Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Assorted notes, travels, and reflections, 8/15 to 9/1

I spent a long weekend in Whistler, BC, touching base with family, and so have fallen behind on this journal. Some stray notes to bridge the gap:

Running round-up/journal:

8/15: About 90 mins. Stopped at my mom’s grave. Ran some more, some on treadmill. Thought about the difficult run of 8/14 and wrote this poem:

8/16 52 min. run

8/17 group workout: we did 6x1/4—did these all under two mins.!

8/18 75 mins. Stopped at the grave again. Left some wild flowers that I picked here and there—a present before going away.

8/19 36 mins. Time a little short because it was the day I left for my trip. Flew to Seattle by way of Denver. On the flight to Denver, the woman next to me was working on a quilt. On the flight to Seattle, I had a window! A few notes from my journal about the flight. Keep in mind that I’m addressing my mom:

I feel a sense of being back in Glenshaw. It’s Christmas, and we find gifts, later arriving, unexpected, from aunts and uncles. Christmas when we were kids was that way—full of surprises that stretched past the date. And today on the plane, I found some coins in a purse you owned. I don’t recognize the handwriting, but someone gave them to you and said one was rare. I didn’t notice them until just now! It feels as if that’s your blessing on our gathering! I feel as if I’ve been blessed in my life, and it’s time to give as well as receive. If God can show me the way…
Interesting how an airplane trip brings ideas like this into focus…I don’t know. The words “running cards” came to mind. I don’t know where to go with that, but I’m open to it. I have made up cards for people on special occasions. It’s hard to find what I want at stores, so I prefer to individualize my cards.

More journal:

Now I see mountains! They remind me of ridges of windblown sand on a beach.only with a backbone-like solidity. Beautiful! Hard to believe that clouds can look like touchable puffs of cotton, yet in mid-cloud there’s nothing you can touch [and nothing you can see]. The rivers look like the silver necklace we gave you at your retirement party. In some, I can see rapids.

Oddities below:
* A lot of green circles[, perfectly geometrical]
* Farms of precise squares and oblongs bordered by wilderness […chaos and order side by side.]
Upon arriving in Seattle, enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Outback Steak House, a short walk from the hotel, with my sister, Liz, her twin sons Zach and Travis, and our nephew, Kevin, a student at the University of Washington and son of my sister Pat, who is hosting the weekend in Whistler. Saw a Great Blue Heron near the water’s edge before going into the restaurant! We were to see many of them the next day from the train. I’d never seen as many herons as on that trip!

8/20 No run…long travel day. Started in Seattle, caught 7:45 train to Vancouver. Amazing scenery! We travelled along the coast. So much to see! More journal:

I’m on the train now, and what beautiful countryside. We’re looking out on the water, and I’m told the San Juan Islands are on my left. There are cliffs and rocks. Every so often I see someone kayaking [and think how wonderful it would be to join them out there some day]. Very hilly roads. Forests. Liz and the boys are in facing seats behind me. Our tickets were for four people in the facing seats and one more in a separate seat. I chose the separate seat, so as to look out the window. Started to watch a movie on Liz’s computer, but see so much happening outside… a rock island in the middle of the water. Could anyone possibly live there?

Dreamed about the workout group. I kept having to climb over a fence or go through a gate to get to the start of each repeat. I wasn’t sure if we were near the river where we usually run. You were in the dream, and I think told me that I was conquering obstacles, willing to get past them to keep running, whatever way I could, that they didn’t stop me. In fact, oddly, during this dream, I saw the fences as just a part of the workout, not even a part Mike or Dave imposed, just something to get past.
Although the day featured no run, there was a speed-hike in Vancouver. After a long wait to go through customs at the train station and another to get an available storage locker, we took the Sky Train (Vancouver’s public transit system) to within about 8 blocks of a restaurant where we’d planned on eating lunch. By the time we reached the restaurant, it was nearing 2 pm, and we needed to catch the bus at 3. The pasta was magnificent and quickly enough served to allow us to do this—we discovered that walking back was as quick as taking the train, but for obvious reasons, needed to be close to racewalk pace. We made it back to the bus with a comfortable 2 minutes to spare. (Note to self: Propose realistic Olympic events: speed commuting, perhaps.)

We met Pete (brother) in Vancouver. He too apparently had a delay, due to a late flight and separated baggage.

When we arrived in Whistler, my sister Pat was there to meet us. I finally saw the building and the apartment I'd known only in pictures!

8/21 Ran 50ish mins. later in the day. Started day at Starbuck’s (to get some coffee w/out waking up all the sleepers in the living room/dining room and sit outside to do a little people watching). Journal:

Man with two miniature longhaired Dachshunds getting a lot of socializing because of his dogs. (Describing the benefits of owning them, he mentions their “tiny poops.” I suppose one has to be practical.) In search of something to read and trusting the honesty of passers-by, I left my coffee and scone on the table for a moment to run into the shop for one of the freebie papers. When I returned, I found a sparrow poking its head into the bag containing my scone. Rascally little bird! But far too cute to bother me. Besides, I doubt it got a bite.
It rained a lot that day, so we opted not to take the gondola ride. I did get a chance to meet up with an online friend (there with his wife and two children) during a walk to the skateboard park to watch Darcy (my nephew, Pat's younger son) perform. My friend’s three-year-old boy was, I’m told, eager to try some of the same tricks.

We also went to a thrift shop at a place called “Function Junction” where in addition to the thrift shop, there’s a recycling center and other practical services. Found a wicking long-sleeve shirt for only $4.50 Canadian, a much needed buy, because it was chillier than expected. Had dinner, then enjoyed the jacuzzi available to those staying in Deer and Eagle Lodges.

This was to be my version of the group 10k time trial that I couldn’t make because I was traveling. However, it turned out a bit differently. I chose a course—Lost Lake Trail—that a posted map listed as 1.8k, which I estimated to be about 1.2 miles. However, there was a “beach cut” and a slightly longer loop that overlapped another trail, and I was not sure which of these was taken into account in measuring the course. It would be helpful for many reasons (my ego satisfaction being the main one) if the “beach cut” measurement prevailed, but I felt it safer to assume otherwise. Running this uncertain distance six times would give me 10.8k, I assumed—and a time mathematically impossible to divide into pace per mile. That would end up being just as well.

After approximately 30-minute warm-up (mileage unknown), I began this little adventure called a “time trial” (having no real idea of what the “gold standard” was). Fortunately, the trail is relatively simple to follow (not that that stopped me from having some uncertain moments). The surface is a mixture of dirt and asphalt trail, nicely laid out, well-groomed, but as hilly—none of the hills perhaps as steep as Parachute, but the flat sections were a welcome break.

Even so, 13something minutes seemed pretty slow for the first lap. I was underwhelmedwith my speed, but decided to try just to keep my pace as even as possible. First three laps were all in the 13:?? range, but laps 4, 5, and 6 slipped into the 14ish range, for a total time of 1:22:48. Was this 10.8k? If so, that seemed a pretty discouraging time for such a hard effort. Can't really even use altitude as my excuse because I was told that Whistler is about 2000ft above sea level, not enough to be significant. And yet, what an experience! Yes, it was tough. Yes, the others in the group would probably have run me into the ground easily. But it was so beautiful there, with a lake and cloud ccvered mountains, and occasional glimpses of the sun casting its light across the trails and mountains. Chipmunks skittered across my path every so often. And every time I crossed my designated start/finish line, I felt I’d won a small race, the one between the Diane who wanted to bag it because it was too hard and I was too slow and the one who said, “Let’s try just one more lap,” and one more . . . and one more—until I finished, my legs feeling as heavy as logs. I decided that whatever my pace, I was getting a terrific workout. And the uncertainty of my time/pace didn’t diminish that fact.

After that it was kind of a shuffle/walk/jog/shuffle back to the apartment for lunch—and learning that Deena Kastor won bronze in the women’s Olympic marathon. Soon after I returned, the light drizzle that had started as I headed home turned into a downpour. Total time running about 2+ hours but I didn't keep track too much after finishing the hard six laps.

Monday, August 23
No run but hiked a couple of miles in the morning, then joined Liz, Pat, Pete, Kevin, Zach, and Travis on a tour known as a Tree-Trek. This consisted of walking on a series of suspension bridges supported by wooden platforms built high up over the tree tops. This tour was led by a guide who seemed very friendly and knowledgable. Since the bridges swayed when we walked on them, it was a bit unnerving at first. But once accustomed to the swaying, I began in fact to enjoy it and even missed it when walking on a more solid section of steps.

Later, Pat, Pete, Zach, and I took a ride up Whistler Mountain on the gondola, a beautiful ride, carrying us through forests and mists, over mountain bike trails it’s a wonder anyone dares bike, and to a spot above treeline but not quite at the summit. Here, one could simply relax and enjoy a meal in the restaurant/food court or do some souvenir shopping (although the shop was closed by the time we decided to look around). Or, for the more adventurous, this was the beginning of a choice of skiing, mountain biking, or hiking adventures. For all of us, it was the beginning of the relatively short hike toward the summit, although the increasingly rocky footing made this more challenging than my running shoes could handle (I had not brought hiking boots—perhaps it would have been good to have them, but I had already overpacked). I finally had to stop under the shelter of an overhanging boulder where I waited for the others to return. It turned out to be a good place to wait, because soon it started to rain, and I was grateful to have a natural umbrella. Passers-by recruited me to take pictures, which I was glad to do. In retrospect, I see a business opportunity taking hiking pictures. ;)

Once everyone returned, we started back toward the lodge and gondola—and saw a rainbow! Interestingly, that morning I’d written to my mother in my journal, “Yesterday was my focused run & today I want to be in the mountains & see blue sky & clouds & maybe even a rainbow.” Another gift! Another kiss from her!

Before returning to the gondola, we stopped for hot chocolate at the restaurant. Sitting by a huge picture window, we savored the chocolate and whipped cream as the spectacular mountain view.

Later, the family had dinner at a Mongolian restaurant, experiencing an interesting method of eating out. Instead of the usual sitting and waiting for the server to bring meals to the table, we took bowls and filled them with a variety of uncooked foods on a buffet table, including meats, vegetables, pastas, and sauces. These we handed to cooks working at a dining-room table sized grill, stir frying the food as we waited. I wondered how they managed to keep track of the different piles of food and know which one belonged to which customer. But they managed to give each person the correct plate. Mine was a combination of meat, vegetables, and a few sauces, mixing ginger, garlic, and lemon. Very tasty!

Tuesday, 8/24: one last run before leaving—since time was short, I decided not to aim for a speed workout, simply to run 45 minutes. However, this run turned out to be a 67-minute hill workout, run on the Valley Trail, at least as hilly as Lost Lake. This took me through some decidedly expensive neighborhoods as well as onto a scenic lakeside trail. Deciding that the hills were pretty much a part of the package, I saw my opportunity to make this a hard workout, and picked up my pace on the uphills. Interestingly, I felt much more energetic during this run than the one I’d done on Sunday. It felt satsifying to push the uphills, invigorating. Of course, I got lost, so the time ended up being longer, and no doubt Dave would laugh at the way I got lost. Saw a sign pointing the way to the Village where the lodge was, and since my timer hadn’t gone off—I’d decided to do an out-and-back, so divided my time and set my watch accordingly—I assumed it couldn’t be right, since I wouldn’t have reached the starting point that soon. Only problem was that I’d not taken into account that I had returned to the start point faster than I went out.

In sum, ran, hiked, went sightseeing, drank coffee, watched Olympics, and shopped, ate out the last night, and saw the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, spent quality time with family, saw a rainbow… and a quick glimpse of a bear at the side of the road on the bus from Whistler to Vancouver. On the train back to Seattle, I yielded the window seat to Liz, so she could see what I saw enroute north. As it grew dark, a scrabble marathon took shape, with the conductor and various passers-by recruited as arbiters when a word was in dispute. I joined Travis on the opposite side, both of us passing up the game playing. I watched sporadically, sometimes throwing in an opinion. Or looking out the window. Or reading.

Wednesday, 8/25—no run, another long travel day

We reached Seattle late Tuesday night, and I had to leave early the next morning, so slipped down to breakfast, carefully avoiding waking the later sleepers in the hotel room.

My flight was scheduled for 10:45 to Chicago, where I’d change to another flight to Philadelphia. However, upon arriving at the airport, I learned that the Chicago flight was delayed over an hour, so I found a friendly ticket agent who approved of the Kerry sticker on my bag, and was rebooked to Philadelphia through Denver. I’d reach Philadelphia an hour later, but c’est la vie. Denver was my connecting city enroute, and I had enjoyed the Denver to Seattle flight. Rebooked and satisfied, I set off to find the gate—and learned that my original flight to Chicago had been declared undelayed and was going to take off on time. Sigh! Debated whether to rebook again, but decided it wouldn’t be worth it. My bags were no doubt already in some underbelly of the airport, tagged for the Denver/Philly connection. I’d no doubt have to wait for them once in Philly, so I might as well follow them onto the plane they were now scheduled to take.

As it happened, the connection through Denver was smooth, and I even enjoyed a chair massage at the Denver airport, a treat I might not have had in Chicago. And as both flights left on time, there was no difficulty either with waiting too long at the airport or having to sprint to the next gate. Reaching Philadelphia, however, turned out to be a small challenge, since, as the captain announced, only one runway was in service, and we were stacked up, circling for about a half hour before landing, then waiting on the runway for an available gate. Still, I was grateful for the safe landing, and enjoyed watching the moonlight dance on the wing.

First full day home

Thursday, 8/26: rather slowish run, about 42 mins. Feeling a bit dragged, jet-lagged. Later that day, stopped for coffee in Liberty Place. Here’s a poem that came from that:

Piano Player

A man sits down at the piano, surrounded by Liberty
Place. He begins playing the Moonlight
Sonata by Beethoven, dancing
with keyboard and pedals, hands flying
over keys, unlocking notes
and hearts.

I want to run with the same genius.
Friday, 8/27: 45 minutes and feeling better.

Saturday, 8/28: Hot and humid day. Group workout, 45 mins. warm-up (50ish altogether, including jog fr/ Lloyd Hall to 7.5 mile point on West River Drive), 4x1 mile repeats at “tempo” pace. For me that turned out to be the following: 9:55, 9:24, 9:29, and 9:37, with three mins. rest (1.5 mins. walking, 1.5 easy jogging) in between. Afterward, I went into a sort of meltdown. Couldn’t hold it together. So exhausted, breathless that after walking back to Lloyd Hall, I could barely get to the ¾ mile mark at an impossibly slow jog. Came back almost reeling. Felt very disappointed in myself, but sometimes such days happen. I can’t imagine how the marathoners in Athens manage to run a marathon in heat worse than what I experienced!

Sunday, 8/29: Sluggish one-hour run, broken up into shards of something like jogging, until I took shelter in the Y and ran on the treadmill, at which point I was able to crank up the speed to 8:30ish pace.

Watched marathon, revved up by the excitement of Meb winning silver, but pained by what happened to the leader—the spectator shoving him into the stands.

Anger at the intruder. Inspired by the intrudee, the bronze medalist who still finished with a smile. How did he do it, knowing the man had cost him the gold? Could have been sour about it but wasn’t. How is it that some people seem inherently happy? How could he beam so brightly, enter the stadium so playfully. I noticed a cross around his neck. The intruder, apparently has crashed events in the past, including a car race, with biblical quotes pinned to his back. He sees himself, perhaps, as some sort of prophet, yet to me, the marathoner, coming in with a smile that no intruder could steal from him, wearing his silver cross, was all the more the prophet.

Here’s my poetic take on the Olympics:


We learn that making a big splash scores
little. Judges seek
a silent slide through
water's surface, so invisible
a mark of exit
as to leave in memory only
the dive, not the diver.

We hear that getting stuck
landings show
a gymnast not stuck in a routine.

We see stars fall
and new stars rise
and surprise.

And grace
stays in the race
surviving superheated
asphalt and burning
passion turning a runner’s gold
to bronze.

And we learn to look
under the surface
Monday, 8/30: Again a sluggish run, until I gave in and took the treadmill route. There, I surrendered all semblance of ambition, keeping the pace at 11:30ish per mile, although once comfortable, moved it into the 9:30ish range.

Tuesday, 8/31: Separate workouts for the 26-2 and Peak Performance groups. The former: 8x1/4 for the faster folk; for the rest of us, the order was to turn around at the next marker once we saw the leader. This resulted in 6x1/4 for me. The latter: 2-mile time trial. I assume that we didn’t do that b/c Dave was going to have us do something similar on Thursday. This went pretty well in terms of not having difficulty breathing, except briefly during the cooldown and during the pylometric exercises Dave has us do. Only there was another hitch. My knee was giving me a problem in the second repeat and I had to slow down significantly during that one. My times: 1:55, 2:09, 2:07, 2:05, 2:04, 1:59. At least I made my way back down the scale after the second one with no recurrence of the knee problem!

Wednesday, 9/1: Easy 45 mins. but knee a little tender at first and near the end of the run. I iced it afterward. However, I am happy with this run because while in Naylor’s Run Park, I saw a butterfly so lovely that it stopped me in my tracks. It was black with sapphire blue-edged wings, catching the sunlight and twinkling. The butterfly danced around me, in front of me, opened and closed its wings, circled me, as if to say, “shall we dance?” It felt spiritual, a communication between this dancing butterfly and me, and I went away with the sense that as Julian of Norwich wrote, “all shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well.”