Thursday, November 29, 2007

Turkey Trot!!

Last weekend, I ran my first 5K race in the form of a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. Our race course would start at the Chapel of the Snows, go up the road past the dorms, down to the transition from road to ice, out to the ice runway, and then back to the Chapel again.

Race volunteers out on the ice runway.

That morning, I hopped outside in my pajamas to see how warm it was. It seemed so warm that I planned on going with the bare minimum of layers. Luckily, I had time to change my mind and my clothes after I actually spent some time outside. Away from my dorm, the wind was gusting and putting the chill on anyone silly enough to run with only a few layers. However, that didn't stop a few people from running in shorts all the same.

Pre-race milling around in front of the Chapel of the Snows

I've never done a 5K and really didn't know what to expect. My goal was to be closer to 20 minutes than to 30. I usually train at 8 or 9 minute miles so I figured 24 minutes was a realistic goal. Unfortunately, none of the people I run with run that speed in a race so I had no idea who to follow to pace myself. I resolved to get in front so I didn't get stuck behind slow people and then just try to keep up and slow down as necessary.

At the starting line, I'm on the left side of the first or second row

Out of the blocks, I did alright. I stayed in the top 10. As we turned down the first hill, I surged to the front because I figured I might as well use the hill to my advantage. At this point, I was running in the top three which was kind of surprising. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to maintain it. As we each meandered horizontally down the course trying to find solid snow, I slowly slipped away to 6th place. Once there, we turned to come back and were running directly into an awful headwind. It made breathing hard, gave me 100% cotton mouth, and just generally made running stink.

I got passed by one more guy after the half way point. He continued to pull away to about 50 yds. After that, I held with him the entire way back to town though and clawed myself up behind him on the final hill to about 15 yards away and a quarter mile from the finish. At this point, I could no longer see the leader. I imagine he had turned the last two corners on his way to a 19:46 finish.

The winner in 19:46 or so...

The final haul to the finish was short, downhill, and with the wind. I was able to open up and finally pass that one guy back. That felt good. Sprinting felt good too. The only sprinting that I have been getting is an hour a week in ultimate. I might need to change that up. Anyway, my final surge put me across the line in 6th place at 20:50 (7ish minute miles) and an incredible urge to puke. I held it in though.

Me, about 10ft from the finish

I'm REALLY surprised with myself. I never would have thought that I would have run that fast. Another guy, who finished two spots behind me, said that he normally runs mid-18's so I might be able to expect the same off the ice. That would be incredibly fast to me. I always considered 2 miles in 12 minutes to be in shape when I was training for ultimate. However, I didn't use that as my gauge for the past three years and figured I was losing it. I just didn't test it so I don't know if I was capable of it or not. I have never done three miles in eighteen minutes. Who knows if I could back home anyway. It does make me wonder.

Gretchen and Ben finishing up their Turkey Trot.

After I finished, I grabbed my Turkey Trot t-shirt that only the first 50 finishers got and cheered on my friends. That took a while because some people only went out as walkers.

The shirt we were all racing to win.

When enough people finished up, I grabbed a radio and checkout with the firehouse to do my actual distance run for the weekend. I had 2 more hours to do so we did the race course again and then went over to Scott Base via Armitage Loop. 11 more miles in two hours. Not a fast pace, but it was tiring because it took so long and half the Armitage Loop was directly into that ridiculous head wind. Boo to that, but even more boos to the strained tendon or muscle in the outside arch of my left foot. I ran again the day after the Trot, but haven't run since. I guess I'm well rested, but I'd prefer to be running.

This weekend I'm hoping to run the Grand Slam which is every trail that we can do on base.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When Skuas Attack . . .

Skuas are probably the most seen wildlife on McMurdo base and they rule the joint. According to the Antarctic Treaty we aren't allowed to touch or harass them no matter how pesky they can be. Just the other day, I was walking with hot tea to Hut 10 for a party. Someone told me I should pour tea on the skua to get it moving. I figured he must surely be joking because birds usually fly away when you get that close. It just continued to sit on the ground about a foot from my shoes as I walked by. I easily could have introduced it to the simply pleasure of Earl Grey. Even if vehicles come by, the skuas won't always move.

The dreaded skua

Skuas were here first and like any animal they adapt to their surroundings. For the skua, that meant recognizing new food sources when humans came to town. When I was in the carpenter shop a couple nights ago, a skua came down to try and sample our beer.

mmmmmm, beeer.

The culmination of the skuas adaptability is in their ability to dive bomb us for food. They often glide in so that the unsuspecting victim has no idea they are coming and then suddenly, they are attacked. Earlier in the year, someone had a large bandaid on his ear and he was telling people it was from a skua attack. It wasn't, but it was likely enough that a lot of people didn't question it. The dining assistants are told to beware of wearing their blue uniforms outside because the skuas have learned to associate the color blue with food because we use blue trays to carry our food.

An actual skua victim, Jane Jo

A close up of the carnage

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


After 48 hours of birthday goodness, I'm 30 by date in my time zone and time lived. Normally, I'm not a huge celebrator of my birthday. I enjoy it, but don't like getting carried away. It is really just one more excuse to gather a couple good friends up to hang out. Last year, I think I laid in bed because I had just had surgery on my finger.

This year, I was aiming for hanging out with a couple friends in the Coffee House on Monday, the 26th. I figured no one would be up for much more because we were coming off the holiday weekend (our first two day weekend of the season to celebrate Thanksgiving). However, the Coffee House is closed on Monday. Instead of declaring shenanigans or resigning myself to hanging out in my dorm room, I started plotting how I could get around this little hurdle. So Sunday morning, I started sniffing around and found out that I could rent out one of the three bars for a private party. The only one available was Southern Exposure, the smoking bar, which I wasn't interested in. I found out who had the Coffee House and Gallagher's and starting a full day of wheeling and dealing. The people in Gallagher's were willing to wrap up a little early and then let us in for a birthday party romp which gave me about 24 hours to get everything ready.

Lots of paperwork and shopping later, I had a party planned and some people to come out and play. It was a good, quiet time. Shuffleboard, pool, air hockey, Foosball, music, a video game machine with 20 old school arcade games on it, and about 25 people to play them all. Normally, all the games are hard to play because it is crowded, other people are playing, or there just isn't room. One guy game and set the high score on Ms. PacMac in one try. He said he was the champion of NE Alabama in his youth. The rest of us settled for lower scores and a long night of gaming and talking. I was home and getting ready for bed by midnight. When I got home, I got to see my birthday present from one of my roommates which was to decorate my side of the room. I didn't have anything up so he rectified that with the only thing he had - porn. Other people gave me coupons for massages, chatting, advice, special chocolate, a dozen fake mini-roses, and a fish magnet.

After another sleepless night, I was up for another tired day. Instead of getting birthday wishes from all over station they came pouring in over e-mail and facebook. Thanks to all of you who sent some love my way. I really appreciate it.

The goodness culminated after work about 6pm. After work, I headed home for a quick nap. My nap was interrupted by the mail room calling me to come and pick up my mail. They said to bring a friend to help and to get a taxi. Normally, they don't call but I apparently had SO much that it was taking up too much room. I had ELEVEN boxes. Apparently, all the mail that was sent 6 weeks ago or two weeks all came at once. It made my day. It made my night. It is going to make my week. Thank you all very much!!

All of my unopened mail in the hall outside my room.

After a quick trip to dinner and then down to the Coffee House for an Oregon Chai, I headed home to see what kind of goodies you guys had sent my way. I can't say how much fun it was to dig open and get so many ordinary items from home. It is amazing how the normal things from home mean so much more when you can't get them. It was interesting to see what ordinary items each person would choose to send as well.

My birthday presents!!!

In that pile of stuff, there was granola bars, rice, Thai Ramen, gummy fish, jelly bellies, a slinky, a penguin snuggle buddy, a CD of fabulous music, Oregon Chai, sour patch kids, trivia cards, candy and more candy, protein shake mix, unopened x-mas presents, a reading lamp, books, trail mix, girl scout cookies, and countless other yummies. On the walls, you can see I left up my roommates decorations. I'm excited that he did it because now I have thumbtacks to hang up my own pictures. We have thumbtacks all over base, I just haven't gotten any yet.

After a long winded late night fabulous call to Denver, I was closing out my b-day on the bottom of the world. Thanks to everyone who helped make it great. I slept better last night than I have any other night in a couple weeks.