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. 

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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

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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.

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