Monthly Archives: July 2012

lord hill–50k of hills and woods

A couple of years ago, I set out to run a 10k on the trails in a park just northeast of us.  Got off to a great start, and was pretty sure I was in the top 5 overall.  About a mile from the finish, I took a turn back into the woods, and noticed I was running by myself after a few minutes.  Then I spotted three runners up ahead – paused at a fork in the trail.  “Ha – maybe I can finish in the top three!” I thought.  It turned out that those other runners also used to be in the top five.  We’d all taken a wrong turn, and ended up finishing a 9 1/2 mile 10k together, swapping stories and laughing together.


I enjoy that story more than I would have enjoyed a top five finish.  And this was my introduction to Lord Hill Regional Park, just outside Monroe Washington. 



Remembering the twists and turns, and the long climbs, I arrived at the park this past Saturday with no expectations of going particularly fast.  It was supposed to be warm and sunny, and we’d been advised to “hydrate hydrate hydrate” ahead of time.  Nearly 75 of us hit the trail to run the 20 miler and 50k at 8:30 on the morning of 7 July.


The course began with a short stretch of flat trail, and a little creek crossing (nothing like the adventure at Taylor Mountain a few weeks back).  Then we began a steady climb, with a respite of flat trail.  A few minutes later, we rounded a corner, and looked up at Lord Hill.  It was just a few hundred feet up, but much steeper than the first climb had been.  As I climbed the hill, I couldn’t help but think my two remaining visits to this hill.  Hm.


After that hard climb, it wasn’t so bad.  Lots of rollers, but nothing too steep.  And this spelled out the course.  Three times around this 10 mile loop, starting with some hard climbing, followed by rolling hills through some nice shaded woods.  I ran much of this on my own, and felt fine about it.  Nothing but the sound of footfalls and birds.  I settled into a steady pace, and let my mind wander a bunch.  It was nice.

The loop finishes with a steep downhill.  I tried to focus on proper Chi running form – straight column, slight forward lean, soft/short stride.  I tried to lean over my feet, which is challenging if you worry about falling on your face too much.  I admire runners who take the downhill without fear.  I;m not one of those yet.

I took a short break between loops and replenished a bit before starting on my second.  As I approached the creek crossing, a couple of volunteers were cheering us on.  I looked up to wave, and caught a rock with my left foot, and sprawled forward.

It must have looked pretty dramatic, because people seemed concerned that I was hurt.  “Just clumsy” I assured them.  But as I started to run, my left big toe felt pretty unhappy – liked I’d sprained it (if you can sprain a toe).  I wondered how the next 21.1 miles would feel.


I took the hill more slowly this time.  We were spread out by now, so it was pretty quiet out there.  I navigated the second loop without a problem, and came in for another replenishment break before heading up the hills again.

The third trip up Lord Hill was hard.  I stopped looking up at the hill, focusing on the ground directly in front of me.  I crested the hill, and ran past a couple on a day hike with their dog.  I wondered what they thought of the runners chugging up the hill instead of taking things in stride as they were.


By the time I rolled into the aid station halfway around the loop, I was pretty cooked.  And just before I headed out, another guy came in – and I was pretty sure he’d been well ahead of me earlier.  He’d made a wrong turn, and ran four and a half bonus miles!  He seemed just fine, although a bit frustrated about it.

A short while later, I’d wandered down a hill, but because my mind had drifted, I wasn’t sure I was heading the right way myself.  After a few minutes not seeing any ‘confidence streamers (Roger and crew put these up to let you know you’re going the right way), I decided to double back to be sure.

About a minute later, I saw another runner approaching – it was the guy who I’d seen at the aid station.  He assured me that we were going the right way, and we stuck together for the next few miles.  Neal was good company, and he was wearing a cool propeller cap. I asked him what the significance of the cap was. He sort of shrugged and said it was just fun.  Neal and I talked about running and life and enjoyed the rest of the third loop together.  We pounded down the steep hill together, and then set out on the short 1.1 mile loop which would round our distance out to 50k.


Just before starting that final loop, Neal launched into midair to click his heels together.  I’d not seen someone do that after running 30 (actually 34) miles.


We kept a good clip on the flats, but I slowed to a walk when we started to climb again.  Neal dug in and loped up the hill, a braver man than I am.  I ran the flats, walked the hills, and tried to take the big downhill as fearlessly as I could – just a little forward lean, short stride, and use my feet to keep me from falling.  How hard could that be?


Lungs spent, quads spent, I came in for the finish in 6:48:22.  Not a bad way to spend a day in the woods.  I visited with friends for a while at the finish, and soaked up the sun.  As we climbed the hill (again) to get to our cars I smiled about doing my seventh long run of the year, four of them ultras.  Those trips up Lord Hill had earned me a little pride.

pictures by evergreen trail runs and jerry “missing link” gamez

charts and graphs for running geeks

My splits here are interesting academically, but given the terrain, you can’t do much with them.  Yes –  I slowed down significantly over time, but that’s what I was going to do without a stricter race plan.


four years …

Four years ago this week, I nearly lost my life.  I reflect a bit on this every day.   And when the first week in July comes around I think about just how fortunate I’ve been. 

When I was looking for something in our garage last week, I came across the the bicycle helmet I was wearing. It was not designed to withstand a run-in with that red Ford F150 truck. Yet somehow it did.

Here’s the journal entry Kris wrote about that first day :

Written Jul 2, 2008 8:56am

Paul was hit by a car while riding to work yesterday. He sustained severe damage to his head. He had some internal bleeding in the area over his left eye, so they performed an operation to relieve the pressure on his brain. He currently has a piece of his skull removed and the brain has expanded into the opening. They are keeping him sedated and monitoring him to watch for more swelling. They will be putting an IV into a main artery into which they will put a 3% saline solution. This will help draw the fluids away from his head and into the rest of his body where they can be flushed by his kidneys. The next 48-72 hours are a critical time where the primary focus is to reduce the swelling. After that, we will be able to start assessing whether there is any brain damage.

The most helpful thing you can do right now is send all your thoughts and prayers to Paul.



And here’s the journal entry from six days later when woke up (I remember many of the things Kris writes about) :

Written Jul 7, 2008 10:06pm

Wow, what difference a day makes!

In the morning, Paul was able to tell the doctors his name, and respond to commands in a more definitive manner. When the doctor told Paul that Hal was on his left, he turned to look at him. And when the doctors asked if it would be okay to put an intravenous line in, he said no. At one point, he said “Out!”, which is what Kayla used to say when she wanted out of the jogging stroller 😉

When I arrived around noon, he was once again awake and the nurse was asking questions. He was able to say his name, where he was, and the year. He also was able to put up 2 fingers on each hand, wiggle toes, and squeeze the nurses hand.

When the nurse was done, I went to his side and started talking to him. He told me he couldn’t hear me, so I talked louder. At one point, he asked me to kiss him, so I knew he was feeling a lot better!

Throughout the day, he continued to engage in conversation in between periods of rest. He was shocked when I told him he’d been there for 6 days, then asked me what was broken. After I listed all of his broken bones, he said something that can’t be repeated in this forum 😉

At around 3pm, I asked him if he’d like to see the girls, and he gave me an emphatic YES! I immediately called the people who had picked them up from camp, and they brought the kids to the house so that Matt could bring them to the hospital. They arrived around 4:30pm, and I showed them a picture of Paul and talked about what they would see.

The girls were shy at first, but they both talked with him a bit, and they we let him rest. While he rested, the girls filled out a “About My Family and Me” chart that the hospital gave us, and then we went to dinner.

When we came back to say goodbye, Rachel told Paul and old family joke about a duck in a bar. Paul’s face lit up and he gave us a huge lopsided grin!

I remember nothing between the first and seventh of July 2008.  The journal Kris kept has helped me understand more about what those first days were like for me medically, and for my family as well.  She included notes sent by people who stayed with me too.  Some of these entries are inspiring.  Some of these are scary.  And some of them are amusing. 

In the two months following my accident, I was completely dependent on others for care.  I required help standing, eating and everything else.  To say the least, it’s humbling to go from running marathons to requiring help getting to the bathroom.  As humbling as this felt sometimes, having someone with me all the time proved to be a source of hope as well. 

I cannot express how much it meant to see familiar faces and to hear familiar voices. I laugh when I think about some of the conversations that happened while I was drifting in and out of a medicated dream-like state. And I smile when I think about how many of these visits helped me redirect my fears about what might lie ahead and instead focus on enjoying the moments we shared, and on the things I could do. I still read about them sometimes.

In addition to spending time with me, our community brought food to my family, took care of our children, and offered rides when they were needed. 

Later this week I will visit the first responders at Redmond FD Station #12 (I’ve done this several times before).  I’ll also go by the Neuro ICU at Harborview Hospital (have also done this several times before).  I’ve had the good fortune to have met some of the people who treated me that morning.  It’s important to me that these folks know that what they do matters so much. 

These powerful gifts of hope I received four years ago were absolutely essential to my recovery.  And I think about this every day as well.  And for this, I say “thanks for everything”.

The original version of this post included a a reference to my helmet and head passing under the rear wheel of the truck that hit me.  Witnesses to the accident told the police that this is what they saw – it is included in the police report.  It seems more plausible that my head injuries were the result of my collision with the truck or with the ground.  I’ve revised my post to reflect that.