Monday, December 26, 2011


On our run today, my kid noticed an ache in her shoulder. Turns out it is from Wii sports. Specifically, bike racing. You have to pedal with your arms, around what appears to be a volcanic island. This was a Christmas gift for the kids. When I got it from the middle aged clerk at the video game store at the mall, I asked what sports were featured on this game called Wii Sports Resort? Massage? Hot tubs? He looked at me with a half grin, half grimace. I think he half hates his job, but I might just be projecting my worst fears about my son's future prospects on this guy who is just making an honest living. Anyway, I am a total spazz at Wii basketball, not too bad at archery, but I totally enjoy the bicycle race. They even have the rider experience bonking. When it happened to me during the game, my daughter said, "Hey, it is just like you in the Tour of the Unknown Coast." Kids are so cute.

Wait just a second while I recover from the *literally* just discovered information that the Tour of the Unknown Coast now has a 200 mile ride. Which makes me wonder, when is enough enough?

I am old and I know it. But I really still want to break 3 hours in the marathon just once before I die. My goal is to do it before age 45. At one point in life I really just wanted to finish a marathon. Now, truth be told, a sub 3 hour marathon is no big deal. Probably 20 women in my own small town could do that, and maybe 5 children as well. I do live in an exceptionally fit town, but still: Ouch. Anyway, running is a sport you mainly do against yourself, and I want to beat myself to a pulp before I start my inevitable decline. Or, I should say, before I finish my inevitable decline, as that cat is already out of the bag.

Mixed metaphors aside, I realized 12 things this Christmas:
1. One can only feel so much guilt for replacing a 30 year old television.
2. California is meteorologically challenged. Where is the snow??? And why are things in bloom in December???
3. My children really do not believe in Santa anymore.
4. I sort of wish they still did.
5. I may never, ever run a sub 5 minute mile.
6. Wii puts the "we" into family life.
7. I still miss my parents, may they rest in peace.
8. The Jogg'n Shoppe has had 2 windows broken by vandals this past month. Everyone should shop there and support our local running specialist! Get off the couch!!
9. My poodle, Miles, actually can run.
10. I am so psyched about #9.
11. Life is good.
12. My best gift to me is my health.

Run, and you shall thrive. You can never run enough.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.)
-Mozart requiem, Introit

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
-Chinese proverb

Winter running, no matter the clime, makes sunshine a rare prize for the working stiff. I mean sunshine in the literal sense, no matter if it is raining. I mean sunshine as opposed to darkness. Night shift offers a chance to emerge from dark into light, but night shift involves the deep pain of a shifting circadian rhythm.

I am trying to figure out how to run in the dark. The woods beckon, and I have  a candle of sorts, but just a few days ago a mountain lion was spotted on my trails. I actually was running at dusk that day, and kept having that slightly panicky feeling that something wasn't right, that same feeling that can come over you while sitting on a surfboard with your legs dangling into the shark-ridden waters. I try to tell myself that the mountain lions are always there, whether or not they are spotted. Why does being seen make them so much scarier? The thing about a mountain lion is they will not make any noise before they eat you up. They are experts at stealth. I miss my great big fierce border collie, who used to run for hours with me but now his joints can only handle an elderly trot for about 20 minutes. He made me feel safe in the dark.

Dogs and lions aside, I need to run in the dark, or I will most certainly turn into a big, fat, grouchy puddle of insanity. I leave my work in the evening: it is dark. I arise before work in the morning: it is dark. Darkness is sad and scary and it tempts a girl to carry pepper spray or to learn kick boxing.

Once I was running in the woods on a dark morning, dogless. Suddenly, about 20 minutes into my run, my headlamp failed. I stopped. I stood there with towering redwoods all around but completely invisible, because I am not a nocturnal animal. Humans are pathetic--we can practically kill ourselves walking to the bathroom at night in our familiar but dark bedrooms. But back to that one morning: I stood there, alone, in the dark. After a minute or two, outlines of trees and ferns and the path became visible. I looked up at the moon and the stars twinkling between the tree tops. The air was so crisp and the quiet so absolute. I felt very calm, and suddenly very alive.

Then I fixed my lamp, and ran on.

Today I ran into the sunset with my eldest child. We are avoiding the woods during prime hunting hours, so we chose the marsh. Due west the sun was a massive orange fireball. The ducks didn't seem to notice. Toward the end of our run, which we had agreed was to be low key, we found ourselves flying at a fairly crisp pace. Daughter turned to me and said, in a somewhat sassy tone, "I just would like to point out that you are the one running like a bat out of hell, not me."

I somehow never pictured one of my children including me in such a simile.

Kurt Vonnegut once said he dreaded the thought that the requiem proclamation of resting in eternal light might be true. Wouldn't it be better to rest in darkness? Who doesn't enjoy that moment of sleep, curled in bed, enveloped in darkness and silence, with the stars and moon a steady night light. Like the night on our honeymoon, camping in Maine in October, when we found our way to the rocky beach at midnight, and laid head to head all bundled in down coats and mittens, staring at the most spectacular night sky I have ever seen.

I think the headlamp is calling me. But it'll be at least a week before I can muster the courage to enter mountain lion central in the dark.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In Common

If I run long enough, my brain can cease its banter, and this is the main reason I believe I prefer running what some may consider ridiculously long distances. Though these days, marathon training is common. To be running long you must be doing ultras. Preferably in a desert, on a mountain populated with dangerous wild animals, naked, or perhaps all three.

This past weekend I took some time off. Not just in the sense of "I am not scheduled to work but I plan to cram in road trips, constant emailing, and/or messed up fits of sleep in a desperate state of hurry up because work starts again soon." Nope, this was a slow weekend, like summer in Wisconsin when the locusts buzz and it is so hot out the candles melt. Not that it ever gets anything like hot here, but it was like that. Easy going. This felt essential after the image and odor of maggots and bed bugs, the despair of drug and alcohol-ruined bodies, the pressing in of grief, and disease too far gone. I am referring to work, not a bad hotel at which I recently stayed nor an overly dramatic TV show.

A run, like today, in the woods, can quiet my mind. My daughter helped as my partner. I listened to her voice, her stories of German class (cooking Kartoffeln) and culinary class (making pastry for apple pizza). Come to think of it, there is a lot of cooking going on at school. We ran without speaking much of the time. As with a good friend, we can talk. Or not.

Beethoven can also quiet my mind. It doesn't have to be Beethoven but he does come to mind as I have been playing him in recent days. It could be Bach, Poulenc, Chopin or that ancient book of Christmas Carols with lovely settings of traditional and lesser known European music of the season that I inherited from my parents. Even listening to Handel's Messiah, which I am allowed to do from Dec 1-31 only (an unwritten law in my house) quiets my mind.

Making soup ceases the brain banter as well. I got so empty in my thoughts the other day that I nearly chopped off my thumb. It took 24 hours before it stopped oozing. Thankfully I noticed, and for a moment I just stared with mindful interest at the chunk of that useful digit so silently and painlessly missing. I may be exaggerating a little, but it will definitely leave a little scar to remind me. For the record, I did not contaminate the soup, and the soup got rave reviews. And I was so calm about the whole thing that my kid sitting across from me studying when it happened never even noticed. Though the fact is you could be standing there on fire and it could go unnoticed by your children. Love them.

A quiet mind. This is what long runs, Beethoven and making soup have in common.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Moving On, Or Not

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming."
-Frank Shorter

I can't seem to let this go. The moment I finished New York I told myself "never again." Which is really sensible. Out of the 4 marathons I have now run, 2 were excruciatingly heart breaking. It is like someone who has a knack for finding bad love or tainted sushi. You would think it would only take once to cure you. This particular disease has a poor prognosis, though, evidenced by the fact that I signed up for another blessed marathon.

Home is nice, and I do feel content with our decision to stay. But the realities of day to day existence do seem to be eager to declare themselves since we decided not to move on. Currently, night shift has a few things to say, like "I really couldn't care less about your headache and nausea. Here are 5 admissions." Actually, the ER doctor said the last part and I just felt sorry for myself and thus injected the cold indifference, which is how I picture Night Shift to be if animate. Cold and indifferent.

On nights, even when working with your own ailments, your self-pity dissolves fairly quickly as you witness the much-worse suffering of those you are treating. This happens in marathons too, actually. Someone is always suffering more or battling a greater problem (lack of limbs, blindness, extreme age) (I mean I think I even saw some 43 year olds out there on the course). So with night shifts and marathons, whining is usually abruptly replaced with chagrin.

Today I ran in the rain in the redwood forest. Home. It is padded with redwood droppings right now, which is like running on pillows. The post-marathon period allows for practicing mindful running. Just allow the body to heal and while doing so, notice the smell of redwoods in the rain, dodge the mud and banana slugs, and plot your next race. Hmmm, I do not suppose plotting the future is very mindful. I am an imperfect meditator at best, and an obsessive future-planner at worst.

As I move on, I find myself simultaneously settling more deeply into the patterns that sustain me. As I move on, I am finding clarity of purpose. Love, imperfection, doctoring, piano, and awareness of what is here, now.  And what is coming on May 6, 2012.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I have felt particularly diminished in recent weeks. If I were a chord, I'd be a diminished 7th, with a certain ache and sadness. Maybe kind of Gershwinesque, which is appropriate as I sit here in New York City. Obviously, one can't help but feel small in NY. Though quaint compared to some of the cities we visited in China, this city is still big by my standards. Big in every way.

It is especially big when you are running all over it, from borough to borough then back to the borough you were in before, then to a different borough and finally landing in Central Park which is so endless at that point in a marathon that you feel like those kids who got shrunk accidentally by their Dad in that one movie, where a foot becomes a mile and a mile becomes something akin to what Don Giovanni experienced at the end of the opera we attended tonight. Which, to be exact, is the mouth of hell. That guy was unapologetic to the end, and I don't believe he ever felt small.

I feel small, not really just because NY is so big and the crush of humanity so absolute. I actually enjoy the crowds and the constant chatter and the odd shops and the staggeringly normal diversity that defines this city perhaps more than any other.

I had a heartbreaking, disappointing, physically impossible marathon. Cruised well for 20 miles, then my legs cramped without mercy and there was nothing that could've let me run faster than a tortoise on Ativan for the rest of the race. Just like that, over. Meticulous training, best shape of my life, all for the worst marathon. The marathon is big. I am small. Best laid plans, blah blah blah.

I turned away from a glamorous job offer this week as well. My practical Mom side won the battle. Glamorous job offers are big. I am small.

In the midst of my pity party (now would be the time to put that violin back in your pocket), I keep finding some kernels of beauty and goodness. That opera, for instance. The gaggle of lovely teenagers on the 2 Train to Brooklyn at midnight. The golden friends with whom I've shared food and drink in the last several days. The Statue of Liberty at 5:45 am, torch lit, viewed from the ferry. The gorgeous Austrian men I drafted for the first 12 miles of the marathon, who (upon noticing the young woman in front of us with a prosthetic leg running in a particularly congested area) without a word to each other joined hands and formed a shield around the young Vet of one of our recent and ongoing wars until we came to a less hectic part of the marathon route. Precious time alone with my husband.

I believe true enlightenment requires a complete letting go of the self. Smallness is just the starting point on the path to nothingness. And the nothingness we dare not seek may hold everything precious in the Universe.

Still, glamour is nice. And I deserved a 3:20 marathon. Take that, stupid Universe.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Leap of Faith

Running into the Fog, October 23, 2011

I stepped out of my house this morning for a long run, as has become the Sunday morning custom. However, now I am in the taper, so long is not so long. 12 miles today. I put on my sunglasses, and hit the road. I live on a hill, and as I descended, I found myself in a fog. Literal fog, that is. It was really socked in. A foggy day seemed a good reason to head for the Marsh, where the only traffic is bird watchers and the watched birds. It is eerie to run with limited visibility, not unlike the times I have skied in a snowstorm where the snow whites out everything more than 3 feet in front of your face. Once at Tahoe I followed a ski patrol down the hill, unable to tell whether there were boulders or 300 foot drop-offs ahead of me. It was a leap of faith.

The taper is a leap of faith. You train and build your mileage and do your speed workouts and get jazzed about topping 50 miles per week (which is less than half of what those elite marathoners do, but for mere mortals, not bad). Then one day you look at your plan, and the mileage is puny! There are days off! How can this be? The mind starts playing games: am I ready? Should I do just one more big long run? What if all of my hard work is lost in the next 3 weeks?

I should know better. In music, if you are still developing your chops in the 3 weeks prior to performance, you are probably in deep trouble. To perform well, you need time for things to percolate. You need to be refreshed. You need to feel that strong desire to push yourself again. The taper is the calm before the proverbial storm, the pause before the cadenza, the polish on the turn of a phrase. When I had time to do actual recitals, I would take long walks in the woods and play the whole thing over in my head as I walked. I probably looked pretty strange, with a vague and foggy look on my face. Though probably no stranger than when I start dancing and singing to "Love Shack" while running 20 miles on Old Arcata Road.

The other day, I did hill repeats. It was an abbreviated version of my prior hill repeats, because I am in the taper. I ran hill repeats, distracted somewhat by the worries of my life, and considering other leaps of faith that may come my way soon which make the taper seem like child's play. Make no mistake though, the taper is scary. So many miles to run in New York, and today's 12 mile run is the longest I will do between now and the big day. Usually when I run hill repeats, I need some furious rock and roll. But this time my mind was so loud, I found myself turning to something altogether different, something I have not yet selected on my iPod in all these months of training. Something to quiet a distracted mind running up hills amongst the Redwoods while in the taper.

The taper is a letting go. The Redwoods are a chapel. That's all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


This is my last big week of training before the taper. It has me thinking about what it takes to prepare for a marathon, which is really quite a solitary event. Even alongside the other 44,000 runners in the streets of New York, your pain and inner dialogue is your own. Sort of.

I noticed last time I ran NY that the spectators carry you along. In fact, if you find yourself running faster than planned, you can blame the spectators for sure. I noticed last time I ran NY several runners who were being guided or held up, in a literal sense, by others. One was an elderly Japanese woman who was blind, and guided by someone at each arm. One was a young vet with a leg missing, who fell and immediately was swept back onto his foot by surrounding runners. Then there were the bands, the Firemen, the gospel choir, the high-fiving children. All of this makes the struggle less, the joy more.

There are moments of eerie quiet. Six moments, to be exact: the 5 bridges and the Hasidic neighborhood. Though there is a certain community in these moments as well. On the bridges, you suddenly can hear the breathing and footsteps of your fellow runners. You recall that you are doing something hard, and the people on the bridge with you totally get it. And in the quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn, children travel in stealthy packs, usually an older girl pushing a carriage and with several younger kids in tow. They don't offer high fives, but they are clearly enjoying the spectacle of the marathon.

This past Sunday I had a party for Livestrong at my home. My oldest daughter and I cooked and baked a ton of food. We hung decorations and displayed the work of four amazing artists who donated for a silent auction:

It was a successful fund raiser. But even more than that, it was for me a chance to be enveloped by a warm and inspiring community. There was a "courage altar" for those who live with cancer and those whom we have lost. And there was a chocolate fondue fountain in which strawberries and other delights were dipped. Chocolate fountains are sublime. In a gaudy and decadent sort of way.

I run around my sleepy town, often with only the cows and pelicans and seals and banana slugs to commune with. But actually, hardly a run goes by without someone I know honking and waving. On one long run I got a big honking from a car I didn't recognize. I was almost disappointed to hear from a good friend later that it was them, as I had it in my head that someone was actually complimenting my derriere. I do believe the days of being honked at for such things are over. Sigh.

And high school, that dreadfully plastic community we all must endure, keeps sneaking back in my life. Like the run last weekend with my daughters team, which was an adventure of trails, beach, rock climbing (including climbing a waterfall) and at one point running up about 150 steps to a light house. The teenagers either didn't notice me or treated me with decent enough respect. It was a bit humbling when my kid asked me if I wanted a hand down from one of the rocks.

And high school, from which I actually never graduated, by the way, but that is a different story, comes back to me with my inspirations for this race: M and E. That does not mean "me" but rather my 2 friends from high school (and even earlier), who will also be running this race in NY. It will be our 2nd marathon together, and I think we are starting a tradition. A community of three, and a great resource for these past several months of training. Though we live quite far from each other, I have depended upon their advice and commiseration, and a few talks off the ledge as well.

This is rather a long winded way to say the cliche is true: It takes a community to run a marathon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Going Viral

It is a tradition in our home that the kids immediately get sick upon the start of school, and then they share their sickness with their parents. The family virus this year was a combo platter of upper respiratory misery, head pounding despair, body-aches that could've been induced by an encounter with a Mack truck, and a sore throat one of my kids described as "swallowing a cactus". Actually, I usually don't get as sick as the rest of the family, which I attribute to many years of exposure to the astoundingly ill in close quarters at the hospital. But this week it all came crashing in on me. I finally succumbed to a 7 hour nap yesterday.

Is it wise to run through illness? Maybe, maybe not. Though I wouldn't have been able to run for a million dollars and a chocolate donut yesterday. Do runners freak out when they can't run? Um, Duh. And this week is a key one as far as I am concerned. I have just a handful of 20 milers left to do before the race. If I didn't feel so lousy, I'd be apoplectic. Fortunately, I just don't have the energy to panic.

As a scientist, I ought not anthropomorphize, but viruses are awful and mean and brutal and strong and clever. Which is pretty impressive for a thing that isn't even alive.

The Gu is on my dresser, my tunes are charging, my outfit picked out. So I think maybe I can run my 20 tomorrow. My husband says I oughta bring some tissues along. But I think that's what sleeves are for.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Cow, Long run 9/18/11

It is wooly bear season. You can hardly run down the street without almost squishing one of those little guys making its way to who knows where. On my long run the other day, I counted dozens of the red and black caterpillars. I also almost ran into a deer. And there was a black stallion, tossing its mane and looking more Hollywood than Humboldt County. But my heart yearns for cows.

Cows always stop what they are doing to look at you when you run by. Sometimes ALL of the cows in the field will look at you. They look vaguely interested and deeply wise. They can be scary in their intensity. One year when running the Foggy Bottom Milk Run, they were snorting and leaping and mooing alarmingly. Or is that alarmingly mooing?

I turned 42 today. I ran early this morning before work. I was nearly stung by a bee and almost mauled by a dog named "Pumpkin." But the run was otherwise perfect and it kept me going during my 12 hours of doctoring. I came home late to my pretty children (no, they really are pretty), who had made me perfect presents for my birthday. I must say, I feel blessed beyond belief.

And my husband of 19 years, anniversary just celebrated (with a house full of rhinovirus and a lot of drama surrounding algebra homework), gave me a bunch of beautiful roses. My son wants to wear one in his hair when he rides his bike to school tomorrow. I do feel blessed.

In about 40 some days, we will make up for the algebraic "romance" with a trip to NYC. Our first solo trip (i.e. without the offspring) for about 15 years. I will run my 26.2, then we will explore the great city and enjoy time with good friends. Blessed.

But I stray from the cows. There really is nothing quite like the deep green fields of Humboldt County, with the fog hanging on the hillsides and hovering above the grass. Sometimes the cows look like they are hovering as well, with legs cloaked by fog, invisible. Nearby an egret makes a stark contrast, dressed in white, and standing so still that I often wonder if it is a Zen master or just really, really bored. I almost always talk to the cows as I pass. They remind me of my teenagers at times, as they acknowledge my presence but at the same time seem to be considering whether I am from the same planet as them or not.

Cows. Not exactly pretty, but definitely pretty consistent. Dedicated eaters. Oddly midwestern, despite their coastal home. Calm and steady except when they are leaping, snorting and mooing. Deadpan. Lovers of all things dairy. Except for the decidedly sedentary lifestyle of the typical cow, we have a lot in common. They judge me for my obsession with running, but I love them anyway.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


"and the rest is silence."-Hamlet

To run or not to run?

Marathons are a strange process. The race day, of course, is very exciting and challenging and the run itself is long. 26.2 miles long, plus in NYC, the long walk to the UPS van that holds your stuff. Is it not miraculous that with over 44,000 runners, you can hand your stuff to a person who then heaves it into one of over maybe dozens of UPS trucks, then at the end you go to the truck and they give you your stuff back? Anyway, the day of the run is spectacular. Maybe heartbreaking. Maybe the best day ever. Maybe just a nice run on a fall day in  a great city. But it is all the days leading up to it that make the marathon something addictive.

Some of us follow a plan. For me, it is Hal Higdon's Advanced 1 which builds mileage every 2 weeks, then drops back for a week, which adds in speed and hills, which gives me a nice structure on which to hang my bandanna (my head gear of choice for long runs). But although I dream of running like Greta, in reality I am training because I love to run and because I am raising money for Livestrong. I might break my last PR of 3:29. I might not finish. I might finish but run like a clydesdale. I might skip through the streets of NYC and just groove on being one of the gang.

Runners get kind of obsessive about following their training plans. This can lead to trouble. For me, I have been noticing an ache on my foot. It is a tendonitis. It isn't horrible. But it is a reminder that my body is the boss, not Hal Higdon. Not my aspirations to be the next elderly olympian. So, I am learning to take days off. Yesterday after work I ran 10 miles, and I was really tired, though by mile 6 I started to feel good and was glad I had done it. Today, my foot said to me "I demand a long bit of icing, and you sure as heck better not even think about doing that 5 miler you and Hal had planned." I am going to listen to my foot. I have a 20 miler this weekend, and that is where the money is, if building up for a marathon is like putting coins in a piggy bank.

Mice and Men. Parents on a road trip with their kids. Rock bands on tour. Doctors who think they are God. Insane princes of Denmark. Runners. They make plans and then it all gets messed up.

No rest for the wicked, so I must be good.
The rest is icing, so I will have my cake and eat it too. With icing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pelican Bay

I was running along the bay the other day, and there were three pelicans flying low to the water as pelicans do. One kept going up in the air and nose diving then coming up scooping water, and presumably something tasty to a pelican, along the way.  It reminded me of a recent report on NPR about prisons in California, including one called Pelican Bay where apparently the most violent men end up. It was about solitary confinement, which is used surprisingly often, and for long periods of time. For me, about an hour in solitary might do me in. These guys are in solitary, meaning a little cell by themselves, for 23 hours a day, some for over a decade. That other hour they get to go to a concrete room by themselves to exercise.

Now one could argue about the humaneness of such punishment, but that will not be the driving force behind cutting down on solitary time. It will be money, because these fine little cells and concrete rooms come to about $70,000 per year. Which would be rent on pretty decent digs for the rest of us.

Anyway, the pelicans on the bay were so pretty. I wonder how the prison got such a nice name. San Quentin is a nice name too. Alcatraz sounds pretty prisoney to me, but its spectacular scenery sort of makes up for the name.

I was running on the treadmill the other day, which is like a runner's version of solitary confinement, and did 9 miles because it was my day to do 9 miles and I got out of work too late to run outside. I am quite thankful for my iPod in such situations. That day I listened to a podcast of This American Life (also NPR), then finished up with some raucous rock and roll. At one point I laughed out loud at This American Life and realized I laughed way too loud, with the under-headphones phenomenon. I like to think people were jealous of how much I was loving my workout.

I was running on the track this morning after my night shift and I had my iPod on this great app called Pandora, allowing me to listen to the radio. And yes, it was Morning Edition, NPR. When Democracy Now came on, though I admire Amy Goodman with all of my heart, I couldn't take the tragic truths of our world after a night shift full of human tragedy, so I switched back to my raucous rock. Some people find the track a form of torture, and though I do not condone torture of any kind, I actually LOVE the track. I think it is nostalgia for my faster days, and memories of spring finally being here after a long Wisconsin winter. And I nailed my 800's, exactly the pace I wanted, and each one a little faster than the last. It was a sweetly free moment in the sun.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


 Long Slow Distance is not unlike a porcupine. It is cute, and it has some points. LSD, as we call it, is supposed to give you a good aerobic base. It is supposed to burn fat, which sounds like a good idea. Maybe all of America should be doing LSD. It ramps up the mileage but in a controlled way. Those are points. The cuteness is a matter of perspective, but I do find it adorable to have to tell myself to slow down every 30 seconds.

The lavender was abloom today as I ran my 16 miles (slowly), with one field largely covered in purple, and the smell delicious as I ran by. This was accompanied by Lovely Songs Done by greats such as Flogging Molly, Nina Simone, Berlin and Bach. Sometimes I run in silence. Today I needed a soundtrack.

I was thinking how lucky I am, to be able to run. It is a luxury. This is well put by Yen Nguyen, who is about to run her 400th marathon. Now I am truly inspired. Only 397 to go.

The best part of today, aside from the:
1) run
2) the post-run chocolate milk
3) the lucky, lavender-scented, musical time with me, myself and I

was coming home to the Life Saving words of my Daughter: "Mom, can I make dinner tonight?"

Yes. Yes, you can.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Zone

As my daughter and I ran the trails of a Portland park this weekend, we did not talk a lot. There were navigation decisions to be made (this trail or that one?), and we spoke about that. There were beautiful things to comment upon. There were warnings about roots or horse poop mid trail. Horses are so prolific, I've noticed. But a lot of our time was in silence. The woods smelled nice, and looked different from our usual redwood run. The shade kept us comfortable. The hills challenged us.

We did have a brief talk about meditation. I am not very good at meditating, as it involves sitting still with my mind. Even sitting here writing that phrase makes me break out in a cold sweat. I have done retreats at lovely places to learn mindfulness. I believe it is a useful tool for health. It is well studied, even scientific. But I sort of stink at it. I meditate well when I run, but it takes me several miles to get into the zone. Which, I suppose, is why I am drawn to the marathon.

We ran 8 miles, winding about the trails of Portland. We have similar strides. We breathe in tandem. We are comfortable in silence. We get each others jokes and we know when the other is hurting. I did notice that toward the end of the run, my daughter started to surge, and she was about a half step in front of me. I sped up, but could feel her power. If this was a race, she would've won. When did that happen?

She was feeling good. I was too, even with my aged realization that she is the stronger one now. When we stopped running, she turned to me and said "Mom, when I was running I kept saying to myself 'I am doing awesome'. Mom, I was so in the zone."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Old Friends

This One Tree, Trail 10, July 2011

When you run the NYC marathon, you run alone. By which I mean, no one else is running the thing for you. But you get carried along by the sheer power of humanity surrounding you. Running alongside you. Cheering you at the sidelines. High-fiving you. Add to that the knowledge that you have two close friends you've known since the days of braces and gym class running in the same race, and you feel less alone.

Certain things hold us in a place. It might be a job, a house. Or excellent produce year round. Maybe it is the friends you know that come over for tea, or the neighbors that keep an eye out for your rascally children. It might be the ocean and the woods and the way the fog and steam cling on the marsh ponds. Comfort in familiar beauty. And people know your quirks and they still want to chat you up at the grocery store.

Quirks like, perhaps, the way I am compelled to touch this One Tree on trail 10 each time I run or walk by it. I am not sure how that started, but it just seems like I have always touched this tree. It has a place that has obviously drawn other hands to it, just at the right level, hand-sized, smooth, rich auburn-mahogany. Smooth and comforting like a well-used newel post at the bottom of the stairs.

When I run, in NY or in the forest, I might find myself looking down, focusing on the discomfort, mulling over my fears, thinking ahead to what I need to get done and almost forgetting I am simply running. Almost forgetting to notice the cathedral through which I move. Then I look up and it is there. The world, that is.  Like an old friend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Black Cat

A black cat crossed my path as I ran today. I always say (out loud) "Good luck!" when that happens. Which I believe to be true. Black cats have been unfairly maligned for centuries.

Though a scientist, I am superstitious at times. I haven't yet met a doctor or nurse who isn't. I dare you to walk into your night shift and declare to the room, "Looks like it is gonna be a slow one tonight!" You may not live to tell about it, if looks could kill. I am known for my "black cloud", meaning I rarely have a "slow" night shift, day shift or any shift. I see the house supervisor sigh when I come on. We get along very well, if for no other reason than we work together a lot, because we are always so busy. For some reason everyone blames that on ME.

Soon after the black cat crossed my path today while I was out running, this song came on:
Strange how the universe sometimes fits together so well.

That song is on my running playlist, along with a wide variety of pop, rock and a few blues tunes. I was noticing today that a lot of them have the word "run" in them somewhere, and most have a perfect tempo for a sub 8 minute mile, which is my marathon goal pace (less than 8, but not likely less than 7:30, unless I don't want to survive, if unreasonable marathon paces could kill). I still can't wrap my brain around the elite runners doing a sub 5 minute pace for over 26 miles.

But I bet even they wear their lucky socks, or the underwear that gave them their last P.R. or a certain cap or bracelet or tattoo or maybe they eat a jelly donut at midnight before every race, or they do 17 jumping jacks at the starting line or they listen to their favorite song while meditating their way through the course in their mind. Athletes, like doctors, are superstitious. I think this is why The Freak won't cut, or apparently even wash his hair. Please, Mr. Freak, at least a shampoo and trim!

Tim "The Freak" Lincecum, North Beach Mural June '11

I should go nap, as night shift is rushing toward me with all of its Sound and Fury.  In the words of Faulkner "There ain't no luck on this place." But they didn't have my favorite night shift shirt, which is currently in the wash, getting ready for tonight. And they didn't know just how lucky black cats really are.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


This post could be about so many things. As a doctor, I could discuss dysenterical  delights. As a runner, I could discuss, well, running. But today my mind is on my 88-keyed, lifelong friend.

I haven't run enough this week, on my legs at least. I have done multiple runs with my hands though. I played piano for almost 9 hours today, all told. That's like an ultra marathon. Which is something I've contemplated doing (on my legs) someday. Partly because I've heard you can eat hamburgers mid-run when you top 50 miles in a day. And that sounds way better than Gu Energy gel. Though I do adore their Espresso Love.

When I was little, I first wanted to be a poet. Then, when I was about 5, I put on great big headphones and plugged them into my parents' record player, and I chose Horowitz playing the Moonlight Sonata and I said to myself "this is what I want to do". I then spent the next 2 years of my life begging for piano lessons (also, climbing trees, collecting bugs, and being a member of a club named the "California Condors"). My parents said "you are too young". But on my 7th birthday, I got a card which I still remember. It had Schroeder on it and inside it said "Happy Birthday. You will start piano lessons next week. Your piano arrives tomorrow." My friends were speechless, and quite sympathetic, but I was over the moon. The spinet piano my parents brought home was the best thing ever. And sort of made up for the fact that they gave away the Steinway they owned when I was a baby. Sort of.

Now, I have strayed into the odd world of medicine. But this week I got to put my piano hat back on. I got to do runs that make my hair curl. I should be training for my marathon, but this week I did runs instead of doing running. And I played. And played. And played.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


As I ran today I felt awake for the first time in about 6 days. And it wasn't a groovy, existential kind of awake. I am talking awake as in not feeling like I immediately need to lie down and take a nap. I can blame this on night shift. I can blame it on not sleeping well or enough on days after night shift when I switched back to day shift. Then I can blame it on being back on night shift again. But this is not really that interesting. We all know night shifts are bad for us. So far though, I've noticed people get sick on nights, holidays and weekends just as much as they do at more convenient times. Drat!

So I ran today, for the first time in several days actually (see above about my practical narcolepsy this week). I was anticipating pain and sorrow, but instead I met the beauty of my woods, the glory of another sunny day, and the unexpected power of my legs. Maybe sleep (which I did do all day) has something to offer. Hmmm, I must ponder that one and file it somewhere for future use.

At the fair the other day, I bought a necklace that says "wake up." It has some musical notes on it to. I don't know what it means, really, but I liked it. It spoke to me. Here, in northern California, one must consider the deeper meaning, the invitation to be truly alive and aware and not to miss the beauty and ugliness and everything in between that our precious life offers. But I propose that that phrase "wake up"in its deeper, spiritual sense, can only be truly appreciated and understood by someone who has been dead tired. Physically exhausted. Hardly able to keep their eyes open. Yet forced or compelled or required to do just a few things more in the name of their job, or their crying child, or their sick loved one. Physical fatigue removes joy. Sleep restores it. To be truly awake, I believe you'd first better get some decent sleep.

I ran, and I was awake. The woods were a perfect canvas of light streaming between the towers of redwoods. The scent of eucalyptus filled my heart. The well-earned vista of bay and ocean from the top of the hill erased the discomfort of the climb. But now, I need to grab a cup of coffee, because tonight....back to night shift.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I am allergic to dogs. I dislike the way they chew my books. The puppy ate all four corners of my piano bench. They steal food from high places they shouldn't be able to reach. They come breathe in your face when you are trying to nap on the couch. They drag in redwood needles on their fur and their muddy paws track dirt on my floor. They bark at passers by. So naturally, I have three of them.

Yesterday on my run in the woods, I took them each out for a loop. My two young ones were pretty zonked by the end of their loop. It was rather pathetic, actually. Miles, the puppy poodle, cannot seem to understand the point of running at all. He loves to play chase with our neighbor poodle Francie, and those two will run all day if we let them, but ask him to run at my side and he stares at you perplexed, occasionally giving you that poodle head tilt, which is a combination of goofy and sublime. One or twice yesterday, he sat down and dug his paws in. I loved him up and he seemed willing to give it another shot. I will teach this dog to run. I will.

I am preparing my heart. My best running companion for years now is getting old. Pushing 90 if you believe the dog:human years system. He used to go deep in the woods with me, running for 90 minutes or longer sometimes. He could hear me putting on my running shoes from across the house. Seriously, he can tell my running shoes apart from every other pair of shoes I own. How does he do that? But now, he is nearly deaf, and his cataracts an alarming silvery hue. A few weeks back, he could barely walk from his arthritis. Since then we have him on NSAIDs, and they are truly a miracle for him. So yesterday, when I was doing my loops in the woods and he was begging me with his happy voice and his rotatory tail wag and his old man puppy dance, I decided to take a chance on running with him, just hoping I wouldn't cause him pain.

We have put in so many hours together in the woods, at the beach. He sometimes drags large sticks while running. On spring days in the woods he'll jump in the creek and look for rocks to play with (a certain passion of his). He catches snakes. He treed a squirrel once. He even briefly chased a mountain lion a few years back, which was terrifying for both of us I think. Buster is a working dog, and for him, running with me is his job. He understands me, and his passion for the run may even surpass my own.
Yesterday, despite my fears, Buster outran his younger pack members. He gives me hope for my aging body. He is worth every sneeze and debilitating allergy attack, every stolen and half eaten sack of flour spread all over my living room floor, every house full of sand after a trip to the beach. I'll take his doggy breath and his incessant need to play ball. He's my best running friend.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Space, June 11, 2011

Quails like their personal space. They declare their presence proudly, for some reason shouting "Chicago!", clearly confused about basic geography. But if you try to get a closer look, they do their best Usain Bolt impression. The male is always on look out for danger. They travel in pairs. They wear stylish hats.

In New York, during the marathon, personal space is not really the point. With over 2 million spectators, you are practically carried by sheer sound from one borough to the next to the next. And throwing caution to the din, you can't help but touch the hand of every eager, germ-ridden child at the sidelines wanting to give you a high five. This is so different from my daily runs, which are deliciously spacious. In my day to day life, I am constantly with people. Running into the postcard of scenery that surrounds us is my meditation, my peace, my moment to breathe.

I talk to my children about space. Not so much planets and such, but the increasingly lost art of taking a moment of space before reacting to what the world hands you or what some kid says to you. "Don't say on Facebook what you wouldn't say to someone's face" I tell them. Take a breath. So easy to say, but as my wise husband always points out, just walk the walk and maybe they will follow. So running for me also lends a hand when I need to take a moment of space before reacting, and dare I say over reacting, to some idiotic move they made or thing they said. I am a quail Dad at heart, and when I sense danger, I want to protect my family. The thing about quail though, is, as far as I know, their chicks don't seem to have a sassy attitude. But I suppose they get kicked out of the nest before they are teenagers.

In the long run, I meditate, I breathe, I bask in the space. And after the long run, I can come back refreshed to gather my chicks. My three beauties.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Atypical Doubles

It occurs to me that the title of this makes it sound more interesting than it actually is. My life is G-rated. But my double workouts have evolved to strange. 

Last time I did the NY Marathon, I cross-trained quite a bit. I swam, I biked. On a big day, I would do a "double." That would be a swim and a run, or a bike and a run. A few days I did a triple. Like a real triathlete, God bless their souls. But this time around, I am focusing on my running, trying to get more mileage on my legs, with the theory that my Philadelphia DNF last fall was from not enough running prior to the marathon. DNF's can break your heart, but I took it in stride (no pun intended). Philadelphia is a mighty nice town to view on foot, and I got in about 18 miles before turning back. The only downside is I didn't get to collect my beer and pretzel at the finish line.

Doubles build character, strength, and the ability to brag to one's more triathletic friends, preferably in a nonchalant James Deanesque voice, "yeah, I did a double today."

So, here's my menu of doubles. Feel free to use them and brag to your friends as well.

Run and Weed
This is not what you think. Remember, my life is G-rated! Weed the garden, silly. You will never use so many muscle groups, and you will look convincingly sore in the gym locker room when you brag the next day.

Run and Jump Rope with your Much Younger Daughters
If you don't have a daughter or two, or a son that wants to jump rope with you, you could just find
some random kids. What I've discovered is jump roping feels a lot like it could give you a concussion. I don't remember this feeling when I was 12.

Run and Play One on One Basketball with Your Teenaged Son
When did he get so good at basketball? And why does he laugh at me like that?

Run and Work a Night Shift
The key here is never take the elevator, only the stairs. Also, don't partake in the late night pizza delivery nor the early morning doctor lounge donuts. Otherwise, it doesn't count as a double.

Run and Practice Piano
I once got tendinitis from pedaling in bare feet. Now I only practice piano shod.

Run and Play Two Square
This is another chance to have your children laugh at you. Though one of them was sincerely impressed with my two square skills. And my children are not easily impressed.

Run and Take 3 Dogs for a Walk Simultaneously
I believe this one is self explanatory.

Run and Dance Around the Kitchen With Your Husband
This has the added benefit of grossing out your kids. It works even better if they have friends over.

In the days of old, people didn't go to the gym, because the day to day tasks of survival required exercise. Now, we have to be a little more creative. Long live the double.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


good advice, June 3, 2011

I fell off the wagon this week. The running wagon, that is. And I didn't fall off so much as get pushed off. Maybe this is backwards, because running is sort of an addiction for me, and I haven't run for three days. I missed speed day! Tomorrow is long run, and I haven't run for three days. My opinion is running is a positive addiction, so I am going to stick with the fact that what happened is I got pushed, rudely, off the wagon.

Now, it could be worse. I am not injured (knock on wood). It is just that there were so, so many sick people this week. My days were epic, and I don't mean that in the hip, cool way that the word epic is often used these days. My sleep became increasingly condensed as the week went on, until sleep was just something I craved with a painful nostalgia. Actually, sleep deprivation is physically, not just figuratively painful for me. I can stand a lot of things, but for some reason, inadequate sleep just pushes me right over the edge. I picked the wrong profession.

I just awoke from the sleep of the dead, and it did a lot to clear my head. I won't run today, or if I do it will be just a gentle taste. I will recover, find the passion, resume my routine and I believe life will go on.
Tomorrow, long run. Long, slow distance aka "LSD". Right back on that wagon.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I grew up in the midwest, on the banks of the Mississippi. I identify with Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor, casseroles, impossibly humid summer days and the agony of lawn mowing. I am not talking about the cute little square lawns of California, flat and perfect. I am talking about steep banks with run-away mowers, and the miracle of never having lost any toes during my weekly mow-for-allowance.

Sometimes we visit there, and it feels home-like.

But here, northern coastal California, is home. Every time I think about leaving I get drawn back in by the trees and the beach and the eucalyptus perfume which is best just after a rain. Friends have told me not to let nature seduce my thinking about such things as professional positions and places to settle down. But the church that is my back yard, with tiny-by-comparison (yet splendid) third growth redwoods, feeds my soul. The rivers aren't as wide and mighty as the old Miss', but they have this aqua minty color and names like "Eel" and "Mad" and "Trinity". This time of year, the farms are productive, with tender buttery lettuce and small but serious strawberries. There is something in bloom everywhere. And the grass hasn't yet lost the green--our reward for a long, wet winter.

I did not feel like running today. But it was long run day, and all the experts say if you are going to skip a day, don't make it the long run day. I was still jet lagged from night shifts. The wind was gusty. The coffee comforting. The crossword puzzle called.

But I ran 12 miles. And it was pretty nice. Then I came home. Which was also pretty nice.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


After my endless meetings and my daughter V's after school teeth cleaning, a run at the marsh sounded pretty heavenly for both of us. The marsh deserves a picture essay, but not today. Today, I wouldn't have had the nerve to stop and take pictures, as it was all I could do to match my kid's pace. It was supposed to be a "joy" day since tomorrow is speed, but there is something about that route that brings out the tempo in us.

Tempo: the steady overall pace at which one plays music. Lento, Andante, Allegretto, Allegro, Vivace.
Tempo: a steady run at a fairly quick clip. Not generally lento or andante or allegretto.

V was about an inch ahead of me at all times. We discussed STD's today (which she learned about in health class). We discussed the flowers we saw (lupine, foxy digitalis). We discussed digoxin and its use in heart disease (after seeing the digitalis). We did slow up for one moment to look at the family of ducks in a pond, pretty much straight out of that book about the ducklings searching for a home in Boston. Toward the end of the run, I turned to her and said, "you know, you are the one setting this pace, not me". "What?" says she. "I thought it was you!"

I think we have this discussion more or less every time we run at the marsh.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I saw a Walt Whitman quote recently when standing in line for coffee, looking at artsy cards on a spinner rack. It went something like "To me, each hour of each day is an unspeakable miracle." Another card  had a picture of some tight laced, solemn-faced folk sitting in a group labelled National Sarcasm Society. Below that it said: "Like we need your help."

On any given day I could groove on Mr. Whitman or I could join the Society of Sarcasm. I am hopelessly romantic and decidedly hopeless all at once. Just the other day, I took my boards exam. it couldn't have been more demoralizing. On the long drive home (5 + hours), I did a rapid tour through the stages of grief. By the end, I just decided I was happy to get to garden all day the next day, with no studying hanging over my head. And I did garden, to the point of such incredible soreness that when I played Uno with the girls last evening, my baby girl had to pick the cards off the deck for me because it hurt my wrists too much to do so.

When I feel bad, it helps to run. And when I feel the need for heart shattering beauty as well, it helps to run my favorite route of all. So I did today, one of my "run for the joy of it" days on the old training schedule. And today, I grooved on Whitman.

"Do anything, but let it produce joy."-Walt Whitman

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Consider the Manneqins

There's a Track, right there, in the forest. May 18, 2011

My schedule is topsy turvy. My children keep me on my toes. My body, my aging body, speaks to me in ways I just wish it would not. I thrive on routine, but life keeps spinning me in circles, blindfolded, sometimes on the edge of a psychological cliff. And it knows darn well, I don't like heights.

What can I control? 
Not what that boards recertification exam will be like tomorrow.

But between now and New York, this is my plan. Come earthquake or tsunami. Come night shift or day shift. Come meetings or travels or rhinoviruses:

No one can predict what might happen next. Just consider the manneqins. And these guys:
They never knew what hit them. May 18, 2011

Steeplechasers know topsy turvy. They eat it for breakfast.
I had some 800 meter repeats for breakfast. 
Because it is Wednesday.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pastoral Beauties

Today I ran by spectacular blazing rhododendrons, purple Iris, a field of white Calla Lilies. There was a tender scene of a calf nursing, and the usual freaky stare down with the other cows in the field. I almost ran into a flock of chickens (do chickens flock?). The rooster was kind of intimidating, but I held my own. It smelled nice, and was raining but not unpleasantly so. The fog was sort of hanging on the side of the hills. The redwoods looked in their element. So much beauty.

But what really caught my eye was this:
Another Random Mannequin, May 15, 2011

I couldn't help but wonder if she is closely related to or maybe even is my friend on the beach.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Night and Day

Graveyard shift is not conducive to good health. But someone has to do it, because people are ill at the most inconvenient of times. And, truth be told, there is a certain pleasure in working in the hospital without the daytime bustle. At night you focus on the acute. It feeds the adrenaline junky. And strangeness abounds, which keeps life interesting.

I love this song. It is the ring tone I've assigned to my husband. It has been running through my head today, because I am trying to sleep but it is the middle of the day! I thought about going for a run, but I really need to sleep first. Night is day is night on the good ol' graveyard.

No one knows for sure where that term graveyard shift came from. Some say it was from people sitting by the graves listening for the bells tied to the strings tied to the hands of some supposedly dead guy in the coffin who would ring the bell when it turned out they were actually buried alive and were trying to claw their way out. Also, this could be where "saved by the bell" came from. Shudder. Some say it is from families guarding graves of newly dead loved ones from the thieving medical students needing study material for anatomy class, in the old days before wiling donations. My lovely profession. Maybe it is just from that jet-lagged feeling of death one encounters for at least a day, sometimes longer, after a string of night shifts.

My middle school cross country and track coach once said that distance running prepares you for any other hard thing in life. At age 12, I found this perplexing, but now I think it is more or less a fact. The only thing is I think it might also warp your brain just enough to accept pain as a sign of doing well instead of as the big red flag it is meant to be. Medical training also creates "no pain, no gain" monsters. Doctors seem to take pride in working themselves half to death.

As I train for another marathon, with a vague goal of doing a marathon a year until I can't because of whatever illness life hands me, I am thinking seriously about how to find that sweet spot between taking the pain and protecting my health. How to just enjoy each moment without being spun by the day to day tragicomedy of life and work and parenting and whether my iliotibial band can stand those 3 extra miles. I don't really need to figure out how to like it. Just how to like it while getting my daily allowance of fruit, vegetables and a solid 8 hours of sleep. Day or night.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cross Winds

I decided today demanded efficient use of my time. Multitasking. Though I seriously question whether multitasking and efficiency are compatible. But anyway, given my need to attend meetings at the hospital, study for boards and get a workout in, I decided to ride my bike in, go to meetings, then ride back to a cafe, (study aids in the orange milk crate bike basket), and study till dinner time. I looked like this. Well, except I am a paranoid American, so I wore a helmet. And I am a northern Californian, so I wore jeans and a hoody.

Today the word cross kept crossing my mind. It is a multifaceted word, perfect for the busy multitasker of today's society. Cross winds trumped efficiency today. I could barely move riding back along the bay. My contact lenses almost blew out of my eyes. Which made me very cross. When I finally made it to the cafe, with my hair all curled weirdly at the sides with helmet-head in the middle (this would never happen in Copenhagen), I got out my computer and MKSAP'ed and also learned there is going to be a function on my computerized boards exam where I can cross out the answers I've rejected, just like the old days when tests were in pencil. Also, there is a place on the computer to "scribble" notes. And a built in calculator. So very cool.

No running today, but at least I cross trained. And what was supposed to be a nice little bike ride was more like riding with a cyclone in my face. So it was a pretty good workout, if pain and suffering are a measure of good workouts.

My husband warned me the kids were cross today (and yes, he even used that exact word, which was eerie and satisfying). But he is a miracle man, a doctor of Monday-worn souls, because by the end of dinner tonight he had all of us laughing till we were in tears, by doing all his best Sesame Street character voices. It is a lot funnier than it sounds, trust me. Especially when he does his dark Elmo.

Don't cross dark Elmo.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Don't Wish Your Life Away

my run today: lupine

On my long run today, I was pondering all of those catch phrases my Mom used. Things that I now find myself, irritatingly, using on my own kids. I was pondering this as I ran, reined in by my heart rate monitor. This early in training is no time to be speedy. Slow keeps you safe. The heart rate monitor is maternal that way.

Once when I was eating lunch before heading off to softball practice on my powder blue bike with the STP sticker on the banana seat, my Mom tried to get me to eat spinach by telling me that since it makes Popeye stronger, it is likely to improve my odds of hitting a ball out of the park. I totally bought it. So much so, I can quite specifically remember that moment. I think I even remember what I was wearing: a white t-shirt with a scratch-n-sniff strawberry on the front. I ate that spinach. It was gross.

Other repeated slogans:
Don't sleep with your socks on.

If you can't find something to do, your room needs cleaning (that one works like a charm with my kids).

Go out and play!!!!!!!!

Don't let your Dad find you sun bathing on the roof.

It doesn't matter what you decide to be when you grow up, as long as you are happy.

And: Don't wish your life away. Which is something I rarely need to be told anymore. Except around 2am during a chaotic night shift, when 7am feels like an impossible dream. It always shows up though, pretty much right on time.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Walk Across America

When I was a kid, my Dad walked a lot. This was good, because he had his first heart attack at age 43 or so. Good, because diet and exercise really are the best medicine. So, he kept a notebook in his pocket recording his walks, and he kept a map of the USA. And he walked across the country, yet never left our neighborhood. Each day he just logged his miles, dog Brandy at his side, then traced the route on his map.

Hagen Road was once lined with Dutch Elms, forming a tunnel of trees. On hot days, walking or running  along Hagen Rd, shade was a refuge and the neighbors' sprinklers life-saving. Branching out beyond, like onto the Ridge and bluffs, meant long treeless stretches. Dad would leave jugs of water along my path on the long runs on the ridge. The cows studied me. The grass smelled like summer.

Now, the cooling pacific winds keep those hot summer runs just a memory. Tree tunnels have been replaced by a towering redwood cathedral, with creepy, creaky music on windy days. The bottom fields near the ocean still hold studious cows, but the scents I've come to love mingle Eucalyptus and salty sea air. Friends bike by me on weekend afternoons. I used to run in silence, but my fellow marathoner E. inspired me to run in step to a playlist, a strange mix of my 1980's childhood and my husband's cooler, hipper generation of rock and roll.

I run like Dad walked. For being outside. For keeping a record of where I've been and where I'm headed. For cows. For my "espresso love" energy gels. For jugs of water on Irish Hill on a hot summer day and beach sand in my running shoes and prehistoric redwood forest ferns and trillium. For my health. For Dad and for Mom.