Thankful Thursdays

Hi everyone!  Week #3 of Thankful Thursdays is here WHICH IS TOTALLY NUTS!  Where did fall go?  No complaints though, because I’m pretty sure by this time next week I’ll have already seen quite a few Christmas shows…and my tree will be sitting there all ready to be put up and decorated!  Yay!  Anyways, let’s take a look at what 10 things I’m thankful for this week!

1.  That I don’t live in Buffalo.  This is nuts.  Did I mention we are still snow free?  I’m so ready for it but it’s just not cold enough!

2.  That the heat wave is still going strong here in Alaska.  It was warmer today in Anchorage than in Philly!

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3. Getting to see the northern lights all winter long.  It makes the darkness so much prettier!

4.  That no one attacked me for posting pictures of me shooting a gun on Tuesday’s post.  Thank you all for being accepting and awesome  :)

5.  For my amazing manager who helped me stay sane after a particularly difficult lesson this week.  All of my middle schoolers have been crazy all week, what is going on?!

6.  For warm brownies topped with cold ice cream.  Best dessert ever.

7.  For beautiful sunsets…even if they happen at 4:00 pm now.

IMG_3439Still madly in love with our new city skyline!

8.  For my kitchen, which let me do tons of cooking this week!

9.  For YouTube videos that taught me how to arm knit a scarf in one hour!  This scarf is huge and super warm!

IMG_3453I learned how to make this from a Michaels YouTube video!  Super easy.

10.  That I finally became a member of REI!  I’ve already bought some awesome winter gear for running, and I’m about to be all over their ski rentals when it starts snowing!  #buyallthethings

So now it’s time for one thing I’m thankful for with running.  Sadly, no runs happened this week.  It has been a weird week with tons of working super early mornings and late nights, but that means I can flex my time today and tomorrow by leaving work early today to squeeze a run in before the sun sets!  Especially since I’ve got a turkey trot next week that I need to stay in shape for!  So this week, I’m thankful that running is still on my mind despite all the millions of other things I’m dealing with this week.  I’ve been thinking constantly about my next half and how excited I am to plan my trip and my training schedule.  I think taking a break from the pressure that training can give me is helping me get excited about next year’s race schedule!

What are you thankful for this week?

An Alaskan Bucket List

Hi everyone!  I’ve been MIA since Friday because my friend was visiting for the weekend, and we had a blast!  She’s from the Lower 48 but we met this summer while we were working in Seward and have managed to stay in touch.  Right now she’s living in Bethel which is what I would consider “real Alaska”.  It’s bigger than Seward, but much more remote.  It is only accessible by plane from Anchorage and by boats or planes from the small Native communities (AKA “The Bush”) on the western side of Alaska.  Here are some differences between Bethel and Anchorage:

bethelHad to google image search Bethel to show how different it is from Anchorage!

  • No mountains
  • The sun rises and sets an hour later there because it’s so far west.  I’d definitely take their 10:00 sunrise just to have their 5:30 sunset!
  • You can’t drive there, but people have cars there because there is one main road that runs through the town…and then ends on both sides.
  • When the river freezes over people drive on it like a highway
  • Her hot water heater is broken, so she has been taking baths with water she heated up on the stove.  Why not buy a new one?  It costs a ton to get parts shipped out (although she was picking parts up while she was here!)
  • Water has to be ordered and shipped to your house each month.  And sewage is shipped out of your house.  Both cost a ton.
  • There are no chain stores or restaurants there
  • Her cell phone doesn’t get service there
  • She’s making $16/hour working as a cashier at a grocery store – mostly because everything costs twice as much there than it does in Anchorage.  She was dying over our “low” prices on food, and I still think they’re super high compared to prices in the Lower 48!
  • Right now it’s too warm for snow, so it’s been really muddy and she can’t walk around outside unless she wants to destroy her shoes.  So she’s kind of stuck in the house with no cable and limited internet.

Yeah, I don’t think I could live there!  When I met up with her on Friday, I told her we could do whatever she wanted this weekend while she was back in the city.  And she told me that she wanted to cross some things off her Alaskan bucket list!  This had me thinking about my own personal bucket list, and there is one thing on both of our lists that was a huge priority:  seeing the northern lights.  It was an amazing coincidence that the aurora was super active this weekend!  There are two main obstacles for seeing northern lights in Anchorage:  It’s pretty far south, and it has tons of ambient light.  Both of those factors make it hard to see the aurora and Andrew and I haven’t been able to see them yet (although we try all the time!).  It always seems to be too cloudy when they’re active.  So after driving around a lot trying to find a good spot, we finally started seeing a faint green line in the sky.  As we drove farther north out of the city we started to see them more clearly!  We eventually pulled off the highway to watch them, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!  They were green and red, and they were literally dancing across the sky!  This cell phone picture does it no justice:

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The next day, after my friend spent all day stocking up on food and supplies, we met up with a bunch of our friends from Seward for dinner and plotted where to look for the aurora again.  We drove up to the Knick River overlook which is about 30 miles north of Anchorage, and they were out again!  They weren’t super active this time and the clouds came after about 30 minutes, but my friend was able to get some great pictures using a DSLR on long exposure:

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bigdipperBig dipper plus the northern lights!

On Sunday, we were tired from so many late nights (the northern lights don’t come out until it’s super dark!) and decided to skip our planned run, but we had one more thing on her bucket list:  going shooting.  I’ve shot quite a few guns before, but she hasn’t and she luckily had a friend in Anchorage who owns 10 guns and was willing to give us some lessons.  We thought we’d shoot a few times and then leave, but we ended up spending hours at the range!  It was much different than in Philly – everyone was really friendly even though we were clearly beginners, and it was pretty cheap too.  There were lots of women shooting on their own which was really cool to see, as well as children who were learning gun safety in a controlled environment.  And you can’t beat the sunset views at the range!

revolverMy dad also has the same caliber revolver and it made me miss home!

Fun fact:  I’m worried I’ll alienate some readers for posting these pictures, but I want to share an accurate account of my life here in Alaska.  I know many people might not be gun fans, and that’s totally okay.  Here in Alaska guns are viewed very differently than down in the Lower 48 – most people have them for survival purposes, whether that’s for hunting or for protection against animals.  Hunting up here is a big part of how people survive, and although I personally could never go hunting I have to give tons of respect to people who know how to hunt for food in a responsible way.  I’ve been told many times that I should have a gun for bear safety (plus basically everyone has one up here) but I think I’ll be taking baby steps for now.  I should probably get my Alaskan driver’s license first!

Anyways, after we finished shooting guns we went home, made brownies, and knitted scarves while watching TV.  It was an awesome end to a perfect weekend!  My friend left Monday at 4:30 am (did I mention that I hate mornings?) and we’re so excited for her to visit over New Years!  Although she crossed everything off her Alaskan bucket list, I’m sure we’ll think of a few more things to add to it  :)

Have you ever seen the northern lights or shot a gun?  If you visited Alaska, what would be on your bucket list?

Friday Five: Cold Weather Running Tips

Hi everyone!  I’m excited to join up for this week’s Friday Five with Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia!  This week’s topic is Cold Weather Running Tips.  And since I live in Alaska now I should be a pro at this, right?  Um, nope.  It has been colder and snowier all over the Lower 48 this week than in Anchorage and most of Alaska.  Do you know what it’s like to watch people in Philly post about snow when you’re just dying for it up here and it’s not coming?!?!  Why is the snow in the mountains melting?  On a serious note, Anchorage is traditionally the 6th snowiest city in the US (was 17th last year, Philly got more snow) BUT it’s the second coldest city in the US (after Minneapolis).  And even though last week I posted a cry for help with winter running, I do have some pretty good experience with cold weather running!  So I’m excited to share some cold weather running tips with you that have helped me in the past (but I’m always looking for more gear suggestions too!).

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1.  Cover up!  This one sometimes takes trial and error, but layers are your friend and you always want to be prepared.  If it’s below freezing I wear fleece-lined tights and a fleece-lined shirt.  I also wear gloves and an ear warmer because without those I am seriously cold.  Depending on wind conditions I’ll wear my Buff or running scarf.  Sometimes it’s nice to have that extra layer around my neck and helps me breathe better!  You can always take stuff off, so I bring all of my layers and once I have an idea of what will work I leave extra ones in the car.  You want to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer but still be safe from the wind and snow!

IMG_3337Taken a few weeks ago when we still had snowy patches on the trails.

2.  Get traction.  If it’s icy or snowy, running gets significantly harder but also more fun.  Last year I used YakTrax Run shoe covers, and I LOVED them!  They don’t work on trails that are only half covered in ice because they’ll break on regular surfaces, but I was able to maintain a good speed while running on really slippery stuff.  This year I got my Mizunos studded so I’ll have to see how that compares!

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3.  Be more safety aware than usual.  Less people are out running in the cold, and there’s also the added dangers of slippery roads and low temps that can seriously mess with a runner.  If you run alone like me, make sure it’s on a frequently used trail or road, that you tell someone where you’re going, and that you bring your phone AND an alternate form of ID.  My phone dies quickly in the cold so a backup ID option is good (how can I help my phone not do this?).  Also, this is not the time to recreate a badass Pinterest quote.  If it’s crazy outside and you’re scared to go out, don’t do it.  You can always run later (or tomorrow) but if something happens it’s just not worth it.

20131215-215726.jpgRunning on Forbidden Drive in Philly – it’s always busy (just not in this picture!)

4.  Embrace the snow.  It’s so beautiful and peaceful on a snowy trail.  There’s just something about running through the snowy woods that makes me incredibly happy.  Sure, my toes are wet and I’m using muscles my body never uses, but it’s such a unique way to get outside in the winter.  Also, you never know when a race will be snowy and you’ll need to have snow-running skills to do well!

20131107-083717.jpgThis was my first five miler back in 2012 – and my first run in the snow!   I was terrified I was going to wipe out!

5.  Have a post-run warmup plan.  I always keep an extra blanket in my car at all times, as well as a dry towel and extra clothes (hoodie, dry sports bra, long sleeved shirt, sweatpants, and dry socks and shoes) in my car whenever I drive to a running trail in the winter.  I’ve had to use these more than once and I’ve been so grateful that I could get warmer quickly, especially in the few situations where I was feeling really rough.  The best post-run warmup plan?  A cup of hot chocolate and a hot shower.  It makes it all worth it  :)

20140105-225253.jpgRunning in Valley Forge National Historic Park last February!

Are you a winter runner?  What’s your number one tip for staying warm?

Thankful Thursdays

Hi everyone!  For some incredible reason we are two weeks into November already!  I am so close to Christmas that I can almost smell it!  Well not really, I still have my pumpkin candle out  :)  Anyways, as promised I have a list of 10 new things that I’m thankful for this week!

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  1. The heat wave that we’re getting right now!  High temps are in the 40s and lows in the 30s, AKA sweater with no coat weather!  Monday I wore moccasins on my feet instead of boots, Tuesday I wore a dress and non-fleece-lined leggings, and Wednesday I wore TOMS!  And while running I didn’t need ear warmers or gloves.  Yay for zero fleece in the picture below!IMG_3410
  2. That I’m not this girl.  Um, you cheated.
  3. No moose sightings yet this week!
  4. The fact that my company has a book club and our book choices are always about women’s issues in Alaska.  This month we’re reading Ada Blackjack and it’s awesome!
  5. Remembering to get a turkey a few weeks in advance so they’re not sold out.  That happened to me once.  And since we won’t be going to our parents’ houses for Thanksgiving this year, I really needed to get one if I want to eat turkey at all!
  6. My friend from my summer job in Seward is flying in for the weekend from Bethel!  They have barely any stores out there (not even a Walmart) so this weekend is going to be filled with so many PSLs, mani/pedis, and shopping!
  7. Anchorage is mostly decorated in Christmas lights already.  I think they did it early so that they wouldn’t have to do it in the snow, but we don’t have any of that yet.  In fact, as you can see below the snow we had in the mountains is even melting – there used to be a lot more.  So I’m just going to be thankful that they were trying to think ahead so I can enjoy the lights sooner!  IMG_3409
  8. I watched The Frozen Ground this weekend, and I am SO THANKFUL that the Butcher Baker died this summer in jail.  That is one terrifying true story about a really dark period in Alaska’s past.
  9. I am thankful for all the friends that I met this summer at my job in Seward.  Not only is my friend coming to visit this weekend (see #6), but I got pizza with my old supervisor last weekend and dinner with another awesome coworker last night.  And I got a hilarious postcard from one of my other old coworkers this week too!  I love that we’re all staying in touch!
  10. ANDREW GOT A JOB!!!!!  Yay for finally being stress free!

Now for one thing about running that I’m thankful for:  getting to travel all over the US to run races.  I’m so excited to run in 44 more states – it’s going to take forever but I’m excited!

IMG_1892Throwback to my first out of state race in Delaware last fall!

What are you thankful for this week?

How To Not Train For A Half Marathon

Hi everyone!  So while I was out to dinner with my husband this weekend, our conversation turned to my next half marathon.  And while the idea of running the Zion Half Marathon next March is super exciting, I’m a little worried.  Mostly because my last two half marathons were kind of rough.  I ran four half marathons this year – two before our move and two after.  And the two after were significantly worse.  Why?  I trained all wrong.  I’ve seen similar posts on other blogs, and now I can finally say that I’ll be joining them in explain how to not train for a half marathon:

20140721-193030.jpgWhat success doesn’t look like: mile 13 of the Her Tern Half Marathon in July.

Put your body through tons of stress.  Running is a stress reliever, right?  Well kind of…unless you’re stressed about so much and then you start to stress about not running enough too.  That kind of stress is seriously not good for your running game.

Run because you have to, not because you want to.  So you’re stressed out, tired, and just worked a 10 hour day, and now it’s time for that scheduled 9 mile training run.  There are two ways to do it:  take a deep breath and choose a fun course for your run to make the most of it, or grumble and complain until you’re out the door…and want to give up 3 miles into it.  And then repeat that for a few weeks in a row.  It is the quickest way to resent a half marathon and make you want to never run one again!

Eat whatever you want before and after a run.  Some of the worst things I’ve eaten before running were pepperoni pizza and thai chicken.  Spicy food is going to kill your stomach and make you want to die halfway through your run.  Oatmeal won’t.  I got better at this while training for my second post-move half marathon, but I’ve had some painful reminders of why this is important.  Also, after you finish your run don’t wait an hour or two to eat.  Ouch.

Don’t drink enough water.  I feel like there are weeks where I’m awesome at hydrating, and then there are weeks where I only drink one cup of water per day.  My easy fix for this is using a refillable water bottle with measurements on the side so that I can see how much I’m drinking per day and challenge myself to get there.  But for some reason I’m not able to consistently do it.

Only run when the weather is perfect.  I missed some running opportunities during some crazy downpours in Seward.  I feel like I sometimes draw the line at running in anything worse than a steady rain for long periods of time.  But we all remember my second half marathon – if I can run in that for 2.5 hours I should be able to run a half hour in something much less wet!

Sign up for a race with significantly different climate conditions.  I actually did this for half marathon #1 (50 degrees warmer than training) and #4 (30 degrees warmer than training), and I felt the effects of the heat and humidity both times.  Now that I live in Alaska, I’ll probably need to make many of my race trips to the lower 48 during the winter so I don’t have to worry so much about acclimating to crazy weather changes!

Don’t follow any sort of plan and do whatever you want.  Sure, I had Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 training plan written on my calendar.  Did I follow it?  Nope.  In both of my second half marathons I don’t think I went farther than 9 miles.  And during both of those races I completely bonked in the last few miles.  Coincidence?  Nope.  I also wasn’t feeling strong and I don’t think I was running enough each week to get me fully ready for those races.

IMG_3009Dragging my way through the last .1 mile of the Beat The Blerch Half with a big thumbs up…because I was so close to eating cake.

Looking back on my experiences, I’m kind of sad.  I spent time and money planning for these races, and got so excited when I signed up for both of them.  And then I trained for them all wrong.  It’s made me really stop and think about why I’m signing up for these races.  Is it worth it?  Should I have even tried to run these races during such a difficult and stressful time in my life?  Am I even enjoying the training and racing?  And if not, how can I get excited about race training again?

20140225-231603.jpgAfter my first half – feeling so proud, happy, and strong!

With my next half marathon 4 months away, I’ve got about 1 month until official training begins.  I’m currently taking a break from training, which means that I’m trying to run whenever I feel like it with a slightly longer run on the weekends.  I’m trying to fall in love with running again, and I’m doing a pretty good job at it.  My new running routes are beautiful and exciting, and that’s been helping a lot!  So in the next month, I’m going to continue to run for fun while keeping in mind that this time, I’m actually going to train for a half marathon again.  I want to feel as strong as I felt at Disney Princess and the Love Run, and that means doing absolutely nothing on this page.  And I’m hoping that I’ll finally be ready for a real training plan!  Any suggestions?

Do you have any tips to add to my list?  What’s the worst half marathon you’ve ever run and why did it end up that way?

Home Is Where You Drop Your Anchor

Hi everyone!  So here’s a post that I’ve been DYING to write, but wanted to hold off until the right time.  The truth is, from the second I stepped off my plane from Seattle I’ve felt…different than I expected to feel in Anchorage.  And I wanted to wait until I’d lived in Anchorage for a full month before I wrote too much about it just to make sure it’s real.  And I’m still feeling the same way, so I think it’s safe for me to talk more about it!

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If you remember the countless posts I’ve written about our move to Alaska, you’ll probably notice that I wasn’t always feeling happy.  In fact, my posts went from excited (before we moved), to sad/freaked out (our drive up here), to excited again once we were in Seward (May, June, and part of July), to feeling anxious, scared, and confused while looking for a job and apartment in Anchorage (July, August, and September), to finally feeling incredibly sad, overwhelmed, homesick, and more confused than ever (while I was at home in Philadelphia last month).  In fact, being home in Philly was such an extremely difficult time and I didn’t know how I was ever going to leave.  I literally cried every day for weeks and had so many difficult, emotional talks with my family and friends about how much I didn’t want to leave again.  I’m getting choked up just thinking about it.  While I was there I realized that it’s because ever since we chose to leave Philly and move to Alaska, it was always with “Well we’ll eventually live in Anchorage” attached to it with no idea what that really meant.  When we arrived in Seward for our summer jobs, we were able to enjoy things for a while but eventually the big looming reality of our futures in Anchorage was hanging over us.  It was like nothing was real until we were there.  People would ask me what my plan was and I didn’t have anything – no job, no apartment, no plan – up until I got a job offer three days before we left Seward and flew back to Philly.  And we signed the lease on our apartment exactly 3 hours before our flight.  It felt like I spent months worrying about our lives in Anchorage, and only had a few days to actually come to terms with what was happening.  And then we had an entire month at home to wait before that life actually started!  I spent that month worrying about everything – did I choose the right job, what the heck will I actually be doing at work, is our apartment in a bad part of town/should we have gone with the other one, will I meet any friends, how am I going to survive the winter (so many people in Philly were asking us about that one!) – that I felt like I was going crazy.  And I didn’t want to leave Philly to go to this place of uncertainty.

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To recap for those of you who haven’t been keeping up for the past month, I took a job that required a week of training in Seattle.  Which meant that not only did I have to say goodbye to my family in Philly and fly off into the unknown, I had to do it without Andrew and without knowing anyone in Seattle or even really what my job entailed.  And I was scared.  But it turned out that week was what I really needed to feel okay.  I spent my days in health educator training teaching lessons, and my nights getting to know my coworkers from all over our affiliate (Washington, Idaho, and Alaska).  It took away my uncertainty about work.  And after my week of training when I stepped off the plane from Seattle and finally got to our new home in Anchorage, I felt…happy.  And as time passed I’ve still been feeling this way!  It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders – one that I’ve been carrying for so long and didn’t even realize it.  I’ve been carrying it for years of unhappiness at our jobs/apartments in Philly and even in Seward.  But it’s not here anymore.  I’m finally home.  So what makes me happy about Anchorage?

Our Apartment!  I had a good feeling when we first toured the place, and I’m glad I went with it because I LOVE it!  It has just enough storage for all the stuff we need every day(the extra stuff like camping gear, our summer tires, and our Christmas stuff is in our storage unit) but is still nice and cozy.  Extra perks include an open kitchen with bar seating and two big closets.  I’m so close to being doing decorating and I can’t wait to show pictures!  Being back in Alaska after spending so much time in hot, crowded cities was incredible.  I love the fact that our apartment is in a busy place in town but not too close to downtown.  It’s super close to fabulous trails for running and less than 10 minutes from my office, and we have this incredible view:

IMG_3258This picture is old – we have much more snow on the mountains now!

My Job!  I knew from my first day in training that this job was going to be a fun, challenging, exciting place to work.  But on my first day at my actual office in Anchorage I was blown away by how amazing my coworkers are!  My manager and I are currently the only people in the education department, so I’m glad we get along so well or this would not be fun  :)  I have so much support with lesson planning, teaching, and paperwork and I never have to feel stressed about anything.  Of course I’m still nervous before each lesson but I’m getting more confident each day.  I’m so happy that I have the opportunity to teach in this kind of environment – it’s so much more supportive than any school I’ve ever taught in and it’s much less prep work!  And I can start and end each day whenever I want (I teach around noon each day for an hour) and my paycheck is insane.  I liked my old job in Philly but it was stressful, didn’t respect my personal time, and didn’t pay enough.  It’s amazing how much of a difference a good job will make on your overall happiness!

IMG_3390My view while driving to work in the morning!

My Running Trails!  I miss Ridley Creek State Park sometimes, but my new running trails are so amazing that it doesn’t last long!  I get beautiful views and a secluded trail feeling while running very close to civilization.  We have an incredible trail system here that I can’t wait to fully explore!  To be fair, the moose situation is a bit out of control though.  I can’t go a week without them getting in the way of my run!

IMG_3379 A chilly run on the Coastal Trail

Eating and Shopping!  In Seward we had 1 grocery store.  We have so many here!  Plus we have Targets and Walmarts and malls.  It’s weird how access to stores will affect you but it does.  It’s like being able to to Target after work makes me feel normal – like I’m back in Philly without all the traffic and stress.  I’m able to recognize now that Seward was a culture shock for me and now that I’m back in a city I’m much happier.  Plus I love getting to try all of the new places to eat here that we don’t have back in Philly.

IMG_3331 Kaladi Brothers is the big coffee chain around here – but don’t worry, we still have Starbucks and PSLs!

I wish I could go back in time and tell my anxious self to calm down because everything was going to be okay.  I mean, I can’t predict the future and have no idea what my life holds or whether we’ll stay here forever.  But this past month has been the happiest month I’ve had in a LONG time.  I haven’t cried once and had only 2 moments of homesickness which passed quickly with the help of my husband and a few miles on the trails.  And the painful anxiety attacks I was having this summer have all but disappeared.  There’s still so much I’m unsure about, like our first winter (I’ll be blogging about that sometime soon!) but I think I’ll make it.  Now that we are FINALLY setting down into our normal lives in our new home I feel so much better.  I’m so excited to finally say that this is my home with a smile on my face.  Moving was hard, but it was definitely worth it.  Here’s to many more happy months!

Have you ever had a tough move?  How long did it take you to feel like home?

Thankful Thursdays

Hi everyone!  In honor of the next upcoming holiday and to distract myself from getting too excited about Christmas too early, I’ve decided to spend each Thursday in November focusing on things I’m thankful for.  I’m going to challenge myself to list 10 new things each week.  Can I do it?  Let’s find out!

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This week I’m thankful for:

  1. My North Face Khumbu fleece.  it’s so warm and cozy that I’m still not wearing a coat because it’s good enough on it’s own.
  2. My job.  It’s awesome and I had the best lesson ever with a notoriously tough group on Tuesday that made me so happy.  Yay for good teaching days!
  3. Daylight savings time.  It’s now light out again when I go to work (well, barely!)
  4. Coffee.  No explanation needed.
  5. Skinny Pop Popcorn.  If you’ve never had it, go buy some NOW.
  6. My short commute to and from work.  8 minutes!
  7. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  I get to run along Cook Inlet with beautiful mountain and city views and sounds of the waves next to me.  It’s seriously the best place to run!
  8. Break and bake cookies.  Zero prep time and fresh cookies whenever.  Kind of bad, but oh so good.
  9. Pumpkin scented candles
  10. And last but certainly not least, my husband!  He’s pretty cool  :)

IMG_0513Throwback!  This is one of my favorite moments – finally making it to Seward after 9 days of driving!  We were so happy and tired!

I’m also going to challenge myself to find one thing about running that I’m thankful for each week.  This week’s thing is the beautiful views that I have while running.  Like I said in my Rave Runs post, any run is going to be hard and sweaty no matter where it is.  But when you’re in a beautiful place it can definitely help get you through some tough moments.

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What are you thankful for this week?  Do we share any things that we’re thankful for right now?

Trying To Prepare Myself For Winter Running

Hi everyone!  Now that I’m settling into normal life in Anchorage, I’m realizing that there are some things that just aren’t as “normal” here as they were at home.  Especially when it comes to winter.  I’m learning now that everything I do – driving, running, shopping, picking out clothes, etc. – is going to be different up here.  And that’s totally okay!  I’m ready for some new adventures and experiences.  But the problem is, I don’t know how to deal with some of these things.  Some of these new experiences have been explained to me by my coworkers and friends – like driving in snow – but some are still a mystery to me.

IMG_3327Studded tires to help me on the roads this winter

So here’s to a winter of trying new things and spending tons of time Googling how to prepare for the following:

Running in the snow -  I did take every opportunity to run in the snow last year, and learned that it’s tougher than I thought.  It kind of feels like running in sand, and it slows you down a lot.  And the amount of snow we’re going to have on the running trails this winter is pretty crazy.  So how am I preparing for the fact that my running trails (and every outdoor surface) will soon be covered in snow and ice?

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Studded shoes!  Just like my tires!  I chose to get my old Mizunos studded at Skinny Raven Sports so that my current pair of Adidas can be used indoors as well as outdoors with my Yaktrax.  I’m also getting a gym membership for those days where I really can’t handle the snowy trails.  Now here’s my question for all of you hardcore snow runners:  do you do anything to keep the snow out of your shoes?  Like wearing gaiters?  If not, any good sock suggestions for staying warm and dry?

Running in the cold - Last year I got sick running in 13 degree temps after getting a cramp and stopping until it passed, which caused my body temperature to drop too low.  This year I’ve already run in 18 degree temps and did great, but it’s still not totally comfortable.  How have I been preparing so far?

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Using my scarf/Buff and wearing fleece-lined layers, especially on my head.  Here’s the problem:  it’s going to get so much colder here, and I’m barely comfortable now.  How can I adjust to even colder temperatures?  What do you all use to stay warm when it’s 0 degrees outside and you’re out for a run?  Especially when it comes to keeping your hands warm?  And let’s talk about phones – will mine freeze if I’m using it to track my run in temps like that?

Running in the dark - This one I am totally unprepared for.  This is the only thing I’ve done to prepare myself:

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It’s hard to see it with all of the skinny trees around, but there are streetlights along this trail.  I tried to prepare by finding a nearby trail that’s lighted at night all winter long.  It helps that the trail is illuminated and I can see where I’m going, but I can’t see the pesky hiding moose – and who knows if other runners/skiers will see me coming?  There’s no traffic to worry about, but I still want to stay visible and make sure that I can see everything around me.  I know I should probably have a head lamp and some kind of visibility items on my body.  But what’s the best option out there?  I don’t even know what brands to look for!  Are headlamps even comfortable?

Running in the gym - I don’t want to do this one, but I’m sure it’s going to happen at some points.  Or at a lot of points.  I trained for the Disney Princess Half almost exclusively on my old treadmill (and loved it!), but that was in the privacy of my own apartment with my own TV to keep me company.  So how can I keep myself distracted during the upcoming long training runs on a treadmill?  If reading while running was easier I’d be all over that!

The good news is that with the Pre-Christmas season upon us, I’ve got people asking me what I want for Christmas already.  And I’ve been thinking that getting some good running gear for the long, dark, cold, snowy winter ahead would be great.  But I have no idea what to ask for!  How do you find the best winter running gear out of the thousands of products out there?  I’d love to hear what you can’t live without this winter.  Help me out!

Do you have any advice for a newbie Alaskan runner?  Past Polar Vortex running techniques would be appreciated!

Friday Five: Happy Halloween!

Hi everyone!  I’m mixing things up a bit this Friday because I really wanted to join the Friday Five Linkup with Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia!  I’m still going to recap my goal progress at the end.  This week’s Friday Five topic is Halloween!  So what are my five favorite things about halloween?

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1.  PUMPKIN EVERYTHING.  All day long.  And every day for the month before and after Halloween too.  But today is the big pumpkin celebration day so you best believe I’m getting a PSL after I eat some pumpkin bread that I made last night!

2.  Candy!  I’m lucky because I have bags of candy all over my office to use as prizes for my students (hey, everything in moderation right?) but I’ll be stealing a few extra pieces since it’s Halloween!  We don’t think we’ll get any trick or treaters in our apartment so we didn’t buy any candy.  It’s really for the best because we’d eat it all anyways!

3.  Dressing up.  I’m not teaching any classes tomorrow so I’m totally dressing up for my day at the office!  I have like 4 coworkers and only my manager knows what I’m going as.  Hint:  it is something TERRIFYING that scares the living daylights out of me.  Any guesses?  And while you’re thinking about that, let’s throwback to my favorite costume.  I wore this 4 years ago and I made the whole thing myself!

wonderwomanBella was the cutest pumpkin ever!

4.  Pumpkin beer.  Does that fall under the pumpkin category?  Whatever, it’s the best way to celebrate Halloween!

5.  The beginning of pre-Christmas season.  While everyone was watching scary movies last night, I was watching Elf.  Sure, I won’t be decorating, listening to Christmas music, or even talking about Christmas until the week of Thanksgiving, but it’s definitely in the back of my mind  :)

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As for my Fall Fitness Friday goals this week, well…working out every day didn’t happen.  Nope.  But I think it’s okay.  I’m still trying to get settled in my apartment, in my job, and in Alaska!  So we’ll just take a look at the rest of my goals:

Get completely moved in:  We have 5 more boxes and need to hang our curtains.  That’s it!!!  I’m so excited to finally be done, especially since my friend is coming to visit from Bethel, AK (they don’t even have any shopping – not even a Walmart there – so I predict a lot of shopping that weekend!) and I want it to be all set up by then!

Step up my running game:  Done!  I ran in the coldest conditions yet.  On Sunday I ran 4 miles on the coastal trail and was having trouble breathing from the cold.  My chest and upper back hurt so bad.  This is why I hate the beginning of winter – it always takes a bit of time for my body to adjust to the cold.  It was in the 20s and the trail was icy on the hilly parts, so I had to walk quite a few times.  Not fun, but the views were killer!

IMG_3324Oh hey downtown Anchorage!

When I ran on Wednesday, I wore a running scarf (this one from Run Pretty Far).  It made such a huge difference!  I wore it only on my neck unless I had to stop and walk through the icy parts of the trail – that’s when I used it to cover my face to keep warm.  It was 18 degrees but I felt great!

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Join a gym:  I’m pretty sure The Alaska Club is the winner.  The problem now is that they are ruthless with recruitment so I don’t want to contact them until I’m totally ready to join.  Once I do, they will stalk me until they get my money!  I’ll definitely join before Thanksgiving but I’m in no hurry to spend a ton on a gym.  Although I really want to take some group classes ASAP!

Start cooking more:  We are doing more and more each week!  Best thing I made?  Pumpkin bread last night that I’ll be sharing with my coworkers tomorrow!

Go pumpkin crazy!  DONE.  Pumpkin yogurt, PSLs, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, and this incredible invention.  Thanks Target!

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I hope everyone else had a fantastic week and a super spooky, pumpkin-filled Halloween!

What are your favorite things about Halloween?  What is your best costume ever?

Rave Runs

Hi everyone!  If you’ve ever read Runner’s World, you’ve probably seen the pictures that they show in the beginning of every magazine of the Rave Run of the month.  They’re usually some amazing location, and the runner is running on some impossible looking trail that would probably make me pass out from altitude sickness if I ever tried it.

raverunAn actual Rave Run photo from RW

While each month shows a beautiful location, I’m always wondering how many people can actually run in a place like that.  I mean, if I was hiking on the above trail I’d be nervous about falling and would be staring around at everything taking pictures – there’s no way I’d be running along there like it was no big deal!

I recently found this Runner’s World article online which talks about Rave Runs vs. normal runs, and I totally have to agree with the author.  In the article, he states that, “There’s natural beauty everywhere if you look for it. And there’s an important point here concerning long-term success in running: Getting the most today out of the good-enough almost always trumps waiting for the perfect, whether we’re talking weather, training partners, shoes, racing fitness, motivation or where to run.”  No matter where you’re running, you’re probably having an awesome moment even if you don’t realize it.  I’ve run in some really boring places in my life, and whenever I do that I realize that I start to notice things that I never did before – like parks I didn’t know existed, streets with awesome christmas light displays, really pretty gardens, and hills that are perfect for hill repeats – and they don’t seem as boring anymore!  A run could be a few laps around your neighborhood, but if the temperature feels good and you’re in a great mood then it’s totally a Rave Run!  There are so many factors that go into making something a Rave Run, and location is only a small part of it.

20140602-231151.jpgThis glacier-side run might look like a Rave Run, but I was super hot, dehydrated, and couldn’t wait for it to end!

Ever since moving to Alaska, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to run in some seriously beautiful places.  And what I’ve learned is that sometimes, location isn’t everything!  You might be in a beautiful place, but you’re probably going to be sweating, hungry, and hoping that you can get through the last 5 minutes of your run just like you would if you were running in a boring place.  So if you want to have a Rave Run this week, get out and make it happen!  Choose to go at your favorite time of day, run with a killer view of the sunset or sunrise, try a new route if you’re bored, and spend time noticing all the beautiful things you see.  And if you do have one, let me know!

20140702-164133.jpgMy current favorite Rave Run of all time – running an 8 miler in Seward at midnight!  Pretty views AND negative splits!

When was your last personal Rave Run?  Where is the prettiest place you’ve ever run?