Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Tracking Amber on the Baltic

IMG_0187During a month of hiking, running, walking and sailing through Baltic ports, amber was a constant. These beautiful remnants of fossilized tree sap come in shades of yellow, brown, red and black and regardless of size have a depth of beauty.

Though most of amber is now mined commercially there are many amber collectors, people who live or work near the sea, who use a process that dates at least to the 1600’s, still collecting amber by wading into the water to visually locate and capture amber by net.

IMG_0194

Our Lithuanian amber guide Igor helps me suit up for the hunt. Will this count toward my upper-body cross-training? Photo Credit: Catherine Kerber

We left Klaipėda, Lithuania to ferry across the lagoon to the Curonian Spit, a 98-kilometer sand dune with territory belonging to both Lithuania and Russia. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. There, we had an opportunity to hike across the dunes and learn the Baltic netting method.

Amber floats in salt water and frequently can be found imbedded in seewed.

Amber floats in salt water and frequently can be found imbedded in seaweed.

There are some days in the Baltic Sea that are prime for harvesting amber. Alas, it was not my day and the net captured little. I did come away with my own unpolished chunk, gifted by Igor.

unpolished  Baltic amber

unpolished Baltic amber

 

We visited amber museums in Poland, Lithuania, and Denmark and museums exist in virtually every port on the Baltic. There is even an amber room in Catherine’s Palace near Saint Petersburg. The Nazis were impressed enough that they left town with the amber panels from the room, never to return.  In the last few decades, Russian artists recreated the panels and restored the room to its former glory.

Of the many amber museums throughout the Baltic, my favorite is the Gdansk Museum in Poland. It is housed next door to the Torture Museum in a section of what was the walled area of the city and the former prison dating back to the 1400’s. My shipboard friend Autumn and I were held hostage ourselves as a group of school children ushered in front of us, pinning us in a small alcove.

IMG_0174

14th century Fore Gate, location of Gdansk Amber Museum

A note of warning: For this visit, it helps to have some mountain goat in your soul. Access to the museum will require negotiation of tight dark stairs, but all is worth it to see the beautiful amber creations. In addition to detailed information on the development of amber over millions of years, its reputation for healing powers and information about the amber trade over the last couple hundred years, add the works of local contemporary artisans and amber craftsmen on display.

I’m not convinced of its healing or health powers, but I do find myself wearing my unpolished amber nugget when I run. I’d love to here about your experience with amber. And, does anyone run with a stone or charm for luck, for its healing power, or as a talisman when you run, hike, bike?

 

Unknown

 

Restless on Independence Day

This July 4th post doesn’t have any fireworks, not even an explosive topic.IMG_1047 I’ve simply been musing about the need to move about, to travel, to explore. Is it just me, or do I share this with most Americans?

We seem to be restless people. Since many of us are descendents of folks who picked up their worldly belongings and headed across an ocean or a landmass, it’s no surprise that the travel bug can create that restless itch in us. It may have begun with a need for freedom, a route out of poverty or a place to belong, but the restlessness persists. It may continue with the simple need to keep moving, whether through travel vacations that temporarily satisfy the bug, or through permanent relocations.

IMG_1055

Hiking with my brother through South Dakota meadow.

Does our work life demand travel or do we invent other reasons? Currently, other than friends and family connections there is no need for me to travel. That said, I can always find a rationale to keep moving and poke my curious nose into the corners of this country and beyond. I may be traveling to visit relatives, but I can usually  find a way to explore something new along the way or at destination.

I may travel to run races, but will always bank in several days to explore a path, a city, a state, or country new to me. There are perfectly fine races of almost every distance within a 20-mile radius of my home.

Finishing a Canadian 10K

Finishing a Canadian 10K

Yet, I travel across the country and beyond to races from a 5K to a mara- thon. I’m placing the blame for this restlessness that drives the spirit squarely on my brave and adventurous ancestors. Along with blaming them, I thank them for it.

I expect many Americans8580479-u-s-american-flag-in-front-of-a-blue-sky are traveling this week to be with friends and family and to share with their children the many wonders of the road.

Safe travels to all and a Happy 4th.

 

 

Losing my Sole in Stockholm

 

Events at any destination, even cities as beautiful and inviting as Stockholm, can bring disappointments, some of the traveler’s own making.

A Stockholm Sunday in the Park

A Stockholm Sunday in the Park

This was doubly true for my visit. The first disappointment came a month or two before departure when I took a detailed look at my itinerary. My “eureka” cry upon noticing that we would be arriving in port the morning of the Stockholm Marathon, was squelched when I hopped over to the marathon’s website.

images

Stockholm Marathon runners – I’m not one of them. Lesson learned: She who hesitates in scrutinizing travel itinerary gets shut out of race registration.

In large, blaring type were the two words no runner wants to see: REGISTRATION CLOSED.

On this Stockholm Sunday, my closest connection to their marathon came as I sat with other travelers, caught up in traffic that wasn’t moving, straining to  see the mass of runners several blocks ahead while listening to fellow passengers complain about the inconvenient delay caused by these crazy marathon runners.

IMG_0457

Walking trail near archeological dig of Viking cemetery

The second disappointment of the day came on a grassy lane, looking at a recently dug archeological site somewhere between Vellentuna and Täby.

As we walked on wet grass and soil, I felt an unfamiliar flop underfoot. The sole of the my left shoe had parted ways with the upper. This was no ordinary shoe.

A lost sole

A lost sole

I was looking at the disintegration of my favorite travel shoe purchased roughly ten years ago at the Plum Bottom. I have worn them on many a journey, walking miles a day over cobblestone, broken pavement and city thoroughfares in comfort.

This shoe was made by Stonefly. I don’t see the model on their current website (10 years is a long time in fashion years). I’m sure I paid a princely sum at purchase, but amortized over years worn, they are a bargain. This is a shoe that is waterproof, sophisticated enough for the city, can make the leap from sightseeing to a dressy lunch and have the comfort of a sports shoe.

With weeks of travel to go, I was relegated to walking my way through European cities in my Brooks Ravenna,Unknown a model I chose for travel because it does a double duty for light trail running and road running. It is not my preference in the city.

My damaged Stonefly’s are back home and sitting on the shelf. I’ve avoided taking them to my shoe repair, not wanting to hear that they are beyond help. Maybe next week.

Not bad in appearance after 10 years of hoofing around the world.

Not bad in appearance after 10 years of hoofing around the world.

And, maybe a new model Stonefly for the next 10 years of travel.

Wishing you a good Fitness Friday with your soles intact.

 

 

 

A Brief Jog In the Arctic Circle

The occurrence of summer solstice earlier this week continued the cat and mouse game I have been playing with the sun. During the Iron & Ice Voyage, we bopped back and forth between time zones while continuing north. Daylight hung around way past my bedtime. This was a trip to leave the Vitamin D capsules at home. The most extreme daylight was June 10th with a sunset at 0022 and June 11th with a sunrise of 0150. Then, heading south from Iceland toward Northern Ireland, it seemed odd to see the sun setting near 10 p.m.

PENTAX Image

Leaving port at Akureyri

Leaving the Icelandic harbor of Akureyri on the 25th day of our voyage, we were to sail into the Arctic Circle before heading south to Belfast.  Although I had a few days on land early in the trip and many days in port, I still found that 25 days on an ocean voyage had me occupying some odd thoughts. Like, what would my Garmin record if I were running on the sea in the Arctic Circle?

My Garmin has become a hybrid travelogue, something between photos and a travel journal. I don’t bore family and non-running friends with this, but downloads that record the paths, bridges, and coastlines of travel runs and races around the world elicit wonderful memories.

IMG_0729

My mini-track

So, after briefly joining a party raising glasses to our entry into the Arctic Circle, I slipped away to my cabin to retrieve running shoes and Garmin, then made my way to the upper deck. A couple of other passengers enjoyed the quiet there. Even so, I found a sense of personal solitude in the chilly air. In the distance, whales would sporadically surface off the port sideI pushed the power button on the Garmin. It found satellites immediately. Beginning with a fast walk, then a jog out and back on the short area on deck. I glanced at the Garmin. It was registering about a tenth of a mile for my every step. Running on a moving ship was improving my pace significantly.

Returning to my cabin later in the evening, I downloaded the inflated results onto my laptop. The map doesn’t scream “Arctic Circle,” but results do show we were in the Greenland Sea, which is within the Arctic Circle.  

Not from my Garmin download

Not from my Garmin download

If there is a point to this post perhaps it is that runners who are generally obsessive can become more obsessive when at sea.

Are you having summer adventures with equally obscure thoughts? I’d love to hear about them.

Return from a Voyage of Iron & Ice

I’ve been on a journey. Yes, I know, all of life is a journey. But this was a particular journey,IMG_0163 a voyage including stops at some of the most sought after ports and some off the radar of many travelers. From the previous Iron Curtain countries with their mix of the industrial and the pastoral, followed by the ice of those in the northern climes IMG_0693where daylight seemed eternal, I let the history, sights, food, and people of new countries and the knowledge of fellow travelers soak in.

UnknownA lack of access to the internet during much of this voyage helped keep my head in the journey. I reached the point of attending only to messages that were urgent or time-sentitive.

This voyage took us to multiple and varied ports on the Kiel Canal, the Baltic, North, Greenland, Irish and Celtic Seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean. We explored harbors, cities and villages, each distinct in its flavor and in my memory.

There are many stories to tell. I don’t expect they will appear in any particular order, but will be interspersed with my reentry to the local running scene.

IMG_0728Now it’s time to catch up with all of you and your tales during my absence. A voyage ends, another journey begins.

Blog Break – Words of Wisdom from the South

Words of wisdom this week come from Diane Nyad, writer, speaker, athlete, and after many attempts became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

Unknown

photo credit: the guardian.com

I believe endurance grows and we can never discount the mental…the powers of concentration and perspective of what it all means. What you are capable of is infinitely higher at this age [64] than when you are a young twenty-something.

Speaking as someone who was 56 years old before developing the focus to complete training for a marathon, Diane Nyad’s words ring true. Something to contemplate while I’m taking a break: where do the scales of ability and mental toughness balance?

Blog Break – Words of Wisdom from the East

This week’s quote comes from Maine native Joan Benoit Samuelson, a gold medal olympian and multiple marathon winner setting records along the way.2f53a6cb8d1bda7f3d66365bf81c5048_0

When I first started running, I was so embarrassed I’d walk when cars passed me. I’d pretend I was looking at the flowers!

 

Now a speaker and author, Samuelson continues to set records. Her time of 2:50:29 in the 2013 Boston Marathon is the fastest marathon ever run by a woman in the 55-59 age group.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 540 other followers