Monthly Archives: February 2014

keeping a diamond in your mind : the lord hill 50k



after the first climb up Old Lord Hill – photo by Takao Suzuki.

Always keep a diamond in your mind
Always keep a diamond in your mind
Wherever you may wander, wherever you may roam
Always keep a diamond in your mind

– Tom Waits

Running is a great way to restore perspective when life gets complicated.  Things had been busy and pretty stressful lately.  When you feel like you can only half of what needs to be done, it’s unsatisfying.  I thought some meditative time under the trees would do me some good.  My training had been okay – just adequate.  I felt confident in my preparation for the distance, but didn’t think it would be pretty.

The two other times I’d run at Lord Hill had some twists too.  Once had been a 9 1/2 mile 10k.  The other time, I’d forgotten my trail shoes, which made things interesting.

And this time, I got more time under those trees than I’d bargained for.

The morning of the event was kind of gloomy.  There had been some threat of snow, but instead it had been gray, cold, and wet.  A typical February morning in the northwest.  A cold, wet blanket.  The challenge is not to let it get you down too much.

As I lined up at the start, I thought about a nice dinner out with some old friends from years past a few nights before.  We shared stories about the thirty years since we’d last seen each other.  Harriett and Dave were visiting the northwest from Atlanta.  Each morning found them bounding for the slopes on Mount Baker or Stevens Pass, heading out to take in the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula, or visiting Vancouver. 

Our dinner together helped me shake some of the cobwebs that had gathered in recent weeks.  I knew that the Lord Hill course was a tough one, and that I’d get to slog up the big hill three times.  But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?


looking down from the top of the hill, runners coming up.  photo by takao suzuki

The first time we climbed, it was pretty tough.  And each time around, it got tougher.  Several hundred sets of feet climbing the steep muddy hills, backsliding and nearly falling.  Traversing through the dark woods over logs – not sure whether you may have taken a wrong turn.  It’s too easy to focus on the pain that the miles can inflict on us.

But it’s also important to remember what brought us to the starting line.  Years back, I’d never imagined being able to cover over thirty miles up and down those hills, and through the mud. 

Perspective is one of the blessings we gain over the years.  In this case, it was a gift that two friends gave me by sharing stories from their trip over dinner.

I could write about how each turn felt, or how I didn’t know how I’d finish when I was around mile 13 and struggling.  But the real story for me at Lord Hill Park that day was stepping back and thinking about the opportunity we all have each day, with each challenge we choose.  I saw some good friends on the trails, and enjoyed the crazy challenge we’d all accepted.

The day was wet, cold, and gray.  The forest was beautiful and quiet.  Traversing the technical pieces where the trail was only discernable because of the muddy footprints in front of me was excellent.  And yeah – it may have been my second-slowest 50k ever.  I’ll just learn from it, and remember that I’m blessed to be out there.

charts and graphs for running geeks

Loop over loop, the times got longer.  The mile splits are not very useful, as the elevation varies – there was a total ascent of over 5600’ on this course.  Tougher than the last time I’d done it, which had been the July before last, when it had been dry, and much warmer.


Here’s the elevation plot for the course.  We did three 10 mile loops, capped by the final insult – a steep climb up to the foot of Old Lord Hill, and then a steep run back down to the finish.


Here’s the heart rate plot – there were a couple of interesting spikes there, but the cumulative average remaining pretty steady.