Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Morning Run

Despite yesterday's rain and mist the roads were not glare ice this morning so I headed out for my Saturday morning run. I meet a group of folks in Proctor and hit the roads for 5 miles, followed by breakfast. With all the snow we have had, the roads have been pretty mushy. Not much helps when running in that stuff. Screw shoes aren't very effective, but they were great on the sections of plowed road that had a bit of ice on them.

Have started using the heart rate monitor again. Interesting observations on todays run:

5 miles - 45:53
Average HR: 165
Peak HR: 215
Minimum HR: 92

Was chatting with another runner the whole time, though not always easily ;-> Now, according to previous calculations my max HR should be around 200 bpm. After all I am 43. So, what does this mean???? Either my max HR calculation is way off or.... I have an innate ability to run at higher heart rates and this bodes well for longer distance races. Like the positive spin on that ;->

Would love some input on this. Don't think it is an issue with the monitor as these type of readings have been pretty consistent since I got the thing.

Took this past week off of running. Just couldn't get motivated to run in the dark and cold Wednesday - or any other day for that matter. Did get a couple days of skiing in (classic) on a local trail. First time out in almost a year (bad snow year for most of 2008, plus dislike using waxes/klister for over 30 degrees). Could feel it in all those little muscles that don't get much use otherwise.

So, hope to get in a ski at least twice per week and run 2-3 days a week while the snow lasts. Need to finalize my training plan soon, in only a few weeks I need to get consistent about running and start building mileage.

On the knitting front:

Finished! On Christmas Day even, so though the recipient will not receive them for a week or so at least I got them done for Christmas ;->

No pictures of the socks in progress.... that will happen when they are finished and gifted. They are very colorful though, more so than I expected by looking at the skein.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Wildknits Christmas

Sunrise over the harbor - Christmas morning

Our christmas tree(unknown variety of citrus):

Planning a ski for sometime today. Quality time with my knitting needles (only the thumb left on the bird mittens, plus the socks I am working on. Ploughed Acre scarf was gifted earlier this week - all 74.5 x 8.5 inches of it). Family, dinner, and sauna with friends later in the evening.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

In Memory of Porter

Porter passed away today at 4:40 pm.

Yesterday he was diagnosed with anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease which is treatable, and was placed on doxycycline. We expected that he would start feeling better within 24 - 48 hours. To complicate matters it was confirmed today that his prothrombin time was way out of range, meaning his blood was not clotting and minor trauma would cause him to bleed (something we had noted Wednesday night and part of what led us to the vet's office Thursday morning). He was to start Vitamin K today for that. But it was not to be. We think he may have had a seizure (strokes due to the inability of his blood to clot?) and, combined with the fact that he was not eating or drinking, couldn't get up any longer.... well, it was clear his time had come.

Porter came to us - a 7 week old puppy - on New Years Eve 1998. He was a shy, fluffy 10 lb puppy that liked to hide under the couch. He grew into a 95 lb dog, still shy at times, a bit anxious without his human pack, but with an interesting personality all the same.

As a pup he learned to open pocket doors and escape all manner of kennels. Liked to pull the girls hair so he could have the bean bag chair. Learned he could tree bears, and was proud of the fact. Took a great interest in "grooming" our pet rabbit. Tried to stay out of his harness, but then would obviously enjoy a skijor once we got going. Eventually figured out he would never catch the local deer. Never met a dog (or postal carrier) he didn't like. Learned that the UPS driver was good for really large biscuits and could spot their truck coming a half mile away (apparently he is so well known at UPS that when they made a delivery today the extra help stopped to peek in on him). Known as the "airport dog" by visitors to the end of Park Point. NMTC trail run participant for many years. Part of my 'crew' for this years Half Voyageur Trail Marathon and aid station volunteer for the Voyageur Ultra.

Running companion, skijor partner, hiking buddy, defender of the wildknit's household from all manner of furry visitors.

He will be missed!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bird Mittens Revisited

What to do in a blizzard? Tackle a project you have been putting off due to the attention it needed.

First the charts:

As you can see, for a while there I have three separate charts going. I decided the speediest way to tackle this was to photocopy the originals and tape them to a large piece of cardboard (cookie sheet was suggested after all the work was done). Then I affixed the thumb gusset chart to the "proper" place on the charts (after triple-checking it against the original mitten).

Off I went, merrily knitting away until I had about 14 rounds done when I noticed I had messed up in the first couple of rounds. Aagh!!! Ripped back and started over - again. If I was superstitious I would begin to think these mittens have it in for me - or that I am not supposed to finish them.

Completed mitten on the left, mitten in progress in the center (note progress made today, I had ripped back to the cuff after the misplaced thumb incident) and prototype on the right.

Time for a break! I am off to the sauna. Temperatures have dropped to 4 F, winds have switched to the northwest (still gusting into the 20+ mph range), which means we are really feeling them at the wildknits' home.

Schools are closed tomorrow in the area - but will work be closed???? Only time will tell.

First Winter Storm!!!!!

Some where out there,just a block a way, is Hwy 53/Piedmont Ave. Can you find it?

Looking towards the harbor - really, it is out there.

Heading out to drop a friend off and run an errand. Good thing we have four-wheel drive ;->

Porter, waiting to come back in after his morning 'constitutional'. Doesn't he look thrilled with the wind?

Last night we were getting a mix of precipitation. Today the temperature is still in the mid-20's with the wind gusting up to 35 mph from the east (off of the big lake = potential for lots of snow!). Opted to cancel the morning trail run - wasn't sure the roads were safe for driving to the trailhead. Will probably get out at some point today to walk Porter and play on the trail above the house.

The big question is will there be work tomorrow??? They are predicting over a foot of snow today and overnight. The clinic I work at does not close it's doors unless the DTA (bus service) cancels service. The DTA has a new policy to keep at least the mainline buses (= flat streets) running, so I may have to find my way to work even if I can't drive (or get to the mainline route). First opportunity to ski to work?

A blizzard presents the perfect opportunity to knit. Spent part of the morning prepping the Bird Mitten charts for easy reading in hopes of getting that left mitten knit up today. I have some new sock wool I would love to get at but have told myself no new projects until I finish the mittens.

Re-instituted "Thursday's are for Running to Work" this past week. Woke up Thursday morning to our first below zero temperatures and was very thankful for the balaclava that was given to me the night before. Kept my forehead, ears and neck cozy, though I still can't stand to have anything over my mouth (and it wasn't all that cold so not necessary any way). It was a beautiful morning - clear skies and my route allowed me to watch the sun rise over the Lake/Bay. I am fortunate in that I can run a combination of roads and trails to work - though that will be changing in the future as the school district plunks a new building in the middle of my route (a controversial project in Duluth which I will not comment on, except to say as a taxpayer I knew nothing of these plans until I saw the survey stakes go up in the meadow and did some investigating).

Part of my route follows the Superior Hiking Trail, then it is off onto deer trails and snowmobile trails. At one point I descend quite a bit, in the loose snow it was a bit slippery and I found myself wishing I could grab on to something to stabilize myself. The only thing available though was hawthorns. If you have never seen this shrub just know that they are "protected" from browsing by 1-2 inch thorns. I figured it was better to fall than risk impalement, which is exactly what happened at one point.

Once I am through the woods and meadow I cross an active railroad track (ore trains coming down from the range) and run alongside that for a few blocks before cutting down through the neighborhood and on to work. The footing Thursday was pretty good, not too slippery except on the descents.

Since than I have added screws to my shoes (we have gotten more snow). They work pretty well on hard packed snow, less well in the slush that covered the roads yesterday. Kept reminding myself during those 5 miles that I could consider this strength training.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bridge to Peace 5K

The race was held on the Lakewalk this past Saturday. Friday night it began to snow, not too much, but enough to make the roads pretty slick (all the more so when you live in "Goat Hill" - one of the steepest neighborhoods in Duluth). I ventured out anyway to pre-register for the race. Good thing I did as Saturday morning dawned sunny, but cold (single digits to low teens) and with the wind gusting upwards of 20 mph from the north/northwest. I kept telling myself the alternative was 5 miles on the roads in Proctor, so 3.1 wasn't too bad ;->

It was a small, but enthusiastic group that turned out for this inaugural run. Some of the top competitors in the area mixed in with a lot of other folks. Fun to see all of the kids and families out there. Weird though to be lining up a row or two back from the speedsters. The Lakewalk had been swept clear of some of the snow, but there were still patches, especially on the side of the path. Overall though the footing was great and the sun made it feel pretty warm even with the high winds.

Of course, as I do with all races I headed out too fast. Easy to do with a 20 mph wind at your back, but after about 3/4 of a mile we hit a turnaround and... well... a wall of wind. For the next half mile it was a battle to stay on pace and I then determined who it was I wanted to keep in sight for the rest of the run. Once we reached the "corner of the Lake" there was more protection from the wind and that was a relief. On to the race start - and on by. The clock threw me for a bit, I couldn't believe the time on it, mistakingly believing it was a 2 mile split (silly me). I would prefer not to know my splits most of the time as I tend to psych myself out.

The course went on another 3/4 mile or so (less?) and then we came to another cone, a well-bundled race volunteer, and turned around to head back to the finish line. The fun thing about this loop course is the opportunity to see all of the runners a couple of times. It offers a wonderful opportunity to cheer on and encourage lots of runners. I traded "good jobs" with quite a few folks during the race (though someone pointed out I should save my energy for running vs talking). The best was meeting a young kid (friend of a friend) and chatting with him about his plans before the race, seeing him along the course, and then exchanging "good run" comments afterwards while waiting for awards.

The race organizers did a fantastic job. Registration was well organized, t-shirts were great (long-sleeve cotton, black with a stylish logo); lots of water and snacks on hand after the race (including home-baked goodies which I heard were great - think "church lady". I didn't partake for the simple reason I am having trouble with allergies right now and couldn't identify ingredients). The race was a fundraiser for the Central Asia Institute; a non-profit organization with the mission to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Prizes were given to the top finishers overall and in each age group. I was out of the running, but overall happy with how I did. I had set a "stars and planets are aligned" goal of 24 minutes based on recent runs, but amended that to anything under 27 minutes due to the weather and a persistent and nagging cough. Finished in 26:26 race time (26:29 on my watch). Good enough for me.

No other running this past weekend and it will be a low mileage week overall due to outside commitments, but that is okay. I have time to continue a build-up before I need to commit to training. So far the IT band is behaving so I am hopeful I can stay injury free and be ready for the Superior 25K on May 16th.

The trouble with hanging around with ultra runners is that they start talking you into thinking about longer races ;-> As we sat around after the race I repeatedly heard - "You can do a 50K, it's only a few miles more than a marathon". "You could do the Half Voyageur and then two weeks later the Voyageur". Dangerous folks - and some people worry about dope dealers! ;->

Did get me to thinking about a 50K in the fall though (see what I mean?!). The Superior Fall races are really close to an annual backpacking trip, so Wild Duluth would be the most likely choice for my first ultra. It is located on trails that I train on, includes some of my favorite spots in Duluth, and runs right by my house - which could be dangerous as this is in the last few miles of the race ;-> If I do decide I am up to it I will be looking for crew on the third weekend in October. Same goes for the Half Voyageur - put it on your calendar - July 11th, I believe. Crewing for a runner is a great pastime, especially if you: * are looking for an excuse to stand around on trails and roads in all kinds of weather; like doling out food and encouragement; enjoy hopping into a car and driving frantically to the next aid station* and are willing to repeat from * to *.

OKC: No progress on the Bird Mittens. I know, stop procrastinating and get with it! I will, but sounds like I have until at least January 2nd to get them done ;-> The Ploughed Acre scarf is now 44 inches long (unblocked). I started the second ball of yarn as of this evening (board meetings are good for something besides governing non-profits and schools), not sure how long I will make this scarf. Any suggestions? I think I know who this is for, so have a "deadline" now. Will probably have enough yarn left over for a hat and then I may have reached the end of the 'eternal cone of yarn".

Sock orders are rolling in (got to love it when a family member points out that they long ago wore out their only pair of hand knit socks (no tears but I swear I heard a sniffle - and a shoe size) so will have plenty of portable knitting to get me through the winter months. Though this does mean a trip to the yarn store as I do not have adequate supplies of sock wool on hand. Well, I do, but they are all partial skeins and, well, it is a lot of work to make stripy socks that way.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Insomniac documenting her knitting....

...before gifting it tomorrow.

Baby Surprise Jacket

Knit a while ago, just because this pattern intrigues me, and waiting for the right person. A pregnant co-worker and an impending baby shower provided just the incentive I needed to venture out and find some buttons. I think I did okay with these... what do you think?

Often knitting disappears with no documentation, but tonight I remembered to snap some photos. I think I posted before about the yarns used for this sweater - a strand of 100% wool and a strand of fingering weight sock yarn. Brand name on the wool.... Tuna. (Chris remember this stuff? Yet another of my amazing, never-ending skeins of yarn). These jackets are supposed to help me get rid of my rather large stash of odd balls of sock yarn, but in this case I ended up heading to the yarn store to purchase another skein of the yarn as I liked the look. Ah, well.

The temperature is rapidly dropping at the head of the lakes. Down to 8 F already. No snow to speak of, though they keep saying it is on the way. Will need to bundle up Saturday morning for the Bridge to Peace Run if these temps and winds keep up.

For an interesting review of what is going on in Canadian politics take a look at the Yarn Harlots blog (desperately wishing the link feature would work on blogger - always fools me into thinking it does, but I am wise to it's ways now). When we first heard there was something up we tried to research the issue on our own, her explanation made it all come clear. Note to any non-knitters who read this blog: she is also posting tips for shopping for knitters. Very informative, though ignore the link to the Signature needles unless you truly love your knitter (or need to make up for previous blunders) ;->

Personally, I am pretty infatuated with the double pointed Harmony wood needles from Knit Picks. Durable, nice points, pretty, feel good in the hand and reasonably priced( So far I still have 6 size 0 needles, despite reknitting those mittens a couple of times.

Ploughed Acre scarf is still under construction (a morning of meetings at work was helpful in making some progress); Bird Mittens are still in a time out. I know they need to be done soon, but the recipient is not due back until after Christmas so I have time.

Running is still going well. Speed - what there is of it - is coming back and I am starting to look forward to training for some longer races (remind me I said that when it is 9 degrees out, the wind is blowing, and I need to get an 11 mile run in).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tuesday running

Tuesdays are a long day. Used to be I would head to work by 11:30 am (clinic is open till 8:00 pm and I work the 'late' shift), leaving me plenty of time to lounge about and get a run in. That all changed this fall when I took a second job. It is only three hours a week, but those three hours fall when I am not at my full-time job so bye-bye leisurely Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons. I am at job #1 by 8:30 am and leave job #2 at 8:30 pm.

This change in work schedule has really messed up my running in daylight in winter schedule (not to mention what it will do to skiing if we ever get snow). I have managed a couple of runs by foregoing any errand running in the hour between jobs, but hit on a real solution today: go to work dressed in my running clothes (with a layer of more professional stuff over the top). Cuts down on changing time and means a quicker escape out the door and onto the trails = more time to run. Lucky for me I work at a school (Why yes, I am a school nurse now. How funny is that? And at the school my girls attended so I know all the teachers and a smattering of the students) so the dress code is more casual than say a business office. And, since I change into scrubs at my 'regular' job, clothing is not a problem. The school job is downtown, regular job out west and lots of trails in between.

Today I headed for the Piedmont Ski Trail. The dusting of snow left over from Thanksgiving provided just enough traction on the icy spots so footing was good. I love the frost heaves and sunken rocks that are evident all over the trail at this time of year. Though it does mean paying attention so as to not roll an ankle. The deer were all over the place and I must have flushed at least a dozen and almost ran into one that didn't move as I came by. Did see a blood trail for a couple of hundred feet so at least one bowhunter got lucky.

I pretty much had the trail to myself and being in the woods was a nice break from the wind. These trails have some pretty significant hills - good workout over all and I was pretty pleased with my time for the approximately 5k course(28.33). I have been feeling pretty slow of late, so will take this as a good sign that I am getting back into shape.

Another benefit of running on Tuesdays: my running stuff is at work and waiting for the afterwork run on Wednesdays. Though this week I may need to add a layer as today's run was in the mid-20's and tomorrow's high is in the teens with strong winds. But it wouldn't be a Wednesday run on the Lakewalk without a 20 mph headwind ;->

Want to experience the joys of running along the shore of Lake Superior in the winter? Join us at 5:00pm Wednesdays at the corner of Morse St and Lake Ave in Canal Park. Distance ranges up to 5+ miles. Wind guaranteed (usually on the way back).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Knitting

What to do when you finish a large pair of socks and want a simple knitting project to work on while visiting on Thanksgiving Day(Bird mittens? What bird mittens?).

Dive into the stash, grab a cone of yarn from Scotland and cast on for a lace scarf (Ploughed Acre Scarf - lace pattern from a Barbara Walker Treasury, scarf pattern by wildknits).

As you may have noticed I have started to wind off the yarn into a 'cake'/center-pull ball. Cones are not very portable and I have travel plans for this scarf.

Now, deciding to wind this off mid-project has involved a bit of breaking of yarn and then spit splicing. My intention was one break but... well the yarn had another idea! About a quarter of the way through the first cake it went flying across the room. Yup, yarn a little too slippery for the ball winder. So I applied my high tech solution to this problem

After adding the rubber band I was on my way. Due to the tangle that ensued (yarn from the outside interfering with the center pull feature during the trip across the room) I had to break the yarn once more. Finished winding the initial flying cake, spit spliced the yarn together and began winding off the cone again. Everything was going great and then I took a hard look at the ball-winder, the cone and back again. The yarn was not all going to fit! Another break in the yarn was needed. Second ball wound up in no time though, and only slightly smaller than the first.

Originally I was a little concerned about having enough yarn for a long scarf (unblocked this scarf is over 6 inches wide) but now I am less worried. This has been an amazing cone of yarn! Bought it at a knitting retreat years ago from someone cleaning out her stash. Knit a large shawl from it (gifted to our pastor when she was going through treatment for breast cancer), and have knit at least one hat with it. The yarn is a little stiff as is, due to the oils left on it for machine knitting, but once it is washed up fluffs and has a wonderful feel.

So far no recipient in mind for this scarf - we shall see what presents itself ;->

Been running consistently - at least for me - and pulled out the training plan last night I used for the Superior 25k. Time to start planning for next years races. I am running about 14 miles per week right now and need to get that up another few miles before I jump into the training plan. I have found that I need a long build-up and longer miles to 'race' well, so will start the formal plan mid-January for a mid - May race. If all goes well, I will have a perfect base and be in a good place for training for my second marathon (going back to the Half Voyageur, non-Jarrow's Beach year).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you all have a nice break from your routine(s), can gather with an interesting group of people, have an opportunity to be outdoors enjoying the beauty of a late fall day and get to eat your fill of delicious food.

Preparations have begun at Wildknits: Turkey was picked up yesterday from our local farmer; pumpkin was baked, pie filling was prepared and the pies are in the over; beets are cooking; bread is rising; groceries are purchased. The rest of the meal will be prepared tomorrow. Fresh turkeys cook pretty quick so there will be time for a run in the morning on one of my favorite sections of the SHT - Knife River.

This section may eventually be abandoned as the trail is built from Duluth to Two Harbors, but for now it is the site of some memorable runs year round. It is a rooty, twisty hilly section - all the best of the SHT. Portions run along the Knife River - high above and close to the riverside. Demands your attention or you will trip over a root, run into a tree or step into a puddle. Not too long - maybe 4 miles top, trendy downhill- if you start at the top :->

After the run it will be back to the house to get the turkey in the oven, start the herb puffs, make cranberry sauce and finish up all of the last minute stuff that is Thanksgiving in America.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pickled Herring, Holiday Cheer and Broken Windows

It must be winter!

The temperatures are dropping (though still no snow) and car windows are frosty - leading to comical attempts at scraping (I am short, my car has a lot of glass, attempts to reach the middle of the windshield without leaning on the car in my work clothes.... amusing). Apparently it was so cold overnight yesterday that it broke auto glass:

This window was just replaced in August (trauma induced by a bass amp). The theory is that something was wrong with the installation and the cold (low yesterday morning 7 F) lead to the break. Sigh! Thankfully the damage is covered by the warranty as that car does not have glass coverage. And lucky for me - that is not my primary vehicle. Unbelievably, I did not notice the window was broken when I left for work - too focused on scraping windows and getting going on time. In my defense, I do not park on the same side of the street as this car ;->

Over the past week there has been a large container moving in and out of our refrigerator. I am not initiated into the mysteries of pickling fish, but that is what has been happening in the Wildknit's kitchen. Started with last Sundays catch of Lake Superior Herring Once they were cleaned and filleted (saw a lot of roe which can be sold for the caviar market in Sweden) the fish was cut into chunks and went into our crockpot insert with a brine solution. After an overnight stay in the refrigerator the fish is rinsed and then covered with white vinegar for another overnight stay in the fridge. One more rinsing, and then the fish goes into the pickling jars and is covered with pickling solution. After 5 days it will be ready for consumption. This recipe does not involve canning - just refrigeration. Now, I am NOT a fan of commercial pickled herring - 'shudder' - but do find this to be quite edible.

More to my liking is the Holiday Cheer that was also cooked up this weekend. Otherwise known as "Christmas Beer". Traditionally, we start talking about brewing this up for the holiday season in the fall and then procrastinate to the point that we are brewing on Christmas Eve and the beer will not really be ready for consumption until well into the new year. But this year we got the timing a little better. The recipe includes honey, ginger root, cinnamon, and grated orange peel in addition to the requisite malt extract, malts, hops and ale yeast. It is now sitting in a 5 gallon carboy. The first 24-72 hours involves a lot of noise! Active fermentation is taking place and there is a lot of gurgling as the excess gases escape through a hose and into a container of water. All is quiet now though - fermentation lock is in place and the carboy sits, wrapped in a sleeping bag, under the kitchen table. Rather than bottling 5 gallons of beer, we now move it into a soda keg when fermentation is complete.

Made it sound like I was busy this past weekend, huh?! I was only an assistant for all of this cooking. I do the shopping and help out with some prep, but am not the chief cook or brewer. Jon has been pretty busy of late - and I notice that the sourdough starter has moved from the fridge to the kitchen table so bread is also on the way. And we have not even started to assemble the Thanksgiving Day menu!

As non-traditional as we can be there are some stand-bys that are expected on the table. This year there will be turkey (fresh from our local CSA), herb puffs (Laurel's Kitchen - one child has already requested the recipe for her meal far away in Montana),cranberries from a local supplier and pies made from the pumpkin we got with our last summer Food Farm (CSA) share. There is talk of a brussel sprout salad (now, give it a chance! Shredded brussel sprouts, peccarino cheese, walnuts... quite tasty) and we just downloaded a recipe for a cranberry-walnut upside down cake from the Almanac ( website. As you can see we cook for a crowd and like variety.

Another Thanksgiving Day tradition is to head out for a walk in the woods. For a few years now that has included spotting a porcupine! Wonder if we will see one this year? Luckily Porter has never gotten ahold of one on a holiday.

From last weekend:

Playtime at wildknits - Porter and Hobbes (standard poodle)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Deconstructing a mitten - a photo essay

Sit back and enjoy a series of photos detailing the ripping back of one of the bird mittens (while I research early signs of dementia - one possible reason I knit a whole mitten without noticing my error?):

What I love about shetland wool - it is 'sticky'. Unlike smoother yarns the stitches hang onto each other just enough that it was remarkably easy to pick up all those stitches. Now what to do with the thumb.... should I try to kitchener it back in place or rip it out? think I will wait until i finish the hand 9again) to tackle that problem.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I finished the Bird Mittens! Or did I?

Much excitement around the Wildknits household. After months of work (well, really hours of work and months of procrastination and messing about with other knitting projects)I finished the Bird Mittens. No more stranded knitting on size 0 needles with lace weight yarn! No more detailed patterns and charts to follow! Another pair of beautiful mittens ready to be gifted to an anxious recipient!

Look pretty good, eh? Could use a blocking to even out the stitches, but overall a nice pair of mittens.

Here is a look at the palm side and the thumbs:

And that is when I saw it! Notice the thumb on the left hand mitten. Go ahead, embiggen the picture if you need to. What do you see?

Yup, I placed the thumb in the wrong spot on the left hand. Don't ask me how, or why, I did not notice until I was finished with the mittens. I've tried denial (they still fit, feel okay on the hand, no one will notice...) but this means a visit to the 'frog pond'. I am hoping I can at least salvage the thumb and not have to reknit that as well (that would make 4 thumbs knit for one pair of mittens). Though it would mean kitchener stitching the thumb to the hand... hmmm, maybe re-knitting the thumb for the 4th time isn't so bad.

And here I was looking forward to some nice 'quiet' sock knitting now that the mittens are done and the heel stitches are picked up. Guess I will put that on hold and get to work pulling out the yarn I carefully wove in after finishing the top, then pulling out the stitches, and oh yeah, joy of joys, picking up 70 or so stitches in lace weight wool with sz 0 (2 mm) needles. Best do it while there is good light and my eyes are not too tired. As attractive as a certain beverage would be for the task, I do not think it will improve my chances of picking up tiny stitches in colorwork.

Ah well, does provide a handy excuse not to do any housework as the sun is shining - kindof - today.

Did get out the door this morning for a run. Braved the 30 degree temps and winds to run 5.3 miles of hilly road. The Saturday morning running group has officially kicked off our season. We only meet in the winter and run pretty much despite what the weather throws at us. The core group has been meeting for years, I am a relatively new recruit, joining them 3 or 4 years ago I think. Has been great motivation to get out the door and run on other days of the week so that I can handle the 'long run'.

Run went well, mostly recovered from donating blood on Tuesday. Right knee was a bit stiff at times, but I think I just need to be careful about which side of the road I am running on. When running against traffic the cant of the road aggravates my right leg so I just took to running with traffic at times to even out the stress (note: traffic is a relative term, this is run on rural roads with a grand total of maybe 5 or so cars seen the entire 5 miles). Time to get the foam roller back out, concentrate on stretching and try to hit a trail once and awhile.

So, speaking of trails. Duluth decided to "close" the trails within the city this week as they are too wet. Interesting timing. It has been wet for weeks, and the ground is now starting to freeze, so the trails are actually in better shape right now than they have been.

This weekend I am dogsitting a friends standard poodle. He is one year old, and like most standards, is very high energy and 'bouncy'. Quite the contrast to the old man of the house - Porter. Hobbes (the poodle) is almost the same height as Porter and is so agile. It is funny to watch them together. Kind of like a grandpa and a high energy young teen. Porter is not much into wrestling any longer and has been pretty clear about when he wants to be left alone. Luckily Hobbes has listened and I have not had to intervene.

Being used to a dog that doesn't demand much in the way of hands on attention (despite his separation anxiety) it is always an adjustment to go to a dog that expects to be near you and petted on a regular basis. And to top it off, my immune system apparently does not find poodles all that hypoallergenic. I walk a fine line having a dog in the first place and the addition of an extra dog has tipped the balance.

On the plus side, after a hard week at work, nothing like coming home to dogs to cheer you up! Poodle therapy anyone?

With the cold weather has come Sauna Season! The sauna is one of the few places that I am ever truly warm in the winter. The sense of relaxation after a good session.... hard to describe. We have a wood fired sauna so there is a bit of work involved up front, but nothing like a wood fire to raise the temp into the 180 - 200F range. Plus water is never an issue. The stove was rebuilt a few years ago and has a water jacket on one side so we can heat water for bathing in addition to being able to throw water onto the stove for some additional steam. One time we even made it rain in the sauna (way below zero temps outside, very hot stove, application of water, steam rose, hit the ceiling, condensed and... rain! Very cool).

Wednesday I came home from a run and the sauna was heating. Nice way to finish warming up and add another stretching session. The only downside this week was I was one day out from donating blood, so didn't have much sauna stamina and could only take three sessions before I was 'cooked'.

Well, off to get some chores done (yeah right) and fix my knitting error.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giant Socks?!?

Why yes, that is a nickel perched on the toe of that sock!

Sz 13+. Surprisingly I know quite a few people with this size foot, so was able to get a tracing without the recipients knowledge (or was the model the recipient??? - all will be revealed around Christmas). The sock knitting is moving along quickly, the yarn is a pleasure to knit with. There is some concern around here about size, but as we are not large-footed in this house it is hard to know. Sock matches the tracing pretty well though. Heel has been turned on the second sock, now to pick up stitches along the heel flap, work the decreases and then it is back to "mindless" inches of stockinette stitch for the foot (you can get a lot read when working a sock for a person who wears a sz 13).

It is Porter's 10th birthday today! Now, depending on who you consult that makes him the equivalent of a 56 - 77 yr old (generic calculators put him on the young end, weight based/size based calculators put him on the older end). We are definitely closer to the end than the beginning of his life though. He is slowing down a bit, but occasionally still shows his goofy, playful side. If anything, he has gotten more "cuddly" in the last couple of years. To an outside observer he may seem aloof still, but we've noticed a change. As illustrated below:

Porter loves our friend because he gets hip massages when Griff's around (plus there is usually good food to be had).

Did I mention I ran without pain! Very exciting, and on pavement to boot. Didn't manage another run after last Friday (still easing into the wintery weather) but will give it a go tomorrow and see how the leg/knee/IT band is doing. If all goes well I can start thinking ahead towards training plans for this spring and summers races. Will most likely be a slower run as I donated blood, I know some folks who say they can run the same day they donate, but I really could tell I was "a pint low" today and would prefer not to get sick, so will take it easy.

That said, I had the day off today (from one job) so took the opportunity to get outside for a walk while the sun was still shining. Explored the SHT in the Hawk Ridge area, then hooked up to the Amity Creek Trail and then onto the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve trails. Nice walk in the woods, with more climbing than I had anticipated. Wonder if it qualified as "strenuous exercise"?

To complete the randomness of this post: prepare for intense blueness when adding blueberries to oatmeal and then heating it up ;->

Sunday, November 09, 2008

First Snow

And my relatives in the Twin Cities think Duluth is cold - I hear they had snow before we did!

Last Tuesday it was sunny and temps were close to 70F. I thought a "too nice to be indoors day" should be declared and everyone let out of work/school. No such luck. Perfect day to get out the vote, though. Maybe a good reflection of peoples attitudes as they headed to the polls and then waited for the results.

For Wednesday's run temps were in the low 50's with some drizzle. Fast five miles for me with only an occasional pain involving the IT band. A little stiffness later, but overall much better than things have been for months. The wet weather continued, meaning Fridays run was a bit wet also, but I found myself shedding a few layers as the temps were still in the 50's.

Woke up to howling winds and rain, which turned to snow, this morning. Temps dropped throughout the day, but not too much snow accumulated (ground is still warm). Intended to get a run in this morning with friends in Proctor but after arriving, looking at the small turnout and the big winds we decided to bag the run. I know, in a month or two these temps will seem balmy, but even us northerners have to ease into winter ;->

So, what else have I been up to:
- Work, always work (including some long hours at both jobs)
- Much more running than I have been able to accomplish in months (and boy does it feel good! - no pain at all during or after Fridays run, now not to overdue it)
- Knitting (one sock done, cuff of the second started - and finished - today, now to turn the heel and get going on the 11+ inch foot) and
- Reading

My reading list.... well, it's a mix of stuff:
- Free-range knitter: The yarn harlot writes again. The latest offering from Stephanie Peal-McPhee
- A couple of books and short stories by Ursula K. LeGuin
- Some other random short stories by science fiction authors I like (even one that had an
ultra-running theme
- The Ever-Running Man by Marcia Muller (a mystery writer whose work I enjoy)
- Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

This last book takes a look at the science of choice architecture... and how people make decisions and can be "nudged" into making 'better' choices for themselves and others (always with the option to choose differently). Interesting stuff to think about and not the dry read you might expect from an economist and a lawyer.

Most of my books come from the library. As much as I love browsing the aisles their limited hours make it difficult, so now I browse remotely and reserve the books online to be picked up when I am downtown for work. Libraries are wonderful community assets but in these tight budget times they are one of the services to take a cut - hence the limited hours. I once heard someone say that if the idea of a public library were brought up now a days, it would be a hard sell to convince the public to pay for them (lets all now be very grateful for the foresight of our predecessors!).

Oh yeah, ran the last race of the NMTC Fall Trail Series. Did okay despite battling a cold all weekend and getting a nasty side stitch in the last 1/3 of the race. Brought along Gypsy Soup (Moosewood Cookbook) - a hit last year and again this year - for the post-race potluck. Donated three hats to the prize drawing for the end of the series awards - which all went rather quickly. I have decided it is more gratifying to gift my hand-knits this way (and via the Mitten Tree at work) than at silent auctions. I am always rather dismayed to see what a hand-knit item goes for at a silent auction (despite the suggested retail price) and have learned not to look any longer.

Not much else going on around here. Starting to hunker down and prepare for winter (better get the rest of the straw on the garlic bed, I hear Porter likes to lay in it). One of these days I will get some photos up of the latest knitting projects.

Note to self: no chai after noon, especially not a 'medium' sized one! Hard to get to sleep with that amount of caffeine in my system. Guess I will go back to working on the heel of a sock and reading....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

6 days in the life...

What's been going on over at Wildknits?

Not much and a lot!

Last post was all about mushrooms. Since then the weather took a turn for the cold. Last Thursday was beautiful - sunny, in the upper 40's - low 50's. I was at a conference that day in town and was able to walk there from home, walk to an appointment mid-morning (and back), eat lunch outdoors and walk home at the end of the day (got 7 miles in that way - including a serious hill workout on the way home). Thought about walking/running to the conference the next day...

Woke up to thick fog and the threat of rain on Friday. The day got worse from there. Not a bad day to spend indoors. On a positive note, the conference was good, attended some good sessions, made some good connections and got the cuff of a what will be very large pair of socks knit ;-> The socks are being knit form Plymouth Happy Feet (90% superwash merino, 10% nylon). will try to get a picture up at some point soon. Very pretty and pleasant to knit. Besides, beat falling asleep during sessions (which is what some folks did).

The forecast for the weekend was not good, rain and high winds both days and me with outside chores to accomplish. Got out Saturday morning to turn over a garden bed and prepare it for garlic. This is our first attempt at growing it. Based n the research I did we weren't getting it in too late, but with the forecast I figured I better plant it before it snowed! The day started out wet and cold and stayed that way until after the garlic was planted. I took a break to run some errands (pick up a bale of straw and some dog food, Porter's meds, etc) and by the time I got home the sun was out.

The sun and warming temps made it a lot easier to get the outside chores done. Thirty plus feet of hops removed from the front porch and hauled off. Mower put away (meaning the area under the porch had to be straightened out to accommodate it). "Dog yard" cleaned up (a chore no one likes). Even found time to take Porter for a 3 mile walk on the SHT and putz around with my bike - attempting to install some straps on the pedals.

But Sunday was the big day! NMTC race (Lester Park) and the last soccer game of the fall season. The weather forecast was for rain and winds gusting up to 50 mph. Delightful! I bundled up for the run (I would be arriving early to help set up), packed a few changes of clothes (there was a potluck after the game) and headed out.

The wind was not too bad at Lester (the trail is in the woods) but conditions on the ground were a bit... saturated shall we say. Wettest anyone can remember seeing it. No avoiding wet feet (and it is better for the trails if you don't). Of course, shortly after starting the race it began to pour - and not just rain, felt like a little sleet mixed in. By the top of the first loop I was soaked in the front and glad I went with the windproof vest. Got lapped on the way up the hill in the second loop (earliest that has happened - it was a fast group this year); IT began to hurt (in waves) as I headed down, but decided to tough it out ( ;-> ) and finish up the race.

On to the soccer game where the wind rose dramatically just as we were starting and it began to rain/sleet again. I never did get the feeling back into my hands or feet during the game. Interesting to kick a ball and watch it fly up into the air, then stop moving and drop straight down ;->

Potluck followed, hosted by our teams sponsor Carmody's Pub. Nothing like a Guinness Stout to replenish the carbs after a lot of exercise ;->

But the best was for last: got home to a fired up sauna! First time I was warmed through for weeks. Nothing like it. Good way to loosen up tight muscles.

The work week has been very busy. Can't even remember Monday. Tuesday involved both jobs and a stop by the sheriff's office to get fingerprinted (for a license application). It was pretty fascinating. Last time I was fingerprinted was when I was 17 and needed a security clearance to work for the Social Security Administration. Back then it was black ink. This time it was done digitally. No ink - at least on my fingers.

Today I got my first "winter" run in on the Lakewalk. Last year we met on Wednesday evenings to run 5 miles. This year is a process in the making ;-> Today we ran around 3.6 miles. Just enough to get my knee aching again. Felt good though - and the sunset was pretty nice today.

Tomorrow the forecast is for a high near 60F! Too bad I will spend most of my day indoors ;-P

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Seen last Saturday on the SHT in my own neighborhood. The camera was unable to fully capture their color - a very nice shade of pale purple (lilac?). Any guesses on which mushroom species this is?

Furnace update: After a brief foray into heating the home on the 15th (guests over) the furnace was turned back off and stayed off until last night. It was 56 inside the house and outdoor temps were not going to be rising anytime soon. Filter was changed and the heat is on for good (unless there is a freak warm front that comes through). Predicting snow for this weekend. Can't complain too much, it has been snowing in Butte for awhile now (family out there).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NMTC - Hartley Run

Well, instead of two soccer games in a row I decided to combine a long trail run with a soccer game.

Today was the first sunday run in the NMTC Fall series. Usually they are held on Wednesday evenings, but we are rapidly running out of daylight by 6:00 pm, so it is off to the weekends. Last year I played soccer at 1:00 or 3:00 pm and the runs are at 2:00 pm. Not being particularly speedy, I gave up the runs to play soccer.

This year the games are at 2:00 and 4:00 pm and to make things even better, my last two games of the season are at 4:00 pm. Hmm, takes me about an hour or so to run a 10K, a little commuting time and changing my clothes... I can make this work! Never mind my last long run was months ago, prior to the injury. I had been playing three hours of soccer of late, so running for an hour and then playing for 90 minutes should be doable ;->

Hartley is a beautiful 600+ acre park in the heart of Duluth. I love these trails - even more so in the winter. Fall is tough as the leaves are down and it is hard to see the rocks and roots. It has been very wet in Duluth of late so the trail was especially gooey. Not a bad day to have the winter weight socks on.

There have been a lot of people showing up for the races of late. The start is on an abandoned road, nice a wide, so folks can start to spread out. After that it is single track until the final third of the race when you hit the old road and then the ski trails. Fewer opportunities to pass on single-track. Okay though as I was trying to be conservative and save a little energy for the game this afternoon.

I am pretty familiar with this course and as we hit the "guard rail loop" and came near Howard Gnesen road I waited for the big hill - but it never came! Apparently there have been a few re-routes out there. Next thing I knew we were heading towards the pine plantation and my opportunity to pass was upon me. This is a great place to run - years and years of pine needles, few (if any) rocks or roots, no undergrowth - hard not to speed up in there.

The next leg involved crossing the edge of an old beaver pond. It is always wet here, but this year was another story altogether. The informal bridges that exist were under water in spots, the trail was a mucky mess. No way I was risking my neck running through this. Ran where there was "land", walked the mud-covered wooden planks and bridges, then picked up the pace when relatively solid ground reappeared. Course it was uphill by then and power walking was the order of the day.

Much of this trail is being maintained by COGGs - a local mountain biking group. They are working on some trail rehab and have been moving trail a lot. Got myself "lost" out there one time a year or two ago when I followed a new route and ended up on a road that did not lead anywhere near my car - oh yeah, and it was getting dark. Backtracked and made it back to the car before I lost all daylight.

Anyway - no lost runners today. Followed the trail as it wound in and out of the trees, eventually joined the SHT for a bit, then emptied out onto the abandoned road which led to the ski trails and... uphill. There is a short stretch near the top of the hill where you cross over a lot of sharp, pointy rocks. I think it is near the site of an old quarry. Worth slowing down here and preserving your ankles.

The ski trails are nice running for the most part - though again the leaves made it hard to see what was underneath and the trails do have more than there share of rocks. And this is where I got passed! Young woman made it by me and I did my best to keep her in sight for the rest of the race. It is hilly on this section, but by then I knew we were getting close to the end of the race and the best part was yet to come: another run through a pine plantation. The footing is so nice and it is a downhill finish, so you can get flying around the last few corners. I did my best to catch the woman in front of me at this point and it was a bit of a flying finish - especially for her. She tripped right at the end and kind of slid into the finish. Ouch! Saw her later and she had quite the scrape on her shin. double-ouch!

After a short visit with various folks I headed to the car to get out of some of my wet clothes and headed to the soccer field. Got there in plenty of time to change (first scraping the mud off my legs) and get chilled. The problem with my Raynauds is that if I get chilled at all I lose circulation to my fingers and toes. Despite changing into dry stuff on my top I got chilled and for the first 1/3 of the game did not really have circulation to my fingers.

But that was nothing compared to what happened on the field. Last week one of our players suffered a knee injury. This week it was worse. During the first half one player injured her knee and had to be carried off the field (and down the hill and around the fence) to a waiting car that transported her to the ER. By the time that was done it was the second half. Near the end another of our players injured her ankle - badly. Again, carried off the field and eventually to the ER. We ended the game at this point. Not much time was left and we were losing players pretty rapidly (for a league with few serious injuries ever). I spent a lot of my time helping to administer first aid and transport folks down the hill. Hoping everyone is going to be okay and all injuries are - relatively - minor. A good sign is when the injured party can joke by the time they get to the car ;->

All of this makes my IT band seem a minor issue. It is better overall, but a little stiff and sore tonight. Ice, ibuprofen and foam roller for me.

Stay safe this week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15th - and I wasn't the one that caved!

The heat is on. A long-time friend stopped by, we went out to eat and when I came home I noticed that special smell that only happens the first day the furnace is turned on (burning dust???).

Granted it was 59 degrees indoors, but I was prepared to deal with it. Apparently the other member of the wildknits household thought our guests may want to be a bit warmer.

Thermostat is set to 60 F. Guess I will leave it there and see how often it kicks on. Goodbye under $100 gas/water/sewer bills! See you next May (or June - it is northern Minnesota after all).

(PS: any theories on where the 2 cm bruise on the outside of my right knee came from? Woke up with it this morning. Even my knee cap feels a little funny. No soccer since Sunday. No memory of bumping into anything...)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wild Duluth 50K

Woke at 5:00 am to thunder and pouring rain. Would anyone show up for the Wild Duluth Fat Ass 50K/100K?

Dressed in several layers, found my rain gear, packed up wool hat and mittens and some food for the day, fed the dog, loaded him in the car and headed for Bayfront Park - meeting place for 50k runners. It had stopped raining but it was too dark to see what the skies had in store for us.

Arrived at Bayfront where one car was waiting - Phillip Gary Smith had driven up from the Cities to participate. We chatted and waited for the Holaks to arrive, then waited and chatted some more to see if anyone else was coming. Had the thunder scared everyone else off?

After a decent interval we loaded up into the two "aid" vehicles and headed to Chambers Grove Park for the start of the run. At the park we met up with one other 50K runner (no 100K this year) and our field was set. Everyone would win top honors in their respective age groups and there looked to be a race for overall men's winner ;-> All the runners were veterans of ultras: Kim Holak; Phillip Gary Smith and Rick Kucinski.

The start was set for 7:00 am but we ended up waiting a few minutes longer for the sun to rise. As the sky lightened we could see that the clouds were breaking up and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day to run the Superior Hiking Trail through Duluth.

(At this point I realized I had forgotten my camera, so no pictures from the start)

Due to the special firearms season runners were decked out in blaze orange and would remain so until reaching Magney-Snively and being firmly within Duluth City limits for the rest of the run.

The runners headed out and Andy and I took off to set up the first "aid station" along Hwy 210 where the Grand Portage trail crosses the highway and runners would first set foot on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). Andy and I cooperated in providing a roaming aid station: one of us would stay until all runners had come through while the other took off to meet runners that had already passed by. This worked pretty well, as long as we kept on eye on the time and ensured one of us headed out in a timely manner.

By now the skies had cleared and it was looking to be a beautiful day. Porter and I enjoyed hanging out along the trail and it was nice to have time to read and knit in daylight.

Kim was in the lead and remained so throughout the day, looking strong every time I saw her. The guys stuck together for much of the race and I was wondering if there would be a sprint to the finish!

Made a mad dash home to grab my camera before meeting Kim at an aid station. Photos!

Kim coming into the "aid station" at 24th Ave W.

Heading towards Enger Park

Kim, leaving Enger Park, heading towards Bayfront

Kim coming into the finish.

Rick leaving 24th Ave. W.

Phillip coming into 24th Ave W.

Ultra runner glimpsed through the trees (I was on my way home via the SHT - benefit of living just off the race course).

At this point I had been "released from duty" and Porter and I enjoyed a walk along the trail taking in the fall colors and last of the flowers.

Autumn crocus