both happened to me.) And still women make less than men, especially in my field - the discrepancy is huge between men and women with advanced degrees in the sciences.

I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be fighting for your gender and yourself during the depression and the second world war. At a time when they tried to wear bras as tight as possible to hide their breasts. At a time when choices were so limited. I am so lucky to have had her in my life.

*I think we can all agree that times have changed in many ways, and it seems as though 29 is now young to have children. Or maybe that is just here in the big city.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Elusive Full Marathon (Day 19)

Today I sent an email request to downgrade my Oakland Running Festival entry from full to half. This makes the 3rd marathon for which I have been signed up but will not complete. The marathon remains elusive.

The first one, San Diego, I had been hurt early in the season and was woefully unprepared for my first half marathon that season at Avenue of the Giants. After those 13.1 miles, I ran-walked a 19 mile training run, which actually went fine. But I was still nervous about attempting to run a marathon on only one run longer than a half marathon. So I downgraded that entry. Looking back on it, I probably just should have done it that time. There were other people running it with whom I probably could have kept up. I was no longer hurt at the time. But I was reasonable instead.

The second one, Big Sur, I trained well for. I completed a lot of runs over 13 miles, including an 18 mile run in 3 hours. But that proved to be my downfall. After that run, my toe started hurting, and it eventually got to the point where I could not run more than 4 miles without pain. I saw a doctor and a physical therapist in hopes I could complete the race. One suggested I could and one suggested I shouldn't. The course was an out and back without many spectators, and I worried that if the pain started during the race I would not have much recourse. Then my grandmother's memorial service was scheduled for the weekend of the race. So I bailed.

This time I thought I was going to make it happen. It occurs just 3 weeks after my ski marathon, so I knew I would be in good shape, and I had been told by a coach that I could replace some long runs with skis. That meant fewer opportunities for repetitive stress injuries. I ran a fabulous half marathon, but when I went out for a 15 mile run the next week, my toe pain returned and I completed only 6 miles. In an effort to preserve myself for my primary event, the ski marathon, I stopped running. No 15 or 17 mile runs as I had planned. I kept telling people maybe I would just go out for the full anyway and take a bus home when my joints complained, because after all, the race is in Oakland. I went out for a 6 mile run yesterday and felt quite fine.

But then I realized that was silly. Even run-walking, I am sure my joints are woefully unprepared to jump from 13.1 miles to 26.2 with nothing in between except skiing (up to 25 miles!). So I did the reasonable thing and asked for a downgrade to the half. Maybe I can even attempt a PR. But for now, again, there will be no marathon. That charm remains in its case, waiting to be added to my running charm bracelet. Maybe someday!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Short (Day 18)

Twitter seemed like a funny idea at first, but sometimes 164 characters is all you have.


I am saving you from a very boring post, but I hope to try to write a story tomorrow. Creative historical non-fiction coming up. Maybe.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I am Already Out of Words (Day 17)

17 days in and I am fresh out of intrigue. My Alaska adventures have run their course. It is Friday night, and I do not have to wake up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. I have two full weekend days to do with whatever I like. I think I will go for a run and a bike ride. And hopefully find my insipration for my subsequent blogs. I have lost all creativity. My work week provides no good fodder. Tonight I tried 3 new beers. This is my life. Tomorrow I promise a real blog. Somehow, some way.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Amazing Teammates (Day 16)

When I joined the XC Ski team, I was lucky enough to have 4 people I knew join with me: 3 lovely teammates and friends from my very first TNT season, and one fabulous co-worker. I had no idea that by the end of the season, I would have made about 20 new friends (or more!), all of whom are wonderful people. It helped that the team was small, so there were more opportunities to get to know people. Then there were the hours and hours of car rides. I carpooled with at least 7 different people. Then there was downtime at the lodge, while everybody was getting ready or winding down to go home. And then the skiing! I skied with many different people, and ran into many others out on the trail. We shared a lot of laughs - and I helped provide many of them with my numerous but lovely falls.

This team faced a lot of adversity - mainly that there was virtually no snow this season. We did a lot of hiking, skied in a softball field, then skied in a parking lot. I think only the last three skis of the season did we actually get to go out on trails. Even then, conditions were not good. There were a lot of unmarked obstacles, icy patches, lakes, slush mountains, and so much more. We were fairly lucky with the weather - we had 40 degrees and sunshine on many of the skis and I only recall nasty conditions that day in the parking lot.

You would think that with this whole lack of snow thing, people would start dropping from the team like flies. Not so. We had an incredible retention rate! Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, my teammates took everything in good humor. There were incredible amounts of hugs, smiles, and laughter. Unlike my cycling ride group, which bonded through crashes and tears, our ski team seemed to bond through a sense of adventure and indomitable spirit. Much of this may be thanks to the wonderful coaches and volunteer staff, particularly our web and community captains.

The event weekend in Anchorage was a fabulous culmination of a season. I think we all had an amazing time, with the possible exception of the event itself... Everyone did an amazing job at the race, accomplishing wonderful goals for themselves. And so many teammates remained at the finish line to cheer in our other skiers until we were forced to get on the bus to return to the hotel. But the lack of snow and preparation definitely took a toll on us, and many of us struggled, declaring it one of our hardest events ever. But in the race and throughout the rest of the weekend, we continued to share good cheer and good laughs. We enjoyed plenty of tourism and sampled the local brews, and I honestly cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard so often. Or the last time there were so many fights over the bill.

So a huge shout-out to all my 2012 XC Ski teammates. You are all amazing, and I am so lucky to have shared this season with you. I look forward to seeing you on future teams and all sorts of other fun events. I love you guys!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Alaskans (Day 15)

This weekend has given me fodder for many blogs. One of the first things I noticed about Alaska was how friendly everybody was. The girls at the hotel reception were extremely engaging and interested in what we were up to. Although my coach pointed out that they are paid to be nice, they certainly went above and beyond.

At dinner that night, we sidled up to the bar of a local brewery, and a friendly gentleman next to me explained which beers the brewery specialized in and recommended a few. Awhile later I discovered he was a transplant from Ruidoso, NEw Mexico, but had been in Alaska for over 20 years. The gentleman who replaced him at the bar also chatted with my teammate about our upcoming adventure. The bartender herself was also extremely friendly.

The next day at the Iditarod start, a friendly woman next to us patiently explained the difference between the ceremonial start and the real start and various other race intricacies. Later at the reindeer run, other spectators explained to us how that race worked.

Our tour guide was quite friendly, although less so after someone made a comment about Sarah Palin. At lunch, one member of our group was a little too friendly with an Alaskan, offering him his uneaten chips. After a first look of surprise and possibly disdain, you could see the Alaskan in him kick in and he proceeded to have a friendly conversation with us. That night, a host at the hotel cafe spent considerable time with us outlining our options for dinner downtown and finally choosing a restaurant for us.

The Alaska Airlines customer service agents at the airport were rather less friendly, but it was late at night and maybe they were not actually Alaskans. I wonder how long a person has to live in Alaska to become super friendly. A teammate speculated that because they are likely to be from cold places such as the Midwest where people are already friendly, they might be pre-inclined to that character trait. Whatever it is, it was a welcome change from the East Bay where my neighbors and co-workers regularly avoid saying hi if at all possible. Unfortunately it is way too cold in Alaska for me to consider enjoying their friendly company on a more permanent basis.

Thanks for welcoming us to your state!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Alaska Adventure (March 2012)

Sadly there appears to have been a smudge on my lens the whole weekend, but here are the Alaska pictures.

Alaska (Day 14)

So I skipped a day. Do I post-date a blog and call it good? Do I just skip it? After all, it is the unlucky number 13. Not that I find that number unlucky - I used to wear it in basketball.


I had an amazing time in Alaska! My team is full of fabulous people. In addition to the event itself, we explored the local beers, watched the ceremonial start of the Iditarod, had a practice ski, watched some people in funny costumes be chased by reindeer, enjoyed team meals, took a tram up Mt. Alyeska in minimal visibility, and saw meese, elk, musk ox, bald eagles, Kodiak brown bear cubs, and more reindeer. Then we explored more local beers.

Finally I learned what it is like to depart when about 6 inches of freshly fallen snow have landed on the plane and runway. Step 1: several de-icings. Step 2: sit a the end of the unplowed runway with brakes on and engines revving to full power. step 3: release the brakes and shoot off down the runway. Scary! I think I saw that move on Pan Am when they were trying to escape from Haiti...

Anyway, more thoughts and pictures to come later.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tour of Anchorage (Day 12)

Today I completed a 40k XC ski marathon. This amounts to approximately 25 miles, or nearly a full marathon, and definitely farther than I have ever travelled in one day on my own two feet. This may have been my most difficult event yet. Pretty much every movement past the 20k mark came from sheer willpower.

I was home sick from work with a cold or mild flu most of the week, and although I am better, I am not yet recovered. The first 5 or 10k of the race involved climbing several hills, which is where I first noticed that the cold was getting me. Then I realized my camelbak was frozen, and I was never able to unfreeze it. I continued to carry this dead weight (70 oz) of water for at least 30k before I had the bright idea to dump it out. Clearly my brain was not working so well. My shoulders were extremely tired. I stopped at every feed station for at least one cup of water or gatorade, but I was still often thirsty, especially the last 10k where no feed stations were to be found. The lack of water also limited my eating choices, as some of my snacks made me to thirsty. I subsisted on shot blocks most of the event, and finished my last one mid-way up the last hill.

As usual, the TNT support was amazing, from the hotel in the morning to the start line to various anchorage members along the course, our manager and special cheered Larry, and everyone at the end who had already finished. I thanked them by being the rude, no responsive person coming up the last hill. I had nothing left.

It took me maybe 15 minutes less than 6 hours. I was so exhausted that I didn't even remember to check my time. After an influx of water, hot chocolate, and pizza, I began to feel like a normal human being again and returned to the finish to cheer in the rest of my amazing teammates.

I probably failed to mention that the scenery was amazing. Even now I am sitting in bed, watching a gorgeous twilight over the inlet. We were actually treated to sun today despite the previous prediction of snow. I guess someone was looking out for us. Thanks Alaska!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Alaska (Day 11)

Yesterday afternoon I saw Alaska for the first time. Flying into Anchorage, we passed snow-covered peaks emerging from the clouds. Then whole mountain ranges covered in snow from crest to plains. The landscape seemed so, well, immense.

Then we could see the sea, filled with ice. First covered in splotchy segments from bright white to nearly black. Then paths cut through by ice breakers. In some places, ice just floating on the sea. Unfortunately we were below the altitude at which you have to turn your electronics off. I had a hard time telling the difference between sea and land. The landscape continued, unbroken by civilization, at least that I could see. I could not see Russia.

I am so excited to be here. A landscape so different from any I have seen before. And I haven't frozen yet.

Today, the Iditarod.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Water for Elephants (Day 10)

I cheated. I am traveling to Alaska as this blog is posting. I was worried I wouldn't remember to blog today, and I was looking at my kindle books and realized this would be a good topic. So...

Water for Elephants was the first book I read on my iPad. I loved it. It was a page turner. I started it on an airplane flight to Washington DC. Such a fabulous invention - set the iPad on the tray table, and every so often lift up a finger to "flip" the page. Hands free reading! Who would have thought?

Anyway, this was supposed to be about a book, not my love affair with iPad.

I haven't seen the movie. I am not sure if the elephant would be as lovely in the movie as I imagined her from the book. I pictured her smiling and laughing. And of course enduring things that would make no one smile. I do love animals, but I especially loved the knowledge, humor, and intelligence ascribed to Rosie. I remember learning that elephants actually mourn each other - they are quite social beings.

I also enjoyed the perspective of the 90 or 93 year old man telling the story. I can't remember many books being told from that perspective. Te author imagines what the elderly gentleman is thinking as things happen around him and to him in an assisted living home. The grasp on reality slowly slipping away. The humanity. It was really quite beautiful.

I also enjoyed the story, which is quite impressive given that I do not generally read fiction. It was an interesting look at an era of a true depression, so much worse than the recession of today. A story about being trapped. Or feeling trapped at least. A story of devastating loss, risk and reward. A story of an elephant that smiles at you with love in her amber eyes.

I recommend it. (As well as the e-reading experience!)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Post-Event Depression (Day 9)

There is a phenomenon in which, after several months of training hard for an event, and after successful completion of said event, a person feels empty. There is no longer a goal towards which to strive. No reason to go to the gym. Just normal, boring life. A climax followed by a cliff.

I don't think this has happened to me on any large scale before, as I either already have something else on my plate for which to train, or I don't complete an event big enough to cause this depression (for example, not running my two planned marathons).

I can't say I've been training hard for this ski race. I haven't been following the training calendar. There hasn't been much snow. In the last year, my obsessive compulsive need to follow training calendars to a "T" has disappeared. Don't know where it went.

But still. A week and a half ago my toe injury returned. This week I've been home sick from work, and I have to get on a plane tomorrow. I've always been amazed that I haven't gotten sick before a race in the past (except for that nasty swine flu I had before my first ever race, but that was nice enough to come early enough so I had a week or two to recover pre-race). So because of my toe, another marathon bid is off the table. All I have right now is the ski race, and I'm not even sure how that will go - hopefully I can push through the pain and the weakness.

I'm looking forward to this weekend. I plan to be on my way to recovery tomorrow and enjoying the company of my fabulous teammates. I plan to remember that I'm skiing slightly down hill so a little illness-related weakness won't be a huge problem... I plan to push through any pain in my toe. I plan to have a great weekend.

And then I'll return to normal, boring life. But hopefully I will bring some of the joy and amazement of Alaska home with me. And then I'll figure out how to fix my toe once and for all. Hopefully I will sleep.

I didn't mean for this post to be depressing. I'm contemplating erasing it all. But I suspect I'm not alone in this. Many of us participate in Team in Training for a reason, and part of that reason is that it adds something good to our lives. So maybe on Tuesday I'll just sign up for my next season. Surely by September or October I'll be able to run another race?