Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday's are for running to work

And today I remembered to bring a camera, and to leave early enough to be able to use it!

Temperature when I left my house: -10 F. No real wind to speak of. In the first mile I gained about 200 feet in elevation, then gradually crept up another 100 feet or so before descending over 600 feet on my way back down the hillside and to my place of employment. Total distance: 4.1 miles.

Sunrise over Lake Superior and the St. Louis River estuary

Aspen and birch lit up by the rising sun - hillside above Skyline Boulevard

40th Ave W., just before the first hairpin turn on the descent into West Duluth.
I work in the neighborhood at the base of this hill.

Hillside above 40th Ave W. Ridgeline in the distance is home to a section of the SHT,
plateau in the foreground is Skyline Boulevard.

Looking back up 40th Ave. W.
At work - just a little frosty around the edges!

I was thinking it would be neat to see what other bloggers commutes look like. Care to share?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Packs - old and new

An old favorite:
REI Half Dome

This pack has served me well for many years. Hauling books and miscellaneous stuff while I was in nursing school (and those books weigh a lot!). Knocking around in the woods on many day hikes (both for work and pleasure), and being a great pack for commuting and/or long runs. It fits snugly, holds quite a bit of stuff, has straps that allow for tightening down loads to minimize bounce, has a sleeve for a hydration bladder and has accessible pockets on the sides. Every Thursday morning you can see it strapped to my back as I run to work (especially in the winter when I need to haul a warm coat for the commute home). It has been a great addition to my backpack line-up, so I was a bit saddened to see that REI no longer carries them. Too bad as I have been recommending it to friends.

A new pack entered my life today:

This arrived today and I am very excited to give it a try! For full disclosure, I am on a team that is sponsored by Nathan - Team Mega Tough - and we were allowed to chose one product for free. Seeing as I am focusing on ultras, and live in an area where it is winter longer than it is not, it only made sense to investigate their extreme weather hydration pack. I am looking forward to putting this through its paces and will let you all know how it holds up to the weather northern Minnesota can dish out.

Team Mega Tough is made up, primarily, of the group of women that I ran the Great River Ragnar Relay with this past August. I am very honored to be included on this team and often wonder why as I am not very fast, relatively speaking. One thing that I bring to the team (or so I am told) is inspiration. I am by far the oldest member and I think many of these women (and maybe others who read the teams blog?) have not envisioned themselves remaining so physically active when they hit their 40's.

Yes, you can achieve some pretty amazing things as a "masters" runner. More importantly, what is amazing for one person may look very different for another, as we each come from very different places.

2009 was a year of exploring my limits and finding out what I am capable of as an athlete. I ran 400+ more miles than I had ever run before, completed two 50K trail races (two weeks apart) and competed in my first 24 hour relay. On top of that I set PR's at several distances (5K, 10K, marathon and 50K).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Blocking of Icarus

And it only took me 3.25 years! The pattern for this shawl appeared in the Summer 2006 Interweave Knits. Apparently in the midst of senior year finals, studying for my RN boards and interviewing for jobs I decided a complicated lace pattern was just the ticket for relaxation ;->

Now, I love to knit lace. Scarves and shawls especially. Why? Can't answer that. To top it all off I rarely have occasion to wear shawls, and yet I have four. This shawl was knit from some lace weight yarn (70% lambswool/30% angora; 1125 yards/5 ozs) gifted to me by a friend.

Pre-blocking photo:

The first step in blocking is to soak the item thoroughly. I added a touch of soap to ensure the shawl was clean:

soaking the shawl in the kitchen sink

Dr. Bronners - it truly is an all-purpose soap!

After soaking and rinsing the shawl I rolled it in a towel

and stood on it for awhile to get most
of the water out. From there it was upstairs to the spare room and the blocking mat and wires.

This is a triangular shaped shawl with many points along the lower edges. I started by threading the wires along the top edge, utilizing the holes in the edging:

This would give me a firm edge to work from. Next I pinned out the corners:

homemade t-square to ensure straight edges and a symmetrical shape

From there I placed pins all along the top edge and then started pinning out the sides

notice how the pattern is already starting to open up?

A close-up of the lace pattern pre-blocking:

Each point needs to be pinned out which eventually will create a lovely scalloped border and opens up the "feathers".
lots of pins were utilized, along with the t-square

one edge finished
I alternated sides while pinning - working on segments to even out tension on the shawl. Once I was finished it was time to step back, look at the overall piece and adjust as needed before leaving it to dry.
post-blocking look at the pattern and the whole shawl

Finished dimensions are approximately 66" by 36".

It is amazing what long-neglected projects get taken care of when the weather is less than lovely (current conditions: snow and 36 degrees = wet and sloppy, with a layer of ice underlaying it all).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pattern for "Runner's Hat"

So - hoping this works out as the technology is new to me. Due to the knitter's font I used to make the chart I couldn't just cut and past this pattern into the blog - it would have ended up looking like a bunch of a's and O's and would have been a bit hard to decipher. Instead I have created a jpeg. If you click on the image it will open up like a photo, from there you should be able to print it.

I am about to embark on test knitting this pattern in it's newly revised form (more stitches to accommodate the typical adult head vs my slightly smaller than average head), using some shetland fingering weight I had in natural sheep colors. Had to wind this yarn off of a couple of cones I had stashed away.

I make no promises that there are not mistakes in the pattern at this point and will post any errata I discover. Feel free to use the pattern as you like, just remember to credit the creator!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Night Ramblings

Sitting here after finishing a meal of home-made pizza (store-bought crust, brushed with olive oil and piled with sliced fennel bulb, garlic and mozzarella), sipping on a pint of homebrew
while I digest my meal and work on a pair of socks before heading out to the sauna for a good "bake".

Reflecting on my fortunes - small as they may seem by some folks' standards, pretty big by others.

2010 is off to a good start and I am slowly planning out the year. Contemplating vacations to Isle Royale, mapping out the races I would like to get to, carving out time to spend with family and friends, thinking about ways to improve my knowledge related to work (the 2 year clock is ticking on CME's) and mulling over potential knitting projects and who to gift them to.

I have been doing a better job than ever maintaining my running mileage - though this weekend's predicted weather may put that to the test! I am way ahead of where I have been in past years at this time with a long run in the 13 mile range. Last weekend I attended the start of the Northwoods Snowshoe Marathon then ran from Lester Park uphill to Skyline Boulevard and home. It was a great test of fitness as the first three miles involved a 450+ foot climb and the mix of snowmobile trail and roads gave me no real excuses to walk. The only breaks I took were at stoplights and I was thrilled with the amount of time it took to get home. Of course, I had a bit of a deadline hanging over my head so it motivated me to push a bit harder than I would have otherwise.

Soccer has also started so I am following my Saturday long runs with anywhere from 45 - 90 minutes of sprinting about a gym floor on Sunday evenings. Soccer is a contact sport (I have heard some argue it is a blood sport) and I had stopped playing in the summer and fall due to fear of injury (in the past I have taken a nasty blow to a flexed quad = inability to straighten my leg for some time). The indoor league is a fast game and I enjoy the opportunity to get in a "speed workout" in a game environment. Besides, the flying elbows and legs kind of remind me of some race starts ;->

This past week I finally ventured out on my cross-country skis even though it involved the use of some pretty sticky kick wax. It was a fun slip and slide around the local trail even though I spent way too much time falling on the first loop. Luckily my body seemed to remember what it was doing for the second loop and I stayed atop my skis - for the most part.

Yesterday - being Thursday - I ran to work. This time I took a slightly longer route via Skyline Boulevard (it stretches the length of Duluth) and was rewarded for the climb by an incredible sunrise over Lake Superior which lit up the trees on the hillside. The majority of my commute took place surrounded by woods so I was bathed in the golden glow and protected from the wind. By the time I hit the .86 mile descent to the neighborhood I work in I was grinning like a fool - a sight to see for the commuters trapped in their cars headed up the hill. I think I even caught one or two of them smiling back.

Not sure if I have stated my race plans for 2010 yet, but since I can't readily lay my hands on a post that spells them out here they are:

April - Trail Mix 25K
May - Superior 50K
June - Knife River Solstice 5K
July - Voyageur 50 mile (yes, I am making the leap into the abyss)
August - Marquette Trail 50K (possibly, still trying to decide)
October - Wild Duluth 50K

Would love to go back to Surf the Murph but I keep hearing rumors it may be moving earlier into October and Wild Duluth is the hometown race (and my first ever 50K) so will win out.

Of course mixed in there will be the NMTC Spring (late April to early June) and Fall (September to November) Series as well as one to two backpacking trips to Isle Royale.

Hopefully I am not being overly ambitious with my schedule.

And with that it is time to sauna....

Addendum: Sauna was 190+ degrees F. I lasted only two rounds and that was with copious applications of water to self (and some to the stove). Hot enough to melt the glue in magazines. But, not much can beat sitting in a chair in a snowbank, listening to the wind in the trees, gazing off into the distance with not a whole lot on the mind. The gift of sauna!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders

A worthy organization!

Thanks Yarn Harlot for the reminder of how we can be of help around the world and the power of a global community united by a common hobby:

Knitters Without Borders

Read through this page and then take a look at the total raised so far (and know that she is continuously updating the amount).

'Nuff said

Monday, January 04, 2010

"Runners Hat" aka a finished project!

A long time in coming but finally completed on New Years Eve - just in time for the 3rd Annual Barely Organized New Years Day Run.

Materials: Happy Feet Yarn(Plymouth Yarn Co., 90% superwash merino wool, 10% nylon); Sz O (2mm) 16" and double pointed needles. Glass head (for blocking ;->)
Gauge:  9.25 sts/inch in pattern blocked
Pattern: Wildknits original. Came up with the garter stitch edging by playing around with a "what if" idea and then really liking how it looked. The "runners" are a horizontal border pattern from Charts for Color Knitting by Alice Starmore (which I am so, so fortunate to own a copy of). It is a traditional Norwegian pattern. 
I am toying with posting the pattern on the blog, let me know if there is any interest. In an attempt to make replicating a design easier I have been forcing myself to actually write down patterns as I knit them. The next step will be typing it up, incorporating the knitter's font from Knitter's Magazine for the chart. Then not only will I have an electronic copy of the pattern, but it will be that much easier to share with others. It would be fairly easy to adapt this pattern to other gauges - just a matter of some time with a calculator and paper and pencil ( I realize not everyone has my love for tiny needles and fine yarn).

ORC (Obligatory Running Content):
Besides knitting I spent the long holiday weekend running - a lot. It was a bit nippy up here, but much warmer by the Lake then inland. Fortunately the winds were pretty calm and spending hours outdoors on a sunny day with friends was a good way to welcome in a new year. 

Friday was the 3rd Annual Barely Organized New Years Day Run. Preceding the official run and potluck Marcus, Wayne and I headed out for a long run on the SHT. The plan was to run east from Hartley Nature Center to Hawk's Ridge and then on to the Martin Rd and back. Due to the recent abundance of snow and then rain, the trail was "interesting". We alternated between running on packed trail, icy roads, and crusted snow. Some of the trail was excellent, other areas you would just get a rhythm going and then would post-hole through, usually resulting in a sudden change of pace. My shins took a beating! I think we managed 9 miles total and then it was back to the Nature Center to meet up with other runners for a run on the single-track trails. Due to the conditions we altered the route this year, opting for the Swamp Loop over the Guardrail Loop. This was a shorter loop which allowed us to climb Rock Knob near the end of the run for some great views over eastern Duluth and Lake Superior.

More photos from the run (the rest are on my Picasa site):

Goofing around in the subzero cold - can you spot the mountain biker in our midst?

Marcus wore the KSO's 

There is always one in the bunch who just has to see if their tongue will stick (and wouldn't you know it was the biker!)

We must not be too cold - our jackets are unzipped!

Saturday Wayne, Rick and I headed to Jay Cooke State Park and snowshoed for a bit. Again, there was a lot of crusty snow to break through but the trail was great on the way back! It was Rick's first time out on snowshoes and he did great! I, on the other hand, spent a lot of time face down in the snow. I have a pair of Ojibwa style wooden snowshoes and the tips would get caught under the crust from time to time providing a lot of comic entertainment. 

grouse prints in the snow 

The sunset on the hike out

Sunday it was time for another long run. This time Leslie joined Wayne and I and we headed west on the Piedmont snowmobile trail to Proctor. The trail was perfect! Firm, wide and with few snowmobiles (I hear there was a football game on). It was still cold, but with light winds and clear blue skies. Can't think of a better way to spend a couple of hours than with friends out in the woods!

Total miles for the weekend: 21. Pretty much matching or exceeding my weekly mileage for the past month or two.

All the fresh air, good food and time with family and friends was complemented by some quality time with my knitting needles. In addition to finishing the hat I cast on and completed the leg of a sock. I had noticed awhile back that my supply of handknit socks is getting a bit threadbare and decided it was time to remedy the situation. Besides, it is the perfect project to have on hand for reading books and whiling away those odd bits of time spent waiting.