Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Wow, it started off pretty stressful.  I was very concerned about my job, K's job, morale was super low at work because people had been laid off and busy season was looming.  It was tough all over and all those stories are hard to hear. 

I was running again and doing pretty well.  I set a huge PR for me in February (under 14 minutes for two miles on a track) but was still having foot issues and still trying to figure that all out. 

What can you do though?  All I could do was continue to do my job to the best of my abilities (but possibly redoing a resume or at least thinking about it and what would happen if...) and plan out the year both running and otherwise. 

It all worked out that is for certain and I feel very lucky. 

I've taken on a lot more responsibilties at work and have learned a lot and been recognized for what I do every day, mostly cheerfully.  And, i'm approaching 10 years at this job and still happy at it.  I keep thinking I'll get sick of it but then it ends up changing enough so I really enjoy it. 

We didn't have any large house projects we were working on this year by choice.  But still, we got some much needed clean up done, had windows replaced and finished the final touch up work on the multi-year house siding project. Wow, it was good to finish that.  Oh there are still a few things to be done with that (a door needs to be painted, a basement window needs a bit of work and painting) but I'm calling that project done!  We got the side yard planted as well after many, many years of black plastic landscaping while we were working on windows/siding.  I'm excited about that and have started to have a bit of a think of the backyard which needs a lot of work. 

Oh sure, we do have some pending projects in the next  year or two but they are either not a gigantic project or we will hire out some of the work or both.  We recently went to a nice showing at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry to see their nice "Arts and Crafts Movement in the PNW" show.  It made me appreciate our little old house even more.  K is doing some fine projects this winter break that I'm excited about too. 

Running?  Well I ended up running 1627 miles for the year and did 22 (!) races and almost 1200 biking miles.  That is solid miles for me both running and biking and I'm amazed by the races.  I didn't do a marathon which was a goal and that is disappointing to me but I just couldn't make it work.  There was a huge variety of racing which I think was a very good thing for me this year. 

2 - road 5k
1 - road 5k walked with my mom. 
1 - road 8k
1 - road 10k
1 - road 10 miler (in england!)
3 - road half marathons, one as a pacer
1 - winter series which included 2 mile and 3k xc, road and track races
1 - trail series with 5, 7, 10 and 13 mile races.  Plus another 10 mile trail race. 
3 - relays!

I set quite a few PRs, even earned some hardware in races and had a blast in all of them.  I did my first trail race this year (multiple ones!), my first 10 mile road race and reminded myself how much I like pacing people in races.  I knew I was planning on a fair number of races as I'd committed to the relays and wanted to do the two series.  I am delighted that I was able to do all this year and come out feeling strong and healthy.  Much thanks to a very patient K. 

2010?  I'm working on those goals.  :-) 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Deep in the Holidays.

It's been a great few days with family and friends. The kittehs (shown above napping with my mom) are just keeping us all amused. We will be in search of new 'cat dancer' toys soon as these boys have shredded the two we have as they play with them all the time.

We had a lovely brunch on Christmas Day as usual since we had no weather interrupting festivities. K and I had to go in search of dried hominy so we could make Posole on Christmas Day. Posole is a stew of hominy and pork cooked in red chile. When I first had this dish in New Mexico, I was rather eh about it but it has grown on me over the years. In New Mexico, you can find cooked, frozen posole in the freezer section. Here we found it dried at Whole Foods.

After the race of last weekend and then a long, hilly road run, my shins were giving me notice that they were not happy on monday. I took a few extra days off from running and did get on my bike instead. I rode on the trainer for over an hour while watching a movie and listening to music.

This morning, I got out on my road bike outside. Our temp here at the house read 38 degrees but once I was down the hill it was actually more like 30. Cold! I had chemical hand warmers stuffed into my booties and chose the wrong gloves but it was still nice to get out and ride. Seattle has been spraying a mix of de-icer and salt on the roads after the debacle of the sand last year and I like it. It's nice to not have the sand on the roads, it works and only has a faintly chemical strange smell.

I did still get out and have a fun trail run on Tiger Mountain. It was a pretty tough slog straight up to Poo Poo Point (snicker, yeah, me too, but evidently the name is derived from a sound of particular logging signals). It's a narrow trail which would be tough to run in the summer. The undergrowth would be really close and those blackberries hurt! The sun was out at times but we also ran through patches of old snow. As we climbed, the wind picked up as well. Coach, knowing full well I'll go exploring given a chance and feeling good, sent me up to Tiger Mountain Peak #3.
Gorgeous day! My quads are seriously sore from the huge descent and I got a very badly bruised toenail but it was worth it. Plus shins are feeling 100%. I'm looking forward to the next holiday and the new year soon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dark days of winter

It's that time of year when I only see daylight on the weekends. Most runs are done in the morning before work in the dark or after work in the dark. during the summer it is light here from 5am to 10pm but we pay for it right now with very little daylight.

I've been trying to get in an occasional lunch time run along the waterfront of downtown Seattle. It's a nice out and back course through Myrtle Edwards Park with some great views of Elliot Bay, the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. However, my time is limited, there is no place to stretch or cool down and I have no access to showers. I also miss the softer surface of my usual running area.

running in the dark does have some challenges. It's hard to get in a good tempo or fast-paced workout as you just can't see the ground as well. I do carry a flashlight and I'm careful in areas where I know there are issues like any sidewalk in seattle!

so this morning was just going to be an easy-peasy 4 miler. If I was feeling good, I'd push to marathon pace but no biggie if i just wanted to trot along easily. It was cold again in the mid-30's but dry and almost clear. I got down to Green Lake and realized I'd forgotten my flashlight. The area I was planning on going has no street lights but it does have a fair bit of ambient light and I know the route well (including bumps and such) so I wasn't too worried.

After the usual one mile real easy warm up and wake up, I was trotting along quicker than usual, turned to go to the playfields and looked forward to pushing up Soapbox Hill as that area is known. It's a wide paved area behind playfields that obviously used to be used for soapbox racing. It's a really nice grade for pushing up a hill.

I got all focused and noticed the road looked different but in the low light it didn't trigger what was different. I ran right into a huge loose and soft gravel pile they'd put on the hill. Smooshed right into it. I didn't quite fall per se since i was going uphill and smacked into the side of another hill basically. It sure was surprising until I figured out what had happened. If anybody had been able to see it, i'm sure it was hilarious looking.

Then I started laughing. I had gravel dust all over me and was very thankful this was not dirt or rocks or manure!

Lesson: don't forget the flashlight!

And I'm ready for the longer days now thanks!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ready for a Christmas break.

York flying after his favorite toy, Da Bird.

Since we've been back from England the first of November, it has been so very busy at work and at home. After the stress and sorrow of losing Dex, York and Keswick have just made themselves a part of our home.

They are hilarious and are just showing more and more personality. I laugh at some of their antics every day. K's computer has this cursor thing which is every so interesting to watch.

York is very good at keeping himself entertained with toys. Keswick is more of a lap lover but will never say no to a rousing session of Da Bird.

With the change of weather and the more time inside, I do like to knit. I made this Koolhaas Hat last winter in blue and gave it away. I made another one in blue (started on plane to england) and decided I needed to resize it as it was a bit small for me. Before I could do that, a friend walking by at work loved it so much and it fit her so well, she bought it! So I had to make another. An orange Koolhaas Hat in front of an original Koolhaas.

'Tis the season. We decided to do cookies for gifts for neighbors and people at work so that's what this weekend was spent doing (when not running). Mmm. Looks pretty good!

It's going to be pretty busy the next couple of weeks at work as coworkers take vacation but that's just fine. I'm in a fine mood for the season.

Bring on Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cold to Welcome Wet - a new PR!

The cold finally broke. Looking out at the garden, I realize we have lost a couple of hebes. When the call came out to protect plants, i honestly couldn't think of any which needed to be protected. Oops.

We had a pretty good morning of black ice too. So bad that I slipped and fell pretty hard on the way to work earlier in the week. Ouch! My wrist, forearm and upper back and shoulder were all sore for a couple of days. That coupled with a good but hard tempo run meant that I had a run on Thursday which was terrible. Everything felt achy and twingy and I was tired and sore. it's been really busy and stressful at work as well. So much to do with work and holiday planning.

the next race for the Winter Grand Prix Winter Series was this morning. I had a fairly disappointing race with the first race two weeks ago but knew I had a faster run in me. But today? After such a tiring week?

At least the weather was about perfect. 45 and drizzly. I brought my hat to wear if it was raining but I never needed it. The course was bit messy in places with some puddles and slop but no ice!

I had forgotten my bib. D'oh! I had to re-register and they were going to charge me a whole $1 fee. However, i didn't have any money on me so I told them I owed them. I love these little, casual races. It took a bit longer to get re-registered so I didn't have quite enough time to get in a full warm-up. I wasn't too worried though since it was so much warmer and I still wasn't sure how I'd feel.

I was surprised to see they had heavy machinery on the xc course. I wonder what they are working on? It did affect the road course a bit so there was a change but it was for the better I think. Usually we would start to the south and there was always a bit of a bottleneck in the first quarter mile as we made the turn to go north. This time we started to the south and there were no such issues.

MJ found me in the line up before we started (RPD DNS'd as he was sick). She admired my Fast Shoes I was wearing. Fast Shoes? yep, I did finally get a pair of racing flats a couple of months ago. I've been wearing them just on occasion for speedwork. I thought this race would be good for their racing debut.

And we were off! I got out to a pretty quick start but reigned it in quick and just settled down watching PN ahead of me. I knew she'd get a steady start and she is easy to spot in the crowd as she's in her 60's! About a half mile in, MJ passed me as I expected. It was nice to see that she wasn't bolting past me quite as quickly as she had last time.

I checked pace again about three quarters of the mile in and was surprised to see sub-7. I honestly had been expecting to race this at around 7:05 pace. Would I be able to hold it? And then the reminder to myself of don't think, just run.

And I did. At .8, we made the turn to go back to the north and I could feel the breeze just a bit. I started reminding myself "strong" and "relaxed." And what did that mean for me?

Strong as in a strong arm drive and a strong focus. Normally at this point in a race (the middle), my focus is wavering a bit and I'm slowing. Relaxed. Keep the shoulders down and breathe.

And it worked. I hit the first mile and heard the caller say 7:02 which is gun time. I hadn't really expected to run a 7:00 flat first mile but there it was. And I was feeling good. My fast shoes were feeling fast, my breathing was good and I felt calm and focused. I maintained the pace and made the turn again to the south. I had started passing people gradually. And as I did, I realized that my breathing compared to theirs was often more relaxed and not as labored. That gave me confidence to continue pushing.

As I hit around 1.6, I pulled even to a high school girl (#42). She did not at all want me to pass and we stuck side by side through the rest of south road and through the turn. With a quarter to go and the finish in sight, I muttered to the kid "ok, go! pull me in." She TOOK OFF!

It was awesome! 41 year old legs who've been doing distance training don't have quite that kick (ummm... at all). As I watched her pull away in amazement I knew I couldn't even keep up but I'd still at least pass the guy ahead of me. I just made it and I was done. Last race, I was barely able to breathe and was feeling just awful the last bit but this time was so much better. I had a bare smidge of a kick, legs felt strong and could breathe. Wow!

I found #42 and just told her how awesome that had been. She also had a huge grin and was just as delighted with the race. Fun stuff! I got in line to turn in my ticket and that's when I looked at my watch to see what the final time had been.


I couldn't believe it! I'd gotten faster the second mile. That is a huge PR at this distance for me. I ran last year without a watch 14:26 and the year before I'd done the course in 14:30. I did come under 14 (13:58) for the first time at the end of this series in February but that was on a track at the end of the series when I'd had the faster races in preparation. So this is a pretty big deal for me and I'm just delighted.

The cold and the smoggy dry air really did a number on me the last race. This race, I felt so much better and having had a couple harder efforts also helped this morning. It has been a while since I've raced. Mentally, this went so well and I know that's been part of my difficulties lately. It is something that I will continue to work on for sure. I know I can apply it to longer races.

and then I got home and found an interesting link:

garmin connect track: click here

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A whole year...

Frozen Tundra @ Magnuson Park

The first race of the Club Northwest Winter Grand Prix series was this weekend and I had been waiting for this one. Really? it's just a little podunk 3k xc race to begin with which takes place on a 1.5 k grassy loop course in Magnusen Park. Nothing special. Really.

I've done this series two years in a row as an intro to faster running. the past two years, I've been injured and not running late summer and into fall and just running again in late fall. Yes, it took that long to figure out what was going on and I feel like I've figured some things out about what works for me. Last year, I still had some residual foot things going on but was still able to get some pretty good running in during the series. this year I was excited to go into this series but also this particular race with a whole year of solid running behind me.

I thought for sure I'd show some real improvement in times but alas that was not to be. And it's given me some things to think about.

first off, the race. It was cold! Gah! K was going to come over to the park to watch the race and I'm really glad he came so he could do the driving on the slick roads. There was frost/ice over everything and we hit ice fog as well. He had a great time taking in the beautiful frosty foggy landscapes and got some great photos.

We got there with plenty of time for a leisurely "warm up" of about 2 miles. This is the first real cold snap we've had and I could tell my muscles did not like it and weren't used to it. Everything felt sluggish. I found RPD who looked a bit cold as well and then we ran into another runner MJ who is back to running after double stress fractures earlier this year. It sure was nice to see her running so well!

The event was even more low key than usual as they did not set up a PA system nor use a clock. the race director's air horn had fizzled too so he just yelled "go!" and dropped his arm and we were off!

My plan was to do a quick start (otherwise you get hung up a bit in the section known as The Fins), stay strong on the uphill section going up Kite Hill, use the downhill (side photo) and don't fade in the middle. Stay focused on the second loop going up Kite Hill and then all out to the end.

And I honestly think I did this. I ran it well. I've very pleased that I stayed pretty steady going up the hill and then passed people once on the crest. I didn't let up in the middle section either which is usually a tough go for me. I let it all hang out too as I had no kick at the end whatsoever and got passed by quite a few people at the very end.

And? that's great, right! Well yes it is, but I was quite disappointed with my time. I came in at 14:59 which is a few seconds slower than last year's XC race. They did do a few minor tweaks to the course so it was a bit longer than last years and a true 3k. I was faster pace-wise if you compare it (7:50 this year to last year's 8:02) but I felt disconcertingly slow.

Some of this has to do with conditions. It was on grass but the grass was frozen and hard. A couple of places, we crossed a road and there was definitely ice on that area. And again, I haven't had any running yet in frozen temps and I know I get used to that after a few runs. A bigger issue is the lack of speedwork. This short, hard race was quite a shock to this system and I know by the end of the series, I'm in better shape to handle the pace.

Some other things have changed these past few months as well. I've used a coaching service in the past as I dislike coming up with my own schedule especially when working towards a particular goal race. As of September, I'm setting my own schedule and speedwork. It's gone well and given me a chance to try some things but there is a definite reluctance on my part to run hard by myself. Obviously this is something I need to work on.

I've been toying with goal races next year. I'll continue the winter series because it is just fun! I think I'm pretty set now on racing the Nookachamps Half Marathon in mid-January (barring acceptable conditions). I had debated a mid-February marathon but now think that'll be too soon so I'll aim for a may marathon. It feels really nice settling this in my mind. I've had a wonderful running year (that post is coming soon) and it is great to be able to continue to build what I've developed this year.

garmin track: click here
last year's garmin track: click here

more photos: click here

Saturday, December 5, 2009

One More. The Next Generation.

This is my cell phone photo taken with my cell phone. it cracks me up every time I see it.

And introducing the next furry generation:

York is the Red MacTabby and Keswick (Kez - ik) is the black tabby. They are 7 month old sweeties whom we got from MEOW. They were hand raised in a foster home from the time they were about three weeks old. They are total lovebugs.

Everything is new and an adventure for them and we are delighted.

New additions