Friday, May 25, 2007

Now Why Do I Live Here?

After six weeks of 4 hour daylight, months of sub zero, followed by mud season you really look forward to summer here. It's my favorite time of year. Yet, living close to nature does have its caveats.

The bears are out, and they're cranky, and not that far away. A man riding his bicycle was recently chased by an angry sow. He's lucky to have escaped. The trail he was riding on is a known haunt of a sow, so riding alone (even with a dog) is perhaps not the wisest choice at that location. And upon assessing the situation he ran--the automatic reaction of a bear would be to chase. Fortunately the dog was enough to distract the bear while he could get away. What you really need to do is quickly assess the situation and guage the behavior of the bear. Sow protecting cub: You back away, slowly.

Meanwhile, the yellowjackets have returned--already! In our three years here the infestation has gotten worse each summer. They were bad in the late summer of 2005, when we had some stingings on the youth cross country team. The outbreak downright horrific in 2006, when the woods just buzzed 20 hours a day and you couldn't run more than 100 meters without running into one. There were two deaths locally from stingings and many reports of severe reactions. Epi-pens, to protect against anaphalactic shock, were sold out for weeks. Last year's influx started in late July and peaked during late August.

Well, it's May and THEY'RE BAAAACK!
Apparently the winter wasn't quite cold enough to freeze the queens. Rather, we had just enough snow cover to protect them from the deep freeze. Meanwhile, the redbacked vole population crashed, so they didn't put a dent in the populations, and it's been dry, which is conducive for prolifereration of the queens.

So if it stay's dry, we get loads of breeding yellowjackets who will get hungry an mean in the coming months. Another expansive fire year like 2004 or 2005 would put a damper on the activities, but that alternative is not attractive at all due to air quality issues, not to mention safety. Rain. We need rain.

I was asked by a tourist on my return flight from the East Coast last week, Why Would You Want To Live THERE? I responded as curtly but politely as possible, because of work and I like it, which ended the four sentence conversation.

Here's why:
We're on the edge of North America and the northwest quarter of the continent is has just a few people. I like the open space and lack of infrastructure.

No traffic.

Lots of skiing and trails.

A live and let live attitude--kind of libertarian.

The people are pretty nice and not as materialistic or status-driven as in the lower 48.

That's good for today!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ready to Roll

Maybe. After hyper-extending my tibialis (seemingly both posterior and anterior) a few weeks ago, I've had to slow the transition into running. The 17:48 5k two weeks ago was a good indicator of base fitness, but my turnover and that neuromuscular gestalt, where you 'feel' like a runner, definitely weren't there. The race effort set me back a bit and my shin was hurting on both sides, so I took to 10 days of easy running (but included one low impact tempo run--going uphill for about 25 min) with the hope of allowing the muscle and tendons to heal. Yesterday's 60 min effort, which included a few strides and about 20 min at about 6:30 pace were a good indicator that things are coming around. I'll up the mileage to 60 this week, and plan to include a race pace workout. My first race will be a 5000 m on June 7, and I'll follow with either another track effort on the 14th or a 5k road race
on the 16th. These are all build ups for the Midnight Sun Run 10k, where I'd like one more crack at sub 35.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On Transitioning

Making the transition from skiing to running (and back) is never pretty. Well for some it's easy, but for me that first month is the dread. I feel clumsy, awkward, out of shape, weak, you name it. Nevertheless, I do a number of things to ease the pain so I can get back into decent condition without injury.

Run through the winter--When it comes to winter running, I'm an A to A- slacker, but I do make a point of running at least once a week, sometimes twice, with an weekly average of about 8-10 miles.

Transition also means compromise--The transitions have usually been recovery periods, so I just take it light for those first few weeks, to ease out of one season and into the other. Usually I'll run three times the first week, four the next, and so on. The compromise is that I always seem to gain a few pounds, but that tends to come off once the mileage gets a little higher.

Run mostly easy--I don't schedule any hard interval sessions or long runs during this four to six week period. Most of the running is at a very aerobic pace (for me about 8 minutes/mile or slower for that first month), with occasional pickups or faster running.

Build gradually--This year my mileage went from averaging about 10 miles a week through the winter until the last week of March. Then I had three week of 20 mile weeks, including a week with several days off just to get a breather. Those weeks allowed the joints to take some additional pounding so I upped it to 40, 47, and 50 over the consecutive weeks since.

Run hills--Most of the hard running been uphill, where the pounding is minimized while maximizing cardiovascular demand and muscle development to the quads and hip flexors. This seems to slow the initial transition to faster running, but by June or July I feel that much stronger.

Aerobic doesn't mean always easy
--Although the first few weeks are pretty easy, I do start incorporating "tempo" running and progression runs that range from easy aerobic to marathon pace, and lactate threshhold (15k).

Striders--By about my third week I'll do a set of six to eight striders, of about 20 sec, about once a week just to get the feel of leg turnover. In a few weeks I'll add some additional speed work (but tend to do the minimum!).

Plan ahead--Figure out which races are most important and figure out how these can be incorporated into the schedule. I like multispeed training, and this will be helpful to prepare for the Midnight Sun Run 10k (low or sub 35) and Flint Hills Mile (low 4:50s) in June, followed by the Santa Claus Half (low or sub 1:19) in early July. [The schedulers of these local series events need to get their heads on straight, however (they actually got it right last year, but they snafu'd it again this year by scheduling three of the five biggest local races of the year into a two week window. What kind of planning is that? Well that's another issue)]. After that I'd like to do either another 10k in Anchorage or a half marathon in August. Chicago Marathon in October, but that's a long way off.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Weather-Training Bloggo Update

I'm not getting or taking much time at updating this unread, hopelessly unreadable, excuse for a blog. My wife thinks it's a waste of time, and said so just yesterday, which is a good indication that it's time to say something here.

Now into my fourth year in Alaska, the weather never ceases to be an overriding factor in just about everything. Due to jetstreams and stationairy high pressure systems that build up in the Arctic or Gulf of Alaska, our weather is streaky. You can get locked into systems that last for weeks or months. So February and March were the coldest average on record. We didn't get the 50-60 below, but we had weeks of 30-45 below, followed by weeks of 20 below. Glad that's over with. Then, what do you know, it got warm over the first week of April and we ended up with one of the warmest and most boring weather Aprils in history. It was pretty much 30s every night and 50s in the day with no precipitation. Snow melt and mud season ended within two weeks. Didn't even go out for a cermonial last ski. One day it was decent the next, terrible; so I called it a year on the 9th of April.

Now I'm running full time and kind of hating it. Every spring I go through this rather strange month of aerobic self-loathing. Skiing makes your muscles feel heavy and your joints just don't want to endure hours of pounding each week. The transition takes three to four weeks to kind of feel decent, and six to actually feel like a runner. And that's if everything goes well.

I was scheduled to do the Chena River Run 5k last Saturday but twisted my ankle and hyperextended the tibialis a few days before, so I opted out of racing and ran it with my son. We ran 30:30, which is almost exactly my personel best X2. Although I had never run in the back of the pack in a road race (had a few of those in college, however), I enjoyed running with him. Hopefully, he'll have a good memory of running his first ever road 5k with dear old dad.