Monthly Archives: January 2010

public hearing on the vulnerable roadway users bill

This morning I attended the Washington State Senate Judiciary Committee‘s hearing on SB 5838, also known as the Vulnerable Roadway Users Bill.  The experience was definitely interesting in a number of ways.  The good news is that the bill looks like it will pass in something close to its current form.  This time last year, the bill had been stuck in committee, with the vote tied 4-4.

Originally the plan was to make reckless driving resulting in serious injury or death to a pedestrian, cyclist, or anyone else deemed a vulnerable user into a criminal offense, rather than a simple traffic violation.  I don’t really have a problem with that, but apparently 3 members of the Washington State Senate Judiciary Committee did, so they made some changes.

Now, reckless driving which results in a serious injury or death will be deemed an "enhanced violation".  The offender will be subject to a $5000 fine, which could be satisfied by performing community service and attending a traffic safety course.

These changes would address the things I care most about.  They would go at the behaviors that cause accidents like mine.  They would provide a way for the offender to learn from their mistakes, and also provide an opportunity for them to do something positive.

Not having witnessed or participated in something like this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  To prepare, I wrote a brief statement that I could read if there was an opportunity.

Mr Chair, and members of the committee, I am Paul David from Kirkland. I am a very fortunate survivor of a negligent driver, representing myself before you today to discuss SB 5838.

On the morning of July 1st, 2008, I kissed my wife and two daughters goodbye, and set out to ride my bicycle to work. It was a nice morning, and I was travelling in the bike lane in moderate traffic when the driver of a Ford F150 Truck suddenly turned in front of me. The driver had seen me, and thought he’d be able to make it in front of me – he was in a hurry you see.

I struck his truck just behind his passenger door and rolled under. His rear wheel actually passed over my head. Biking helmets are generally not designed to support the several thousand pounds that an F150 weighs, so I guess it was a good thing that the driver was going pretty fast.

I sustained a collapsed lung, and many broken bones. I had a fracture to my c5 vertebrae – had this been one inch over to the right, I would have been killed or rendered a paraplegic. I suffered loss of vision in my left eye. Most seriously though, I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. A hemorrhage required that a flap of skull bone be removed to permit my brain to swell, then heal.

I spent a week in an induced coma in the ICU, and month in the hospital. I wore a helmet to protect my head for two months, until the bone flap was reattached to my skull. I spent much of that time unable to walk much, and requiring pretty much full-time supervision. I needed help with such things as bathing and getting to the bathroom. I was unable to be an active, engaged parent to my girls. I was unable to work for five months.

In contrast, the driver who hit me was able to drive off that very day, and return to life as usual.  He faced a $500 fine. It only would have been about half that, but he was also uninsured. Consider that for a minute. He exercised very poor judgment, nearly costing me my life. But he was able to simply drive away afterwards. In fact, he did not have to show up in court. Just had to drop a check in the mail, and be done with it.

Think about the positive effect that sentencing this driver to community service in a trauma center might have. He would see the consequences of his poor driving judgment up close, connecting people with his own actions. I imagine he’d remember doing something like that longer than writing a check.

Laws need not be punitive, but they do need to encourage people to practice their driving privileges with good judgment and with careful attention to others on the road. They need to understand and to remember that they are operating machines that have the power to take lives, or to profoundly alter them. This is possible with the passage of SB 5838.

Thank you very much for your time.

I also had a bunch of pictures from the hospital and from the early months of recovery enlarged.  My intent was to connect the driver’s poor judgment to the actual impact on people.  I figured that pictures of my family and I while I was in the hospital would do that.  You can view the pictures here if you’re interested.  Fair warning that some of them are disturbing.

So – I drove down to Olympia.  After finding one of the few parking spots, I walked over to find the meeting.  On the way, a guy I’d met a few evenings ago during an event at church shouted out to me.  His name is Ryan, and he’s an experienced bicyclist who has been hit a couple of times.  He was carpooling down with several other people, including a woman who had been invited to testify and tell her story of being run over in a crosswalk in South Seattle some years back. 

Upon arriving at the hearing room, there was a huge crowd.  Apparently the item being discussed immediately before SB 5838 was an assault weapons ban.  Naturally this drew a huge crowd of people – most of them against the legislation being discussed.  This is an important and worthy issue, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it had to be on the agenda for today.  The gun issue takes a bunch of energy, sometimes at the expense of other issues.  And this turned out to be the case today too.

After a sometimes heated discussion concerning the assault weapons ban, approximately 90% of the room emptied.  We listened to several invited witnesses testify on the bill.  A Thurston County judge was one of them, and he expressed concern either criminalizing reckless driving, or laying down such severe penalties.  There was some discussion about the legal aspects of creating an "enhanced" offense instead of calling this a criminal offense.  I have to admit the fine points of enhanced offense vs. criminal offense escaped me. 

The next witness was the woman I’d met earlier, as she arrived in the car with Ryan.  I’m blanking on her name just now.  It was difficult to listen to her story, because she clearly still felt lots of emotional pain about what happened.  Her injuries were severe enough to get her a discharge from the Army, and she had trouble finding work afterwards.  What she said was genuine, and conveyed the human impact that negligent driving can have.

The next witness was a bit random.  Senator Adam Kline, the Judiciary Committee chair has a policy of alternating witnesses for and against a given bill.  Originally, there were no witnesses against, so this guy volunteered.  I’m not sure what had brought him into the hearing in the first place, but the gist of his questions seemed to be about why the penalties for negligent driving should be so severe.  I simply don’t understand what people’s concerns about the size of the potential fine are about.  Given that we’re talking about instances in which bad driving behavior has rendered people unable to work, in some cases given them enormous out of pocket medical expenses, or actually killed someone – why is there such a wellspring of concern about the financial well-being of the offender ?  Seriously – even given my excellent medical insurance, the financial impact on us has been greater than that – and I would consider my situation a best-case scenario as far as that goes.  Suffice to say, I wasn’t sure what the gentleman hoped to accomplish by testifying.

The final witness was an experienced cyclist who rode extensively on rural roads, and had numerous encounters with belligerent drivers.  People had ridden close to him, cursed at him, and threatened him.  Apparently, where he lives, cycling provokes people. 

At this point, Chairman Kline called it done.  Given the scant opposition to the bill, he saw no point in continuing debate.  The minor disappointment to me is that I’d been next on the list to testify, so I was out of luck.  I left a copy of my statement and some pictures with a staff member, asking her to covey them to the committee members.  I’m not sure whether she actually will, or whether these things will have any sort of effect, but it made sense to try.

I left the hearing room, and entered into an active discussion in the hallway with a crowd of other cyclists, apparently disappointed that we’d been cut short.  A staffer trying to be helpful stood and listened to our stories.  I spoke with some of the other folks, and chatted a bit with a couple of reporters from the Seattle Times.

The Times reporter quoted me in the story she wrote about the hearing :

"Think about the positive effect that sentencing this driver to community-service in a trauma center might have," said Paul David, of Kirkland, who was severely injured in 2008. He spent a week in an induced coma after being hit by a truck while riding his bike. "They need to understand and to remember that they are operating machines that have power to take lives, or to profoundly alter them."

This idea actually came from my mother last year, before we were aware of this bill.  It was at Kris’ suggestion that I included this bit in my statement.  Big thanks to both of them for their ideas.

The hope is that the bill will pass.  It’s important to me that the penalties for ducking out of the community service remain high though.  The intent of the law would be to deter bad behavior, and to impart learning along the way.  Let’s not make it as simple as dropping a check in the mail.


note to washington state senator rodney tom : forget the form letters and listen to your fellow bikers

The other day, I posted about a bill being considered by the Washington State Senate, SB 5838 – aka the Vulnerable Roadway Users Act.  In that post, I included a letter I’d sent to State Senator Rodney Tom, who serves our district.  You can read the post and my letter here if you’re interested.  I received this reply yesterday evening :

First of all, I am sorry you were injured. I certainly appreciate you writing in regarding Senate Bill 5838, an act relating to traffic infractions. 
As an avid bicyclist who has done the Seattle to Portland bike ride and whose wife rides every single day, I understand your frustration with the way our current laws are written, which basically provide no protection for bicyclists.  I however believe that there are better ways to address the issue than in the punitive manner in which the current version of Senate Bill 5838 does. 
It’s human nature when one is harmed, especially when one is killed, to seek some kind of recourse to somehow make up for the tragic loss.  The problem with that is no matter what we do the loss will still be there.  America has the highest incarceration rate in the free world, yet our crime rates are not any lower.  Criminalizing accidents is not going to change driver behavior.  People are not going to stop dialing on their cell phones, which is probably the #1 driver distraction. 
I would hate to see a normally law abiding citizen with a family be thrown in jail and/or prison simply because they had a momentary lapse in judgment.  That basically puts every one of us at risk for a prison sentence and I believe that is far beyond the purpose of our criminal justice system.  A substitute for the original bill will soon be introduced that changes the imposed penalty to an enhanced infraction.  This fines the driver, will require the driver to attend a driver safety course, and require completion of community service within one year in order to retain their license and avoid a larger fine.  This more reasonable approach is one I can accept.
I’ve been a strong advocate for trying to get money to not only build bike lanes, but to maintain them.  As a bicyclist there is nothing more frustrating than having a bike lane you cannot ride in because all the sticks and rocks make passage with anything other than a mountain bike impossible.  I’ve also been a strong advocate for the reconstruction of the 520 bridge that will finally add a bike path to the bridge crossing, making easy access to the Burke-Gilman trail a safe alternative to those that want to ride recreationally.
Again, I want to thank you for your involvement and expressing your opinion and hope to address the core issue of bicycle safety in a manner that tries to alleviate accidents in the first place.
think Peace!
Rodney Tom
State Senator

And here is my response to Senator Tom, sent to him a few minutes ago :

Senator Tom,

I read your response to my note with disappointment.  It’s isn’t necessarily that we disagree on the bill being discussed.  In fact, I am supportive of the updated version.  But I would have expected a more direct, well-considered response from a fellow biker and marathoner.  You and your wife face these significant risks on the road yourselves, being avid bikers. Beyond this form letter I received (largely identical to the response my wife and others have received from you), I see no commitment from you to confronting an issue that is important to the community you serve – and also important to you personally.

Your comment below " I understand your frustration with the way our current laws are written, which basically provide no protection for bicyclists" alludes to a valid point.  To provide an illustration for it, consider this. If I had been driving a car instead of a bike, it would have been more straightforward for the City of Redmond to have pursued more serious charges against the driver who hit me.  This is because the rights of bicyclists to drive within their own lanes is apparently not as well-defined as they are for motorists.  While this point is beyond the scope of SB 5838, I’m confident that you’d agree that this is an important thing to address.

What is punitive about holding drivers accountable for a “lapse in judgment” ?  It is interesting to note that criminalizing accidents with stricter DUI laws has coincided with a decline of about 47% in alcohol-related deaths between 1980 and 2008.  Would you argue that DUI laws don’t work as a deterrent ?

This is a side note, but I take some offense at what you says about seeking “some kind of recourse to somehow make up for the tragic loss”.  I am fully aware that tougher laws will not bring my eyesight back, nor will it lessen the impact this accident has had on my family.  Let’s be clear – I would certainly never ask you for any sort of “legislative therapy”.

Thanks very much for your time and consideration.  I look forward to your response, and hopefully some positive change to the laws that will help keep bicyclists like us safer.

Paul David

Another observation is that he might consider ditching the “think Peace” signature when he’s blowing me off.  A simple “Sincerely” would not come across as quite so condescending.

I had expected more thoughtfulness on these issues from a fellow biker and runner.  Someone who spends a fair bit of time on the roads, and who I am certain witnesses quite a few negligent drivers himself. 

I’ve lost a degree of respect for Senator Tom because of this.

supporting the vulnerable roadway users act

Next Tuesday I am heading down to our state capital of Olympia to lend support for SB 5838, also known as the Vulnerable Roadway Users Act.  This bill is apparently stalled with a 4-4 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  I will attend a hearing intended to resolve the impasse. 

I’m not sure what the opposition’s concerns are about this bill.  Is there a fear that we would make people more accountable for negligent driving ?

The point of SB 5838 is to increase the consequences against drivers convicted of Negligent Driving 2, when a driver’s behavior maims or kills.  According to the fact sheet I received from the Cascade Bicycle Club, SB 5838 does the following :

  • Amends Negligent Driving 2, an infraction, which imposes a $250 fine
  • Requires court appearance
  • Requires completion of a traffic safety course
  • Court may impose up to 200 hours of community service related to traffic safety
  • If the traffic safety course and community service are not completed within a year, court can suspend driving privileges and impose fine of up to $5000

I’ve devoted a fair amount of thought to this subject, given what happened to me.  Cascade Bicycling nails it when they say that the point of this act is to "reinforce the need to exercise due care when driving around vulnerable populations".  My own motivations are not punitive, but to establish adequate motivations for drivers to pay careful attention to others when they’re on the road.

I do not wish ill on the driver who hit me, but would like to have some confidence that he learned something from his mistake.  I have sent the following message to my state senator, Rodney Tom :

Subject : From a Bicycle Accident Survivor : Please Support SB 5838

Dear Senator Tom,

As a fellow athlete, I’m confident that this cause resonates with you.  Like you I am a marathoner, and feed my body and soul by staying active.  I am the father of two young girls as well.

On July 1st, 2008 I was riding my bicycle to work.  While enroute, a driver took a sudden, unsafe turn onto a side street.  He cut me off, and ran me over.  I sustained many broken bones, a punctured lung, and lost the vision in one of my eyes.  Most seriously, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The TBI required me to spend a week in a medically-induced coma in the Neuro ICU at Harborview Hospital in Seattle.  A flap of my skull was removed to allow my brain room to swell and to heal properly.  I spent a month in the hospital and faced a difficult recovery, which rendered me unable to work, drive, or to be an active and involved father to my children for a period of months.

In contrast, the driver who hit me was able to drive off that very day, and return to life as usual.  He faced a $500 fine – which included an additional penalty for being uninsured.  Despite the fact that he exercised very poor judgment which nearly cost me my life, he was able to simply drop a check into the mail – he did not even have to show up in court.

I was very fortunate.  Because I had excellent medical care, and benefited from lots of love and support – I have recovered to a large degree.  But I believe our laws do not establish adequate motivations for drivers to pay careful attention to others while they drive vehicles that have the power to easily take lives, or to profoundly alter them.

I urge you to support  Senate Bill 5838, which would hold careless drivers who maim or kill vulnerable roadway users responsible for their actions.  It would require a court hearing and reasonable penalties like driver retraining and community service. 

I do not want to criminalize accidents.  But I believe  that our law enforcement officials should have any tools we can give them available to make our roads safer.  For injured victims and their loved ones, this is the least we can do.

Thank you for your consideration,

Paul David


I might have considered paying the $500 fine for the driver that hit me, if doing so would have meant he would have spent time working in a trauma unit, and witnessing a portion of what he caused with his poor judgment.  I’m pretty sure spending time with TBI patients might have made a deeper impression on him than simply dropping a check into the mail.  A clear demonstration of what careless driving does to human beings is likely to make a more lasting impression than denting the wallet would.

I am including the message sent from the Cascade Bicycle Club below.  The story told in it bears relevance to me, because it very well could have been my story told in the letter.  Washington State residents can also click here to send a message of support to their state senator.

Thanks very much for your support of this bill.  It means a lot to me, and to my family.



On February 4, 2009, Kevin Black was bicycling to work at the University of Washington when a driver attempted an illegal U-turn in front of him.  Kevin tried to maneuver around the large delivery van but was trapped underneath it and killed.  The police cited the driver with a mere traffic ticket, nothing more.  

The same morning, we introduced a bill in the State Senate to address cases where sober drivers still make deadly decisions.  Sadly, the bill stalled in committee, but we are back a year later and need your help to pass the Vulnerable User Bill, Senate Bill 5838 and make it law.

How do we get drivers to use more care on the road? How do we find justice for Kevin and Michele Black and their two daughters, and thousands of other families in Washington?  There are three things you can do to make a difference:

1. Please use our online form to send a message and encourage your senator to support the Vulnerable User Bill.

2. Forward this message to your friends and loved ones.  Ask them to join in our efforts for justice.

3. Come to Olympia.  Next Tuesday morning, January 26, the bill will have a second hearing to break a 4-4 split in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  We need your help to move the bill forward.  Please email us if you can come to Olympia and make our voices heard together.

You can join Michele Black and others in signing on the record in favor of the bill, which fills the gap between a simple traffic ticket and more serious offenses.  It requires a court appearance and possible community service or license suspension for drivers who kill or gravely injure pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable users of the road.  You can read more about the bill here.

We need your support to pass the Vulnerable User Bill – please email your senator today.

Thank you for all you do to make a safer community. 


David Hiller
Advocacy Director
Cascade Bicycle Club

biking to heal

Recently I’ve had to take a break from running, owing to some nasty foot pain.  After spending a number of mornings working out on the elliptical trainer, I decided that I really needed to get outside again.  So, last weekend found me riding my mountain bike a bit.  The theory was good.  I figured I’d ride the trails over to the gym, and get a swim in (first one in a couple of months).

I’ve ridden on the road some since the accident.  I figured I would confront my fears by riding in traffic.  But riding a mountain bike is different.  It stresses form and technique.  On the trail, you have to relax your body, shift your weight around in order to keep traction (particularly going uphill on mud or rocks).  You also have to focus your vision on the terrain in order to really see the variations below you before you run into something.

I’d been able to ride passably, and had enough strength and form to make it up some hills of about intermediate difficulty.

So I was surprised at some of the difficulties I felt out there on the bike last weekend.  I was so tense, I wasn’t able to flow with the bike and the ground below it.  Part of the problem was simple apprehension about crashing and falling.  And part of the problem was my monocular vision.  I wasn’t able to process the visual input as quickly as I had before.  I suspect that the slight differences in depth were too much for my single working eye to recognize quickly enough to respond.  Employing the slight head shaking to force triangulation didn’t work quickly enough.  I found myself having to stop and walk up hills that I would have made it up before last July.  It was really frustrating to feel like that.  It wasn’t a matter of strength – it was all a matter of technique.  And I felt afraid of crashing and falling.  It felt very humbling.

There was a hill I’d climbed before several times.  It wasn’t terribly technical, but there were wood ‘steps’ driven into the ground, to prevent water runoff from eroding the trail.  They’re not high at all, perhaps about three or four inches.  But making it over them requires a bit more balance and agility than usual.  The hill is short, but gets a little steep in spots.  And it was pretty muddy out there too, so it was a little more difficult than usual.  I probably tried going up this hill about seven or eight times before getting really frustrated. 

So I decided to use the ride more as a primer for technique than a workout.  Re-learning some things is painful.  It takes patience that I don’t always have, and really hits your soul where things hurt the most – right where you’re vulnerable and afraid.

I’m going to try and spend more time on the trails in the coming months.  Working through some of these issues won’t be easy, but many worthwhile things aren’t.

thinking back on 2009

For the past several years, I’ve logged my swimming, biking, and running.  Each day I work out, I record how long, how far, what I did, and how I felt.  The idea is that I can learn from doing this.  If I’m tired, it’s easy to check back and see whether I may have overdone things.  I record the rough distance covered and some route info, along with who I ran with.  And I record the total time and rough distance covered, each time out, each month, and for the year.  I post a link to it on my running page – you can check out the calendar and log here if you’re interested.  There’s a totals/averages tab, and tabs for each month as well.

So – there are some stats to consider for the year.  I swam more and biked less.  I ran 10 marathons, and covered over 1900 miles, averaging over 37 miles per week.  I covered at least 30 miles each week, save one.  I usually ran 5-6 days per week.  Contrasting this with progress for the first half of 2008 (prior to my bike accident), that’s quite a bit more.  I probably set a new mark for my best marathon.  Statistically it was a good year.

As with real life, there were definitely some challenges too.  There were times I wasn’t sure I could finish what I had started.  The run I did in the Cascades at the beginning of August was easily the most challenging run I’d ever done.  It also turned out to be my longest.  Keeping with my marathon a month goal was a challenge for the whole family.  It’s asking a lot from everyone to allow me to take off essentially for half a weekend each month.  This is particularly true when the girls had things going on, or when Kris wanted to also get some quality training in.  It’s hard to balance things between two endurance athlete parents.  With their love, support, and understanding so much was possible.

I’m not really settled on a set of goals for 2010 quite yet.  I’m not sure whether I’ll continue the marathon a month thing.  In fact, I’m considering not wearing a watch when I run for a while – to get my mind off of counting the minutes.  I’d like to start clicking off some states again, but am not motivated to plan things much in advance.  There’s something about not thinking too far ahead that’s liberating.

There are lots of good memories I will savor. 


I will remember that feeling I had crossing the finish line at the Nookachamps Half Marathon last January forever.  I couldn’t believe I’d done it, just over six months from nearly losing my life.  I remember running into an old school friend while doing an 18 miler in February.  We spent a very nice 6-7 miles talking and enjoying the time.  I remember getting lost on a couple of runs too – Rod, Sue, and I had to scrabble up a long rocky hill when we got lost on our 20 miler back at the beginning of March.  A couple of weeks later, I got lost and ended up running longer than a marathon, including having to wade through water up to my calves.  It felt good to be able to run up mountains again too.  I went up Tiger and Si, and did some great training runs near Snoqualmie Pass over the summer.  Just like before, I’d start out not really knowing whether I’d be able to make it – but somehow I usually did just fine.  Joining group runs again was great.  We’d usually gather for breakfast afterwards – I remember demonstrating some bad yoga in a bagel shop on Mercer Island back in March.

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Running that first marathon in the Canyon was extraordinary.  The last 10k was really tough, but I’d decided the only way I wouldn’t finish was if they needed to carry me off the course – so I just kept moving. 

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It was very special to me that my parents went to Selah to watch me cross the finish line too.  Love is driving three hours to share in 30 seconds of glory.  My father joined me for the first six I did, often taking pictures of me and of other runners.  He got to meet some of the fine folks in the running community, making friends with a number of them – particularly at the smaller events such as Call of the Wild or Light at the End of the Tunnel.  Some of the highlights included finding that I could run as strong as before the accident, when I ran my fastest marathon in two and a half years in Tacoma, and learning to "trust the mud" while running a half marathon on Squak Mountain


Another new experience I had was pacing my friend Matt to his first marathon finish at the Green River Marathon in June.  Matt was great company and very inspiring.  He’d had an ambitious training ramp, with his longest previous run being around 18 miles.  Later in the race, he was tired and hurting a bit – but he never complained.  He just kept moving.

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I had a tough marathon on the fourth at the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon down near Portland.  Nice crowd of folks, pretty course – just ran out of energy.  Running my third marathon in less than a month may have had something to do with this.  As long as you just keep moving though, you’ll be okay.

I completed my first two ultra runs in 2009.  The first turned out to be an accidental 50k, owing to a miscalculated course length as well as a wrong turn I took.  I got about halfway through and gave myself permission to quit.  It was very hot (about 90), and I was tired and feeling a bit dizzy.  Of course, when I decided I might quit, there was no easy way to actually do that.  I was in the Cascade Mountains, miles from any road, and without a way to call for someone to come pick me up (the run was mostly unsupported).  After thinking about this for a few minutes, I realized that the easiest thing to do would be to walk a bit, drink lots of fluids, and to keep moving.  The next month I completed my first official 50k, the Roots Rock Run in Port Gamble over in northern Kitsap County.  It was a nice, small event – put on by a great group of folks at Poulsbo Running.  During the run we braved swarms of wasps and some very heavy rain.  At one point I couldn’t see more than about twenty feet in front of me, it was raining so hard.  And I just kept moving – it kept me from getting stung by those wasps.

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I set a new PR (personal record) for the marathon in October.  Or at least I’m pretty sure I did.  It turns out the course was a bit short, so I went out and rounded the distance out, so I could get a sense of how long it would take to really run 26.2 miles.  Another unexpected highlight in October was getting to meet legendary marathoner Bill Rodgers for the Pace Run 10k, courtesy of my friends at Everyday Athlete.  It turns out that Bill’s been fighting prostate cancer, and had just completed a round of radiation treatment weeks before this event.  Still – he ran, and inspiring me to do this as well.  I guess you feel better if you just keep moving.

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We had lots of family stuff going on in November, but I did number ten marathon for the year in Seattle on Thanksgiving weekend.  Kris was there to see me finish.  It was a great boost, having her cheer me on as I ran for the finish.  The first 18 miles went well, but after that it was a struggle.  There are days like that.  You might have to slow down and take things a bit easy – but you just keep moving.

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I marked my birthday on Christmas Eve by running up Mount Si with some good friends.  What a beautiful day that was – great company, and a great view.  I felt so fortunate to be able to do celebrate this way again.  It was amazing to experience and share all of this with friends and family.  For me, running isn’t so much about each specific day.  Much more, it’s about the body of experiences and stories I gather along the way.  It can be an incredibly social or intensely introspective experience.  It’s not about the time it takes – but rather how you spend the time.  Things aren’t always easy.  You just leave your heart and mind wide open, and keep moving.

2009 was a good year for both body and soul.  At the beginning of the year, I was just happy to be able to run again.  I was in pretty good shape when I started, owing to some good training time in the pool, in the gym, or just walking a bunch.  Still – there’s no way I would have imagined being able to do things I’d not done before.  I guess the lesson for me is that lots of things are possible if you believe they might be.

first call of 2010 report

I joined 40 some-odd friends and fellow runners to do the First Call To Run Marathon on New Year’s Day of 2010.  Lots of great energy, good company, and conversation.  I’ve had better running days, and am a bit annoyed at myself for missing a chance at a December marathon – but all in all, this was a great way to kick off the new year.

My original plan was to try and do the Last Chance Marathon, up in Bellingham on New Years Eve.  By the time I went to register, it was full.  I thought about just going up and trying to wedge into the field on the morning of the race, but didn’t want to take a chance on burning 90 minutes worth of gas on the trip up, just to be disappointed.  I also wanted to respect the limitation on the size of the field, as this seems to pertain to the permitting and liability questions.  I definitely don’t want to put the race director in a bad spot, so it was time for Plan B.

As luck would have it, there was another free marathon on New Years Day.  Organized by the same person who did Call of the Wild back in May, the race left from Bothell Landing on a double out and back course.  Problem solved.  Adrian Call, the race director was kind enough to let me register the day before too.

I turned in early on New Years Eve, the first time in my memory that I was not awake to ring in the new year.  I woke up early New Years morning, and ate a bit of breakfast before heading out to run.  The start was only about 15 minutes from home, traffic non-existent, and parking plentiful.  Still – I managed to cut things a bit closer than planned, arriving just 15 minutes before the start.  This gave me time to pin the race number on, stuff the gel packs into my pockets, and line up.

It was a balmy 50 degrees when we started, quite a bit warmer than I’d thought it might be.  We wound south on the Sammamish River Trail, first crossing the bridge from the park.  The field was larger, and faster than the last time I’d done this – so I did not occupy the front spot for even a second.

I joined my friends May and Eric for the first stretch.  Both great company, but also usually faster than me.  As much as I enjoyed running with them, a glance at my heart rate monitor told me that I really needed to back off a bit, so I did.  My first mile was a modest 8:45, but sped up a bit from there.  I clicked off the miles all solidly sub-8:30 for a while, knowing that I’d feel it later.  But with my heart rate nice and low, I figured I wasn’t doing myself too my harm.  Hm.

By this time, May and I had settled into a good conversation about how things were going with life, work, etc.  Heading south meant that we had to deal with an annoying headwind, but it didn’t seem too bad.  At a certain point I looked at my watch and saw that it felt we’d gone about 7.5 miles.  Given that we were supposed to do a double out and back, with four equal stretched of 6.55, this meant we’d probably gone too far.  Now, the watch calculates distance according to a pedometer-type device in a foot pod, so I’m never fully confident that it’s accurate.  Being a mile off was a good indicator that we were farther than we wanted to be though.

It turns out that someone had made off with the cones that marked the turnaround for us.  As annoying as that was for us, it was more impactful on the half marathon runners, who were to do a single out and back.  Haven’t seen the race results yet, but I suspect they’ll reflect that some of the runners went out too far.  Hopefully – not too disruptive.  I’d bet it caused some stress though.

May and I decided to turn around after we’d run about 8 miles.  I mulled fashioning a 50k out of this, but decided to keep it to a marathon.  This turned out to be a very good choice.

We were joined by our friend Steve for a good bit of the run back to the start.  He’s one state shy of completing marathons in all 50 states, with plans to hit Maryland in early spring.  He and I first met when we were both in New Orleans back in 2006 to do the Mardi Gras Marathon.  He and I both enjoy seeing the sites around a race we travel to.  He shared stories about visiting some civil rights sites in Alabama while running down there, and we talked a bit about how different places feel like home. 

The funny thing was, Steve wasn’t actually running the race.  He was out on a training run, and was kind enough to join Eric, May, and I for a stretch – which was great. 

With 16 miles under our belts, I felt good about how the race was going, but was also conscious of more fatigue than I want to feel then.  It seemed the last ten miles were going to be a bit longer than desired.  And they were.  My average heart rate climbed towards 160 as we progressed.  By the time we hit 20 miles, I was a bit nervous about how I was feeling.  I didn’t have a good fix on what my mile splits were like, but definitely felt tired.  I wanted to finish under four hours, but it wasn’t a hard goal.  This was really intended to be more of a training run anyway.

The trouble was, I was within spitting distance of finishing under four hours.  If it had just slipped out of reach, I could have relaxed and slowed down.  Having it within reach made it difficult to slow down, because it would have felt a bit like giving up on the goal.  I wanted to push for it, and only give up if I needed to.  Still – this may have been the first time I worried about treating the folks at the finish to the sight of a nauseous me crossing the finish line, doing what famed marathoner Bob Kempainen did (six times) during the 1995 Olympic Marathon trials.

I checked my splits as I got to within three, then two miles, and felt I couldn’t give up just yet- even if my legs felt my they had lead weights on them.  As I approached the finish, I refused to look at my watch, instead focusing on keep my pace as fast as I could.  And it felt hard.

The folks at the finish called out my time as I crossed – 3:59:56.  I’d never cut it this close, but it felt good to squeeze in just under four.

So – it was a hard day running, but we’re going to have those once in a while.  The important thing is that I’ve rung in the new year with another 26.2, and got to enjoy the time running with friends.

charts and graphs for running geeks

This time, the charts don’t really tell the whole story.  Sure – they show us when my wheels fell off, circa mile 20.  But they don’t show a trend that way, other than a slight and steady climb in my heart rate from the 140s towards 160 (and higher after that).  My mile splits were uneven at best, but not terribly fast after about mile six.  The upward trend in splits is clear, but I don’t remember feeling lousy for the longer ones. 


The heart rate chart shows the trend more distinctly.  Still – not sure what to make of it, other than to think that my body’s been fighting a bug off for a while, and that I’m a bit depleted.