Sunday, December 26, 2010

You run? I hate running! My Christmas present under the trees

Running seems to be the sport that people love to hate.  I am always baffled when people tell me how much they hate running.  It's hard. It hurts.  Blah, blah, blah.  They tell me about the excruciating pain that they endure when running.  I am always baffled by these people dissing a sport that they know means so much to me.  How do they expect me to react?  Do they want me to convert them, commiserate with them, make suggestions or passively listen?  I tend to tell them about my rocky journey as a runner.

Nineteen years ago I met my husband Steve.  He was the first real runner that I had ever known.  I didn't get what he liked about running.  Since running was SO important to the most important person in my life, I wanted to share this connection.  I decided to surprise my honey by learning to run.  It was a lot harder than I expected.  Even though I was in good physical shape from taking aerobic classes and lifting weights, running hurt!  I didn't enjoy it one bit.  I couldn't run a solid mile.  I started running what I've come to learn is the Galloway style, alternating running and walking.  I continued in this manner until I was able to run for three consecutive miles.

Eventually I let Steve in on the secret and that I had bravely signed myself up for a 5K.  Steve immediately volunteered to be a course marshall for the race.  I'll never forget the tears in his eyes as he saw me at the half way point of my first 5K.  Here was a man who's run all his life and had run marathons and ultras, cheering on a 10-minute-mile-5K-gal like me on!  It was a lot of work running that race, but the satisfaction I felt at the finish line, made all the sweat, sore muscles and training time worth it.

Even with my first 5K under my belt, I still didn't feel like a runner and didn't find a whole lot of enjoyment in running.  For some reason, I wanted to keep at it.  I signed up for another 5K so that I would continue to have a reason to keep running.  I did almost all my training with Steve.  He was patient and somehow put up with my incessant complaints during our runs.  My stomach was tight.  I had shooting pains in my shins.  My lungs were burning.  How could he possibly like running?  He remained a passive sounding board.  He made no promises.  He offered a few tips.  Swing your arms along the sides of your body rather than up in front of you.  Shorten or lengthen your stride depending on the incline.  Breathe deeply.  He occasionally tricked me into running further and faster that I wanted to.  He was the best running coach I could've asked for.  I completed my second 5K, made a new PR and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I wasn't miserable the entire duration of the race.  

A car accident and severe case of whiplash, derailed my initial short lived running career.  Once I healed, I got busy with grad school, entered the demanding profession of teaching, became a homeowner and then had twin daughters.  There didn't seem to be room in my life for running anymore.  It wasn't until my daughters were around 18 months old that I decided to give running a go again.  It was something that all four of us could do together.  Since Steve was a stronger runner, he could push the girls in the double stroller and I could run along the side.  After a few months of training, we signed up for a Valentine's Day 5K and the four of us ran a couple's 5K.  With Steve's slave-driving during that race, I was able to run it faster and make yet another PR!  Four years later, I still give him a hard time about how hard he pushed me physically that day.  Once again, I hung up my running shoes and headed to the gym for aerobic classes and weight lifting. Running wasn't my thing.

Running continued to be a major part of Steve's life.  He ran the Eugene Marathon in May of 2008.   While my toddler-aged daughters and I cheered him on throughout the race and watched him cross the finish line, I noticed something that forever shifted my mindset.  I thought that all marathoners were physically fit, slim, born-athletes who had always run and could easily run 26.2 miles.  This is how I saw my husband.  He was born to run.  His long lean muscular body fit the runner stereotype.  He is super coordinated, enjoys a little friendly competition and has been athletic all his life.  I didn't match that mold at all.  Leah and athlete were not words that were ever intertwined.  While I was there to cheer on and support my husband, I was blown away by the marathoners that day. They came in all shapes, sizes, ages, levels and speeds.  I was especially impressed with the older, bulkier, less coordinated and less fluid runners who obviously were digging really deep to complete this race.  I was utterly impressed with their courage and tenacity.  Each finisher was victorious as he/she crossed the finish line.  If these people could run a marathon, surely I could too. 

I had gotten so absorbed with my working mother life that I had fallen into a rut and had lost a zest for life.  Training for and running a marathon would be the perfect opportunity to break out of this rut and tackle a new goal.  Sometime over the next fourteen weeks while training for my first marathon, I fell in love with running.  I loved the structure of a training plan, having a goal that took months to work toward, and how no matter how much I asked of my body, it was able to deliver.  I loved how it connected me with healthy active interesting people, the satisfaction and pride that I felt when I achieved a new running milestone, and how running helped me drop 25 pounds and go from a size 10 to a size 2.  The beautiful thing about running is that these things carried over into other areas of my life.  I went on to run that marathon.  I'll never forget that day.  It left me wanting more in life.  If I could run a marathon, something I thought was beyond my capabilities, what other things were possible?  Suddenly the sky was the limit.  With careful planning, persistence, dedication, I could do anything that I set my mind to.

Sharing this running passion with Steve is really special.  Since having kids, we have perfected the fine art of tag team.  One of us holds down the fort and does kid-duty while the other runs.  We have made this equitable and for the most part it works for us.  We make a very good team.  While I have an amazing running partner and lots of running buddies, there's something very sweet about running with my man.  He's the one who introduced me to running, helped me learn to become a runner, showed me the joys of endurance running and has been there every step of my running journey.  Because we have young children, busy schedules and limited access to babysitters, it's very rare for us to actually be able to run together.  I miss it.  He misses it.  The fact is this is where we are at this point in our lives.  

Yesterday for Christmas, I loved hearing the happy squeals of my children as they opened presents.  My mother had flown up to spend Christmas with us and we were thoroughly enjoying her sweet company.  It was a nice quiet Christmas.  The cherry on top of the day was hitting the trails with my husband while my children hung out with their grandma.  We had a chatty seven mile run on our favorite Ridgeline Trail.  I had a late and rather big lunch and was feeling a little under the weather, so it was a physically tough run for me.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the time I spent with the person who got me started in this sport, my biggest supporter and most vocal cheerleader.  We reconnected with each other and took in the sights along the trail.  This year my best Christmas present wasn't under the tree per se, but under the trees with my partner.

I fully understand when people talk about running and how difficult it is.  I've been there.  Some days I achieve a running "blissed out" state and some days, every step is a struggle.  Isn't this true of most things in life?  Isn't life more sweet after we experience struggles?  Isn't accomplishing a goal more satisfying the harder you work for it?  If you like running or want to learn to like running, run!  If you don't, find something else to do that brings you joy and is good for your body.

Here are some pictures of my Christmas day run.
My beloved Ridgeline Trail

Natural art and archecture 
Fuzzy perches along the way

Playing peek-a-boo in my playground

View of Eugene and Autzen Stadium from the trail

Steve right at home on the trail

Ridgeline offers accommodations for couples ' running dates!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Part I: What to do when your doctor says you can't run

Catching a wave at Agate Beach

After I ruptured my plantar fascia back in June, the doctor put me in a cast for an indefinite period of time and told me NOT to run.  So what is a running junkie like myself who has come to rely on runs to rejuvenate, de-stress, see beautiful sights, connect with cool people and stay in shape, supposed to do?  Why surf, of course!

Talk about being down in the dumps.  This was not a happy time for me.  My husband felt so sorry for me and set out with great dedication, to do what he could to make this time period easier for me.  I love you Stevie!  Steve found out that the City of Eugene was offering an all-women's surf camp in July and encouraged me to go for it.  I immediately signed up and counted down the days until surf camp.

That first day we met early, packed up the recreation bus with our camping gear and surfboards, drove to Newport, rented wetsuits and spent the afternoon surfing at a beginner break in Otter Rock.  We would camp at nearby Beverly Beach the next two nights.  Our amazing leaders made breakfast each morning and campfires each evening.  They provided gave us group lessons, worked with us one-on-one and cheered us.  They had this camp down to a science.  We had lunch on the beach and dinners at restaurants in town.  It was a truly amazing experience being with this group of women.  

Surf Camp!

Great people and great place to rent surf equipment and get your swell questions answered

Neoprene is my new best friend. It keeps me warm while surfing in Oregon
That weekend, I fell in love with surfing.  A calm, contentedness that I had been missing since my injury washed over me.  I was okay.  I couldn't run, but I could surf!  Breathing in that sea air, tasting the sea salt on my lips, bobbing around on the swell and best of all feeling the surge of a wave carry me from sea to shore was so good for my soul.  How had I lived my 38 years without this amazing sport in my life?  I was hooked!  Since then I find myself checking surfing conditions on a daily or at least weekly basis.  I have my own wetsuit, neoprene gloves and booties and even my own surfboard!  When I can't surf, I read about it in magazines and books or watch movies about it.

Surfing has become a favorite thing to do as a family.

Surf's up dudes!  Otter Rock break in Newport, Oregon
In November I was able to really start running again.  Those three months of surfing made my four-and-a-half-months without running bearable.  It lifted my spirits and provided that athletic challenge that I have come to know and love so well.  For the last two months, I've been thoroughly enjoying running and am so thankful to be able to do this simple activity that I once took for granted.  I'm jonesing for the ocean and the waves though!  For the last two months I've been checking the surf report and finding that the waves are way too big for my surfing ability.  Thank goodness I've had running to carry me through this surfing dry spell. :-)

Stay stoked!

Monday, December 20, 2010

You Know You're a Running Family When...

1.  Leah will pack the family up in the car, drive for miles and miles to drop ultra runner husband, Steve out into the middle of nowhere so that he can log miles to prepare for his 100 mile race.  The last time we did this, we were in Bend and had taken along my brother.  The girls and I waved, blew kisses and cheered as we sped away in the air conditioned car.  My brother Chris looked mortified as he watched Steve through the side view mirror as he get littler and littler on the dusty cinder trail in the heat of the day.  We assured him that this was what Steve wanted and that running 20ish miles was nothing to him and what a great sense of direction he has.  We haven't lost him yet.

2.  Steve and Leah fight for the prime first thing in the morning running slot.  Perhaps what's most interesting about this one is that coveted AM slot entails a wake up call between 4:30 and 5:30 AM and requires head lamp and/or reflective vests.

3.   You buy Gu by the case.  We think Vanilla tastes the best.  This doesn't mean it tastes "good" mind you!

4.  A whole large kitchen drawer is reserved for running gels, gummies, ginger chews and salt tabs. A box in the kitchen counter houses a dozen or so water bottles and bottle holsters.  Bottle holsters you ask?  These are canvas mesh sleeves that fit over your water bottle.  Put a couple Gu in the handy zipper pocket, fill her up, slip your hand in and you can stay hydrated during your longer runs.

5.  Steve and I get such comments from the peanut gallery:
5 year-old Skye:  How far did you run this morning?
Me: 5 miles
5 year-old Skye:  That's not very far.

Skye looks at a post-run Daddy in his sweat saturated clothes:
Skye: Did you get sweaty by your run?
Daddy: Yeah.
Skye pouts and says: I want to get sweaty too!

6. Is a very specific workout schedule carefully negotiated, typed up and posted on the refrigerator.  You snooze, you lose!

7.  You subscribe to and anticipate the arrival of each new issue of Runner's World, Trail Runner and Ultrarunning magazines.

9.  You incorporate your vacation plans with upcoming races and your family serves as your crew and cheering squad.

Mt. Hood "camping trip" aka Mt. Hood PCT 50 (Steve's 50 mile run)
Ashland "camping trip" aka Pine to Palm (Steve's 100 mile race)
10.  You buy a vehicle that serves as a home on wheels.  This allows you more money to spend on race entry fees as opposed to pesky hotel reservations.  Here's our VW Eurovan "Moby" filled to the gills.

Our Crew-Mobile with Cute Crew Duo
 11.  Our combined running gear requires a room of its own complete with dresser and shelf unit.  All the levels of gear are represented to keep us warm, cool, dry, visible in the dark, etc.  We also have special laundry detergent for said clothes & hang dry contraption since they can't go in the drier.  Talk about high maintenance!

12.  During races, your children wear shirts or hold signs that say things like:
My daddy runs faster than your daddy.

I love my marathon mommy!

Toenails are for sissies.

Go Mommy Go 26.2!

With my daughters after my 1st marathon

These two cuties & big handsome lift my spirits at all races.

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. ~Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe had it right about at least one thing.  "Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.Shoes are without a doubt, the most important piece of running equipment.  I am a pronator who wears stability shoes.  (Yes, I've read all that stuff on barefoot running but I'm sticking with shoes dang-it!.)  I have tried many brands and have come to love Asics.  My one and only complaint is that the webbing tends to develop little holes on the sides and/or in the toe by 200 or so miles. The little holes, while annoying considering the price tag, don't cause any problems.  I keep wearing them until I've logged somewhere between 400 or 500 miles.  Then they're demoted or when absolutely necessary, recycled.

Without further ado, hop aboard the time machine with Ebenezer Scrooge for a tour through my shoes of Christmas past, present and future!

Shoes of Christmas Past
1.  Montrail: Splurged and bought these prior to having kids.  Unfortunately increased a half a shoe size after having twins and couldn't fit into them anymore.  They're sitting in my laundry room because I can't seem to part with them.

2.  Nike Zoom:  Great lightweight shoe for speedwork and racing.  I bought them to go with my Nike+.  After wearing them for a while I realized that they were too small for running.  They're okay to wear to gym for weight training and to work on dress down days. 

3.  Asics 2140:  Have logged over 600 miles.  They got me through my first marathon and since we've been through so much together, I can't bear to part with them.  They are my gardening, yard work and play-in-the-grass-with-my-kids-shoes.

4. Brooks:  Last year while training for my second marathon, I decided that maybe it wasn't such a good thing that I was so stuck on one specific brand.  I love the "run happy" motto for Brooks, they felt good on in the store and on my test run.  They came highly recommended by Runner's World and runners I respected.  I wore them for about a month and found that they just didn't absorb enough shock.  A month before my second marathon, I went back to my trusty Asics.  

Shoes of Christmas Present

1.  Montrail Masochists:  These are some bad-ass trail shoes with lugs big enough the conquer the most serious of terrain AND keep your feet dry during creek crossings.  They are heavy and clunky but necessary for winter and spring technical trail running in the northwest. 

2.  Asics 2140:  These are my standby, everyday training shoes.  This particular pair will soon be heading off into the sunset.  Having taken me at least 500 miles, they're ready for retirement.  I pull them on when my newer pair is wet or hiding from me.
3.  Asics 2140 Trail:  Great for the less technical trails that aren't prone to muddy or wet conditions.  These are some cool, comfy, cute shoes.

4.  Asics 2150:  My current training shoe.  Delighted that it comes in turquoise which goes with so many of my running clothes.   

5.  Asics 2150 DL Trainers:  Ultra-light shoes reserved for speedwork and race days.  I feel FAST when I wear these "pink ladies".  I think everyone should have a pair of trainers in their arsenal. 

Shoes of Christmas Future (Are you reading this Santa?)

1.  Asics 2160:  I'm holding my ground here.  This is an updated model of the 2140s and 2150s that have worked for me in the past.  I don't see why they wouldn't continue to work for me in the future.  

These come in white and blue or grey and plum.  I think I'm leaning towards the plum.  Only downside is that I have absolutely no plum colored running clothes.  On the upside, plum seems to be the hot new color in Sporthill and Nike running clothes this season.  I just laid my eyes on plum shirts and black and plum gloves.  I know, it seems rather shallow, but what's wrong with looking cute while running?  I think plum would make me look cute!  Plum it is!

It would be more economical to go with the white and blue since I already have so much blue in my running wardrobe.  How many running shirts and pants does a girl need though?  It's not like they get stained, stretched out or worn out.  These outfits, much to my chagrin seem to last forever!  They might develop "the stink" regardless of how you wash them, but these babies will last decades!  Maybe I'm in a rut though and would benefit from a new "power suit" to get me to run that coveted sub 4 hour marathon in 2011.  Pretty sure the plum would be up for the task.  :-)  What do you think dear readers?  I'd love to hear your color opinions.

2.  Asics 2160 Trail:  Here we go again with the Asics.  I just love them!  They are comfortable and supportive.  They provide enough traction to prevent slipping in mud, wet rocks, or other trail obstacles without being heavy and clunky.  I'm sticking with these babies but need the updated model to replace my well loved 2150 trail.  Benefit of these are that while they're meant to be a trail shoe, they can be worn on the roads as well.  For those combination road and trail runs, they're perfect.  I can just see these babies taking me through hundreds of training miles on trails and if I dig really deep, I can see them getting me through my first 50K trail race sometime in the fall of 2011.
Happy running! Protect those feet!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fear Factor

Rainbow over Coburg Hills

I was off for a solo thirty miler.  It'd be my longest ride to date.  As I pedaled, my mind drifted to my first few rides on my new bike.  What a nervous rider I was!  Shifting took so much effort and concentration.   I dreaded stopping because I'd have to clip in and out of my pedals.  Most of all, I had a fear of being hit by a car.  When I wrote out a bucket list last year for my birthday, becoming a fearless cycler made it to the list.  How long would it take?  Was it even possible?  I did not know.

I'll never forget my first long ride, an 18 miler with the local women's cycling group, the Poplollies.  Being in a pace line, drafting off cyclers made the ride much easier.  It was reassuring having leaders look out for and signal road obstacles.  They knew where every crack and  pothole was on the road and when there was glass, encroaching blackberry or even dog poop on the shoulder.  In the rear, a leader would holler "Car back!" whenever she heard cars.  I felt like a duckling embarking on her first walk between the protective space and watchful eyes of momma and poppa ducks.  

Even with the supportive and encouraging group of women, I was scared stiff.  I was about as far out of my comfort zone as I've ever felt before.  I worried about being able to keep up with the group, falling off my bike, dropping my chain, being hit by a car and crashing into fellow cyclers.  Fortunately none of those things happened.  While there was conversation over the entire ride, I didn't participate because every ounce of my concentration was needed to ride.  I recall being thirsty but being too afraid to take my hands off the handle bars and eyes off my the road to reach for my water bottle and grab a quick drink.  I am sorry to say that I never got the opportunity to join the Poplollies for any more group rides before they ended their cycling season.

To build my confidence, I found it really helpful to practice maneuvering and clipping in and out of my pedals in a parking lot.  From there, I turned my attention on shifting and using my water bottle.  With these baby steps, I was able to progress as a cycler and grow to love the sport.  Cycling makes me ridiculously happy.  I can cover so much ground and see so many things while riding.  With little effort, I can ride for miles and miles at speeds of 15 to 32 MPH!  There's a certain thrill to the speed that I catch going down hills.  The first few times it happened, I gripped my handle bars with iron fists and prayed that I would make it safely to the bottom of the hill.  Today I dropped my body as low as I could, beamed and whooped with joy as I flew down the hills.

My ride from my house, through city streets to the scenic gentle rolling hills of McKenzie View Drive, was my first ever "fear free" ride.  It was absolutely amazing!  I didn't want it to end.  From the leg-burning climbs to the flying declines, it was a fabulous ride.  Glass on the road? No problem.  Put my hand over the wheels with my gloved hand and clear it off.  Cars behind me?  No worries, just slide over to the shoulder as far as possible.  Gravel on the shoulder of the road?  Trust yourself and your bike and glide over it.  How liberating it was to be free of these fears!  This doesn't mean that I wasn't cautious or a defensive rider, it just meant that I wasn't obsessed with fear.  

Being free from my fear allowed my senses to take in the beauty of this ride.  I marveled at all the critters I saw...  cows, calves, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, llamas and much to my delight, three slumbering deer in a wooded area.  It was magical and brought tears of joy and appreciation to my eyes. I followed the quickly moving McKenzie River as it roared over the river rocks.  I took in the sights of bare trees swaying in the woodlands and the ominous fog that clung to Coburg hills.  Before I knew it, my ride was coming to an end.  I still had plenty of energy but it was time to be reunited with my family.  I returned home with great gratitude and a calmness in my spirit.  As I reflected on this ride with my husband, I realized that I never once felt fear on this ride.  By putting aside my fear, I was able to experience something far greater than I could have imagined.

What are you afraid of?  How can you embrace that fear and to move beyond it?  I assure you that in my experience, wonderful things lie on the other side.

A little dirty after my thirty

Post cycle glow

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This is How I Roll

After a particularly wet week, this morning the clouds finally rolled away, making room for blue skies and revealing the glorious sun.  I was in cleaning mode when I noticed this welcome sight.  It motivated me to stay focused and clean fast so I could enjoy the rare December sunshine in Oregon.  Hmmmm, should I take the kids for a hike?  Perhaps I should get out and give my neglected yard some attention?  Maybe I should call my cycling ladies and organize a group ride?  I was feeling rather stingy.  I wanted to seize the day and do so in quiet solitude.  I wanted a taste of unencumbered freedom.  A solo bike ride fit the bill perfectly.

My trusty stead, the most beautiful carbon Flex bicycle ever created, awaited me.  Under the amused eyes of my partner and two children, I attempted to put air in my tires.  This whole bicycle maintenance is a new, intimidating phenomena for me.  As I child, the only bike I had was a goofy looking thing made up off a hodgepodge of castaway bicycle parts.  A boy's glittery blue frame, banana seat, mustache handlebars and rusty racing fenders created a bike that I was far too embarrassed to be seen on in public.  My sexy Felt is a whole other story.  I ride this bike with great pride, peppered with a touch of arrogance. Mmmhmmm, that's right I'd think as I see motorists, pedestrians, runners and fellow cyclists checking me out.  Eat your heart out.  This here is MY bike.  Isn't she glorious?  You think she looks good?  Well, she feels even better!

After riding a clunky mountain bike for the last twenty years, I was absolutely blown away when I took road bikes out for test rides during my bicycle shopping.  They looked like such fragile creatures with their impossibly skinny wheels, drop handle bars, streamlined gear shifters and intricate breaking systems.  Could something so delicate really accommodate me and my training and racing needs?  I had looked at many, many bikes in just about every bike store in Eugene and just couldn't settle on one that I as willing to fork over the dough for.

When Gilad, at  told me he had the perfect bike for me and took it off the shelf, it was love at first sight.  Then I got to take it out on the road for a spin.  I was absolutely giddy when I discovered how the bike seemed to ride me rather than the other way around.  All these years I've been riding a bike that is the equivalent of Yugo and now I was riding a bike that was the equivalent of a flippin' Mercedes Benz.  I couldn't hide my smile and could hardly suppress laughing aloud or hooting with joy as I rode this fabulous piece of machinery.  I haven't wanted to get off the saddle of this beauty since.  It's been an amazing four months learning to be a cycler.

Once again, I've lost all sense of time and space while under the spell of my new bike!  How I've digressed.  It was a rare sunny, dry day in Eugene and I was attempting to fill my tires with air as my family watched.  After having little luck, I confessed to my partner that I wasn't getting anywhere and solicited his help.  Meanwhile, I dressed down for the ride.

I must confess that prior to becoming a cyclist, I thought the padded shorts, loud-tightly fitting bike jersey and silly cycling shoes were rather hard on the eyes.  Now I recognize their importance.  Padded shorts are essential for preventing or lessening saddle soreness on long rides.  Jerseys are necessary for storing food, patch kits, phone, money, keys, camera and whatever else once might opt to take on a ride.  They are bright and busy patterned so that motorists can see you and carefully maneuver their vehicles around you.  Cycling shoes allow your foot to clip in and power your pedals not only with the down stroke of your leg but your up stroke as well.  Padded gloves absorb road vibration, make for a smoother ride and come in handy for removing unwanted debris from your tires without having to dismount your bike.

Here I am modeling the official cycler's purse, a snack-sized Ziploc bag.  It keeps driver's license, debit card, cash and phone dry and corralled in your cycling jersey.

Above, my snack is tucked into one of those handy jersey pockets.  

Cycling gloves & mult-sport Garmin 405.

 Cycling raincoat that can be wadded up in a ball and stuffed in yet another jersey pocket.

Here are my funny cycling shoes.

Whew! The house is clean, daddy's on kid duty, air is in the bike tires, I'm fully outfitted and the sun is STILL shining!  It's time to get outta here, hit the wide open road, feel the wind blowing through my helmet and relish thirty self-propelled miles.  This is how I roll.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Running in a Winter Wonderland

We had a snow day here in Eugene that closed down all the schools.  I spent a cozy lazy day at home with the family enjoying the snowy scenery from indoors.  Mid-afternoon I decided that it was time to head outside for my Tuesday run.  Since my injury, I've been sticking with bark chip and dirt trails. I started with just a mile twice a week and over the last couple months have gradually built back up to four mile runs twice a week and six to seven miles once a week.  While races are still a ways off in the future, I am thrilled to be running pain-free and interacting with my fantastic running peeps.  My favorite easy 4 mile loop is on Pre's Trail in Eugene's beautiful Alton Baker Park.

As I pulled into the park, it started snowing again.  There were many runners out on the trail.  We shared hellos, waves, nods and knowing smiles.  Kindred spirits were we running in such chilly conditions in the snow.  I had a lovely solitary run as the snow fell around me.  I let my mind wander and my senses take in the pretty sights from the snow dusted trees,  the ducks and geese swimming in the canal and the golden leaves crunch along on the trail.  I thought about my post-injury return to running and how much more I appreciated the sport now.  It doesn't matter how far or how fast I run.  It's about the joy it brings me and how it allows me to connect with nature.  I thought about how much I was looking forward to my upcoming Thanksgiving morning run with women who I had bonded with over many, many shared miles.  Before I knew it, my run had come to an end. I was re-energized and full of gratitude.

There and Back Again

I was giddy with excitement and joy after our fantastic stay at "Out and About Treesort".  I had mixed feelings about what was in store for me over the next couple days.  Our next destination was Ashland, Oregon where I was supposed to run the Siskiyou Outback 50K.  Unfortunately this would be the first race I would scratch.  Nonetheless, I have never been to Ashland, had already reserved and paid for a hotel for two nights and most importantly had my running partner, Laura, along with several other friends to cheer on as they participated in the race. Dammit, though, I wanted desperately to be out there running this gorgeous course and tackling another challenge that I had painstakingly trained for.  Could I set aside my disappointment and put on a happy face for the people that I so cared for?

There were a lot of tears this weekend. Tears of sadness at the finality of missing out on this race.  Tears of disappointment that my friends would run this race without me.  Tears of pride as I watched my running partner stoically take on the challenge of running her first 50K.  Tears of joy as I watched my running partner cross the finish line with a huge smile on her face knowing that she put her whole heart, soul and ounce of strength into this race.  Even though this event was four months ago, it remains a bittersweet memory.

When I returned from my tour of Southern Oregon, I would be placed in a walking cast for a minimum of three weeks.  My foot just wasn't healing on its own.  I hoped like heck that the cast would heal my foot for once and for all so I could get back to my running.  I'll spare you the details around those three weeks in the cast.  They were rough on my physically and mentally.  I was not a pleasant person to be around.  The cast and I went many places together. We spent a week at the horse ranch in Bend with family, floated down the Deschutes River, hung out at a brew pub in Portland with my BFF, celebrated a friend's 40th birthday with live music, sweet treats and karaoke, limped around BBQs and family trips to the park, pool, frozen yogurt place, sweated during lifting sessions at the gym, logged countless miles on the stationary bike, swayed to my favorite band as they played an open air concert, supported my husband as he ran a 50 mile race in Mt. Hood, camped in our new VW Eurovan a couple times.

When the cast came off, I expected to magically be healed.  Boy was I ever wrong!  Both feet hurt now. Perhaps I shouldn't have done so much while in the "walking cast"?  While the PF rupture healed itself, it formed excess scar tissue and developed plantar fasciitis.  My "healthy foot" developed tendonitis from having to compensate from the weaker one.  I was seeing red.  Enough with western medicine! An acupuncture friend thought she could help me run again.  I saw her twice a week for several weeks and started taking Chinese herbs.  Within three weeks of treatment, I had my first pain-free day in months!  I wasn't running yet, but I regained my optimism that I could get through this injury that somehow had come to define me.

Carpe Diem Baby!

For a gal who spent nearly every waking moment running or thinking about running, finding something to replace that gaping hole was a formidable challenge.  I didn't know it at the time but I'd be sidelined from running for the next four months.  Most of that time I would be off work for the summer.  Fortunately my family and I had a very full summer schedule.  I longed to escape from my normal life and routine so I wouldn't miss running so darn much.  There's more to life than running, right? Well, I was determined to seek it out and enjoy every minute of it!

Our summer kicked off with our annual trip to Camp Silver Creek for three nights of old fashioned summer camp fun with the whole family.  My best friend and her family were joining us this year which made it all the more special.  I wasn't able to get around as well or be as active due to my painful foot but nonetheless had a fun time being off cooking, cleaning and entertaining duty.  It was so nice to just be able to enjoy my family's sweet company and appreciate the simplicity of living in a tiny cabin out in the wilderness.

 The cabin in which we spent three nights.

 Boating in the pond.
Yay for Trickle Falls!

The next trip that we had planned was a highly anticipated trip to "Out and About Treesort". Steve and I had booked a two night stay for our family in a tree house resort in the quaint town of Taquilma near Cave Junction, Oregon.  It was an absolutely amazing retreat.  We lived high up in a lovely treehouse, swam in the river fed natural pool, lived out our Swiss Family Robinson dreams with tree forts, rope swings, rope ladders and hung out with other families during meal times and evening campfires.  The highlight was getting to practice the art of living fearlessly during my two and a half hours on the ziplines and adrenaline rushed Tarzan Swing free falls.
 Kassidy swinging from the trees.
 Hanging out by the pool on a hot sunny day.
 Me finding my inner child on a rope swing.
 My final ride along the zipline
 The Elementree Treehouse where we spent three lovely restful nights.
Surrendering for a 25 foot free fall and 55 foot total drop on the Tarzan Swing.  What a rush!

It was the BEST vacation ever. I'll never forget it and can't wait to return to this idyllic setting.  Now this is living the good life!  When one door closes, a window always opens.  It was time to tackle my "bucket list" and suck the marrow out of life.