Saturday, March 29, 2008

Temptation got the best of me...

The KnitPicks Gloss won. I gave in. But, really I had to, it wasn't my fault! The only knitting I have available requires charts and concentration. Lots of both. What tipped me over the edge was a bus ride home on Thursday. Idle hands and all that. Plus I seem to have lost one of my silky-wool mittens (favorites for running) and need a replacement. The washer, dryer or someones clothing "ate" one of the mittens (oh yeah, if I have not mentioned this before, Elsbeth Lavold silky-wool does just fine in the laundry).

So, the Gloss got wound into a center pull ball Thursday night (Thanks Jon for holding the yarn!) and a pair of mittens was cast on. This stuff is NICE!!! Soft, soft, soft. It is almost a shame to think of what use it will end up being put to (mittens double as kleenex on the run, which is why soft mittens are especially nice).

I promise not to forget the Bird Mittens entirely. I have cast on and started the cuff of the second one, really I have. They just aren't very portable and I needed a portable project.

Needle review:

I have been using the KnitPicks wooden double-points while working on the mittens. Size 0's for the Bird Mittens and Size 1(2.25mm) for the Gloss. Very nice. So far I haven't snapped one. Interesting flavor. Knitting needles have flavor!? These do. I'll call it "Taste of India". Not sure what I am tasting: the wood; the stuff used to laminate it, or the oil used to finish the needles. Kindof spicy though. The reason I know is that needles occasionally end up in my mouth when I need to set one aside for a second (my hair is not long enough to stash a needle in). The colors of the needles are a nice too: natural, purple and green in my set.

On the running front:

Temps are much warmer now, started a run in the mid-20's, ended it near 40 degrees F. Strong wind blowing from the south-east to south. Big improvement over many of my runs this winter. Today my schedule said to run 14 miles.

Normally on Saturdays I meet a group in Proctor and run 5 miles, then get breakfast. With my long runs needing to happen on Saturdays I have been either arriving early and doing some extra miles or - my favorite - getting dropped off in Proctor, running the loop with my friends and then running home, tacking on additional miles as needed.

I had mapped out a route home that would be 9 miles long, ending above my house with a nice cool-down walk to the house on the Superior Hiking Trail ( Then I found out my trusty driver would be unavailable. Hmmm. I didn't want to leave my car in Proctor all day, so I started looking at my options.

I am not a huge fan of multiple loop courses (easily bored), but that was what I resigned myself to doing. I sat down with gmaps-pedometer and figured out how to cut the five mile loop into four miles. Sounds easy, but Proctor is fairly rural and the "blocks" can be a mile long. Three loops would end up giving me a 14.2 mile run. Nice and hilly too! Exactly what I need for the upcoming race.

To break things up I ran the second loop in reverse. Interesting perspective. You never really notice the gradual descents until you run them in reverse ;-> It was nice to have company the first five miles, the second five were taken up with the novelty of seeing all the hills in reverse, and the third loop... well, lets just say I concentrated on form a lot.

Remember the wind? I ended my run with over a mile into the wind. Uphill. Lets just say the split for the third loop, not so impressive. I had run the second loop in the exact same time as the first, so was optimistic about finishing in around 2:10. I finished in 2:15. Not bad really for a long training run. Last week I ran 12.5 in 2:00. I did take a break between the second and third loops to drink some juice and water. It was a nice change to run without a lumbar pack - one huge benefit of multiple loop courses.

I have reached the point in my long runs where I need to get fuel into me while running. I have not figured out what I should try yet, hence the juice. I need to find out what the race will be serving as far as electrolyte replacement and give it a try on my long runs to be sure I can tolerate it, otherwise I will need to bring my own. Generally I have done all of my longer runs without eating (and it may be showing). I have a little over a month to experiment with food and drink before the race. I am expecting to be out on the course for around 4 hours. Depending on who you read/talk to, that is long enough to require some fuel intake.

Any thoughts?

Monday, March 24, 2008

I am fighting...

the urge to start a new project (with the Knitpicks Gloss) rather than finishing up the mittens for Sarah. She is starting to wonder if there will ever be a pair or, really, if they will be finished before summer. Good thing we live in northern Minnesota next to nature's icebox!

I had this idea that I would snap a picture of the mittens I am making so you all (okay - really my one loyal reader) could see my progress. Then I attempted to slice the tip of my thumb off. Not on purpose, mind you; and not so badly that stitches are needed (though I may have thought about applying them myself after the amount of money I - a healthy person - have spent on healthcare this year alone).

Lesson: brand new, really good bread knives are overkill for dinner rolls!

So, no pictures for right now. I did discover as I worked my way up the thumb tonight that I should have looked at the originals more closely. I was just about to start the second bird. Unlike the pattern, I have only one bird on each thumb. The bird on the right-hand thumb faces left and vice versa. Out came three rows of 28 sts each (not quite sure how many stitches to the inch I am getting right now - but you can probably guess that it is close to double digits as I have small hands) and I picked up all those stitches and started incorporating the needed decreases for the top of the thumb.

In the process I did finally get the new wooden knitpicks needles out and in use. Very nice! So far they are holding up well (tempting the knitting gods and goddesses by saying that). I am using the size 0's BTW.

Tonight I worked on the mittens while listening to Sarah's harp lesson. The thought crossed my mind that listening to Celtic music on a Scottish harp is a nice way to spend a half hour knitting Fair Isle ( well, in this case Norwegian-inspired stranded knitting). Need to get her to practice harp more when I have time to knit.

The pressure is on for me to get off the computer so that the modem can travel to another computer.

I promise pictures will appear soon.

Spring Watch: last Thursday (3/20/08) pussy willows spotted along the snowmobile trail I was running on; broke through the snow and ice into water - brrr - on the same run; cardinals are singing; eagles are all over the place as are the deer and rabbits (grrrr); grass is greening up when the snow isn't covering it; ice is accumulating on the sidewalk and steps overnight; and I have heard the sap is starting to run. Can't be long until the tulips and crocuses start emerging.

Training update: 12.5 miles in 2 hours. Heartrate in the 65 - 75% zone for at least half of the run. Pretty good with the hills that were involved. No walking!!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Consistency pays off

First race of the season: 5k; 25:02; good for 2nd place in my age group ( F 40 - 49 yoa).

I have run in this race off and on for many years. It used to be held in December and then was moved to March to coincide with the Fitgers Bockfest. Unfortunately, this weekend seems to be a popular one for events in the Duluth area and I have had to miss the last few races due to other obligations. Glad to be back! Need to thank my running buddies for getting me out the door this year so regularly as it certainly paid off today. It has been many years since I have run so well in a race.

I have spent everyday since Tuesday coughing, so am happy I could do so well. Don't think I have the virus that has been going around, attributing it to an unfortunate exposure to allergens Tuesday night and an asthma flare. Other than the cough and some fatigue I have been feeling fine, running hasn't made it worse, so can't be illness, right? Am going to forgo the long run scheduled for today as I got in half the distance already and figure a race effort counts for the rest (runners - we can rationalize anything).

Oh yeah, race conditions: 30 F (or so) at the start, overcast, wind from the north/northeast, with the sun emerging mid-race and a finish with the wind at my back. Lakewalk completely clear of ice, so footing was excellent. Thank you race volunteers!!!

On the knitting front:


Lace scarf -just need to weave in the ends and block. It will be donated to the Superior Hiking Trail Association for the Silent Auction at their annual meeting.

Healing Shawl - again, ends to be woven in, no blocking needed. I think I know who it is going to finally, wished I could have finished it a bit sooner but this week has not been good for getting things done.

Bird mittens are now calling my name. The need to follow a chart is the only barrier to their completion. I have a long drive ahead of me tomorrow and a kid with a permit, so there may be time.... that is if the Gloss does not get wound up into balls today and joins in with the new needles to insist on being knit up.

I am starting to see a lot of green around the house. The snow has been melting rapidly from our southeast facing sloped yard. Makes for tricky walking in the morning - all the meltwalter finds our sidewalk the perfect route down the hill - but it is nice to see bits of green again. It will be interesting to see when the first green shoot appears. Will it be the chives at the front of the house? The tulips or daffodils in the gardens? I don't have any spring crocuses, but the autumn ones usually send their greens up pretty early. Depending on how the melt goes there may be scilla blooming within a month.

Of course the melt doesn't just expose new greenery. Time to clean up the yard. Amazing what got buried in the first snowfall and then forgotten - or what has been deposited and covered up ;->

Get out and enjoy the nice weather and sunshine while it lasts!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Plan was to run 10 miles today.

Reality: 10.7 (give or take .1 or so).

Route: 5 miles in Proctor (usual loop with the Saturday crew) in 47 minutes, then after a quick stop to use the facilities I headed home via the roads and a snowmobile trail.

Wore my heart rate monitor, set it so it would beep if I went outside of a certain range. My goal was to keep my pace within the 65-75% range. I did pretty well. 71 minutes out of 109 were "in the zone'. Hills were the main reason for getting my heart rate up, topping off at 177 bpm (note, according to many formulas that exceeds the maximum heart rate for someone my age, but as I was not sucking wind at any time I think the formula isn't right for me. I use 203 as my max.)

Close to 4 miles of the run were on a snowmobile trail. The surface was great. Firm (not much snow lately, well-packed), with just a dusting of fluff in spots to add a bit of cushion. The last .5 miles or so was on the SHT near my house. I hit 10 miles and felt like I could do more so opted for the trail home vs running even more downhills on the pavement.

As I hit the snowmobile trail the only tracks I saw (other than snowmobiles) were from a fox. Looked like there may have been more than one fox even. I didn't see any signs of humans on the trail for quite a while. A raven passed overhead. The chickadees were very active. The benefit of trails and the slower pace is the opportunity to look around.

Oh yeah, temperature at start: 5 degrees F (-15 C).
Temperature when I arrived home: 19 F (-7 C)

Winds were quite light, though brisk when they did hit. I picked the layers right today and carried a lumbar pack so that I had someplace to put the shedded layers. The worsted weight mitts went quickly, within the first couple of miles. Depending on the direction I was headed the top layer of long-sleeved fleece got zipped down or up. I did end up shedding the base layer mitts for a while, then putting them back on (wind). By the time I had gone 7 miles or so I had peeled the long-sleeve fleece down and was running with my base-layer unzipped.

When I got home I pulled an adirondack chair out of the snow by the sauna, placed it in a sunny spot on the back porch and did my post race "stretch" (slouched in the chair, legs propped on the railing). Gotta love the sun when it comes back in the spring!!

This is the first time that I have done a long run and ended it feeling like I could have done more. Not that many weeks ago I had to do 7 miles and it was tough near the end. Funny how training does have an effect ;->

I think using the heart rate monitor to keep me at an easy pace may be the key. Average pace for the whole run was a bit over 10 minutes/mile. I will take that, especially with the hills on the last 4 miles.

Knitting update: spent some time working on the Healing shawl today, and for the last few days. Have worked a few rows on the scarf. Still no real inspiration for the merino/silk blend yarn, so less temptation to cast it on. Bird mittens are languishing. I probably should get a book on CD or something to fire me up about finishing those.

While the sun is still shining I think I will head outside to get Porter some exercise. Current temperature: 29 degrees F (-1 C)

Enjoy the sun while it lasts! Tomorrow sounds like a wet, gray day.