Monthly Archives: July 2010

ain’t no tunnel, but there’s plenty of light


On July 25th, I joined a band of friends and like-minded maniacs to run the 2010 edition of the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon.  This is a small race, with a total of about 100 participants, doing the full and half marathon distances.  For the past two years, it’s been an out-and-back affair from Iron Horse State Park, near Rattlesnake Lake in North Bend.  Thirteen point one miles uphill, followed by thirteen point one miles of downhill.  It’s a railroad grade, so the hill is gentle.  The challenge is to go out easily enough so that you don’t bonk too badly when trying to tear downhill during the second half.

Several years back, race director Brian Pendleton was looking for a certified course affording a good chance of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  The original course started at Snoqualmie Pass, going downhill on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, to North Bend.  The event’s name comes from a railroad tunnel you get to run through for 2 1.2 miles.  I rode this tunnel several years back on a mountain bike while doing the Mountains to Sound Relay.  The feeling you get riding fast through the dark, with a bunch of other bikes you can’t see, was interesting.  While slower, running this route sounded interesting to me.  I registered for the 2008 race.  Owing to unforeseen circumstances, I couldn’t do the race that year, so I missed the race director’s victorious BQ run.

The following winter, the tunnel was found to have some structural issues, forcing Brian to come up with the alternate out/back, uphill/downhill course.  While not as fast a course, it’s definitely scenic.  And if you run here in the northwest, you can’t be afraid of a hill or two.

I ran this race last year, and had a good day.  While I felt I wasn’t in the same race condition I was last year, I went out again, looking forward to the nice course, and great vibe.  The trick was that my father and I had tickets to see the Seattle Mariners take on the Boston Red Sox that afternoon.  This meant I’d need to run fast enough to catch the 1:09 bus from I-90 into Seattle, in order to get there by the third inning. 

So when we lined up to start that morning, I had to remind myself to take things easy going out.  Easier said than done.  Brian counted us down, and we were off.  Last year, I’d done most of the uphill miles a tad over a 9 minute pace.  This time around, I was unwittingly more ambitious.  I felt okay for the first three miles, but my stomach started to bother me a bit.  Just after mile 5, I took my first ever marathon potty break.  It cost me timewise, but was better than the alternative.  I exited the ;office’just over two minutes in debt relative to my rough four hour goal.  I figured I’d be able to make this up on the downhill, so wasn’t too worried.

I continued up the hill, mostly enjoying myself.  The deay was warm, heading into the sevenries by midmorning.  Another reason to take things a bit slow.  As I climbed, I enjoyed the trestle bridges we got to cross, and the great views of the creeks far below.  By the time I hit the turnaround, I was juuust about on a hour hour pace.  By this time I was also feeling the effects of running 13.1 uphill.  I hoped it was just as simple as closing my eyes and rolling down along the trail.  Not quite, but I was just about able to fool myself into believing it.

The second half of this event was interesting.  In the abstract, you’d think once you’d run the uphill part, all you really have to do is cruise.  In reality, your body didn’t forget about what you’d just done, and is telling you it might could use a bit of rest.  But when you’re on pace to meet a time goal, you can’t really let up.  So I pressed on.  And by mile eighteen I was really feeling it.  By then it was really about keeping my head in the race, and telling myself I could do this.  So many times like this, all we really have is our own self telling us whether we can do it or not.  Physical training is a mechanical process.  Mental/emotional training is far more interesting than that. 

So when I tried to coax a bit more speed for miles 25 and 26, I had to believe I could do this.  What’s funny is that by then I wasn’t thinking about a four hour goal anymore – I’d rolled back to 3:55.  Amazing what we can do if we keep our heads and hearts in the race, isn’t it?  I crossed the finish in 3:54:31.  This is about three minute slower than last year, but I’ll take it.

dsc47661 dsc47511

The immediate aftermath was not fun.  I was so wrecked I needed to sit for a few minutes and drink a bunch of juice and sport drink.  Kris had done the half as part of a longer training run, and encouraged me to take advantage of nearby Rattlesnake Lake to cool down a bit.  I was uncertain I’d be able to walk the quarter mile or so to do this, and (rather pathetically) asked her to drive down and meet me as close to the shore as possible.

Once I’d cooled down a bit and got into the car, I started feeling better.  I caught the bus, picked up a nice bowl of noodles, and enjoyed an afternoon of baseball with my dad.  When I think about this race, I reflect on how much I was able to draw from myself by simply believing I could keep turning my legs over during those hard miles.  No speed records, but some great lessons learned, and a nice day overall.

8/3/2010 : updated to include pictures taken by race director Brian Pendleton – thank you Brian!

Graphs for Running Geeks

Looking at the splits tells the story.  A bit too fast in the early miles, a costly stop, but a good overall trend later.  Overall a negative split.  I wonder whether I might have finished faster by taking it a little easier in the beginning.



just one more picture

We had a nice visit with family in the midwest the last week of June.  The trip was the usual mix of chaos and fun.  When Kris and I were growing up, our families took long car rides, and got to spend hours trapped in a car with our parents and siblings.  Now we pop for four airline tickets, brave security and occasional delays, and rent a car.  There’s nothing quite like being trapped in an airline seat with one or more kids who don’t want to sit still, but at least it’s over in three hours, instead of eighteen or more.


As we have for the past three years, we celebrated KK’s birthday while there.  This time around, she celebrated her thirteenth.  Amazing to think that I’m now the parent of a teenager.  My parents are polite about it, but I know they’re laughing at the prospect of me getting back some of what I gave them when I was growing up. 


We enjoyed visiting with friends and family.  One of the quieter things that I carry with me from the trip is the reminder I got from each of my daughters to enjoy each moment, and take in the things around us.  R joined her cousin at Girl Scout camp in Wisconsin, including an overnight campout.  When we went to pick her up the next day, it was clear that she was very much in her element – enjoying friends and the outdoors.  It was clear too, when each girl went out in the canoe with me.  Our focus was on paddling over to a nearby island in the lake. 

20100625-IMG_2642 20100625-IMG_2676

With R, the sun was out, but the lake was uncharacteristically quiet.  We paddled through some tall reeds, and spotted some loons along the way.  We talked about maybe camping out on the island sometime, bugs and weather permitting.  With KK, we went out just at sunset, with a small breeze blowing.  As we paddled out, she spotted an eagle overhead.  On the way back, we paddled straight into a beautiful sunset.


On the trip, we got to visit Kris’ aunt, who celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year.  As always over the years, she was delightful.  Inevitably, we wondered how many more of these visits we’d have with her.  And then just a few days after we returned to Seattle, we got word that she’d passed away.  We were sad, but felt fortunate to have gotten one more visit in with her.  I took some pictures while we were there, and wondered whether I might have taken the last picture of her. 

Five years ago on June 30th, I lost a friend and colleague in a bike accident.  At his memorial service, his family shared a final picture of Peter on his bike, taken shortly before it happened.  He was focused on the road ahead, no doubt intent on finishing strong.  That was how Peter was.  We miss him, but still carry this image of him in our hearts.

Two years ago today, I awoke in the ICU and learned that I was a very fortunate survivor of a bike accident.  I will always treasure the moments I shared with my family and good friends that day – even though they’re a bit hazy.  I remember simple things – seeing people smile, asking Kris for a kiss, hearing a joke from the kids.  I began to understand what had happened to me, and some of the incredible gestures of love and support that inspired my recovery. 


I’ve always treasured a picture taken of our family just a few days before my accident, while we were visiting my in-laws at their lake home in Wisconsin.  I’ve looked at my face and wondered how how I might have felt, had I known what was ahead for us.  That’s an impossible question to answer, but it does remind us to enjoy each picture – and each moment – as much as we can.

two years and thankful

Two years ago this morning, my life changed forever.  I was riding my bicycle to work and was hit by a person driving a pickup truck.  If you’re interested and have not yet read about it, you can read more about it here.

Last year, this anniversary marked a year of incredible recovery.  This year, it is a quiet reminder of how fortunate I am to be here, with people I love. 

I think about the accident each day.  My body and soul are both a bit different.  Our family is different too.

As I try to do generally, today I focused on the powerful life lessons that came from this, and the great love and support that have helped me recover.  I carry this inspiration with me each day. 

This morning I got on my bike, and traced the same route I rode on July 1, 2008.  After passing the site of the accident, I turned to the south and rode about a mile to station #12 of the Redmond Fire Department.  This was the station that responded to the call for my accident.


I introduced myself to them, and told them that at about the same time of the morning two years before, they’d saved my life.  I thanked them for what they did for me, and for what they do each day.  The lieutenant (at the far left in the picture above) remembered answering this call.  He told me they’d arrived just minutes after I’d been hit.  He was telling me about their time guidelines for response (called “7 7 7”) when a call came in and he had to leave.

The rest of the day was pretty routine.  I worked, went for a run, and spent the evening visiting with my cousins. 

Today was a good day.  Lots to be thankful for.