I had a fun weekend "at home," a distinction that included traveling to San Francisco to visit my friend Monika. Monika and I were good friends in college. We even lived in the same house for more than a year. We've only gotten together a couple of times since I moved here, one of the sad truths of busy lives and the way social networking has replaced face time. But it is fun to get together with an old friend and interact as though the last decade never happened. Monika still remembers me as the naive Utah girl who embarked on daylong slickrock canyoneering adventures wearing jeans and Sketchers. I remember her as the funny Slovakian who was one of the only friends willing to join my more harebrained adventure ideas, such as climbing Mount Timpanogos in the middle of the night. We treat each other as though we were still the same vivacious 20-somethings, and it's fun.
Monika invited me to breakfast on Saturday morning and asked if I wanted to join her and her friends who were visiting from North Carolina for "this bluegrass festival." I pictured a small gathering in Golden Gate Park where I could lounge in a camp chair and chat with my friends. I honestly had no knowledge or concept of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a massive annual music festival that draws upwards of 750,000 people over three days. I didn't have any idea that I'd be pressed into a crowd near the stage during a Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard duo, or that I'd be dancing on the periphery during a Broke Social Scene set (one of my favorite indie rock bands), or giving up all hope and plopping down near several sketchy-looking men who launched into random, screaming rants during Gillian Welch. I used to be a big live music fan but realized some years back that I actually don't like feeling trapped by swarming masses of humanity. Now I've apparently fallen so far off the bandwagon that I wasn't even aware this huge free music festival was happening this weekend. It was a treat to experience, but exhausting. Monika would ply me for tips on how I could "run all day" and I would insist that ultrarunning was easier and less harrowing than waiting in line for the port-a-potty, which, between the four of us, we spent most of the day doing anyway.
Then we waited in line for the train. I saw the line of festival-goers at the train stop and asked my friends to consider walking home. They protested that Monika's house was "across town," which I knew in urban-speak basically meant five or six miles. The crowd grew and I tried begging, to no avail. We ended up waiting nearly an hour to be wedged in a train so full of bodies that I could feel two different strangers' breath on my neck, then had to catch a connector train that was similarly crowded and slow. It took us more than two hours to travel "across town." There are a lot of aspects of San Francisco that I appreciate. I like the cables strung over buildings like a crackling spider web. I like eating Guatemalan food at a heavily decorated storefront in the Mission district and almost feeling like I'd traveled to central America. But I'm glad I live farther away from the crowds, closer to more sweeping trails and even some small mountains, in the burbs — or, as the city people I met on Saturday put it, "Oh, wow, way down there" as though I lived in Mexico and not Los Altos. I guess if you're used to spending two hours using public transportation for a five-mile commute, then Los Altos would seem impossibly far.
Today it rained for the first time in a few months, a long-awaited weather event that I was thrilled about. I only had time for an hour-long run before dark, so I headed to Rancho, thinking I would do my usual five-mile loop. But I was running so strong up the PG&E trail that I decided to continue up to the top, a seriously steep four-mile climb, then launched down the other side of the ridge as rain pelted down. The trail was deliciously sticky, covered in a thick moon-dust paste that clung to my shoes, but it was worth it. I felt like I was running on the moon, light and fast without worrying whether my feet were going to slide into gravity's gravel purgatory after every step. At one point I looked down at my GPS and saw "holy cow sub-seven-minute mile!" so I picked up the pace even more. I still made it back before dark, just barely, having run nearly twice as far as I'd planned to run.
Just over two weeks ago, I was having dinner with friends in Fairbanks a few hours before heading to the airport. We were at a Thai restaurant with harsh lighting, and I was describing my exercise woes to friends I hadn't seen in a while. The quick explanation is: "I can't breathe when I exert myself, really, at all. It doesn't take much before I start gasping and become dizzy, and sometimes I have to sit down. I used to be able to run entire 50Ks with an average heart rate in the 160s, and now I rarely hit that number before I'm breathless." Corrine, who is a family doctor, looked over at me and said, "You know, your thyroid looks enlarged."
That set off a series of medical visits, and the latest was to an endocrinologist today. I'm very lucky to have good health insurance (thanks Beat!) and medical providers who sympathize with my desire to participate in the ITI, so they fast-tracked me through several tests ahead of the race. This much now …
I intend to write about my week-long trip to the Yukon, but something happened on my "commute" back to Anchorage via Skagway and Juneau, and it's cathartic to write about it. I've written a series of posts about conversations with Thunder Mountain in Juneau, now spread across seven and a half years. You can read the first four parts here: Part one, part two, part three, part four.
The Piper Navajo bucks violently amid swirling flurries, just a few thousand feet over the Lynn Canal. It's just me and one other passenger, and the pilot of course, in this eight-seat airplane. After spending the past week in Whitehorse, work schedules prevented me from driving back to Alaska with my friends. This is my convoluted commute — Canadian friends shuttled me over White Pass to Skagway, where we enjoyed smoothies and a walked around the mostly shuttered tourism town. This small plane will take me to Juneau. I'll catch a jet to Anchorage tomorrow. I had been looking forwa…
One of the reasons we moved from California to Colorado was to live among winter again — to sit by a wood stove and sip hot chocolate, watch snow fall outside the window, and justify having a sauna in our back yard. In eight months, Colorado has given us little tastes — May snowfall and October cold. But today was probably the first day of "real" winter — several inches of new snow fell as overnight temperatures dipped below zero. In the spirit of the "nearly wordless Wednesday" blogging tradition, this is a photo post.
Early morning light filters through fog over the backyard.
Weather station shows 0.9 degrees.
Beat begins his morning commute to work. It proved tougher than he anticipated.
A few hours later, I set out for an afternoon ride. Temperatures had warmed to a balmy 5.4 degrees.