The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Final Run and A New Beginning

It was a brisk winter's 23* when I began my last run of 2010. The rays of the sun felt good despite the coldness in the air.  I pressed the start button on my watch and began the year's final miles.

There is excitement to be felt standing on this side of the stroke of 2010's last midnight; excitement in savoring the successes of the year.  When I began the year I had made the decision to get serious about my running.  I did many things that put me out of my comfort zone and became some of the best decisions I could have made.

One of the first decisions I made was to join a local running group dedicating themselves to improving.  This group didn't care how fast you ran, just that you wanted to get faster.  And I wanted to get faster.  We worked hard in our workouts and runs, logging countless miles together.  Well, in reality that is not true, each one of us can tell you exactly how many miles we ran as we all live and breathe by our Garmin watches; we even named ourselves Team Garmin.  If you found yourselves near us on the start of our runs, it was not uncommon to hear "Wait a minute!  I'm still locating!"  These fellow runners make me smile and have become some of my most favorite people.

I reach my turn around point and head for home.  The winter sun shines in my eyes, but I do not mind.  Sun and clear blue skies are not common in our winters and I am enjoying every moment of it.  I glance at my watch noticing my pace is faster than I expected.  I decide to keep pushing, the pace feels good.

The year brought me several firsts.  March 27 I ran a 15k placing 3rd in my age group, at 41 years old I found myself looking at my first ever race ribbon.  As the year went on, I would place in two more races and have 4 personal bests.  This brings incredible sense of accomplishment and delivers a greater determination to work towards my Boston goal.

My road lies ahead and I turn toward my home.  The final run is over finishing out my 2010 season.  One year ago I wondered what 2010 would hold for me and it gave me one of the best running years I've had.  Standing in the driveway I hit the stop button on my watch.

My next run will be with my friends in 2011, I can't wait to see what that year will bring.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Winter's Morning

The city had come alive despite the winter's pre-dawn darkness.  Christmas shoppers were hustling about in search of the season's perfect gifts.  I rub my gloves together warming my hands as I wait for the others.  The brisk breeze brought the faintest smell of snow.

Laughter announces the arrival of my friends; right on time and ready to go.  We discuss the route we will take and the button beeps heard from our watches herald the start of our run. We talk of the cold and all agree it is better than the monsoon rains we ran in the previous week.

The trail wove us through the still quiet residential neighborhoods.  Homes were starting to awake and cartoons could be seen through big picture windows.  In spite of living in the city, we run streets we've never traveled before.  One of the joys of running is seeing parts of the city you might not ever experience if you had not been on foot.  We admire the architecture of one home and enjoy the Christmas lights of another.

We veer into a city park noticing the evidence of a previous day's wind storm.  Evergreen branches liter the ground as if God had been baking and shaken His sprinkle shaker while decorating Christmas sugar cookies.  Just as quickly as we entered the park, we left and began running down the creek lined parkway toward the ocean.

The creek was swollen from the December rains earlier in the week.  Indication of how high the water had risen was found on the banks of the creek.  Trees lay toppled in its midst with water rushing around the exposed roots.  We marvel at the strength of what we know as a tiny creek.

Coming along the ocean's side the wind begins to blow harder leaving us to feel it's bite on our cheeks and noses.  Away from the city center, the ocean side sleeps with inactivity.  Boats moored in the marina gently rock in the Pacific's waves.  A few fisherman are seen stirring about; the rest of the marina, quiet.

We follow the ocean as it leads into downtown.  Here the Farmer's Market is busy as vendors begin setting up their wares and people are milling around with the leisure found only in a weekend morning.  The smell of fresh food wafts from the grills.  Despite the earliness of the day, the food smells delicious.  Greeted by the trail head we succumb to its invitation and follow its rocky path leading us back along the ocean.

Reaching the furthest point of our run, we turn and head back into the city.  Making our way down the well traveled streets, we fall in rhythmic silence broken only by the sounds of our shoes hitting pavement.  The city center is busy and we find ourselves waiting at several red lights. 

It isn't long before we make our way back to the trail where our run had begun. The familiarity of it quickens our pace and we relax knowing the run is almost over.  We follow each winding turn and as promised, the trail delivers us to our finish. 

Someone notices the time and we discover we have a few unplanned moments to enjoy a cup of coffee at the coffee shop around the corner.  We sit around the table, warming our fingers which are wrapped around the cups holding hot coffee. We talk of fall marathons and quickly approaching Christmas plans.  A hard run and a winter's morning had gifted us a few extra minutes to sit around the table and enjoy the moment, a moment dripping with friendship and laughter.  We wish each other a merry Christmas and travel our separate ways.  That is, until a winter's morning calls us again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Testing The Limits

The temperature read 23 degrees.

This is gonna be cold.

With the sun starting to crest the mountains, the golden winter rays gave sparkle to the frost which covered the ground.  Nature's diamonds glistened from the trees, the frozen grasses and roads.

And slippery.

The park was beginning to awake and wipe the sleep from its eyes.  Race directors and volunteers were filtering in bringing life to the quietness of the early morning. Evidence of people were seen in the footprints left in the frosty ground. 

Leaving the warmth of our cars, my running friends and I began an easy paced 4 mile run.  Weaving our way through the oldest part of town and down to the ocean front, I notice the only others awake and out in this cold were those from the oldest of generations.

They are tough, I can learn alot from them.

We talk amongst ourselves discussing our strategies, or lack of, for the race we will soon run.  Who wants to run what pace and the times we each hope to run the 6.2 miles in.  At the two mile mark we turn around and head back to the park.

Upon entering the park we are greeted by several people milling about waiting for the start of the race.  We make our way into the warm, heated building and sign our names on the roster.  A simple pen stroke and my name is forever attached to the 2010 Fairhaven Frosty 10k.

We take our place at the starting line.  With two divisions in this race, a 5k and a 10k, there are all different types of registrants.  Parents with children, dogs with owners, cross country students, walkers and racers.  I look around and spot two women dressed as toy soilders toeing the line.

I will not be beat by a toy soilder.

The announcer tells the 5k entrants to take their place at the first starting line and the 10k runners to line up behind the 10k line about 200 meters back from the 5k start.  Someone yells "GO!" and we are off and running.  That is until we hit the back of the 5k pack.  Here we must dodge walkers, strollers and dogs who can't get along and owners trying their best to control them.  My running buddies and I look at each other with a look understood by all.


We make our way out of the park and shortly begin the ascent up the first hill.  Not the most favorable way to start a race but knowing after the first mile there would be a long section of a gradual downhill kept me focused.

Just get through this hill.  Pump my arms, shorten my stride.

The crest of the hill gave way to a small downhill taking us to the bottom of switchbacks etched into the side of a hill.  Upon climbing them we reached the Interurban Trail and a well deserved downhill section.  I look at my watch. 

Darn it. 

The trail is now a gradual downhill and I can make up time lost on the uphill climbs. I find a runner ahead and focus on catching them.  This works for awhile.  I find a runner, catch up to them and work hard to pass them.  Then I spot her. 

She was maybe 10 and she was ahead of me.  I am now right behind her and I hear a few volunteers yell, "Go Emmy!"  This girl impresses me.  As I pass her I tell her she's doing great and to keep it up.  I look at my watch and figure she is running close to a 7:30 mile pace. 


Leaving the trail, we make our way onto the city street which will take us back to the park.  As we approach, the 5k runners turn toward their finish line and we continue straight to repeat the loop.  And the hills.  Again.

With only 10k runners now on the course the field thins out tremendously.  The cold winter sun shines brightly into our eyes as we climb up the hill.

Pump my arms.  Shorten my stride.

The short downhill serves only as a reminder the switchbacks are looming.  Too quickly they come into view and I find myself working my way up them.

Final uphill, I can do it.  I can do it.

The trail is a welcome sight.  My watch chirps and I glance at it.  4 miles done, only 2.2 to go.  Here I question the sanity of running 4 miles before the race.  I remind myself of the goal to run Boston one day.

This is a stepping stone.  A building block to Boston.

The trail feels good under foot.  The frozen, frosty leaves crunch with each step I take.  A pleasant sound of winter running.  My gaze goes upward to the trees on either side of the trail. Trees reach across the sky in a perfect canopy carving out a ceiling for the trail that winds its way through the forest. 

Although sad to leave the trail as we turn onto the city street again, I am happy with the chalk written message scrawled on the sidewalk, it reads "1 mile to go". I am tired. This is starting to hurt.

I want this over.

Up ahead I focus on a few runners and wonder if I have enough energy left to catch them.  They stay in my sights.  Cars drive by.  Some honk, some wave, most pay no attention.  I wonder the last time they pushed themselves this hard.

I round the final corner and make my way to the park.  Something catches my eye up ahead. 

Oh no.  Could it be? 

Yes, it was.  Toy soilder ladies.  As participants in the 5k race, they were on their way to the finish line.  Even though I had done twice the distance they had, I did not want them crossing the finish line before me.

Run harder.  Run faster.  I don't feel good.

The distance between us shortened.  I just had to lap these toy soilders.

Run harder.  Run faster.

With the park entrance in sight, I passed the toy soilders and told them they were doing great.  Turning into the park I sped up to the finisher shoot and crossed the finish line.  I was done.  And extremely happy about it.  My watch told me I'd finished in 49:57.

Filling up on oranges, bananas and race food goodies, my running friends and I talk about the race we'd each just run.  We ran the exact same course, the exact same distance yet each experienced much different races.  Goals were met, some were not, but all was left out on the course.  We emerged stronger than when we started and glowing with that which comes from hard work, pushing ourselves and a testing of limits. 

And a readiness to do it all again.