Tag Archives: winter

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.
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Alaskan Winter Survival: Mission Almost Complete

Current season: Spring

Current conditions: Overcast, lightly snowing, 30* F.  Not very spring-like.

Current backyard view.
Current backyard view.

According to the calendar, we’ve officially survived our first winter in Alaska.  In recent weeks, we’ve had beautiful sunny days that last until after 9pm.  Many days have reached above 40*F, and the bears will be waking up soon.  Most of this is likely a tease, though.  Last year, the final snow day was May 18th, which gives us over a month to go until spring really breaks through.

Regardless, the worst of winter is behind us, and I feel triumphant about making it through unscathed and unshaken.  I didn’t do everything I wanted to over the winter, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get another chance.  Here is our winter overview:

Fireworks and carnival @ Fur Rondy
Fireworks @ Fur Rondy, February
Playing in the backyard
Playing in the backyard, December
Early winter sunset
Early winter sunset, December
Taekwondo lessons
Taekwondo lessons, December
Bowling.  Lots of bowling.
Bowling. Lots of bowling.
Christmas Tree lighting
Christmas Tree lighting, December
Urban wildlife viewing
Urban wildlife viewing, December
Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing, December
Snuggling...lots of snuggling
Snuggling
More snuggling
More snuggling
Little bit more snuggling
Little bit more snuggling
Skiing
Skiing @ Alyeska, February
Pony riding
Pony riding, January
Pony sledding
Pony sledding, January
Aces hockey game
Aces hockey game, January
IMG_1858
Ice skating attempts, January
Beach Lake
Beach Lake, February
Running...but not nearly as much as I'd have liked
Running…but not nearly as much as I’d have liked
Indoor soccer...always moving too fast for a clear shot!
Indoor soccer.  Always moving too fast for a clear shot!
Outdoor carnival in February.  Only in Alaska!
Outdoor carnival in February. Only in Alaska!
Snowmachining
Snowmachining, March
Truck trouble
Truck trouble, March
Iditarod
Iditarod, March
Birthday at Bouncin' Bears.  Yes, the cake is a Storm Trooper head.
Birthday at Bouncin’ Bears. Yes, the cake is a Storm Trooper head, April

That sums up our first winter in Alaska!  We were never bored; there was always plenty to do, both inside and outside.  We made new friends, saw new places, tried new things, and still have a list of what we have yet to do for next winter.  But when spring finally shows up, there will be no tears shed here.  Winter was good, but this summer will be epic.

Anchorage’s Perfect Playground

Snow, snow, everywhere and…plenty of things to do with it.  Around here, snow is in no way an excuse to stay in.  Bikes, running shoes, and hiking boots don’t get a winter break.  Playgrounds and dog parks aren’t shut down, and actually stay reasonably busy.    A sled hill in the middle of town yesterday was as packed as a summertime water park.

For our Sunday afternoon fun, we had our sights set on covering some snowy terrain right in the middle of Anchorage.  The Hilltop Ski Area and Hillside Trail System are right next to each other off Abbott Rd., which has major shopping centers and malls just a few miles down.  We weren’t interested in any of those conveniences yesterday, but the proximity to town makes the area super fast and easy to access.

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Hilltop is a tiny ski park and perfect for beginners, our 4 1/2 year old little grommet being a prime example.  Silas’s first ski season was last year at Mt. Shasta, and he really picked up a lot.  John went with him yesterday and reported that after a first warm up run, it all came back to little Si.  We are certainly pleased to be able to raise two little skiers in Alaska.  Olympics 2026?  Maybe 2030?

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While Silas and John were playing with gravity’s pull, Skye and I were literally across the street in the Hillside Trail System.  The trail system provides miles and miles of wooded dirt trails in summer and groomed and lighted nordic and multi-use trails in winter.  With Skye back in the carrier, we snowshoed for about an hour.  Times like these are some of Skye’s best naps.

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When they say Multi-Use, they really mean it.  In the short window of time we were out, I crossed paths with examples of 5 of the 6 listed users.  I saw several people hiking or walking their dogs in regular boots, one skijorer, a pair of fat-tire cyclists, multiple nordic skiers, both skate and classic, and one runner with a waist leash for his dog.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise; with temps above 20 and partly sunny skies, it was an amazing day to be out.

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Overall, as a family we found a place that meets all our needs for getting out on the weekends.  Close, cheap, beautiful, and acres and acres of snow!  I think we’ll be coming here every weekend, all winter…at least until Silas is ready for Alyeska.

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Willow Winter Solstice Race Recap

The single word that best sums up Saturday’s Willow Winter Solstice trail run is “pivotal”.  While my performance had nothing to do with that designation, time, place, and company were everything.  Some of the turning points from the run are:

Family

As the only declared “runner” in my little nuclear family unit, I’ve generally doomed myself to lonely race days.  I sometimes have my tiny fan club at the finish line, but I’ve taken myself to 5 of my last 6 races.  With small boys, and a sometimes long wait time between start and finish, it often makes more sense that way.

For this run, I was trying to figure out the logistics of racing in possibly finicky weather conditions as a nursing mama with a hungry infant waiting with a daddy who was also entertaining a preschooler.  Overall, the situation sounded pretty selfish of me.  Inspiration hit, and I emailed the race director.  She was prompt in her reply that the 5k was indeed a fun run, and my kiddos would be welcome on the course. I registered both John and myself for what would be a first 5k for 3 of the 4 of us.

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Alaska

Usually, my pre-race prep involves the following list: Shoes?  Check.  Shorts?  Check.  Sports bra?  Check and done.  For this weekend, I wasn’t even certain where I should begin.  Do I even need my running shoes?  Can I use those with snowshoes, or just spikes?  Should I just wear snow boots?  How many clothing layers will be warm enough, but not too warm?

Last year, the run, which also hosts a half and full marathon, was held in -30* weather.  This year, the forecast predicted temps in the 20’s and some snowfall.  Since I planned on not actually running much, due to the dual tasks of coaxing a 4 year old through 3 miles of snow and simultaneous babywearing, I opted for slightly warmer layers.  I ended up with fleecy tights under ski pants, snow boots, an Icebreaker top, fleece, and light water-resistant shell.  John and Silas layered similarly.  I put Skye in fleecy onesie jammies and a plush bear-suit, with socks on both his hands and feet, and planned to fit him into a front-carrier with a fluffy blanket covering the whole assembly.

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Post-baby

Even though I’ve been going to the gym regularly since Skye was three weeks old, I’m not even close to being fit enough to actually run a 5k.  On the treadmill, I’m up to half a mile at a time, which is a joke compared to the effort it takes to run three miles in 8” of fresh snow.  The most liberating part was that none of that mattered.  Brushing all preconceived notions about racing aside, my biggest goal for the day was to have a memorable day with my family in the beautiful place we live.Image

Winter Solstice

The particular day of the year for the run represents the largest scale pivot point of the day.  The first true day of winter is really something to celebrate in Alaska, because from here on out, the days are just getting longer.  I’m pleased to say that the short days really haven’t been “that” bad.  Our sunrises have been around 10am, with sunsets at 4pm.  That leaves a modest portion of the day with sunlight.  It really only messes with my head on days I don’t work, when getting ready for the day with a cup of coffee mysteriously lasts until lunch.

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The Race Course

The race site was a little over an hour up the Parks Highway from home.  We left around 7am for the Willow Community Center.  The driving directions from the race website only said “Parks Highway, Mile 70”, which turned out to be completely adequate.  In the Community Center, I took the opportunity to see what the other runners were wearing.  Everyone was in running shoes, some with spikes or snow tires, and some with gaiters, some without.  Black running tights, presumably fleece lined, were the universal choice, with a variety of running jackets concealing whatever top layers were chosen. Everyone was topped with a headlamp, including us, as it was the only required equipment.  Start time was 9am, and still in the dark.

The three of us pinned on our race bibs, I situated the baby, and it was time to go!  John was feeling ambitious, and started out encouraging Silas to try to run, at least to hurry, but the attempt turned out to be futile, for a few reasons.  For one, the newer snow layer was soft and deep, turning every step into a trudge.  Mainly though, Si is 4.  “Sense of urgency” is not a factor in his MO.  He spent at least 2 miles of the 5k holding my hand and jabbering away.

The 5k course was easy enough to follow: out across a field, down a road, around a lake to the turnaround, then back.  Taking up the tail end made it even easier to navigate: in the hour before sunrise we only had to follow the twinkle of bobbing headlamps.

The three of us marched along over the snowy landscape, with the baby sleeping snuggly.  About 2/3 of the way to the turn around, it started getting lighter and we began crossing paths with the actual runners on their way back.  Every runner we passed appeared to be struggling with the resistance the snow was providing. Only one runner was in snowshoes, but that seemed like the smartest idea of all.  I really wished I had been in mine.  A few runners looked downright annoyed, and I had a hard time imagining signing up for 26.2 or even 13.1 miles of that abuse, though I may feel differently next year.

After passing the lake, which was indiscernible from a snowy meadow, we made a right to the turn around, which was a woman in a red jacket.  At the halfway point, John, who had been trying to maintain some dignity by at least hiking quickly, gave in to our casual plodding pace.  He even pulled out his e-cig, which is quite the epic sight during a 5k.

As the sun rose, we were able to take in our surroundings, which was nothing short of absolute serenity.  We trudged on, and the community center came into view.  During our final approach to the finish, cheering and shouting began, and we were surprised by  the little crowd that was waiting to usher us in, even though we had easily taken twice as long as the next runner before us.

Inside we were greeted with hot soup and the relief of no more slogging through the snow.  We stayed until 11, two hours after the gun, and no half marathoners had returned.  When the results posted two days later, I saw 2:20 (men’s) and 2:46 (women’s) were the 13.1 winning times, and the first marathoner came in at 4:36 (5:37 for women).  Winter events are certainly a different kind of racing in Alaska.

This run did turn out to be a meaningful way to celebrate the winter solstice.  Though we still have plenty of winter to go, potentially until May, the days are indeed getting longer, albeit quite slowly.  Because the idea of the longer races holds very little appeal at the present moment, I’m thinking the 5k would make an amazing family tradition.  Every year will present something new and unexpected: wildly different conditions to plan for and navigate through, as well as adapting to the changing and developing abilities of my two little boys.  It will take years, and plenty of practice, but we may even reach a point as a family that this 3.1 mile, first-day-of-winter race is, in fact, a run.

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