Run On



I haven’t written much lately. I tweaked my shoulder and have had a lot on my mind.

Like…I entered a race. I’ve thought about it all summer. This nice weather we have and by nice, I mean “not raining”(that’s Pacific Northwest lingo for you), should not be wasted. If you live in this area, you know that from June to September, every weekend gets jam packed with festivals, parades, carnivals and the like. Why? Because it’s sunny. Or at least trying to be. We give points for that, too. Everyone wants to be out and about in the vitamin D.

This is my convoluted way of saying I wanted to capitalize on my earlier running streak and take advantage of the good weather, too. All too soon, come November, nobody will want to be outside. The scenery will be shades of gray upon gray with a hint of brown for lively accent.

But there’s a bonus this year. Jonathon, eternal candidate for husband of the year, wants to run the 5K at the same time. Huzzah! Wouldn’t it be great if he fell in love with running, too? I’m trying not to get too excited and freak him out. It’s difficult.

I downloaded a Hal Higdon training schedule, free off the interwebs. I purposefully picked the Novice 2 level. Of course, this is my 6th half marathon. I have learned a thing or two. But I also know myself. No sense killing myself to get to the desired result. I plan to keep the 2 kettlebell workouts a week in the mix and get one rest day instead of two. I’ve jacked the plan all around to make it work for me. And, if it doesn’t work, I’ll change it again. Yes, Virginia, I can be flexible.

This is my latest adventure. I’m wiping the slate clean of old disappointments and injuries and expectations. I want to have fun and get stronger. Care to join me?


Run Like Hell Half Marathon Recap

Today I ran one of my favorite races:  Run Like Hell, in Portland, OR.  As a nearly native Portlandian (if there is such a word), I love this town.  And I want to go on the record saying I lived there *before* it was cool.  Art cars, exceptionally talented street buskers and Benson bubblers are part of my heritage.


This Halloween-infused race changes themes every year.  This year’s theme?  Under the Big Top.  Racers came dressed to match it.  I saw a strong man, complete with shiny body suit and handlebar mustache.  I saw a young gal dressed like a lion.  One guy ran the whole way engulfed in a giant box of popcorn.

But truly, Portland – and this race – doesn’t discriminate.  Two men in puffy sumo wrestler suits ran side by side.  A slice of pizza crossed the finish line ahead of me. Wonder Woman and Super Man put in an appearance. Several male fairies, bedecked in sparkly wings and bows, charged down the street.  Let’s not forget the requisite rainbow-wigged guys and gals, and the standard tutus.

But don’t let the goofy costumes and festive atmosphere fool you.  This is a full-on race.  Start time:  7:30. I put on the pants I wore from the You Go, Girl Half and the shirt from that race.  I didn’t realize it until right before the race.  My subconscious dressed me for victory. The sky dawned partly cloudy, with rain later on.  I prayed to outrun the rain.  Running a race this time of year comes right on the cusp of our seasonal weather change from mostly dry to mostly wet.

The first 4 miles took us up Terwilliger Blvd.  And I do mean up.  We reached a great park, stumping along under drifting fall leaves. We had sweeping views of the river and Mt. Hood silhouetted by the sunrise. Can I be honest here and tell you I considered turning back?  I do hills at home, sure, but not 4 miles.  In a row.  But then, we hit a curve and trooped downhill towards Naito Parkway, which runs along the Willamette.  I love running downhill.  I made up some time here, and thought I still might do well provided I stayed strong.

I did alright, for another couple of miles.  Around mile 9, I started to feel tired.  I walked a little, then ran some more.  By mile 10 (which seemed to take a rather long time to appear), as we zigzagged into Northwest Portland, I knew I’d better cut back on my pacing.  My mood plummeting, I decided to manage expectations.  I would run 2 minutes and walk 1 minute.  My calves tightened up. Then my hip started aching.  The joys of aging!  Sigh.

Then I started thinking.  I trained for this entire race while working full-time.  Never done that before.  For me, this meant early morning runs, the majority of those in the dark.  I missed a few on my schedule but did the bulk of them.  I even threw in one extra long run for good measure. Plus, I’ve finally embraced the wisdom of carb loading.  Why, oh why, did I ever doubt this?!  It made a huge difference in my stamina and how I felt when I crossed the finish line.

I drank water at almost every station, since my very first half marathon I ended very dehydrated.  Not pretty.

“Unicorn tears and rainbows in a cup!” said one helper in  sing-song voice, handing out water cups to passing runners.  He wore an oversized sombrero.  I cracked a grin.  How could I resist? Unicorn tears should not be wasted.

We had street buskers for the Naito Parkway stretch, several in a row.  Their steady music helped, as did the brass band at miles 8 and 10.  After the Boston Marathon bombing, races got locked down in  big way.  Very few spectators lined the street.  A few little kids in pajamas stood outside with their dads, marking time until their moms ran by.

Because of this, the race seemed more serious. No goofy signs, or costumes on the race monitors. Not entirely solemn, however, as a mad hatter in an orange felt suit whizzed by me.  But less spontaneous, less ebullient.  I hadn’t run this race in 5 years.  Maybe I’ve changed as well. Only 5 minutes later than the time I’d hoped for, I ran under the finish banner just as the rain fell in earnest. I got discouraged along the way but didn’t let it dissuade me.

Sometimes the successes we really want get superseded by other  ones – like recovering well from a race vs. reaching a time goal. If we keep our minds open to learning and growing, every race can be a win.  I can say, as the race started and finished in front of the 610 building on SW Broadway where I used to work, it felt like a little taste of home-brewed victory.

Run Like Hell medalHeavy medal.

Setting the Goal

I signed up for this.  It’s in 9 weeks.

What have I done?

In truth, of the 5 halfs I’ve run, this one has been my favorite.  Why?  Lots of reasons.  It’s held in Portland, my hometown. The race is run by people in goofy costumes – capes, leotards, masks. The energy from the thousands crowding the starting line is palpable. It’s a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon.  I can’t imagine running 13 miles in a cape and a diaper, but some brave souls do. The first few miles of the course go up, up, up into the West Hills of Portland.  Then it levels off. Then, glory to God, it heads downhill paralleling the Willamette.

I haven’t raced since September 2014.  It feels like a lifetime ago that I ran the You Go Girl Half. So much has changed with me going back to work full-time and all of it has played into running taking a backseat.  I can only hope all the minor injuries sustained over the last year and the subsequent recovery from them will help me be stronger this time around.

My base miles near negligible, I found a beginner plan to follow.  Am I beginner?  Not mentally.  But physically, at this point in time, yes. And I’m okay with that. Let the training begin.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
 – Hebrews 12:1

Saturday Snafu

Photo from

          Photo from

Yesterday, I meant to run in the Goldsborough Creek Fun Run.  After, I planned to attend the parade with a bunch of friends and their kids.  I also had a birthday party/blessing ceremony in the mix.

I did none of those things.  Ruby was still sick.

I needed to be home.  Sure, I could have run the race and made it home before 9:00 a.m.  The finish line is a half mile from our house. Zac would have babysat for me, no problem. Ruby probably would have been okay sitting outside during the Forest Festival Parade.  It was only a couple of hours.  She had a cough, sniffles and mild fever. And the birthday party would have been fun for all of us. Yet I felt a check about it all.

As Ruby and I sat and watched the movie “Bolt” for the second time in 2 days, I considered all of this. Ruby laughed when Bolt bit his squeaky carrot toy. She looked over at me.  We laughed together.

Wednesday night during the worship time, a young woman brought a word about good being an enemy of the best .

“We miss God in all the good things He does.  He isn’t those things; He’s outside them,” the gal said. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. We follow the blessings instead of listening for His Spirit.  His good gifts take the place of His presence. We find ourselves sustained by them instead of living and moving and finding our being in Him (Acts 17:28).

I felt sad about missing all those fun times yesterday, though I know I chose correctly. All of this activities were good, no question.  But not for that particular day. I deep cleaned the upstairs bathroom, channeling my grumpiness into something constructive. It helped my attitude to walk and do errands,  in the sun and fresh breeze. I relaxed sitting outside while reading a funny detective novel told from a canine perspective. The scent of honeysuckle, twining through the trellis, washed over my spirit as I warmed in the spring light. Later in the afternoon, Ruby perked up. We worked in the front yard, weeding and watering. It also cheered to sit outside for dinner. Feasting on Taco Bell in the grass with both Zac and Ruby  – and Rex – made me smile.

After dinner, Ruby and I played Go fish.  She attempted magic tricks with cards.

“Pick a card.”  She held the cards out to me, splayed face down. Rex lay back on the blanket, thrilled to be of our party, though non-participatory.

I picked a card and placed it back in the deck.

“Is this your card?” she asked for the third time, brown eyes hopeful.

“No, ” I said, laughing.  Took her a fourth time to get it right, and that because she watched me put it back in the deck.

I remembered that God is with me, no matter how I feel in the moment and that this too shall pass.

You Go Girl Half Marathon Recap

you go girlYesterday, I ran the You Go Girl Half Marathon in Tacoma. And I finished.  Let me sum up.

I signed up for this race back in the late spring.  I figured I’d have enough time to train for it, adding in Saturday long runs to increase distance.  I did 8 miles, 9 miles and so on, adding another mile each week.  My training runs, as you know, met with mixed results.  I hurt, and a lot.  Pain during and after these runs rated about a 6-8.  The last long run I did, which ended up being just shy of 12 miles, was on September 1.  Then I got a cold, which kicked my butt for most of the week.  I had to taper much earlier than I planned.

My last run Thursday before the race ended up being around 2 miles.  Due to jackhammer-like pain, I had to piecemeal it.  Enormously frustrated, I walked inside, head down.  That night, I’d had it.  How could I possibly run 13 miles in 3 days?!  I could barely run 2 back to back.

Mercifully, Jonathon suggested we pray.  At this point, I was angry.  I didn’t want to pray.  Perhaps you’ve felt this way.  Where was God during all this time?  I prayed on my own and with others several times during the past nearly 2 years on this very subject.

As we prayed, something came to mind:  the 2012 Portland Marathon.  That, friends, was my last long race.  If you recall, I made it to 18 miles before I bonked and had to drop out.  I made light of it and tried to move on, but the failure, after working so hard and trying and pushing, crippled me.  Literally.  The pain in my back that radiated down my right leg caused me to be able to only walk for a season. You’ll never know how many odd stretches and strengthening exercises I tried to relieve the pain. I improved over time but never reached full strength.  I didn’t even like running most of the time because of it. I internalized the failure and as I trained for yet another endurance run, my old inner vows haunted me. I hadn’t forgiven myself.  It appears I jammed the disappointment and self-hatred at scoring a DNF into my right rear pocket.  Nobody could see it, but boy, did I feel it!

I had to repent of believing I was a loser.  I had to confess I thought of myself as a failure, at least in this regard.  My body could only react to what my spirit told it. Believe me:  I know this sounds weird.  All I know is after I prayed and told God I was sorry for believing those lies, the healing began.  I felt the pain moving like a tingling down my back and out my leg.

The healing continued that night as I slept.  I could lie on my back again, where for nearly 2 years I’d had a golf ball-sized knot preventing me from any position but on my left side.  My right shoulder got healed, too, something I’d been seeing the chiropractor for for at least 4 years.  I was, and am, so very thankful to God.

Grateful and overwhelmed, I hit the start line on Sunday morning with only 2 thoughts:  be ferociously optimistic and go slow, taking it mile by mile.  Honestly, to be pain-free felt like a huge victory in itself.  I almost didn’t care about the race.  Almost.

The day dawned beautiful and cold at 36 degrees.  Mom, Jonathon and I made our way to Tacoma as the sun topped the tallest trees. Tacoma, situated on the Puget sound, reminds me of Portland.   We arrived at the start line and saw several hundred women – and a couple dozen men – waiting and chatting.  Most men wore pink, part of the deal allowing them to race.  Some took it a step further and wore tutus and pink compression socks.  Several non-running dads pushed little boys and girls in strollers as their wives pinned on bibs.

I spotted the 2:00, 2:10 and 2:20 pacers right off.  Ideally, I wanted to finish in 2 hours.  But since I hadn’t raced this distance in 2 years, I figured I better just aim to finish.

The race had several downhill parts, the tall buildings providing welcome shade. We did a mile loop on a gravel path in a darling local park.  Jonathon and Mom waved to me from there.The first six miles went by pretty quickly.  I kept around my normal pace and focused on relaxing and looking at the scenery along the way. I thanked God for cool breezes and getting to be outside. This in itself felt miraculous.

Since the race was supposed to be all women, I’d hoped to find camaraderie on the course.  I did.  As I crested the first overpass down by the waterfront, I chatted with two gals in purple tank tops on my left.

“Why can’t it end here?” I asked, looking out at the peaceful Pacific, dreamy blue in the morning light.  Boats large and small pushed through the inviting water.  The panoramic view encouraged my decision to walk a minute and breathe it all in.

“Oh, don’t worry, ” said the redhead, her hair back in a French braid under her visor.  “It’s pretty flat from here.”

And it was.  Flat and long.  The stretch to the turnaround proved to be endless.  The trouble with turnarounds is that someone is always already on their way back while you continue to soldier on in pursuit of the end of the loop. I kept looking, and looking.  Orange safety cones stretched on an endless asphalt horizon.  Where *was* the blasted thing?!  Wait a minute.  What if I turned around now?  I could just skip over to the other side of the cones and turn towards the finish.  Who would know?  Bad Susan! I had to hold myself by the scruff of the neck to stay on the straight and narrow.  Sigh.

At last I reached the turnaround.  The final 3 miles stretched on and on, sun-drenched and dazzling.  I had to walk more here as my stamina gave out.  I chose to stay encouraged and enjoy the day anyway.

The two gals in purple passed me at mile 11.

“Let’s go, Shelton!” the brunette cheered. It lifted my heart.

After running for a while by my lonesome, I caught up with a tall gal in blue, dark hair back in a ponytail.

“Hey, good job!” she said to me.  Truly, we ladies encouraged each other all along the course.  Shouts of, “You can do it!” and “Way to go, ladies!” chorused out across the miles. We were all in this together, win or lose, anyway. No multitasking here.

“And to you! Hey, I’m getting hungry,” I said.  My stomach growled its assent.

“Me, too,” she said, a small grimace creasing her face.  “But we’re almost there.”

Soon after, she took off.  We caught up again later.  By that time, we needed to crest one more overpass, run over the top and then down to the finish.

As I spiraled down the ramp, I saw the finish line, inflatable and unmistakable.

“It’s mine!” I said and sped up.  Grinning like an idiot, I made it in just under 2:20.  Not bad for an old broad.  I ran into both the purple-clad ladies, thanking them for their friendliness, and the blue gal.

“I haven’t run a half marathon in 13 years,” the pony-tailed Amazon told me between sips of water.  Wow.  Impressed,I congratulated her.

I had no idea when I signed up for this race all that would occur. Why didn’t God heal me sooner?  I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t ready to admit my own powerlessness and sinful thinking until earlier last week. I’m just glad He healed me. I have a comeback story of my own. Today, I’m a little stiff but nothing too serious.This pain, birthed out of extra exertion, will subside. Thanks be to God! His love endures forever.

But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. – Psalm 18:6

Dozen Run

I thought I ran 13 miles today.  I got all pumped up about it. I ran out to the quarry/asphalt company like instructed. Even got a good time, too.  But it seemed…suspicious, too good to be true.  So I drove it.  Turns out it was more like 12ish miles. Wah! I didn’t even have moisture left in my body to cry, seeing as I sweated it all out on the run.

Yet, progress is progress. In Latin, that’s progressus, profectus est. Sounds better, don’t it?


Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy with gaining longer distances, truly.  It’s just the race is coming up soon and I wanted to run the 13-mile distance at least once to wrap my little noggin around it, so I wouldn’t psyche myself out on the day. I’m pretty good at head games. I lettered in it.

This is where I remind myself that a few short weeks ago, I couldn’t run that far.  I didn’t have it in me.  What nobody seems to talk about when you run long distances is how you need to be able to absorb the notion of running longer.  When I first started, running more than 3 miles stumped me.  My mind rebelled.  Then it was 6 miles.  Once I crossed that bridge, over time, it was like my mind opened up to the possibilities of…more. It’s hard to describe.  I’d liken it to the old saying, “Throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow.”  Once you let go of the fear of a new challenge, and any odd circumstances that might arise (dog chases, cramping calves, getting lost), you can do it.  You might have to go slowly, but you will arrive.

The two pieces need to sync:  mind and body.  You can’t hurry the process, either. My body usually gets there faster.  It’s pumped and likes the endorphins.  My brain, not so much. “Susan, you can’t do this!  Remember how much your leg hurt?  Remember how you were nauseated the rest of the morning after that 10-mile run?  Huh?  Hey, are you listening to me?!”

I prayed specifically that the two pieces would unite.  I’d planned to run on Saturday, but I woke up with a wicked kink in my back and it poured down rain.  I did a short treadmill run and stretched out.  It helped. So this morning, I had no excuses.

The morning dawned pink, with gauzy layers of fog lying over the fields. The air, perfectly still, still held the chill of the night. Jonathon often encourages me to enjoy every mile when I’m out there.  And I’m starting to learn.


Man Hands and Monday Miscellany

So, according to a good friend of mine, I now have man hands. I suppose this has something to do with all the kettlebell-ing I’ve done over the last 4 years.

The nails in this clip look well cared for, but short and masculine, no? Though to be fair, the darling blonde in the clip has ginormous mitts; I’m sure they’re someone else’s and edited in.  My paws, though not smooth on their undersides, are small.  I would call them baby hands.

But my hands have skill.  Mad skillz. I think about how we often judge others based on how they appear.  I talked to a gal this past weekend who once had 1500 teddybears.  She collected them from all over the world – Ireland, Israel, Canada and other far-flung places. 

“Susan, I had to downsize!” she told me, eyes wide.

I guess so.  That’s a lot of fake fur in one house.

As she told me about other collections she had, I thought about how different we all are.  I used to collect rocks, bottle caps, and shells.  I had other collections but the 3 mentioned I added to on a regular basis.  When I grew up, I gave up collecting things. Somehow they became less and less important. I craved new experiences more than additional items.

I have nothing against collecting things.  These days, though, my collections seem to be based on adventures.  A bracelet from a romantic getaway Jonathon and I had.  A mug I picked up at the Eiffel Tower gift shop.  I remember the pretty Parisian shopgirl rolled her eyes when I pulled it off the shelf. 

I could practically hear her mutter.  “Idiote touriste!”

I can see her frustration now, since my mom managed to pick up a near-duplicate mug for me at Goodwill. Anyway.

I keep the bibs from the races I run.  I’ve got all the half marathons, some 5Ks, Goldsborough Creek and the Portland Marathon together in a special place.  Those bibs show I’ve gone somewhere and done something.  I’ve tried a new thing, pushed my limits, whether it be a different course or distance.

Come September, I’ll have one more to add:  the You Go Girl Half Marathon in Tacoma.  I like the idea of an all-female race. I’m looking forward to the challenge of training and racing. It’ll be fun to have all that girl power pushing us along. I’m open to new experiences.  In fact, you could say they make up my latest collection.