Winter is my favorite season. There are those who don't believe me, or who point out that I can only love winter because I spent the past five years living in a warm climate and visiting winter at my leisure, for fun, without the day-to-day cold-weather drudgery. Point taken, but I stand by my statement. I am a hopeless winter enthusiast.
When I moved to Colorado in late April, I assumed I wouldn't see winter for another six months. And that was okay, because I had a pretty good dose of winter this past season in visits to Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and two fantastic trips to Alaska. Surprisingly, except for a cold snap following a November snowstorm, I all but missed winter in Colorado during our two weekend visits in December and January. The week we closed on the house, it was 60 degrees in Boulder, and the backyard looked like this:
Yes, winter returned for a spring fling, the way she often does in her turbulent on again, off again affair with the Rockies — a blast of snow and cold before slipping out the back door, and suddenly it's 65 degrees again. Beat and I wanted to make the most of this brief reverie, but he unfortunately hurt his back while chopping wood on Thursday (or perhaps the sore back was from sleeping on an air mattress. We are still without real furniture at home.) Beat was hobbled but still got out for a short hike into Walker Ranch. These were our first views of the Boulder Creek Gorge. "This is the new Rancho!" I proclaimed, referring to an open space preserve near our apartment in California, where I did most of my running over the past five years. Rancho is not bad, but it doesn't look like this.
Beat turned around but I continued making my way around the loop, mostly hiking because of the new snow, and also because the altitude is really clamping down right now. When dragging my sea-level-acclimated body to elevations above 5,000 feet, I tend to have a honeymoon period of two to three days where I can feel the altitude, but it doesn't necessarily drag me down. By day four, the accumulating oxygen deficit seems to reach a breaking point, and I start waking up with headaches and struggling noticeably more in physical efforts. One week out seems to be the worst. At least I hope this is the worst. It gets better, right?
Anyway, a bit of headache and rasping is no reason to let this brief winter pass me by. I set out Sunday to meet a local runner who I've been in touch with for a couple of years now. She invited me on a morning run to Green Mountain, but it snowed enough overnight that I didn't feel comfortable taking the Subaru with its summer tires and California-conditioned driver down the steep, icy roads. We re-worked the plan so I could run from home and meet her on top of Green Mountain, then continue together down to town.
First tracks on the road.
The day's first ascent of Green. It was blowing snow and the temperature was about 28 degrees. Windchill and sweaty clothing made it feel brrrrr. I waited for Wendy for twelve minutes, until I was very cold. I'd already forgotten how difficult it is to re-stoke body heat after you've let yourself become that chilled.
I made exaggerated jumping motions on my way down Green, to stimulate blood flow. Wendy approached and I followed her back up the mountain at a pace that left me gasping for air, but at least I warmed up again.
At the top we bumped into semi-famous ultrarunning ladies Darcy Piceu and Gina Lucrezi. Just a typical day in Boulder.
Descending Bear Canyon in a winter wonderland. Everything was so quiet and tranquil. When I'm wading through powder at a 15-minute-mile downhill "running" pace, I feel only bliss. (When I'm on skis I feel only terror, which is the main reason I am not a skier.)
The Flatirons from town. Wow! Thanks for coaxing me down here, Wendy.
Back at home, I was completely exhausted by 15 miles of "running." I don't think I've been that tired since I finished the Iditarod. Perhaps I can blame the effects of the altitude rather than declining fitness. Beat was not too sympathetic and tried to coax me out on the exploration route he tracked out that morning, but I resisted.
Monday brought bluebird skies and rapidly warming temperatures. I made attempts to work through the morning, but spent more time than I care to admit staring out the window, watching the resident turkey peck bare patches of ground as clumps of snow rained from the trees.
In the afternoon I planned to run into Boulder to meet Beat. Although I should have, I didn't bank on the six inches of slush now covering the trails, and just how slippery and difficult it can be to wade through this. The ten-mile run that I hoped would take 1:45 ate up three hours, and my feet were cold. They were so cold.
By the time I reached Boulder, it was spring! I suppose it had to come back eventually. Thanks for dropping by, winter! See you in October (or maybe next week.)
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.