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NODM half marathon 2014 race report

As I stood at the starting line for the North Olympic Discovery half marathon yesterday, I truly had no idea how the race would go for me. My doctor had only cleared me to run nine days earlier, after seven weeks of recovery from my broken arm. I’d run/walked four times in the week prior to the race, with a “long” run of 7 miles and total mileage of just under 19 miles. I was slow and my legs felt a little shaky, but I was running again — and I was determined to run as much as possible on race day!

Back when I was still thinking I’d have to walk the whole race, one of my running friends (who hasn’t run much over the past few months) decided that she’d walk it with me. A few days before the race I asked her if she was up to run/walking with me. I told her I thought I might be able to sustain a 12:00 to 12:30 pace. She sort of freaked out at the thought of running 13.1 miles on NO recent training, but was willing to give it a try. We promised each other that whenever either of us needed a walk break for any reason, we’d walk. We’d take as much time as we needed, and we’d enjoy a sunny day on a beautiful trail.

We started out running really slowly, as we each tested our legs in the early miles. I also tested my left arm — fortunately it seemed to be quite content to go along for the ride. Soon we settled into a comfortable rhythm, running 0.4 mile and then walking 0.1 mile. We did the first mile in 12:14. Then we reeled off several miles at about 11:45. In the hilly middle section we walked up all the hills but still kept ourselves at just under a 12-minute pace.

By the time we hit mile 8 I was getting a little tired. It was a warm day for this part of the world (mid-60s) and I was starting to feel my lack of training. My friend’s left leg was bothering her a little. Neither of us knew for sure how much we might be able to pick up the pace for the final five miles.

Mile 9 is slightly downhill under big trees to the waterfront. We ran that mile in 11:12, feeling good. When we turned west along the waterfront we were hoping for a cool breeze, but it didn’t happen. My left arm was starting to ache quite a bit. I struggled for the next couple of miles but still managed to maintain the 4/1 run/walk interval.

Approaching mile marker 12 I told my friend that I’d try to run from there to the finish. She was running much stronger than I was at that point, but still loyally staying with me. At 12.5 miles I knew I was going to need just one more walk break. Then I gave it everything I still had left, completing mile 13 in 10:47. At that point I told my friend to go ahead. She finished 12 seconds ahead of me.

My time was 2:33:40. My pace was 11:44 — much better than the 12:00 that I’d hoped to do! It was good enough to finish 17th out of 54 in my gender/age group. I was 21 minutes slower than my PR, but I did pretty well for one week of training — and I did set a PR for running with a broken arm! While I couldn’t muster a huge kick for the final miles, I did have a negative first/second half split of over 4 minutes.

After we’d both eaten a bit of food, we returned to the finish line area to wait for my friend CFL, who was walking his first half marathon. He power-walked every step of the way, refusing to break into a jog for even a single stride. He finished in a remarkable 3:10:57!

The three of us celebrated in style at Barhop Brewing, where we sat on the sunny patio and enjoyed the two-for-one beer special for race entrants. By the end of the afternoon I had achieved that rarest of things in the Pacific Northwest — a sunburn!

I woke up this morning and realized that my arm didn’t hurt at all. Not one bit! I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to wake up to a pain-free shoulder and arm. Running 13.1 miles seems to have loosened it up a little. I do have sore leg muscles, but nothing remarkable.

All things considered, I’m delighted with my race yesterday. I’m eager to get back to regular running, and to start training toward the half marathon PR that I hope to earn in Victoria this October. CFL is not sure whether he’ll do another one, but he’s open to the possibility. 🙂

One step at a time!

Slow happy race training

It’s been almost six weeks now since I broke my arm while trail running. At first I thought I’d go nuts, not being able to run or ride my bike. I consoled myself with the thought that surely I’d be running again in time for the North Olympic Discovery half marathon on June 1st. I might no longer have the stamina to keep running for miles on end, but surely I’d be running again… right?

Meanwhile, I’d at least walk every day in order to keep the daily activity streak alive. It was tough at first to motivate myself to walk when my arm hurt and I was feeling sorry for myself for not being able to run. But soon, I’d run and ride again!

I started physical therapy three weeks ago. My therapist almost immediately told me that no, it was not realistic to expect to run on June 1.

So what is realistic? I’m registered for a 5K on June 21. Maybe

All right, so I won’t run NODM. Fine — I’ll walk it!

At first I figured I could probably sustain a walking pace in the 17 minute range. 17:10 would get me over the finish line in a tick under 3:45:00. Hey, that’s not so bad! I wouldn’t be the last person out on the half marathon course!

I’m currently seeing my physical therapist twice a week. Her office is two miles from my house. I walk to there, then I walk half a mile to the Olympic Discovery Trail, walk east along the trail for a couple of miles depending on how much time I have on that day, then turn around and walk home. That section of trail is never boring. I’m entertained by eagles, river otters, and a wide variety of waterbirds. Time floats by and soon I’ve done ten or more effortless walking miles.

At some point I started paying attention to my pace again. I realized I was doing 16 minute miles. Then it was 15 minute miles. When I found myself walking a few 14 minute miles now and then I began to rethink this whole idea of walking a half marathon. Yesterday I did two of my 8+ total miles in 13:42 each. I was moving so fast I even felt a touch of runner’s high.

As of today I’m thinking that 13.1 miles of rolling hills at just under an average 15 minute walking pace is an entirely realistic goal. That puts me in the 3:15:00 range. I ran my first half marathon in February 2010 in a lightning-fast 3:10:11. I don’t think I can break that, but if conditions on race day are perfect, I just might have a shot at it.

I didn’t used to think of myself as a competitive person. I missed out on several career opportunities over the years due to lack of assertiveness and reticence about my achievements. I abhor and avoid conflict, often to my detriment.

But put me out on a trail with a GPS watch strapped to my wrist and I become very competitive with myself! How fast can I walk up this hill? How long can I sustain this pace? What if I push just a little harder toward the end of this mile?

We’ll see what happens on race day. But just because I have to walk, that doesn’t mean I have to stroll.

Slow and happy? “Slow” is relative, and “happy” is an attitude. I can do this!


So I’m not superhuman

My training for the OAT Run trail half marathon has gone really well. I’ve been running lots of hills and getting in plenty of unpaved trail time. I’ve been delighted by how much stronger and faster I’m becoming on hills — I can run a few miles up a steep trail without having to walk or stop! I can really feel the difference in my hill strength as a result of all the hilly runs and bike rides I’ve been doing.

So yesterday I set out to do 11 miles on the Adventure Trail. I had planned that this would be my last really long trail run before the race on 4/26.

There was rain in the forecast that hadn’t happened yet. The rain started right about the time I started running. Mud puddles quickly formed. Eventually large sections of the trail began to resemble a small stream. I slowed down and watched my footing more carefully, but I was feeling great so I kept bounding along.

At 10.3 miles I was congratulating myself on my awesomeness. In that brief lapse of focus I stumbled over a rock and went down hard. I got up slowly, marveling at the mud all over myself. The damage seemed to be limited to a few abrasions on my forearms and knees and a small cut on my chin. But my left shoulder was a bit sore.

I ran the last bit back to the car where my friend, who’d ridden the trail on his bike, was waiting for me. By the time I got home my left shoulder was becoming extremely sore. It was all I could do to get out of my wet, muddy clothes and into the shower.

I had a full range of motion in my left arm, so I didn’t think I’d done anything to warrant a trip to the emergency room. However, during the evening my pain-free range of motion got smaller and smaller. There was no swelling or bruising, but eventually I could barely move my left shoulder at all.

So this morning I went to my doctor’s office, where they immediately sent me to the emergency room. The X-rays revealed a “closed fracture of the left proximal humerus.” It’s a small chip at the very top of my arm bone where it meets the shoulder. You can’t put a cast in that spot, so I’m in a sling. I’ll be in that sling for 4-6 weeks. No running. No bike riding. I’m left handed, so I’m currently typing very slowly with my right hand and wondering how I’m going to feed myself.

I am extremely disappointed to miss the trail race and other upcoming planned activities. But I’m trying to be okay with all of this. I sat in the ER waiting room this morning surrounded by overweight people with weak, tired bodies. I’d much rather injure myself in the pursuit of health and vigor than succumb to diseases of inactivity. I will heal. My knees will appreciate a few weeks of rest. I’ll keep up the daily activity with walks around town.

I’m not superhuman, but I’m strong. I’m stubborn and determined, and I love to run. I’ll look forward to running another NODM half marathon in June!





I’m back in training mode — yippee!

Gosh, it’s been too long since I last posted here! After my big push to complete 1,000 running miles in 2013, it’s been nice to dial down the intensity just a bit, so there really hasn’t been much running activity to write about.

So far this year I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to simply run — as much or as often as I feel like — with no particular goals in mind. It’s a good time of year to be relatively fallow. January and the first half of February were unusually dry, but very cold. Then in mid-February the rain started, and it essentially hasn’t stopped raining since then. Think I’m exaggerating? In the 37 days since February 10, we’ve had over  8.50 inches of rain (about a third of our annual average), and we’ve had measurable rain on all but 7 of those days.

On a rainy, windy day with the temperature in the mid 40s, I have to talk myself into going out to run. Once I finally get out there, however, it’s usually easier to keep going. Therefore, most of my “casual” runs lately have ended up as 8 to 11 milers. An enduring benefit of my marathon training last year is that I still think of a 9 mile run as sort of a fitness baseline. I can knock it out in an hour and a half, no big deal.

Knowing that, I’ve allowed myself to be casual about training for upcoming spring races. I have no real concerns about my ability to run 13.1 miles on any given day. I’ve racked up over 200 running miles so far this year in this no-stress way.

But suddenly it’s mid-March and my trail half marathon is less than six weeks away! While I know I can go the distance, I have done very little trail running over the past year. I’d like to go out and run the trail on which the race will be held, but due to the stormy weather it has been plagued with downed trees (recently as many as 160 down at one time), to say nothing of mud. I confess… I haven’t run that trail even once this year.

I took this photo during a hike (not a run) on a different trail, but the same principle applies — when a landslide obliterates the trail, it’s a good idea to turn around. It’s hard to tell the scale from the image, but this slide was over 20 feet across.

Until conditions improve on my race trail, I’m improvising a training plan. I’m focusing on running hills, and throwing in bits and piece of local off-pavement trails whenever I can. Fortunately my immediate neighborhood is very hilly, so I don’t have to go far to do that sort of training. The other day I ran almost three miles straight up the road from my house, climbing over 850 feet, and then dove into the forest to return via a trail that was not TOO muddy. Now my plan is to adopt that route as one of my regular weekly runs, adding to the mileage and incorporating more of the trail as I go. Eventually I’ll get out there on that race trail — for sure I’ll get out there on race day!

So I’m optimistic about my upcoming race, and not stressing out about it — much. It’s my first trail half marathon, so it’s a guaranteed PR, right? I know I’ll be a couple of minutes per mile slower on dirt/mud/rocks/roots than I am on pavement. So I expect to amble in somewhere around the 2:45 mark, stuffed chock-full of wonderful endorphins. Then I’ll hoist my post-race beer with heartiness and glee.

What could possibly go wrong?

One step at a time!

Five years and almost 2,800 miles ago…

It was five years ago today that I stepped onto my new treadmill for the first time.

The treadmill was sort of a birthday present to myself. It represented a promise to myself to lose the ten pounds I’d gained during my years of graduate school. More important, it was a defiant denial to my physical therapist’s pronouncement that I’d never again walk without pain.

I’d been advised by faculty to set myself a new goal to stave off the possibility of post-PhD depression. So I decided to get back into something resembling physical fitness. But I’ve never been one for small goals, so I set myself a bigger goal than mere fitness: I was going to run a half marathon.

I’ve been a would-be runner since I was a child, but my attention was always so focused on being a good student that I never found time for sports. I admired runners, especially distance runners. I’d watch the Olympic marathons on TV and get choked up with emotion.

When I first moved to Washington eleven years ago I moved into a neighborhood about five miles from downtown. There was this trail — the Olympic Discovery Trail — that skirted my neighborhood. The road into the neighborhood crossed the trail. It was a misty June morning in 2007 when I found myself stopped in traffic at the trail — waiting for a bunch of runners to go by. That was the day I learned there was an annual marathon and half marathon race in my town. I sat there and watched them run by, and I wept.

The next year, in June of 2008, I took a break from dissertation writing for a couple of hours. I walked to the trail and I stood there in the rain watching them run by. That’s when the goal began to form in my mind.

My first day on my new treadmill, I walked six tenths of a mile. It took me fifteen minutes to do it. It took me two and a half weeks to work my way up to two miles. It was more than a month before I ran my first few steps. I did a total of 145 miles on the treadmill over a four month period before I dared to run in the real world for the first time.

My feet hurt too much to wear snugly-fitting running shoes, so I ran in Nike sandals on the treadmill, and in hiking boots on the trail. I’d run nearly 250 miles before I finally got myself properly fitted in a quality pair of running shoes that my feet would accept.

I was   r e a l l y   slow, took a lot of walk breaks, but was starting to feel better and was losing a little weight.

I was on track in my training to run our local half marathon in June 2009, but I didn’t know how to train properly. I tried to do too much too soon and injured both knees two weeks before the race. I could barely walk for a month, and it was two months before I dared to run again…. very slowly.

I finally ran my first half marathon in February 2010. I haven’t stopped running since then. Gradually I got a little faster. Eventually I stopped taking walk breaks.

Five years ago today I had a big goal. But I never dreamed that five years later, I’d be ready to run my first full marathon.

By one of those numerical coincidences that I love, when I cross the finish line on Sunday I will have run exactly 2,800 miles since that first day.

As every runner learns, not all of those miles have been happy ones. I’ve come to accept that my knees will hurt a bit when I start out, but that everything will settle down and I’ll be comfortable by about mile 3. My knees, hips, ankles and feet have all become much stronger and hence more resistant to injury. Overall, running has made me a happier, healthier, stronger, and more resilient person.

Oh yeah, and I’m about 15 pounds lighter. I’d estimate that I’ve lost about 30 pounds of fat and gained 15 pounds of muscle!

When I finished my last pre-race run on Wednesday, I texted my friend:

“Slow, steady, strong, safe, and sound. Success!”

I think I’ll make that my mantra on Sunday.

See you on the other side of the finish line!

Finding the guts, one step at a time

Yesterday I ran the North Olympic Discovery half marathon. This was my 4th NODM and my 10th half marathon. Although I could not sustain my streak of a new PR with every race, I have no regrets and plenty of pride about my performance out there. I ran a 2:13:25 — nearly three minutes faster than last year — on a very warm day. I was 7th out of 55 people in my age/gender group. While I couldn’t beat my most recent time at Whidbey of 2:12:01 (on a day that was 10+ degrees cooler, on a flatter course, in a steady rain), I still handily smashed my most recent time on this course. So it’s still a PR of sorts!

Several things were different, and presented new challenges for me, in this race. For various reasons I hadn’t done as much hill training as I’d planned. I ran with a friend (the first time I haven’t raced alone). The race organizers had recruited pace bunnies (a large-race luxury that I seldom see). We lined up behind the guy running with the “2:10” sign and for the first few miles my friend and I stayed right behind him… which was faster than I’d planned to be at the start.

When we hit the hills in the full sun at the 5 mile mark I knew it was going to get tough. My friend had to talk me into taking a walk break — which helped a lot. And then another walk break. I wasn’t losing very much time… yet. What we lost walking up the hills we gained back flying down the hills. At mile 8, coming down from the last big hill, we were on a 10:15 cumulative pace, only five seconds per mile off where I’d wanted to be at that point. We ran mile 9 in 9:18 and turned west for the final push along the waterfront. I was feeling great at that point. It seemed that a PR might still be within reach, but I knew I’d better back off a little if I wanted to have anything left for the finish.

Somewhere in those last few miles, my brain — which had apparently become accustomed to the walk breaks — simply demanded that I walk again. I really had to talk sternly to myself to keep going, but I slowed down and did keep going.

At the finish line, side by side with my friend, I was moving faster than I’ve ever run in my adult life. We ran the last quarter of a mile in just over two minutes. I probably won’t buy my finish line photo because I forgot to look at the camera, but I actually look like I am RUNNING!

As much time as we made up in the last few miles, however, it just wasn’t enough to get that lifetime PR. I admit I was sort of bummed at first because I really wanted that PR, but after some time to reflect I’ve decided I have every right to be proud of myself. I found the guts and kept going — and I was three minutes faster than last year! I had enough speed left in the final miles that I actually ran a negative split by two full minutes.

Looking back I can see where I made mistakes. My friend is faster than I am. She said she hadn’t really trained much recently, just wanted to do a “fun run,” and would follow my lead on the pace — but I probably tried too hard to impress her especially early on. Certainly that “2:10” pace bunny sign was an irresistible draw for both of us during the first several miles. Another mistake was letting my brain get used to the idea that it was okay to walk the hills. Once I’d let go of that “I can run for 13.1 miles” mindset, it became too easy to take another walk break… and another.

Perhaps the biggest thing was that, when I was standing at the starting line, I was already thinking ahead to getting serious about full marathon training. I was already imagining myself running 15 miles, 18 miles, and more… Some part of myself was thinking, “what I’m about to do today is easy, of no great consequence.” When I started feeling the heat, and when I couldn’t recover quickly after the first big hill, those things came as shocks. I wasn’t well focused yesterday.

Yet despite all that I still ran a good race and came home healthy and strong. I’m very happy to be able to say that. And now, a week or so of rest and I’ll be off to run some longer, slower miles.

One step at a time!

Here we go again! It’s taper time

When I planned my race calendar for 2013, seven weeks between the Whidbey Island half marathon and the upcoming North Olympic Discovery half marathon on June 2 seemed like a long time. I’d have time to rest, recover, and return to what passes for peak slow happy running form.

One of these days I’ll learn that no matter how carefully I build my training plans, they never go exactly as planned.

I really did a number on myself this time. If you’ll recall, the Whidbey Island race was the day before the Boston Marathon. The events at Boston shook me up, as they did everyone. They also inspired me, as they did many runners. One of the stories from Boston that really inspired me was the runners who — having just completed a marathon — kept running another two miles to go to the nearest hospital to give blood.

Eight days after Whidbey I went out for a nice, easy five mile run in one of my favorite places. Coming back in the car afterwards, I was feeling strong and grateful for the opportunities that I have to run in beautiful places. I passed the sign that said “blood drive today.” I’ve seen and driven past that sign dozens of times in the 10+ years I have lived here. On that day I said to myself, after I shower and change clothes I’m walking downtown to give blood. I hadn’t given blood in about 20 years, but I happen to have a desirable blood type and I’ve always felt bad about having gotten out of the habit of regular donations.

So I gave blood. I felt a little light headed afterwards, but don’t we all? I drank my orange juice and ate my cookie and walked home. No big deal. I took it easy the next day and everything seemed fine.

On the second day I went out to run. It was like I’d dropped anchor! I was gasping for breath and couldn’t finish two miles before stopping.

A bit of Internet research turned up this article by Jenny Hadfield on the dos and don’ts of donating blood as a runner. Too late, I learned that “the common side effects as it relates to your running include higher heart and breathing rates, heavy legs and lower levels of energy. Ultimately, this means slower running paces at higher effort levels.” Furthermore, I learned that full recovery might take me several weeks — or even longer.


So I’ve been easy on myself since then. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that right now, I’m not able to run ten miles or more without stopping. I’ve learned to stop when I need to. I’ve reluctantly brought walk breaks back into my running routine. My speed is gradually returning, but my endurance is still not what it was.

I’ve written here any number of times that I can’t possibly continue my streak of PRs! I can’t possibly top that last race when I blew through all my notions of what I was capable of doing! This time, it may actually be true.

The only thing I have in my favor is that I know this course like the back of my hand. I know where I need to conserve energy and where I can safely push. I know the places that will surprise out-of-towners and I know what a big psychological uplift it is for me to pass everyone around me in those places. I know that on race day, my competitive spirit will keep me pushing past the point at which I’d say “enough!” if it were just another routine training run.

So I haven’t given up all hope that I’ll have a good run on race day.

Meanwhile, I’m tapering for this race. And I’m already looking forward to taking a week or so post-race break and then kicking off my marathon training plan!

I’ve chosen my race. I’m going to run my first full marathon on October 13 in Victoria, BC. I’ve run the half marathon there twice. The half marathon course is basically a long out-and-back, and the full marathon is a longer out-and-back. This means that I’ve already seen half of the marathon course — the first 6.55 miles and the last 6.55 miles, more or less. I know the terrain — it’s about as flat as it can be. I’ve got all summer to gradually increase my mileage. I can do this, slow and happy, one step at a time!

But first I’m going to run my fourth North Olympic Discovery half marathon, and one way or another I’ll give it the best and most I have on race day. With lots of guts and… I hope… just a wee bit of slow happy glory.

Every finish line is a victory. One way or another.

I’ll see you there soon!

We all dream of running Boston

This is not the blog post I thought I would write today. I expected to write about how I ran the Whidbey Island half marathon yesterday in 2:12:01, setting another PR by two and a half minutes. I was going to tell you how great I felt about running in a steady rain on a course that was even hillier than I thought it would be, how I was passing everyone around me in the last few miles, and how I ran mile 13 in 9:17 — one of the faster miles I’ve ever run and certainly the fastest mile I’ve ever run at the end of a long hard race.

I woke up this morning still basking in my slow happy glory, and eagerly turned to my Twitter feed for news about the Boston Marathon. I “watched” the elite runners finish and then I turned to other business for a while. Later I returned to Twitter…

I’m sure that we — all of us — are shocked, outraged, and deeply saddened by the events in Boston today. There will be many thousands of words written about it, and I don’t want to needlessly add to the fray.

I just want to say one thing.

I will venture to guess that almost everyone who puts on a pair of running shoes and goes out the door has, at least once, been captivated by the allure of the Boston Marathon. It is one of the very few sporting events with global visibility and appeal. It is the stuff of our most noble dreams.

I have never attempted to run a full marathon. I’m only just now beginning to seriously think about making the attempt. But I can tell you what my Boston Marathon qualifying time needs to be. I know because I’ve looked it up. At my age, I’d have to run a 4:10 marathon just to be eligible to register. It is utterly out of my reach. And yet… this morning I scanned the Whidbey Island full marathon results and noted with great pleasure how many people had run Boston 2014 qualifying times.

I want to be like them.

We all dream of running Boston.

I am devastated at the thought of the runners who had just completed the Boston Marathon, and moments later had their legs blown off or worse. The tragedy is unthinkable.

I am so angry, so sad, so grief-stricken, and so deeply and utterly a runner.

I ran my race yesterday, one day after what would have been my late husband’s 66th birthday, and on the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death. Those were small milestones, small but poignant victories for me. It’s not so easy to stop a determined runner.

So I have decided. This October I am going to run my first marathon. I am going to run it because I, too, dream of someday running the Boston Marathon.

Thinking about what it means to become and be a runner

So my disappointing long run the other day did turn out to be just a fluke… as I’d sort of thought it was even at the time. Yesterday I ran a perfect 10-miler that left me feeling entirely satisfied and ready to give myself some extra rest and a proper taper over the next ten days before the Whidbey Island race.

I spent some time after that run thinking about running and reflecting on the literal and metaphorical places I have been as a runner.

Off and on over the past few days I have mused quite a bit about the experience of running, about what it’s like to become a runner, to be a runner, and to discover strength, resiliency, courage, and happiness as a runner. I’ve been re-reading old blog posts (on this site and previous more private sites) from the period during and shortly after Kurt’s illness and death. I’m re-reading my words from that time because I’m working on a paper proposal for a conference… which may finally begin to lead in the direction of the book that I want to write about running through grief.

It hurts to look back and read words that screamed forth from my pain. But it’s also very heartening to see that I found sources of strength… and a big source of my strength was the fact that I somehow managed to get out there and run. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.

There were plateaus and setbacks in my running ability and in my ability to hold my life together. There were times I thought I was going to rip my heart out of my chest. Then there were times when I knew that my heart and mind and legs were all strong and I was going to be able to put all the pieces back together.

Running has taught me — and continues to teach me — that anything is possible with determination and practice. I had to complete a PhD program at age 53 in order to finally convince myself that I am intellectually authentic. Learning to run since then has been something like a PhD program for the rest of me.

I’m tempted to say that coping with Kurt’s illness and death were the comprehensive exams for that second PhD, but I don’t want to contextualize or diminish that experience. I do wonder, however, if I’d have become such a dedicated runner if it weren’t for what happened to Kurt. Before his diagnosis, I hadn’t begun to challenge myself as a runner. I walked a lot. I worried about injuring myself. I never pushed myself hard to see how much more I could do. After his diagnosis I began to see running as something I could do to help myself — sometimes it was the only thing I could think of that I could do to help myself. It was the only thing that brought me any sort of respite.

After he died, running got me out of the house. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning. It gave me a reason to eat. It put things on my calendar.

Of course, it gave me places and times to cry.

And it gave me reasons to celebrate.

We all have our life challenges, and we all find our ways to cope.

By choosing to become and be a runner, I have found pride — satisfaction — peace — confidence — and a goodly measure of humility.

Life is short. Our days are numbered. How many steps we take, the places we go, the ways we choose to spend the time we have — these things are up to each of us to decide.

As for me, I’ve logged 250 running miles so far this year. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 550,000 steps just since January 1. They haven’t all been steps of sheer joy, but most of them have been pretty good. And they’re all steps in the right direction.

Slow and happy…

One step at a time!

I don’t expect to PR — and that’s okay!

With less than 14 days to go until the Whidbey Island half marathon* on April 14, I should have completed my last long run and be fully into “taper mode” by now. But because I still have this idea of running a full marathon later this year floating around in my head, I’ve grown accustomed to the idea of running 10+ miles and then going out two days later and doing it again. I figure if I make the next few runs a bit shorter (in the 6-8 mile range) and then give myself a few days of complete rest from running right before the race, that should be all the tapering I’ll need to do.

We’ll see.

I set out yesterday to do my last long run, which per my plan would be 12+ miles. I had done that distance at PR pace two weeks ago, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.

Every runner needs to have a humbling experience every now and then, right?

It was the first really warm day of the year… warm, that is, by Pacific Northwest standards. It was about 55 degrees when I left the house, a good ten degrees warmer than any time recently. I was wearing short sleeves and capri-length tights for the first time since last October!

It got HOT. I felt completely sapped of energy. I got hungry — and the Shot Bloks I was carrying weren’t enough to energize me. I got thirsty, but I couldn’t take more than sips of water without my stomach protesting.

I turned around early, telling myself I could always do another out and back to make up the rest of the planned mileage. But by the time I got back to the car, with only seven miles done, I knew I was done.

So my 12-mile “last long run before the race” turned into a 7-mile run that left me feeling discouraged.

I think I’ll give the “last long run” one more attempt later this week, if only to beat back the psychological bugaboo that is now sitting on my shoulder.

Objectively, I shouldn’t really care at all. I shouldn’t have any trouble giving up on my racing PR streak — eight straight half marathons with a PR every time.

Why shouldn’t I care?

Because the official length of the Whidbey Island half marathon is 13.4 miles — not 13.1. That extra 0.3 miles translates to approximately THREE FULL MINUTES for me. To make up three minutes over the course of 13 miles, I’ve got to be 15+ seconds a mile faster than I was last October in Victoria. That means I’ve got to run those 13.4 miles at a sub-10-minute pace.

I actually hit that pace on my 12+ mile run under ideal conditions two weeks ago — but can I do it again? Can I do it on a hilly course on a day when it may be raining and almost certainly will be windy?

I’ve decided that — if I can’t — it’s justifiable and I will forgive myself.

I don’t expect to PR — and that’s okay!

(But it sure would be awesome if I did…)

* If the name “Whidbey Island” sounds familiar to you, it may be because you’ve read about it in the news lately. There was a massive landslide on Whidbey Island, which has destroyed at least one house, is threatening 30+ more, and is still moving. Fortunately the slide location is nowhere near the race route, but you can bet I’ll be thinking about it as I run along the waterfront.