Friday, February 28, 2014

Three Years, 6,396 Miles and Three Life Lessons Learned

Today marks the third anniversary of my personal journey of reclaiming my body and my life.  The reasons I started running are as varied as the reasons I continue to lace up my shoes and get my run on week after week.  Setting goals that scare me, running wild, and finding my way in this crazy world have made the past three years of my life extraordinary.  

At the start of my very first race - The Twilight 12K
In honor of my 3rd Runniversary I'd like to share three personal lessons I have learned since I took those weak and weary first steps out the front door and into the night, where I left my insecurities behind and made the decision to move forward with my life.  Waiting for me on the other side was a whole new world of people, places, experiences, thoughts, ideas, feelings, and journeys.  

1.  Love yourself.
    Everyone has to start somewhere and for me "starting" involved an elimination diet that I began in February 2011.  Within three weeks I had something I'd lost years before: energy.  Chronic sinusitis, digestive issues, muscle and joint pain, etc. robbed me of "me".  In the years and meals that have followed abstaining from gluten has at times proved to be a very difficult challenge.  The mantra I use to overcome is: I love myself more than…..this piece of pizza, or vegetating in a coma-like state on the couch for the entire day while eating nothing but sugar and fat.  Eating right was the FIRST step in living a life that honors my body and gave my mind the strength to believe that I could be more than an out of shape, stay at home mom.  Love yourself.

2. Push yourself.  
At some point during any workout the realization that "this is hard" (still) hits me and I have to dig a little bit deeper in order to push a little bit harder and go the extra mile.  I've been the "go to girl" for many of my friends who are starting a fitness routine and one question that inevitably comes up as they become consistent is "how do I get faster?".  The answer?  Run faster.  In order to do that you have to push yourself.  Pushing myself as a Mother Runner and Triathlete has taught me to push myself in ALL the other areas of my life.  I've learned to sit with the uncomfortable feelings of doubt and push through.  I've learned how to block out the pain, soreness, and exhaustion in order to overcome what would otherwise be impossible.  There is a saying "Running is 80% Mental and 20% Everything Else".  True that, my friends.  If you tell yourself you can't, you won't.  Simple as that.  Push yourself. 

At the finish of the 2012 Big Wild Life MARATHON
(with my best friend Sara) - 26.2 Miles - Check! 
3. Be yourself. 
Back when I wore XL yoga pants to do everything except yoga I admit to making snide comments about runners in their ridiculous spandex tights and flashy accessories, jogging at a stop light to keep their heart rate up, and obsessively checking their watches to analyze the data.  When I became a runner I learned that it complimented my natural personality and I said "screw it" and joined the compression tight clad, garmin wearing crew that cheers strangers on at races, launches snot rockets like it "ain't no thang" and prioritizes sleep over other competing activities.  My natural type A tendencies are channeled into something productive and I now use my powers of task-mastering for good instead of driving other people completely crazy.  Tracking miles, paces, heart rates, and planning out my training year gives me an outlet for all that energy which would otherwise find its way into other (far less) productive areas of my life.  Another saying in running is "the distance strips you bare", the miles I've logged in my training have stripped me down and have allowed me to let it all hang out.  Cellulite - check! Vericose veins - check!  Unshaven legs - check!  Short shorts? You betcha baby!  Why?  Nobody gives a %$&! Be yourself. 

Every day each of us writes the story of our lives.  Day by day, page by page. You're either writing it or you are letting it write itself.  Personally, I'd rather write my own story than have it written for me.  What do you want your story to be? 

Cheers and (Gluten-Free) Beers Friends!  Happy Trails! 

- H.M. Wild 
Post-11 mile Run Recovery - Cheers! 
Here's an excerpt from "Born to Run" a personal short story that I wrote for Alaska Pacific University that is available at the Turnagain Currents and will be published in print April 2014. 

We’re told of the importance of  listening to our body and the messages it sends us, and it’s true—the answers present themselves if you dedicate yourself to seeking them out, but sometimes you have to play the role of firm and loving parent and tell your body to suck it up, stop whining, and keep moving.  

My heart was racing, my lungs ached as I sucked in the frozen night air, my legs were on fire, all of my body’s internal alarms were going off simultaneously and for the first time in my life I dismissed them.  As I ran the streets that night I realized if this was going to kill me, so be it, I would die trying to feel; to feel something real, to experience the pain I’d silenced, to meet my deepest fears head on and to grieve the losses I held tightly within the chambers of my heart and I would do it one step at a time, one mile at a time, one day at a time. Moving forward.  

I returned home that night, exhausted and out of breath, after covering the three streets in our neighborhood a half dozen times each, at a pace that I now use for brisk walking.  I turned from the front door and paused, entranced by our snowy tree-lined driveway.  Tendrils of frost dripped off the tips of branches and everything sparkled, each tiny speck with the power to radiate light amidst the unrelenting darkness.  Hope.

Like this?  Check out these other running related Posts on Honey Mama Runs Wild:

"You could carry your burdens lightly or with great effort. you could worry about tomorrow or not. You could imagine horrible fates or garland-filled tomorrows. None of it mattered as long as you moved, as long as you did something. Asking why was fine, but it wasn't action.  Sometimes you just do things." - Scott Jurek

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Honey Mama's Gluten-Free Tortillas

Three years ago this February I started an "elimination diet" to help determine if food allergies and/or sensitivities were contributing to my chronic sinusitis, muscle and joint pain, exhaustion, etc.  Two weeks into the "diet" I laced up a pair of running shoes that were five years old and had about a mile on them and headed out the door for a run and I haven't looked back since.
Sunrise on Mt. Sanford a few miles from The Moose Lodge
Sadly I have yet to find a good store bought gluten-free tortilla and the idea of making them from scratch with the added complexities of gluten-free cooking (life as a full-time student and wife and mother runner) was more headache than I felt I could handle, until now. 
I came across a recipe last week and set to work rewriting it to my liking and gathering the necessary ingredients which takes on a whole new meaning when you live at The Moose Lodge.
Sunrise over the Mentasta Mountains as we pulled out of the driveway
"Work" involved a hour plus drive to the nearest grocery store.  The blessings began long before we reached the grocery store and we were treated to multiple sunrises along the drive.  As we drove through the mountains on a road encased in ice we saw the sun rise in three separate locations as we moved our way through the pass.
Current Road Conditions: The Highway is a Sheet of Ice
Nestled back between the fishing tackle, small assortment of red heart acrylic yarn (ack!) I found an 8 foot long by 4 foot high stand of shelves that resembled a miniature "Natural Foods Section" you might find at your local grocery store. 
Halfway between The Moose Lodge and the
nearest store resembling an actual grocery store
The G-Free Gods smiled down upon me and I was granted a 1 lb 8 oz bag of certified gluten-free white rice flour for the astronomical price of $4.99, which is to say "priceless" given the next sack of G-Free white rice flour may be three hours in the other direction (no guarantee) or the whole drive to Anchorage, some 6 hours away.  
Two-thirds of the way to the nearest store; this is also where my camera
battery died and I realized my spare was also dead as a doornail
Honey Mama's Gluten Free Tortillas 

1 C      White Rice Flour 
1/3 C    Potato Flour
It was 4 F at our house and -22 F
 by the time we got to the store.
1/3 C    Tapioca Starch
1/3 C    Fava Bean Flour
1/4 C    Corn Starch 
2 t         Xanthan Gum 
1/2 t     Sugar 
1 t        Baking Flour 
1 1/4 t Redmond Real Salt 
3 T       Virgin Coconut Oil 
1 C      Water

Additional rice flour and water are required for rolling out the dough. 

NOTE:  If you are preparing this for someone with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance it is VERY IMPORTANT to make sure the ingredients you are using are in fact gluten-free, as some products may have been processed in a plant that also processes grains containing gluten, even TINY amounts can cause reactions in individuals with celiac or gluten intolerance.   The same goes for the counter you roll your dough on and anything else that will come into contact with the dough or finished tortillas. I use the same caution in preparing gluten-free foods as I do when handling raw meat.  

1. Measure out and mix together ALL of the DRY ingredients.  

2. Work in the coconut oil with a pastry knife or two knives (I had to heat mine slightly as our house temprature was in the low 60's, but it should be "just right" for most people with a house at or near 68 F.  It is also important to note that coconut oil turns into a liquid at 76 F.  

3. Add in the water 1/2 C to start, then 1/4 at a time until dough has formed.

4. Start with a handful of dough and roll out to 1/8 in thick, using additional rice flour to prevent sticking, and water as needed.  As you work the dough dipping your hand into a cup of water then handling the dough will help keep it from becoming crumbly.
5. If you want a perfectly round tortilla use a large biscuit cutter or a pastry wheel, otherwise roll out the dough to the size of tortilla you want and move on to step 6. 

6. Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook the tortillas in small batches until each side is lightly golden and slightly puffed.
7. Serve warm and enjoy! 
Tortillas can be frozen for future use in a ziploc bag in the freezer for up to three months. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Honey Mama’s No-Knead Artisan Style Bread

For a rich, crusty bread that is easy to make and yields impressive results given the level of effort it takes, the “no knead” artisan style bread recipe is a “must have” for if you love the taste of fresh bread but aren't a fan of the working the dough over.  All you need is a large mixing bowl, a spoon, and plastic wrap and about five minutes and your dough is finished.  A cast iron dutch oven is preferred but any covered baking dish will suffice. 

"Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all."
- Nelson Mandela

Honey Mama's No Knead Artisan Style Bread 

3 C All Purpose Flour or Bread Flour + additional for step 4. 
1 5/8 C Warm Water (100-110 F)
1/4 t Yeast 
2 tsp. Honey
1 1/4 tsp. Redmond Real Salt  
Cold-Milled Ground Flax

  1. Combine water, honey or maple syrup, and yeast in a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl and let sit for a few minutes.
  2. Add in flour and salt and stir until combined.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm area, 70 F is the
    “ideal” temperature and let sit for 14-20 hours.  I use a sharpie and note the time the dough should be ready the following day.  
  4. Lay out a clean dish towel, a clean flour sack type cloth is ideal.  Sprinkle the towel with flour and remove the dough from the bowl.  Pick up one side of the towel slightly and roll the dough over, repeat on the other side.  Do this a few times then using a spray bottle filled with water (or a cup of water and your fingers or a spoon to drizzle a small amount of water on the loaf).  Then sprinkle ground cornmeal and ground flax over the top of the loaf.  Let rise in a warm location for 2 hours.  
  5. Preheat the oven to 450 F WITH a dutch oven (lid on).  When the dough and oven are ready slide the dough into the pan.  Some people do seam side up (which is the opposite of standard bread making) but I usually do the seam side down which makes the transfer a little more delicate.  Cover the dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes; resist the urge to “check in” with your loaf. 
  6. Remove the dutch oven lid and return the bread to the oven for an additional 10-20 minutes.  The dough should sound hollow when you tap on the bottom.
  7. Cool, slice and enjoy.
    "To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread." 

"To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread."
 James A. Baldwin

Tips: If you do not have a cast iron dutch oven an enamel baking dish with lid, or similar will work.  I prefer Redmond Real Salt, but any old salt will do.

"Peace goes into the making of a poem as flour goes into the making of bread." 
- Pablo Neruda 

Word of Caution: If you are on a gluten-free diet and you decide to make this bread for your family you may find yourself in the kitchen holding the beautiful perfect loaf of bread in your hands like Gollum holds The Ring in Lord of the Rings, chanting "My precious!".  It is simply that good.

Coming Next Week: Grandma's Milk Bread Dinner Rolls, another gluten-filled delight! 

"Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter." 
James A. Garfield

Friday, February 14, 2014

Dog Love: 12 Lessons of Love and Life from My Dogs

1. There is never a bad time to go for a run.
2. Stretch when you rise.
3. Listen to your gut. 
4. Pursue your passions with reckless abandon. 
5. There is nothing more refreshing in life than going for a swim. 
6. Stay Hydrated.  Life is a marathon.
7. Love with everything you've got. 
8. Friends come in all shapes, colors, species and sizes. 

9. The simple things in life really are the good things. 
10. Family means nobody gets left behind. 
11. Sometimes you've gotta make things happen.  
12. Love never leaves. 

Happy Valentine's Day! - Honey Mama 
For More Dog Love Check Out: Unique and Not Even the Trees 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Home Again

     There was something about January I just couldn’t handle.  It wasn’t even a particularly cold January for this region, unlike the “lower 48” which has been experiencing several bouts with extreme weather, ice storms, and cold snaps.   I had planned to get a lot of writing done in January given the quiet contemplative nature of the month. 

A cup of steaming hot cocoa paired with a cozy couch and deep thinking are the prime ingredients for wintertime introspection.  The unexpected revelations that appear, ideas that manifest, and the slow subtle feeling of life clicking into focus are the rewards for time spent sitting, thinking, being.  I was really looking forward to those moments, but when they came I found I just wasn’t ready to be here for January. Not all of it.  

The moments of writing and deep thinking in January were done in spurts, then a retreat back into a very simple life absent of homework, tests, and academic study.  Settling into life here and envisioning what we want our future to look like now that we have landed and had our boots on the ground nearly six months have passed and we are starting to get the hang of the basics.  And I mean “The Basics”. Simple things like how to keep the house warm and food in the pantry were the primary focus for the past six months. The ideas and ambition we set out with on Our Journey into The Wild was put into perspective when we realized there would be a more prolonged period of “floundering”.  Once we accepted that as a fact, we were able to sit with some of the questions and work through things, “bird by bird”.  
Living here definitely fosters a sense of strong self-reliance and ability to figure out plans b, c, and d at a moments notice if need be.  Everything changes at forty below zero.  Depending on the weather a 15 mile stretch of road can take 15 minutes or 45.  Last week we forgot to cut kindling the night before and woke up to -25 with a breeze and no kindling.  
I spent an hour that afternoon at -10 cutting kindling, by the end I was in my carhart bibs and hoodie, no hat, and an lightly insulated pair of work gloves.  I think it is safe to say I am getting acclimated to the elements.  On Sunday morning I opened the door and let the dogs out and remarked at how “warm” it felt outside, the wind was blowing and it was 5 F.  
This morning we were out of “big wood” in the house, so at -5 with pretty intense gusts, I spent the first half hour of the morning hauling firewood in the house.  By the time I was finished the fire was cracking, the house still cold, but I was HOT.  A while ago a neighbor and friend of ours came over and said “it was 20 at my house this morning”.  Parke asked him “above or below?”, he replied “this time of year we only specify when it’s ABOVE zero”.  

Fog socked in over Glennallen; Sanford and Drum visible at the top. 
Descending into The Fog...
One of my main “Musts” for this move was that our home be accessible by road.  Now that I am here I realized that getting to town isn’t as simple as hopping in the car and hitting the road.  Weather forecasts, temperatures, precipitation, and reports from anyone whose recently drove the stretch of road are taken into consideration.  Typically my dad will check the state of Alaska department of transportation web cameras for some of the points along my drive so I know roughly what to expect as I make my way to town.  

Each drive is a marathon.  The shortest trip took 4 hours and 14 minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to run the Big Wild Life Marathon in Anchorage in 2012.  The longest trip took 6 hours and 42 minutes.  Everything depends on the weather. 

The caribou and moose find their way closer and closer to the wide open spaces near the road munching on willow and frolicking on frozen ponds.  Since moving here I have had the opportunity to observe several groups of caribou and moose along the highway and I am always amazed to see a glint of fun and light in their motions and approach to crossing the highway right in front of traffic, often with a momentary pause ‘ala deer in the headlights’, then another quick dart back into the ditch, just shy of being road kill and the cause of a  serious car accident.  The presence of a vehicle seems to actually draw them right to the source waiting to be plowed into with force and ferocity.  
Caribou crossing the road less than .25 mi from The Moose Lodge
In a 20 mile section we saw 5 pairs of moose, 10 moose total, on the final stretch home.  Before that we saw a group of three caribou and two groups of two caribou, just before Glenallen.  I also saw a pair of moose and a lone bull roaming the edges of the highway, shifty eyed and looking wild.  
The moose and caribou that line the highway seem to almost play with the idea of vehicular suicide, or perhaps its the feelings of fear creating an urgency to escape the force, and in an attempt to evade danger, the mere presences draws them in and they pause, even in the light of day, and stare  as you slow to a stop, giving thanks for all wheel drive and hakapelita studded tires, and the 150 pounds of dog and cat food in the back giving you traction like a small tank rolling across an ice road through the middle of nowhere.  
The contrast of white on white on white….
There is no cell phone reception on much of the road less traveled.  There is no “AAA”.  If you run out of gas, you might be there a while.  If you’re hungry and forgot to pack food, your lunch may consist of popcorn from the gas station in Glennallen.  There is no cell phone reception for much of the drive.  No AAA.  You are largely at the mercy of your fellow man if you find yourself needing assistance through long stretches of the drive.  Two barely audible radio stations within reach for someone with a good car radio antenna are possible all the way to The Moose Lodge, as long as the weather cooperates.  On cloudy days the radio stations become indecipherable and listening to the static-filled voices creates frustration as you begin hour 4 of “The Drive”.  
Poles line stretches of the highway for visibility
 and navigation during blizzards and white outs.
Every time I finish the drive, it doesn’t matter which direction I am going, I feel like a bad ass. A badge of honor, “I Survived The Drive”, I don’t think it is any more dangerous than most of Alaska’s other roads, and far less fatal than the Turnagain Arm stretch of the Seward highway, but it is a long drive with a lot of wide open spaces and wild animals that roam the sides of the roads, semi trucks hauling freight, and enormous state plow trucks are often the only traffic I see for a good portion of the drive. 
Sun through VERY dense fog near Glennallen 
The occasional passenger vehicle, usually a 4x4 truck, are what I anticipate to see up until I hit the Matanuska Glacier, then the vehicle demographic opens up and anything that can roll on four wheels and maintain at least 35 miles per hour on the stretch of road that winds into the matanuska-susistna valley is likely to be seen, people watching is a good activity for passengers to engage in as reckless drivers behind the wheel of mid-80’s vintage two door cars whiz by with the comfort only locals could display on this section of road.  Speed limits? Lanes?  
You have to be prepared every moment on the drive and it takes a toll when the weather sucks.  When the weather is good, you have to be even more careful lest you get complacent and forget where you are the moose and caribou that line the road are happy to leap out and remind you of where you stand in the world.  

     Roaming between these places, my childhood home in "Town" and our family home that is The Moose Lodge. We are in it with all our hearts, living the moments, living the questions, taking it all bird by bird. 

There's a storm across the valley, clouds are rolling in,
the afternoon is heavy on your shoulders.
There's a truck out on the four lane, a mile or more away,
the whining of his wheels just makes it colder.

He's an hour away from riding on your prayers up in the sky
and ten days on the road are barely gone.
There's a fire softly burning, supper's on the stove,
but it's the light in your eyes that makes him warm.

Hey, it's good to be back home again.
Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend.
Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again.

There's all the news to tell him, how's you spend your time,
and what's the latest thing the neighbors say?
And your mother called last Friday, "Sunshine" made her cry
and you felt the baby move just yesterday.

Hey, it's good to be back home again.
Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend.
Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again.

Oh, the time that I can lay this tired old body down,
and feel your fingers feather soft upon me.
The kisses that I live for, the love that lights my way,
the happiness that living with you brings me.

It's the sweetest thing I know of, just spending time with you.
It's the little things that make a house a home.
Like a fire softly burning and supper on the stove,
the light in your eyes that makes me warm.

Hey, it's good to be back home again.
Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend.
Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again.

Hey, it's good to be back home again.
Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend.
Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again.
I said hey, it's good to be back home again.
Home: The Moose Lodge