Yooper runs & other such niceties...

I'm compelled to write about my running regime up here in the U.P- otherwise known as Yooper Territory in upper Michigan. Yesterday morning was the first snow on the ground since I arrived. It was just a light dusting, but the temperature had dropped steeply from the balmy upper 40s we'd been experiencing since early last week.

I suited up, as usual in my SmartWool garb, but with the addition of my sweet hot pink (cotton) gloves. I've been wearing my Norwegian wool beanie that Nancy-Girl knitted for me 2 years ago. Left without my beloved, magical Hoka One One runners, I found my trusty old Saucony Kinavara 6s. I was ready to go. Brother Tim would follow behind, and Brother Curt would hoof it in a walking gait.

Just getting down the steep-ish road to the main road was precarious enough; the snow wasn't sticking as it fell, but some spots had already iced over and were glistening, revealing their icy secrets underneath. The first near-miss fall and I was over on the edge in the snowy grasses- dangerously close to 'bear territory' as I know it to be (without seeing a single bear there for all the years that I've been visiting the 'rents up here in their original homeland).

Only last winter did I ever start running in snowy conditions, when I was living in Istanbul. I ventured out there in snowy conditions, and it wasn't as bad as I had originally thought it to be. Usually I don't run down to Merriman Road because I think about bears, and there aren't many cars that go to/from that direction- so no one will hear me when I'm screaming bloody murder as a black bear snacks on me... Yes, these are my thoughts as I run up here...

As I descended, I came out of my stupor and drifted from bear mauling to an internal weather update. Thanks to SmartWool, I was toasty; this made me smile. Off I trotted heading south onto U.S. 607. The 607 was ice-free, fortunately. Right away my nose inhaled a healthy dose of cold air. It tickled. It wasn't unpleasant. The woods all around were alive and talking; snow falling from cedars and other flora, water from the plethora of groundwater drainages/swamps, etc. were freezing and cracking- from expanding/condensing when sunlight hits the water/ice. Steady winds whipped up leaves all around me, as if dancing. Delightful, all of it.

I adore looking at all the long driveways, full of unfamiliar things to my eyes; Green Bay Packers memorabilia adorning many mailboxes, large, life-sized bucks used for (what I think) target practice, winter recreation vehicles, etc. People here in these parts sure know how to make the most of winter conditions. Christmas decorations have sprung up in the past 10 days as well so a grand light display is still visible during daylight hours when skies are overcast and agitated, such as the day was shaping out to be.

There is this one part of the run where there are no houses and just open land. This part freaks me out- because, bears. This was a solemn stretch, giving me time to take in the surrounding beauty. Everything seemed so  clear, clean, crisp and exposed to these elements that somehow cleansed my soul- and who doesn't need a soul-cleansing? A large cleaning afforded me a view of a perfectly shaped natural ice-skating rink. I wonder if anyone else thought so. I saw my destination- the treeline at the house of my dads friend. He has since passed as well. As I ran by I thought about how much they both loved their radio-controlled airplanes and flying time. Soon enough I came upon Merriman Road West, my turn-around 2-mile mark.

I was feeling fierce though so continued on to the east. I got a little spooked soon enough as the trees were closing in on me, hiding carnivorous bears... so I gave in and turned around. I was still luxuriating in what seemed to be ideal running conditions and saw one of my brother's trotting towards me. I high-fived as we passed. Further ahead I ran into my other brother, who was walking. I wasn't wanting this time outdoors to end so soon so I decided to walk with him- in the opposite direction, where I had just come from. We headed back towards Merriman Road. When rounding the bend after about a mile, the air became fierce, spitting on us with cold, venomous air that stopped us in our tracks. Knowing better, we turned around after spotting Brother Tim, figuring he'd catch up to us. Headed back, we solved the world's problems, and felt good about it.

Back home and inside the sweat box (mom liked it to be 70º indoors), we delighted in all the cookie dough that needed to turn into fresh baked cookies. It has been a 2-day cookie baking marathon. What I realized was that I was thoroughly insulated, and never did the cold air affect me negatively during my run. It is so nice to run and not be baking hot and sweating- which is my future again when I move to Kurdistan...

I'm excited to have a few more weeks in Oregon, before departure, to continue to cold-weather run. Also, my beloved Hoka One Ones are there, waiting for me. Today is flight day. Curt and I are packed up and loaded with this a cumbersome- sized tote bag of Christmas cookies... Mom and Tim are also burdened with bucket-loads of cookies left behind. It's been a great visit this year. Every day has been filled with wonder, laughing, crossword puzzles, puzzles, MaJong, food, more food, merriment with neighbors, etc.

It's weird 'coming home' when a place has never been your home, but it feels like home- or at least one of your homes... Everywhere seems like 'home' to me. Every home has also been a great run for me. Yea, running is like going home- every time.


'Cember Second

Be the Alpaca

following in brother's footsteps...
ice-cracking on the Menomonee River

llamas llamas llamas!

backyard excursions

prepping for the ski slide stairmaster

shiny, happy people

gobble gobble, the Thanksgiving survivors club in the backyard...

typical day

mom takes on the Christmas Tree

"Holly, when's your birthday"?  " 'Cember second". Apparently that was my answer when asked, which was, apparently, all the time. As the story goes, it's the only other birthday all my other siblings remember except for their own as well as our mother and father...

So today, 'Cember second, I'm in the U.P. of Michigan; Headquarters of the matriarch of the Formolo clan- my mum. It's surreal first because this is only the 2nd time I've ever been in Michigan at this time of year (I've never lived here) so there is so much newness to experience here. For example, the weather. It's actually pretty 'balmy' here at a steady 43º average since we arrived, my big brother and I. I've been running and/or climbing the steps at the infamous Pine Mountain Ski Jump daily in only running tights, a base layer and outer shell- which all happen to be SmartWool clothing.

Okay I'm getting side-tracked, but SmartWool is AMAZEBALLS. As you all know, I've just finished a stint working as an archaeologist at Yosemite National Park here in America. That was lovely, BTW. Part of that loveliness was being able to use my Park email address to apply for all these 'pro' deal accounts with big label sports outfitters like Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Hoke One One, SmartWool, etc. Man I did go a bit crazy with it all, but I'm stocked up- and so is my family (once a year they allow you to give your 1/2 off discounts to your family for the holidays).

I'm discovering here just how amazing SmartWool is to wear when exercising in cold weather. It breathes people! It keeps you warm, seals in the heat, while wicking out the sweat/moisture. I've read about this concept for forever and a few years, but never experienced it. I'm a believer.

It's also surreal to be here because, as I've said before, I never lived in Michigan. All my siblings grew up here together for a time. They all share this collective experience here that I'm not neessarily privy to. It's just interesting.

Last night we all went out to dinner for my birthday- something that we all never did as kids. Anyway, we're at El Capitan Supper Club and reading up on the story of the place, which is over the Menominee River and in Wisconsin. As the story goes, the North Woods were one of Al Capone's trusty hideouts during Prohibition and the Great Depression of the 1920s and '30s. He used to run liquor from Canada through Michigan and Wisconsin and so commonly came through the area. 

So we're reading the local lore, and the waitress is filling in the gaps for us and suddenly mom busts out a little snippet about our long-departed Uncle Ducky and some friend/relative(?) who was of an unsavory sort. I love it when she gets in these moods where she rehashes these sweet anecdotes, recollecting the past. There were two dancehalls right in this neck of the woods, and loads of bars. The Great Depression and Prohibition were lucrative times after all, right? Ahhh I love hearing about 'herstory' of the area!

This is the first 'Cember second that I've been in America in a long time, and likely the only one where I've been here in the U.P. Our days are filled with chatting, knitting, working on puzzles, watching the news, arguing about the news, and eating. My morning runs have been on point. I squeal with glee in terms of my running game. I'm not even wearing my trusty Hoka One Ones... I feel like I'm gliding these days. I continue to experience this 'honeymoon' phase of running- throughout life. I am definitely on a runner's high these days- especially here in late autumn temperatures. 

The Pine Mountain Ski Area stairs are a favorite activity of my family. Every summer we dutifully go up them- all 500. I either do them twice, or after the 1st 500 steps, which takes one to the base of the ski jump, continue to climb up to the top of the ski jump itself. This affords one with an incredible 360º view of Iron Mountain and its environs. Yea, the 'Steps' as they are called are top-tier fun for us.

On Friday we went out for a leisurely drive. Our destination was Norway, and the Alpaca farm there. We've all been here before, except for Curt. It's a house with a huge fenced enclosure for the animals and a store in back where the back porch goes out and you can watch the animals and then walk around and pet them. The store is full of eye-candy: yarn... I get all googly-eyed in there since I've taken up knitting. Mom does too. So did Curt, and Tim. We all walked out with a bag... Family. 

Today I'm on cooking duty. We've all been taking turns making dinners this past week. Today I'm making my famous French omelette for breakfast. It's also Christmas cookie day, and then I'm ending it with a complete Turkish kebab dinner. It's going to be a grand day in terms of cuisine... The weather is even supposed to hold out! Actually, it's going to be in the mid-40s until we depart later in the week. On deck for tonight is a sauna and cold plunge bathtub over at my mom's neighbors. The moon was just full last night- a super-moon on my birthday- so it should be epic.

Okay, it's time to get up from the couch here in the den- my HQ while here.