Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Out into the World

I've been away on an amazing adventure with my family. Thanks to the people who inquired with concern or curiosity about my whereabouts - it's nice to have that connection out there in the blog world.

We packed up the pop-up camper and the van, loaded up the kids, and headed out east. Our journey (I'm a visual map type, so I am drawing a map route in my head here): from Seattle to Spokane, Washington, to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, through Missoula, Montana and across the Continental Divide to Bozeman, Montana - then south to Wyoming through Yellowstone National Park (the focus of our destinations), continuing south through Grand Teton National Park - then looping up northwest to Ashton, Idaho, then west through Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, and Boise, Idaho - then northwest through Baker City, Oregon, Emigrants Springs, Pendleton, Oregon, and home. Truly, I think it's just fun to list it all, because it reminds me of everything we saw and experienced along the way. It would take me eons to say all I want about the trip, so I'll have to just capture the essence of the highlights.

Lake Couer d'Alene boasts the longest floating boardwalk and the water sparkled across the lake from the late afternoon summer sun.

Montana truly is 'Big Sky' country. It is beautiful in every way - mountains, streams, sky . . . I happened upon a river trail to run along while we stopped in Missoula to let the kids play in a water spray feature at a park. I've always imagined Montana as a place where its' people have a deep love for the outdoors. It gave me a huge sense of enjoyment to be out along that river, feeling like I was a true Montana native - out experiencing nature.

Yellowstone National Park was more than we could ever have imagined for us and for our kids. We saw Old Faithful on our 3rd day in the park - sort of a let down after all that we had seen. I'm glad to say we saw it, but as my husband says, 'It was like Disneyland it was so crowded with tourists.' Some of what we did enjoy . . . putting the kids in the car at the crack of dawn - seeing the sunrise across the Hayden Valley while steam rose from the river - happening upon a herd of bison. We sat in the car with the windows rolled down for about half an hour while a herd of 200-300 bison wandered through the area. They stopped to feed their babies, they called to one another, they trotted down the hill, and wandered so close to us that we could have reached out and touched them. To be amidst them like that was the highlight of the trip for me. It was like existing in a prehistoric time amongst the dinosaurs. At first the kids (and us) were a little intimidated, but after a few minutes we were just all in awe. We watched a grizzly bear feed off of a bison in the river - our kids saw a bear eat breakfast out in the wild - huge view of the world there. I've never camped in bear country before. The rangers are very serious about the regulations, and making sure you are aware of them. We watched an amazing amphitheatre presentation on the return of wolves to Yellowstone, while the sun went down over Yellowstone Lake and the stars came out to dazzle us. When it was through, we walked back to our camp. The trek was something every member of our family will remember for a long time. We were nervous walking at night in bear country. It was pitch black, and all the others took their cars back to camp - not the one mile trail that we chose. The stars were so clear and the universe so vast. It had been near 80 degrees in the day, but was now very cold - down near 40 in the night. We had to cross over a suspension bridge that spanned a ravine, and bounced as we walked. We huddled together as we walked - truly experiencing the park in a new sense. We all made it back fine, but it was a long way for our munchkins with the surrounding circumstances - pretty scary - but they were troopers. The geothermal features in the park are amazing beyond belief - I think our word for them was 'otherworldly'. There are so many and they are so diverse - ranging from hot springs, to terraces, to pools, to geysers to mudpots - you really feel like you are on a different planet at times. The rainbow colors of the Grand Prizmatic were one of my favorites - or maybe watching the hot water of a spring overflow to create a waterfall into a cool river.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is bigger than the pictures give it credit for. I cried because I was so nervous to have the kids standing at the edge - I felt all shaky in my legs. Parts of it had no fencing, no barrier of any kind. You could truly stand right at the edge. It was remarkable, though. The beach at the edge of Lake Yellowstone was beautiful by sunset, and there was no one around which made it extremely peaceful. I went for a run in the evening and almost ran into a few elk grazing. Huge creatures. We took the kids swimming in the Fire Hole River to cool off one day - the current was fun for my husband as he climbed through the canyon and floated downriver to the kids.

The Grand Tetons were another experience altogether. We explored many nooks and crannies of the area, and I think Oxbow Bend is the most beautiful place in the world. You have an amazing view of these mounains that seem to grow straight up out of nowhere. While there, we watched a black bear swim across the river, then bound across the field with a herd of elk in the background. A few minutes later a coyote came slinkiing by very quietly. We were lucky enough to see a couple of bull moose one day, and see a mom and her baby eating dinner the next day. We visited a really well put-together native american museum in Colter Bay and got a glimpse of what people used to live in the area. I went for a short run along Jackson Lake with the Tetons as a backdrop and the sun at such an angle that the water was lit up with light. An amazing sight.

Ashton, Idaho was the site of the Mesa Falls Marathon. We left the campground just after 5 am, in the middle of a farming valley, and drove in the dark to the start 20 miles out on some logging road. The first 10 miles were a downhill grade along a gravel road, then the next 4 miles on pavement and through a lookout point to see the falls, the next 3 miles were on trail by the river where you could hear the Osprey cry. Miles 17-20 were a good solid up hill - a real challenge. The last miles were more downhill through rolling barley fields into the town. I kept thinking about the Sting song "Fields of Gold" while I was running. The run was a lot more mentally challenging than I thought it'd be. I think I started out having been on vacation - lots of car time, alternating with lots of walking in my Chacos. I think I started at 6:30 am without a warm-up. I think I was pretty tight until mile 20. I think I had a good race overall, just wish it was faster. I gotta give myself credit for having done the race during vacation, and enjoying it. I need to accept that I can't always go out and run a PR. I know my training times suggests that I can run faster, and I think I can, I just don't think I had that in me on the given day. I ran around a 3:44 - a little over or under. I'm still shooting for faster, but I need to amp up my training mileage a little. The course was beautiful, the people were nice, we got free huckleberry milkshakes. The weather was great, the pre-race pasta/potato dinner was good and cheap, the finisher medals were engraved wood, as were the plaques given as age-division awards. For shirts, it wasn't a compression shirt like Fleet-Feet gave out in Chicago, it wasn't a long-sleeved tech fabric like the Seattle Marathon gives you, it was an embroidered polo shirt. Kind of unique.

We surprised the kids in Twin Falls, ID, and took them to a Nascar track. What a hoot. The rest of southern Idaho was interesting. We saw Evel Knievel's jump site and watched people base jump over the snake river canyon. Shoshone Falls ('Niagara of the West') is beautiful.

Up through Oregon, we followed the historic Oregon Trail. We went through an interpretive center and actually got to see old wagons and where some of the wagon ruts still remain in the dirt along the trail.

We're all glad to be home. We've done endless loads of laundry and I'm sure our skin still smells of campfire smoke. It was really amazing to take such a trip with our kids. To have our focus be about what's out there to see in the world - what's out there to experience. To have a larger than usual portion of our day consumed with our basic needs of food and shelter - setting up at a new camp each night, heating water, cooking meals, cleaning dishes, building fires . . . hot water and electric lights became an unnecessary luxury. Several nights we actually let the kids cook their dinner over the fire. We found geocaches in four different states, we stayed at campgrounds ranging from primitive bear country, to private complete with swimming pools. The kids were able to adapt to all kinds of situations and meet people from all walks of life. 'Cept for a few postcards, arrowheads, and some junior ranger patches, I feel like for the most part we were able to 'take only pictures, leave only footprints'.

I think we all have come home with a greater appreciation of the world out there than we left home with. It really is a captivating place out there when you take yourself out into it, and pause in it's midst to enjoy it and reflect.

I'm looking forward to the beginning of fall, the kids back in school, and the seasons changing. I can't wait to catch up on everyone's blogs and plan my next marathon. Right now, I'm looking forward to tucking the kids into bed and enjoying a movie and a glass of red wine with my husband. And I've learned to have a new respect for all of those luxuries.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

North Bend Race

I ran a race today. I wasn't sure I was ready for it. I have race details, but I have details on my training week too. Last Sunday was my fabulous 21 miler - that was great. I was supposed to run Monday. But didn't. I ran 3 miles on Tuesday. On the treadmill at the gym. I lifted too. That was great. I had a 5:00 am wake-up Wednesday am - slept in 'til 6:00. I was scheduled to run 8 miles of 400 intervals/recovery, etc. at the track. At 6 am I decided to run on the road instead where there are marked quarter miles on the bike path. I headed out. Two houses down the street there was a strange guy hangin' out. At 6 am. Not smoking, not on a cell phone, not a neighbor. Just hangin' out. I ran down the block. I stopped and deliberated. It all freaked me out enough that I went back home. He had moved and there was mischevious activity going on, involving a car and another wandering individual. I went inside and locked the door, with intent to run later. Later. Later I was busy. Later the dishwasher guy was here until 5:00. By 5:30 I had loaded all three kids into the minivan for a trek to the track. They were in running shoes, ready to run or dig in the sand pits. The track nearby is being resurfaced and won't be ready for another month. We continued on to the next track further south. It's at a parks dept. community center, but was locked for the first time that I'd ever seen. The kids offered to climb the chainlink but it was 10 feet high. We drove around it looking for another way in. No such luck. We drove further south to the next track at a local high school. Except, after driving the perimeter and scanning from three different parking lots, there was no track. We drove south again. To another high school track. This one is a private school. The sign at the locked gate promptly reminded us of this fact and mentioned that violators would be prosecuted. I bought the kids dinner. We drove to one last track, just for kicks. This one was locked up like a fortress, and atop the high chain-link fence were three rows of barbed wire. I didn't run on Wednesday. We found a park near the airport where we could watch the planes come in for a landing, and found some amazing botanical gardens where the kids pretended they were fairies until sunset.

I oughtta say that when I came home, I locked the door, still freaked out from the morning. When someone tried to get in my backdoor at 11:15, I was sure glad I had it locked. Nice, eh? Oh, by the way, that day, it was a full moon.

Thursday I ran 5 miles. I stopped twice at the . . um . . restroom, and walked for a quarter mile somewhere in the middle. I ran 4 miles on Friday at the track at the gym. It's 19.5 laps to the mile. So I ran 4x19.5 = 78 laps. If that sounds like a lot of laps, check out this link I had in my dead runner's society email:

So, my race today . . . I consider myself a marathon runner, and train accordingly. I wanted badly to do that missed interval workout, because I wanted to know what it felt like to run 10k pace. My goal was to run a 44:00 10k. My PR from about 15 years ago is 40:52. If I could run a 44 today, the handy dandy team oregon pace wizard says I can run a 3:30 marathon, and that'd be great. I needed to run 7 minute pace. I oughtta say that the North Bend Alpine Days race is set on a beautiful course in the foothills of the Cascade Mtn. range, with views of Mt. Si. It was sunny and cool - great day for a run. My first mile was 6:58 - perfect. I didn't know I had it in me. Well, I thought I did, but you never know until you do it. My second mile was 6:30 - but me and the guy I was running next to both thought maybe it was marked too early. I felt great - really great. I was so excited. I hung tight to a couple of runners in front of me for mile 3, and held on to the pace. Mile 4 I set it in cruise control and drifted a bit. I'm used to wandering thoughts for a 26 mile race - I forgot that you can't stop to daydream in a 10k or it all goes by too quickly. I picked off a few people in mile 5, and hung on to the pace for mile 6. I think I slowed a little bit around mile 4 or 5, but not intentionally. I truly felt great. I was bummed when I saw the finish clock and it was 44:05 - and yet - it took me five seconds to get to the start line, so my net time? 44:00. Saweeeet! Check it out (Alpine Days). I'm so proud of myself.

What a crazy week of running. No long run tomorrow. My daughter's birthday party is tomorrow. No theme or anything, we're going to the beach to play. But it still requires planning and preparation. This child was born in August under the Zodiac sign Leo the Lion. She was born in the year 2000 - Chinese year of the Dragon - the dawn of the new millenium. She is named after one of the head stars 'Meissa or Lambda Ori' in the constellation Orion the Hunter. In arabic, the word 'Meissa' means 'the shining one'. You can only imagine what a fireball of a personality this child has. Meissa is turning 6 this week, and birthday parties are a big deal when you're six. It's a challenge to plan them without gobs of sugar and useless miscellaneous toys that kids seem to love. I think when people grow older we still desire gobs of treats for birthdays and useless miscellaneous toys - they're just more expensive. But then there's Josh. His birthday present was the coolest ever. His wife gave him a little bit of life. You should read his previous post too to understand his motive.

I gotta go finish some cupcakes.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I'm famous!

A lot of people pay big money to have their name/company come up first in a search engine. We had a good laugh when we googled 'ginger breadman' yesterday. When we scanned further down the list, it came up a few more times, but on Angie's blog - she or someone else referring to me. Pretty funny.

What a great summer weekend we had. Seafair was this weekend, so there were hydroplanes buzzing on the lake and planes in the air all weekend. For 4 days, The US Navy Blue Angels fly right over our house - it's such a rush how fast and loud they go. The first time they flew over one of the kids said, "I could see the words on the plane!" My husband responded with, "From the deck at work we could see the pilot inside the plane." It's really amazing. Saturday morning we ventured down to the lake where we could catch a glimpse of the hyrdroplane races, but get a really great view of the air show. The jets go screaming right over your head. For us, it's a huge tradition, but also a symbol that the end of summer is drawing near. Saturday night after the kids were in bed, we could see fireworks over the hill above the Seafair festivities. We snuck the kids out of bed and brought them to the living room window to watch. It was one of those priceless moments as parents. Standing there listening to the kids ooooh and aaaah and discuss the fireworks, and relish in the privilege to be out of bed and see something special. My husband and I just looked at each other and smiled.

I got up early for my Sunday run. I ran one of my favorite courses - water, water, everywhere. I did a short loop in West Seattle so I could stand at Hamilton Viewpoint on the northern tip of the hill and look out across the bay to where I'd be in a couple of hours. The cruise ships were heading to the port terminal, the fishing boats were in abundance, and the sky was pink behind the city skyline. I ran across the Seattle waterfront along Elliot Bay, up the hill to the magnolia bluffs with Panoramic views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The was an eagle sitting out on a tree snag enjoying the view with me. I ran on some trails through Discovery Park - the largest park in Seattle. I ran down across the Chittenden Locks, and continued along Salmon Bay and the ship canal. I hooked up with another runner who was out for a long run and not too familiar with the trail. We ran a couple of miles together and chatted about running and which marathons we'd done. I finished up at Gasworks Park on Lake Union. I love that course. There is so much life out there on the water and on the path - so much going on as the city awakens.

I did a few things different this run. I tried to hyrdrate. Sort of a new concept for me. I usually just get by with a few drinking fountains carefully planned along a 20 mile course. This time as I trotted along my first mile or two, I munched on a packet of clif blocks, and I brought a hydration pack with me. I stashed several gels in various places as well. So, I had electrolyte fuel at miles 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 & 18. I took gels at 9, 12, 15, & 18 as well. So, lots more stuff than I usually have. I have to note here, I usually feel fine on my long runs. I like to be sort of a minimalist. I don't take music on my long runs either. But after my stomach problems at Capitol City, I'm trying to adjust a little before the next marathon. I think it helped. I felt just as good as I usually do on my long runs, but I ran a lot faster, and I recovered a lot faster. You'd think that maybe I could've figured all this out a long time ago. I just hate carrying hydration stuff. But yesterday, I didn't even seem to notice. Other than a slow first mile, I was able to run my 21 mile on a casual Sunday morning at a pace faster than I averaged during my last marathon on a race course with other people. (granted, yes, it was 5 miles shorter) And I felt really relaxed, and even cut down my last couple of miles. I've been doing speedwork and pace work, maybe that helped. I've been lifting a little, maybe that helped. I swam at the pool on Friday night. Doubt that did anything for my physical running ability 2 days later, I just wanted to say that I did it. I also just came off of my highest mileage week so far, with no rest on Saturday like I usually do before a long run. I refuse to admit that I denied this hydration for so long and that it was such a simple thing and that it had amazing benefits. Maybe it was all a fluke. I mean, we're talking I do a lot of my long runs say . . . 9:20 - 9:40 pace, and I just did my longest one at an average 8:28 pace without any extra effort. I was flying high about it yesterday. I think I oughtta rein it back in - don't wanna jinx anything before my next race. I think I'm partly excited because maybe, just maybe, hard work and training and diligence pays off. 'I' this, 'I' that, 'I' think, 'I', 'I', 'I' . . . I suppose it's my blog but that's enough about me for a moment. Something really cool about yesterday was my family -

I'm training for a marathon in 3 weeks, and another one in the fall. My husband is training for a half marathon in 4 weeks, and a sprint tri 3 weeks after that. I have 2 10k's scheduled in there somewhere. And we have 3 kids. It's a lot of training time to schedule. Sunday mornings are the long ones. While I was out enjoying the sunrise and watching the boats, my husband was dragging 3 kids outta bed at 7 am on a Sunday morning during their summer vacation. He was packing dry clothes for me, loading up all of the replacment drinks I'd stashed in water bottles in the frige. He was packing my food to have when I was done, so I'd make it through the rest of the day. He was getting the kids some breakfast, helping them choose snacks to bring in the car, and making them cocoa in 'to go' cups. Oh, yeah, he was getting ready for HIS long run too - he had a 13 miler planned, the longest he'd run in probably 10 years. He drove a half hour to meet me at the park. I felt like we were at an aid station along an ultra course - take off the hydration pack, refill it, add some more gel packs, I was changing into dry clothes . . . and then he headed out. The kids had been playing in the park with my husband, but hadn't had enough, so we hiked up this mini-hill and stood looking out over Lake Union with the city behind it, and watched the float planes take off, one after another. Gasworks park has an old refinery with some parts that were leftover and painted that you can walk through. What a beautiful day. We ran through some sprinklers, then headed out to the next stop where we'd pick up my husband. He ran along a paved trail that heads out to the north end of Lake Washington. We skirted the lake and ended up at another park to play. This one had a long dock we could walk out on and watch the boaters heading out to watch the hydroplane races. Nearby we watched three eagles flying in and out of a large tree at the shore. It was so cool to hear them crying to one another. What amazing creatures they are.

The kids played in the grass and under the trees and by the shore. What better things for a kid? My husband and I got in some amazing running, and our little troopers went from park to park, seeing a little bit of life out there in the world. The kids got the role-modeling of parents who value exercise and goals, and a family supporting one another. I imagine someday when they're grown, they'll say to one another, "Remember those Sunday mornings when mom and dad did long runs and we got to go to all of those parks and see cool stuff?" Because last Sunday we did the same thing, and there are many Sundays that we do the same thing, just different parks. The kids got cocoa, we went out for coffee when all the hydration bottles were emptied, and we were all home by noon. Life is good.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I had a hard time draggin' myself outta bed yesterday. After the alarm went off I kept climbing deeper under the covers. I played that mental game I call 'Later'. I'll go run at the gym - I'll go this afternoon - I'll run before dinner. Somehow I got up and out the door. I took my music with me. It spoke to me out on the run. That happens sometimes - when the words just leap out and shake you, and the music reaches you on some emotional level below the surface. I could say the lyrics put to music are like poetry for my soul - but I'm sure someone has said that already. The music simply has some effect on your spirit or on that energy inside you. It makes you feel so alive. It's funny how different types of music can do the same thing for people. From the beginning of time with ritualist drumming and instinctive tapping of feet - to today when everyone has an ipod and music on their cell phone.

My songs today were a litlle bit about freedom and self. A little bit about being high on life and happy to be out experiencing it. I ran a comfortable 8 mile out and back along the beach. ( I was supposed to run 5, but I had to add my 3 from yesterday because the neighborhood BBQ took the place of my evening run.) I raced a ferry boat around the point. I think I beat it. I'd love to have a hand-held and radio the captain: "Hey buddy - I think I'm gaining on ya', you oughtta pick it up a bit." I chased a pigeon too. I swear those things wait until you're right on them before they fan their tail and take off in flight. My new shoes felt great on their inaugural run. I love that I can take them out for an 8 mile jaunt right out of the box and they feel like slippers. I got blue this time - my last pair was yellow. I think I like the blue ones.

Back on the music topic . . . we went to a concert last week - a date, even. We went to listen to Shawn Colvin at an outdoor venue. We last saw her on our first wedding anniversary in 1994, and she's still singing - even has a new album coming out. It was so awesome to sit outside and watch the trees and listen to her guitar.

I listen to an odd mix of music. I'd love to be cool and list the hit music I listen to, but that ain't gonna happen. A lot of the time it's what I consider old music, but because some of it is from the 80's, it's now hip and retro. I somehow really do have some sort of variety - a pretty wide diversity that I seem to have interest in - but it's not necessary 'cool' music, and I wouldn't classify it as running music by anyone's standards but my own. I have no idea how many songs I currently have on my ipod - maybe a hundred or so of that diverse mix - but yesterday the songs played out however which way they chose. They had their way with me. You know it's going to be a good run when you start out with the sky lightening up and the first song you hear is about walking on air. Here are the lyrics:

Look at what's happened to me,
I can't believe it myself.
Suddenly I'm up on top of the world,
It should've been somebody else.

Believe it or not,
I'm walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me.

It's like a light of a new day,
It came from out of the blue.
Breaking me out of the spell I was in,
Making all of my wishes come true.

Believe it or not,I'm walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me.

It's the theme song from a 1981 TV show called The Greatest American Hero. And a sampling of what came next, best I can recollect:

All I Need is a Miracle - Mike and the Mechanics
something by Rod Stewart
Alive and Kicking - Simple Minds
Free as a Bird - the Beattles
Redemption Song - Bob Marley
Runaway Train - Soul Asylum - saw them in concert too
Sugar, We're Goin' Down - Fallout Boy
Maybe I - Five for Fighting
Silver Rainbow - Genesis
Coming to America - Neil Diamond
Zoo Station - U2 -oooh, saw them in concert too
Come Sail Away - Styx

Okay, I'm done reminiscing. The ipod was on random, and I couldn't repeat the playlist if I tried - I know I'm missing several. I find it mildly ammusing that I run along the beach path with my head boppin' side to side and my hands drumming the air. Sometimes you just gotta live a little bit of life.

Hopefully somewhere in there I captured the essence of my run a little bit and delivered it in words to share with the world. It was a great run.