Xylaria species

Xylaria species

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quick post


The chickadees having been singing their spring song for a few weeks now. The sun is out much later in the day and it is getting stronger too. Strong enough to actually warm you up and take the edge off of the cold.

I have been running outside all winter and confess to now being a bit tired of the extreme cold. People wonder why I would run outdoors. Well, there are a number of reasons: sunshine is a big one; fresh air; listening to the birds; seeing what is going on in the natural world (did I mention I work indoors all day); hills; trails; lack of membership to an indoor facility (which I find boring anyway, so not too inspired to join).

Granted, I have run on a few days that lacked almost everything on the above list and that included many of the things that I do not like about Duluth weather - howling winds topping the list!

Today I ran to work. Perfect day for it. Clear, so it was easy to see the uneveness of the trail; hardly any wind; and the snow is very firm. The temperature was around 5 degrees when I got up and had moved closer to 10 by the time I was getting dressed to leave for work. So, being the savvy outdoors runner that I am, I layered up.

My first hint that I may have been overdressed was when I stepped out the door and din't start shivering within the first 20 feet or so. By the time I had made it a half mile away I was sheeding the first layer of mittens. Within another half mile the neck gaiter came off. By the time two miles was approaching I had shed the last layer of mittens and had unzipped my long-sleeved fleece.

I made it to work without needing to stop and shed any more layers, but by then I was pretty drenched. I could have easily worn only one layer of tights and probably a vest over my baselayer. My, wind (or the lack of it) makes a big difference!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse



Near totality at about 9:00 pm CST.

It was a bit chilly trying to capture pictures of the eclipse tonight. Minus 2 F (minus 18.8 C). Hard to hold the camera steady enough for a good photo, but perseverance pays off.

Ran outside today, as usual. I think the temps were just above zero, mild wind from the north or west, depending on who you believe. Either way, not too much wind so windchill not to bad overall. Getting faster with each run! Todays run felt pretty good and came in just around 9 minutes/mile. Not bad for the conditions and this old body.

Training for the Superior Trail 25K is going well so far. Long run of 8 miles last weekend went well, felt easier than the 7 miles the previous weekend! This weekend is scheduled to be a "step back" week, long run of only 6 miles. Then back to longer runs. Luckily temperatures have been rising on the weekends so my long runs have been in the above zero range. Little easier to contemplate running for over an hour when the temps are closer to freezing than zero.

On the knitting front:

Not too much happening. Working on the scarf and the healing shawl. Keep eyeing up the hanks of merino/silk blend and the new doublepoint needles but no inspiration yet (plus I am trying to limit myself to three projects at a time - the bird mitten is getting lonely for its pair).

Stay warm!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I had this idea....


Mid-week I thought about posting some patterns that I have written. Technical difficulties got in the way. That, and lack of initiative to figure out how to create links.

What was I going to post? A pattern for a hat in fingering weight/sock yarn with a small peerie. Perfect for active outdoor sports (or, in today's "dangerous windchills" for wearing under the down hood). Also a mitten pattern that gives numbers for a variety of sizes. Interested? Email me.

Ran outdoors this morning. Even I was a bit daunted by the predicted windchills. Yesterday at noon it was near 30 degrees F at my house (thermometer is in the shade on the north side of the house), then the wind picked up and the temp began to drop.... Woke up to -18 at the "big airport" (where official records are now kept) and -14 at the house, with temps a tad warmer at Sky Harbor (little airport) which is at the same elevation as my running route. Winds gusting to near 30 mph from the west. We shall not discuss windchills, but they were in the -40's, so I hear.

What to wear to protect my face? My last run with nasty winds my cheeks were getting 'nipped' and any efforts to pull my neck gaiter over my face resulted in me feeling as if I was suffocating. Last night Jon suggested I get the hood off of my old down coat. Perfect solution. It zips off, the bottom has a velcro piece that is at least 3 inches wide, and there are - gasp - hood strings - so that it can be cinched down. I wish I had brought a camera along! I am sure I reached some kind of fashion height with my outfit. Umm, did I mention this is a rather puffy coat? Yeah. Held it all in place with the aforementioned neck gaiter and topped it off with my LL Bean pullover windbreaker (forget what they call it - mountain anorak maybe). Had my usual layers underneath, though added another pair of winter-weight tights (though lighter than my sporthills) to the mix, topped off with windpants. Even managed to shave some time off my usual pace for this distance - despite the layers. Warm and toasty the whole time, even had to vent the hood while running back into the wind.

Huge change from the run on Friday! I was wearing the minimal winter gear for temps below freezing, and ended up shedding one layer of mittens early on. I am building mileage for a race in May, so am committed to doing some long runs on the weekend. The forecast was not pretty for Saturday so I opted to get my 7 miles in Friday afternoon. I had plotted a course that was about half roads, half trails and included lots of hills (the goal race is very hilly) and started at my front yard. Then Jon called and suggested I just run down to the airport and he would give me a ride home. Hmmm. Got on gmaps.pedometer and started looking at route options. Easiest was to leave home and run to the airport. Worst thing about that route: first mile is downhill. You pretty much lose 500 - 600 feet in less than a mile. Yeah, I live just about at the highpoint of the ridgeline in Duluth, Sky Harbor is on Park Point, just about at lake level.

I took this as an opportunity to put the heart rate monitor on and try to run a nice easy run. Did pretty well, though what feels easy to me still has my heart rate up in the mid-to-upper 160's. One of these days I will take the time to figure out my true max heart rate. I think it is a bit higher than the 173-178 that the formula's predict. Other than the hill, the next worst part of this run is that it is flat for the next 6 miles. I considered bringing along a cd player, then discovered the headphones had been borrowed. Well, lots of time to think and listen to the world around me.

One thing I noticed as I ran the roads - truckers gave me the widest clearance, young people, especially young women, seemed to be oblivious to my presence on the road. I could touch their cars if I had reached out, and I am short! I like the idea of encouraging drivers to give pedestrians and bicyclist "three feet" (http://bikingduluth.blogspot.com/). Most often there was not traffic in the oncoming lane, so no reason to be so close.

Not much to see in the way of wildlife - some rock pigeons perched on the powerlines along Railroad Street and a bald eagle (they seem to be around a lot this year).

On the knitting front:

Bird mittens languishing in their bag; scarf has taken a back seat to a healing shawl, because I can work on it while reading and I wanted to break into the Quarry from Knitpicks. Finally got the right needles and stitch count for this. Still no idea who the recipient is to be. I am sure by the time I am finished that will become obvious - usually does.

Entertainment for the day:

Freeze drying my running clothes.

I try not to put my technical fabric stuff in the dryer and our basement is way too cold to get stuff to dry in any type of reasonable time frame. Seems odd that hanging it out on a below zero day would dry it faster, but it does. Gets rid of a lot of moisture, so that the clothes are only damp once they thaw out. Almost didn't need clothes pins today, the stuff was freezing as I walked out the door. Had to be pried off this evening.

Stay warm!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Not going to jinx it this time


Once again, nice weather on the weekend. Low to mid twenties in the morning, cloudy, tending towards fog, barely any wind. But I will not mention how nice it is to run in conditions like this. Look what happened last time!

So far, so good with the training. Legs holding up, energy holding up, even with the addition of soccer on Sunday afternoons. Did cut back on the length of the Sunday run to accomodate the running during soccer.

Tried using my heart rate monitor to slow myself down today. I tend to go out and run the same pace for every run. According to the books, you should vary it a bit. So the plan for now is that at least my Sunday runs will be done at a low intensity. I tried to bring Porter along today to keep me at an easy pace - he walked out the front door with me (rather reluctantly) then sat down in the yard, looked up the hill to where the SHT is, looked at me, looked back up at the trail.... the message was clear - he stayed home and I headed to the Lakewalk.

With no wind, ice is able to form on the lake. It is interesting to watch the patterns in the ice. Often very geometrical, highlighted by the dusting of snow we received yesterday.

On the knitting front:

Lace scarf coming along well, have about 20 inches done with plenty of yarn left. Hard to work on while I read though, so have of course casted on another project that is a bit more mindless.

I broke into the box from Knitpicks (yes, it finally arrived, right after I left for work - on the night I had to work until 8:30 pm; twitch, twitch) and pulled out a skein of Quarry (75% Superfine alpaca. 20% peruvian wool, 5% nylon) and cast on for a healing/prayer shawl. It took me a few tries to find the right number of stitches to cast on so it would end up being wide enough. Not sure who this is meant for... yet. I have missed working on these, they are a very satisfying project on many levels. Plush this yarn is - so far - very pleasant to work with.

Just a reminder that in only three months we will be seeing things like this again:



Large-flowered trillium on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) in Duluth

A little past its prime, but beautiful nontheless.

Enjoy the returning light!