Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The races of 2008

Now that 2008 is ending, my year of races is moving from the sidebar to this post, in order to begin the list for 2009. So one more time, here they are—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • 12/7/07 Las Vegas Half Marathon, Las Vegas NV, 2:07:00
  • 11/8/08 Footworx Fowl Fun Run, Mount Vernon, 54:00
  • 10/12/08 Royal Victoria Half Marathon, Victoria BC, 2:06:05
  • 9/21/08 Maine Coast Women's Half Marathon, York, ME, 2:01:19
  • 9/13/08 Fairhaven Waterfront 15K, Bellingham, 1:23:21
  • 9/7/08 Aflac Irongirl 5K, Seattle, 25:04
  • 8/23/08 Run-a-Muk 10K, Mukilteo, 52:51
  • 8/8/08 8 on the 8th Virtual 8-mile race, 1:22:52
  • 8/2/08 River & Rails 10K, Arlington, 54:34
  • 7/26/08 Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon, 1:58:51
  • 7/12/08 Run of the Mill 5K, Mill Creek, 26:16
  • 7/4/08 Yankee Doodle Dash 10K, Everett, 53:29
  • 6/21/08 Race for the Cure 5K, Seattle, 27:01
  • 6/14/08 Berry Run 5K, Marysville, 25:28
  • 6/8/08 Hi-5 10K, Lynnwood, 53:35
  • 6/7/08 Dog Island Run 10K, Guemes Island, 53:52
  • 5/18/08 Beat the Bridge 8K, Seattle, 42:37
  • 5/3/08 Bloomsday 12K, Spokane, 1:06:52
  • 4/19/08 Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Boise ID, 2:15:38
  • 4/13/08 Whidbey Island Half Marathon, Oak Harbor, 2:00:52
  • 4/5/08 Tulip Run 5-mile, Mount Vernon, 42:50
  • 3/16/08 Shamrock Run 15K, Portland OR, 1:22:32
  • 3/8/08 Sunset Drive 10-mile Relay (Solo), Anacortes, 1:37:15
  • 2/23/08 Smelt Run 10K, LaConner, 54:23
  • 2/10/08 Love 'em or Leave 'em 5k, Seattle, 25:39
  • 1/1/08 Resolution Run 5k, Seattle, 26:17

Bring on 2009!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Twelve Months of 2008

In the spirit of the holidays, here is my Christmas letter to you. Actually it is my Christmas letter to my friends who live far away from me... but I haven't actually managed to send it out yet. So you, my blogging and blog-reading friends, are getting the Christmas card that my other friends are not.

It is written to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas... so sing along if you wish!

In the first month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a 5K in Magnuson Park.

In the second month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a 5K at Greenlake, and a 10K up north in LaConner.

In the third month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, 10 miles in Anacortes, the Shamrock Run in Portland, and a 10K was canceled due to snow.

In the fourth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, 5 miles in Mount Vernon, a half marathon on Whidbey, six days until the next one, and the Robie Creek Half Marathon in Boise.

In the fifth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Bloomsday 12K! Met Kathryn Switzer in Spokane, Beat the Bridge in Seattle, traveled to St. Louis, where I ran around the Arch and Forest Park.

In the sixth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a Guemes Island 10K, and one at the mall! The Berry Run 5K, the Race for the Cure (but no sub-25), and a beach run from Potlatch to Tulalip Bay.

In the seventh month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Yankee Doodle Dashing, a new style for my haircut, the Run of the Mill! A Garmin watch for running, some really sunny weather, the Anacortes Half Marathon, and a long weekend at Rosario on Orcas.

In the eighth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a 10K up in Arlington, 8 miles on the 8th, the start of the Olympics, Deena Kastor falls! My 43rd birthday, a PR in Mukilteo, my 25-year reunion, where I renewed my acquaintance with Rod Reed.

In the ninth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Kabocha Squash Soup, my father’s 78th birthday, a PR in the Irongirl, a new instructor in Yoga, the Fairhaven 15K! A 10-day trip to Maine, the Mid-Coast Maine Half Marathon, travel up the coast, and an awful lot of lobsters consumed!

In the tenth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a long run on Burke-Gilman, Vice-presidential debate, Tina Fey as Palin, ferry trip to Sidney, touring Butchart Gardens, Royal Victoria Half! Tea at the Empress, prime rib at our Book Club, Neil Young at the Events Center, and a Halloween evening to remember!

In the eleventh month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Pilates teacher injured, Paula wins the marathon, Obama wins the election, Skagit Valley 10K, California banning bake sales, running in foul weather, weekend in Rimrock! Cookie exchange at Book Club, symphony at Benaroya, countdown to Thanksgiving, and Lorraine made me a marionberry pie.

In the twelfth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, more cookies at the office, I vow to give up cookies, my car is broken into, new license, credit cards and cell phone, a weekend trip to Vegas, I spend $15 gambling, an Eiffel Tower of margaritas, the Vegas Half-Marathon! Now it’s almost Christmas, my tree is finally decorated, the ground is all snow-covered, and I wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

1500 miles, come and gone

I passed the 1,500 mile mark this morning, covering the 1.5 miles I needed (plus 3.5 more) on my running snowshoes, in a mini-blizzard, at a pace which was, I believe, a bit slower than walking would be in less inclement weather.

Still, I was definitely running, plowing my snowshoes through several inches of new snow on top of a thick layer of older packed snow and ice. I felt a little bit like Dean Karnazes at the South Pole.*

It's like any kind of running, where the first mile or so is difficult and by the end of four or five you are ready to go on forever. Or at least a little bit longer. But so much time had passed, what with the slow running and several stops to return emails on my blackberry, that the only prudent thing to do was hit Starbucks and head home to get dressed and ready for the Christmas Eve festivities. I actually bought two lattes at Starbucks, one to drink in the morning while I was getting ready and the other to take with me to my parents for the afternoon. (Then I forgot the second one at the house after Rod picked me up and I certainly didn't have the nerve to suggest we go back, as he was slogging his car through the snowy, icy roads.)

I've spent the afternoon making lefse at my parents' house, to go with the traditional lutefisk dinner we have every year.** Lefse is kind of like a Norwegian tortilla, made with potatoes and flour, rolled out very thin and cooked on a hot griddle. You eat it smeared with butter, and most people like to put sugar on as well to make it more dessert-like.

Later Rod and I are going to church. The plan right now is to snowshoe from his house (only a block or so from the church), assuming we are not too exhausted. My parents, and my sister and her husband, are going to skip church this year because the roads are so bad. Considering the weather, it may be a very quiet service!

Right now, though, I am the only one here at my parents'. Rod is still at his parents' house, and my sister and her husband (and dog) are somewhere out there making their way through the snow. Hopefully they will stop at my house on the way, as I am expecting (hoping) a few last Christmas gifts to have been dropped on my porch late this afternoon. They all had a promised delivery by December 24, but with our weather conditions apparently all bets, and promises, are off.

Still, gifts or no gifts, and as troublesome as the weather has been in some ways, the snow has created a Christmasy atmosphere in a way that we usually don't get in this neck of the woods. (I've had my snowshoes for two years, and this is the first time I've ever used them at home. And I've been doing it for a week now!)

Whatever your weather may be, I hope your Christmas Eve, and Christmas, have been blessed and joyful, and spent with those you love. Merry, merry Christmas to all you readers, runners, non-runners, and anyone who found this post by googling "lutefisk!"

*He doesn't say here whether he ran in shoes or snowshoes, but in the book Ultramarathon Man, when he ran a South Pole marathon, he did use snowshoes at least for part of it.
**We also have a couple of other entrees, as not everyone loves lutefisk.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Living in ski country!

Okay, once again I'll admit that my little snow stories are just piffle compared to the everyday experiences of people who live in the midwest, the northeast, and other parts of the country that are regularly blanketed in snow and cold temperatures. But for those of us who haven't seen a full-sized snowman for years, this spate of wintry weather is like living at the North Pole. In a good way.

First of all, let me say that the office Christmas party came off successfully despite the onslaught of snowfall that set in Wednesday afternoon and continued into the evening. Only three of our staff (and their dinner companions) backed off due to the weather. We were, however, the only guests at the restaurant that night! I was a little amused at the way our group divided up both for pre-dinner socializing and dinner seating. At one end we had Ann and me and our boyfriends, all in our forties. At the other end were all the other attorneys and their dates, all of whom are in their twenties (except Mary and her husband, who are in their early thirties, and they sat adjacent to me, but gravitated toward the youngsters). I'm not sure if the real division was age, or perhaps "management" and "staff." Anyhow, we had a great time and everyone got home safely in the snow. (Although only Ann and I made it in to work the following morning!) (Because of the snow.)

So, once the party was done I was happy to let the snow come, even if it meant covering for people who couldn't make it in. After Wednesday night we didn't get any new snow, but it stayed cold all day Thursday and all the side roads and sidewalks remained covered in a thick layer of snow and ice.

On Thursday night I decided the time was right to try out the snowshoes again. I took out the regular snowshoes, not the running ones and headed north on my street. My jaunt was fantastically successful. I walked about a mile north and then decided to try to hurry back to get to Starbucks before closing at 7:30. I got to the door (and threw off the snowshoes) just at 7:30, and got my latte for the walk home. Since I was no longer in a hurry, I was able to take the "scenic" route home, meaning wandering around the streets some more. When I measured my route later I found that I had walked just under 3½ miles total.

With that success under my belt, my next expedition was early Friday morning, 6 a.m. in fact, in the running snowshoes. My idea was to run north for six blocks (about half a mile), then back, and repeat on parallel streets for as far as I wanted to go.

My ideas about how far I might want to run changed quickly when I learned how much work snowshoe running is. Much harder than ordinary running! By the time I finished the first mile, I was beginning to get the hang of it, but I had to stop at the house to shed a layer of fleece—I got a lot warmer than I had expected to in the rather frigid air—and, as it turned out, I desperately had to go to the bathroom. That meant taking off the snowshoes to go into the house, which slowed my trip immensely.

I did another mile loop (and as it turns out, each was a bit further than a mile), then continued on toward Starbucks, about half a mile. From there I walked home as I usually do. My total distance was 3½ miles. So much for my idea that I would go over 1,500 miles for the year last week (with a simple total of 15 miles in the week). I only managed to run 5½ miles on Monday, 4¼ on Wednesday, and 3½ on Friday. But do think that each day's route was more challenging, with snow and ice on the ground Wednesday, and then the snowshoes on Friday!

In fact, I have determined through some internet research that snowshoeing (both walking and running) burns substantially more calories than just walking and running on their own. This article has a nice chart that shows the calorie use at different levels of effort. It appears to me that snowshoeing uses about 150 calories per mile. That certainly makes me feel better about the 3½ miles. (I might even say that the extra work makes the 3½ miles more equivalent to 5 miles—but I won't.)

All though my running miles were low for the week, the snowshoe fun continued. Instead of driving to work on Friday, I walked on snowshoes. Not only was it fun and good exercise, it gave me a good excuse to wear snow clothes at work, and people were quite impressed by my adventurousness!

Keeping up the nordic adventure theme, instead of going to the Y on Saturday morning, I went out for a long snowshoe tramp around town, five miles total. After about four miles I was thinking that maybe I had gone a little too far... but I got home without too much exhaustion and in plenty of time to head back out (in the car) to get my hair done and do a little Christmas shopping downtown. I finished just before our next round of snow rolled in, snowing all evening and into the night and adding a few inches of fresh for Sunday morning.

No long run on Sunday, but instead Rod and I went out to a local park using both pairs of my snowshoes. I was happy that he enjoyed it, because—if FedEx ever comes through—he is getting his own snowshoes for Christmas! Some parts of the park were swarming with kids on sleds and other sliding devices, but we managed to have some trails to ourselves for a real winter wonderland experience.

Amazingly, snow fell again on Sunday night, and by Monday morning the untouched snow in front of my house was knee deep. I haven't been inside my car since Saturday. I've been snowshoeing to work, around the neighborhood for fun (seven miles on Monday with the work jaunts and an evening walk), and to and from the grocery store and Starbucks.

Today Luke, one of our other attorneys, brought his snowshoes in to work as well and we both snowshoed back and forth between the office and court! We are indeed the sporty law firm.

Today I was content to keep my hiking to trips to the office and court, and one jaunt to the grocery store and QFC this evening, before hanging up the snowshoes for the night. The top of one foot has been a little tender, I can only assume from the pressure of my shoe and the snowshoe straps. As it was, I logged about five miles total. I am just praying that the snowshoeing is making up a little for the lack of running and the constant nibbling that I seem to be doing.

I am just about a mile and a half under my 1500 miles for the year. Technically, I have a week to get it done. I am hoping not to wait too long, but rather get in a few miles on the running snowshoes tomorrow morning. I have the day off (except for a quick hearing at 1:00), so I don't need to be out at the crack of dawn. Still, I'd like to go rather early, as I'm planning on heading out to my parents' after court is done.

We still have more snow on the potential horizon—including the possibility of snowfall on Christmas morning—but by the weekend things are supposed to start to warm up. So, by next week I should be back on a regular running schedule, and winter sports will have to be confined to the ski slopes again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Let it Snow!

Well, actually right now I wish the snow would hold off for a bit, as my office Christmas party is tonight and for the last fifteen minutes huge snowflakes have been turning the ground white again. This is after a drizzly day where most of the snow and ice on the roads from earlier had melted away.

But last night, when I woke up at 3 a.m. and saw the snow falling and piling up, I was pretty excited. I got up at 6 a.m. and there was an inch of new snow, a lot less than I had thought from what I saw in the middle of the night.

Still, I thought I'd give my running snowshoes a try for fun. So I strapped them on (using my trail running shoes) and headed out the front door.

Well, an inch of snow does not make an adequate base for snowshoeing. (Duh, you are probably thinking.) The grassy parking strips had more snow, but that's not good for running either. You really need a packed trail with a good base, I think.

I went half a block then headed home, discarded the snowshoes, and headed out for a slow run on my feet.

I only had time for a little over four miles, and it was probably only a little faster than walking. I left the Garmin at home as I didn't see any need for it.

But running in fresh snow is a delightful winter experience. I'd be happy to do more of it. Hopefully with the snowshoes sometime!

But not tonight, okay?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ice, ice, baby

I thought about adding a Youtube video, but I don't think I need it... can't you hear it in your head? "Ice, ice, baby...."

I realize that some of you face ice and snow all winter long, and a morning like today is nothing in the scheme of things. But it's not typical here in western Washington.

After our weekend snowfall, the temperature dropped last night to lock in the ice and snow we already had on the ground. When I got up (around 6:15) and dressed to go for a run, I knew it would be cold out, below freezing most certainly. I layered up in a Hind top that I sometimes use for skiing and topped it with a half-zip that matches my long skirted pants from Skirt Sports. I was pretty impressed with the way the two shirts hugged my mid-section and compressed my stomach roll, kind of like a spandex girdle (but not uncomfortable). As I looked at my unusually trim mid-section in the mirror, I contemplated taking the shirts off and wearing them to work instead!

I added my usual Brooks reflective jacket, a fleece cap, gloves, and a scarf (which I really didn't need). By the time I was all dressed and wired up with my ipod and Garmin (and managed to achieve a satellite signal), it was a little past 6:30. I knew I would need to be slow in the icy conditions, so I planned to keep the distance relatively short.

Just like last year in the occasionally cold weather, the sidewalks were alternately clear and icy in patches. The roads that I had to cross were invariable slick. I was most nervous when there was a car in the vicinity!

I followed my usual route, only cutting it short by turning for home at Everett Avenue instead of trying to go further. By adding a block or two around QFC, I managed to just hit five miles before stopping at Starbucks. Amazingly, I hit five miles at exactly one hour. So, a twelve-minute mile pace. Slow to be sure, but I really had no alternative in the ice.

I got my latte at Starbucks, then walked the remaining half mile home. I felt like it had been a good run, considering the cold weather and ice.

Later on, after I was dressed, I headed out to the car for work. I only live five or ten minutes from court on normal days. On a day like this, I should have allowed extra time. Should have.

I had not driven or moved the car since Saturday, which quickly became obvious. To my dismay, the front windshield was covered with several inches of snow on top of a layer of ice. To make it worse, all the doors were frozen shut. I quickly called work to tell them I'd be late. Then I got some hot water and managed to open the passenger side door, then the driver's side.

Unfortunately I had done all this without my gloves on! So once I was in the car, I turned the defrost on high and sat for a few minutes while my frozen fingers thawed. After that, I was able to crawl into the back seat (as the back doors were still frozen) and find a brush and scraper, with which I finally cleared the front windshield.

So, some twenty-five minutes after my first efforts, I was able to turn on the windshield wipers, put the car into gear, and carefully make my way along the icy streets to work.

Running was much easier.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Christmas decor

In an effort not to appear totally useless, here are a few more pictures of my Christmas decor.

The garden room, with a snowy garden in the background.

The piano, ready for a Christmas tune.

I didn't jingle today

This morning was the Jingle Bell Run 5K in downtown Seattle, and I was not there. I intended to go—even though I am always irritated by the crowds and slow runners/walkers that clog the route—and I even made a special trip to Lynnwood Friday evening to "pre-register" before 5 p.m. That was against the (wise) advice of my boyfriend, who suggested I wait to sign up till the morning of the race. I said "that's probably a good idea" and then spent almost an hour in the wind, rain, and rush hour trip slogging my way to the running store to sign up. My theory was that I'd be motivated to go if I was already signed up, plus I wouldn't have to waste time waiting in line on Sunday morning (except for the bathroom, of course). So now I own an unused bib number and an extra-large shirt (because that was all they had left).*

But let me be clear, it wasn't lack of motivation that kept me from the race. It was this. On Saturday afternoon it was very wet outside. Then it started snowing, wet snow. Then Saturday night the temperature dropped, and the snow continued, for a bit. By Sunday morning we had a thin layer of snow on top of very icy streets.

Anticipating this development, on Saturday night I let my mother off the hook and canceled our Jingle Bell Run plans. She lives nine icy miles northwest of me and even if the road to Seattle from my house wasn't too bad (which was not guaranteed), it was highly likely that the road between us would be much less driveable. Especially for my mother, who is an ice and snow wimp at the best of times (probably wisely so). The alternative of having her stay at my house overnight was not appealing, especially with the possibility that we still couldn't go and then would be stuck here together on Sunday in the snow and ice. (Just kidding, mother, there's nothing I would enjoy more than spending a day snowed in with you. Remember 1996?** Good times.)

So while there was no jingling this weekend, there was a Christmas tree to be decorated! On Saturday afternoon Rod came over and helped me put up the tree*** and string it with lights and all my other Christmas paraphernalia. Including masses of red plaid and gold ribbons that had to be individually tied onto the branches. It creates a lovely effect, and it's really not as tedious as it sounds! Well, it is tedious, but with two people it gets done that much faster. I have dozens of old glass ornaments that came from my family and various antiques malls, plus numerous assorted ornaments that I have collected and acquired over the years. I am not one for a "theme" Christmas tree... I like the eclectic look!

Yesterday I gloomily said that if I didn't do the 5K today, I would have to go out and do a 10-mile run. I've only run 14 miles this week, 5.75 on Wednesday and 8.25 on Friday. But this morning, with the ice and snow making driving treacherous, it hardly seemed worthwhile to try to run in it as well. So I went out to breakfast**** with Rod instead, and this afternoon (since the bad roads are keeping me home instead of out Christmas shopping, as I desperately need to be), I'll try to do some work around the house and maybe attempt some on-line shopping.

Even with my short miles this week, I am now only 15 miles from my year-end goal of 1500 miles. I should easily pass that this upcoming week. And then what? Stop running and just eat cookies the rest of the year? (And you think I'm joking....) But maybe not. After all, there's another 5K coming up on January 1!

*I also left the running store with a hamburger and french fries from California Burgers next door. I was in a weakened condition having not eaten lunch, and with work still to do at the office, I rationalized that I needed fuel so I wouldn't have a total meltdown before I got home. I ate all the fries in the car on the way back to the office. Yum. Then the burger at the office. I haven't had a hamburger since last June (a cheeseburger at Duke's after the Race for the Cure).

**On December 26, 1996, we were hit by a massive snowstorm that dumped as much as a foot of snow in and around our area. I worked for Superior Court at the time and there was enough snow that court was actually closed the next day, a Friday, giving us a long post-Christmas weekend. (People who had taken vacation time for Christmas were quite bitter, I heard.) Anyhow, my mother was over at my house when it started snowing and ended up staying for about three days before we dug her car out of the snow and pronounced the roads driveable.)

***Noble fir, acquired at the 16th Street Market just up the road from me. It was just about the perfect size and shape (I have nine-foot ceilings) but I pruned out some of the excess branches to allow the ornaments to hang more nicely.

****So I had the post-race breakfast, just without the race. I also had the pre-race pasta last night for dinner. That was what I had planned to make, there was no changing menus at this late date! I made a variation of the Pumpkin Pasta from Rachael Ray that Laura wrote about. I modified both their versions a bit. As Laura suggested, I substituted chicken sausage for the Italian sausage (it has about half the calories, and it was Italian flavored). I browned it in some olive oil spray with just a teaspoon of olive oil. I used the spray plus the tiniest drizzle of oil for sauteeing the onions and garlic too. Instead of canned pumpkin, I used mashed Delicata squash that I had cooked the night before (that was the most interesting kind of squash I could find this late in the fall—butternut or any of my other favorite sweet squashes would work well too, I think). I used turkey broth for thinning, instead of wine and broth, and I finished with a swirl of fat free half-and-half, for that creamy touch (it also mellows the appearance). I didn't really measure things, I just glopped in the broth and squash. I also made a spinach, apple and onion salad to go with it, as Rachael Ray's recipe suggests.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Still around, just busy

What with little things like work, as well as Christmas approaching at the speed of light, I haven't had time to get together a post about the Las Vegas Half Marathon. Plus I need to figure out how to download some photos from my new camera (the origin of the new camera is part of my story). So as much as I'd like to spend several hours writing tonight, instead I'm going to be cleaning house, finishing unpacking, and getting set for a big Christmas decorating spree on Saturday.

But I hope to do some writing before I forget all about it. (But if the Eiffel Tower of margaritas didn't wipe it all from my memory, I'm sure a few days delay won't either.)

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and not going into a panic of unpreparedness like me!

(I have been adhering pretty well to my "no cookie" decree. I kind of forgot about it and bought a chocolate chip cookie at the airport in Las Vegas. And in the last couple days I've been excluding homemade almond roca at the office from the "cookie" category—it's candy, right? So much better. And there may have been a little bit of stress eating Tuesday night—I can't remember too well. But other than that, so far, so good!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

I only sucked a little bit

2:07. My second slowest half marathon ever—and the other one was up a mountain road. As opposed to this one, where it was flat as can be, possibly with a slight downhill incline.

However, I do have some rather amusing stories to tell on myself and my long weekend in Las Vegas.

More to come.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Six Things that Make Me Happy

My blogger friend Lisa tagged me to write about six things that make me happy. What a wonderful topic to write on! I am, and I hope it usually shows in my blog posts, a pretty happy person generally. I am definitely an optimist, glass-half-full person. I know I've done my share of moaning and complaining over slow race times, but when it comes to life in general, I admit to wearing the rose-colored glasses.

Partly it comes down to my deep-seated belief that things are going to work out okay in the end. I've always lived by the motto, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (a verse from Hebrews* in the New Testament). Certainly that can be interpreted religiously, as it was originally intended, but I think it also has a more universal meaning that anyone can embrace. If you can believe in something without demanding evidence, if you can have faith without strings, you will probably be a happier, more peaceful person.

So here they are, six things—out of many—that make me happy.

1) Myself, my life, and the person I am today

At the risk of sounding completely narcissistic—and perhaps I am—I have to begin with me. At the age of 43 I am almost completely contented with the woman I am—runner, wannabe yogini, writer, lawyer, daughter, sister, girlfriend, friend. Looking back at past eras in my life, high school, college, law school, there were always highs and lows and even though I had a lot of fun, and remember those days fondly, there was plenty of unhappiness along with the good times. I'm not saying I don't have my moody moments even now, but overall I just really like the person I am today and the life I lead. I may complain (frequently) about wanting to lose ten (or twenty) pounds, but even so, when I look into the mirror I like what I see. Not just the body and face and hair and clothes, but also the spirit and soul that I hope others can see as easily as they see the body, face, hair and clothes.

2) Gardens, plants, and flowers (and nurseries)

A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot! Not my words, but the first line of a poem by Thomas Edward Brown. Lovesome just means lovely. And although I've sadly neglected my own garden to spend more time running and going to races over the summer, lovely gardens still bring joy to my heart. Butchart Gardens, the Arboretum at Legion Park, all the gardens I've visited in England, Christianson's Nursery dressed for the holidays, a late spray of roses on my Graham Stuart Thomas rosebush, bringing a splash of gold to my autumnal garden.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving my mother and I went up to Christianson's for their holiday tea, which they hold every year in an old schoolhouse that they moved onto the property. After enjoying our little sandwiches and scones, we took a walk through the nursery before we left. Every time I go up to Christianson's it is more delightful than before. Some of their buildings are reconstructed from pieces of other old businesses, like the counters and fixtures from Tillinghast Seed Company, or the conservatory-like greenhouse walls from an old nursery in Seattle. Every space is crammed with beautiful plants and accessories, and white lights twinkle everywhere. When we walked into one propagation house, I was so overcome by the loveliness, that I said, quite sincerely, that I wished I could move in and live right there with the plants. That being an unlikely prospect, I will instead return to purchase and plant some (semi) hardy begonias, a charming evergreen plant that is almost like a shrub (picture at left).

3) Books

Books have always been a great joy to me, and, I admit, something of an addiction as well. I can't walk through a bookstore without buying something, and I have a very intimate relationship with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I admit I've betrayed my loyalty to independent bookstores thanks to the vast quantity and cheap prices of books offered by Amazon and B&N. But I'll buy from the small bookstores too. And used book stores like Half Price Books and Powell's in Portland. Really, I'm just a book slut, extremely promiscuous with my affections. And yes, even at this very moment I am surrounded by piles of books, some read and others not yet read, some of which I don't even remember buying and am at slight risk of repurchasing, should I see them in another store and once again find them appealing and interesting.

4) Writing

I would guess that many voracious readers, like me, harbor a deep desire to write as well. As a child I always wanted to be a writer, to write books that would be published. These days I'm not so sure that fiction writing is in the cards for me. I kind of suspect that years of working in law may have drained any creativity out of me that still remained after seven years of post-secondary education (college and law school).

But even as I let go of the dream of writing a great (or at least publishable) novel, I have embraced the hugely satisfying genre of non-fiction commentary and memoir-style writing, otherwise known as blogging. (Perhaps you've heard of it?) I first dipped my toes into the blog-arena with my England travel blog, Travelling the One-Track Road. I spent hours during my 2007 trip writing about our travel adventures and the places we visited, lavishly illustrated with photos and filled with supplemental research conveniently found on the internet. My audience was friends and relatives back home (as well as in Norway).

After I came home, though, it proved difficult to continue writing about travelling in England (not surprisingly), and I started writing a little bit about races I was doing. Eventually that turned into this running blog. And because I can't help myself, I write not only about running, but anything that catches my fancy. Including travel in England. (Although I'm firing up the One-Track Road when I go to Bath for the half marathon in March.)

Writing makes me very happy. I write for the pure pleasure of doing so, and satisfaction of having a way to express myself and memorialize my thoughts, as well as important events in my life. I will admit, though, it is pretty nice knowing that there are at least a few people who read what I write. I know some of them well, thanks to their regular comments (and many thanks to all of you). And it is an even bigger thrill to get a comment from someone I haven't heard from before!

5) Running**

Yes, I'll admit it, running makes me happy. I'm not always (hardly ever) happy to get out of bed at 6:00 in the morning to go do it, but after the kinks work out of my legs and my body loosens up, running does bring me joy and satisfaction. I have never, ever finished a run and wished that I hadn't gone running. Fast or slow, I am invariably pumped up and cheery by the time I slow to a walk. And if that final walk is accompanied by a latte from Starbucks, so much the better. (See, I managed to squeeze in an extra "happy thing"; Starbucks lattes do make me quite happy, as well as caffeinated!)

6) My boyfriend RR

Okay, I know it's cheesy and predictable (though not as predictable as running), but he does make me happier than I could have imagined possible. His affection, appreciation, and attention makes each day a little brighter (am I corny or what?). I do feel very lucky to have someone so very special in my life. (And he just edged out Barack Obama on my Happy List!)

There are so many other things I could include—for example, my cats, various favorite foods, music, travelling in England—if I thought about it I could come up with a whole laundry list, in the style of "Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens." I do have a lot of favorite things. But I think the ones I listed here really are the tops of what makes my life the satisfying, joyous experience it usually is. And I hope they all remain part of my life for a long, long time.

*Hebrews 11:1
**Am I not supposed to include running? Oh well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December is no (more) cookies month

In the spirit of "June is no cake month," I have now decided that December will be "no cookies month" until Christmas Eve. By all logic this should have started yesterday, on December 1, but yesterday was our office cookie exchange, which involved prodigious tasting of the cookies, which actually led to my determination that all this must end, now.

So my cookies from the cookie exchange are all nicely packaged up and stored in a big tin, where they will safely remain until December 24. I'll bring them to my parents' house for Christmas Eve dessert.

I thought about finding some kind of a bracelet to commemorate my "one day at a time" approach to shunning cookies, but after a couple of futile stops at Walgreens and Bartell's I decided to go with the honor system. That is, I'll just remind myself "no cookies" whenever a sweet treat presents itself.

This will give me 22 days "cookie-free" by the time Christmas Eve rolls around.

Let me just tell you some of the delicious cookies that were shared at the cookie exchange. Molasses cookies* and Russian teacakes (powdered sugar balls)** from me. Chocolate dipped biscotti from Ann. Spritz from Jennifer. Another kind of molasses cookie from Luke. Homemade almond roca from Tonna (that one was possibly my greatest downfall yesterday). Chocolate chip cookies from Jasmine. Pumpkin bars (more like cake) from Lorraine (those are in the freezer). Jam sandwiches (cookies with jam between them) from Mary. And from the book club cookie party I still have some date pinwheels, another kind of jam sandwiched butter cookie, and a few of my own sandbakkels. Plus my parents have a plate of krumkake that I made with the boyfriend's family after Thanksgiving.

Are you feeling diabetic yet? (I am, a bit!)

Although I sure that despite my virtuous proclamations today, there will be many a cookie tempation in the three weeks to come (yes, Christmas Eve is three weeks from tomorrow). Let me just repeat, NO COOKIES UNTIL CHRISTMAS EVE!

*This recipe makes a very soft molasses cookie. So soft, in fact that you really need to add a bit of extra flour to the dough to make it rollable. I also added a bit of finely ground black pepper and a bit of cardamon to spice up the dough even more.

**These are known as Mexican Wedding Cakes in Rose's Christmas Cookies, one of my favorite baking books. Her recipe is a little more complex than the typical version but it is light as air and truly melts in your mouth.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's not Thanksgiving any more

Friday, November 28 — 14.44 miles.

Sunday, November 30 — 7.45 miles.

Monday, December 1 — 5.8 miles.

I'm tapering.

Sunday, December 7 — Viva Las Vegas!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Food

Everybody has to choose his or her own path on Thanksgiving. Will it be gorging to one's delight on traditionally rich and fattening Thanksgiving dishes? Will it be a road of strict, Ghandi-like asceticism, eschewing all but the most healthy, lowfat offerings?

I am pretty much planning on the middle road between the two extremes, concentrating on turkey (lots), salad, and roasted sweet potatoes. I can easily pass on the mashed potatoes and gravy, and I can resist the dressing (even though it's my special recipe, "Northwest Dressing" with lashings of oysters, filberts, and apple). But I'm having pie, for sure. My secretary is kindly making me her delectable marionberry pie (and yes, I do plan to share with others) and my sister is bringing a couple other pies (so that will protect "my" pie from being completely devoured, leaving a piece or two for a treat or breakfast the next day).

Here are a couple of recipes for easy Thanksgiving side dishes that are low in calories and pretty good for you. The jello dish* does have Splenda for sweetening, so it's not pure, but it is yummy and even people who aren't trying to be sugar-free will enjoy it. It's good for diabetics, too. I started making it many years ago when my grandmother was alive, and adopted it myself when I decided to change my eating habits.

Raspberry Applesauce Jello
One large or two small packages sugar-free raspberry jello**
2 cups boiling water
2 cups frozen raspberries (without added sugar)
2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Light & Fit vanilla yoghurt, or plain yoghurt sweetened with a little Splenda and vanilla

Dissolve jello in water. Add raspberries and stir until thawed. Add applesauce and mix well. Pour into glass baking dish and refrigerate until set. Top with vanilla yoghurt, if desired. (This can also be made in a jello mold if desired, but in that case, omit the topping.)

This sweet potato dish is very simple. I've made it a lot. I've also tinkered with it by adding spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper, even cinnamon to the diced sweet potatoes, or omitting the rosemary. Here I'm leaving it simple, just as the recipe is written. It's from Stop the Clock Cooking by Cheryl Forsberg. Obviously the quantities can be adjusted as you desire.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary
1½ pounds sweet potatoes
1½ tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil spray. Position a rack in the lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Scrub sweet potatoes well. Rinse and dry completely. Cut into ¾ inch dice. Cut out eyes and blemishes but do not peel.

Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. (Alternatively, it may be easier to toss with the olive oil in a bowl first, or often I just spray generously with olive oil spray instead the liquid oil.) Sprinkle with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat and place baking sheet in oven. Bake about 30 minutes, until golden outside and tender inside. (I am taking the recipe's word for it on the time here. I just bake until they are browned to my liking.) Turn potatoes once during baking.

A 2/3 cup serving has 102 calories and all kinds of good-for-you stuff. (Have a whole cup for only 153 calories!)

I also like to make a big green salad. This year I'm thinking of making this spinach salad instead. By coincidence, it is also a Cheryl Forsberg recipe. I like the dried cherries (and other stuff). Instead of the complicated dressing, though, I am going to make a vinaigrette*** using a cherry balsamic vinegar. I may saute some sweet onion to add to the salad, though, to keep that element in the recipe.

You may have heard on NPR (or the Iron Chef) that lobster was one of the foods served at the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving. If you can swing it (great for you East Coasters), steamed or boiled lobster would make a great add-on to a healthy Thanksgiving feast. Each ounce of plain lobster has only 29 calories, 6.2 grams of protein, and virtually no fat. Of course, just keep in mind that each tablespoon of melted butter adds 100 calories and beaucoup fat! I've never had lobster for Thanksgiving but I would love to make it a tradition.

But whatever you decide to eat for Thanksgiving, please be thankful that you have the ability to put good food on the table, and the good health to enjoy it. I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving and fine fellowship with your loved ones.****

*I'm not a huge fan of jello, per se, but the applesauce and raspberries give this a great texture that totally makes up for the jiggliness of typical jello.

**You could also use another flavor of red jello, and might want to tinker with the frozen fruit, trying perhaps strawberries or cherries instead.

***Balsamic Vinaigrette: Whisk together one tablespoon dijon mustard and four tablespoons balsamic vinegar (preferably cherry balsamic vinegar for this recipe). While whisking, slowly drizzle in four tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk until emulsified.

****Hopefully without too many family fights. I've been on one end, and the sidelines, of many a Thanksgiving battle!

Monday, November 24, 2008

TIck tock tick tock (time is passing)

Two weeks from today will be the day after the Las Vegas Half Marathon.

Yikes! How did that happen? When I realized last week how close I was getting, I decided it was time to sketch out a training schedule for the remaining time before the run. It had been probably two or three weeks since I'd done a run longer than ten miles, thanks to a 10K one weekend and an out-of-town trip another weekend. I figured there was still time to squeeze in two longish runs without over-exhausting myself before the race.

So here's the plan. (We'll see how well I stick to it.) (Just for running. I still have yoga and core classes, and cardio-machine workouts on the schedule.)

Sunday, 11/23 — long run (12+miles)
Monday, 11/24 — regular easy run (6 miles)
Wednesday, 11/26 — regular run with speed work (6 miles)
Friday, 11/28 — long run (12+ miles) (seems like a good day for it, since it's a day off from work and the day after Thanksgiving)
Sunday, 11/30 — easy run (6 miles)
Monday, 12/1 — regular easy run (5-6 miles)
Wednesday, 12/3 — regular run possibly with speed work (5-6 miles)

I debated whether I should reduce my mileage on Monday or Wednesday of next week and I decided that probably wouldn't be necessary (unless of course it is to allow myself to get to work on time), as I'm taking Thursday, Friday and Saturday off from running to really allow my legs and the rest of my body to recover and rest prior to the race. I don't want another situation where my compulsion to burn calories and accumulate mileage causes me to burn myself out in advance of the race.

In anticipation of running yesterday, I mapped out a long loop around Marysville to get in twelve or thirteen miles. Based on my route, it looked like I would have to do some extra blocks (or miles) to get in the full distance. But thanks to a mistake on my part, I ended up with the full thirteen (while planning on twelve) without having to add anything extra. In fact, I took advantage of a shortcut just to finish at a reasonable time and not go too much over thirteen.*

Running in Marysville is kind of like a trip down memory lane, since I grew up and went to school there. I started out near the church I attended with my family throughout my childhood and high school, then ran north on State Street (the main drag) and past the high school. Then all the way north on 67th (a pretty busy main road), crossing back and forth frequently to try to run on sidewalks (as opposed to a shoulderless white line) whenever possible. I missed my intended turn off 67th and ended up following 71st until the road finally ran into Sunnyside at Soper Hill Road, where I followed Sunnyside back into town.

I was running a pretty respectable 10:30 pace for most of the run, with notable exceptions at a couple of long, steep hills. When I turned onto Sunnyside I was already at nine miles. I was a little concerned about how much further I had left to go to return to my starting point... but reasoned that I could always call for a ride if I hit twelve miles and still had a long way to go.

And then I was at twelve miles, and although I wasn't quite sure exactly where I was, I knew I wasn't back at my starting point. But luckily for me, I was actually at a fortuitous point, not far from the north entry to Jennings Park, and in my pocket I had a map that showed a nature trail through Jennings Park that ended near Grove Street (very close to my destination).

The cut through Jennings and the remaining blocks took me to 13.06 miles, a very respectable distance (just don't ask me how long it took to run this "half marathon"). And despite my delays on the hills and trying to figure out where I was, I finished with plenty of time to spare.

The time I needed was to shower and dress and get all prettied up** for a trip to the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall. I had tickets to see the symphony perform Tchaikovsy's Romeo and Juliet Overture and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini (as well as a very impressive Sibelius work after the intermission). The brilliant pianist performing the Rachmaninoff piece was a tall, young, skinny guy who I couldn't help thinking of as "that child." But if a child (which he really wasn't), he was certainly a prodigy, as his playing was beautiful.

Although not performed by the Seattle Symphony, here are tastes of these very delicious musical works.

Romeo and Juliet Overture

Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini

*It's not that I would have minded the extra distance. But I had to allow enough time to get myself ready to go to the symphony in the afternoon, and a couple of extra miles would have been a major problem.

**Black velvet dress. I could have been in the symphony myself!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


When I was in England last year I was fascinated by this road sign I came across. I wrote a post about the concept of priorities, as they related to travel plans and, a little bit, life in general.*

Evaluating and balancing priorities in life is an ongoing challenge. I don't have children, so that particular non-negotiable priority is not an issue for me. That means that pretty much everything else in my life is up for grabs as to order, and weight, of priorities.

The major priorities in my life these days are work, family, my personal life,** my friends, my home life (e.g. cooking, cleaning, gardening, bills, etc.), and of course, running, exercise, and diet. I try to balance my priorities so that I give sufficient time and energy to each area, without devoting so much of my attention to any one particular area that I neglect the others.

I think that for many people—me included at many times in my life—the diet and exercise piece often falls victim to the others, which can seem more demanding, more crucial, and have live people attached to them drawing on your attention and time. Of course, neglecting a healthy diet and exercise doesn't make your life better; in fact it can make your life worse on many levels.

The first few years when I was losing weight and really starting to exercise and run, I probably put the diet and exercise priority at the top of my list, because in many ways it was the most important part of my life at that time. I was still able to devote sufficient attention to work, family and friends so as not to damage those relationships, but they definitely came second to my healthy lifestyle agenda.***

This was actually a good thing to do for a while, because it helped me to develop the discipline (and habit) not to let family and work demands detract from working out and eating well. Skip the Y to go out for drinks with friends? No thanks. A birthday party on a Saturday afternoon? After working out, and choose the grilled chicken over hot dogs, and accept only a small piece of cake. Ballet tickets on a Sunday? Get up extra early to run first. Hanging out at work late into the evening? No, just get my work done quickly and head to the Y.

As time has passed, I have let myself become more flexible, and hopefully have allowed the diet and exercise to form a more balanced relationship with my other priorities. I still decline to skip a workout for a casual meet-up with friends, but I will if a friend needs to meet for dinner to work through a difficult issue. Sometimes I do have to skip the Y and stay late at work, to do taxes and reports, or prepare for a big trial, but I do this as needed, not routinely. And I admit, while 90% of the time I adhere to the eating plan which has worked well over the last four years, I am a little (lot) more likely to succumb to a cookie or treat on occasion.**** But while I know I'll eat pie on Thanksgiving, I also know that the rest of my dinner will be turkey, salad, and roasted sweet potatoes (and maybe just a bite of dressing).

As far as the personal life part of it all, I admit it's really tempting to skip going to the Y or running in order to spend more time with the object of said personal life, but so far I have managed to keep those priorities in balance as well. It helps that he really admires my dedication to running and yoga and so forth, and I know he wouldn't ask me to give them up. In exchange, I might on occasion move a run to another day or make some other kind of accommodation to make the schedule work for both of us. And so far, it does. Work.

The one thing that I am still not good at, but am really working towards these days, is putting the home and garden part of my life back in the full priority department. Between working and the time I spend running or at the Y, and spending time with my friends, family, and object of my personal life, there's not a lot of time left for housekeeping, prompt bill paying (oops), or garden work. I'm afraid I was much better at those things when I was overweight and sedentary!

However, I have made some big strides in this area. My downstairs is picture perfect, and ready for Christmas decoration.***** My upstairs is still a work in progress. (Stacks of books, shoes, and way too many clothes—it's a challenge!) This last summer in the garden I planted a lot of patio containers, and I had some helpers with yard upkeep and maintenance. Next year I plan to work more on landscaping and borders.

So, have my priorities changed over the last few years? The things that are important to me remain the same. The weight of my priorities, however, continues to fluctuate. Some needs are more urgent at times, requiring other interests to take a back seat. Then, I hope, the balance will shift back and I can put more energy into the things I've neglected. My goal, always, is to balance out my priorities so that I never end up abandoning the things that are important to me. That way I can maintain the happy, balanced life that I seem to have been blessed with.

*You should read it, I'm a really good travel writer. And modest too.

**And considering that I now have a personal life for the first time in a while, I'm not about to be neglecting it!

***I admit freely that I seriously neglected the home care aspect of my life.

****And full disclosure, my sister just stopped by with a huckleberry pie—apparently it was the last day of the season that they would be available at Metropolitan Market—and I accepted a big piece, which I will eat a bit later with a big blob of light ice cream. A couple of years ago, the "diet priority" me would have probably sent her away. Now, I said "thank you" and "yum!" It's all about balance. No wait, priorities. Okay, balancing priorities.

*****In fact, thanks to my laxness last year, the Christmas decorating is already halfway done! But not the tree. Thank God. That might have been the final straw.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Looking towards year's end

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away (dear God) and Christmas following only four weeks after (dear, dear God), we are quickly approaching the end of this year, and with it, the results of my annual mileage goal.

I did a little math last night and happily, I am well on track to accomplishing my goal of 1500 miles, without requiring any Herculean efforts at the end of the year. My current total is just a hair over 1380 (thanks to last week's 32 miles), which leaves only 120 miles to complete my planned objective. There are six full weeks (plus a handful of days) left in the year, which requires only 20 miles per week to meet goal. Easy peasy, I hope. That even allows for some slacking around the holidays,* if necessary—or unavoidable—as my typical week has been over 30 miles throughout this year.

I did some additional math and figured that it would be quite impossible, and just too much work, to revise my goal to some other, higher, round number. So 1500 it is. I'll almost certainly be over, but after all, I don't want to raise the stakes so high that I can't leave something to shoot for next year.

2009. Now there's a concept. It's already looking to be a good year. Let's hope expectations bear out. 2008's done pretty well for me so far.

*Although goodness knows, the holidays are the last time of year when I should be slacking on exercise!

And speaking of the holidays....

I have yet to accomplish my "lose 10 pounds by Las Vegas" scheme. Which also means that I weigh almost 10 pounds more than I did this time last year (and let's hope it's still "almost"). Which means that I don't have the luxury of gaining a few pounds over the holidays. I know I'm not alone in this predicament. Still, it's an irritation.

So for now, in the ten days remaining until Thanksgiving I'm trying to be extra vigilant about staying on track. (With a small blip for the Book Club cookie party on Friday. But I'm trying to make cookies, not eat them, for that.) Okay, I'll admit to a cookie and the last piece of apple pie* in the office this morning. But now all that crap is gone and I will just ignore the other crap.

Maybe five pounds by Las Vegas?

*Eaten in chunks. By hand. Over several trips out and back to the kitchen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Running east

I spent the weekend on the Eastern side of the mountains, and although we were only about 180 miles from home—a 3½ hour drive—it was like another world. Over here we are all green and shiny. Evergreen trees and mossy lawns and wet streets and puddles. Eastern Washington is gold and grey and beigey tan. At least this time of year, after the hot summer has burned away all the springtime greens. Golden wheatfields (all shorn at this time of year), great craggy rocks and silver brush, and, if you can imagine, tumbleweed!

My friend has a little cabin on an acre between Waterville and Ephrata. It's powered by solar energy, so our radio and reading lights were completely environmentally friendly. We also used a small propane heater to warm the cabin, which, although less "green," was invaluable as the evening got pretty chilly. The cabin was pretty toasty by the time we went to sleep, which was good because it was a cold night. The heater was off during the night, of course, and by early morning the indoor temperature was probably in the 40's, and the outside was 28.

So that certainly made the prospect of crawling out of a cozy sleeping bag to go running somewhat less than appealing! Although by the time I seriously considered it, around 8:00, the relit heater had warmed the indoors quite nicely. Which made the chilly outside even less tempting.

But I was determined to get a Sunday run in. I ran about 10½ miles on Friday, anticipating that a long run on Sunday would be impractical. For one thing, I didn't want to leave my friend sitting around waiting while I took an extended run. The hour or so it would take to go five or six miles was plenty to expect of him.

So I pulled on running clothes (I had brought long pants anticipating the colder weather) and stepped out onto the porch. Yep, 28 degrees. Nice.

He said, "so you'll be at least 45 minutes?" Uh... yeah... "at least an hour!" I responded. Then, thinking twice, I added an extra 15 minutes, not wanting to raise any alarms in case I was unusually—make that typically—slow. Plus there would be an inevitable potty stop at the clubhouse (real plumbing, hurrah!).

The roads were packed gravel, and I felt pretty sluggish as I headed out. The cold air felt harsh on my lungs, and I think perhaps the elevation added to my labored breathing. While my home turf is only slightly above sea level, we were at least above 1500 feet, maybe more. Add the incline that I started up, and we're talking slooow, baby.

We had measured out above a mile and a half from the cabin to the clubhouse, and initially I thought I would just have to do a double loop, to get my miles without wandering off into uncharted territory. But at the clubhouse I just kept on running on the main gravel road, figuring I would turn around when I got to the highway or 2.5 miles, whichever came first.

I think I was pretty close to the highway when I did turn back, at 2.6 miles, to retrace my steps. I hadn't realized I was climbing gradually on this part of the road, but I certainly noticed the decline on my return, as I picked up the pace to make like Deena Kastor (Deena Kastor in traction, that is).

After the blessed bathroom stop, I continued my return to the cabin. I was a little more nervous here, because I had to make a couple of turns along the way. Although I knew the names of the roads, I was paranoid about missing them and heading off into the wild. I figured if I got to 5.5 miles without finding my road, I would know I'd missed it. But luckily, at 5 miles I spotted the first turn, with the second shortly thereafter. As I neared the cabin and 5.6 miles approached, I decided I couldn't stop without finishing the whole six miles. I still had ten minutes of leeway before I used up my allotted time and raised a "missing" alarm. Four tenths of a mile in ten minutes? I thought I could handle it.

So I just kept running past the cabin for another two tenths, and turned back to finish at 6.01, five minutes before "deadline." By that time either the air had warmed a bit or I had become accustomed to it, because my lungs had stopped burning. Actually that probably happened about two miles in.

Needless to say, the cabin has no indoor shower facilities, but on the other hand, I was hardly sweating in the cold weather, so I quickly changed clothes, made myself some instant oatmeal for breakfast, and we packed up to head out. We had a three to four hour trip home, not including any stops we might want to make along the way.

The first of which was just down the road from the cabin, to view some of the dramatic surrounding scenery.

Then we headed back towards home. In Waterville, we detoured off the main road to check out Badger Mountain Ski Hill. Right now there's not a lick of snow on the ground, but assuming a decent winter snowfall, this small ski area will open in January for skiing (three rope tows). With the roads clear right now, we were able to drive right up to the top and look down the main run into the Waterville farmland area below.

Our final stop on the east side of the mountains was in Cashmere, at the delightful Anjou Bakery, for a bite of lunch (quiche) and a treat (cherry pie for him, which was reportedly scrumptious; and a shortbread brownie for me, which was, yes, a layer of brownie on a layer of shortbread).

Actually that was not quite the last stop. That was at Safeway in Leavenworth, for a fill-up of gas (with an amazing phenomenon, a 20-cent reduction off the posted price, for a net cost of $2.06 per gallon), and for me, a quick trip into that coffee shop inside the store that I apparently mention a lot by name in this blog.

And then we were over the pass, going right by Stevens Pass Ski Area (where we intend to spend a lot of time this winter), and zooming westward toward home, work, and another week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Like a drowned rat

This morning was the first time this fall that it's been really, really raining when I went out. Oh there's been drizzle and mist and sputtering sporadic showers, but steady rainfall? Not until today.

By the time I got home my clothes were soaked through, and I don't think I was even sweating. I'm pretty sure if I'd stepped on the scale fully dressed I would have added five pounds in wet clothing! At one point I know the rain was dripping off my hat. My gloves, when I stopped at Starbucks, were so soaked that I could literally wring the water out of them. Halfway along I took off my glasses and put them in my pocket, because between the rain on the outside and steam on the inside, I couldn't see a thing. My spectacle-free myopically impaired vision was much better.*

Needless to say, my feet were squishing in my shoes by the time I stepped in the first puddle. After that, it didn't really matter any more!

And at some point I dropped the cap on my water bottle and instead of stopping to recover it, I figured, what's the point? It's not like the splashing from the bottle could get me any more wet that I already was. So I ran on with an open bottle and, you know, I don't think it splashed me at all!

Despite the bad weather I had managed to get up half an hour early, which allowed me to add on an extra mile** and still get to work a little early. Since I was early, I stopped at Starbuck's and walked the last half mile home. My average pace (before the walking portion) was 10:09, which included 3¾ miles at a sub-10 minute pace. The other miles (which alternated with the faster miles) were above 10 minutes. (Obviously.)

And despite the bad weather, I still felt great when I was done!

*I am seriously considering getting contacts just for the purpose of running in the rain. Maybe for skiing too.

**For a total of 7.23 miles, the last half mile walking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Banned Bake Sales

I'm sitting here watching the CBS Evening News—I like to call it Katie's news—before heading to the Y for my evening workout and yoga class. Partly I'm just passing time. Yoga doesn't start till 7:15 and leaving here at 6:00 allows plenty of time to work out beforehand. And heaven forbid I use that extra time at home doing something useful, like cleaning! (Or paying bills—which reminds me, I need to do that!)

But in the teaser segment at the beginning, Katie mentioned a piece that they will be airing which intrigues me. The story is about schools outlawing bake sales, in the wake of the childhood "obesity crisis." This is probably related to the California nutrition standards, which prohibit schools from selling snacks containing more than a certain level of sugar and fat. Specifically, snacks sold during the school day may contain no more than 35% sugar by weight and derive no more than 35% of calories from fat. I'm pretty sure that most traditional bake sale fare—cookies, cakes, muffins, etc.—would not possibly meet those standards.

Is this a bad or a good thing? Leaving aside the whole regulatory aspect of it all, which I'm certain that people have different views on regardless of the topics of the regulations, is it good or bad that bake sales have been eliminated to help prevent childhood obesity?

I'm totally in favor of schools not selling soda pop, candy, or unhealthy packaged snacks like chips. I remember, even in "my day," such junk food often was a substitute for decent lunches amongst my friends and acquaintances—okay, and maybe me as well. Or if not a substitute, a supplement, which may even be worse, at least as far as calorie consumption goes.

But outlawing the sale of homebaked goodies for special occasions and fundraisers? I'm not so sure. To me, there's a difference between a sugary Coke and a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Although, to be fair, they have about the same number of calories.

I'm sure there are a lot of other legitimate, healthier ways to raise funds for school activities (or charitable causes). But really, let's not turn to the sale of more wrapping paper. I have enough already.

I don't remember a lot of bake sales when I was in school. So it's not like I have some nostalgic memory to fall back on. But I wonder, are they really a major cause of childhood obesity? Is their elimination really going to solve the problem? (Or help with the problem?) Maybe... but only if parents and kids adopt a healthier lifestyle overall, including nourishing meals and exercise. And you know, if everyone did that, I bet we could survive a bake sale or two.

Ten years in 100 characters

Pasta Queen wrote in her blog about writing a summary of her life over the last ten years in 100 characters or less. Always up for a writing challenge, I decided to try my own version. The problem is, I have a really hard time not being verbose. My first try, which I thought was really concise, hit 100 characters in about the second line. I didn't actually know whether characters counted spaces or not, but I decided, to be scrupulously fair, I should count the spaces as well as actual letters.

So I paired it down to the ultimate bare bones. I'm sure that there's a lot more stuff that happened, but these are the events in my life that stand out over the last decade! I think the characters and spaces add up to 99.

Got new job. Started own firm. Lost lots of weight. Ran lots of miles. Met guy I’ve known 35 years.

Seem short on details? Yeah, that's my problem too. That's why you'll never see me writing telegrams or personal ads!

In retrospect, I guess I could pare it even further, to: New job. Started firm. Lost weight. Ran miles. Met guy.

That cuts it to 55 characters. Just think of what I could do with 45 extra characters! Wrote blog, for one thing—that adds ten characters. Cut hair? Nine characters. Did yoga. Plus nine. Ran more. Another nine. And I'll leave the last eight characters to your imagination. Here you go:

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Foul Weather but Fun Run

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night... no wait, that's for mail carriers. Probably it could apply to runners as well, however, because certainly a little heat, or snow or rain is not going to stay a dedicated runner from the swift completion of his or her appointed rounds. By "appointed rounds" I mean, of course, a 10K race, and by "swift completion" I mean, well, as fast as one can manage under inclement conditions.

Such was the case yesterday, Saturday, at the Fowl Fun Run 10K up in Mount Vernon. There was no snow, heat, or gloom of night, but there was rain. And wind—oh, was there wind. Last year's race day was cool and sunny, and I had hoped for the same, but it seemed unlikely considering the wet and blustery weather we had been having all week. On Saturday it actually seemed a little bit better, at least not raining hard as we drove up toward Mount Vernon early on Saturday morning. There was even some hint in the sky that the clouds might break.

Alas, as race time approached at 10 a.m., the clouds rolled back in and rain started to sputter from the sky. Firm gusts of wind loosened leaves from the trees, swirling them into damp piles on the muddy ground. The inside of a warm, dry car (with company) seemed much more appealing than the soggy fairgrounds where the race was to start.

But as 9:30 approached I had to take some kind of action if I wanted to make any kind of decent effort at this run. We reluctantly left the car to walk over to a track-like area where I could do some warm-up. I jogged one lap around, testing my ankle for soreness. I felt it a little bit in my heel, but the rest of my legs felt okay. There is something to running several hours after waking up, when your body has had a chance to loosen up naturally, as opposed to early morning runs where I roll almost directly from the bed to the sidewalk on still sleep-stiffened legs.

I took two more laps, picking up the pace a bit at the end of the second, and by then it was about 9:45. My support crew-slash-volunteer coach felt that I should do some pre-run stretches, so I stopped then and he guided me through some gentle loosening stretches for the ankles, shins and quads.

Then, after a quick last-minute stop at the rest room, it was time to gather at the starting line. It still wasn't raining more than lightly, but the wind persisted. We gathered in a loose mob as someone made announcements. He reminded us that about a half mile in, the 10K runners would veer right and the 2-milers would go straight. (Good to know—it would be horrible to go the wrong way and lose time backing up!) There were no chips, but the crowd was modest enough that we wouldn't have much delay at the start.

Then, at just about 10 a.m. or a little after, we were off. I had a moment's delay as I was caught behind two very little girls dressed in pink, and I had to veer around them, but I am unable to be irritated with little girls in pink (as opposed to slow adults, who piss me off regularly), and I quickly was able to pick up my stride.

I had decided not to be obsessed with the Garmin, and I pulled my sleeve down over it so I couldn't see the time or the splits as they passed by. I had no idea what my pace was, but as I passed the one-mile marker my legs were loose and I felt fast.

Unfortunately, that's about when I headed directly into the wind. It wasn't quite like running uphill, but I was sure it was slowing me down a little. And in fact, the one time I did look at my watch was at the two-mile mark, and I was a little disappointed to see 9:04. Although certainly, it could have been worse!

The middle of the race was a long out and back along Dike Road. The turnaround was at the 5K point. I vowed, as I was pushing along into the wind, that I would make an extra effort to pick up the pace in the second half. As I turned at the cones, the guy there (who was probably making sure no one cut the turn short) shouted something encouraging, like "great split." Undoubtedly he was saying that to everyone, as I don't think he even had a stopwatch, but still, it was nice. I shouted back, "now the wind will be with us," hoping that was true.

It wasn't quite true. I wasn't running into the wind as I retraced the route along Dike Road, but it was still coming at me from the side. Probably this made it a neutral wind, neither hindrance (as before) nor help (as I had hoped).

Since I was in the second half, I decided it was time to try and catch, or pass, some of the runners ahead of me. I fixed my sights on a few that seemed reachable. There were few enough runners that each person ahead of me was an individual, as opposed to the packs in some of the big races. While I was running along the "back" portion, of course there were many runners still passing on the "out" section. I like to think there were still more coming than there were ahead of me! Occasionally, as others had done for me on my "out," I waved and shouted encouragement to those I met. As I recognized one much older man that I had met at prior Skagit races, I waved and shouted "Hi Boris!" This was Boris Balac, 72 years old, not the oldest male in the race,* but a fixture in these runs and a strong finisher at 61:31.

I'm not sure if I passed anyone in that fourth mile, but as I approached about mile 5 there were at least three people in my sights. The first, who turned out to be an older male** (sometimes it's hard to tell whether someone is male or female until you are near them), I passed pretty easily and stayed ahead without any further effort. There was one young woman in red (the race shirt, actually), who was far enough ahead of me that I never had a substantial chance of catching her, though she stayed in my sights throughout (I believe she finished about a minute ahead of me).

But closer to me I saw a young man and a woman about my age and they seemed within my grasp. I soon drew even with the male, but the woman stayed ahead of me, maintaining a steady lead (of about 10 seconds, I would say, as it turned out). Then I passed the male and pushed ahead. A few minutes later he must have gotten a second wind, because he came from behind and re-passed me! But I was still running strong, and I think he was flagging—that pass was perhaps a last push—and moments later I pulled ahead of him again and never saw him again.***

But my other primary "competition," the woman in the grey shirt, managed to stay ahead of me even as I put on my extra push in the last mile and in the quarter mile finishing section. She finished ten seconds ahead of me. When I congratulated her after the race, she said she saw me coming and was just out of steam, she didn't think she could stay ahead. (But of course she did! Congratulations, Ann!)

So what about my finish time? I said I wasn't seeking a PR, and I didn't get a PR. I said I just didn't want to be disappointed, and I wasn't, really, except for a moment because I had felt good enough about the run that I thought, maybe, I might do better than expected. But as it turned out the wind probably played a big part in my finish time.

My time? Exactly 54 minutes. As I was approaching the clock I saw it in the high 53 numbers, and I tried, tried as much as I could to get over the finish line before it clicked over. Kind of like trying to get across the street before the end of the "don't walk" countdown! I practice that fairly regularly in the mornings. But it was at 53:59 one step before the finish, and I saw it turn over as my foot crossed.****

So, given that my time was a minute or so more than my best times, and that I've never placed in the age groups up in Skagit, I didn't bother to try to find out my official place or wait for the awards. I didn't even wait to see if I won a turkey or a pie in the random giveaways. Instead, I caught up with my support crew/coach, and we left pretty quickly to go eat at the Calico Cupboard. Even though this wasn't a long run, I thought a cinnamon roll was in order.

Later on, as we were driving home, the sun started breaking through the clouds, enough that I even flipped down the sun visor. I wondered why this couldn't have happened earlier in the morning! But really, the rain hadn't been my problem, only the wind.

When I checked my splits on the Garmin, I was both shocked and pleased. Most of my miles were faster than my typical 10K pace, or at least what I consider a typical 10K pace, and if it hadn't been for miles 2 and 3, I would have been under 53 minutes (assuming that I had run those miles at the same pace as the others).

I have to brag on myself a little. Mile 1, which I knew felt good, was 8:32. Then I must have hit the wind, because that gave me the 9:04 in Mile 2. And then 9:05 in Mile 3. But after that, thinks improved immensely. Mile 4 was 8:25. Mile 5 was 8:34. Mile 6 was 8:24. And the final quarter mile (because my Garmin showed a total distance of 6.25) was at a 7:53 pace. Wow. That makes me happy. Because although my total time was a bit slower than I would have liked, I never felt during those faster miles that I was killing myself. My average pace for the whole run was 8:39 per mile.

As I've been writing this today, I looked up the results to get some of the details I've added here. Just for fun, I decided to see where I finished in my age group (Female 40-49). There was one 46-year-old woman at 46:26 (wow), as well as a few women in their thirties, a handful of teenage girls, and a 57 and 61-year-old all ahead of me (and lots of males too, of course). But after the 46-year-old, I was the next 40-something female! Could that be possible? (And I didn't stay for the ribbons!) Overall there were ten women in my age group. The last two or three had times that indicated they were walking, not running. But I was definitely second.

Maybe they'll mail me a ribbon.

With my support crew/coach/official race photographer, after the run and before the cinnamon roll.

*That would be one Ben Grevstad, 74 years old, with a blistering 49:40 time. Yes, 31 years older than me and running a time that I can only hope for in my wildest, I mean wildest, dreams!

**Age 71, upon looking at the results, and finishing at 55:21.

***Looking at the finishing times, he probably ended up just under two minutes behind me. And if he's who I think on the list, he's twenty years younger than me and yes, I "chicked" him.

****When the finish picture is enlarged, you can see that the clock read 53:50 at the time of the photo, and you can also see my competitor in grey crossing the finish line.