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.

Blog Time and Tacos

All I've done today is take the kids to school and run and shower. I ended up doing a long run today since I ran a race yesterday, but I'll have to blog my photo journey of my 17 miler today in another post, because I have only half an hour until the school bus comes. What a day.

I've been doing it again. Blogging while I'm running. I run along and think about all the things I'd like to write. Then I come home and I don't blog and time goes on and I have this build up of blog things in my head. Sometimes I think - why bother. But then other times I wonder about the people out there, and my purpose for blogging. Why would I write it if I didn't want it to be read? Some sort of shared interconnectedness to the people of the world for reasons beyond my knowledge. (Speaking of things beyond our knowledge, you should read my husband's latest post - my getnout buddy - he's on my list. provokes thoughts and emotions.) But back to my purpose here. I was looking at my cluster map - it's a fascinating thing. I blog around and see names and locations on my comments from all over the country, Canada, and a couple from Australia, and I think one on vacation in Singapore, but as for the rest, I have no idea who they are, and what they get out of reading my blog. People from all over - Japan, India, Iran, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, The Bahamas, Mexico, 8 countries in Europe that I can actually place, and several others, and someone in London who actually frequents my blog, but never comments. Who are these people? Why have they read my blog? What do they take away from it?
My kids have a book from the library - It Takes A Village - The world population is imagined as a village of 100 people. Here are some facts: of these 100, 22 speak chinese, 9 speak english - so why aren't there people in China reading my blog, and why haven't I translated it into chinese? Although there are 100 people in this village, there are 189 chickens - thus nearly twice as many chickens in our world as humans. Makes you think twice about the bird flu. 17 of these people cannot read at all. So how are so many people reading my blog? 24 people do not have electricity - ah, therefore, no internet connection, let alone power and lights. 75 people have safe water in homes or close by, the other 25 spend most of their day getting it. Only 60 have adequate sanitation - 40 do not. Be thankful next time you use a port-a-potty at a race. Although there is enough food in this world village to feed everyone, if it were to be distributed evenly, it doesn't happen that way. 60 people in this village (read 60% of world population) are always hungry, 26 of those are severely malnourished, 16 go hungry some of the time - thus only 24 always have enough to eat. Makes me wonder next time I go for a long run, how much food do I really need to pack?

Random tangents about the world, but it all makes me think - who are all those people out there in the world? I have a huge itch to go seek them all out and meet them. I guess that's why I like to adventure so much when I run - to see stuff. Probably also why people always want to do the interesting marathons like Safaricom - to see the world. I went to the dentist last week. I hadn't been in 15 years - no reason, just weird. This dentist had a poster of the Boston Marathon on the wall - provoked much conversation. He's in his early 50's and has done 50 marathons - as far away as Bucharest and Hong Kong. Amazing stories this man has.

My stories today are closer to home. I have so much to say about running, but there's so much else to say. Why shouldn't I write about the fruit fly traps (I killed 86 one day), or my 6 yr olds first ride on a ferris wheel next to the Space Needle and how in awe she was to see the world from so high up, or how about . . my watch band broke . . . or how I sipped my coffee this morning and watched the sun rise over the mountains . . or how good the tacos were for dinner last night, but I forgot I had a long run scheduled today. Maybe I should write about doing yoga instead of running the other day and how humbling it was, or the bathroom wars in my house with three girls getting ready for school, or the new Soul Asylum CD that we bought, and how I saw them for free at Pike Place this summer, and stood right up front watching the lead singer. How about the freedom I felt on my last low tide beach run, and the lyrics to the Bryan Adams song 'Here I Am' from the Spirit Soundtrack. I think all runners should download the song, and put on some headphones and crank the volume. The lyrics are amazingly powerful, but you gotta be outside, or have headphones, and listen loud. Some music is just better loud. I could write about my husband's half marathon last weekend and how inspiring it was to watch him reach a goal, and how excited and anxious he is for his first triathlon in a couple of weeks - or about the fact that body glide really works, and I just discovered that today. And what about my run in the park the other day - my husband encouraged me to make the 5 minute drive, and I was in awe of the trails and the leaves and the autumn season approaching so much that you could smell it in the air. Or how about my thoughts that the best proven way to learn a language is total immersion, so wouldn't the best way to learn about life be total immersion in it? Really getting out there and living life.

And then while I'm on such a long post, there's running, and that 10k I did yesterday, and my 17 miler today. I wanted to go out and pace the race yesterday. Not go hog wild for a PR, although that would've been great. But I have a difficult time reigning myself in at the beginning of a race. I feel good, and I'm confident, so I feel like I can go out fast and hold the pace. And I know I've done adequate training to sustain it. (Well, I tell myself that at the 1 mile point when I hear the fast pace.) But I think I get greedy. I go out too fast and pay for it midrace when I slow down. And then I can finish strong, because that's just my mindset. But my goal yesterday was to go out slower. Not slow, just conservative. I'm always afraid that if I go out too slow, that I'll inevitably get tired later and slow down, just as if I went out fast, and then I lose time at the start that I can't get back. Does that make sense? I'm gonna slow down anyway, so why not go out too fast? But in my brain, I know there's a fine line. You can go out conservatively - fast, but not too fast, and reserve some of the energy for mid-race. I went out at 7:10-7:20, and I held close to that the whole race. I didn't PR, I ran a 45:30 I think, but I accomplished what I set out to do. Part of me wonders . . if I had gone out 10 seconds faster, then slowed down 10 seconds later, wouldn't it still be the same? But that's that fine line you have to discover - how hard can you push and still leave some?

I've got to leave it at that for now - my ramblings for the moment, and come back tonight when I have more time - my munchkins await . . .

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fall Contemplations

Back to school . . . not me, the kids. I've been anticipating this day since before we went on vacation. Our trip was like the last hurrah of summer, then home and getting schedules organized for school to start. Our kids go to an amazing school. It's an alternative school with an emphasis on native american culture/ethnic heritage and outdoor education. (Our fifth grader's class already has a camping trip planned in two weeks @ Mt. Rainier.) But more than all that - it's a place where our kids feel like they belong to something, like part of a family. It's a place where you can walk through the building and classrooms and everyone knows you and is glad to see you and your kids. A place where the teachers aren't just teachers, but care deeply about our kids, and are my friends as well. Because of the way the school is designed, all three of our children have the same teachers and the same classrooms they did last year - comforting to have it so familiar on the first day. They had a back to school BBQ last night to get all the heebie jeebies and giggles out, and see everyone they missed all summer. This morning my husband and I dropped them all off without a hitch. They all waved good-bye with a smile on their face. And for the first time, I didn't cry when they were gone. They're ready, they're in good hands, and I'm ready.

My husband and I sorta celebrated the first day of school. This morning it's low tide. I was supposed to go for a run on the beach, but I know I have all day with no kids. My husband was supposed to go to work, but he has a cell phone, and everyone at the office was doing just fine. So we went to the bakery and got treats to go and took them to the beach. The tide was far enough out to create tide pools and sand bars with all kinds of sealife to attract the gulls. We watched a heron out fishing among them. The sky is a bright blue, and the early autumn sun was crisp but warm at the same time. From our vantage point, you could see the Olympic Mtn range across the Puget Sound. You could see the city peeking around the point, and the Cascade Mtn. range above that. And looking out you could see chunks of land - the peninsula, the far-off islands, and ferry boats crossing in between. What a beautiful morning. As we drove home, I remember the early spring and being so excited to see all the geese with baby goslings waddling behind them in line. The summer seems to have come and gone so quickly, but so many memories linger of all the fun things we did.

Now it's on to fall. I think I'm ready. I have a mental list of all of these things that I want to do and get done, and I feel like I need to accomlish them all today. I think it'll hit me in a few days that the kids are back in school every day, and I have time. I'm one of those people though, who tend to cram in as much as I can. I'm determined to get all my stuff done during the day, so I can devote all of my time to the kids when they get home. I think afternoons and evenings are going to go by in a blink. From the moment the munchkins get off the bus hungry for snack and excited about their day . . . to when they're tucked in for lights out. Somehow we've got to fit in homework and dinner prep and walking the dog and reading and playtime and family time. And oh yeah, swimming lessons Tuesdays and Thursdays, soccer practice on Fridays, games on Saturdays. When ballet starts, I think that's on Tuesdays, and I think Fencing in on Mondays. I'll likely get mixed up and take the wrong kid to the wrong thing. When are they gonna fit in that homework and dinner, let alone time to be kids? And then there's birthday parties and weekend events and Halloween and . . . it gets dizzying to think about, yet somehow it's my favorite time of year. So much going on, so much excitement.

And then there's running. I think I'm honestly a little nervous to run today. I took five days off after the marathon. I didn't mind, and we were on vacation. Oh - side note - 2 days after the marathon, and 500 miles from where it was held, we were at a mostly deserted state park in a remote part of Oregon, and I ran into another marathoner - from this race where there had been only less than 150 runners. What are the chances? And his wife was a woman that I had thanked profusely after the race because she'd been out all over the course with cowbells cheering us on. Life is odd how we reconnect. My real side not here, was that this runner, Bruce, reminded me that after the next marathon I should go back to the hotel and take an ice bath - as soon as I'm able - to cool down the muscles. Obviously at the campground there'd been no ice bath. I'll take up Bruce's advice for the next one. But back to the present . . . I took those five days off, then ran a 4 mile. My legs felt really heavy still. But I thought I'd run through it and did 5 miles the next day. My legs didn't feel any better and they actually hurt a bit. So I took three days more off. I even opted out of the 10 mile I had scheduled for the weekend. I'm a believer in listening to my body. So now it's today and I'm gonna have a go at it and see how it feels. I already don't feel springy and fresh, but I can handle that. I just don't wanna injure myself. But then there's this marathon thing that I want to be ready for. I had a hard time deciding between which one. There were three fairly local marathons scheduled within 8 days of one another and I had to pick one. So I did. Now I feel like I should be out there training, and I keep reading that other people are tapering for fall marathons. I know I'm not on their training plan, and I have to listen to my body and my gut.

In my head I have all of these notions of what it will take to get me to the time I want to run. Then I get over-ambitious. I'd love to train and train and cross-train, and train some more. My kids are at school and I have all day, right? Then I wake up. I have to be smart. I have this short time between marathons, not really to amp up the mileage, but to maintain and fine tune. But I'm dying to ramp up the mileage - I love to run in the fall with the leaves changing and I have all this time . . . so if I can't increase my mileage now, then when. When is my next marathon, and how much time do I have in between? Do I want to run the next one fast or for fun? I know Mesa Falls was supposed to be fun, and not fast, but I have a hard time accepting that when I'm there. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to run Boston in April. And if I do, I've been advised by knowing souls to go out there and enjoy it, don't race it. Be there to take it all in and just immerse yourself in the experience. But then when you're there, does the anxiety get the better of you?

So many contemplations, and I feel like I need to fit them all into one blog post. I have more time and more days. Right now I should lace up my running shoes and head out to watch the tide roll in - hop on the trail and go where it leads me . . .

Friday, September 01, 2006


Bison near Hayden Valley

Fountain Geyser

Thermal hot springs at Norris Basin, not a hot tub

little adventurers

Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin

Grizzly bear feeding off dead bison in Yellowstone River

Yellowstone Lake at Sunset

The Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend

Bison Herd with Mud Volcano steaming in background

The Yellowstone River steaming across the Hayden Valley