Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year

Snowflakes in the air
Sparkling glitter from the sky
Magic all around

(the haiku I wrote for the front of our Christmas card this year - complete with periwinkle blue snowflakes on white glitter paper, inspired by Haiku Thursdays)

The season had finally come and gone, and the last day is winding down. Amidst all the chaos, I've had this photo on my desktop for the last several weeks. It has put me at peace and made me feel like there were always candles burning with warmth and hope. As for now, we're packing skis and the dog and heading out very early to head over to the cabin, hoping to stay ahead of the approaching snow storm. I'm looking forward to snowdrifts and skiing, hot cocoa and books by the fire, deer out wandering in the evening, and wondering if I'll get in a run the whole week. It's been a fun and zany holiday season, and I'm looking forward to returning to a little bit of normalcy and catching up on missed blog time when the kids go back to school. I still have a post to write on rainbows, one on 'cause and effect', and an apology to my male runner friends who I called 'extras' in my last post. (I've had a lot of thinking time during my 5 am runs these past couple of weeks.) Hope you and yours have had a great holiday season ~ Be Safe, and Have an Excellent New Years! See ya' next year! -Ginger

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

12k's of Christmas

I was sorely reminded on my run this morning, that "oh yeah, i ran a race on sunday". (if i can be so brave as to call it that)

I rememeber getting up on time, and it was really cold and I could only find one of my wool running socks. The other has been missing for a few weeks, but I thought maybe a miracle would happen - no such luck. We left later than we'd planned - we have three kids and it was cold and early and their winter vacation to sleep in. No worries. I didn't really train for this race. I honestly wanted to do it for what's in the picture - the shirt. I figure I can go to the store and buy a cheesy holiday shirt, or I can pay the same money and go for a run. I saw the logo a long time ago and registered 'cause I like the artwork on the shirts. Pretty funny.

So we finally get to the race and park and pick up my race number and I have about 5 minutes 'til the start - so much for a warm-up. And so much for the porta-potty line. No stress, I mean it when I say I didn't train for this one - I've been running about 20 miles a week, no speedwork. With everything from flooding to ice and snow to wind and power outages - my schedule and the school cancellations have been crazy. So now a week before the big holiday and then a week skiing - maybe I'll train next year. hehehe

Okay, this race I did . . . I got into the start corral - freezing - I don't know how Danielle runs in MN - her last race post said there were 5,000 runners and it was 10 degrees and windy at the start. It was probably only around 30 degrees for my race. A couple of women jumped into the corral next to me and one said to the other, "try to blend in". They laughed - obviously not your typical runners, just out for a holiday run, having no idea what they were getting themselves into - they were ooh-ing and aah-ing over my nifty tech-fabric shirt I had on. So, the race started and off we went. During the first mile, 2 things happened: we passed a turn-around point, and I saw my first mile split on my watch. At the turn-around I could count the women in front of me - I don't know why I did it - boredom, I guess. I was the 40th woman. I sorta laughed, but it sorta ignited something in me, and my competitive side wanted nothing of it. My first mile split was 8:15, and as any good pace chart can tell me - I ran my last marathon a hair faster than that pace. So then the course took us by the start area. I saw my family - threw my hat, waved and smiled. I wanted to say, "My feet are numb, I really need to go to the bathroom, and do you know how slow this pace is?" I wanted to slap a little mitten, but there was a cop in the road between me and them. Oh well. On my merry way I went. The 12k's were marked with hand-drawn signs depicting the quotes from the song - "seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, etc. That little competitive fire in me took over and I spent the remainder of the k's picking people off. It became my focus to see how far down I could get that number from the original 40th. It was easy at first, but the further along we went, the more spread out we were, and the harder I had to work. It wasn't any fun to pass guys - they didn't count in my mind - just extras. The course was a wee bit hilly, too, but I like that - a good variety makes for a nice muscle change-up every now and then. I clocked one of my downhill surge miles at 6:30 pace - hmmmm. My husband laughed at me after I finished - "I thought you said you were just gonna run easy . . " He knows me better. All in all, it made for a great workout - I need to put some more road races on my calendar and not prepare for them - I think I get a lot more out of it. I can pick a big race or two to train for and stress and fret about, but it's so much fun to have a race for a hard workout. I finished up in 13th - I think there were about 300 women .

Place Div/Tot Bib # Name Age City/state Net Time Gun Time Pace
13 4/114 53 Ginger Breadman 36 Seattle WA 54:34 54:52.4 7:22

My kids' favorite part was the candy-canes for post-race food. Me, too. I don't know if I've ever run this distance, so I can't compare my time - but I don't think it equates very high when I compare it to my best 10k's. I must've run hard, though, 'cause I was pretty sore this morning. It's gonna give me an itch to maintain through the rest of the year, and then crank up my training some in the new year and find some more races to run.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Truths of the Season

Joe tagged me with this fun one, so here goes:

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Either one with coffee and kahlua
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? both, i think - sometimes they are left by the fireplace - i imagine after an all night job, it's a lot easier after he comes down the chimney
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? usually white lights on house and trim, alternate years with the tree - this year is colored, and blinking, and the children usually prefer that
4. Do you hang mistletoe? 'Mistletoe is the common name for various parasitic plants in the order Santalales' - would you hang something with that name in your home?
5. When do you put your decorations up? Thanksgiving weekend
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? don't have a favorite to eat - like to try new things
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? a letter was divided into three and my 2 siblings and I each received a piece in our stocking. When we put it together, it was a list of clues to find a hidden kitten which was our Christmas present
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? As soon as I was old enough to walk and talk, I learned there was a Santa Claus who brought magic to Christmas. There is no other truth.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? no way! that's cheating! okay, my parents celebrate the holiday with extended family christmas eve, so we do, but never ones under our own tree
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? traditional ornaments from family past and ones the children have made - also lots of glass
11. Snow! Love it or dread it? love it - the excitement in watching it come down, to enjoy the beauty, and to cross-country ski in it
12. Can you ice skate? yes, somewhat
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? no, just the excitement
14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? the magic, the music, the lights, family
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? almond roca from a passed down family recipe
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? making gingerbread houses
17. What tops your tree? a star, definitely
18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? giving
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Do they Know It's Christmas - the original Band-Aid
20. Candy canes? they were great 'after-race' food yesterday at the 12k
21. Favorite Christmas movie? The Grinch, and the one with the abominable snowman
22. What do you leave for Santa? cookies, truffles, rice milk, and carrots and oats for the reindeer

So, now you've read it . . . TAG! You're it! C'mon, join in the fun!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Scramble, Jingle-Jangle, Slip'n'slide, Chinese, Hannukah & Solstice

Scramble - yes, did that - loads of fun at Pike Place and beyond. got in three miles with three kids in two hours (got in 17 checkpoints in the rain with a total of 460 points - pretty amazing, and great family fun!)

Jingle-Jangle - spectated that one - crazy massive sea of red-shirted runners with jingle bells and santa hats and you-name-it Christmas costumes. the abominable snowman was definitely my favorite. there were 8,000 runners in the 2nd of three waves of participants. The highight for our 11-yr-old runner was when the crowd of runners entered the tunnel while running on the vacated freeway, and promptly broke into a chorus of 'Jingle Bells'.

Slip'n'slide - hmmm, sorta did that - went ice-skating. Mind you, I live in the Emerald City, nothing with icy diamonds. so for an ice-rink during the holidays you'll have to use your imagination. It was a blast and my feet aren't as sore as I thought they'd be. My friend likely has a tremendously large bruise that occurred when she fell when the young delinquent boys knocked her over. ice-skating . . . what a hoot.

Chinese - damn the Kung Pao was good, and the martini hit the spot. That was yesterday with mom and sisters for lunch, and I'm going to the exact same restaurant for dinner tomorrow with friends. And you know what? I think I'll order the exact same thing. Why not? It was most excellent. it's a humorous study on sociology - where people like to go when they come in from out of town to visit the city during the holidays.

Hannukah - ah, heck, why not? our friends invited us to a party at sundown Friday when the holiday begins and I really don't know a lot about the celebration. how cool to be invited to be part their community, their friends, their family. I think the kids will get a chance to expand their world just a little . .

Solstice - wow, saw a really cool rehearsal today for the solstice festival @ the international fountain @ Seattle Center - some sort of dance interpretation, soloist performers, and acapella singing - and supposedly they're having a parade of lights with luminaria and wishes for the new year. I love lights. I might have to get it on that festival somehow.

Oh, and I saw the end of a rainbow today.

I need to fit in a long run tomorrow somehow - but the good news is that I got new shoes this week - amazing before and after experience between the old and the new pair.

Monday, December 04, 2006

'Tis the Season

Ahhhh, yes . . . the holidays in full swing. I love the holiday season. I could care less about Christmas itself, other than the delight and true mystery it brings to children - but that, too can be classified as part of the season, and not Christmas itself.
To me, Christmas often seems like a lot of excess. There is so much shopping for things that really aren't needed, so much wrapping and garbage from the wrapping, so much food, and so much food that doesn't get eaten. It's easy to get caught up in the glitz and glam of it all - it seems almost expected. People want your Christmas list and you ask it of others. Heaven forbid you know the person well enough that you actually spend time considering the person and what they actually might like or want or need. Instead of simply eating, so much time and energy is spent on entertaining foods - fancy things you only eat once a year, food as decorations. And I think for me, Christmas Day itself represents the end to a special time of year, and things have to go back to the way they were. Sometimes that's sad.
I don't mean to be such a scrooge. I think it's hard for me: I love the season for other things that it stands for, and for the tradition, but at the same time, so much of that extra stuff goes against my better judgements and my morals.
I love the magic of the Christmas season, and amidst all the chaos, I hope that's what we, as parents, convey the most to our children. I love the spirit of giving - not for the junk because you want to give SOMEthing, but for the thought and time and energy that goes into that one special gift that you are so excited to give. I love the lights at Christmas time - on the trees, on the houses, in the city, all the candles, the miniature Christmas villages . . . they all seem to represent a unified beauty, a symbol of hope, and a magical time in the air. I love Santa Claus for all that he represents. My husband described it well to our 11-yr-old yesterday: it's something that everyone chooses for themselves whether or not to believe in, and what it represents for them. He said to think of it as a spirit like a god or a buddha and what it means in your own life. I'll always believe in Santa Claus, because to me it represents magic and a reminder of things in our world so mystical that we'll never fully understand. I love the snow this time of year because it's peaceful and quiet and it's beauty is an awesome thing to behold.
Some parts of the holidays, I take part in because of tradition. I feel like that's hypocritical. I guess, although they might not follow my everyday structure of living, and frustrate me for that reason, they might make others happy - and that, I need to remember, is giving something that others enjoy and might define their holiday season, just as I try to define what mine is.
So what does Ginger Breadman do during the holidays? I'm going to attempt to do what makes me happy, and what makes my family happy. Somewhere in there is a compromise.
The season always kicks off with Thanksgiving weekend, because it's always also a weekend of our oldest child's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and the Seattle Marathon. That weekend we also cut down our Christmas Tree at a tree farm out in the country - complete with roaming farm animals, wagons to pull the kids and the tree through the property, and honey from the bees. And that weekend we went to see the fancy gingerbread houses, and the tree lighting. Things that symbolize the holidays. This last weekend we went to visit out-of-town relatives and friends and see their special lighted Christmas displays they're so proud of, and visit Santa Claus.
So what's left? The house is decorated, the village is set out, the lights are up, holiday music is playing . . .
~we'll make almond roca for gifts - a coveted family recipe, and a passed-down tradition
~we'll make a gingerbread house the children and their cousins will eat Christmas eve - it's a tradition I've done since I was a little girl, but now as an adult who appreciates the art form, it's hard to see the waste of leftovers, but something the children look so forward to
~we'll go see the lighted Christmas ships and hear the caroling, and sip hot drinks with the people on the beach by the bonfire - it's been a tradition since we were married
~we'll go to 2 holiday road races and a street scramble
~we'll go see the eagles nesting on the river - a winter time favorite
~I'll have holiday tea time with the women in my family - a tradition as long as I've been an adult
~we'll take a drive and walk to see the holiday light displays
~we'll do something special for my husband's birthday on the 22nd, so it doesn't get lost in the holiday shuffle
~we'll make truffles and bake cookies because it rocks the world of my children
Somewhere in all that, we'll try to pretend there is peace on earth . . . the children will go to school, my husband will go to work, we'll go running and to the gym, we'll fit in ballet and basketball and chess club, we'll cook dinner, read stories . . . and come Christmas day, I'll actually be exhausted and looking forward to a break from it. And hopefully I'll be able to reflect on the joys of it all, and have new memories to reflect on throughout the next year.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Seattle Marathon, Part III: Mile 20.7

When we left the house this morning, there was a dusting of wet snow on the ground, and it had begun to rain, at a nice, balmy 33°. Perfect marathon weather.

~running tights
~silk long-sleeved running shirt
~long sleeved cotton shirt
~long sleeved thermal Patagonia ski shirt
~polar fleece top
~canvas-type cargo pants
~smartwool socks
~insulated waterproof boots
~goretex coat
~ski hat
~goretex insulated ski gloves
~second goretex goat
~second pair of insulated ski gloves

Did I run the marathon? Hell no! In that weather? I thought it'd be much more fun to stand on the side of the road for 6 hours with a neon vest on.

Ahhh, yes . . Course Marshal, Mile 20.7. And I got to choose the location. Last year we were one block up at 20.8. Either way it's along mile 20, in the middle of the most grueling hill on the Seattle Marathon Course. And I honestly used all of those clothes. Goretex works until it gets saturated enough to drip onto your pants that aren't goretex, then you need to switch to coat #2. It rained nearly the whole time the runners and walkers were out there - there were two short breaks, and once it hailed or snowed, I'm not sure which. I'm just amazed at the ability of all of those participants to withstand the elements. One of my friends that ran the half passed out at the finish line and was put in the med. tent for a while. I can just imagine how chilled to the bone all of those people were at the finish, and how stressed it made the medical personnel. What saved me, was my daughter joining me for the duration (in and out of the warm parked car) to keep me company, and my husband bringing me warm soup and coffee and relieving me for a short break.
It's actually a pretty cool thing to be able to stand there and watch the looks on all of those faces as they run by. Some are seasoned Seattle-ites and could care less if it's cold and rainy; some are seasoned marathoners and don't need your assistance or advice - they're in the 'zone'; some are complete newbies and have a horrific look on their face as they come up that hill. The real job there is to keep vehicular cross-traffic off the race course, but some runners are so grateful to have someone standing there telling them something - anything - positive to help get them up and over that hill. Their ability to experience what they were going through and continue on was truly inspiring - and I'll keep them all in mind next time I think I feel tired when I'm running a marathon.
Lucky for me, I love a sport where I can spectate free for six hours on the best part of the course!
I took the day off from running. I'm home and warm and dry. It's snowing again outside and my husband went for a run in it. Time for me to get out decorations for this big green tree we cut down yesterday and brought into the living room. 'Tis the season!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Seattle Marathon, Part II: Kids Marathon

  • No rain in Seattle today
  • Three thousand kids and all of their support crews
  • Awesome finish into Memorial Stadium under the Space Needle
  • Today is our 13th wedding anniversary - we were actually married on Thanksgiving Day like Katy & Mark (the toast people - Happy Anniversary guys!)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Seattle Marathon, Part I: The Expo

Seattle Marathon weekend got off to a great start, handing out goodie bags and shirts at the race expo. The kids actually looked forward to this after doing it last year. It's a great way to teach them to give back to the sport a little bit. (And they have a blast taking work breaks to peruse the expo and score lots of swag.) We followed that up with a downtown day of: peppermint cocoas at Starbucks, a ride on the holiday carousel, peeking at Santa through the big glass windows, and viewing the gingerbread houses created by top executive chefs. They were so amazing! The highlights of the day were the downtown tree lighting complete with christmas choirs and fireworks, and watching it snow indoors (they might only use bubbles, but the show is fantastic - you should've seen the kids) in a 5+story shopping center with a glass roof. What a day, I'm exhausted! Downtown in the city is so much fun during the holidays. Tomorrow is the Seattle Kids Marathon. The children are to have accumulated 25 miles on their own over the course of the last couple of months, and then they all come together to run the last 1.2 miles on the marathon course. It's a blast - they've done it several years now. And - it's supposed to 'not rain' for a couple of hours in the morning - maybe we'll be lucky. The full Seattle Marathon in Sunday - the current forecast is 36° and rain/snow mixed with a 10-15 mph wind. Lovely. Four to six hours into the marathon it's supposed to be just snow and 37°. Maybe I oughtta stand on the side of the road and hand out hot chocolate . . .

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A funny thing happened yesterday. There was a comment on my post that suggested I had reached burnout. And I got mad. (no offense to Anne's comment - it was a good thing, and exactly what I needed) I had to ask myself, "Am I burnt out?" and "why?" Part of it is sick kids - I love having them home, but when they were all home sick it was a real drag, and I lacked room to breathe. But beyond that . . .

I got mad and went for a run. It was a great run in the dark in absolutely pouring rain. (It''s November in Seattle, where - as of yesterday - we just hit the record of the highest rainfall on record for a single month - and there are still 9 days left in the month.) It's always dark and always wet, but it was kinda cool last night 'cause I couldn't see the puddles, which made for a nice surprise quite frequently. And when I stopped for a drink of water from the fountain I didn't have to wipe my face off because I was already drenched and dripping.

While I was out there stewing about why I'm burnt out, and what my problem is . . . I finally realized something. I'm not injured, I have available time, and I love my dirty running shoes and grubby clothes to workout in. Instead of wondering what my problem is, and how do I fix it, I decided to consider what my strengths are and how I'm going to embrace them.

I really thought about all of the comments on my post yesterday - people are amazing when they share their thoughts. Thanks.

Monday, November 20, 2006

An Open Box

I've been in a questioning sort of mode lately. Trying to figure out what I want out of running - out of life, what I wanna do next week, next month, next year. Thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. The truth is, there are just so many choices, how do you pick and choose? I think it all got overwhelming to me, so I took a break from it - all of it.

It's like I've spent the last couple of weeks in a box. (I've had really sick kids at home for a few weeks, so that skews all normal perspectives to begin with.) But I've been avoiding really dealing with my thoughts. Not like depression - my friend described it more like a cocoon where you go into waiting in preparation for something. I think I've been really fortunate to accomplish the things I've done in life, and to learn from the experiences I've had. But now what? Some people plan and have goals and become so focused on the road ahead that they miss all of the side streets. Some people spend so much time browsing the side streets that they never reach their destination. I guess I'm not into browsing, but I'm not ready to form a new destination, either. So one would think that you should carry on and let life lead you. But I have an itch for so much more right now. An itch for what, I don't know. I have so many passions and my inner spirit seems to transform and change and grow exponentially by the day. The idea of what I want to do next is starting to consume my thoughts.

But then there's always today to think about. The present. I started my training for Boston last week. And if it's not Boston, it'll be Eugene. It always seems it's the easy training goals that I can't meet, and the harder ones that come easy. I really want to focus on my cross-training. The gym is about a quarter mile from my house - it's faster to walk than drive and park. Pool. Weights. Cardio stuff. Indoor Track. Yoga. Childcare. Open early. Open late. My job is my family, and although it's very busy, it's very very flexible. So why aren't I meeting my cross-training goals? I've met all of my running workout and mileage goals even though my legs hurt because I need new shoes and haven't bought any. You'd think I'd cross-train. Of course, there is a newly surfaced track also a quarter mile from my house, and the beach is down the street. Go figure. Inside? Outside? Outside. I do have a bike, but it's very wet out there and I'd simply rather run. I think I need to start an incentive plan. (There's also a new drive-thru Starbucks being built less than a quarter mile from my house. Incentives . . hmmm)

Thanksgiving is coming up. I boycotted it this year. I'm thankful for that. We're going to play at the beach for the day. And I don't mean the beach. I mean THE beach. We're going to take the day and drive to the mighty Pacific Ocean to play. I'm so excited. I really need to get out and play. We went to the cabin over the weekend, and the snow was most excellent, but it just wasn't enough outside time. I think maybe we'll have pizza for dinner and watch a movie on Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for our little family, and that's exactly who I want to spend the day with. This weekend is also our wedding anniversary and the Seattle Marathon weekend. I'm not running, but it's a weekend event for us. Maybe that'll give me something to write about later this week.

And my great reads for the week - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelo, The Extra Mile - an autobiography by ultrarunner Pam Reed, and Clearcut by Nina Shengold. (Told you I've been in a box for a while.) They're all vastly different and fascinatingly enlightening in different ways.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Water, water, everywhere - not a drop to spare

One can hope that maybe it's Noah's Ark, but in truth, this is someone's house taken away by the Cowlitz River. There are so many stories in the news, in the paper - flood warnings on 19 rivers, rivers cresting, community evacuations, levee breaks, shelter openings, road closures, school closures . . . so many photos of the damage and water filling streets and houses and cutting off towns with no roads in or out, but none that make the point so boldly as this particular photo.

Seattle . . called the Emerald City in the Evergreen State - I wonder what makes the plants so green?

Truths of the day:

~ during flooding, a river can carve a brand new route for itself - actually reroute itself - right through a neighborhood full of homes.
~ the rain is decreasing (actually it just went south to Oregon), but the rivers here are still rising and another weather front is expected later this week

I'm sitting here in fascination with the raw power of water. It's really amazing what it can do - just water - a couple of molecules thrown together. I'm always so fascinated by it - in awe of it's beauty and strength and the changes each new tide brings. I've never lived in fear of it and seen close-up how much energy lives within it.

"Till taught by pain, men know not water's worth"
-Lord Byron

Sunday, November 05, 2006

marathon dreams

I had some weird dreams last night. Maybe it was the Winterhook - 'tis the season. I dreamt I was at the NYC marathon. Somehow when I was running yesterday I started thinking about it. In my dream, there was a stopping point at the 17 mile mark - under some freeway interchange. We were asked to stop at the large water station that looked more like a concert venue. I figured I didn't need water, but the officials held me back, too. No one was allowed to continue, and water wasn't being served. It was unclear whether they were out of water, or simply making us wait. The officials all seemed to have no concern about the fact that no one was being given water, no one was getting water - and none of the runners seemed the least bit bothered by it. I remember being so annoyed at the ridiculous thought of waiting around 20 minutes at mile 17 for no reason. My dream fast-forwarded to after the race - in this part of the dream I wasn't a runner, but a volunteer. I was speaking with a man who had run. He was an older black man - probably around 75 - of the variety that has lived a little and has great stories to tell if you stay a while. This man told me he had run a 2:20, and he was waiting for water. The finishers were sitting in folding chairs near a stage area, and were being 'served' water. I went to ask one of the wait staff if I could take the man some water, but was told they were out at the moment. I convinced the staff that when water came in, to please take some to the older gentleman first. That's all I remember of my dream.

My run yesterday was in the rain - lots and lots of rain. Usually when one lives in the northwest, one looks forward to the rain this time of year, only to forget that once it starts, it will continue through next June. I had such a great run yesterday, though - I love the rain. Many streets and rivers in the area are forecast to flood later today and into tomorrow, and I relished in all the water. I love to get wet and muddy and puddle stomp. I was feeling so lucky to be able to live where I live and run where I run. Within a mere 9 mile run, I was able to add in muddy trail running in a wooded park all to myself, and 4 miles of saltwater beach with a little ways actually on the sand along Alki. I love beach runs. One day last week I was out running in the wee early morning hours and noticed the low tide. Really low tide = cookie runs on the sand. Once summer is over, it is a rare opportunity. There is always sand right on the main beach - less than a half mile to run on, but I'm talking tide low enough to add an extra 2.5 miles on the sand for an out and back. Pure solitude. Pristine untainted sand like a blank slate for my fresh footprints. Up close and personal with the herons out fishing and sometimes the eagles. Weaving through the section of barcacled rocks and seaweed. Chancing fate with the waves rushing toward my feet. It's all such a high for me. When I came back from running, I looked up the tide charts to see when my next opportunity would be, only to discover there isn't a tide low enough in my waking hours for the rest of the year. I just got lucky the other day.

Today I haven't run yet - just keeping tabs on NYC - and athlete tracker won't load for me - such a bummer. I'll have to check Josh and Steph's blogs later, or look up the results when it's all over. Or keep refreshing tracker, or keep refreshing for updated results or tune to NBC later and hope for the hour of late race coverage. There isn't anything else pressing to do on a Sunday morning.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Time Passages

Time Passages was stuck in my head during my run yesterday. I sat around all day feeling crummy then forced myself to go running at 4:00 because I had an hour left before the new early sunset. There's something about fall that brings back memories for me. It could be the chill in the air or the smells drifting in the breeze, but I think it's a combination of feelings. Or maybe it's all because I've been sick and been forced to run really slow and have time to think.

My first real road race by myself was in the fall. I think I ran the Gold Coast 2 miler with a friend in the summer just before - must've been 1981. I ran the Fallfest Classic likely in October of 1981. Somewhere around here in a box I have a medal with an orange ribbon - I think I was first in my age division. I'm guessing it was a 5 miler or a 10k - I'm not sure. But I remember what it felt like to run back then. It was different in so many ways, but still the same somehow.

I grew up in Bellevue, Washington, USA. I started out running on a 2 mile out and back to Yarrow Point. Sometimes I ran a further out and back to Hunts Point - home to the Nordstrom family (my best friend lived next door to them), and Steve Miller of the Steve Miller Band. My 4 and 5 mile loops went through Medina where Bill Gates now lives in his compound. The reason I know those distances were that long was because my dad told me and I believed him. I never measured them in the car (I was too young to drive). I didn't have any map software - nobody even had home computers yet. I have no idea how fast I ran - I didn't own a stopwatch - let alone a wristwatch. (In fact, my first watch was won at my first half-marathon in 1985. I had lettered the previous year in both cross-country and track, and I desperately wanted a letter jacket. My dad made a deal with me that he would pay for the jacket if I ran a half-marathon. I received the watch not because I ran fast, but because I was the youngest finisher that day. It was the Latitude 47° Half-Marathon which is still run today, but called the Super Jock n Jill Half-Marathon because of it's sponsor. The race finished at a winery, and they also gave out wine glasses with the race logo on them. One broke, but my other currently sits on our kitchen windowsill with spare change in it for parking.) I used to take my dog running on pretty much all of my runs. There were no leash laws so she roamed free - always had to be ahead of me, and didn't like to be passed. I ran through a park with a pond at a half-way point and she used to love to charge at all the ducks swimming in the water. She loved to chase other dogs and bark lots too - just for sport, she was a really friendly dog named Blue after a famous hunting dog. People yelled at me every now and then when she barked and chased, and they got angry, but I was just a kid - I did't really care all that much. I just called her back and we went on our merry way. I never had any concrete training plans, workouts, build-ups, tapers, race-strategies - I just ran. My older brother took me out on a hill circuit one time before high-school. We both reminisce and laugh about the fact that half-way through it I puked cause I pushed myself so hard - then I finished the rest of the hills. Another time he convinced me to go for a run in the middle of a hot summer day - just a couple of miles. We ended up going out 8 miles (I must've been 13 or 14 yrs old - probably never had run more than 6 miles - and that was only for a race), and we stopped at a friend's house and convinced him to drive us back home. When I started running on teams, I ran what the coach told me to run. I never questioned the training or how it would affect my racing. I don't think I even thought about it.

As I run today, the triggers that bring it all back are things in the air and all around. Things that remain constant year after year - the things of change. Leaves are falling and remain stamped all over the ground with the recent rain. A new squad of football players is out practicing on the field with lots of hollering and whistle-blowing. No matter what time of day you run, you can smell someone cooking and a fireplace warming someone's house. The smells seem to drift out into the cold and mix with the chilly air - teasing you as you run along. The early frost on the ground comes back every year. The sun returns to a slanted angle and filters the sunlight with an almost orange hue.

I think I get so involved with all of the logistics of running, that I forget the real enjoyment of it sometimes. I think my sickness has been a great thing for my running. I just get out and go without thinking about the mileage or the time or any upcoming races. I just run . . . and I love it. Somehow the training happens because you go by feel. You still have those days that you run hard and the ones that you run easy. You still feel sore and you still feel inspired. But you love it all a little bit more and it doesn't seem to feel like homework or a chore.

Funny that our oldest childest is now 10 - almost 11 - the same age I was when I started running. She begs me to take her running. She's done kid distance road races. She's done kid mini-triathlons. Some of her friends run, her sisters run, her cousins run. This year will be the 3rd year that she'll do the Seattle kids marathon. She doesn't own a watch. She doesn't drive a car to check mileage and doesn't use the map software. We live in the city and I don't think I've ever let her run out on the roads by herself. She loves the rain, she loves to stomp in the leaves and throw them in the air. She loves weather and never seems to get cold. She loves to chat about everything on her mind while she's running. She loves to run on trails. She simply loves to run. Maybe I'll take her with me tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Take Notice

I think I'm a fairly distracted individual most of the time - sorta scatterbrained - maybe just so busy most of the time it's hard to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing or where I'm supposed to be going from one moment to the next. I think about blogging a lot. I'm a thinker - pretty deep and intense thoughts run through my head in addition to the distracted chaos. I'm constantly thinking about things to blog about . . . interesting topics, tidbits from my day, things I think about on my runs. But then when I sit to write, the ideas never seem as grand. The tidbits seem trivial. I can't focus to write something eloquent like I want to do. And yet - I still feel like I have so much to say most of the time - or so much to write, I guess. We even use the term 'blogworthy' around the house a lot - things that come up that are funny or amazing that seem important enough to blog about - like the crab that came home last week from Pike Place Market - damn it was good!

While I was running today, I was thinking about all this - thinking about all the things I think about and wishing I could write about them and have it all sound the way I want. Really wishing that I could figure out exactly what it is I want to write about. And I think somewhere in there, I discovered my issue. It isn't just one profound thing I want to say - it's way too many profound things.

I live in a world with so much going on all the time - and I don't want to miss anything, or forget anything, or take anything for granted. I want to take it all in and do something with it all. It's an impossible idea. Sometimes I think about what I want to be when I grow up, but I have a hard time choosing between too many options because I want to try everything. This whole idea is the basic underlying theme of why I'm a runner - why I love to be a runner. I get to see and hear and feel and experience and think and process and have pain and euphoria and emotion all at the same time. It's a powerful thing.

Some days, I like to watch the world around me when I'm running. Today was one of those days. I think I'd like to call it a little bit of life. I passed some people staring off at the ground - seemingly grumpy at the day. I saw parents with strollers out for companionship. There was a couple on the beach picking up seashells. Lots of people were out walking their dogs - the dogs sniffing at meeting one another. There was an otter swimming just off shore - he dove under and I never could see where he came up again. The harbor seals were out barking on the bouy. I passed several pieces of dead crabs that the seagulls were apparently through with, and a couple of fishermen on a pier. Several scuba divers were heading out with their air tanks, and dressed head to toe with all kinds of equipment. I watched people heading into a fancy restaurant, meeting for an early lunch. The tide was really high - but it isn't a full moon - interesting to note. I ran along the sand and let the waves chase me as I zigzagged my way across the beach. Tankers were coming into the bay - ferries were heading out. A little old man stopped me and asked me how to get to the park - he was about 3 miles away, so it was a long description and a good chat. We talked about the park, and about his previous bike ride in the area, and about his friend at an appointment . . . sorta funny when you just strike up a conversation with a person but sorta what makes the world go 'round too. It was a really grey cloudy morning - pretty typical where I live from now until next spring. The kind of day in the kind of place where seasonal depression is common and staying in bed under the covers seems preferable to venturing out into the day.

But out on that run, it wasn't just that all of this stuff was occurring around me, but it was having an effect on me as I processed it all. It was sparking my thoughts, forming my opinions, shaping my ideas . . and that's the way life works - if you let it. Some people - like the first people I saw when I was running - seem to shut it all out and tend to only look within. But . . . when you open up your eyes and take notice of what's around you, amazing things happen. You open yourself up to a connection with the world and the people and things that it's full of. There's so much out there, that it really is impossible to take it all in, but why not get as much as you can from it? Take notice.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I'm sick of being sick. I feel like I've hardly read blogs in a week. JustRun had a birthday, Bob ran under 3:40 for his first time out - Chicago happened, Kona happened, the Seahawks lost, the Seattle School District halted it's closures and the Superintendant quit, . . . is the world series over yet? And now it's almost Halloween. The other morning when I got up I felt so yucky, all I wanted was a cup of coffee and the newspaper. I moved two wineglasses out of the way to get to the coffee and I dropped one - shattered . . sink, floor . . mess. After I cleaned all that up, I finally poured my coffee and sat down with the paper. I leaned back and knocked over a carousel/music box/glass water globe - shattered . . everywhere . . . water, glitter, fine glass . . mess. Great morning. Yesterday I was taking out the trash - with the broken glass in it. The bag (with a piece of sharp broken wine glass already cutting through the bag, at the moment unknown to me) scraped my leg and the glass took a nice chunk out of my calf. Nice. It took forever to stop bleeding, but I survived. Then the school called and one of my children took a dive into a planter box on the school playground - with her face. She was a much bigger mess than me, but she survived too.

All is well, but I'm still sick. I'm cold and I'm tired and wet weather has decided to stay in the northwest. I haven't run in 4 days and I don't feel like running today. I did lift weights twice last week - that was good. And I did get in a beautiful run last week at the Arboretum. (The Seattle Marathon runs through there - but in November it won't be quite as beautiful.) It was so nice, I took the kids there later for a walk. The last pretty days of fall . . .

Monday, October 16, 2006

Fall Activities

Crazy crazy weekend. Multisport Man had a mountain bike duathlon, and as part of the support crew, I got to stay up late and drink fine wine with friends, then play in the park the next day cheering for the competitors while they were getting really muddy.

It's that time of year again. I've been thinking about getting out my costume.

I really am a gingerbread man, you know.

Okay - here's my edit to the post. I zoomed in on the photo, because apparently it wasn't obvious that it's a ginger breadman - although it's blurry, now you can make out the buttons and a little bit of the frosting. And these pictures were taken last year - this year I've tried to convince my children that for Halloween I'm simply going to dress up 'invisible'. Although, I've sorta toyed with Peter Pan or being a jester. Peter Pan because I can pretend I have Tinkerbell's pixie dust and sprinkle glitter everywhere - I love glitter with a passion, and a jester simply because it becomes highly entertaining once you've had a few cocktails. I really do love the ginger breadman costume - just don't know where it is, and not sure I feel like running a road race between now and the holiday. But then if you wanna talk holidays, ginger breadman really likes Christmas because that's how Ginger came to be. Maybe that's another post - this edit is longer than the post itself.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I can run.

I went running this week. I think the whole week off after the marathon was a good thing. I needed a break from running in my head more than anything - my training hadn't been overly intense, but I'd had marathons on my mind for too long. Then again, once I learned what it was like to have other crud filling my mind, I'll choose running any day. So I did every other day this week. I'm not sure if I'm gonna run tomorrow - I'd have to get up in precisely 4 hours and 42 minutes to run, due to the schedule of the day. Insane - sort of, but it'd be my sanity. There are 3 extra children sleeping in my house at the moment - giggly girls all still awake. I can't really seem to keep track of the coming and goings or how many munchkins I have in tow at once - today it varied from 2-6. After tomorrow's soccer game we'll be headed out of town to stay with friends for my husband's duathlon. This is what life is like in a gingerbread house - never dull. My 6-year-old was actually excited to help me clean toilets today. Life is such a mystery.

My first run this week was the crisp, clear, fall day I needed. I ran along the beach, passed all walks of like, and let the lyrics of my music trigger the thoughts and emotions. I had a lot going on in my head this week - all that stuff from my previous blog post - and couldn't quite wrap my mind around how to tackle it - let alone absorb it all. Wednesday I ran hills - hard. I think processing life came in the form of anger, and I hammered out the miles. It was one of those days where you keep going faster and faster and it feels better and better . . then you realize you've finished all the hills and it's like you're at the top of the world. You look down at the view and somehow life takes a new perspective. Then you run back home at a slower pace, feeling satisfied somehow. I also went for a drive on Wednesday. I grabbed some music to reflect my mood, got in the car, and drove south, skirting the water, and driving on all sorts of windy back roads. I was gone for 5 hours. I stopped along the way somewhere near a fishing pier and did some writing. I thought of all kinds of analogies to life - the fog bank blocking my vision - the island across the water that was so close by but inaccessible - the planes taking off from the airport, escaping to destinations unknown. It was good time to just think.

Today I ran with the sunrise. I usually love to sit in the kitchen and watch the sky turn pink with a hot cup of coffee in my hands, but I needed to get out today. I didn't run far - just over the hill really, so I could look back at the sun rising over the mountains. The fall always brings colors of neon pink to the sunrise - I'm not sure why that is, but it's such a cool sight. A calm quiet morning with a thin marine layer of hazy lavender-blue, maybe you could call it periwinkle for fun, and a bright neon pink sun glowing over the horizon. I actually stopped mid-run on some street corner with no one around and I just stared at it in awe. There's some sort of sense of renewal in a sunrise - a new day, a new start, a new beginning. Maybe it's a sense of hope.

I want to say thanks for the comments on my last post. I usually write because I love to write and it's good for my soul. I never write with the expectation for others to read it, and when people do, I'd prefer that it be fun and lighthearted or something profound that could have an effect on someone. But life isn't always that way - not reality anyway. I've learned, though, that sometimes what other people write in return can have that profound affect on me. I was able to talk to someone and eventually get some advice, some answers, some helpful suggestions, and some direction of where to go next. Some parts of life have to be about the little things you can do. And that's okay.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Land of Confusion

Land of Confusion is a great Genesis song from 1986 - sorta how I feel about the world right now.

I haven't run in a week - 7 days exactly after the marathon - and my run today will be on a crisp, sunny, Autumn day - perfect, my favorite. Perhaps the fact that I haven't run, though, is the reason I've had too much time to do other things and read other things and hear other things. I've seen other aspects of life that maybe running gives me a break from. Or maybe running allows me time to think and process all of these things, and make rhyme or reason out of them. I haven't blogged much in a week either - too much going on in the land and in my head to simplify it to text.

My last week sped by and headed into a whirlwind of a weekend. We were supposed to be out of town at a mountain bike festival, but decided to stay home for my husband to rest his knee, and so we could actually just be home for a couple of days. To rest? Friday I brought 5 kids home after school - 2 not my own. It was a little busy, and then there was soccer and Friday night with a movie and pizza and beer and wine. I denied #1 an overnight at a friends because we needed family time. Saturday we divided and conquered as we like to call it. I took our youngest munchkin to back to back events - a wedding brunch where I have no idea how many mimosas I actually drank, and then a birthday party where I was promptly handed a glass of wine. What's with people drinkin' so early on a Saturday? My husband took the other two munchkins to a soccer game (by city bus - a family member borrowed car #2 for a week) - child #1 came home with dad via a ride from a friend, #2 went to a friends, then later #3 went with dad to pick up #2 - #3 ended up staying along with #2 to play with friend and friend's sister and dad came home. #2 & #3 conferenced with respective friends and coerced respective parents into an overnight. Mom drove over overnight belongings for #2 and #3. We had a lovely evening with #1 - it was after baked potato bar and I was winning Scrabble (10:30) when #2 called and wanted to come home. So I picked up #2, had a horrific nightmare that night, and at 7:30 am, mom of friends called and dad ended up taking #2 back to join #3 at friends while dads fixed breakfast, and later returned with #2 and #3. wow. I think I got all the numbers right.

But really, that's not my land of confusion - that's the reality of my life. It was really what progressed later that day that I struggle with. But I've got to back up and say there was stuff in my head stewing before all this - all week long it worsened. Every day in the paper there is so much negativity about which country is at war - violence, death, shooting - which political proposal isn't being passed. Every night on television are shows of crime scenes, investigations, missing people - no matter which network you watch. I've been reminded that we're a society of people that leave oxygen cannisters at the top of mount everest, we litter outer space when we travel to the moon and space stations, we dig for oil and destroy animal and plant habitats and our own natural space, and then produce exhaust from what we dug up. The state I live in has built miles of roads in national parks, and left them to decay and run into streams to destroy the ecological habitat for the fish. I won't even start with the global warming. In the city in which I live, it seems there are endless political debates on how to approach things, and nobody wants to make a final decision. I could discuss the 520 bridge, that will probably sink with people on it before it gets replaced, or the viaduct project that no one has a good solution for. What the article fails to tell you, is that for the near 60,000 population of west seattle who depend on the viaduct - when it's being replaced, it'll be like having to drive through rush hour traffic 24/7 - I've heard for up to ten years during construction - maybe it's just a rumor.

And if all that wasn't enough to oblitererate my positive outlook on life - there's the school consolidations. It's all everybody talks about right now, no matter where you go. To make the story short - the district needed to close many schools that were under enrollment because it was way in the hole and needed to cut back and save money. So it had to choose which schools to close, and nobody likes that. It's been dragging on for year two right now. Currently, the superintendent has decided to merge the alternative school my children attend with a traditional school. You can imagine the ensuing rage from the school communities. No one supports the proposal. There are board meetings and hearings every week. Everyone has an opinion about it they want to share, and I don't know how much more I can take. And yet, our school is an amazing community - a family, and being part of it, you can't help but wanna fight tooth and nail for it.

And then Sunday afternoon. One more playdate. Our child was frustrated because her friend was very late arriving. But if finally happened - the anticipated arrival - complete with the parent in near tears at my back door, which, after I shooed the children in, and went out with the parent - intensified to hysterical sobbing. We must've spent a couple of hours sitting on the back porch - at one point my husband made coffee and passed it outside to us. I really don't know what to say about it all. The issue is this person's partner, and the near physical and verbal abuse that is being dished out to this parent/friend and the child who is now in my house playing happily with my daugher, almost able to pretend that nothing happened, but is scared for her mom to go back home. It's not good. I don't know if you can cross the line and call it abuse yet - it's a dangerously scary line to cross, but the situation has become severely damaging and harmful. It's a classic case. How long do you wait for the next episode and how much worse will that one be? How many chances do you give? There were problems months ago, and they haven't improved. There's been counseling for a while, but it doesn't seem to be helping. The violence pattern seems to have escalated. I don't think it was so physical before, and now there are threats of more. What do you say to a person in this situation? You want to tell them to run far away, but you can't. They love this person. But it's so obviously a classic case of this person unwilling to let go and hoping it will get better and making excuses, and trying to make it work. The child is living in fear. Fear of what she will do wrong next, because she is constantly being blamed. The parent is questioning what is wrong with herself to bring on such a thing. How do you make them see - truly see what is going on? They are smart people. They are great people. The kind of people you'd never suspect this would happen to. I feel sick inside. The child stayed at our house through dinner - in fact she and my daughter made dinner and had a wonderful time. When I took her home, I felt like I was delivering her to hell. Her mom was the only one home, so it felt okay - then the significant other came home. How do I cope with that - other than to say hi and act nonchalant and eventually say good-bye and go home. I gave the child my cell phone number - just in case. And I told her to use it anytime she wanted. I'm not sure what I'm walking into. I didn't ask for it. It hurts to even think about it all, and I'm not living through it. What's wrong with our world? Maybe things will change and maybe it'll all get better and be a success story. But then am I just thinking like a classic abused individual - denying the reality of it?

So maybe if I start running again this week, I'll process my thoughts and write great posts on the power of a community or the story of the gingerbread man. Maybe I'll read some blogs instead of the newspaper and enlighten myself on happy people in the world.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Me and the youngest members of my support crew before the race.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"For there to be good, there must be bad"

I have to say - Iliketoast must know some secrets. That title quote is his. He also said "good to me is a matter of contrast". I think life is a constant balance of contrast. I did nothing right at all for the marathon I ran today, but I had a great - no - most excellent run. In the words of my daughter, " I was so stinkin' proud of myself!"

Here you go: Portland Marathon: 3:34:05 - 1st half in 1:44:27, 2nd half in 1:49:38. Not a PR, but I havent' run a marathon that fast in 12 years.

What I did wrong (or at least not ideal):
1 - I ran a marathon 5 weeks ago
2 - My last 5 weeks of mileage: 9 - 21 - 37 - 12 - 14
3 - lunch yesterday @ McDonald's
4 - dinner last night @ Subway
5 - hours of sleep last night - 5? (I'm really not sure - I fell asleep next to my 6-yr-old trying to get her to sleep in the hotel.
6 - I got to the start with only enough time to wait in the potty line, stretch for about 20 seconds - literally - peel off my sweats, and get into the start corral
7 - I ate nothing before the start - had one sip of water.
8 - I unintentionally lost 5 pounds in the last 2 weeks.

Extra bonuses that made the trip worthwhile:
1 - no stress - I chose not to have a time goal for this marathon, and I enjoyed every minute of it
2 - the kids are so used to camping that they thought the hotel suite was like Disneyland
3 - my husband had a pass to the Nike employee store in the area and he snagged me a really sweet jacket

The race itself:

I started out slower than I usually do, intending to enjoy it all and take in the experience. I had a packet of clif blocks in my hand that I rationed one at a time every few miles until about mile 18 - and I took sips of only water at most of the aid stations. I had some gels at mile 18, 21, and 23. My stomach felt better than it has the last two marathons. My pacing was pretty consistent - I slowed down some from mile 18-22, and I made two bathroom stops on the course.

Those are the tangible details. Those and the fact that my legs felt pretty good for the whole race.

The non-tangible details are the most amazing things I've ever experienced in a marathon - this was my 8th one. I thought about all of the things that people have said or written to me in the last couple of weeks about life and running. The big one that hit me over the head was ''what are you running to?" as oppossed to my questioning what I was running from. I thought about that one the entire race. I think I was running through and toward an enormous euphoric running high the entire marathon. I thought about Steph's recent trail race report, and how during the race, she was in such a state that she was convinced she didn't want to run anymore - she'd pushed her body to that limit. I thought about the kids I'd gone camping with recently and how hard they pushed themselves when they were miserable. I thought about all of the runners out there who run for a cause for people who are less fortunate and can't run. I thought that I was tired, but I wasn't hurting or suffering. I could stop and walk, but I'd just have to start running again at some point, so why bother? Allof these quotes from other people filtered through my mind over and over:

"If you're enjoying yourself, why slow down?"
"Take a leap of faith . . . Make it an experiment."
"Just run - just breathe"
"Does it make you feel good when you run fast?"
"Shift your thinking."
"You are awesome."

Somebody told me this week, about themself: "I do what I do because it makes me happy." I thought - how simple, but how profound . . . and how inspiring. I went out there today, and I did what I did because it truly made me happy - very happy. The spectators out on the course were like nothing I've ever seen in 26 years of road racing. There were people lining the course for the majority of the 26.2 miles. It was like running along a parade route for a good portion of the marathon - except all of the people were so pumped up and supportive it was just crazy. There were people with cowbells, signs, music - there was live music every few miles - cheerleaders every now and then - even a beer stop on mile 25 - which I joyfully took part in. It was like the whole population of Portland came out in full force to watch and support the marathon. I was so excited the whole race - I don't think I've ever whooped and hollered and thanked people and high-fived so much during a race before. There were so many runners to run with every step of the way. What a cool experience. I can't stop smiling from ear to ear about it. I feel like I became a true marathoner out there today because I finally understand why so many people love it so much and become addicted.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know I'd like to run faster - but that will take some training goals - one thing at a time. I leaned a lot about the mental aspect of myself today. I ran Portland today approximately 10 minutes faster than my last 2 marathons - which were 5 seconds apart (3:43:56 and 3:43:51). Ten minutes faster - that's HUGE! I'm so excited. Those last 2 qualifed me for Boston 2007, and now after today, I think I'm qualifed for 2008. But I think I'm gonna train for 2007, and I'm gonna take a break from running another marathon until then. I'm looking forward to some cross-training and to stengthening some parts of my body besides my legs. And did I say how excited I am with myself? Maybe not . . .

I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!
Now I need a nap.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Good Enough"

This phrase has taunted me for lengthly portions of my life. Am I good enough? And for whom? Or for what? And what does it have to do with my running?
For whatever reason, I grew up never believing I was good enough. Maybe it was growing up in a very wealthy city and never being one of the wealthiest. Maybe it was attending private catholic schools. Maybe it was the influence of society, family, and community, and maybe it was something internal that I was born with. I'll never know. I've dealt with it in more ways in my life than I care to elaborate on it, but it wasn't until just recently that I realized how it affected me as a runner.
When I started running I was 10, and did it because my dad did and my brother did. Perhaps I wanted to be included - to be part of something. And maybe I was given a pat on the back - some attention for it - so I kept doing it. Somehow in there, it became natural for me to think that the faster I was, the more attention I'd receive, the better I was. Faster meant 'good enough', it meant acceptance, it meant that I was somebody special. And slower soon came to mean I wasn't 'good enough', wasn't worthy of being accepted, and wasn't really anybody of significance. For many years it became a pressure to succeed, exceed, excel - to keep getting better, or face becoming stagnant - slipping back and becoming nothing at all. My identity became and still is: 'I'm a runner'. There have been times in my life where I didn't recognize or accept myself if I wasn't running. I wasn't good enough. Years of therapy taught me to realize that I can be somebody simply by my existence. My therapist always wanted to know what I was running from. Although I hated the question - because I thought he was wrong and I just liked to run - I hated the answer even more. I was running from myself. One day I finally had to retrain myself so that I could be good enough for me and to run for myself and not to prove anything to the world at large.
But I still feel this need to run fast, and have a fear of what will happen if I don't. I've honestly never tried it. I faced having to live up to other people's expectations - what I thought was family, society, community excpectations of myself. Now I'm dealing with my own expectations. I still expect myself to run fast. But why? Why can't I just go out and run a marathon and enjoy it and not feel the need to race it? Millions of other people do it, why not me? If it's okay with me, if it's 'good enough' for me, then nothing or no one else should really matter, should it . . .

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Camping at The Mountain

I can see Mount Rainier from my living room window. I live up on a hill, and can look off into the distance and see the mountain turn pink with every sunset - a vision of grandeur, seeming to float in the sky.

Although a regular in sight, it's impressiveness never ceases to dazzle the onlooker. It's truly majestic in appearance.
This last week I joined 24 fourth and fifth graders on a camping trip to Rainier. It rained. A lot. The kids hiked. A lot. For the actual tally, there was a hike Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Wednesday evening, Thursday afternoon, and two short hikes on Friday. The most notable was the cold wet one on Wednesday when it rained, snowed, sleeted, hailed, was windy, foggy . . . that's the gist of it. It was pretty tough. And that's Mount Rainier - unpredictable weather. I think we turned around somewhere just above 6300 ft, and cut the hike short at 4 miles. We reached Comet Falls on Thursday - the highest falls in the park that you can actually hike to. The ranger told us 30% chance of rain, and we decided that we encountered the 30% chance that it would rain 100% of the day.

Aside from the rain, the the trip was actually really rewarding. It was a challenge, but the kids learned to face it head on, and came out proud of what they could accomplish. We set up a group camp like it was tarp city, but still couldn't avoid getting soaked. Some who came ill-prepared soon had nothing left dry and had to perservere. Some of these kids weren't campers and dealt with the challenge of being away from home. Several kids were simply fatigued from the hiking and the mountain air. Above all, it was cold. I usually wandered about in 4 layers, then added a fleece coat, and a gore-tex coat over that. I lived in wool socks, wool gloves, and a ski hat. In fact, I slept in my hat too.

I didn't get much sleep at all - partly due to the rain, partly due to camping with so many people. By Thursday night, we were all wet and tired and cold, but we'd made the decision to stick it out one last day rather than go home early. In the middle of the night, I was awakened to escort a child to the bathroom down the road. Pitch black, and a little bit scared, we clutched flashlights and walked through the trees to the road. Walking along, we stopped, turned off our flashlights, and looked up beyond the trees. We could see stars - millions of stars. One might expect such a thing in the mountains with no city lights, but thus far, we'd only experienced clouds and rain. Stars meant two things - clear skies, and a huge white mountain. The kids awoke Friday morning to clear blue skies and a mighty majestic mountain looming over us. This was their first glimpse of the mountain after four days of camping at the base of it. It made the whole trip worth it for them.

My daughter had an interesting comment about the mountain. She said that somehow, when you're up that close, it just doesn't seem so impressive after all. It looks like you could climb right up. Kinda funny, but I have to agree with her. I have a wish to climb it someday, but for now, I think I prefer to admire it from afar while it turns pink at sunset against a lavender sky.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ironman Perspectives

Saturday shed new light on my world of what it means to be an athlete. My 10-yr-old daughter and I were out the door at 5:45 am, and headed east over the mountains. We drove through the pass in the dark and with the rain pounding - I was glad to have company. Somewhere on the other side of the mountains the skies cleared. The sun came up over the hills, the mountains cast a purple haze across the valleys and pink fluffy clouds drifted across the sky. It was beautiful. At about 7:00, a couple hundred miles further east, 67 ironman participants were wading into the water to begin their swim. We stopped to grab some breakfast. We drove through vast farmlands and wound our way through canyons, lakes, and rivers to reach the start area for the Grand Columbian Triathlon. In addition to the ironman and half ironman competitions, this was the site of the 2006 ITU Pan-American Long Distance Elite and Age Group Championships. By the time we arrived, the majority of these competitors had completed their swim - 'cept for the half-iron people. At 10:15, they headed out for their swim. We got to watch both transitions and were out along the trail during the run portion. (We sat under the blue sky at the edge of the Grand Coulee Dam and ate lunch during the bike leg - it wasn't easily accessible for spectators.) The weather was fantastic, and my brother had a great day - finishing in 5 hours, 31 minutes on a fairly hard course. The bike segment had some pretty good climbs and was fairly windy. This was his first half, and just last year he was excited when he'd complete even the swim portion of a sprint-tri. He's already looking toward next year. He was pretty tired when he was through - hopefully pretty proud of himself. It'll be fun to talk to him once it has all sunk in and he realizes what he accomplished. Clock time would've been about 3:45 in the afternoon when he was finished. We hung out for a while as he recovered, watched some finishers, ate some food. It took a while to watch the results come in, gather gear bags, retrieve the bike, etc. Once we returned to the car it was about 5:30. We had watched a few of the iron athletes come through the half-marathon point, but the leader hadn't come through when we left the finish line - he likely came through just before 5:00. My daughter and I drove back through the canyons and the rivers and the valleys, heading west and following the golden sunset. We stopped for dinner around 7:30, headed back over the mountains in the dark where it was once again raining, and arrived home around 9:30 - roughly a 4-hour drive. We put away everything we'd dragged in from the car, and shared stories about our day with my husband. I grabbed a cup of tea and sat down to relax. I eventually headed off to bed - must've been just after 11:00 pm. Within the next hour, the last five ironman competitors would complete the marathon course. According to the results, the last finisher completed the course with a time of 16:42:07. I was fast asleep by then.

I get to go camping this week at Mt. Rainier, and I keep thinking about that rain as I drove over the pass yesterday. Guess I oughtta pack some warm clothes and some raingear. Maybe I'll get lucky and that big mountain will peak out from behind the clouds.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Clouded Over

It's a good thing I captured all of those photographic moments of my last run because I think it's been cloudy ever since. I still had some aches and pains this week, so I've modified my training a bit 'til the marathon. A little less distance and a little more speed - not really speedwork, just pacing on the workouts. I had a great run at Greenlake yesterday - I did two loops of the lake with a loop around Woodland Park in the middle to make it about 8.5 miles. There are so many people at Greenlake, and it's paved and flat, so it made for some great race pacing - it tends to go by quick when you are weaving in and out of people the whole time. I'm not talking about passing runners - more of the strollers, roller-bladers, walkers, etc. - sort of the place in the city that everybody goes for general exercise.

I think I'll attempt some pace-work on my Sunday run - try to race-simulate many miles at pace, and see if I can cut down at all by the last 4 or 5. I'm thinkin' 12-14 miles sounds good. I'll have several hours to stroll the zoo during my daughter's birthday party in the afternoon - makes for a great post-workout cooldown - if I don't fall over in the process. Then I'll taper. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to run next week when I'll be camping and there are no showers. Do I dare hang out all stinky for others to have to deal with? Ponderous . . .

I'm looking forward to the marathon, and I think I'm looking forward to after the marathon. Sometimes when I run a race and finish, I think: "Now what?" For some reason, though, I'm looking forward to just training and cross-training. I did a marathon in May, and in late August, and then this one in early October. I've loved the training and the long runs, but am ready for a break. I've been able to learn where my strengths and weaknesses are for racing, and what I want to focus on this fall and winter. And then there's my looming spring decision. Boston? Eugene? I dunno. It seems so far off, but when you schedule it and plan it, and figure when you'll need to start your training, it's right around the corner. I think my mind is cloudy like the weather - like a permanent fog rolled in for a while.

I'm heading over to the eastern part of the state to watch my brother compete in the Grand Columbian tomorrow - it's his first Half Ironman, so I'm pretty excited for him. My husband's first tri - Black Diamond is the following weekend. Three weekends in October are already taken up by a mountain bike race, a duathlon and my marathon. (The bike events are my husbands, not mine.) And the kids have soccer games on Saturdays. I don't think I'm going to be able to avoid cross-training for much longer with my family's habits. I've been falling asleep on the couch all week after the kids go to bed, so perhaps just running until this marathon and recovery is over will be enough.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Add on to my last post

This really is a continuation of my last post - call me the long-winded blogger for the day. When I left off, I was contemplating how effective it is to run an even pace. My next random thought is that it always seems so desirable to run negative splits, but then perhaps you didn't run hard enough during the first half . . . I think a lot of factors really go into all of it. A lot of it is mental, and a lot of it is training. Then you can do all different schools of thought on what kind of training. For me, I want to run a faster marathon. A fast marathon needs endurance and speed (and a lot of grit and a lot of passion). There are so many training plans that have you doing the endurance or the speed, and then both, but it gets harder when you talk about doing them together - to put it simply - to do long training runs or intervals at a fast pace. How much is enough to benefit you, and how much is too much so that you'll wind up with an injury. And without knowing exercise physiology to a 'T', how do you know if you're benefitting from the training. Do you have to undergo tests at an exercise phys. lab? Do you have to run marathon upon marathon to see if you improve? Then some schools will tell you that will cause injury - while at the same time you see this new trend of U.S. runners who try to run 50 states in 50 days, or one every month of the year.

It all makes me crazy. So what did I do today? I set out to run a long run after a race. I figure it was somewhat simulation - an experiment of sorts. When I started out, my legs weren't fresh - a little tired from my 10k yesterday, that's all. My long run said differently. I ran really slow and I was really tired. And I had aches and pains that I never have on long runs. My right soleus is still killing me, and I have odd soreness on the top of my left foot. What I felt like, was that I went out too fast in the 6 miles (yesterday) of a 23 mile mile run (17 today + 6 yesterday +23). My run yesterday served a purpose (see my last post), and I think I proved the lesson today. Running an even pace makes sense - starting controlled and conservative, but finding that sweet spot where you're still pushing yourself. I didn't plan to run fast today. Part of my purpose was to feel a little tired and have to do a long run - that's how I'll feel during a large part of the next marathon. I sauntered along today aimlessing taking gels and drinking electrolytes. I dragged along my hydration pack and my gels and my cell phone and my camera . . . yes, 17 miles with my camera. I'm a photography nut. It's just as much fun to come home and tweak them with computer graphics as it was to take them. Truly, though, today's course was beautiful. My body felt miserable, but mentally, it was just me and the miles out there - pure bliss. I always rant and rave about these areas when I come home, so now I have proof.

Mile 2 - Magnolia Bluffs

Mile 3 - Ferry crossing Puget Sound

Mile 4 - Olympic Mountains over Puget Sound

Mile 4 - Discovery Park

Mile 5 - Discovery Park Loop Trail

Mile 7 - Train Bridge near Chittenden Locks

Mile 8.5 - Turn around at Golden Gardens Park

Mile 9 - Shilshole Bay Marina

Mile 11 - Back on the trails in Discovery Park

Mile 12 - More trails in Discovery Park - Note the "Disco Ball" on the left.