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.