One glance at the outside thermometer this morning had me shivering – and I was still indoors. A peek out the window confirmed the digital warning. It was +7F and glistening frost adhered to every surface. It did NOT look like the idea walking conditions in the cover photo!
Single digits. What an invigorating day for a walk! With some important things to think about and needing a little “me time”, a walk would provide both. And seriously, there’s no way to avoid winter when you live in Alaska.
Bolstered by a large mug of hot coffee, I considered my options. Even securely wrapped in fleecy winter coats, the Dachshunds were willing to venture just far enough out into the yard to do their “business”. 13-year-old Abby, with her thick, built-in winter coat, meandered a bit further, sniffing along the tree line for a few minutes before returning to the warm house. By the time Abby and I came back inside, Baxter and Ronni had claimed a bed in front of the wood stove. Yep, I said A bed. There ARE two beds side by side there, but both dogs much prefer this one. 😉 Here’s the look I got when I asked if they wanted to go back outside. Right.
After a second mug of coffee and no movement from the wood stove, I decided I was on my own and, abandoning the dogs to their hedonistic delights in front of the toasty fire, I dressed for the day and gathered my walking paraphernalia.
Layering seemed like the best option, so I started with lightly insulated leggings under comfortable jeans. A matching long-sleeved insulated base layer shirt fit under a comfy sweatshirt. Warm wool socks, hiking boots with good traction (it’s icy even just walking to the car, much less anyplace else!), gloves, scarf and a woolly knit hat completed the look. I gave the looong dogs one more chance – hey guys! Wanna go OUTSIDE?!? I got the whale-eye from both of them before they ran and hid under blankets. Mom wants us to do WHAT? It’s COLD out there! Nothin’ doing.
OK, fine. Back to planning my solo walk. Let’s see, what else did I need? Oh! Can’t walk for long without music … I strapped my canvas dog training pouch (empty of doggy treats this time) around my waist, added my Kindle (fits in the training pouch like it was made for it) and grabbed my headphones. Checking the exterior temps again, I was encouraged to see it had jumped to +16F. Oh boy. Picking up my purse, my bag of miscellaneous necessities and donning my down jacket, I headed out the door. Oh wait! Dang … I knew I’d forget something. Note to self. Remember to bring fingerless gloves so your hands can stay relatively warm while changing the music settings on the Kindle.
I paused for a moment to appreciate the view from the deck. Wow, there is something special about being outdoors in Alaska in the wintertime, isn’t there? The scenery is spectacular; the sky today is a gorgeous blue peeking through billowing clouds. The trees remain shrouded in frost. It is absolutely gorgeous.
Taking a deep breath, I exhale and watch my breath float off in a cold, misty cloud. Carefully stepping along the snow-covered path to avoid a possibly painful slip on the ice, I snug my woolly hat over already frost-reddened ears … and walk to my car. Beautiful it may be, but my driveway is WAY too icy for taking a walk. Moving on. Hey, without the dogs, my options are wide open.
A short five-minute drive later and I arrived at my favorite wintertime walking track. It only takes a minute to sign in, get my punch card punched and head upstairs. Yep, I said upstairs. 😊
Welcome to the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla, Alaska! In case you are wondering – YES, that is an ice rink in the middle of the cavernous building. The walking/jogging track follows the perimeter of the ice rink (volleyball courts in summer) and we often get to watch folks ice skating around the rink or local high school teams practicing hockey as we complete our laps high above them. The gloves, leggings and sweatshirt really ARE necessary – although it’s not as cold on the track as it is outside today, the temp is definitely nippy.
It is nice living near this great, multi-purpose complex – it is literally just a few miles down the road. There’s a clean, airy locker room just off the track where you can stash your coat, boots and other gear (locks are not included, but you are welcome to bring your own). Handy benches are perfectly situated for changing into mandatory (clean) track shoes. Inside the door to the track area, there are also open cubbies and coat hooks above benches for those who’d rather keep water bottles and belongings in sight while they walk.
Here are some views as I work my way around the track. There are inspirational sayings printed on the wall in several spots here, as well as downstairs in the multi-use areas. Wide windows along the upper level add natural light and a lovely view.
I usually start out with one lap at a warm-up pace, loosening up and relaxing. With a lap behind me, I drop into my habit of striding along the lower level stretch with arms swinging, power-walking up the incline, striding again along the upper level and jogging the downhill. I use the incline to work on my posture, tummy in, bending my elbows and keeping my shoulders back. Leaning slightly forward, I push for a fast walk. Keeping in mind, I’m almost 70 and trying to maintain some sort of decent condition – not training for a marathon. A fast walk for me is really not very fast. The same goes for “jogging”. I’ve honestly had a few men pass me at a walk while I’m jogging. But it gets my heart pumping and feels good, so it’s a win.
6.4 laps of the Menard track equal one mile, and as you can hopefully see in the photos, there are two longer level stretches, broken up by a mild incline on one end and a slight downhill stretch on the opposite. It makes for a nice, balanced walk of whatever length you want. My goal is to try for a two-mile walk, but there are days when one mile is more than enough. It’s more about getting out and being active.
A fun Menard Sports Center quirk; everyone walks clockwise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and counter-clockwise on the alternate days. 😊 So today was a clockwise walk. They have the comfortable, rubberized track set up so there are two “lanes” to walk in, with passing areas and rest areas with benches at two of the rounded corners. Walkers are really good about moving over to allow faster-moving people to pass – it’s a friendly, low-key place.
Today was a fairly quiet day at the track, as I was hoping. A couple of young Moms were working a speed-walk behind a pair of baby strollers, several single walkers kept their own pace and one older man ambled slowly along, smiling and humming to a tune in his headset. He may not have been going very fast (I passed him twice), but he was there when I starting walking and was still moving along when I left the track.
Some days Jerry accompanies me to the center. If he gets tired of walking, there is usually someone to talk to or other activities to watch. We seldom walk together, but it’s nice to see him out there, even if we just wave or touch hands when one of us passes the other. I know there are days when Jerry goes by himself, too. Some days one of my girlfriends come along – that is always fun. It’s nice at times to simply walk and talk, without any other agenda. A walk is a walk.
This particular November day I’d come alone though, and I was content with keeping my own thoughts. It’s almost Thanksgiving and the holidays are looming closer. I struggle not to close down emotionally during the holidays, being so far from most of my family. My Mom passed away just days before Christmas two years ago, and that weighs on my heart this time of year, too. Walking helps me to stay on an even keel on days when I’m otherwise tempted to sit home and brood.
This year, I had very much wanted and planned to head to Oregon around Christmas time and am really disappointed not to be able to go. I first thought to make the trip down in late fall, driving my RV with the idea of leaving it at my son’s home for the winter, but just couldn’t get my ducks in a row for that. So, I thought, I will fly down for Christmas. It all seemed pretty doable … in September.
I knew I would have a couple of weeks off work (no Nose Work classes or practices scheduled over the Christmas break) and it seemed like the perfect time for a trip to see kids and grandkids (and great-grandkids). I figured Christmas was my best chance at seeing most if not all of them in one trip too. Sadly, with my rose-colored glasses firmly in place; I had been thinking and planning “Christmas” without really thinking “Winter”. Sigh. It’s a long way from Portland, OR to Madras, OR – over a mountain pass – in winter. I needed to be able to fly into the smaller Redmond, OR, airport on the east side of the mountains … and that commuter hop nearly doubled the cost over flying in and out from Portland. Adding that to the already higher airfare over the holidays and it put it firmly out of my reach. I’ll get to OR (and to WI, too!), but it won’t be this Christmas. ☹
In the meantime, I’ll keep walking. I sure wish they allowed dogs at the Menard Center.
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” ― Steven Wright.