Author Archives: Lori (Slow Happy Runner)

Running back to the beach: One year later!

I’ve just returned from my annual January getaway in Santa Barbara, California, for Fielding Graduate University‘s national Winter Session. I’ve made a point of attending Winter Session throughout the years I worked on my PhD as well as after I graduated in 2009 (I only missed 2011 when Kurt was in the middle of chemotherapy and unable to travel). I can no longer imagine not being in Santa Barbara for one lovely week in January, soaking up the sunshine before returning north for the long, slow wait for spring.

Now that I’m an alumna, I no longer have to attend seminars, so I make the most of the opportunity to be active in the sun. Last year I ran barefoot on the beach — and as I planned for and dreamed about this year’s trip, it was running on the beach that most captured my imagination. I couldn’t wait!

As luck would have it, I arrived in southern California in the midst of a record-setting cold spell. On my first afternoon run I faced a brisk, cold wind. It was so cold that I decided to keep my shoes on and run on the semi-soft sand several feet above the surf line. There was actually sand blowing on the beach! The haziness in this photo isn’t camera shake — that’s blowing sand.

I ran about four and a half miles, mostly on grass and packed sand, and was delighted with my easy, comfortable pace of just over 10:00 minutes per mile — about a minute and a half faster per mile than I’d run a year ago!

Two days later I was ready to go out and do it again. It was still cold and breezy, but the brutal wind had abated. I stopped a few times for photos — who could resist views like these?

But at last, after four shod miles, it was time for the main event — take those shoes off and dance in the surf!

A year ago I ran carefully, slowly — but with immense joy! — and stopped quickly when my calves screamed “STOP NOW!” The next day I was extremely sore.

And this year? I ran carefully, not so slowly — and with immense joy! — felt great, could have run for several more miles but didn’t want to overdo it because I had big plans for dancing that night. One delightful barefoot mile was enough.

So then I danced for hours, felt great, and woke up the next morning feeling strong and not a bit the worse for wear. No soreness at all.

Trail running has changed my life!

I’m not bothered by uneven ground. I feel like I have a firm yet flexible base of muscle that simply takes things in stride (literally). The difference from a year ago is astounding. It almost makes me think that one of these days, I might have the guts to run on solid ground in shoes that are a bit less structured than my trusty Asics 2170s.

Or maybe I’ll just go run some more trails — wild, steep, and free in a beautiful place like this one. As soon as the snow melts!

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Running the numbers for 2012… and planning for 2013

Today I ran a chilly and invigorating 7.5 miles along the waterfront, which brought my total mileage for 2012 to 600.54 miles (I had to run that last half mile just to be sure!). At the beginning of December my 600-mile goal for the year had been looking a bit iffy, but I dug in and managed to do 40 miles over the final two weeks. I didn’t quite meet my original goal of hitting a lifetime total of 2,000 miles this year — I’m 21+ miles short. However, this sets me up for a nice goal for 2013!

If I do 650 miles next year (a modest increase over this year), I’ll hit a lifetime total of just over 2,620 miles by the end of 2013. That would be the equivalent of 100 full marathons — or for that matter 200 half marathons — I like that!!

As for the number of half marathons I’ve actually run, well, this year I did four and continued my streak of a new personal record with each race. Starting in Palm Springs CA in February with a 2:37:44, I worked my way down to 2:14:29 in Victoria BC in October. I’m not sure how I’m going to beat that time next year… but I continue to surprise myself.

In addition to doubling my lifetime total half marathons from four to eight, I also ran a staged “marathon” in Alaska, completing four races over a five-day period that added up to a slightly short 24.9 miles. I ran in pouring rain on muddy trails and fell in love with trail running.

It was a very good running year!

For next year, I’m registered for two half marathons so far: the Whidbey Island Half Marathon on April 14 and my fourth North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon in my local town on June 2. After that I’m not sure… I’ve promised CFL that I’ll do more mid-summer hiking next year.

But wait… I was talking to a friend the other night and we somehow agreed to run across Olympic National Park one long summer day next year. It’s 44 miles of steep trails and stream fords from the Quinault River to the Elwha River. She is a marathoner and might conceivably pull it off in a day, but I’d be thrilled if I could do it in TWO days! I might have to back away from that “goal.” Still, it’s calling to me a little bit… there is so much romance to the idea of traveling across the Olympics on foot, at whatever pace I’m able to manage. CFL even tells me he’d join me for a two-day trip. Stay tuned…

As I prepare to say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013, I have so many things to be grateful for and happy about. It’s been a year of big changes and grand new adventures. I continue to believe that wonderful things are possible if we can just slow down, put one foot in front of the other, and enjoy the views every moment along the way.

Happy New Year, and cheers!

If you knew… what would you do?

A friend asked me a hypothetical question yesterday — one of those annoying yet thought-provoking questions that you’d like to brush off but you just can’t:

“If you knew you would be crippled with bad knees when you’re 80, would you stop running today?”

I replied, “No. I don’t believe that I’m hurting my knees by running. I don’t accept your premise.”

Then I lost half a night’s sleep trying to fully think through and justify my position.

Today I came back to that person with a counter-question: “If you knew you would have a heart attack someday while hiking, would you stop hiking today?” He replied, “No, because I figure I’d die quickly and painlessly doing something I love. But YOU could be crippled if you ruin your knees by running.”

Well. Let’s give that position some thought.

One day almost eleven years ago I was walking down a half-flight of stairs, missed the last step, and broke my foot. After that accident and its lingering effects, I spent the next seven years treating myself like a cripple and fearing the next fall.

If I’d known I was going to injure myself that day, would I have gotten out of bed?

Any given day could be our last. None of us knows when our number will be up, or how we’ll go. Does that mean I shouldn’t get out of bed today?

I do tend to listen to my body and I try to rely on it as a source of valuable data about how things are going. I intend to live for a very long time and I intend to be active for as long as I possibly can. Here are some things that my body is telling me about my having taken up running four years ago:

  • I was flabby then; I am not flabby now.
  • My feet hurt — a lot — then; they sometimes complain a bit now, but they are strong and show no signs of crumbling.
  • My balance was tenuous then; now I can run on rugged, bumpy trails. I no longer fear falling because I have good reason to believe I’m not going to fall.
  • I had to take walk breaks after 1/10th of a mile then; now I can run 13.1 miles without stopping.
  • My resting pulse has dropped from about 60 to about 54.
  • I was prone to depression and seasonal affective disorder then; now I can go out and run in the rain or when the temperature is in the 30s (like today) and come home feeling happy to be alive.
  • I stand up straighter and smile a whole lot more than I did then.
  • I have never been healthier in my life. Not when I was a kid and “galloped” everywhere pretending to be a horse. Not when I was a student scaling the hills of Westwood at UCLA.

Okay, so my knees hurt a little bit after a hard run. Okay, so I have to limit my running to three times a week to allow for recovery days. I’m in my late 50s! I fully understand that I’m not invincible.

I believe my running is strengthening my body, not damaging it. My knees are not going to get any stronger by sitting around doing nothing! “Use it or lose it,” as they say.

I’ve learned to listen closely to my body and take the extra time when I need it, take the walk breaks when it’s a casual, no-pressure run, and save myself for the days when there is an official clock and my finishing time matters. I do want to keep running into my 60s and 70s and yes, maybe even my 80s. Why would I want to stop doing something that has had so many positive effects in every aspect of my life?

Tomorrow morning I’m going to get out of bed. I’m certainly not going to lie there dreading the possibility that it’s my last day of life. I’m going to walk down the stairs without fear. I have some errands to take care of in the morning, and it’s going to be a busy day. But I think I’ll squeeze in three easy miles on the treadmill tomorrow afternoon, because I have plans that will cause me to miss my usual long Sunday run. And because my knees feel great and want more than the five miles along the waterfront that I had time for today.

Some say it’s an addiction. I say it’s a healthy way of life. And I think running a few half marathons might be just the thing to do when I’m in my 80s. I might even finally win my age group. 🙂

What do you think?

When life gives you “Trail Closed” signs…

After a few unsatisfactory sessions on the treadmill (it is SOOOO warm in that room!) I was ready to try running in the real world again, no matter how bad the weather might be. Fortunately yesterday was a beautiful day. As I set out from my usual jumping-off point for the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT), it was 45 degrees, dry, and absolutely calm. I was warmed up and happy within the first mile.

I’d planned to run an easy 6 miles, 3 out and 3 back. For various reasons I hadn’t run more than 5.3 miles since way back at the Victoria half marathon in early October. So I didn’t want to push hard, but I really did want to cover some miles.

I knew that the trail was closed approximately 3 miles out from my starting point, but I wasn’t sure of the exact location. This section of the ODT was shut down in early November for “an indefinite period” while a contractor does some work related to cleanup of an old closed mill site as well as wastewater management upgrades necessitated by the Elwha dam removals.

I was running along really easily, enjoying the music that my iDevice was randomly serving me. Anytime “Chariots of Fire” comes up during a run, that’s a wonderful thing, right? That and a few other songs that are especially meaningful for me… songs that have sustained me through unhappy times or that I associate with high points in my life. I watched the birds on the nearly still water just offshore — a dozen or so common mergansers were an exceptionally nice sight to contemplate.

Then just ahead I saw this:

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There it was. 2.93 miles and I wasn’t going one step more in that direction!

So I turned around.

On my way back I found myself awash in pleasant emotions. I thought about vacations my family took during my childhood. I thought about how, in those days of few divided highways and fewer interstates, long detours on bumpy roads were commonplace. I thought about how my mom would break into song during those detours:

Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead.
Detour, paid no mind to what it said.
Detour, all these bitter things I find.
Should have read that detour sign.

Wikipedia tells me Spade Cooley and his orchestra, with Tex Williams on vocals, recorded that song in 1946 and it was a big hit for them. I actually have that recording on my various iDevices, and although it did not come up randomly during my run yesterday, it’s the song that played in my head long after I got back to my car.

Besides thinking about vacation memories, I found myself simply loving the run. Feeling good with every step. I love to run.

I don’t do this to lose weight or inches (although I did lose them). It’s not about healing my damaged feet anymore. It’s not even about escaping from or coping with life’s problems. I simply love to run.

When life gives you detours, you find a way around them. When life gives you a “Trail Closed” sign just short of your planned turnaround point, you run joyfully back and forth across the Morse Creek bridge as you’re finishing your run, just so your GPS watch will tick over to 6.0 miles.

There’s always a way. Under, over, around, or through. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. With gratitude and happiness in each and every moment!

What a difference a year makes

I was feeling pensive this evening. I guess it was the approaching holidays. I went back and re-read my blog posts from around this time last year.

I was still deeply grieving for Kurt, but I was beginning to look around and ask “what now?” I was simultaneously dreading and looking forward to going down to Palm Springs for the winter. How would I manage down there all alone? How did I want to choose to live my life from that point on? Could I ever dare to love again? Might I be so lucky as to love again? Who was I, and who was I becoming now that I was no longer Kurt’s wife, his partner, his caregiver?

What I didn’t share at the time was that I had just met CFL. We met, through friends of friends, two weeks before I packed up and moved south for the winter. We barely had time to begin to get to know one another, but he helped me finish packing and stood in my driveway looking sad when I drove away the day after Thanksgiving.

I was so torn. I kicked myself for leaving but I knew that I had things to do on my own, and that I needed to go.

Then followed hundreds of text messages and hours of phone calls. It wan’t anything like the courtships of my previous experience!

But I think the timing of our meeting and immediate separation worked in my favor — the separation and my loneliness gave me the time and space to figure out what I actually did want to do and who I wanted to become. It allowed me to focus on my job… which helped me to see that there really wasn’t anything left of my job worth focusing on, and that my talents and energy would be better spent elsewhere. The separation from both CFL and the Pacific Northwest helped me to see that I didn’t want to be bi-platial… that friends and community are things that I truly value. I deeply want to be rooted, grounded, at home, in place.

So there I was, deeply engaged in thinking through the issues that I needed to resolve and the decisions that I had to make in order to move on with my life. Meanwhile, I was being wooed. It was an honor, a thrill, and an utterly rejuvenating experience to be wooed.

Re-reading my posts from those months, I see my mixed emotions — confusion, joy, optimism, fear, relief when I made the big decisions to sell the condo and quit my job, resolutions of “I shall have fun,” and wide-eyed speculation about the future.

What a difference a year makes.

I wish I could convey adequately to Kurt’s daughter and his closest friends that there will never be another Kurt in my life. I will grieve for him and miss him until the day I die.

But love is a many-splendored thing. It is beautiful. It is rare. My relationship with CFL may or may not be forever, but it is real. We’re both taking it one day at a time, both of us sharply aware that life is short and moments are all we have. I know that we have enriched one another’s lives immeasurably. As I look back tonight and remember the person that I was and the person that he was a year ago, I am grateful that both of us have had this second chance at love in our lives.

And on this holiday, I am grateful for loved ones and for being in love, both past and present. I am cherishing the memories and looking to the future.

One step at a time.

Firing up the ol’ treadmill

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last used my treadmill. Last year about this time, I was getting ready to go down to Palm Springs for my first winter there without Kurt. The treadmill was convenient, especially as autumn was deepening into an early winter.

Once I’d settled in down south, I ran on city streets and sidewalks all through the winter. The weather was always warm (sometimes a bit too warm) and dry enough for comfortable outdoor running.

When I got home this spring it was still very cold and wet, but as I was no longer working I had the luxury of running in the afternoons when it wasn’t quite so brisk. On an especially nasty day I could even postpone my run until a better day, and still fit in three runs a week.

The condo in Palm Springs is now part of my history. With my new commitment to a four-season Pacific Northwest life, I fully intend to remain active outdoors all through this winter. This morning I woke up planning to go out and run. But it was 38 degrees and looked like it might rain any moment. Furthermore, I had a bunch of errands to run today and couldn’t really justify the time it would take to get in my car and drive five miles to my favorite running place.

My treadmill gently beckoned in the downstairs room that used to be my office but is now my brewery.

I answered.

In some ways it’s easier than running in the real world. Every step is completely predictable — there are no concerns about rocks or potholes. There is no reason to alter one’s stride, no sudden unexpected wrenches to the knees or hips. The very sameness of the movement can be its own hazard (as anyone knows who has carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive motion). But the main thing about coming back to a treadmill after a year away is that it’s BORING!

What is there to do but stare at the wall? Well, there’s always turning up the music. That helped.

It’s also very warm. I really missed feeling the cold sea breeze on my face.

I managed to stay with it for half an hour or so. I finished feeling strong. I’m glad my treadmill will be there waiting for me when there is snow or ice on the ground. But I have to say that I’m looking forward to going out there to run in the real world again on Sunday — even though the forecast calls for a torrential downpour.

We’ll see how I do with that promise to myself!

One step at a time.

Things I learned while running today

After all the shouting and divisiveness of election season, I looked forward to my run this morning as a cleansing event. It ended up being exactly that, in a bigger way than I’d expected.

It started out as an ordinary enough run. The temperature was in the high 40s so I had on my new running gloves (with touch-screen-friendly fingertips for easy Garmin operation) and a hat. The sun was in and out of the clouds but the wind was calm, and I stayed comfy for the full 5 miles. I wasn’t going particularly fast, but that was okay because it gave me that much more time to think.

Lately I have been feeling some pressure in my life. It’s been over eight months since I quit my job and I haven’t even started any of the big writing projects I’d envisioned. I’ve run, hiked, and biked. I’ve rearranged some of the furniture in my house. I’ve gradually continued to redefine the logistical details of my life after Kurt. The other day, for example, I finally called the cable company, reduced the super-premium-bazillion-channels package to basic cable (cutting my cost in half), and got that last utility bill put into my name.

I’ve kept myself very busy, and I’ve wondered several times in this blog how I’d ever found time to work. But what have I actually accomplished? Am I truly spending my short, precious lifetime doing and being the things that I value most?

Last night, I watched and cheered as a nation reaffirmed its belief that the world can be a better place, that the future still holds more promise than the past, that together we can be better and more than any of us can be alone.

I was simultaneously watching cable TV news (yes, I turned on the TV for the first time in weeks), monitoring my favorite political blog, and scanning my Twitter feed. For the most part the tweets in my feed were expressing the same positive emotions I was feeling. Except for this one really annoying person…

You may recall that when I came home from Palm Springs I joined a local group that is doing community organizing for local sustainability. I was very enthusiastic about this group because it seemed to be an opportunity to build my local connections and help make my community a better place to live. However, as I got to know the other team members, some of them revealed themselves as downright apocalyptic thinkers. These people were not merely trying to prepare for climate change, resource scarcity, and the like — they seemed to be determined to hasten the demise of the world as we know it. Rather than build on the goodness that exists in our society and at all levels of government, they seemed to want to tear it all down.

That kind of thinking, in my opinion, is toxic.

I don’t have room in my life for people who complain, criticize, and seek to destroy. No, we don’t live in a perfect world, but there is so much here that is good. Let’s celebrate our successes, no matter how small, rather than lash out in anger over not getting more things done more quickly.

I have often repeated my running mantra: “One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.” In the months of Kurt’s illness, and in the weeks and months after his death, those words kept me going in running and in life. One step at a time. Sometimes an individual step might be weak or wobbly. Sometimes I’ve had to take a step or two sideways or even backwards. But I’ve done my best to keep moving, keep the momentum going. Small steps and sideways wobbles are still progress, and they’re much more productive than falling — or jumping — off a cliff.

I’ve come to realize that the world is not going to collapse overnight, any more than it has any of the many previous times that people thought it would. Civilization actually seems to be quite resilient in the face of crises and emergencies. If I am mistaken about this, I will expect to deal with the consequences in the best way I can at the time. In any case, I always try to keep my pantry well stocked. And I always try to keep moving forward and building on what I have accomplished so far, because I believe that my doing so is my one small step toward making the world a better place. In any case, it beats the heck out of small-minded, churlish rants on Twitter!

I finished my run feeling refreshed, energized, and optimistic for the future. I have plenty to feel optimistic about. I live in the state that voted for marriage equality and legalized marijuana! I am represented by two awesome female senators who are about to be part of the largest contingent of female senators ever! Whatever your political leanings, whether these specific events seem good or bad to you, you gotta agree that the world is changing, indeed.

I came home feeling profoundly grateful for being alive and healthy on a beautiful autumn day.

I wrote a resignation letter to the sustainability group, wishing them well but telling them I could not support their gloomy outlook on the future.

I am giving myself more time to write, more opportunities to be outside in this beautiful world, more freedom to get involved in positive actions to benefit community and society. Most of all, I am giving myself full permission to enjoy my finite life as much as I possibly can.

I’m going forward — one step at a time.

Rediscovering the joys of slow happy running

It’s been a while since I have run purely for fun rather than because I was training for a race. My knees have needed and appreciated the near-complete break from running after the Victoria half marathon four weeks ago, but over this past week the itch to run has returned.

I ran an easy four miles along the waterfront the other day, accompanied by the calls of an unusually vocal common loon. Today I was ready for something a bit more adventurous.

I haven’t done any trail running since the Alaska trip last summer. This morning I suggested to my friend that we do the nearby Adventure Trail — he on his mountain bike and I on my two feet. It was not raining when we set out, but we both wore our waterproof jackets in anticipation of a sudden downpour. I normally wouldn’t consider running in a jacket — much too warm — so I was setting myself up for a leisurely run.

As it turned out, I was correct about the “leisurely” part. There were so many leaves on the trail that the numerous rocks and roots were completely hidden in many places. Every footfall became a planned, tentative event. The sensation was almost like running in slow motion (and the result was definitely slow).

But this wasn’t about pace! I had my GPS watch on but that was because I wanted to know how far I’d run. I wasn’t at all interested in how fast. I took a lot of walk breaks and stopped completely several times to capture scenes like this one.

The story gets better. By stopping to take that photo, I created a space and time in which to experience something truly rare and remarkable.

I heard a tree fall in the forest.

I didn’t see it directly. I heard two sharp cracks, the second louder than the first. I looked just to the right of the trees in the photo and saw branches shaking as though a large animal had just run through them. I heard a couple of soft whooshes as the tree (or it could have been just a large branch) fell through other trees — then a loud BOOM as the timber hit the ground.

My friend, who was out of sight ahead of me on his bike, did not hear the tree fall. For him, the tree falling in the forest did not make a sound. For me, it was a breath-taking audio experience!

Philosophical conundrum solved! It’s all about whether you have made yourself receptive to that tree at the moment of its fall. I had chosen to stop, look, and listen… and there it was.

I finished my run a little tired (trail running uses different muscles than road running!) but very happy. It was wonderful to be out there, finding my way through the leaves, rocks, and roots and not stressing one bit about how slowly I was going. Sometimes just the simple fact of forward motion, with nothing in my ears except my thoughts and the sound of my footsteps, is enough.

I hope you too found some happiness today… at whatever your favored pace. One step at a time!

Running smack into autumn

Autumn has arrived, overnight and with a vengence. We’ve had rain seven out of the last eight days. We’ve had high winds. We’ve had a thunderstorm (highly unusual in this part of the world). And the mountains have had their first snow.

It was just a dusting the other day, but the forecast calls for 4-8 inches, down to 3000 feet, over the next couple of days. It looks like those long high-altitude hikes that I’d planned will have to wait until next summer. The lower trails should still be good for several more weeks before winter really sets in, and I do hope to get out there before ALL the leaves are down.

But I’m still feeling tired and a little sore after the Victoria half marathon. I’ve realized that two half marathons in two weeks is a REALLY big deal for a middle-aged body, and that I’m going to need some time to fully recover. I’m not injured… just tired and sore. The setting-in of autumn is the perfect time to slow down and rest a bit.

I went out to run the other day for the first time since Victoria. Right out of the parking lot I ran smack into autumn! Leaves were down on the trail, a couple of inches thick in some places. Running through the wet, slippery leaves forced me to slow down and alter my stride. My short, choppy steps weren’t feeling fluid or graceful at all, and I quickly realized that I wasn’t having much fun running. Therefore I prudently decided to stop and take some photos instead. I think I made a good choice!

I know that the fire in my belly for running will return. Meanwhile, I’m thinking about another long, slow bike ride or a hike in low country to enjoy the last of the autumn leaves. Something easy on the knees and soothing for the mind.

At this moment, however, until I’m fully in sync with the change of seasons, I’m happy to let the autumn winds swirl around outside while I put my feet up and read a book.

How about you? Has autumn arrived in your part of the world? When it does, do you find yourself needing to pause and hit the “reset” button?

2:14:29 and still smiling!

I had a great day at the Victoria half marathon yesterday! The day started early with a mile-plus walk from my motel at 6:30 AM. The dawn streets were deserted except for a gradually growing crowd of other runners approaching the start. On the street near the starting line, a throng of runners made further movement difficult as we jostled for space. As approximately 5,000 half marathoners lined up to go, I was thrilled to claim my spot behind the sign for those expecting to finish in 2:15 or so. Last year I’d lined up with the 2:45ers.

It was chilly (mid-40s) at the start, but I decided to go out in short sleeves and no gloves.

Even with this position farther forward in the pack, it still took me 3+ minutes after the gun to reach the starting line and activate my chip. I’d planned to run the first five miles on a 10:20 pace, pick up to a cumulative 10:15 pace by mile 10, and then go for it with whatever energy I might have left.

There was so much traffic at the start that I ran that first mile in 10:41. People were running eight or more abreast (we completely covered the wide streets in downtown Victoria) and passing was extremely difficult. I told myself to relax and wait for the crowd to thin out. The spectator support was wonderful here, with crowds lining the sidewalks and lots of happy noise.

My fingers and toes went numb from the chill in the first two miles but then thawed out once we got to Beacon Hill Park, where there was a bit more room to maneuver and pick up speed. The race here takes a series of loops through the heavily wooded park. There are some gentle hills, and my confidence grew as I began to pass runners on the hills. I flew through miles 2 through 5, each mile faster than my planned 10:20, and got myself back on the cumulative time I wanted. But I felt a bit more tired than I wanted to be at that point.

Miles 6-10, then, were about settling down, conserving effort, and staying focused. This part of the course is a long out-and-back along the waterfront and through a residential area. I took in the views across the water to the Olympic Mountains. I thought about places I’d hiked in those mountains. Coming back from the turnaround point, I kept my eyes peeled for the full marathoners who’d started an hour after us. There are few sights more inspiring for me as a runner than seeing Kenyans flying toward me! I was also thrilled to see a local attorney on his way to a new Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run in a business suit (he ended up running an astonishing 2:35:something for a full marathon!).

By the time I hit mile 10 I was exactly on my planned 10:15 cumulative pace and feeling good. I did the next three miles at a sub-10 pace and was passing lots of people (while still being passed by others).

Then came the longest ever last “10th of a mile.” I’d already passed signs that said “1 mile to go,” “1 kilometer to go,” and “500 meters to go.” The course workers, who thickly lined the course at this point, kept shouting that we were almost there. More signs: “400 meters,” “200 meters,” “100 meters.”

Victoria is the only half marathon that I’ve run in Canada, so I don’t know whether this course simply measures long or all Canadian races measure long (perhaps because they are measured in kilometers rather than miles)? In any case, last year my Garmin measured this course at 13.25 miles. This year it measured 13.27 miles. That extra 0.17 mile is more than a minute and a half when you’re running a 10-minute mile! And it seems like forever when you’re going as hard as you can, straight into the sun and a wall of noise, looking for the finish line that seems to never come.

I finally found the finish line and clicked the “stop” button on my watch. It read 2:14:30! (My official time was recorded as 2:14:29, and I’ll gladly use their numbers.) I walked forward in a bit of a daze. I remember being grateful that the person who handed me my medal called me by name. What a wonderful custom it is to put a runner’s name on a bib — hearing one’s name at the finish line quickly brings a tired runner back to the “real” world!

The Victoria finish line chute is well-planned, as runners are channeled directly through a long line of tables brimming with water, chocolate milk, bananas, orange sections, apples, cookies, donuts, muffins, and bagels! I think I had at least one of everything but the donuts and muffins.

I had to walk all the way to the far end of the chute before my friend and I spotted one another. He’d managed to find me three times on the course, but missed me at the finish in the crush of spectators. Here’s a photo that he got of me near the entry to the park:

We left the finish line area and walked to a waterfront brewpub where we enjoyed a couple of local Victoria beers on the sunny 60+ degree patio. Here I am relishing my finisher’s medal while relaxing and having a microbrew:

After leaving the brewpub, we had to walk quickly to catch the ferry to get back across the strait. Then another mile-plus walk from the ferry back to my house. In all, I figure I walked 5 miles yesterday in addition to running 13.27 miles at a pace I didn’t dare dream of a year ago.

I ran this race last year in 2:40:33 and thought I’d never, ever beat that. I was two minutes a mile faster this year. I ran a negative split (faster second half) by two full minutes. I was 87th out of 210 finishers in my age/gender division (last year I was 132nd out of 218). I executed the race almost exactly as I’d planned it — and my plan worked! It resulted in another PR by 59 seconds, preserving my streak of a new PR with every race. I continue to be amazed at what is possible if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I was rather sore and very tired last night, but today I’m feeling better than I thought I would. However, it will be at least a week or two before I feel like running again. When I do it will be just for fun… no more races on my immediate horizon.

There are some trails that I am itching to hike before the weather turns rainy and cold.

One step at a time!