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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Diary of A Mad Woman : Part 2

The Ankle Dictator and I are in a stare down; each waiting to call the other's bluff.  Unfortunately, I am not bluffing and he isn't joking so we continue to stare at each other.  It's a waiting game and I wait impatiently for him to flinch.  Maybe I should flirt with him.

Oh the Ankle Dictator thinks he can trick me.  He brought me a gift that he thought I'd love; wrapping it up in fancy little paper with a great big bow thinking I'd be impressed.  Cleverly gifted was the promise of sleeping in.  One would think the gift of extra sleep would be welcomed and I won't lie, the first day or two the Ankle Dictator snagged me hook, line, and sinker.  Not anymore.  While in training and after 4 days of hard running, I'd earned a day off of running therefore allowing me to sleep in.  Oh how sweet that day was.  Now that I have them every day, they aren't so sweet - more like the sweetness of a sour patch kid.

After a week of snow, ice and finally rain, we were blessed with a day of the most incredible sunshine and blue skies.  I'd look out my window and every thought was consumed with how it was incredibly perfect running weather.  I cursed the Ankle Dictator.  As my sprained left foot is needed for the clutch in the car,  I couldn't even drive my convertible.  Sigh.  I bought a latte instead.  It made sense at the time.

Saturday morning I wouldn't have to get up early to meet my friends for a high mileage run, leaving me with the freedom to make plans for Friday night.  We invited our friends Suzanne, Jim, Karen & Tim over for a friendly (?) game of Pit.  Not one of us could remember the last time we had laughed that hard, each declaring our abs were getting the best workout they'd ever had.  We rediscovered cheek muscles and the next morning they were still sore. 

The Ankle Dictator and I continue our stare down; but I will take my laughter-induced sore abs and cheeks and begin a new workout.   And I will workout hard in hopes to gain some of the endorphins running gives me.  When the sore muscles come, I will sharpen my stare at the Ankle Dictator and when he least expects it, I will wink at him.  Hopefully it'll fluster him enough to forget about my ankle.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Diary of A Mad Woman : Part 1

It is 5 days removed from spraining my ankle, 5 days of no running, and I am still alive.  Amazingly I haven't killed anyone either; that could be in part that everyone can out run me right now, but let's attribute it to my incredible self-restraint shall we?

The Ankle Dictator has been pretty quiet, not jabbing my ankle every time I move.  The trick, I discovered, is sitting on the couch with my foot up.  This alone is an accomplishment worthy of marathon-finish line proportions.  Never have I sat still for this long.  Who would've thought that rest really does work?  Each day I've been able incorporate more and more into my day letting me know that my ankle is doing much better in it's recovery this time around than it did in 2008.

Mr. Meany Pants visited me the other day.  Dressed all in brown, he hopped out of the big brown box truck he drives and had the cruel audacity to bring to me the Running Warehouse package I had ordered before I sprained my ankle.  Can you believe the nerve of some people?  Although I will say I look forward to the day I can break in this bad boy.  Saucony's ViziPro will make me light up in the dark without having to wear my jacket.  It even comes with a flashing light on the sleeve.  This satisfies my gadget geekiness (<---- that is a word now).

I'm planning the exercises I will be able to do that do not involve my ankle.  This has proved a little trickier than anticipated; even some of the weight set exercises require me to brace my body with my feet and ankles.  As it gets stronger I'll be able to incorporate more and more.

Today I'm planning on an intense upper body workout ~ I am painting my oldest son's room.  Oh come on now, did you really think I'd sit still all day?


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Curve Balls & Laundry Baskets

One can plan out an entire year of racing, down to the minute detail and it can all get tossed up in the air by a laundry basket.  Strange to think that something that has absolutely nothing to do with running can bring my exercise regime to a screeching halt.

The Villian - doesn't it look evil?
It is hard to say what happened, as I really am not sure what did.  I do know I casually leaped over the laundry basket (AKA The Villian), easily clearing all 18 inches of it. 

The next moment I am on the ground in pain. 

Golf ball or ankle?
And where my ankle is suppose to be I find a golf ball.  The ground has become my friend as I am having a difficult time standing up.  In an instant I knew, I just knew, this golf ball size lump has sucked every moment from my near-future runs.  I lived through this in 2008 when I had a severe sprain, on the same ankle, and was side-lined for 6 weeks.
Here I sit on my sofa, my foot wrapped and propped up on pillows.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad.  It's disheartening to look at your personal goals and know that they are put on hold.  The Ankle Dictator will be in control for awhile; as much as I despise him, I have to play this smart and listen to him.  My spring marathons have been taken off the schedule and my June schedule is questionable. 

There are blessings in this that I recognize, and for that I am grateful.  In order not to have Christmas gifts put on credit all my race fees were put on hold until February.  So although running them has been taken out of my schedule, I am not out of race fees.

My boys have been wonderful, making sure I can stay put and have my foot up.  It is a wonderful thing as a parent when you receive affirmation of your parenting with the kindness and care they show during times like this.  They will make wonderful husbands.

When my sadness took the form of tear drops, my husband shared the heartbreak with me.  Not many women have empathy like that in their spouse, I am blessed.

Being taken off running is not the end of the world and is not the worst thing that could happen to me.  Right now I need to realign my goals and once I can wrap my head around them, my focus will sharpen.  However right now, I am sad.  And that is ok.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Falling Snow

The slider door closes behind me.  All is quiet.  Snowflakes fall softly from the heavens.  The ground is white now in color and makes the darkness less deep.  I press the start on my Garmin and begin my run.

The world seems asleep and silent; my breathing the only sound I hear.  Far off in the distance I see a car traveling down the road but I do not hear it.  The morning is incredibly peaceful.  A neighbor cautiously drives by and their headlights reveal what I could already feel; snow was lazily falling.

My footprints leave the only evidence of my trail.  The displaced snow on the country road I am running tell me a few of my neighbors have left for work.  The snow laden clouds part for a whisper showing me the bright quarter moon they conceal. 

Snow rests atop a mailbox perched on a weathered cedar fence post.  The fence had come down over time with a few sections still remaining.  Nails rusted past their usefulness leave cedar beams hanging precariously along the field’s edge.  The snow clings to it trying to cover the age of the fence with the newness of white.

A rabbit hopping through a field catches my eye.  He stops and watches me.   He blends in perfectly to his surroundings.  My footfalls startle a duck sleeping in the rain filled ditch and he takes to flight.  He in turn has startled me.  Within seconds I have lost sight of him in the pre-dawn morning.

At the turn around point I reverse my steps to head back for home.  Not wanting the run to end I decide to add another mile despite knowing the rest of my morning will be pressed for time.  The snow falls heavier now.  Looking down I see my footprints made at the start of my run.  I follow them feeling as if I am running in the faintest of echos.

I run to the back yard, finishing my run while pressing the stop button on my Garmin.  Drinking my water, I stand silently outdoors.  The world seemingly pauses with me, and for a brief moment the only thing being done is the watching of falling snow. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lake Samish Half Marathon

We got the last parking space nearest the lodge where runners were to check in and collect their numbered bibs and timing chips.  The temperature stood at 45* creating perfect weather for running, but chilly for standing and waiting.

Entering into the park lodge it became an instant family reunion.  Friends not seen for awhile greeted us with hugs and in an instant several conversations had started at once.  As more runners registered, our circle grew.  Time came to shed our coats and Pat, Kathy and I made our way back to the truck to trade our coats and sweats for fuel belts and running gloves.  My husband Dennis and my son Dane were getting their bikes ready for a ride around the lake.  I wished them well and made my way back to the lodge.

 Collin, a friend of my oldest son, was near the entrance, nervously waiting for the start of his first half marathon.  Talking with him and his mom we talked of his training and his plans for the race.  At 14 his goal was to finish in 1 hour 30 minutes, an aggressive time for a hilly course.  I wished him well and told him I’d see him at the finish.

 Entering the lodge it wasn’t long before Pat had us heading out the door for a warm up.  There is something very comforting in doing on race day what you always do before a run.  We talk and stretch and discuss the paces for the day.  Between injuries, comebacks and previous week’s marathons, Kathy, Cari and I were hoping to simply have a good run.

 The race director corrals everyone to the starting line, gives direction and then blows the horn.  We were off and running.  It didn’t take long to get into a rhythm, and at times our pace was too fast.   The route consisted of two 6.6 mile loops around Lake Samish.  Lakeside residents could be found on their decks shouting encouragement as we ran by.  One clever household created their own aid station with water and beer and a large sign offering “hydrate or ride”.  They won for creativity.

 The three of us kept a strong and steady pace and managed the rolling hills with ease.  We wondered if it would feel so easy on the second loop.  The lake was calm and grey reminding us the calendar read January.  We admired the beautiful homes and summer cabins that peppered the lake’s edge.

 Successfully completing the first loop, 59 minutes later we were beginning the second loop around the lake.    We knew where the hills were and what to expect and found ourselves so lost in conversation, they again went by easily.   Despite running a marathon 7 days previous, and much to my amazement, I was feeling strong.   The exhaustion I feared would come, didn’t.  

 We were on the backside of the lake and cresting the final hill, making our total elevation gain 1,714 feet.  Nearing the final mile marker, we picked up the pace making it our fastest mile of the day.  Running through the finisher’s chute my husband and my friends are cheering and waiting for high fives, hugs and fist bumps. 

 The finisher clock read 2:01:19, almost 14 minutes faster than I thought I’d do.  Although a far cry from my personal best it was enough to place me 8th in my age bracket.  Pat ran a new personal best with 1:40:58 giving him a 5th place finish in his age group.  In the lodge, I bumped into Collin, who with a big smile, told me he did a 1:24 beating his goal by 6 minutes and placing him 2nd in his age group.  At only 14 years old, he is one to watch as I think he has the capability to make it big on the world stage.  You heard it here first.

A few hours removed from the race, I sit here quietly typing out my thoughts on paper.  In all honesty, I admit my own body surprised me with its strength today.  Running a marathon with 7300 ft of elevation gain only 7 days prior to this race, I did not think I would feel so strong in this one.  I was wrong.  A runner’s biggest critic is the voice inside the runner’s own head.  There will be ugly miles ahead, there will be difficult miles ahead and for those miles I will bottle up this feeling of hope.   And when those miles come, as we all know they do, I will crack open the bottle and breathe it in.  This day, I will remember.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Last Chance Marathon

Large, white clouds obscure Mount Baker yet help create a spectacular sunrise with the morning sun's rays of red exploding behind them.  A beautiful start to the last day of the year.  A couple hundred of us milled around the start line trying to keep warm.  It wasn't long before the countdown began, someone yelled "Go!" and we were running.

Last Chance Marathon would be my fifth of the year and a perfect way to end the year.  Knowing this trail was not an easy one and not conducive to a personal best, I was using this race as a celebration of my 2011 year of running; every step would be enjoyed.  

Once we got onto the trail the crowd seemed to space out pretty quickly.  It wasn't long before a woman, after seeing my jacket, approached me telling me she too was a Marathon Maniac.  For the next mile or two we talked of races we've done while the trail's crushed rock crunched under our feet.  Entering Arroyo Park the trail became a single track and she took off in front of me.  I concentrated on my foot falls on this technical part of the trail.

Mile 4 a man commented on my jacket and how he was working toward becoming a Maniac.  I slowed my pace to talk with him.  John is a soldier, stationed 3 hours south in Fort Lewis.  This was his second lifetime marathon.  We shared a mile before he told me to move on as he had to slow it down.

My husband had positioned himself to be at mile 5 and as this was on out and back course which we would do twice, I'd see him 4 times.  I was feeling good and in need of nothing so he simply cheered me on; as well as on my return.  Reversing the route I made my way back to the park in which we started.  Half marathoners were finished and full marathoners went back out for the second and final loop.

As expected the runners thinned out tremendously, giving me plenty of alone time to celebrate my final marathon of the year.  Slivers of light were beginning to break through the winter's forest.  Entering into Arroyo Park the sound of the creek greeted me.  The descent was rapid and soon the trail snaked it's way alongside the creek.  The rains had swollen its waters and rushed over rock and fallen trees.  The trail, peppered with roots and rocks, kept my attention.  Small wooden bridges latticed their way over the creek and washouts.  Winter's leafless maples dressed only with thick green moss lined the muddy trail.  The switchbacks took me from the creek to the top of the valley.  A steep ascent, I walked out of the park onto the trail. 

At the trail head I heard people cheering for me as I emerged.  I smile when I realize it is my friends Arlane and Amy, who after running the back trails and stumbled upon the marathon route kept an eye out for me as they knew I was there.  I stop and give them big hugs.  A complete surprise and one that gave me a boost.  After we talk a bit, they cheer me on my way and turn away to finish their run.

I am now heading toward Dennis and feel blessed to have such great friends and a husband up ahead standing in the cold waiting to see if I need anything.  My hands are cold and he rushes to get me my gloves.  After an orange slice, a hug, and kiss I'm on my way toward the final turn around point.  Reaching it I give those at the aid station high fives and head back for the final 6.2 miles of the run.

The trail is muddy and squishes under foot.  I maneuver my way around to the driest sections.  I see no one ahead of me and no one behind me.  I stop for a brief moment.  Not a sound was heard.  Standing in the woods, I listen to nature.  I feel peace and thank God for such beautiful scenery.  I run on celebrating the beauty around me. 

A man with a speedy shuffle is coming toward me.  I ask him if his name is Mel.  With a mischievous smile he tells me it is.  Shaking his hand I introduce myself and tell him it is wonderful to see him out here running marathons again.  In the spring, at the age of 77 he had fallen out of a tree and took 6 months to recover.  A man who routinely ran 20 marathons a year spent no time feeling sorry for himself, recovered quickly and came back to running marathons the previous month.  His smile warmed the chill out of the day.

At mile 21 my husband filled my water bottle and sent me on my way as he went off to an appointment.  Despite being tired from the rigors of this trail race, I felt good.  The trail occasionally afforded spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It was easy to be lost in thought with such beautiful vistas.  Madrona trees hung precariously over large rock face as if a small wind would cause them to tumble down the mountainside. 

 I enter in Arroyo Park for the last and final time.  With a little over two miles to go there is a bounce in my step and I'm celebrating my final 2 miles of 2011.  Takao Suzuki, although running the race himself, pauses to snap my picture. Making my way up and out of the ravine I notice someone at the top of the hill.  It takes a moment for me to realize it is my coach Pat.  Once he saw me, his encouragement started bringing a big smile to my face.  At the top of the hill he gives me a big hug.  I am overwhelmed.  Knowing he had a full day of commitments he made time to find me along the course just to encourage me on the last of the biggest hills I'd face on the course.  With a final pat on the back he sent me for my final ascent reminding me once at the top it would be downhill all the way to the finish.  A mantra I'd repeat several times over the final miles.

Mile 25 came and I celebrated each step.  The feelings of being incredibly blessed welled up inside and were bubbling at the surface.  I rounded the corner taking an off-shoot of the trail into the park.  Nearing the finishline I do not see the clock ticking off the time, I see only one thing.  My coach had driven to the finish to cheer me home and celebrate the finish with me. 

This final run of the year was not about running my fastest time, it was simply about the run.  Driving home, the emotions of the day flooded over me.  How incredibly blessed I am to have a spouse who braves hours of cold to support me and friends who search me out solely to encourage me.  Their acts of selflessness touch me deeply.  My heart is full.  I can't think of a better way to close the year.