Lost Lake Run Series: Looking Back and Looking Forward

I did indeed finish the Lost Lake Run back on August 23, 2014 as planned. But my finish was the only thing that happened as expected. In short, I was undertrained and overconfident. I floated for a couple of years on a large running base, meaning I could just hop of the couch and run a race. I thought I was still there last summer, but that was true only in my mind. My body didn’t follow suit, most likely due to the episode of pregnancy/childbirth/nursing that happened in between. (Duh, right?)

Anyway, I ran (mostly) the 16-mile point-to-point race, and it was beautiful. Just as everyone had said, it was 1/3 up through dense evergreen forest, 1/3 across a high ridge line, and 1/3 back down muddy single-track. The high points were pretty socked in, so it wasn’t much for views that day. I struggled mostly on the downhill portion. My legs were done at about 10 miles and pretty pissed about the pounding I was asking of them on the descent. After the finish I tried standing in line for a beer at the finish line festivities thinking that would help, but ended up just lying on my back in the gravel instead, which was probably more helpful.

I'm just pretending to run because people are looking.
I’m just pretending to run because people are looking.

On top of that, I didn’t reach my fundraising goal for Cystic Fibrosis. AND I didn’t ever run into Sabrina Smith-Walker, who I had interviewed for my Lost Lake Series, and who, it turns out, is the daughter-in-law of Alaska’s new Governor, Bill Walker. Who knew!

Overall, Lost Lake Run 2014 was a pretty big disappointment. The good news is, the disappointment is completely my fault. Wait, what? That’s good news? Yes, it is. It’s good news, because it means that I am fully in control of doing things different this year, and ensuring a great Lost Lake 2015, or at least maximizing my chances. Training? I’ll actually do some this year. Fundraising? I can put a whole heck of a lot more effort into that. Meeting up with people? Planning and communication go a long way.

So, I’ll just call 2014 Lost Lake BETA. Look out for the updated version, rolling out in the near future!

Didn't want to smile, but didn't want to not smile even more, so I just ended up with this.
Didn’t want to smile, but didn’t want to not smile even more, so I just ended up with this.

Going Back to Cali…I Don’t Think So

It was a long, busy, and pretty boring fall semester. At the end of August, my main man ruptured his ACL in a fishing accident (only in Alaska!) and has been functionally out of commission since then throughout the injury, surgery, and recovery periods. That really cut out our plans for fall weekend adventures, and weekdays were impossible to squeeze any extra minutes out of. With my new job at a new school farther from home, I have a substantial commute. Add on two busy little boys and a commitment to whole foods cooking, and each weekday feels done before it’s over.

But enough of being a bummer! 2015 is already looking up. John’s ACL recovery is progressing well through PT and trips to the gym with his exclusive and private personal trainer (moi). With the baby getting older (14 months and he finally walked a little on Friday!), we’re hoping for a little bit more opportunity to camp, fish, and adventure this year. I barely made a dent in my 2014 checklist, so I’m just going to roll it over. We’re also investigating options to improve our life/work ratios; the most viable choice being moving closer to work. Maybe I’ll even be a bike commuter soon! The gold standard option, of course, is making life = work, but we’re not quite there yet.

As a nice transition to the new year, we had a great reprieve from routine over winter break with a week long trip back to California. The little boys and I followed that up with a week of getting outside back in AK during a stretch of mild weather. Here are a few shots from those weeks:

The icy trail behind me is usually a squishy bog.
The icy trail behind me is usually a squishy bog.
Daddy and baby Skye on Beach Lake.
Daddy and baby Skye on Beach Lake.
The brother bathtub picture. A childhood requirement.
The brother bathtub picture. A childhood requirement.
Last 4pm sunset in AK before we left for CA.
Last 4pm sunset in AK before we left for CA.
All the Kennedy boys together.
All the Kennedy boys together.
San Francisco Zoo!
San Francisco Zoo!
You'd think all the animals would be enough, but, no, there's a playground too.
You’d think all the animals would be enough, but, no, there’s a playground too.
Before...
Before…
...and after at One Shot Tattoo in SF.
…and after at One Shot Tattoo in SF. Stay tuned for Alaska-themed refinement.
Joe's Crab Shack in San Francisco with our friends Chris and Shane. Good crab, not so good service.
Joe’s Crab Shack in San Francisco with our friends Chris and Shane. Good crab, not so good service.
The CA weather really got me...60 degrees on December 23rd. I'd forgotten such a thing existed!
The CA weather really got me…60+ degrees on December 23rd. I’d forgotten such a thing existed!
Going for a walk with the baby tucked away back in Yreka.
Going for a walk with the baby tucked away back in Yreka.
Grampa Gary finally met Skye!
Grampa Gary finally got to meet Skye!
Alaska Zoo...a bit different animal selection than in San Francisco...
Alaska Zoo…a bit different animal selection than in San Francisco…
...and different viewing conditions.
…and different viewing conditions.
Going for a run around Beach Lake. Neither boy was very impressed with the Chariot situation.
Going for a run around Beach Lake. Neither boy was very impressed with the Chariot situation.

Gathering: Wild Blueberries

I’ve been planning for the last year to pick blueberries, but I had no idea where to go.  Luckily, I joined a group for an AMAZING trail run, and found myself running through bushes absolutely thick with them.  I only snacked on a few that day, but went back last week with the boys.  it wouldn’t have been possible to return to the Land of Endless Blueberries with a baby and a kindergartener, since that was at least 4 miles out, but there were plenty along the trail. We happily picked, made up blueberry songs, and got eaten by mosquitoes for almost 2 hours.  Our take?  6 oz.  Worth it? Our purple tongues and fingertips give that answer.

Focused!
Focused!
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Though they be but small, they are delicious!
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Satisfaction.

 

Gathering: Black Currants

I’m not really into shrubs. I probably should be, since my husband was a landscaper for quite a few years. To me, they’re just the elevator music of plants; they provide ambiance with no focal point. So, it came as no surprise when it took me awhile to notice some juicy and delicious looking berries on a couple bushes in the front yard that I’ve ignored for over nine months.

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Most berries immediately put me on the defensive, but these seemed worth looking into, because they certainly didn’t look poisonous. A bit of research revealed that they were none other than quite edible black currants. I have basically zero experience with currants, hence my inability to identify them immediately, and saw some mention that a disease had mostly wiped them out in the lower 48, so that explained that.

Now what to do with them! I picked 7 cups of berries total, which I though was pretty good for two little bushes (shrubs have now moved up a level in my esteem). Most of the recipes I found called for currant jam or jelly, so that sealed it. Jam it is!

I merged several recipes to figure out the best berry/water/sugar/lemon ratios for my jam. I also decided to not can the jam, partly because I knew I wouldn’t have all that much, but mostly because I don’t have the supplies for legit canning yet.

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Black Currant Jam – 3 1/2 Pints

7 cups fresh black currants

2 cups water

juice of one lemon

3 1/2 cups sugar

I picked the leaves, sticks, and slugs out of the berries and rinsed them a few times. Next, I brought the berries, water, and lemon juice to a boil and let it simmer until the berries had popped and the mixture looked yummy. I poured in the sugar and simmered awhile longer. When it looked jammy and tasted good, I poured it into jars, screwed on the lids, set them out to cool, then put them in the fridge. Totally not how you make jam, but it tastes fantastic!

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My next problem was what to do with the jam. Eating it straight from the jar isn’t an option, at least not while anyone is watching. Due to trying to stick to gluten-free I just don’t have bread or crackers around. I hunted down a recipe for gluten-free shortbread cookies that was really easy. I was out of maple syrup so I subbed honey, and it did the trick! We’re already down one batch of cookies and a jar of jam.

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Rhubarb Swirl Coffee Cake

I had a bundle of local Alaska rhubarb a friend gave me slowly decomposing in my crisper, so today I salvaged what was left with this delicious coffee cake.  I only very minimally modified this recipe.  I used butter instead of coconut oil, because I’m out (I go through one of these about every 6 weeks), and after measuring honey for the rhubarb sauce, I was done with measuring honey, so I just used organic cane sugar in the cake batter. That sad, wilted rhubarb moved to a whole new level today!

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Lost Lake Series: Surviving, Living, and Thriving with CF

Lost Lake Banner

When I decided to help fundraise for Cystic Fibrosis research through the Lost Lake Run, it was important to me to match some faces with the cause.  It’s one thing to raise money for a virtual cause, but quite a different experience to raise money for real people with lives, families, struggles, and goals.  One name that kept popping up in the Alaska CF sphere through my research was Sabrina Smith Walker, a local Anchorage runner who is both living with CF and active in the cause for spreading awareness as well as fundraising.  I asked her a few questions so she could tell her story about living with CF.

Donations to my Lost Lake Fundraiser are accepted here.

Donations to Sabrina’s Lost Lake Fundraiser are accepted here.

Vote to put Sabrina on the cover of Runner’s World magazine here!

 

Sabrina Smith Walker -  Cover model in the making!
Sabrina Smith Walker –
Cover model in the making!

How old were you when you were diagnosed? 

I was 4 years old when I was diagnosed, but I was born with Cystic Fibrosis. 

What was it like to grow up with CF? 

I was young when I was diagnosed with CF so I really didn’t know any different. I have memories of Dr’s visits. I remember my first hospitalization and trying to run away from the Dr. when he was trying to give me my first IV. I had an IV infiltrate during my first hospitalization and it left a scar on my left hand that I still have today. I have to take daily enzymes (5 with meals and 4 with snacks) to help me digest my food. When learning to swallow pills my parents would empty the pill contents into apple sauce and I would eat the apple sauce. 

I really didn’t know any different and I didn’t understand that I was following routines that were not normal to others until I got older. In elementary school, I would go to the nurse every day to do my nebulizers and receive postural drainage (a form of airway clearance).

Did you feel like you were different than other kids, or just a normal kid with some extra things to deal with from day to day? 

I didn’t understand I was different until I was older and realized that not everyone missed weeks of school for hospitalizations and not everyone took pills when they ate. 

In middle school I felt ashamed and embarrassed because it made me different, but I still ran x-country running and track and played volleyball. 

In high school I never mentioned my CF because I didn’t want to be seen as someone with limitations, I ran x-country and track. I could run a 6:05 mile in high school! 

I never felt normal because I was going to the Dr fairly often and I had to make room for all of my nebulizer treatments and airway clearance which took 2-3 hours every day. On top of it I wanted to hang out with friends and I competed in sports. I never made excuses for being tired and I really wanted to lead a “normal” life like all of my friends. 

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What are your interests now, and does CF create any limitations or opportunities for you?

As an adult with CF, I have learned a lot about myself as a person. I run and work out to stay healthy, I am accountable for my health. I have to be compliant with my medicines. This is my life and I am responsible for my health. 

I enjoy reading, hiking, traveling, I enjoy every moment with my husband and our two miniature dachshunds, I also cherish my friends and family. We have also been enjoying more bike rides because we bought a little trailer that our dachshunds can sit in and we tow them behind us!

This year I would like to learn how to ski.  

I would like to say that I would never let CF get in the way of my dreams or aspirations. I don’t ever want to make excuses for myself and say that I can’t do something because of CF. I can’t help the Dr’s appointments or the hospitalizations, but I can try my hardest to keep the hospitalization from happening. 

I went to college in Denver and received my bachelors in Elementary Education. I decided not to pursue that career because it was very hard to be around little kids who are sick all the time. I was always having lung infections and my last hospitalization was in 2011 when I was student teaching. 

How has running affected different aspects of your life and your management of CF?

Running is what keeps me alive! There is no better form of airway clearance for me. It gets the mucus moving and I can clear it out of my lungs. If I go for a 3 or 4 day break of no running or some form of exercise I can feel the difference in my lungs. The mucus builds up and it’s hard to breathe. I definitely huff and puff and cough junk up every time I run. 

It can be hard to find time to run because I work a full time job. The longer the race the more time is needed to train. I like to sign up for races because it gives me a goal to work towards and it holds me accountable for training. But I believe without running I would not be as healthy as I am so I make time to fit it in my schedule. 

How would you rate community awareness of CF, and how would increased awareness impact you? 

I would say that community awareness is so-so in Alaska. There are walks, garage sales, Shoot for the Cure, Lost Lake and probably other ways that bring the community together in Alaska to benefit Cystic Fibrosis. Those that personally know someone with Cystic Fibrosis are more inclined to participate in a CF related event. But if you asked most people who are running Lost Lake, they may not actually know what CF is and how much it affects a person who has it. 

More awareness could bring more fundraising opportunities to the table. The more fundraising and awareness that is available the closer we get to a cure. New and innovative medicines are made possible through donations.

What else would you like people to know about you and/or CF? 

I am 28 years old, I have CF and I am also a cancer survivor. I have been in remission from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for almost 9 years! I went through 4 months of CHOP-R chemotherapy and 1 month of radiation! 

I am grateful for each and every day that I am here on this earth!

A big thanks to Sabrina for sharing her story!  I’m so excited to be running Lost Lake next month in beautiful Seward, Alaska, and honored to be contributing to this worthy cause.  The outlook and quality of life for those living with CF is better every year thanks to increased awareness and fundraising efforts.  Please consider donating today!

Donations to my Lost Lake Fundraiser are accepted here.

Donations to Sabrina’s Lost Lake Fundraiser are accepted here.

Vote to put Sabrina on the cover of Runner’s World magazine here!

Crow Pass Trail: 24 Miles of Alaska

I mentioned in a post earlier this year that I was planning on running Crow Pass Crossing, the 24(ish?)-mile backcountry trail race, which takes place July 26th this year.  I have since decided it’s probably not in my best interest to run it this year, and will be saving up my registration fee for 2015.  That decision, however, didn’t prevent me from jumping on the opportunity to preview the course this past Sunday, June 29th.  I joined two other runners, Evan and Michelle, both of whom plan to race next month, for a casual hike/jog of the trail.

“Casual” is a funny term to use describing the trek.  For the actual race, runners are required to carry a substantial list of required gear to be prepared for anything.  The weather can change suddenly and extremely, and there are additional dangers, since it is, after all, the Alaskan backcountry.  Bears, moose, steep drop-offs, glacial rivers, snowfields, cow parsnip.  Then there are the logistics of just coordinating the point-to-point expedition.  Driving from trailhead to trailhead is 50 miles, so it’s either the 150 mile routine of driving two cars to the end point, carpooling to the start, completing the trail, and then driving back to the start to pick up the other car, or finding someone nice enough to chauffeur to the start and from the finish.  Adding in childcare needs, and an acute knowledge of being undertrained for such a feat, and I nearly backed out all together.

Luckily, the stars aligned in more ways than one, and due to having some very generous and kind people in my life and community, taking on the trail made sense.  To prepare, I assembled a modest collection of gear.  All week, the weather forecast predicted rain for Sunday.  Because of the elevation change, rain in lower areas may be blizzards up above, so in addition to my standard running layers, I stuffed a wool shirt, rain shell, running tights, extra socks and gloves in my hydration pack.  I made some date and coconut butter bars (recipes appearing here), filled my 2L bladder, and called it good.  Well, except for the revolver.  It is Alaska after all.

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Back towards Girdwood, less than a mile up the trail.

We started on the Girdwood side at about 7:30am with not a cloud in the sky.  I ditched my gloves, tights, and wool layer, but kept my rain shell just in case.  Plus is was brand new and seemed sad to leave it.  The trail climbs steadily for the first three miles.  I began the ascent at an easy jog, but within a quarter mile or so realized that might be a bit too ambitious.  My training lately has not been particularly consistent or focused, but can perhaps be described as sporadic and opportunistic.  My pace eroded to a steady hike, interspersed with jogging on the flats and stopping entirely for photo ops.

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The long up.
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Looking back over covered ground.
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Finally met up with the sunrise.
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Forest Service cabin near the summit.
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Snowfield about 1/4 mile from the summit.
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Crow Pass Summit! Elev: 3,500 feet
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Taking it in.
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Loving life!

Evan and Michelle had pushed a bit harder than I did to reach the pass, but waited for me at the top.  By my clock, I made it in 1 hour, 11 minutes.  With all of my dawdling on the way up, I have no concerns about making the hour cut-off next year during the race.

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Glacial views at the pass.
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21 miles to go!

After the pass, the remaining 21 miles are mostly downhill.  That always sounds like a piece of cake, but I’m frequently reminded that downhill running is my weakest area.  It doesn’t take much descending to trash my quads and leave me tiptoeing.  To remedy that issue, I’m planning lots of single-leg squatting and leg-pressing to prep for my upcoming runs.

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Eagle Glacier and Eagle River
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Gently rolling portion of the trail, but peppered with large rocks and hidden with tall grasses and cow parsnip. Deceptively technical, and it went on for miles.
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Red columbine
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Deep ravine cleaved down the valley.
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Somewhere before the distant mountains, but behind the closest ridges, is Eagle River, which we followed for the second half of the trail.
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I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day!

The descent from the pass to the river should have been the easiest part of the trail, but presented a series of challenges.  The trail was often rocky, and a few of the larger ones left me scraped and bruised since the tall and lush grasses concealed them from view.  The relentless downhill pounding is taxing and really takes it out of my legs.  But the views are spectacular!

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The alders were a welcome change of scenery after leaving the miles of lush meadows and approaching the river.
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Michelle and Evan up ahead, crossing Eagle River.
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My turn. Nothing like glacial melt on tired legs!

It took us about four hours to climb to the pass, and then descend to the river, which is about halfway through the trail, and right on schedule.  We were hoping for an 8 hour crossing, which is significantly slower than the 6 hour cut-off for the race, but much faster than the two and three days some of the backpackers we passed were taking.

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Eagle shaped cloud over Eagle River.

After the river crossing, about 12 miles remained of the trail.  Had I been a bit fitter, it would have been a blissful joy to fly all the way to the Nature Center.  The trail mostly flattened out and was wide and fairly clear.  Pretty much a dream run.  My leg juice gauge, however, was approaching E.  I did a lot of hiking, a little jogging, and after a couple of hours, no more picture taking.  Beautiful!  Beautiful.  Pretty.  Yep.  Yep.  Uh-huh. Uh.

Michelle and Evan drifted farther and farther ahead so I charged forward alone for the last couple of hours.  As the miles went on, I crossed paths with more and more other runners and hikers, so I knew I was getting closer to the Nature Center. Some looked happy to be out in Alaska on a beautiful summer day, and others looked as beat as I felt.  I’m certain the fatigue wasn’t showing on my face, though, because I felt genuine gratitude through the whole trail for all of the factors that allowed me to be out there that day.

With about four miles left, I decided I was too tanked to try running any more.  With two miles left, I was so bored of walking, I had to run.  I dug deep and passed onto the patio of the Nature Center in Eagle River running, 8 1/2 hours after leaving Girdwood.  Not bad for a lazy Sunday.

I owe a ton of thanks for this gun-toting, beta crossing of Crow Pass.  A big thank you to Jan for chauffeuring, Evan for his expertise and guidance on the trail, Maria for generously posting baby-duty, LJ for keeping me realistic, Zaz for the beer and peanut butter cups, and Michelle for making the dream become reality!

Good luck to Evan and Michelle when they take on the trail again in a few weeks for the 2014 edition of Crow Pass Crossing!

 

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Beautiful!
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Pretty.
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Uh-huh.

Aftermath: I was physically unready for the trail.  Although I finished successfully, and felt pretty good afterwards, my legs were sore for a record-breaking (for me) four days.  I had a nice selection of bruises and scrapes from the rocks on my shins and knees, and what I believe is a mild reaction to cow parsnip.  Nothing, though, that will keep me from preparing for 2015!