Monthly Archives: June 2012

Getting from here to there

Running has been interesting the past couple of weeks. I came out of the half marathon feeling completely strong, fit, and confident. I did give myself a brief break from the long runs, but at the same time I immediately attempted to increase the number of my weekly runs from three to four, and added the new element of unpaved surfaces.

The trail running is going rather well and I’m enjoying it immensely, although I’m not yet running on really challenging trails (I have one planned for this weekend).

I’m not doing so well with my plan to run four days a week. In fact I haven’t yet succeeded in doing that at all. I have managed to run two days back to back (a feat that was impossible for me not so long ago), but after I do that I find that I need an additional rest day. I’ve scaled back on the distances for this week’s attempt to run four days, and that may make the difference.

The sequence I’m trying to train for, which I’ll be doing on the Alaska marathon cruise, is:

  • 3 miles paved/level
  • 10 miles trail/rolling
  • rest day
  • 6.2 miles paved/hilly
  • 7 miles trail/rolling

At the moment, this is looking fairly daunting. I’m beginning to think that I’ll just go out there, have a great time, take lots of photos along the way, and congratulate myself for having the courage to try.

My mind is willing but my body keeps whispering that it’s a little tired. I find reasons to postpone that next-day run and give myself a 1-day break.

I ran yesterday morning in a new place, along the spit that frames the harbor. Most of it was completely flat (as you’d expect at sea level) and paved road, but wherever I could I ran through gravel parking areas and sandy paths that wind between the road and the beach. The mix of surfaces was pleasant on my feet. I kept the distance short, only just over 3 miles. The weather was perfect: high 50s and completely calm. As I ran along the spit’s narrow strip of land, I had a close-up view of the harbor, city, and mountains to the south, and of the strait and Vancouver Island to the north. Here is the view to the north.

I came home feeling physically great, and with a mental sense of relief as I had been getting edgy from a couple of days of not running. That’s the ironic part — my mind really wants me to run more frequently. My mind craves the release from all the everyday concerns, stresses, and hassles of life. My mind thinks running is really fun and wants me to do more and more of it. My body seems to agree and has responded remarkably well to the demands I put on it, but only up to a certain point. My challenge is balancing the desires of my mind with the physical limits of what my body can do on any given day. As an intensely cerebral person, I keep having to re-learn that I need to listen more closely to my body.

This afternoon I’m planning an easy 4 mile run along the waterfront on the city side, followed by a local microbrew with running friends. I’ve vowed to run comfortably, have fun, and focus on resilience. What my body and mind need to learn now is the simple discipline of going out the next day and doing it again.

I’m getting from here to there one step at a time.

I have to keep reminding myself that in running and in life, we can’t shortcut the process. We can’t (and shouldn’t) be someone other than the person we are, but we can take those steps to become the person that we want to become. One mindful, careful step at a time, with an eye to the future while also fully experiencing, being present in, and cherishing the quality of each moment now.

I want to believe that this balancing act between present and future is not an impossible ideal.

What do you think?

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Farewell, “Kurt’s Folly”

I haven’t wanted to mention it at all, because I was so afraid of “jinxing it” in this very fragile and uncertain real estate market.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recall that I put the Palm Springs condo — Kurt’s dream winter home that I somewhat sarcastically dubbed “Kurt’s Folly” — on the market back in February. He had really hoped that I would keep it and continue to use it after he passed away last June. He never gave up his conviction that some day our little mid-century modern condo would be worth a great deal more than we paid for it back in 2009.

But it had always been his dream, not mine. I never wanted to be bi-platial, hated having to worry about whichever house I’d left behind whenever I was spending time in the other. Frankly, I was never comfortable with the size of my footprint — who really needs two homes? Not me, especially not now that it’s mine alone.

I had to drop the asking price several times, and I had to suffer through two offers that fell through before we could get through a series of counter-offers and agree on a deal. The third potential buyer, whose offer I received back in mid-May, never flaked out. We closed today, and I no longer own a condo in Palm Springs.

I suppose I should be ecstatic. This is what I wanted, and although I took a big loss overall I at least walked away with a bit of cash. I’m very lucky, in this real estate market, to find a buyer for my condo in a community of predominantly winter and vacation homes.

Yet I’m feeling very blue tonight.

This is one more step, a very big one, away from the life that Kurt and I shared. He loved this place and was very happy here. Together we worked hard to transform its look from tired late-70s to a 21st-century reinterpretation of its original 1961 modern style. We laughed together every time his Garmin GPS announced, in her impeccable Aussie accent, our impending arrival at “Kurt’s Folly at Stinkin’ Desert.” We ate a whole lot of Mexican food and toured some amazing houses.

A friend took this photo of the two of us in our living room in March 2011. Kurt was very sick, but we were both still smiling. That was a good day.

Just before we left it in May of 2011, a few weeks before he died, he thanked me for bringing him back and said that he did not expect to ever see it again…

When I was back there this winter, I took a lot of photos of the sky, the mountains, and the play of light upon them — my ever-favorite subjects. But when I searched tonight for a single photo that captured the spirit of this place, I was drawn to this one from our first winter there:

I’m quite sure that sometime next winter, when I’m shoveling six inches of snow off my driveway and fretting over how I’m ever going to get in shape for running/hiking/biking season again, I’ll look back fondly on Kurt’s Folly.

For now, though, bittersweet though it may be, I’m relieved to have it behind me and excited to be fully home here at last.

One step at a time.

Looking forward

While I have spent much of the last two weeks looking back and remembering, I have at the same time been looking forward. I think that for me June may always be a time of looking backward and forward. A time to reflect on what and whom I have lost, what I have left behind… and a time to anticipate where I am going and who I am becoming.

I tried to remember to give myself some time off to rest and recover after the half marathon two weeks ago… but with sunrise just after 5:00 AM and sunset after 9:00 PM this time of year, who could possibly waste a moment of this rare, precious Pacific Northwest sunlight? This time of year, even on days when it rains, there are usually a few lovely hours to get out and do something active.

So I’ve gone straight back into my routine of running, hiking, and biking at every opportunity. I’ve actually ramped up on the running, as my Alaska cruise with the staged marathon is coming up in less than six weeks! To prepare for that trip, I have introduced three new things into my weekly running schedule:

  1. I’ve increased my weekly runs from three times to four: two back-to-back days, one rest day, and two more back-to-back days. This simulates the running schedule for the staged marathon.
  2. I’m now running on trails — real trails, not paved surfaces going by the name “trail.” My trail running shoes are finally getting to do what they are designed to do!
  3. Because the trail races in Alaska will have minimal aid station support, I bought a hydration pack and I’m learning to run with a significant quantity of water on my back.

So far I have only tackled one of our many local unpaved trails, but it’s a good place to start. It’s in a county park with many loop trails so I can experiment with different conditions all within a small area. I can run up and down hills, through meadows, on soft level surfaces, or in places where I have to pick my way through rocks, roots, and/or several inches of freshly-laid wood chips. I’ve actually tried to run this park several times in the past and been daunted by the hills and the uneven ground. Now I seem to be taking it quite literally in stride. But who wouldn’t want to run through places that look like this?

Or like this place where I lost myself in a glorious self-as-deer fantasy?

This kind of running is just plain fun. It’s play! In a way it’s more difficult than running on pavement. I have to slow down and pay attention to where and how my feet fall. But it’s possible to fall into a sort of bounding meditation. I am slow and happy out there!

I’m doing the trail running every other time, and very slowly increasing the distance. On my non-trail days, I’m focusing on consistency of pace and learning to carry and sip water with a minimum of fuss.

I was trying to decide what I wanted to do for my next half marathon sometime this autumn. I could run Victoria again, or I could search around for something new… preferably in a place I’ve never run before! I found this very interesting race in southern Oregon. I liked it for a couple of reasons — it’s quite near some of my family members, and it’s all downhill! Or nearly so. Oh yes, and it ends at a harvest and brew festival featuring over 30 different microbreweries. What could be better than a downhill beer run with family to cheer me at the finish? It finally dawned on me that since the races are two weeks apart, I could use the Rogue Run as my last long “training” run before Victoria. In other words, take my time, enjoy the scenery, relish the microbrews at the finish, and then taper for an all-out go on Victoria’s perfectly flat course. How cool is that?

Definitely something to look forward to!!

On non-running days (and sometimes also on running days!) I am taking some amazing, wonderful hikes. A few weeks ago during an extreme low tide I was scrambling around on rocks getting up close and personal with tidepool life. I took so many photos I had a hard time choosing just one, but this should give you an idea. I believe this guy is a short-spined sea star.

Yesterday, after a fun 6 mile run I wanted just a bit more, so I hiked 6 miles along the Elwha River, upriver from the two large dams that are being removed (I wrote about the hiking the lower lakebed here). The Elwha was running high and raging due to rapid melt from an above-normal winter snowpack, but the trail along the river was idyllic.

 

At a place called Goblin’s Gate (or is it Goblin Gates? I have two maps that disagree!), all that water gets forced through a narrow gap, perhaps 30 feet across.

Further upriver are the sites of several 100+ year old homesteads that are now part of Olympic National Park. The park service has chosen to maintain some of the original cabins and orchards as historical landmarks. This cabin was built in 1900 — wouldn’t you love to spend a night here?

It’s wonderful to have so many good things going on — long summer days with friends, being active here and now, and looking forward to greater adventures to follow. I may not blog as regularly as I intended when I quit my job back in February… but there is simply so much to DO!!!!

I know, I know (to quote myself)! — “How did I ever have time to work?”       🙂

Remembering

This post will be brief. I’m writing from my iPad before going out for my long slow Sunday run.

Yesterday, June 9, was a year since Kurt died. Beginning several days ago, I would find myself suddenly in tears for no conscious reason. The tears would simply come. I would sit with them until they passed and then I could go on with whatever I was doing.

It was a very strange emotional roller coaster of a week. I was riding the high of my half marathon accomplishment while being swept away by the memories of last year at this time.

This weekend brought the “second Friday” and “second Saturday” art events to town, so I’ve spent some time in the company of a large circle of  artistic, eccentric friends and acquaintances. I haven’t felt alone, and that’s good.

Yesterday I hiked up to Sol Duc Falls, which is one of my favorite places for healing and centering. It worked its magic as it always does. I thought of how I’d gone up there with my daughter and step-daughter the weekend after Kurt died. We were all hurting so badly but even then, I took strength from that place and I hope they did too. I hope they can remember that place now and feel healing and peace as I did yesterday, and do now.

As I remember, I also look forward. Life is so beautiful, precious, and short. We must learn that life goes on, and we must seek to enjoy every moment.  This moment is all we have — and this moment is everything.

I’m going for a run now. I shall be slow, and I shall be happy.

The half marathon of my wildest dreams

I confess I was a little nervous this morning when the alarm woke me at 4:45 AM. I’d been feeling the usual taper trauma: Did I train enough? Did I overtrain? Did I peak two weeks ago? Did I mess everything up by doing that tough uphill-and-snow hike last Monday when I should have been seriously tapering? Am I way over-analyzing this whole thing? You get the drift.

The weather forecast looked promising. We’d had rain on and off all week, and wind when it wasn’t raining, but this morning was calm with high clouds. It was a bit chilly at 47, but would probably be in the mid 50s by the finish line.

I had breakfast (coffee, a hardboiled egg, and plain yogurt with chopped dates, apricots, and pine nuts) done by 6:00. Then I spent 90 minutes triple-checking my clothing, my gear, my race number bib, and my timing chip to make triple-sure that everything was where it was supposed to be and was likely to stay there. A friend then drove me to the starting place and we arrived about 8:00, still an hour before race time. Only when I was finally there did I settle down and relax a bit.

Based on my great 11-mile run two weeks ago I thought I had a realistic chance of finishing in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes. I was secretly hoping for less than 2:27, which would beat my last race (and last personal record) by 10 minutes. To do that I needed an average 11:10 pace, so I decided to go out at 11:00 and see how things were feeling.

Everything worked better than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. All of the hill training, both running and hiking, REALLY paid off for me. I sailed up hills where everyone around me was walking. I hit the halfway point at 1 hour and 10 minutes, which is a 10:41 pace. I figured I probably couldn’t sustain that speed for the second half, but then I kept running up hills and passing people. I had to walk for all of about three paces on mile 7 at the last steep hill, simply because there were so many walkers that I couldn’t steer around all of them fast enough.

By the time I passed mile 8, I was into the section of trail where I do most of my running. The last five miles are either slightly downhill or flat. My only real concern here was possible wind along the waterfront, but that didn’t happen. I sped up and passed more people. I did miles 9 through 12 in the 10-minute range each, and I ran the last mile in 9:23. I ran the ENTIRE 13.1 miles except for those three walking steps.

It helped that at just under half a mile from the finish my iPhone randomly shuffled to the theme song from “Chariots of Fire.” Talk about inspiration!

With that song in my ears I finished in 2:16:10 per my watch. That is a 10:24 average pace, and yes I had a big negative split (faster second half)!

My “gun time” was two minutes slower than that. For non-runners, gun time is the time from the official start until a runner crosses the finish line, whereas “net time” is the elapsed time from the point that I actually cross the starting line to the finish line. Because I had several hundred runners lined up ahead of me at the start, it took me a full two minutes to reach the starting line after the gun sounded.

I’ve never been particularly concerned about gun time because it only really counts for determining finish order for awards. Slow happy runner that I am, I’ve always figured that the only way I’d ever win a gender/age group award was if I keep running until I’m about 85 or so. When the gun time results were posted, I had to scan through the list three or four times before I could fully convince myself that I’d taken third place in my class. I TROPHIED!!!!!!!!

Well, I should say that I plaqued. Here I am, not so slow and very happy, with my totally awesome 3rd place plaque.

As always, our local race had great volunteers and wonderful spectator support all along the course, even in the parts that are tough to reach from the road. I had friends popping up at several places, and more friends waiting for me at the finish. It’s a whole lot easier to run a race when friends are there to cheer you on — thanks to all of you for your help and support!

Last year I dragged myself over the finish line in 2:55; today I think I could have kept running for another mile or two. I’m not sure how I’m going to top this one.