Moose on the Loose

I have now had two close-ish encounters with moose.

The first occurred soon after I moved here.  It was not late, but it was dark.  I was pulling my car around to get at my mailbox, and I noticed a LARGE dark shape.  I couldn’t remember that dark shape being there before, and just as I was scratching my head in confusion, it moved.

When the headlights of my car managed to catch it, the moose was revealed in all its muscular glory.  No matter where I drove, the moose would not leave my mailbox.  So I decided to get my mail later . . . because the moose was taller than my SVU.

The second encounter was from a slightly greater distance.  I noticed a moose and her baby in my neighbor’s driveway one weekend afternoon.

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The most important thing to note about this photo is the size of the moose.  If you need scale, just use the minivan being dwarfed by the 1,400 lb. hunk of meat.

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The funny story behind this photo is that I saw the baby moose first, and I thought that it was maybe an adult.  Until its mother walked up behind it.  I’ve seen moose before, but their sheer size never ceases to amaze.  Alliteration is absolutely awesome.

I’ve been in Alaska for about three months, and everybody has some horror story about moose fatalities.  At an in-processing briefing, I was made to watch a moose mauling a man in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Moose can be aggressive, and the mothers can be extremely protective of their young.  I have one friend who apparently used to feed moose out of his hand as a child . . . but by and large, everyone else warned me how belligerent and brutal they can be.  The next important thing to understand is the relative size of a moose.  They generally outweigh grizzly bears.  Wrap your mind around that, and come back to this post later.

Eventually it occurred to me to wonder what to do in the event of a moose attack.  After all, there’s bear spray and bear bells for bears – surely there would be something equally effective against moose? 

Nope.

You have two options in the event of a moose attack.  The first, and better, option is to put something between yourself and the moose.  They’re not too bright, and this can stymie them.  The second, less preferable, option is to run in very tight circles until the moose becomes tired and gives up.  The goal is to outlast the moose.  Moose are so large that they can’t corner well, so they can’t catch a human running in tight circles.  This is how Norwegian elkhounds hunted moose; they would track one down, allow themselves to be chased it, and run it in circles until it wearied.  Then the hounds would go in for the kill. 

The best thing to do is admire from a distance with your eyes.  Never, under any circumstances, put yourself between a mother and a mooselet.  Moose associate dogs with wolves, and they will sometimes back down at the sight of a dog.  If you’re going to try to shoot the moose, use a big ol’ gun otherwise you’ll just piss it off.  Finally, remember to never give a moose a muffin.

And this concludes today’s lesson on things I never thought I’d have to know, but is now extremely valuable information. 

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Dawn of the North

My best friend has been bothering me to start a blog about my new life and adventures.  I’ve been resisting because I don’t know who it would interest, but a dam broke somewhere in my soul tonight, and I feel like I have so much to say.  Therefore, this blog is going to transition from a fitness/vegan blog into an Alaskan lifestyle blog.  So let’s get this show on the road.

The event that changed my mind from not blogging to blogging again, writing for the public, was the most spectacular display of aurora borealis anybody could hope to see.  To set the stage: I had had a fairly pleasant week at work, I went to my friends’ house for a nice Friday dinner, and I was driving home feeling pretty content with my lot in life.  All of a sudden, as I was descending from the hills of Fox to return home to North Pole, I came out of the trees and saw LIGHT!

Unfortunately, iPhones cannot capture the mind-blowing display that is the northern lights.  But I can say it’s every bit as impressive as photographs.  After I had nearly driven off the road half a dozen times trying to watch the lights, I pulled over into the end of someone’s driveway and got out.

The lights take up the whole horizon.  These were green, white, purple, and pink.  And they really do “dance” as the most unoriginal writers claim.  These huge ribbons of light furl and coil across the sky, merging, separating, writing in a language nobody can read.  It’s like a mirror image of everything beautiful that’s happening on Earth, and it’s reflected back at us, and all you need is a pair of eyes socked into your head and a pulse to receive the bounty.

That’s when it occurred to me that not everybody has those things, the simplest of things, the lowest level of health.  And I was struck by how right my life feels, how charmed it is, how I appreciate the path my life has taken.  And I had to share this awesome experience because it’s just so.damn.moving.

I finally got home, grabbed a beer, and went to stand in my backyard in -2*F weather (which is practically balmy here).  And I watched.  You can’t really go inside when a ballet of the whole cosmos is showing right there in your own backyard, free admission, BYOB.  So I stood and sipped and watched.  My yard was lit by a bright moon.

The movement of the lights puts me in mind of the dolphins swimming in a pod and jumping in and out of the waves.  Or a flock of birds in flight.  Or waves crashing on the shore.  It also really makes me feel like someone somewhere is trying really hard to reach us.  It seems like that other being is RIGHT THERE, pressed up close against the glass, and all we have to do is make the merest movement back, and we’d touch him or her.

I might mean God.

I might mean alien life forms.

I might mean our own consciences trying to remind us to look the f*** up sometimes and be present in the moment.

As I watched the lights revel in their own glory, I also saw a shooting star.  And I can’t remember the last time I saw one.  I made a wish, my secret heart wish, and I dearly hope it comes true.  But even if it doesn’t, I won’t mind a bit.  The star streaked a long way down the sky, seeming very small and insignificant compared to the lights.
Eventually the lights smudged out and became faint glimmers.  The lights don’t always appear as the dramatic curtains and ribbons captured in photos; sometimes it’s just smudges that kind of look like the Milky Way.  The most common colors are green and pink, though they can also be blue, violet, red, or yellow.  And by the way, “aurora borealis” means “dawn of the north.”

So now I’ve written this long blog post without any explanation.  Hello.  My name is Kristin.  I’m a lawyer and an Air Force officer.  I’m stationed near Fairbanks, Alaska for three years.  I love my new adventure.

Pool Function

I really should’ve taken a picture of myself after the pool function this morning.  It would fully illustrate the killer workout through which I suffered.

A pool function is an event at which trained Marines put Marine Corps applicants and candidates through their paces.  They yell at us (I sometimes yell back, which you’re not supposed to do), harry us, generally abuse us, and ultimately enjoy our struggle.  Pool functions vary in nature.  This morning, it was a two and a half hour workout down at 31st Street Beach in 22* weather.  Don’t worry – none of us were cold.

I learned a lot about where my strengths and weaknesses are.  For example, I’m still not running as fast as I should (although, in fairness, I was running on wet, churned up sand this morning, rather than a nice flat surface.  Seriously, they keep moving the bar on me.)  But I killed all the ab exercises.  Now that I’m feeling a deep muscle burn everywhere and my legs complain loudly at stairs, I’m going to recommend a few of my favorite exercises from this morning.  (Running on sand is not one of them – I  immediately rolled my right ankle badly since I was running in running shoes rather than boots, which means I had to sit out a few of the exercises, like the fireman’s carry, because I couldn’t do them.  I’m only kind of sorry.)

1.) Push-ups 2.0:  Rather than starting with your arms straight and lowering yourself to the floor, you start on the floor with your hands off the ground.  You raise yourself up until your arms are straight, and then back down so you’re laying your belly.  Then you lift your hands off the ground, so you’re really laying flat, and that’s one.  We did the following: one minute on, ten seconds off for six minutes.  (No, I can’t feel my arms)

2.) Backward lunges: Start with your feet shoulders’ width apart, hands on your hips.  Then step back with one foot and bend until your knee touches the ground.  Lift yourself back up, and step your feet together again.  Then alternate feet.

3.) Flutter kicks: lay on your back, hands under your butt, straighten your legs, and raise your feet six inches into the air (always keeping your legs straight).  Then raise one foot higher than the other, quickly, for 30 seconds.

4.) Sideways planks: It’s what you think it is.  Lay on your side on one elbow.  Then raise yourself up off the ground until your elbow and your feet are supporting your entire body.

5.) Squats: put your arms straight out in front of you and place your feet shoulders’ width apart.  Then squat down until your knees reach a 90* angle.  Actually, when we did our first set of these, I was squatting all the way down like we did in dance, but apparently a Marine Corps squat is only partway down.  Trust me, either one is a good workout if you do enough.

We also did a number of crawling exercises through the sand, which is how I got so dirty.  I was covered head to toe in sandy grit, and I got lots of funny looks on the bus from all the nicely groomed folks going to Saturday brunch.  I dumped approximately 2 cups of sand out of my shoes when I got home. The reasons I like all of these exercises so much are that (1) you don’t need a gym, and (2) they’re all designed to use your own body weight to make you stronger.  I’m pretty convinced that doing lat pull-downs on a machine is not as hard as doing pull-ups, so I like these bodyweight workouts.

What are your favorite exercises?

 

Lent

I have given some thought to what I should give up for Lent.  But everybody seems to be giving up food, and I feel like I’ve already given up plenty of food.  After all, I’m a vegan.  You want me to give up tortilla chips, too, my last bastion of snackery?**  Nope.

But then I remembered my religion classes from elementary school: I could DO something every day rather than SACRIFICE something.  After all, this will instill discipline, too.

So here’s my Lenten promise: I will run every day.  Not just exercise, not just stretch or do an ab work-out, but run.  I’ll keep you updated on my observation of this stricture.

This corresponds well with an article I read this morning about your brain and exercise.  The research is still in very early stages, but it states that the brain runs on glycogen and suggests that exercise definitively makes your brain sharper and more alert.

**(Actually, I considered giving up chips, but I already ate some for breakfast.)

Valentine’s Day Gifts

Need a cool Valentine’s Day gift for a cool runner in your life this chilly February?  Consider Yak Trax.  They’re these interesting things that strap onto your shoes and allow you to run on ice and packed down snow.  The traction is key to successful winter runs.

{Image from http://www.yaktrax.com}

If you’re like me and you hate running on treadmills in gyms with comfortable temperatures, but you love running outside in brutal wind and icy roads, then Yak Trax are for you.  My chapped skin thanks them.

Fun Facts

Just some nutrition information for your Sunday reading enjoyment: the amount of sugar in food expressed in sugar cubes.

{Image from http://imgur.com/gallery/rKwc6}

PS-I’m in the midst of perfecting a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I made a batch this week that were passable, but not good enough to share with you, dear readers.  And I’m ignoring any recipes that have weird ingredients because you know how I hate to buy weird ingredients because I resent it.  I promise I’ll share soon!

Klutz

Perhaps a better word would be “injury-prone.”  In the past year or so, I have accumulated enough stupid, niggling injuries to make me wonder how anyone ever makes it through a track season.  They aren’t serious or surgical, but they are painful and irritating.  And the fact is, it’s not like I’m training for a marathon, folks.  I’m starting to believe that I evolved to be a sedentary being.  I’m worried that I’ll never be the runner I want to be.

Today, the NYTimes posted an article saying that more than half of all runners, male or female, competitive or otherwise, become injured every year.  I guess I’m not alone, and I’m taking comfort in other people’s injury.

The focus of today’s post is a study done at Harvard on the foot and its relation to running injuries.  The focus group consisted of 52 of the college’s cross-country runners.  This study found that 59% of the Harvard running teams were consistently heel-strikers and 31% were fore-foot-strikers (a different article from 2004 points out that not everyone is primarily one kind of striker or another because of terrain, speed, fatigue, etc).  Approximately 74% of the runners studied experience a moderate to severe injury each year.  However, of that number, those who were routinely heel-strikers experienced twice the rate of repetitive stress injuries than their forefoot-striking teammates.  I’ll stress that again – those numbers pertain to repetitive stress injuries.  There was no significant difference found in traumatic injury rates between the two groups.

The study concluded that all competitive distance runners incur high injury rates, but runners who primarily heel-strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who strike with their forefoot.

The study also pointed out the need for further study, specifically the hypothesis that the absence of marked impact in the forefoot strike contributes to lower rates of injuries in habitual forefoot strikers.

The study’s authors highlighted two important things: (1) their study did not examine or promote barefoot running in any way, and (2) if you’re not getting hurt with your current stride, don’t change your form.

Finally, they have a word of advice for those who do want to change to a forefoot strike: start slowly.  Mr. Daoud suggested that one land on the ball of one’s foot for only the last five minutes of the run and gradually work up to longer periods of forefoot landings.  Mr. Daoud used his own injury as proof: he broke a metatarsal while running his first marathon on his forefeet because he transitioned too quickly.

Link

Body-building

I recently embarked on a diet designed by a body-builder.  It’s aimed at maintaining muscle and focused on fat loss only.  More diets should be like this – I can already see greater definition in my abs.  It’s day 5.  Anyway, this particularly diet has sparked my interest in vegan body-building.

The NYTimes just posted an article about this growing niche in the competitive world of body-building.  It just goes to show that you can get enough protein, build muscle mass, and see muscle definition without eating animal proteins.  Some do it out of environmental or animal concerns, and some do it to rebel against the rampant steroid culture that exists among gym rats.  Any of those reasons are groovy, but I tend to relate most to those who want to achieve results naturally.  As I stated the other day, supplements freak me out.  I guess I’m learning to accept vitamins, but some of the stuff you can get at GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe is terrifying.

Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.

Fun fact: my brown rice protein powder has only 3 ingredients and dissolves in liquid WAY better than any whey protein I’ve ever tried.

Vits

I’ve always had a hard time accepting that I should consume things besides food.  To me, it seems like a caveman ate food, so I should eat food.  Also, I seem to be in a constant battle with my body, and I really want it to suck up and just perform properly.  However, the last few months have forced me to concede that these are irrational views.  Mind over matter only goes so far, my friends.

Specifically, I’ve been suffering from a lot of muscle cramping.  At first I ignored it, but it worsened to the point that I couldn’t walk down stairs because my calves were so tight.  I stopped running, I stopped wearing heels, I stretched daily, I drank gallons of water, but nothing seemed to work.  One expert suggested I eat more bananas.  So I ate bananas, but apparently potassium wasn’t my problem.  Another expert saw me try to run, and she suggested that I wasn’t consuming enough salt.  I took this opportunity to eat more French fries, but it didn’t seem to solve the problem.  Finally, a sports med doctor opined that I was Vitamin D-deficient.

At first, I was afraid she was going to tell me to give up my veganism; I worried that my deficiencies came from an inbalance in my diet and a lack of nutritional understanding.  However, she explained that 75% of all people who live in Chicago are Vitamin D-deficient because we never see the sun.  I began taking 2000 units a day of Vitamin D, and 1000 units of B12 (which IS actually in response to my veganism), and my problem was solved within 2 weeks!

And so, I am ushering in the age of supplements!

However, it’s a murky, dark area to many.  And I’m no nutrition expert . . . which is likely why I have this problem.  So I wanted to point out that there are few things of which one should be aware: water is good for your body, you can easily eat at least one banana a day in order to get all the potassium you need, salt is not the enemy – those who exercise a lot are sweating much of it out, and Vitamin D is integral for muscle function.

What vitamins do you take?

Laugh of the Day

I’m a delinquent blogger.  I DO have some great new recipes (thanks to all my wonderful relatives who creatively and deliciously accommodated my veganism during the holidays) and some interesting fitness insights to share soon.  But for now, please enjoy this little laugh on me.  I wasn’t able to post the picture here, but I promise the click is worth it 🙂