Monthly Archives: March 2010

ramping back up to marathoning

I’ve been at loose ends recently.  Together, it adds up to a bunch of nervous energy.  Usually, this is the sort of thing that will motivate me to get out and run a bit.  Spending some miles outside with friends, or getting some quiet think time to myself, often does the trick.  As I’m coming off of an injury, I’ve had to be more conservative with running – no fast work, not many hills, and not too many miles.

Last year felt very different.  Once I was permitted to start running again around Christmas of 2008, I set my sights on a couple of things.  First I tried to do a marathon per month starting in April (a couple of times I did two of them).  Second, I didn’t think much about speed – just miles.  This worked really well.  After ramping up and building strength, I actually ran faster than I had before.  My average miles per week were higher, and the routine of doing at least one 20+ mile run per month built strength.  The mental effect that had was interesting too.  By doing more ‘races’, I didn’t put pressure on myself.  If I had a bad day, I’d just go out and do another one several weeks later – no big deal.

After running my eleventh in nine months on New Year’s Day, I suffered an effect of the increased volume – several foot injuries.  They effectively stopped me from running for about two months.  So – now I’m ramping up again.  Conservatively, I’d be ready to run a marathon in early June – figuring a steady 3 month ramp, with a 3 week taper.  Steeper ramps might get me out there in early May.  We’ll see.

A minor disappointment is that I’d wanted to complete 12 marathons by the beginning of April – just to say “twelve in twelve”.  I may still try to run/walk one this weekend, but kind of doubt I’ll do this.  We’ll see.

I drew inspiration from some friends and colleagues running races this past weekend.  There were several PRs set, and some age-division awards won.  Most inspiring was seeing some of them going out and running first-time events.  I still remember feeling very nervous, and then going out and surprising myself a bit.  There’s nothing like that.  The best measure of progress isn’t how you do by the clock.  It’s how you do relative to your goals.

In any case, the sun is out, spring is here, and it feels great to be out there again. 


state senator rodney tom : protecting negligent drivers from the punitive will of those they’ve injured or killed

48th district voters of Washington – we deserve much better than Senator Rodney Tom.  If you feel the same way after reading this over, you can let him know by sending Senator Tom email.

Over the past several months, I’ve devoted some energy into seeing some new laws enacted that would help to protect cyclists and pedestrians from negligent drivers.  SB 5838 would have held drivers accountable when their negligence resulting in bodily harm or death to “vulnerable roadway users” such as cyclists and pedestrians.  You can read a bit about the bill here (includes links to material provided by the Cascade Bicycle Club, and to the text of SB 5838 itself).

When the 2010 version of the bill surfaced, I contacted Senator Rodney Tom, who represents my district, and asked for his support.  You can read about that unsatisfying exchange here.  He responded with a form letter.  My wife received a largely identical response, as did others who contacted him for support of the bill.  He expressed concern about enacting punitive laws affecting drivers, but not really any concern about the cyclists and pedestrians the negligent drivers might kill or injure.

I attended a State Senate Judiciary hearing during which the bill was discussed.  You can read about that experience here.  It should have been clear to me then that this bill was not a priority for the senators.  But it squeaked through with a vote of 5-3.  Then – the bill did not make it to the floor in time for a vote.  They call this fate “dying on the calendar”.

A week or so after the bill died on the calendar, I attended a town hall meeting hosted by my 48th district state representatives Ross Hunter and Deborah Eddy, as well as Senator Rodney Tom.  I rode to this event on my bicycle I sat in the front row clad in biking clothes, holding 8×10 pictures of myself in a hospital bed with tubes snaking into my nose and mouth.  I held them so that Reps Hunter and Eddy, and Senator Tom could see them as they spoke.  I spoke to all of them after the meeting, and received assurance from Reps Hunter and Eddy that they supported the bill.  Senator Tom was less clear, but did mention that he had been concerned about how harsh last year’s version was.  You can read about the meeting here.  During the meeting Senator Tom invited us to send him questions, and promised to respond.  Given my experience with Senator Tom, I was skeptical, but gave it a try.

Four days later, I received a rather non-committal response from Senator Tom.  He thanked me for my mail, but never gave indication as to whether or not he himself supported sb5838.  On the other Hand, Reps Hunter and Eddy made their support for the bill very clear, when I’d spoken to them.  So I sent Senator Tom the following message :

You might have indicated support for this when we spoke at the town hall
meeting, but I’m not sure of it.  Is this a bill you support as written
now ?

I received no response.  Nearly two weeks later, I sent this follow-up message to Senator Tom :

Senator Tom,
I still haven’t gotten a response to my question regarding your support of
the Vulnerable Roadway Users Bill.  Frankly, it’s easier to support someone
who I might disagree with than someone who seems unwilling to commit on
issues, or simply doesn’t respond to questions.  This is the second or third
time I’ve had this same experience with you.  I’ll also point out that it is
in direct conflict with the assertion you made in the town hall meeting last
month – when you invited us to ask you questions like this.
I cannot in good conscience vote for someone who is either non-committal or
unresponsive on issues of basic safety.
I do understand that this bill no longer has a hope of passing in this
year’s legislative session, but definitely hope that it will receive more
active consideration next year.
Part of the reason I asked you whether or not you supported SB 5838, was
that when we spoke about this at the town hall meeting, you made a point of
telling me you felt that last year’s version was ‘too harsh’ on negligent
drivers – similar to a previous response I received from you via email.
Given the changes reflected in this year’s version, I need to hear where you
stand on this issue now.
The person who hit me was convicted of ‘inattentive driving’, and for being
uninsured.  Whereas he was able to simply drop a check into the mail, I
spent a month in the hospital, was unable to work, drive, or to be an active
engaged parent to my two daughters for months.  My family and I are still
healing from the poor judgment this driver demonstrated.  As you and your
wife are avid cyclist yourselves, I would expect that this is an issue
you’ve given lots of careful thought to.
My goal here is not to advocate for a punitive law.  It is merely to raise
awareness and accountability for those exercising the privilege of driving.
The bill in question went a ways towards that goal with the components of
education and community service for those convicted of exercising poor
judgment on the road when it results in bodily harm or death.
thanks for your time and consideration,

I received the following response less than an hour later :

Thank you for the follow up. I’m sorry I was not able to get back to you until now. I receive hundreds of email, letters, and hotlines daily.
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. Unfortunately the bill did not have a chance to be heard on the Senate floor before a crucial cut-off last month.  This essentially prevents the bill from progressing further this session.
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!

Problem is, other than the part where he tells me how busy he is, this is line-for-line identical to the form letters both my wife and I received concerning last year’s version of the bill.  He expresses concern about holding a negligent driver accountable, tells us that he likes to build bike lanes, but declines support for sb 5838.  Also – he only does so when asked repeatedly – apparently lacking the political courage to make his position clear.

The punchline to this whole thing is that yesterday the Washington State Senate voted to allow golf carts to travel the roads.

This is SSB 6207 – read it here.  According to the roll call, Senator Tom got behind this one.  Clearly their priorities are in order.  I wish I was kidding, but I am not.

If you are a voter living in the 48th district – you (and I) can certainly do better.

2010 chilly hilly ride report

On Sunday, February 28th, I joined thousands of other cyclists in riding around beautiful Bainbridge Island, to mark the 2010 opening of bicycling season, as marked by a nice event put on by the fine folks of the Cascade Bicycle Club.

Chilly Hilly was a great reason to get out and enjoy a morning going up and down hills.  I didn’t feel particularly well-trained.  Since the new year, I’d been dealing with a foot injury, which prevented me from running.  So I’d been biking more than usual for me (which is usually not very much).  My longer rides had topped out at about 30 miles – although more often about 20.  So this would be a nice challenge.  I would be able to see whether I would go out more easily, showing better judgment riding than I do running sometimes.

20100228-IMG_2053 chilly-hilly-ferry-dock-pano

I woke up early on the morning of the ride, ate a light breakfast, and headed over to the ferry dock in Seattle.  I took my time registering, and getting my bike ready, and then wandered over to the ferry about twenty minutes before scheduled departure.  The sight of several thousand cyclists lined up in the lanes ordinarily reserved for cars was amazing.  And it was a beautiful day to ride too!  No rain, a few peeks of sun, and the temperature was supposed to get close to sixty – rare for this time of the year in Seattle.

 20100228-IMG_2066 20100228-IMG_2069

As this is a ride, not a race, the start was staggered.  People coming over from Seattle would ‘start’ as they rode off of the ferry.  As we approached the dock on Bainbridge, people jostled for position coming off of the ferry, crowding up so we’d be able to ride off ahead of the crowd.  And so we did.

The first couple of miles were people sorting themselves into rough pace groups – lots of passing.  I’d felt some concern about how I’d deal with this, given my narrower field of vision, but it really wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t take it as easily as I’d planned to (and would pay for this later), but also didn’t feel pressured or freaked by the concentration of riders.  As we headed up the east side of the island, I felt strong, and challenged my pace a bit.  There was a lot of up and down on the course – and I tried to focus on keeping a nice, steady effort.

Shortly before the halfway point, my front derailleur stopped functioning.  I couldn’t see anything wrong near the chain, and it didn’t look like the cable had broken.  I was stuck on the small chain ring, which was great for uphills, but meant I couldn’t pick up speed going downhill.  Definitely better than getting stuck on the big ring though.  I pressed on, figuring I could finish this way if need be – just not as fast as I’d like.

Just past the halfway point, I came upon a rest area where there was a guy from REI tending to bike repairs.  He gave mine about a two minute look and indicated that there was an issue with the front shifter, but that I could probably coax it to work by squeezing the brake while shifting.  I took off and tried it, and found that he was right.  So I had a full range of gears again.

Unfortunately, my legs no longer had a full range of gears.  I’d indeed gone out too fast, and was feeling it.  So I geared back a bit, but kept going.  Winding around the the hilly sections around Baker Hill, and Point White, I felt ready to be done.  There was still about 15k to go though.  by now I was holding a steady (but slower pace), with the chain at the midpoint of the rear cogset, and cruising on the middle chain ring,  Not enough to keep pushing the pace, it was just time to focus on finishing.

Just over two hours into the ride, we reentered the town of Winslow – which was good, because that’s where the ferry was.  I noticed a sign that said “FINISH”, but thought it pointed me straight along the road, so I kept going.  About a mile later, we headed back out of town though.  So I rode up next to two guys and asked “hey – where’s the finish ?”.  They chuckled and said “well, you’re close – but don’t worry, you’re probably in the lead”.  They clearly thought I was either complaining or just making dumb conversation, so I kept going.  After another mile or two, I spotted a sign that I knew I’d seen close to the start.  This time I asked someone “silly question for you – where is the finish?”.  He said “have you already gone around the island?  you can turn back and go into town then, or you can do another loop”.  This guy was just starting the loop, so I’d inadvertently done four or five bonus miles!

I treated the trip back into town as a cooldown.  When I slipped into the ferry line with a bunch of other cyclists heading back to Seattle.  I noticed familiar faces nearby, and started talking with Lee Ann and Catrena – two of Kris’ triathlon training friends.  Now that I’d found the finish, I could stand there and enjoy the beautiful day, and some nice company.  The sun was out, and I’d attained my B goal (2:15).  Not bad for the training I’d done.

I felt good about doing the ride, but have reflected a bit about how riding in general makes me feel, in light of my accident about 20 months ago.  As much as I try to focus forward rather than thinking too much about what happened in July of 2008, there are some things that still definitely trigger anxiety for me.  I worry about riding in traffic (not surprising).  I worry about doing faster downhill stretches – possibly losing control.  I worry about having to check my mirror to see the road behind me, as this involves turning my head a bit (the natural inclination when doing this is to also turn your bike out into traffic, which would be bad).  These things all occur several times over the course of even a short ride.  Why would I ride, if it makes me anxious or afraid? 

The truth is, I ride to heal.  And confronting my feelings about being on the bike helps me do that.

What a beautiful day to be out there!


back in the running

I’ve been recovering from some foot injuries since the new year, and spent the better part of January and February not running.  This was an adjustment, given that last year I ran at least thirty miles every week but one.  In a number of ways, it wasn’t fun either.  I don’t enjoy working out on a stationary bike or on an elliptical trainer.  These were my two most common workouts.

An MRI in late January revealed three problems. 

First – I had a stress reaction in my third metatarsal.  This is essentially a precursor to a stress fracture, and was the one that concerned me the most.  If not allowed to heal, I could have been relegated to crutches, and off of running for months.  For this, rest was the recipe.

The second issue was one I knew about already – a Morton’s Neuroma in my second metatarsal.  I’d been dealing with this one since recovering from my bike accident.  It’s a sometimes painful, sometimes uncomfortable growth, usually resulting from compression due to narrow shoes or footstrike.  The treatment can be exercises to extend and strengthen the foot, a dome-shaped insert into your shoe which forces the toes to spread out a bit, cortisone shots, or if none of these other things work – surgery to address the growth on the nerve cluster.  I got a dome, and hoped that would help.

The third thing ticked me off, because it’s essentially something I’ll have to live with.  I have bursitis in my first and second metatarsal joints.  For this, the treatment is to exercise it – to strengthen and increase flexibility.  There’s not really a cure per se, but it can be improved.

Okay – so I spent time in the gym and at home working out on stationary equipment for the first two months of the year.  Not entirely satisfying.  But one of the things I learned during my recovery days in 2008 was that it’s much better to focus on what you can do, verses what you can’t.  In fact, this is a great metaphor for life.  It focuses your energies on the things that you can control or influence, and tells you to accept or deal with the other stuff.  Also worth noting is that this was my first injury since the big one in 2008.  And given all the running I was able to do last year, that’s not bad.

Okay – so I began running again last week.  First time out, I mixed in five minutes of running with a minute of walking, for about thirty minutes total.  My foot hurt a bit, after a couple of running repeats, similar to before I stopped.  I was nervous.  But I went out again the next day and ran another thirty minutes.  This time, I ran in the Kirkland Watershed Park, which has a nice 1.25-1.5 mile loop on nice soft dirt.  Aside from dodging a snarling dog, this went pretty well.  My legs were a bit tired, my feet a little sore, but not bad.  Two days later, I ran about 10k, on the trails nearby my house.  I felt some pain after being out about 40 minutes, but continued focusing on a nice, easy pace, low gait, and driving from my hip flexors.  The idea was to limit the amount of pounding I was doing on my feet, instead remembering the good advice from Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run.  This is to run with the land, not just on it.  Glide with it.

Well – given that I’m out of practice running, and probably 5-10 pounds over where I want to be, I’m not gliding yet.  But I am feeling better about my running.  I’m not sweating the pace, and am trying to stay mostly on soft dirt trails.  I’m trying to put myself back in the mental space I gave myself when I’d begun running again in December of 2008.  I wasn’t able to run fast, or particularly long.  But I was totally focused on running for the sake of joy,  Getting out and soaking up the fresh air and positivity.  This focus and feeling propelled me to doing 11 marathons in just eight months.  Powerful and genuine stuff.

I remember a conversation I had with some folks at work recently.  One of them is a runner, and has completed a couple of marathons – so we share this crazy hobby.  I said that for me what mattered was having something I enjoyed pouring my heart into.  It could have been writing or photography.  For some people it can be quilting.  For my wife, it could be triathlons.  For my daughters it could be acting.  The common thread is having something that takes you outside of yourself, challenges your perceptions of yourself, and helps you grow in so many ways.

For so many reasons, it feels good to be running again.  I’m cautiously optimistic that I can run some distance.  I ran yesterday with friends for the first time in a long time too.  It felt great.,