Aurora

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The beauty of nature is something that always catches my eye and my mind.  In Alaska we seem to appreciate all that the outdoors is offering us.  Not too much cement and tall buildings…Not too much workaholic attitudes…If you live in Alaska and have stayed year after year, chances are you have something that you love to do that takes you outside and into the wide open spaces where your mind can be clear, your attitude cranked to high and a sense that we are but a small dot on this earthly realm.  Every day is to be appreciated.

Positivity

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For the skeptic in us it is hard to believe that simply feeling good, free and confident within, will bring about the changes we desire in our circumstances, yet this is how creation has always worked. It goes “wrong” only when we lose track of our alignment–our feelings of freedom and joy–by excessive focus on the (negative) state of our circumstances. If we stay true to how we prefer to feel by focusing on the things that excite us, we will see drastic improvements in our circumstances that very same day!
Bentinho Massaro

There is always a silver lining.  🙂

 

Being Sunny

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Today I was sitting in front of my computer and a dark picture came up that I couldn’t see very well.  In looking closely I got a clear reflection of my face looking back at me in my computer screen.  YIKES!! Is that the face that I am portraying to the world?  My brow was furrowed (well, my brow is always furrowed at my age!) my mouth was downturned and I looked very very sad.  I was actually looking a bit like my 90+ year old mother.  With my deep set eyes and very little in the way of an eyebrow, my “natural” face is not a happy face.  I don’t do big smiles because I’ve always been conscious about my crooked ugly teeth.  Many people have that look that you always think they are happy.  Big smiles, but even when they don’t smile, their face looks happy.  Not me.  My face looks sad.  And it’s not that I AM sad.  I’m quite the happy person.  But the face that was looking back at me made me realize that it is the face that I present to the world.

I remember many years ago I was swimming at the local recreation center.  A little girl walked into the pool area with her mother as I was walking out.  I heard her ask her mother “why is that woman so sad?”  When I don’t think about my face, it naturally goes into its normal look of unhappiness.

So, here’s to cheering up outwardly!  Let that sun shine through.  I can do it.

 

Happy New Year

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Happy 2016.  The light is shining, the aurora is dancing.  Life is zipping by much too quickly on our rotating planet we call home. Soul bearing, new ideas, old traits to be thrown out of the orbit…..while entropy has been reigning I’m charging down the path to order and writing.  Come along on my new journey.

Living the great life.

I am a very fortunate person.  I was worried when I quit my other job that no one would want to hire a “middle aged” woman.  So glad that I was wrong.  My trips are fun, exciting and rewarding.

An Alaskan Adventure-Ice Road Trucking Under the Northern Lights.  by Jo Piazza

 

Changes in life

I’ve started a new job.  Yep.  Doesn’t matter at what age a person is, if you have a desire to do something different then just DO IT!

It took me a long time to quit my old job.  I’ve had many professions in my lifetime from chemist to school teacher…from maid to waitress.  I’ve always loved waitressing.  I worked my way through college as a waitress and always went back to waiting tables between jobs or during summers in Alaska.  My last waitress job stretched over nearly 11 years.  I loved the flexibility, the chance to make my own schedule, the ability to take a day off when I needed to as long as I found another waitperson to take my place (very easy as waitpeople are a super hard working segment of society often supporting children and working other jobs) and the fast paced action.

I was never hungry and always walked out of work with at least some money in my pocket.  But waiting tables is very physically demanding.  It usually cut into my ability to run, bike, hike, do things with my dogs or ski simply because I was often just too tired after a hectic shift to be able to get MORE exercise.  Most waitpeople are in great physical shape.

So when my wrist finally gave out with severe tendinitis from carrying too many heavy trays around I quit last fall.

This spring as I was looking for jobs I spied something that I wasn’t sure I would be hired for.  I’m now in training for my CDL to drive a 25 passenger coach up and down the Dalton Highway giving guests to Alaska a wonderful memory of our state.  I had some trepidation that my age might be a hinderance, but it was almost the opposite.  With 29 years in Alaska and my many experiences I was welcomed into the fold of the tour company.  There are many women drivers and many drivers that are retired doing this for the summer.

It is great fun learning something so totally different.  Studying for the written CDL tests (I had to take 3 of them) took a lot of my time and brought my brain back to life.  Now starting to drive is both challenging and exhilarating.  It is going to take a lot of hours behind the wheel and success isn’t guaranteed but I’m working hard at it and hope to finish the course by the end of May.

 

Tallahassee Half Marathon and Marathon

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My good friend Jane is running an under 4 hour marathon in every state.  We had been looking for someplace to run in the lower 48 and she didn’t have Florida yet and the date fit, so we signed up.  I had originally signed up for the marathon also but switched to the half a couple of weeks before we left.  I have been doing a lot of skiing, core classes and overall outdoor activities, but not a lot of running.

We arrived after the snow and very cold weather down there but it never did get “hot” like we were expecting in Florida.  It was fortunate for us though, leaving below 0 temperatures and snow to run on pavement in humidity.

The day of the race was super foggy with humidity that hung in the air and coated everything with moisture.  We actually thought it had rained over night!  The temp was an even 60 degrees the whole race.  Perfect for shorts and t shirts but not so hot that our cold weather bodies complained.

Tallahassee puts on a great race.  Extremely well organized with every detail taken care of.  The course started on the Florida State campus, headed out to the roads for a short piece and then traveled the rest of the way on the St. Marks Historic Trail.  It was quite flat with a few tiny rolls that you barely noticed but the guy in the wheelchair race (marathon) did.  After 7 miles the half marathoners turned around to re-trace back to the start.  The marathoners continued down the trail and turned around for their complete out and back.

As I was nearing the half turn around I noticed a woman running quite fast coming back.  It struck me that she had a marathon number on (marathoners wore black, while half’s wore white numbers).  Didn’t find out until after the finish that she was the runner supposed to win (from Russia) and she inadvertently turned with the half marathoners.  Bummer for her.

I didn’t expect a lot of this race.  With only 15 miles of running in January and all of that on snow and trails I figured I would be fairly slow.  I started out quicker than I wanted to but tried to hold that pace and was able to for the whole 13.1 miles. (13.26 on my Garmin).  Although not blazingly fast, I guess keeping steady and being “older” puts me near the top of my age group.  I was 2nd overall out of 12 in my group but the woman in front of me ended up winning the grandmasters award (a ceramic hand made platter) so that bumped me to the first place award in my category. A very pretty handmade ceramic mug.

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The story of our trip though was Jane.  She is a speedy over 50 gal and she had a good race.  She was first in her age group, first grand masters and ran a 3:39.  She got one of the platters as an award.

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Probably my only complaint about the area though was the trash.  We flew into Jacksonville and took the interstate to Tallahassee.  I have rarely seen that much trash along the roads.  During the race, along this beautiful paved bike path, the trash was everywhere.  We are used to Alaska roads, where there are many community organizations that clean up.  The only time we see a lot of trash is for a week or so in the spring when all the snow melts and before clean up day.

It was like people just didn’t see what lay on the ground around them.  Even behind our hotel, along the edge of the woods there was a lot of trash.  I didn’t understand why employees from the hotel weren’t responsible for keeping it clean.  It was puzzling to me, for it is such a pretty area and to be so littered.  Just sad.

After the race Jane and I had a full day to sight see.  Wow…Wakulla Springs was the first stop.  A boat trip with very few people on it, took us down the St. Marks River to see the flora and fauna. Wow.  Black vultures, alligators, cormorants, wood ducks, herons, ibis and an osprey were among the birds and animals we saw.

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To top it off we got to see a Manatee.

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Next stop was St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

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It was a very foggy day but we had a great time walking around the trails.  I didn’t know there was cacti in Florida!

Overall, a very fun trip.  Successful in the running realm and good time with a good friend.

Grooming trails

With the long winters in Fairbanks you have to love something outdoors in order to survive (and thrive) in the interior of Alaska.  We have had great snow this year and one of our favorite winter sports is to skijor with our dogs.  I am on the grooming committee for Creamers field wildlife refuge.  It is a glorious place to ski, skijor, snowshoe, winter bike, hike, run…..The skijor club keeps the trails off College Road groomed all winter.  Several different loops and their connections to the Alaska Dog Mushers Association trails can add up to over 20 miles of skiable trails.

I groomed this morning just as the sun was coming up casting shadowy light upon the trails.  After grooming Don and I took the dogs for their first skijor of 2014.  We had 9 dogs today and all did well.

Here are a couple of pictures from grooming this morning.

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Warmth fog and slush

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Decided to do a run today with a possible unknown distance.  Don and our neighbors Beth and Constantine drove up Ester Dome Road to the single track trail.  I started running from home and asked Don to pick me up in the car on his way back.

Well, things didn’t quite work out the way any of us thought.  To start with, it was very warm.  30 above.  And foggy.  The picture above is from the flat spot up Henderson Road where you can look out over Fairbanks and usually see for miles.  Couldn’t see anything today!  I continued to run up Henderson towards Ester Dome Road.  And here comes the 3 single-trackers and 2 dogs (Laya and Yuri) down Henderson.  They said the single track was too soft and made for hard running so they headed up ED road and down Henderson.

We stopped for a quick chat then all went our separate ways.  Them down….me up.

Ran down Ester Dome Road (which was punchy and almost slushy) to St. Patricks.  This is a gradual uphill past the old mine sites back to Henderson.

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I’ve never climbed this tower, but it is on my list to do one day!

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Here come the 3 runners and I snap a quick picture.  They are heading down St. Pats and will run back up to their car.  In the meantime, I decided I was feeling good enough to finish the loop so continued on.

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I love this spot on St. Patricks.  There is a metal dog nailed to a tree.  If I run with Beth and Constantine and their 2 dogs, Yuri always gives this silent pup a “talking to” and makes sure the dog stays on the tree.  Always cute.

Headed home with a short detour for a bit of extra mileage.  A good run and nice day to be out.  8.6 miles.

 

Winter running

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I love winter running.  It can be as challenging or relaxing as you choose.  Mine are usually a mix of both.  Yesterday the 4 girls (Ivy, Blackberry, Misty, Pixel) took me around the “boat loop.”  It is a trail from our house down into the valley in a lollipop loop. The trail from the house to the “main” trail was punchy and uneven and nearly impossible to get any sort of running stride going.  But once I hit the power line and the “pop” part of the loop the trail is groomed.  This is a new occurrence in our neighborhood.  This trail used to be frequented only by dog mushers, skiers and hikers.  We rarely saw anyone on the trails so good to free run the girls.  But now it is being groomed, mainly for fat cyclists, and the trail is much wider and harder packed.  So, in one respect I mourn the chunky uneven trail that no one uses, but with the grooming it is harder packed, makes for easier running and the dogs love it.

We were lucky we didn’t see anyone yesterday.  Usually when we go through the week the trail is used a lot less.  But weekends now are seeing races and increasing amounts of traffic on this trail.  Progress……

We were having another one of our global warming weather change-up days.  High 20’s and rain.  This used to be a rare occurrence in Fairbanks in the winter time but the past several years have seen warmer temps and sleet. Terrible.

So as I ran along with the rain drops splattering my light jacket I remembered my runs in the minus numbers.  -20 -30, even -40’s doesn’t keep us inside.  I much prefer the cold temperatures to this warm rain in December. Although Pixel, the little black pointer mix with a very short coat, loves the warmth.

4.6 miles later we are back home.  Sweat clinging to my hair, pants wet, shoes damp…..sigh.  Fairbanks snow is usually so very dry that you can live all winter in your running shoes and they are never wet.

Looking ahead, the temps are going to be back to seasonal with highs in the single digits.  Looking forward to this!