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Showing posts from September, 2012

The many years of Arctic Glass

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As blogs go, "Jill Outside" formerly "Up in Alaska" url "Arctic Glass" is beyond ancient. On November 3, it will turn seven years old. With the exception of a few friends, family, and my cat Cady, this blog is the only thing that has been a constant in my life for that long. (Even bodies regenerate an entirely new batch of cells every seven years.) It was a snowy evening in Homer, Alaska, when I first launched my blog on a whim, planning to use it to stay in touch with friends in the Lower 48 (this was 2005, the now-almost-unimaginable-pre-Facebook-era.) I figured I would post pretty Alaska photographs once a week or so, and maybe my mom would read it. Arctic Glass has since amassed 1,548 entries, 19,910 comments, 3,317,930 direct page views, and 2,840 Google subscribers. I couldn't even begin to guess how many words and photos fill this space ... suffice to say it's a whole lot. This blog is quite the obese oldster, so to speak.

I never diverged…

Nostalgia: A good reason to run 100 miles?

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There wasn't a hint of breeze or wisp of fog on the first day of autumn, a rarity in the Marin Headlands at any time of the year. I was having the best day. It started with a sunrise drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, which led to a morning nap on Muir Beach as I listened to ocean sounds (I volunteered at the Coastal 50K, and a delayed start due to late buses meant there was some extra time to kill before the race.) After setting up the aid station I spent three hours filling water bottles, cutting up fruit, and preparing fresh peanut butter sandwiches, which I believe I make extra special by really piling on the peanut butter and jam, but leaving room around the edges to prevent stickiness. In fact, several runners complimented my sandwiches. "Thanks," I replied. "PB&J is my favorite during these races, too."

After coaxing the last runner out of Muir Beach, I set out to sweep up trail markers behind him. Last runner pace was perfect for me, and I marche…

Jet lagged

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I had this strange dream that I came back to California. Bikes were there, and so were giant cups of soda, and I was somehow outside of myself, watching this familiar world float by as though I both never left and also hadn't yet returned. The pieces of the dream didn't quite fit together because my friend Bill from Montana was there, and really, why would Bill be in California? That part didn't make sense, but the rest of the dream was like my simple, normal life — tinted surreal because I was so fantastically jet-lagged.


I feel like I'm closer to understanding how people manage running hundred-milers, but I doubt I'll ever understand how some people can travel around the world continuously for their livelihoods, and still maintain a grasp on reality. I've traveled across an ocean only three times in my life, and every time I return home, the combination of travel fatigue, deeper-than-normal physical exhaustion, mild reverse culture shock, and significant ti…

Last day in Italy

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Sunday marked the last full day of a long, sometimes exhausting, but incredibly rewarding trip to Europe. During the last week I had grown particularly attached to Courmayeur, and bid my personal goodbyes to all of the things I was going to miss — the light-hearted and friendly locals, the delicious thin-crust pizzas, and of course all of the mountains. So many mountains, so little time and energy in life to visit them all. But I felt like I had a good run during this trip. 
 On Sunday morning, the Tor des Geants held its final awards ceremony. It seemed like most of the town turned out to spectate. The friendly woman who ran the desk at our hotel even shut down the front office for a couple of hours to stand in the crowd and cheer for runners. All of the finishers gathered to parade down the main street of Courmayeur. This photo is a picture of Beat with his friend Dima and Dima's girlfriend Karen. Dima and Beat traveled together for some time during the 2011 Tor des Geants, whi…

After the TDG

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The day after Beat finished the Tor des Geants, he was predictably wrecked. Also predictable, for a person whose body had carried him so far over so many days, was the way he didn't fully believe he was done. One minute he'd be scheming about running 22 miles out and back to the iced-over pass that the TDG skipped, and the next he'd unintentionally doze off over an empty pizza plate. In making travel plans, we'd opted to stay through Sunday's awards ceremony. So we had two more days in Italy. Although to a much lesser extent than Beat, I was feeling fairly worn down myself. But, like Beat, I figured my body had handled these daily mountain outings just fine thus far. Why wouldn't I be able to continue indefinitely?
Before we came to Italy, I had ambitions to fast-trek the Tour du Mont Blanc trail on my own over three days. I only planned to do this if Beat ended his race several days early — mostly because the minimal support I could provide Beat in the Tor de…

Tor des Geants, day five

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It was a cold night. I could tell even curled up in the back of the rental car, because my 40-degree-rated sleeping bag wasn't enough to break the chill. Beat and Dmitry arrived at Valtournenche, kilometer 236, at 5 a.m. and informed me that they planned to eat and run. However, once inside the tent, we learned that the race organization had paused the race, citing extreme weather on the higher passes. I strove to eavesdrop on the volunteers' Italian chatter, but the most we could make out was 110 kilometer-per-hour winds and repeats of the word "Malatra," a high pass that was still a day away for Beat. We guessed there was lots of new snow on that pass. 
Beat and Dmitry took advantage of the suspension to grab an unplanned nap, while I lingered in the tent to continue to eavesdrop on conversations I couldn't understand, and also chat with another American runner, Dan from Bellingham, Washington. Dan had way too much energy for 5 a.m., let alone being a Tor des …

Tor des Geants, day four

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Just before noon Wednesday, Beat arrived in Gressoney, kilometer 200, in a sour mood. Despite the near-30C-temperatures in Donnas just a day ago, the weather had taken a sharp turn for the worse. Rain throughout the night had slicked the rocks on the trail, making for sketchy and slow descending. He grabbed a big plate of rigatoni with tomato sauce and tuna, the standard (and only) dish served for the duration of the Tor des Geants. I'd taken a cue from the race food and mostly eaten this kind of fare myself. Rigatoni with tuna was an easy thing to store and cook up fast, and bread and jam was something I could keep in my car. Rural Italian grocery stores only seem to be open about six hours a day, and restaurants were never fast enough and also not open at convenient-for-me times (early and late.) Still, at this point I'd mostly run out of groceries and was down to a few candy bars and crackers that were left of my once-giant bag of UTMB trail food. I eyed Beat's lunch g…

Tor des Geants, day three

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The town of Donnas Pont St. Martin sits at the threshold of the Aosta Valley, the gateway to the Alps from the flatlands to the south. Its low elevation (1,080 feet) puts it in a different climate zone than most of the other villages of the Tor des Geants. Donnas reminded me of the hills above San Jose in California, with small broad-leaf trees and vineyards lining the streets. It was also nearly 30 degrees C when I went to meet Beat at noon Tuesday.

He seemed relatively limber and alert given he had been out all night and just descended more than 8,000 feet from the mountains. He took an hour-long nap and worked on taping his feet while I went to look for hazelnut gelato. In my experience, feet usually feel a lot worse than they look, and I have to say that his feet look pretty bad. The skin on his heel is almost entirely gone on his bad foot, and he has a large heel blister on his good foot. He's begun taping every one of his toes, but the abrasions that bother him the most are…