Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Raven Run Club: Alaska Training Program for Runners of all Levels

This fall I'm going to Anchorage at least once a week as part of the Raven Run Club, a 15 week training program put on by Skinny Raven and coached by their employees. It has been so fun so far and I'm glad I signed up!

Running is something that anyone can do, but all the technical stuff can be kind of confusing for beginners and seasoned runners a like. I decided to join the training program as a first step towards having a coach planning workouts for me with the goal of improving my pace. It is so nice to have someone more experienced than myself to write out workouts that I just get to show up and complete. I also love getting feedback while I'm running, on my form and pace during Tempo segments. It's also great to get to know other people in the Alaska running community - it's always great to find more running buddies!

Even though the training program started August 19, I believe you can still sign up and pay an adjusted fee for the remaining weeks. And I think that Skinny Raven plans on offering training programs year round in the future, which is so exciting! The programs are open to runners of all levels and the coaches are all extremely friendly and easy to talk to. For anyone looking to improve at running, I highly recommend signing up! There are three times offered: 6am, 10am and 6pm and we meet every Wednesday for the main workout and then there's an optional Saturday long run as well at 8am.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: Portage, Alaska

On the way home from our camping trip to Portage Valley a couple of weeks ago, we stopped into the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Located at mile 79 of the Seward Highway, the AWCC is about 55 minutes outside of Anchorage and is well worth the drive. Opened in 1993, the AWCC is committed to conservation of Alaska's wildlife and educating the thousands of visitors they receive each year.

I hadn't visited the center since my teenage years when I was still living at home, and my have things changed around there! It is such an amazing place to visit, both for adults and for kids of all ages. There is a visitor center with restrooms, a snack bar (well stocked!) and a gift shop.

As for seeing all the animals, there are three different options. You can drive, walk or a combination of both. Personally I would always rather park and walk. That's what we did when we visited, and it worked wonderfully. We brought the stroller which Raina spent most of her time in, and Riggs rode along when he chose to. I can see how it would be nice to drive in inclement weather or if you have someone in your group who can't walk for long distances (I think all the loops combined are about 1.5 miles).

I cannot say enough about the quality of the enclosures, the friendliness of the staff, and the overall experience. We had such a good time, and I could not get over how non-cage like all of the enclosures were. Wide expanses of land have been fenced off for each animal to roam, and the more confining enclosures (for the Lynx and Eagle, for example) were beautifully laid out with plenty of enriching details included to entertain the animals. Each animal had an informational panel (or two or three) and even as a lifelong Alaskan who loves nature and the outdoors, I learned a lot!

Location: 49 miles from Anchorage near Girdwood and Portage
Price: $12.50 per adult; youth (13-18)/seniors/active duty military $9; children 12 & under are free.
Hours: 8am to 8pm every day. Hours change September 17, see their website for more information.

click on photos to see larger versions/slideshow:

Visitor Center with gift shop and cafe at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
Grizzly bear putting on a show for the guests during the staff member's presentation at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
Wood Bison.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation is involved in an extensive project to reintroduce Wood Bison into the wild in Alaska. 
Herd of male Elk, some of which will be flown to the island of Akun to provide economic diversity and opportunity for the Alaska Native community there on the island.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Raina Grace: Birthday Party and One Year Update

I love her silly faces. She loved her little cake, but didn't have much luck blowing out the candle.

Well, it happened; Raina is one year old. It's been two months since her actual birthday, and I'm finally able to wrap my mind around the fact.

We have had such a crazy summer, and I wanted to include everyone in Raina's party, so we planned it for the first Sunday in August, when she was actually 13 months old, so that my little sister could be there. Of course, in the end Steve wasn't able to be there for her party, which made me so sad. But there's only so much you can do to try and plan ahead with his job, we're kind of used to it. I'm glad we got so many good pictures so he could see all of her adorable little expressions as she ate her little cake and opened presents. I was sure to get a few videos too throughout the party.

My family actually all came out and 'camped' in our driveway in their campers the night before, and then we all went to my church in the morning. It was so fun! After church we came home to get the party started, except poor Raina was already so ready for her nap by the time we got home. She made it through (just barely) and I laid her down in her crib as soon as we finished opening the last present. The rest of us enjoyed lunch and cake and each other's company at a pleasant, leisurely pace after that while she slept.

I went with the same cake I made for Riggs' first birthday, adding strawberry preserves to the frosting
for flavor and a hint of pink. She LOVED the cake and at way more than I thought she would! 

I asked my family to pass on buying her any toys, and they did a great job of getting her other useful items, like books, clothing and even her first money! Only my mom broke my 'rule' and got her a toy, but grandma's are allowed to break all the rules, haha.

Tearing up while reading her the book from Steve and I. Seriously, go find this book and I challenge you to read it (especially aloud!) without crying your eyes out.

The cake was a hit and we ended up with only one small slice left after the adults were done eating.

Watching Raina grow has been one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced. She has such a sweet, happy spirit and her face just lights up a room when she smiles. No one else could have added what she has to our family, and both Steve and I are head-over-heels in love with everything about her.

At one she crawls at lightning speeds, stands for a few seconds on her own, cruises around furniture, and climbs everything. She will walk if we hold her hands, which her cousin Noah discovered. She's got six teeth with two more on the way, and has much more hair than her brother did at the same age. She's in between clothing sizes, with 12 month being nearly too small and 18 month being pretty loose and baggy. Size 4 honest or seventh generation diapers fit her now and probably will for a long time. Her growth really slowed down from 9-12 months, just like big brother. Here's her growth curve from year one:

birth - 8 lbs 1 oz
4 months - 15.12 lbs
8 months - 20.08 lbs
12 months - 21.5 lbs

birth - 19.5 in
4 months - 26 in
8 months - 28 in
12 months - 29 in

Other than mama and dadda, her very first 'real' word(s) was "oh wow!", which is pretty much just perfect. In the last two weeks, her speech has really picked up and she'll often surprise us by repeating something we say to her. She loves to give hugs and is a very snuggly baby. Organizing is her favorite, and she loves to take things out of their bin and then put them away again over and over.

Her and Riggs share a room, and during a typical night (6:30pm to 6:30am) she wakes 2-3 times to nurse then goes right back to sleep. I haven't done a single thing to encourage her to not nurse at these times, as I'm pretty ok with it for now. Riggs dropped all but one feeding on his own between 12 and 18 months and then was sleeping through the night by 24 months, and I just trust that she's follow the same general schedule.

Before you were born, my heart always knew I wanted to be a good parent to you. 
I imagined for months how our family would be, the things you would learn, the places we'd see.
What I couldn't have known was all that you'd be by you being you and giving to me!
You're my joy beyond joy to grow you, my child, my delight and my thankful, my adventure, my wild.
You are all this and more, a gift from the start. You are my blessing and love - you are my heart.
-Marianne Richmond; excerpt from You are my Heart board book