Monday, March 04, 2013

Snowshoe Racing, Downton Abby, and the Iditarod

Snowshoe running: Neither for the faint of heart, nor the out of shape runner. In January, I made my second finish at the Tahoe Rim Tour Snowshoe Race. Somehow, I remember it being so much easier the last time I ran it. But then again, I suppose I was in better shape that time.

In fact, I think it was the ease and joy of the 2011 race that had me eager to return, and of course I had Jamie in tow this time as well.  What’s the fun in tromping through powder with tennis rackets on your feet if you can’t do it with your best friend? Unfortunately, for this year’s edition, we’d both run long just the day before, but I thought it would be a good way to get my winter ass back into shape. Ha! Well, it was. Depending on what you mean by “good.”

This is what it looked like at the start. Do you see anyone without skis on their feet? Yeah, me neither!

Ready for a long day on beautiful trails!

Here's Helen, getting ready to ski away from us at the sound of the gun.

Fortunately, the conditions were pretty firm, and we set a conservative pace early. This was a good move, since we certainly didn’t feel like it was easy at any point. Snowshoe running for me isn’t so much about going fast as it is about focused coordination: Don’t step on your own shoes (or your friends), don’t kick your ankles (Ouch!), and don't forget to point your toes on the downhills. 

The course, starting in Tahoe City and finishing at Northstar Resort, has a solid climb over a mountain pass. Not easy. We enjoyed incredible scenery and were happy to find some downhill running in the later miles.

Jamie, tearing up the downhill.

We finished exhausted and happy in the bright Tahoe sunshine. Thirty minutes slower than in 2011 and with our snowshoe craving sated for the year.


In February I joined many of the wonderful women of my family for the second annual Snowshoe Jamboree (aka “SnowJam”) in Arnold, CA. It’s ladies’ weekend at the cabin, and we always have so much fun.

More snowshoeing? Okay, count me in!

This year, my sister and I spent the first morning skate skiing at Bear Valley.

View from the summit!

Skate skiing is hard work!

I also learned about the quaint little town of Murphys, which was just a short drive from our cabin. If you like wine tasting, you will appreciate Murphys. The whole main street was packed with tasting rooms, and we had a grand time exploring. Perfect for ladies weekend!

A lovely afternoon in the tasting room at the Frog's Leap Winery.

See why it's perfect for Ladies' Weekend?

They sort of have this thing about frogs in these parts, especially the jumping kind. These two were just hanging out though.

On day two we went snowshoeing around Lake Alpine. The weather could not have been better!

Yosemite Gals at Lake Alpine.

With Mom and Sister.

I'm already looking forward to next year's SnowJam!


This weekend will see one of my favorite races take place: Way Too Cool 50K. I’m signed up for it, but I’m not sure I’ll be at the starting line this year. The prospect of not running it makes me mighty sad, but I still have some lingering health questions to answer for myself. I’d like to get those things figured out before embarking on any serious races.  Part of the reason I haven’t committed to the DNS is because I just can’t face it. I love this race!
We’ll see how the next week plays out, but either way, I will certainly be there. If I don’t race, I’ll be volunteering at the Highway 49 aid station, cheering you all that final 1.4 miles to the finish. My advice if you’re running Cool? Make friends and have fun. It’s a big race, and the upside of that is that you’ll get to meet a lot of great people. Ultrarunners are pretty cool folks (no pun intended).


And in extremely important non-running-related news, I burned through the entire second season of Downton Abby in three days last week. Based on the spoiler-y comments on Facebook, I have decided that I will not be watching season three. This is where it ends for me. As far as I’m concerned, there is no season three. Aside from the fate of poor Mr. Bates, (who, let’s face it, as the story’s martyr, is pretty much doomed), everything seems to be resolved quite nicely, thank you very much. The End.

And it occurs to me that this must be a particular challenge of writing for a television series – you never know just exactly when your story is going to end. If Downton Abby were a book or a movie, the end of season two would be a pretty solid ending. I mean, (Spoiler Alert!) the war is over, Sybil’s made her break, Edith has had some growing experiences and is more mature (less of a bitch), Anna and Mr. Bates are together (okay, sort of), and Mary and Matthew … Well that took long enough, didn’t it? It was very Pride and Prejudice. But nonetheless, resolved.

When you’re writing a book, you know exactly when it’s going to end, and you create your story arc to arrive there at the right time. Even in a series, if you were writing, say, seven books. You know that it’s at the end of book seven where either Harry or Voldemort is killed by the other. You wouldn't write that part into book five.

In TV, it seems that it’s more like, “Okay, we might get cancelled so maybe we’ll resolve this storyline, but leave these others hanging in case we do run next season.” But then if things are too resolved and the show does run for another season, they have to reopen old storylines, or invent some new ones, and eventually it all starts to feel rather ridiculous and contrived. I mean, how much drama can one family really go through?

So, anyway. Downton Abby. Only two seasons. End of story. (Unless there’s a season four, and it really rocks. Then, someone call me.)


And lastly, the 41st Iditarod started this week! Once again, my 5th –grade students and I are following the race, learning about the history, and each choosing a musher to track online. Many of my students’ mushers are already in the top ten, so they’re pretty excited.

Last year, I chose to follow Dallas Seavy. Despite the fact that there were six past champions in the race that year, Dallas pulled out his first win as the youngest person ever to be Iditarod Champion. Of course I spent the last 3 months of school bragging to my students about how my musher kicked all their mushers' butts. 

I always give the students first choice of which musher they want to follow. This year, even though no one chose to follow Dallas, (I need to teach them better research skills!) I picked Aliy Zirkle. I still kind of think Dallas is the one to beat, but there are a lot of strong dogs and experienced mushers out there. Aliy is smart, has a strong kennel, and could definitely pull out the win! (I try to tell my students that it's not about choosing the winner, but it's hard not to want to see your musher first to Nome!)

If you’re interested in a silly thing like long distance foot races, you can check out the updates on The Iditarod Trail Committee also has a Facebook page, but I have found the best updates so far on Dallas Seavy’s Facebook page.

Happy running, doggies (and everyone else out there)!

Zoya DeNure's team at the 2011 Iditarod (Photo by Dana Orlosky)


  1. I'm pretty sure Dallas is toast - he's already dropped two dogs! I'm going for Aliy Zirkle (I was at the mushers' banquet last Thursday and she seemed to be everyone's top pick), although I must say Martin Buser's crazy move to kick off the race has me sort of rooting for him. It will probably blow up in his face, but you never know! Then again, I don't know anything about dog mushing so I could be completely wrong about it all.

    Sorry, I got excited that you wrote about the Iditarod because following it is part of my job right now (and I live in Anchorage). Glad to hear Lower 48-ers are interested too!

    Beautiful pictures! Seems Tahoe's seen a lot of sun.

    1. Wow, that's so cool that you get to follow the Iditarod as part of your job! I'm jealous, although I guess you could say I'm doing sort of the same thing by following it with my students.

      I do think Dallas is in a bit of trouble, especially since one of those dropped dogs was one of his lead dogs. He'll have to move up other leaders that he wanted to rest longer, but that's racing! I definitely don't think he's toast though. Still in contention. And yes, I am interested to see how Martin Buser's strategy plays out. My students are so excited about it all, which makes it even more fun.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Whatever is happening that makes you questioning your start at Cool, I hope gets figured out, racing or not. I love that you can do other things besides running due to where you live! I am kind of stuck with running, and it does burn you off, as silly as it sounds. Even a few snow-shoe trips, cross-country skiing, a couple downhill days...I am not asking much! :( Keep it up!

    1. Thanks, Olga. I have definitely been enjoying the cross training lately. I totally agree that only running as an option can burn you out. I know I get that way, which is why I have no problem taking the winter as an off season. Plenty of time to run in the summer! Anyway, you and Larry should take a travel vacation for some other kind of sport. Mt. Bike Telluride to Moab, or raft the Salmon River. You'd love it! Of course, when you're traveling not to want to run in all those beautiful locations, too. :)

    2. Those places are meant to be run! And I can't bike:) We plan plenty of vacation, but that all happens when kids are out of the house. Right now it's a short weekend at vest, mostly separately, and for a race. Sigh.

  3. California Dream'n3/05/2013 5:51 PM

    What!!?? No season 3 of Downton Abbey!! Yikes! Where's that sense of commitment/endurance/perseverance/determination that we know in Gretchen The Runner applied to the Downtown peeps? Press On I say! :) Here's an inspirational quote to bring you back to season three:

    "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." --Calvin Coolidge

    1. Nooooooo!! Don't tempt me! I just can't handle the tragedies that I now feel certain are to befall the family in season three.

      I got another comment by email encouraging me to watch it, too. Dang, you guys are a tough crowd.

      Does Calvin Coolidge make an appearance on Downtown Abby in season three and say that? 'Cuz that would really be something.

  4. You might get some unwanted hits on this post, as I'm sure someone's made a p.0.rn called "Dowtown Abby." For the record, the strangest search that's led to my blog was "1700s nipples" - don'tya just love the internet?