Blog Archives

A year of Slow Happy Runner

Exactly one year ago today I started this blog.

It’s difficult for me to articulate how far I have traveled in that year, but since this is at least nominally a blog about running, perhaps I could begin by expressing it in terms of miles. Thanks to my penchant for spreadsheets, I actually have this information readily at hand.

Since August 28, 2011 I have run 607.78 miles. I ran those miles in Washington, California, Arizona, Oregon, Alaska, and British Columbia. I completed half marathon races in Washington, California, and British Columbia, and I ran a staged marathon in Alaska. I ran barefoot on the beach, and I ran on rocky mountainsides. Given that my per-week mileage is continually increasing, I figure I’ll run another 300 miles before the end of 2012.

Since I started hiking in February 2012 I have hiked 131.59 miles. So far the hiking has all been in Washington and California.

My bicycling career is still in its wobbly infancy, but I have ridden my bike 44.50 miles so far.

All together, my non-motorized miles add up to 783.87. That’s over two miles a day for a year!

Finally, I have driven my car approximately (I can’t be precise here without going out to check my odometer, but I don’t really need to be that precise, do I?) 16,200 miles. I’ve driven in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. I drove most of those miles alone (except for my three cats).

That’s a total of approximately 16,985 miles. That’s a long, long way to travel.

Oh yeah, I flew a couple thousand miles and rode a cruise ship approximately 2,105 nautical miles (2,473 land miles) too…

During that same year I sadly “celebrated” what would have been Kurt’s and my 25th anniversary. I got through my first birthday and my first holiday season as a widow. I decided to sell the condo in Palm Springs. I quit my job because it was holding me back from doing the healing and growing that I needed to do. The condo in Palm Springs finally sold. I came home to new friends, new interests, and a new love.

Meanwhile, you came here to read and follow my blog. I’ve written 111 posts (this is number 112) and had 6,175 page views as of this moment. There have been 782 posted comments by my 63 followers and others. WordPress’s very effective spam blocker has correctly identified and blocked 1,215 spam comments! I have used 18% of my allotted free photo storage space from WordPress.

I’m no longer as slow as I was when I named this blog a year ago, but I am very much happier.

“Slow Happy” has become a formula for how I am trying to live my life. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. Amazing things start to happen when you dare to begin.

John Bingham said it better than I can: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Thank you all for running, walking, crying, crawling, hiking, biking, driving, flying, and boating all those miles with me. What a year we’ve had! I can’t wait to see what lies beyond the next bend.

Advertisements

Really scary bridges

While I was out running the other day it occurred to me that I would have two opportunities (going and returning) to examine the REALLY SCARY bridge that gave me so much trouble on my last bike ride. I thought that perhaps if I stopped and studied it, I might be able to overcome my irrational fear of crashing into the rail while attempting to ride across it. After all, this bridge is no big deal while running!

What I found is that there are several things going on that make this particular bridge so scary. Approaching from the west, it is a nice straight shot from a broad asphalt parking area — and in fact I’d handled it just fine when going that direction on my bike. Approaching from the east, it’s a different story.

The waterfront trail that I run most frequently is paved for most of its length. It’s a soft, thin chip-seal, which makes for a comfortable and pleasant running surface. Just east of this bridge, however, the trail makes a “temporary detour” around an old mill that closed about 15 years ago. Because this section is “temporary” pending final cleanup of the mill site (which may happen sometime this century), it has been left unpaved. Approaching the bridge from the east side, the trail is a combination of loose gravel and mud. It winds downhill and then makes a hard downhill left turn just a few yards from the bridge.

EXHIBIT A: Downhill left turn on gravel, approaching really scary bridge

So here I am, pedaling along, focusing really hard on simply trying to stay upright, because I haven’t done much bike riding in the last 30 years or more. I approach the turn, hit the brakes, try not to slide on the gravel, and hope I’ve got myself straightened out for the very short approach to the bridge. The bridge itself also runs downhill, and is only about 7 feet wide.

EXHIBIT B: The gaping maw of the REALLY SCARY bridge

I ask you: is that not REALLY SCARY?

But the funny thing is, once you are out on the middle of the bridge, if you take the time to stop (or if you find yourself coming to a screeching halt) and then look around, this is truly a beautiful place. This is Ennis Creek. Several years ago I was on a team that monitored water quality on this creek and another one nearer my house. I’ve scrambled around in the water at this location many times. This is NOT a scary place at all. I actually love this place.

EXHIBIT C: Ennis Creek from the bridge

Now that I have studied the bridge and understood the elements that make it so scary from my bike-riding vantage point, I’m hopeful that the next time I try it on my bike, I’ll sail right through. Or at least I’ll be able to laugh at myself for my obstinate, persistent irrationality.

There is a life lesson in this, of course. A really scary bridge is just a metaphor for all those really scary crossings that I have had to make over the past two years. A cancer diagnosis in one’s dearest loved one is a really scary thing. Watching helplessly as he endured one complication, one indignity, one setback after another was really scary. Realizing that I was going to have to get through the hardest parts, Kurt’s final weeks and days, without him being “there” to cheer me on as he had always done for me when the going got tough, was really scary. Saying goodbye to someone who was beyond responding was really scary. Finding myself alone was really, really scary.

He’s now been gone for almost a year. I can look back and know that I did everything as well as I possibly could have. I have crossed one bridge after another. I have learned to enjoy the view. Sometimes I still feel really scared, but I’m learning that I have so much life still to live, so many new adventures that I never thought would be within my reach, and a growing community of new friends who are encouraging me to cross new bridges.

I’ll get over this bridge, and others beyond it. Life does go on, and there is joy in the journey.

One step at a time!

Another day, another new adventure

These days, if it’s happening outside and does not involve standing on my head, scaling cliffs, free-falling, or immersing myself in ice cold water, I’m willing to give it a go. The more I do, the more fun I have and the more confidence I gain.

Since my last post five days ago, I’ve logged 12.5+ miles running, 10 miles biking, and 7.5+ miles hiking. It’s all been great!

I’m still patting myself on the back for an awesome 8.1 mile run on MAJOR HILLS yesterday. I ran most of the hilly portion of the course for my local half marathon, which is coming up on June 3. I ran the hills in both directions, giving me more miles of hill practice than I’ll have to run on race day. I’m still not sure how I did it, but I ran those 8 hilly miles at a 10:53 pace, which is about 45 seconds per mile faster than I’ve ever run hills like those before. I planned this run so that I would finish the 8.1 miles exactly 5 miles from the finish line of the half marathon. As I ran down the hill back to where I’d parked my car, I was asking my body how it might feel about running the other 5 miles to complete 13.1 miles at (or close to) the pace I’d set.

I think I would have had to slow down for those last 5 miles. My knees are feeling rather tired today, and I was glad that my self-made training plan gives me a rest day on Mondays. I’ll be ready to run again tomorrow, and if things continue to go this well I’ll be ready to reach for another PR in June. But now is not the time to overdo it! It would be a real shame to push too hard and injure myself now.

The 10 mile bike ride was interesting, because I rode the exact same 10 miles as I’d run the weekend before. The view is different from a bike, and I suppose it’s less strenuous than running, although I’m still having trouble navigating narrow spaces. This makes crossing bridges difficult! This particular route involves crossing four bridges twice each. They are beautiful narrow bridges over small streams. I love running over them and I never think twice about the fact that they are only a few feet wide. However, my bicycle wheels seem to be irrestibly drawn toward bridge rails! I have trouble getting through a bike ride without panicking and slamming on my brakes at least once. Even so, the non-bridge portions are fun, and I do feel a bit like a 12-year old as I sail along with the wind in my hair.

The 7.5 mile hike over the weekend was a relatively flat but brisk ramble along the shore of Lake Crescent, within Olympic National Park. One section of the trail features a narrow bridge (similar in style to but narrower than the ones giving me trouble on the bike) across a small, deep cove. As you approach the bridge, it looks like it goes straight off into the lake, but in fact the trail curves around the rock wall to the right. It’s a very beautiful place that I had never seen before now.

Along the trail I spotted the first of this year’s calypso orchids. These delicate, elegant flowers are just over an inch across.

I love this section of the trail, lined on both sides with mossy boulders.

Did I mention that this hike was brisk? Although my friend and I did take time to enjoy and photograph the views, we hiked at a pace approaching “forced march,” because we had volunteered to work at a downhill mountain bike race later that afternoon.

I had never seen a downhill mountain bike race before and had only a vague idea of what to expect. It turns out that these are single-purpose bikes, with monster suspensions and little in the way of gearing — they are designed to do nothing else but go downhill fast. The local track is muddy but firm and is loved by practitioners of this rather arcane sport. I’m told it’s considered one of the best downhill mountain bike tracks in the country. In any case, more than 450 people including about 175 professionals from all over the US and Canada turned out for this event.

I wish I could have taken photos, but I was far too busy to think about anything but my task. I was responsible for lining up the racers in a predesignated order and staging them at the starting line, while my friend (who actually knows something about the sport) did the countdown and released the racers at 30 second intervals. I’m amazed that they entrusted me, a rank newbie, with my job — but hey, it was only the qualifying round. The 50 or so male amateurs on my shift were cooperative and generally followed my occasionally confused instructions, while the 20 female pros were polite and helpful.  The 150+ male pros were a little more challenging. I had to shout a few times to get them to stop taunting one another and pay attention to me, but I got everyone to the starting line on time and in the correct order. It was a really fun afternoon and I’m glad I stumbled into the opportunity to do something completely new.

New friends bring new adventures! It seems I may be in for a very active and adventurous summer.

It’s spring! The cruise ships are arriving!

Every year about this time the cruise lines start moving their ships from their winter ports to their summer ports. This is the season of Panama Canal cruises and coastal cruises, as there is no point in moving empty ships from the Caribbean to Seattle! For those of us overlooking the waters of western Washington, the first sight of a cruise ship moving through the strait is a sure sign that spring has finally arrived.

My small town has a beautiful deep harbor. Every year or so one or more of these transitional cruises will include a stop here. Passengers have the opportunity to disembark, stroll through downtown, and enjoy the shops and restaurants. For the more adventurous, there is the option of taking an excursion tour to our mountains, rain forests, and rocky beaches.

Yesterday Holland America’s ms Oosterdam came to town. As it happens, this is an identical sister ship to the Westerdam, on which I’ll be cruising to Alaska at the end of July as a participant in the Great Alaskan Marathon. This is a staged marathon, meaning that we’ll run four races adding up to 26.2 miles during the week of the cruise. I’m excited about the opportunity to see Alaska, run on spectactular trails and through quaint (and steep) downtown streets, and mingle with a bunch of other runners for a whole week.

Yesterday, actually seeing a ship just like the one I’ll be on really ramped up my enthusiasm! I headed downtown for as close a look as possible. Security was rather tight at the dock, so I drove out to the hook (the natural sand spit that frames the harbor) for a panoramic view of the ship and the downtown area. It dwarfed my downtown!

The smaller ship you see on the far left is the ferry that takes cars and people from here to Victoria BC. That ferry is 341 feet long and carries 110 vehicles plus 1,000 passengers. The Oosterdam is 936 feet long and carries 1,916 passengers, 817 crew members, and all the restaurants, theatres, casinos, sport courts, swimming pools, and other assorted accoutrements that make up the cruising experience.

The large tan building just to the right of the Oosterdam belongs to a company that builds “super-yachts.” The largest model, built here in my town, is 163 feet and generally includes a heliport. Picture a 163-foot yacht emerging from that building — it’s huge! But it would look like a dingy next to the Oosterdam.

Back at my house later I could just see the Oosterdam from my bedroom window, but I had a panoramic view of it when it departed at 11:00 PM and glided out of the harbor, all lit up like a multi-layer birthday cake. Cruising season has begun! Later this summer, finally, I won’t be one of those watching from shore when my ship moves through the strait en route to Alaska.

Meanwhile, I continue to keep moving, adding bike rides and hikes to my 3-day-a-week running schedule. I’m getting some form of real-world exercise just about every day, which is why I’m blogging less even though I theoretically have more time in my post-corporate day. I’m still wobbly on the bicycle, but on my hikes (encouraged and accompanied by new friends) I’ve successfully met the challenges of steep hills and small stream crossings. I’m going to have to invest in rain gear, however, as I don’t much enjoy getting wet and cold.

In past years I would have retreated to my treadmill on anything less than a “perfect” sunny day, but I’m finally learning that life is too short to wait for a “perfect” day. So tonight is beer running night, and whatever the weather, I’ll meet running friends for a short run along the waterfront followed by wonderful locally-brewed beer.

Rain? Wind? Mud? Bring it on! I am a Pacific Northwesterner by choice, and this is my home.