Tag Archives: running

On being a mediocre middle-aged athlete

The other day CFL and I were looking at the calendar and thinking about what else we’d like to accomplish this year before the rainy season begins in earnest. He mentioned a couple of hikes that he still wanted to do. I reminded him that at the beginning of the year we’d agreed to do a metric century (100 kilometers or 62 miles) bike ride in honor of CFL’s 60+ years of age.

We’d picked out a group bike ride that we wanted to do: the Chuckanut Century in Bellingham on September 14. But then I had to go and break my arm, which put a serious crimp in my cycling and running plans for this year. After I was finally cleared to ride again in July, we thought long and hard about that century, but by then we had a date conflict with another event.

It was looking like the metric century just wasn’t going to happen this year. Autumn arrived quite dramatically; high temperatures dropped precipitously exactly at the time of the equinox. We’ve had nearly half an inch of misty rain over the past week. Still, I watched the weather forecast and found a small window of opportunity. On Friday morning I casually suggested to CFL that we go for a bike ride on Saturday. What would you think, I smoothly added, if we were to get up early, take our time, and ride to the end of the Olympic Discovery Trail and back? How about if we throw in an extra three miles somewhere along the way and make it a 62 mile day?

Our longest ride to date had been 43 miles. We were talking about going almost 50% further than that! Yet I was reasonably confident that we could do it, assuming that we’d take our time and take breaks along the way.

It was a perfect day for a bike ride. It was sunny but cool, about 50 degrees, when we started out at 9:00 AM. It never got warmer than about 65. There was no wind — hence no annoying head wind all the way home. The trees were beginning to turn colors in earnest. In many places there were leaves already down on the pavement, which made giant swishy sounds as we rode through them.

At the end of the trail my GPS watch read 29.25 miles. We continued on a quiet road until that road ended at the busy highway at exactly 30 miles. We turned around at that point and stopped soon after to eat our lunch of mixed nuts, dried apricots, and Clif Bars.

On the way back we stopped at a local diner for milkshakes. We figured we’d burned at least a thousand calories by then and the shakes tasted really good.

We picked up the pace in the final few miles because we’d promised ourselves dinner out at our local gastropub. I was smelling and tasting the beer in my mind as I pedaled! I didn’t even mind the extra 2+ miles we rode along the downtown waterfront just to get our total mileage to the right number.

At the end we were tired but we mostly felt elated. We’d done it! 62.3 miles. Our total elapsed time was a leisurely just over eight hours. Actual riding time was 6:11:52 — we’d managed to average ten miles per hour.

After dinner, at our second pub stop to be precise, we ran into some friends. They asked us what we’d done that day. We told them, and they were dumbfounded.

Later I posted a quick status on Facebook: Just finished a 62 mile bike ride. My first metric century!  Friends commented: Wow! Impressive! Congrats! I could never do that!

Wait a minute. What?

Well yes, you could. It’s not like I just got on my bike for the first time and rode it 62 miles. You have to work up to these things.

If I can do it, so can you. I look at photos of myself from six years ago. I was never fat, but I was quite flabby. I carried myself awkwardly. I looked old and world-weary.

Want proof?

Here I am on one of the happiest days of my life: on graduation morning from my PhD program.

I felt old. And I didn’t like that.

When I started running, I wasn’t merely slow. Most of the time I wasn’t even running! It took me months to work up to running a quarter of a mile without stopping to walk. I used to tell myself, Just run to that tree, to that shadow, okay now you can walk — and now run to that rock!

My feet hurt. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. But somehow, my brain liked it and was happy about doing it. So I kept going.

One step at a time.

I like myself much better this way!

I was 53 years old when I started to run. I was really, really slow. I’m still slow, but I’m not as slow as I used to be — and as I complete my sixth year as a runner I now have 3,456 miles of running experience behind me.

I have a daily activity streak (walking, running, cycling, and/or hiking some distance) that now stands at 636 days and 4,538 total miles.

If I keep running, I might have a shot at qualifying for Boston. The older I get, the slower the qualifying standard becomes. There is still a chance that those lines might someday cross for me. 4:40:00 at age 65? Yeah, that sounds doable.

As for cycling? I don’t know where I’m going with that, but I hope I’ll still be able to ride my bike for many years to come. CFL and I have talked about doing a multi-day ride someday. I’d love to tour around Scotland by bike.

I’m a mediocre middle-aged athlete and I feel healthier and more vibrantly alive than I ever have in my life.

I don’t mean to imply that I’m fearless or invincible. I’ve said those “I can’t” things just like you have:

  • I could never hike up that hill.
  • Run a whole mile? No way!
  • Break a 10 minute mile? Impossible!
  • Break a 9 minute mile? In my wildest dreams.
  • I’ll never run a marathon, no way not ever.
  • A bike? I’ll crash!!!!

But what I’ve learned is that a lot of seemingly impossible things become not merely possible but fun if you simply practice and tackle them one step at a time.

Now I’m going to step away from this computer and go for a walk. It’s sunny and brisk outside.

Won’t you join me? We’ll start out slowly. :-)

 

So many wonderful moments, such a grand life!

I usually focus on the upbeat in this blog. With a title like Slow Happy Living, that’s to be expected. But life is lived in moments, and not all moments are happy ones.

My father passed away last week, one week after his 87th birthday. Per his wishes, there will be no service. I would like to write something by way of a eulogy but the task may be too big for me, at least for now. So I’ll just reflect a bit on his life.

His passing was not unexpected. He’d had a stroke several years ago from which he’d largely recovered. A second stroke this February was more debilitating, but he had come home and was adjusting to the use of a walker or wheelchair. He insisted that he surely would drive again soon and that he and my step-mom would take one more vacation together. Yet he worried constantly about the next stroke that he was sure would come.

The third stroke in late March was massive. He could still speak, but he was confused. He could do almost nothing without assistance. There would be no coming home from the nursing home this time. Although doctors said he might live for several more years, he never talked again about his plans for the future.

Last week he suddenly developed complications from that stroke. CFL, my daughter, and I made a quick trip south to see him. He recognized and acknowledged us. The next day he slipped into a sleep that took him away peacefully early the following morning.

My father was a proud yet humble man, a Depression-era stoic with a sometimes-difficult childhood home life. Although he attended school sporadically through the first year of high school, he told me late in his life that he’d really only had a 4th grade education.

Despite his lack of formal education, he became a scientific glassblower, a man so highly skilled in his craft that engineers struggled to design a bulb-blowing machine that could approximate the intricacy and precision of the work he did by hand. Among other accomplishments, he made a glass sensor that went into the lunar astronauts’ backpacks. Those packs were left behind when the astronauts returned to Earth. My dad’s glass sensors are still up there on the Moon.

The Moon is an appropriate home for my dad’s glasswork. He was fascinated by astronomy and used to talk to my brothers and me about the vastness of the universe. He, who had no use for institutional spirituality, made the scientific idea of infinity meaningful for me. When I contemplate the stars I hear his voice.

He had an abundant curiosity and an amazing memory for facts and data, places and times. He did long division in his head. He pored over maps. He kept records of every gallon of gasoline he put into every one of our cars.

My dad loved to travel; we took regular Sunday drives to the mountains and deserts of southern California. We hiked. We camped. We collected interesting rocks. We climbed Mt. San Antonio (Mt. Baldy), the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains at 10,068 feet, when I was about 9 years old. While my friends’ vacations consisted of holiday visits to grandparents, we took epic summer vacations to National Parks. He took movies, which always seemed to start with a shot of his nose as he peered into the camera lens — if they had been sound movies, you would have heard, “Is this thing on?” Why he never figured that out, I have no idea.

He was active well into middle age. He used to get us up early for Sunday morning bike rides before breakfast. There were no bike paths in those days; we’d whizz around on empty boulevards while others were still sleeping. He rode 40 miles on his 40th birthday and vowed he’d continue that tradition through the years. He rode regularly until his early 60s when my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer; then he put the bike away and stayed close by her side. My mom and he took one or two more short vacations before she became too sick to travel. After she died he tried to start riding again, but found it difficult. He was in his mid-60s, and he was no longer comfortable out on his road bike.

When he met my step-mom, he became young and energized again. It was so good to see him smiling! They traveled all over the world together, up until just a few years ago. I am so grateful that she came into his life and made his last 21 years such happy ones.

Every family has its dynamics, and my dad was not perfect. But he taught me to love learning, to see beauty in nature, and to enjoy experiences more than things.

With my dad’s passing, I suddenly find myself on the cusp. My generation is next in line to go. I have reached that moment when I suddenly look around, see myself in a mirror, and finally, fully understand that I am no longer young.

CFL and I vow to stay active for as many years as we can, while knowing that someday we too will decline and fade. What we have now are moments, and we can only strive to make the most of each of them.

Yesterday I went out for a long run along the waterfront trail. As it happened, I was out there just as 250 cyclists from the Cascade Bike Club’s annual Ride Around Washington (RAW) were coming through on their tour. I was proud to share “my” trail with these riders. I thought about how thrilled my dad would have been to ride with them.

Just as long runs did for me after Kurt died, yesterday’s long run invited and created a safe place for cleansing, healing tears.

Dad, I’ll miss you. You were the best!

Now I’m going for a bike ride.

A return to Monterey

Monterey, California was my late husband’s favorite place in the world. We would have moved there years ago if we could have found suitable employment to manage the high cost of housing. Alas, that never happened, so we chose Port Angeles, WA — a decision I never regretted — but his heart always longed for Monterey. Beginning in 1988 (I think?) we went there nearly every August for the Historic Races. We also attended several Porsche Club events in Monterey. The Monterey Porsche Parade in 1990 was always his favorite of the ten Parades we attended together. A few months after he died, I drove solo down to southern California and burst into tears when I saw highway signs pointing toward Monterey. I wrote about that moment here. Three years seems so long ago now, but at the time I didn’t know when I’d ever be able to return to Monterey without feeling that pain.

So I felt a mixture of delight and trepidation when it was announced that the 2014 Porsche Parade would be held in Monterey. I knew that I would go, but I didn’t know how I’d feel about being there.

As it turned out, CFL is now an important part of my life… and Monterey is a special place for him also. He actually lived there for a few years as a very young child while his father was stationed at the Naval Postgraduate School.

The Porsche Club of America is, I believe, the largest single-marque car club in the world, with over 100,000 members in 139 regions across the US and Canada. I’ve been a member since 1986, and yes I have owned a few Porsches over the years. The Parade is an annual national gathering held in a different city each year. During the week-long event, participants can choose from car-related competitive (concours, time/speed/distance rally, gimmick rally, autocross, technical quiz), other competitive (art show, golf tournament, 5K run, radio-controlled car races) and social (driving tours, banquets, receptions, beer tasting, wine tasting) events. It’s a busy week!

This year’s Parade was the largest ever, with more than 1,200 entrants (representing approximately 2,500 people and 1,000+ cars in attendance). As it was my 11th Parade and CFL’s first, I was delighted to “show him the ropes” and introduce him to many old friends from all over the country.

We started the week by working at the Concours. We were assigned to a team of judges who judged a whole bunch of 356s (the Porsche 356 was the original production Porsche, produced through 1965). CFL was a timer (each car is examined for a period of 5 minutes) and I was a runner (I took the score sheets for each car back to the scoring room). Of the dozen or more judging teams, my team had the only runner who actually RAN — I logged over 8 miles that day, one car at a time. :-)

Here is our team in action, as each judge was filling out his/her scoring sheet (as lowly workers, we didn’t get into this photo).

Our debut as competitors was the time/speed/distance (TSD) rally. The object of a TSD rally is to (1) stay on course and (2) arrive at each checkpoint at the right time. My late husband and I had gotten rather good at this over the years; our best finish was a 2nd in class (against 200+ others) in San Diego in 2007.

As rally driver, CFL rose to the challenge and did a great job of sustaining the prescribed average speeds through many speed changes. As navigator, I misinterpreted a few instructions and got us lost twice (argh!). We ended up finishing 19th in our class of 54 — but we passed the most important rally test with flying colors, as we were still speaking to each other at the end!

Here you see our car at a checkpoint where we were getting our timing slip.

A couple of days later we ran the gimmick rally. At this event we were given “you-won’t-get-lost” route instructions and a list of questions about places along the way. The rally route took us through 17 Mile Drive. We spent more time gaping at the scenery than we did looking for answers, so we finished well back in the pack.

A rally highlight for us was stopping to admire a Frank Lloyd Wright house. My late husband had fallen in love with this house years ago, which led to his interest in modern architecture, then led to my interest, then led to my doing to a lot of research on architectural theory that found its way into my dissertation — and finally brought me to meeting an architect (CFL) and answering his question about my architectural preferences with the statement “mid-century modern architecture.” Apparently that was the right answer! Hence this house (which CFL also knows well) was a big deal for us to see together. You just never know where the road of life will take you!

Of course we got the obligatory photo of ourselves at the Lone Cypress.

The rally banquet was held at the beautiful Carmel Mission. I enjoyed photographing the mission in the changing evening light. Check out the shadow that this contrail left on the clouds just before sunset!

At the banquet I won a large, bulky door prize (a car wash bucket with what looks like a lifetime supply of various cleaning supplies and equipment), which meant that we’d have to ship some things home to make room in the car for the beer that we planned to buy on the way home. But I’ll save the beer stories for another post.

On the last morning, we were up very early to run (me) and walk (CFL) the 5K. The route took us out and back along the waterfront. I ran a 29:12 and finished 2nd in my age group.

CFL was much more laid back and finished in something like 46 minutes. We both enjoyed the event.

The last thing before the final banquet was the actual Parade of Porsches. As Monterey is home to the Laguna Seca race track, this year’s parade consisted of two parade laps on the track. I consider my high-speed track days to be far behind me, but CFL had never driven on a racetrack, so I let him drive. With over 500 Porsches on the track (in 4-5 run groups) the speed was restrained, but we still managed to feel some G-forces and the unique thrill of the Corkscrew.

My photos are blurry, but they’ll give you an idea. Staging:

 

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On the track:

CFL was a happy guy afterwards.

The Parade concluded with the final banquet and many fond goodbyes. The next morning we scurried around and shoehorned everything into the car just well enough to make our way to a UPS store.

We’d take another week to make our way home, but I’ve done enough writing for now.

Until next time!

More than the numbers at the finish line

Sometimes a race report becomes a litany of facts and figures, pacing strategies and splits. When I write a race report, I’m usually still caught up in my race day mental state. I actually do math problems in my head as I run, especially in the later miles when I’m trying to figure out when I’ll finish and wondering whether I can push a little harder and achieve a goal… or if I can’t do that, then how little can I miss it by?

The numbers are important to me, I won’t deny that. But a few days after a race, when I’ve had some time to reflect on it and form lasting memories of it, other things come to the fore. Richer, less quantifiable, more embodied impressions of the event and its meaning.

About two weeks before the race, the mile markers went down on the pavement. On one of my daily walks I stopped to photograph several of them. Of course it was this one that I most looked forward to seeing on race day.

That’s mile marker 13 of the half marathon (and incidentally mile 3 of the 5K that would finish at the same location). Only one-tenth of a mile to go from here! Those markers will linger on the pavement for months ahead, and I’ll smile each time I see one.

At walking speed I’ve seen some wonderful things on the trail over the past two months. Sometimes I just have to stop at Morse Creek to look for eagles in the trees. I’ve seen as many as four at a time in this one location, one of several places along the trail where eagles are a frequent sight. Do you see him/her?

This has been a wonderful year for our local wild rose species, the Nootka rose. On race day some parts of the trail were lined on both sides with 10-foot tall rose bushes. Their fragrance was intoxicating. I was happy to back off the race pace just a bit here to enjoy them!

Of course, at the end there is a finish line. This year the finish line looked a little different to me, however. This time there was no special someone waiting for me there. I have no finish line photos of myself. Instead, I ran with a good friend, received my medal from her mom, and accepted cool drinks, food, and congratulations from other familiar faces.

Then it was time for me to hurry back to the finish line and wait for CFL to arrive! This time I got to be the one cheering and shooting photos of his arrival. He was a very happy guy.

 

I was thrilled to pose with him for the iconic medal shot!

Afterwards, of course, there was beer. There was putting our feet up and enjoying the sunshine. We spoke with runners from faraway places. One young couple had come from Munich! There were others from Indiana, Colorado, and Alaska, and other places. We relished their compliments about our beautiful corner of the world, and we shared a few tips about special places they should see before leaving.

In the end, it’s about much more than the numbers at the finish line. It’s about loving the journey, every step of the way.

Cheers!

I’m running again!

Yesterday, 50 days after I broke my arm, my doctor gave me the okay to start running again. As usual, I walked home from the appointment, taking the long way home via the waterfront trail. I hadn’t walked more than half a mile when I was seized with the desire to run right then and there. It didn’t matter that I was wearing jeans, an old tired pair of shoes, and a warm jacket!

I must have looked silly out there shuffling along dressed like that, like someone trying to run for the very first time. I didn’t care. The first few steps were great! Then my legs suddenly felt like they weighed 500 pounds apiece. Never mind that I have walked, on average, more than 8 miles every day since my injury. I learned yesterday that running and walking use different muscles, and that my running muscles are now seriously out of shape.

I managed to run 1.1 slow miles before having to take a walk break. I ran/walked a total of 2.25 miles back to City Pier, and then walked a bit more slowly home from there.

It is simply wonderful to run again!

I’ll get the endurance back, I know. Today I’m taking it easy, but tomorrow I’ll go out and try to run a little longer, a little stronger.

Meanwhile my slow progress with physical therapy has been frustrating and at times depressing, but I can see improvement day by day. I have almost all of my passive range of motion back, and I’m beginning to work on reaching, lifting, and regaining strength. I go through a series of exercises that takes me about 45 minutes, twice a day, and I look for other chances to work that arm throughout the day.

I had a DEXA scan for osteoporosis, and I was pleased to learn that my hips are in rather great shape for my age (thanks to the running). I do have osteopenia in my spine, but it’s toward the low end (-1.6) of the osteopenia range and a long ways short of osteoporosis. My doctor believes that — given my risk factors –if I hadn’t started running five years ago I would definitely be osteoporotic in my spine by now.

Everything that I have learned about bone health and healthy aging over the past 50 days has strengthened my commitment to engage in some sort of physical activity every single day. Where the body is concerned, it’s definitely “use it or lose it.” The great thing is that I have so much fun being active that “using it” is its own reward. Gaining a healthy body and the prospect of a long healthy life are bonuses!

I’m still a few weeks away from riding my bicycle, but I’m headed in the right direction. Given that I had only just started to feel comfortable on my new road bike, I will need to know that my arm is strong and dependable before I reach way out there to those handlebars. Those exercises I’m doing every day will get me there eventually!

For now, I’m excited about returning to regular running, but I know better than to try to do too much too soon. I’ll resume my pattern of running about three days a week and very gradually work on increasing the distance and speed. I will walk most of the North Olympic Discovery half marathon (a week from tomorrow) as I’d planned. My running goal right now is to be able to run, without walking, the entire 5K that I’m registered to run on June 21. One step at a time!

If there’s a rock on the trail

If there’s a rock on the trail, try to step over it. (If there are lots of rocks, dance your way through them!)

If you trip on a rock, try to regain your balance.

If you can’t regain your balance, try to fall gracefully.

If you go down too fast and hard to fall gracefully, then take your lumps, get yourself up, start running again, and finish the last 0.7 miles of your otherwise-awesome 11 mile trail run.

Then get yourself to the emergency room.

If you follow my running blog, Slow Happy Runner, you’ll know by now that a few days ago I tripped over a rock while trail running and wound up breaking my left arm just below the shoulder. No running or cycling for me for at least 4-6 weeks. Therefore no OAT Run trail half marathon on April 26, no Bikes and Brews group ride in Seattle on May 3. Even my local North Olympic Discovery half marathon on June 1 is looking iffy.

I’ll know more about the recovery prognosis and timeframe when I see the orthopedist tomorrow, but the writing on the wall is pretty clear. My priority now is to heal both quickly and well. As a lefty, I shudder at the thought of not regaining full use of my left arm. Once the bone has healed, I’ll want physical therapy and lots of it!

My right arm is trembling right now from the unaccustomed effort of pecking out letters on the keyboard one by one. Trying to feed myself is a chore. Cooking is nearly impossible. Brewing a batch of beer is out of the question.

I’m committed to continuing my activity streak, which is now at 461 days. I’m still walking daily, although it’s surprisingly difficult to walk several miles, even on a flat paved surface, while focusing on keeping one arm absolutely still in its sling.

Perhaps the toughest part was looking at all the gaps in my calendar after I removed all my planned training runs, bike rides, and brew days. I caught myself this morning wondering why I should bother getting out of bed if I couldn’t run, hike, ride, or brew. I don’t like thinking thoughts like that! So I know I’ll have to watch my attitude. I still have LOTS of reasons to get out of bed! It’s crucial that I find a way to feel happy in the midst of all of this.

Slow happy living, indeed!

On my walk today I made a point of looking for things that I don’t always have time to see when I’m running or riding. The salmonberries are starting to bloom. So is the evil, invasive, but undeniably beautiful Scotch Broom. Small black-and-white butterflies are suddenly everywhere. Parents and small children are out on the trail enjoying slow, wobbly bike rides. Spring has finally reached the Pacific Northwest!

Maybe I’ll make one simple practice — slowing down to observe — the focus of my coming days and weeks. This setback is temporary; meanwhile I still have my health and my desire to make the most of each day.

What did you do with this precious day of your life? And what will you do tomorrow?

One step at a time!

 

Fit and feral

As I was riding my bicycle today, it occurred to me that I do almost all of my running, and a fair percentage of my cycling and hiking, as a solo activity. CFL doesn’t run at all. We do try to bike and hike together, but often he’s working on a project with a deadline just as I’m itching to get out the door. This week, CFL is far away attending the funeral of a family member, so I’ve been busily entertaining myself with some big and audacious activities.

I make a practice of texting him after I’ve completed whatever it is I’m out there doing. He usually replies with something like, “Good job — you’re an animal!”

At first I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be described as an animal, but at some point I decided to embrace the concept. I am an animal. A big part of the endorphin rush is that feeling of becoming attuned to my body and reveling in the things that my body can do.

Yesterday I ran 7+ miles of steep roads and muddy, even steeper trails. There is something magical about trail running that really brings out the animal in me. I bound along, sailing over rocks and roots. I giggle when I get my feet wet sloshing through mud puddles. My eyes and ears tune into the sights and sounds of the forest — this varied thrush, that raven, that mysterious swish of an unknown and unseen creature, those big tree limbs overhead creaking in the breeze. As I ran, I thought to myself: this is a feral activity — and I am feral.

When I run trails, I generally don’t set ambitious pace goals for myself. I’m out there to have fun and enjoy the beauties around me. Therefore I had no qualms about stopping to take a few photos. Tell me — would you want to hurry through places like these?

The little guy in the next photo is a rough-skinned newt. He’s cute, but don’t mess with him. He’s highly poisonous. The only creatures that can eat a rough-skinned newt and survive are some populations of garter snake, and only because they have evolved resistance to newt toxin. In response, the newts have become more and more toxic. It’s a classic case of co-evolution.

So that was yesterday. Today, however, putting aside the charms of stopping to view rough-skinned newts and other trail delights, I set out with an ambitious and very specific goal. I was going to ride my bike 17.5 miles east on the Olympic Discovery Trail, and then I was going to turn around and ride back. My longest bike ride to date had been the Portland Bridge Pedal last summer at 33 miles. I was going to beat that distance, and I was going to do it as quickly as possible.

Now, let’s think about this for a minute. I’m a female in my late 50s. My boyfriend is 1,200 miles away, literally graveside at the moment I’m starting my ride. My jumping-off point is a trailhead on a dead-end road about seven miles east of downtown. I’m going to ride on a “rails-to-trails” biking/running/walking trail that, for the most part, stays well away from well-traveled roads.

In the dozen years I’ve lived here, there has been only one attack on a lone female on the trail — she escaped successfully and the guy was caught. Still, I’ve seen all kinds of things on that trail. I’ve witnessed a moving domestic dispute: the girl bleeding, running after the guy and shouting, “Why did you hit me? Why are you leaving me?” I’ve watched the local police trying to lasso a runaway ram in a chase scene reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. Just a couple of weeks ago, I rescued a black Lab that some idiot had left chained in the back of a truck. The dog had jumped over the side and was hanging itself. I saved the dog’s life. So I’m not kidding when I say, you don’t know what you might encounter on the trail. It takes a certain amount of guts just to go out there alone.

I do it because I’m fit, I’m quick, I stay alert, and I will not let fear rule my life. I do it because I know I can do it.

So I got on my bike and off I went! On my eastbound leg I rode almost non-stop, pausing only at street crossings in Sequim. I flew along, barreling up and down the hills (aided a bit by what felt like a slight tail wind), all the way to my turnaround point at Sequim Bay State Park. Here I stopped to eat a small snack, text CFL, and take a couple of photos.

CFL replied to my text: “You go girl!” I texted  back: “I am so feral!”

Awash in endorphins, I started back. And immediately hit the headwind! For 17.5 miles I battled a 15 MPH headwind. I even dropped my hands down and fully utilized my drop handlebars in an effort to be more aerodynamic. It didn’t help all that much, but I felt ever so athletic.

I thought I’d get a break from the wind in the last couple of miles, which are hilly but heavily wooded. But it was windy there too. Windy and hilly. It took me about ten minutes longer to come all the way back than it had taken to go out, and I was really tired when I finished.

But I never, not even for one moment, doubted my ability to do it.

I rode my bike 35.23 miles solo, and I completed the ride in just a tick over 3 hours — my longest and fastest bike ride ever.

One of my favorite theories (don’t we all have a favorite theory?) is Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy. Bandura defined self-efficacy as “one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations.” It’s that sense of “I can” that empowers us when we dare to set big hairy audacious goals and then dare to achieve them. There’s a lot more to the theory, but that’s the gist. Because I have self-efficacy, I can decide to train for a marathon, and then go out and train for it, and then run it.

I occurred to me, as I was riding into the headwind today, that there is a connection between self-efficacy and experiencing myself as feral. Please bear with me for a couple hundred more words while I try to tease out this connection.

Last month I celebrated my second anniversary of becoming “post-corporate” — okay, I’ll say the word “retirement.” I truly feel that it’s taken all of two years to fully detox from corporate life.

When I finished my undergrad at UCLA lo these many years ago, I jumped into corporate life with the feeling that I would do great things and be amply rewarded for them. For the first few years, that was true. Then I married, had a child, took on a mortgage and a couple of car payments. Suddenly the stakes were higher — I needed my job and I couldn’t afford to screw up. I became cautious. I did whatever I had to do to get by and not much more than that. I lost the fire. I lost my sense of self-efficacy.

In the two years since I left the corporate world, I have had to re-learn how to relax. How to take deep abdominal breaths. How to sleep for as long as I need to sleep. How to fully live each day, wring it to exhaustion and deep satisfaction, and then let it go in anticipation of the next day. How to be feral.

I have let go of all that toxicity. I am no longer a garter snake facing down a rough-skinned newt and hoping I’m resistant enough to survive. I have come back to that more-innocent animal that I once must have been.

I have regained self-efficacy.

I am fit, I am feral, and I know that I can do the things I set out to do.

Oh, and I’m still a bit bashful about taking “selfies” — but here I am anyway.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!

Staying active through the dead of winter

February can be tough sometimes. While the days are getting noticeably Ionger, winter still packs quite a punch. It can be difficult to motivate myself to get out there and stay active when the temperature is in the high 30s and the sky is gloomy with an intermittent drizzle. I confess, there are days when I just want to say “curse you, Activity Streak!” and snuggle more deeply into my favorite reading chair.

CFL and I recently made a quick trip down to southern Oregon to visit my dad. We contemplated bringing our bikes along, but then decided we’d just take it easy with long walks. We eagerly anticipated walking around downtown Eugene and Portland, stopping to take in a few local breweries and taprooms along the way.

All went as planned in Eugene, on the outbound leg of our trip. We enjoyed sharing flights of beers at Oakshire Brewing and Hop Valley Brewing, and had a great dinner at The Bier Stein, a brewpub boasting 24 taps and over 1,000 types of bottled beer.

Coming back northward toward Portland, however, we got caught up in heavy snow. We never had to put on chains, but trucks and cars pulling trailers did. At one point I-5 was blocked completely, with truckers stopped in the middle of the freeway to put on their chains. It took us two hours to drive five miles beyond the place that I took this photo.

By the time we reached Portland, we were in the midst of an ice storm. We crept into downtown, trying not to slide sideways on some of the same bridges that we’d pedaled over happily on our bikes during the Bridge Pedal last August.

We’d booked a room at the same motel we stayed at last summer. From this location it’s a quarter-mile walk to a light rail station that would take us directly to the middle of downtown. We were hungry; I eagerly anticipated a great dinner and an awesome IPA at Deschutes Brewery’s Portland brewpub.

The slightly frazzled reception desk clerk assured us that no matter how bad the weather, the light rail never shut down, thanks to super-duper new defrosting technology. So we bundled up and set off toward the train station.

It was 21 degrees with a 19 mile per hour wind. Freezing rain lashed our faces as we stumbled intrepidly to the station. We bought our round-trip passes and stood on the platform with a couple dozen other hardy souls. Then we began to hear rumblings: “We’ve been standing here for an hour.” The marquee display still indicated the expected arrival time for the next train, so we figured all those people had just lost track of time!

Then the marquee display changed. All trains in the system were shut down.

By this time we were very cold and very hungry. We trudged back. Earlier we’d heard that only one restaurant in the immediate area of the motel was open. It was a steakhouse, about two blocks past the motel. To get there, we had to walk into the blistering wind and navigate sidewalks and parking lots that were in the process of becoming encased in half an inch of ice.

By the time we arrived, my jacket was frozen stiff.

It turned out to be a steakhouse of the old-fashioned sort, meaning there was nothing for this vegetarian to eat but fries. The fries tasted a bit fishy but at that point I really didn’t care. Fortunately they did have some interesting beers on tap! 

The next morning our phones awoke us with an emergency alert imploring everyone in Portland not to go out if at all possible. We hung out at the motel until almost checkout time enjoying the view of the iced-over pool.

We then decided to make a run for it. Getting out of the parking lot was a bit scary but once we were on the freeway it was fine. By the time we were fifty miles into Washington, we had left most of the snow behind us.

Since then it’s rained every day here at home. I got my new bicycle on February 1 but so far I’ve only managed to ride it 25 miles, mostly right around the immediate neighborhood.

I surprised myself by buying a road bike. I didn’t think I wanted drop handlebars, but when I thought about what I enjoy doing on a bike — riding fast and riding long — a road bike became the obvious choice. I’m gradually getting used to the more aggressive riding posture. Mostly I keep my hands up top, but on a long flat stretch (which is scarce in my neighborhood) I can inch them down into the dropped position. Going downhill is still scary though! 

Fortunately, going uphill is much easier than it was on my old bike: that’s when I really notice that it weighs 19.5 pounds compared to my old bike at 33 pounds. I’m going to need that lightness and quick acceleration this coming Sunday when — whatever the weather — CFL and I will ride the Chilly Hilly. At 33 miles around Bainbridge Island with a total elevation gain of 2,675 feet, it will be my hilliest bike ride ever! I just wish I had more time between now and then to get comfortable on my new bike. 

But it does get tough to get out there  and feed the activity streak when the weather is lousy. This morning during a sunbreak I got out and ran along the waterfront. Thanks to all the rain, Ennis Creek was higher than I’ve ever seen it before.

During the last mile of my run, dark clouds loomed over the strait, the wind picked up, and the rain began. I caught this shot of sun, rain, and oncoming storm clouds during my after-run stretch time.

There was a flock of surf scoters in the water near the pier. I noticed with delight that the birds were forming boy/girl pairs. Spring is coming, and love is in the air!

I’d hoped to get out with my bike this afternoon, but the skies look inky again. My reading chair is calling me…

Tomorrow is another day! It will be activity streak day #414 to be precise. I don’t know yet how many miles I’ll be able to fit in, but one way or another I know I’ll drag myself out there and do something.

What about you? How is the dead of winter treating you? Any signs of spring yet where you are?

Days and miles — flying by!

Wow! Three weeks into the new year and I’m finally finding time to do a little blogging. I always take it as a good sign when I don’t have time to write — it means I’m out there squeezing every bit of life out of the hours and moments of each day.

Today marks 21 days into the new year, and I’ve already logged 168 miles. Wow! I’m averaging 8 miles a day! I don’t think I can maintain this pace indefinitely. On the other hand, once I start doing some long bike rides I’ll possibly move the average mileage even higher.

I did my traditional “January in Santa Barbara” trip recently. Unlike last year, which was very windy, the weather was perfect! I ran all four of the days I was there, including three simply wonderful barefoot runs on the beach. In past years I felt like a hero if I could manage a mile of barefoot running; this year I did beach runs of 2.5, 3.25, and 3.7 miles. I continue to be amazed at the things I can do that once were out of reach.

Views like this kept me inspired and coming back for more:

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Although this photo was taken across the street from the beach, an encounter with a female Acorn Woodpecker provided the other visual highlight of my time in Santa Barbara:

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It was a warm day and she was determined to drink, so she was patient with me while I took several shots.

During my time in Santa Barbara I managed to sneak in a couple of visits to Santa Barbara Brewing Company, where I sampled several of their excellent beers. What is a vacation without a little beer tourism?

Speaking of beer, CFL and I brewed an experimental batch recently. I created a simple SMASH (single malt and single hop) pale ale recipe. We divided the wort and pitched two different yeasts (American and Thames Valley). After several days, we further divided the proto-beer into six one-gallon jugs, which we dry-hopped (or not) in different ways. Don’t our little jugs look cute all bundled up and cozy in their matching towels?

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We bottled them a week ago and we’re anxiously awaiting side-by-side taste tests next week.

Tomorrow I’m going to see if I can ride my bike a little further up the hill than last time… I made it up Hurricane Ridge Road to mile 2 the other day, but I still have 15 more to go!

We’re busy! We’re happy! We’re not always so slow, but that’s okay. There is SO much to do and SO many miles yet to go!

A shiny new year deserves some big, bold plans

Happy New Year! As years go (and so they do, faster and faster it seems) 2013 was a rather great one. CFL’s and my casual decision last January 1 to “be more active” turned into a 365-day activity streak that is still going strong as we begin 2014.

CFL’s approach to it was rather casual, but he never missed a day — even if it meant setting out on the 2.1 mile uphill/downhill neighborhood “lap” at 11:45 PM.  Me? Of course I kept a spreadsheet, which now allows me to regale you with some numbers that still boggle my mind.

In 2013 I completed:

  • 1,001.14     run miles (including 2 half marathons, a full, & a 10K)
  •    307.47     bike miles (including 33 miles with 15,000+ others)
  •    134.73     hike miles
  •    720.73     walk miles

     2,164.07     total miles

Oh, and I drove just over 11,000 miles — much of which was long-distance driving to and from events (bike rides, concerts, brewfests, and the like) and trailheads.

We brewed 21 batches of beer, and made the leap from extract to all-grain brewing. We have a never-ending list of brewing equipment that we want to buy (a bigger brew kettle to prevent boilovers, a plate chiller to cool the wort more quickly, a couple of pumps to save CFL’s back, the list goes on and on).

So what’s in store for 2014?

I think I’ll run a little less, since I won’t be training for a full marathon and doing the super-long runs. I think 900 running miles is a good goal.

I plan to do a LOT more bike riding. I don’t have a specific mileage goal but I do have some events that CFL and I want to ride. I’ve got my eye on a new bike that I hope to buy before the end of January. I weighed my current bike and was astonished to learn that it weighs 33 pounds — no wonder I work so hard going uphill! The bike I’d like to buy will be at least 10 pounds lighter.

I’m looking at my calendar and figuring out how I’ll weave together training for and participating in multiple running and biking events throughout the year.

So far, the event schedule looks like this:

February 23: Bike Ride
The Chilly Hilly on February 23 — 33 miles around Bainbridge Island with 2,675 feet of elevation gain. I’ll need that new bike for those hills!

April 26: Trail Half Marathon
The Oat Run (Olympic Adventure Trail) — I’ll run this one and CFL may be a volunteer worker.

June 1: Half Marathon
North Olympic Discovery half marathon — this local race will be my fifth NODM and CFL’s first; he’s going to walk it.

August 3: Bike Ride
Ride the Hurricane is a 17-mile 5,000 foot climb up the Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park, followed by a rapid 17-mile descent! The road is closed to cars for the day. CFL has done this a few times. He tells me I may be ready to tackle it this summer. I think he’s nuts, but we’ll see…

August 10: Bike Ride
The Providence Bridge Pedal in Portland was so much fun last year that we’re going to do it again. Just us and over 15,000 other riders, riding over ten (count ‘em) Willamette River bridges on closed roads and freeways.

August 24: Bike Ride
The Tour de Victoria will be our first metric century — a 100K bike ride around downtown Victoria, BC and its surroundings.

October 12: Half/Full Marathon
We’ll be back in Victoria for this one. This is where I ran my marathon in 2013. For 2014 I plan to go back to the half (it will be my third Victoria half marathon), and CFL says he is going to walk the full marathon. We’ll see how he feels about that one when the time comes.

I’m sure other events will come up, and we’ll fit them in somehow. These are just the major ones that will require planning and preparation. We have several road trips planned as well, all of which will include some brewery tourism.

Yet even with all the training and traveling, we should have plenty of room on our calendars for hiking (I really need to do an overnight backpack trip this summer), walking around town, and hanging out with friends. And brewing, of course.

I’m guessing that we’ll end up doing at least 2,400 total miles this year. That seems like a worthy and achievable goal.

Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about an easy afternoon hike on a lowland forest trail. Although the sunsets are already noticeably later than two weeks ago, I’d better get out there while there is still plenty of daylight!

What’s on your calendar? What new goals have you set for yourself in 2014?

Slow and happy!