Monthly Archives: May 2010

the story of the 9.5 mile 10k

This morning I ran the Northwest Trail Series 10k run at Lord Hill Regional Park in Snohomish.  It was a beautiful morning, with some sun breaking through and the Olympic Mountains visible for the first time in days.  I was feeling good about being able to get out and run again, after dealing with a very sore IT band these past several weeks.  I felt good, and the weather was nice – the stars seemed to align, making for a good day.


I snapped the picture above on the way into Lord Hill Regional Park, just before the race.  It made me smile at the time, and I had no idea how prescient the sign would prove to be.  I’d never run in this park before, but had heard about it.  The hills were notable, and this was reflected in Eric Bone’s description of the courses :

General course description: Both the 10k and Half Marathon courses start and finish near the Snohomish River at the South end of the park. The routes are fairly hilly, with a mix of steep and moderate grades, as well as some flatter sections. These courses are moderately hilly by trail running standards. The trails traversed by both courses include a mix of wider trails or dirt roads and narrower trails, with the Half Marathon having somewhat more of the smaller trails. Most of the trails are not very twisty, but there are some parts with more twists and turns on the Half Marathon course. ”

By the time I finished, I’d taken issue with the “most of the trail are not very twisty” assertion.  More on that soon.

I arrived a bit early, because I needed to do day of race registration, and also because I’d not been out to the park.  I spent a little while speaking with some friends.  Around 9:30, Eric gave a pre-race briefing, outlining the course marking and some of the turns.  The markings themselves were pretty straightforward, but by the time he’d gone over the turns, I was confused.  I didn’t worry too much, because I was doing the 10k – so these turns didn’t really apply for me.  Hm.  Essentially the course was a simple loop for the 10k, with a short out and back section to the single aid station. 

He counted down and sent us off.  After a short flat run through a field, we hit a series of steep-ish uphills.  By the time we hit the first half-marathon turnoff, I knew I was towards the front of the 10k pack.  I’d counted off five runners in front of me, and set my sights on trying to finish in the top five.  I figured if I kept running my own race I’d be able to do this.  There was a nice long downhill stretch on the way back to the loop from the aid station.  I saw another runner up ahead, and within about five minutes was running right behind him.  This was aided by him stopping to mull an unmarked turn.  We agreed to continue together, figuring that if we’d taken a wrong turn, we’d both have done that.  After a few more minutes, he let me go on ahead.

Figuring I was fifth overall now, my focus was on holding or improving this position.  It’s interesting when this happens.  Unless it feels like something is at stake, I don’t really sweat getting passed.  With a top-five finish being possible, suddenly it felt important.  My race plan had been to take it a bit easy (don’t want to tweak my IT band again),  I’d originally planned to finish the race, and then go out and run another two or so miles to round out the time and distance a bit.  So – it was interesting that at some point I’d missed the turn that would have taken me back for the final 1.5 miles.

I knew there was a problem when I started encountering runners coming the other way.  Based on my understanding of the course, the only place I should have done that was on the short spur near the course midpoint.  The smart thing to do would have been to backtrack a bit, and find the turn I’d missed.  In all honesty though I wasn’t sure what I’d done wrong, so didn’t really know what to look for.  So I pressed on.

About ten minutes later I spotted two runners heading in the same direction as me up ahead.  Initially I was excited about the prospect of being able to hop up into third place in the 10k.  I caught up to them a few minutes later, when they were huddling with a person working the course.  Looking at the map, it was apparent that we’d run some extra miles – part of the half marathon course, followed by a second wrong turn that had taken us backwards along the 10k loop.  We charted a course back, and travelled as a pack for the two or three miles back in.  Everyone was laughing about the misdirection – chalking it up to another day out on the trail, where getting lost is sometimes part of the fun.  None of us will finish close to the top five overall, but the bonus miles were worthwhile.

We navigated the ups and downs, capped by a very steep downhill to the finish.  It was so steep, a half marathon runner came rocketing down the hill, and went down chest first just after crossing the line.  See  – that’s commitment.

The clock tells me that I finished in 1:22:03.  I don’t really know how far I went, but would estimate that I ran an extra 3.5 miles, give or take.  We’ll call it 9.5.  One good thing about that is that I didn’t need to go back out and round out time and distance at all.

Anyway – nice day for a run.  And I did get my money’s worth.

living in the moment, a year at a time, a mile a time

Yesterday marked sixteen years that Kris and I have been married.  In recent years, we’ve tried to keep things low key around these occasions.  In theory, you’re supposed to celebrate together a little every day, right?  While true in theory, everyday life is easy to get caught up in, and it’s all too easy to forget just how fortunate we are.  Life was a bit different when we got married.  And it would have been difficult to imagine how life would be now.  Lots of things have changed – but as crazy as life is with two kids and lots to do, several months ago Kris suggested we observe our anniversary by riding in the Tour de Cure, a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association.  The plan was to do the 44 Mile route.  This seemed within reach – enough to require some training and preparation, but not so much distance to divert too much attention from running.  Sounded like a great idea at the time.

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Along the way, I didn’t get on my bike too much.,  After doing the Chilly Hilly Ride on Bainbridge Island in February, I really didn’t get on the bike much at all.  It always sounded like a good plan, but I just didn’t make time for it.  Something else I noticed while doing Chilly Hilly was that I was feeling more apprehension about biking than before.  Surprisingly it wasn’t about riding in traffic, but rather doing downhills and riding close to other bicyclists.  At one point I’d simply ride my brakes whenever doing a steep downhill.  This bugged me a lot, and my motivation to bike was pretty low as a result.

Like a recalcitrant student, I crammed several rides in the week before the event.  The first was in heavy rain.  This was one of the more difficult rides I remember doing, although the distance wasn’t the issue.  But the following day, I went about 30 miles and the weather was great.  I felt really buoyed by this.

So on the morning of the big ride, I was a bit nervous.  Two days before, I’d done a tough ten mile run in the morning, and had to run up a tough half-mile long hill on the way back in.  I forced myself to look straight down at the ground as I climbed.  This forced me to focus only on how I felt in the moment, and removed the usual visual-based anticipation of the climb ahead.  I’d done this before on tough hills and it worked pretty well.  I thought this would be a good approach to take with the ride as well – focusing on the ‘now’ (but not looking straight down at the ground).  I had no idea what the course would be like, and knew that my mileage base was a bit lacking.  The only thing I could do would be to focus on the moment, and enjoy the ride.

We started the ride a bit late.  Naturally, it was more difficult when the rain came down, as it did for the first few miles and then again for most of the middle miles at the north portion of the course.  There were also some stretches where traffic was an issue.,  When we headed north along Avondale, and then later along Woodinville Duvall Road, the volume made me feel a bit nervous.  The worst part of the course was a late stretch along Union Hill Road which took us along steep, winding downhills with no shoulder.  By going mile to mile, and staying in the moment, the miles mostly breezed by. 

Don’t get me wrong – I set no speed records today.  But it’s really about the process isn’t it?  And today was about covering the miles with the person I share life with.

I will remember the feeling I had heading along the hills on Paradise Valley Road, or heading south along High Bridge Road for a long time.  We’d come up some steeper sections, or negotiated some more difficult traffic, and then things would let up.  The feeling you get when you’ve worked hard on something and get to coast a bit is great.  And it has nothing to do with how far you may have travelled in terms of miles.  It’s more about what it took to get there.

I reflected on today, thinking about why I’d enjoyed it as much as I did.  Kris and I rode together for three hours, but spoke very little.  I remember watching her ride, and appreciating how she’d gotten us out on the course today.  She’s beautiful – inside and outside, and is a great friend and confidante.  We have enjoyed some great adventures together, and today was another one of those.  It felt very nice to focus on the moment – living a mile at a time, or a year at a time. 

recent adventures

This past weekend I’d decided not to run the Tacoma City Marathon, instead choosing to do another long training run to prepare for a marathon later this month.  As expected, I have conflicting feelings.  It made sense in a number of ways.  I didn’t feel ‘ready’, and didn’t think the event would be too much fun.  I was pretty sure I’d be able to finish, but didn’t see much point in trying to prove that to myself.

Instead I ran 25 miles from home, making it out to the Redmond Watershed before heading back. In a practical sense, I might as well have driven down and taken advantage of the course support I’d paid to use in Tacoma.  Didn’t feel motivated, so ended up going solo.  Looks like it was a great day for some good friends running in Tacoma, Eugene, and out in the Methow Valley (at the new Sunflower trail marathon).  There were some PRs, some excellent first time finishes, BQs, and some good times in general.  Always great to enjoy when friends do well.

I had an odd adventure Monday.  While getting out of my car, heading in for a swim, I hit my head on an overhang.  It was over on my left side, where I don’t see.  There was no blood, but I did smack it pretty hard, on the side where my fractures and craniotomy were (following the cycling accident in July of 2008).  I couldn’t decide whether or not to be concerned about it.  Probably owing to the long run on Sunday, and not getting as much sleep as I needed, I was already feeling a bit woozy.  I decided to head in for  the swim, to see how I felt.  After about 1200 yards, with some timed work, I climbed out.  I wasn’t feeling like myself – still a bit woozy, and a little bit nauseas.  Annoyingly, I couldn’t gauge whether I was feeling that way because I’d bonked my head, or whether to attribute it to being rundown from the 25 mile run on Sunday (dehydration can make you feel nauseas).  The thing that really bugged me was not knowing whether it might simply be anxiety – not knowing whether to worry about it or not.

According to the ER doctor, my skull is less structurally sound than before, near the site of the fractures and the craniotomy.  Unfortunate fact.  Got it checked out, and things were fine.,  Definitely interesting to experience things like this – weighing whether I’m thinking or worrying about my past injuries too much, against simply exercising good common sense.

opting out

I have not written here in the past month.  This is the longest I’ve gone in nearly two years.  We’ve had a bunch going on recently.  Work’s been very busy, and there’s been a lot going on at home too.

I’d found that writing was a great method to force perspective on things.  If you write something to share with others, it’s good to expend some modicum of careful thought as to why it might be interesting or pertinent to them.  This has been especially helpful in the ongoing course of recovery from my cycling accident in 2008.  I’m not a huge believer in writing an ‘open diary’, but have found there’s been value to me and sometimes others in talking about the process of physical and emotional recovery – and in sharing some of my running stories as well.  When things became kind of crazy recently, I found myself unsure of what to write about.  So I took a break.

Through some of this, I’ve also struggled a bit with motivation with respect to running.  I’d set a goal to run a spring marathon, and looked at a some training ramps for different races, between May and June.  Lots of options – this is peak marathon season.  The weather is in between hot and cold in much of the country, perfect for a nice run. 

The most aggressive ramp was for tomorrow’s Tacoma City Marathon.  It was to be the 2010 Marathon Maniac Reunion Event, and was also a very good event for me last year.  I ramped my long runs very quickly, having taken much of January and February off, due to a stress reaction in my left foot.  In successive weekends at the beginning of March, I did long runs of 10, 13, 15, 18, 15, then 23 miles.  I knew I’d be able to complete the run, but was unsure of how strong I’d feel, or how much fun I’d have.  And with everything else going on, my energy and ambition waned a bit.  So I backed out.  Instead, I’ll do another long training run tomorrow, and try for another event later in the month.

Mixed feelings to say the least.  I hate the feeling of ‘giving up’.  But when I decided to opt out today, I felt pretty good about it.  I can focus on some things that are more important, and give myself some time to feel stronger.  Coming off of 11 marathons in less than 9 months, this feels different.  In the spirit of living intentionally, it makes lots of sense though.  Focus on the things you feel good about.

Tomorrow’s training run will be interesting.  I imagine I’ll think lots about my friends running this weekend in Tacoma, Eugene, Vancouver, or doing the Sunflower Iron Event