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I dedicate my Tuesdays and Thursdays to cleaning my house (mornings) and Foot Patrol (afternoons). The Foot Patrol coaches and runners have been hard at play for five weeks now, integrating fun games (running in disguise) with some distance training. The coaches and I have worked with nearly 40 boys and girls, K-5th grade this season. Some days thinking about it just blows me away. Ten years ago, if you had told me if I’d be a kids’ running program coordinator and coach, I would have laughed.

Across the street from our YMCA is a paved trail around a man-made lake. The entire circumference of the lake is 1.6 miles. For our younger runners, completing this loop is their season goal. For our older runners, two laps around makes for a great challenge. With this program and its acceptance of anyone who wants to sign-up, we really don’t know what mix of kiddos we’ll get until they show up the first day. What a great surprise we had when we found out that eight of them want to complete the full 5K run. They don’t just want to, they WANT to . . . and they want to go FAST.

Another handful of runners beg for us to play more games. They play whole-heartedly and then start suggesting new games to the coaches, or request games we’ve played earlier in the season. When our day’s session is finished, these little bodies are still in motion as they get their fellow runners together to play “just ONE more!” while they wait for their parents to finish signing them out and parent chatter. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I do look forward to integrating some of their game (and stretching) ideas into the next season’s plans. What is interesting about this bunch is that they aren’t at all interested in distance running, yet I’d be willing to bet that they cover more distance with the games than the distance runners do when they work on running around the lake. At first this bothered me because I wanted every runner to complete at least the 1.6 mile run by the end of the season, but then it hit me that this goal is MINE, not theirs. Some of these running gamers WILL complete the run, mostly because their running buddies want to. But some of these great spirits will choose to do what works for them, which truly is the goal of Foot Patrol – to introduce children to running in a FUN way so they will learn to see it as something they can do throughout their lives without seeing it as a punishment. Are they having fun – YES. Would they see running as fun if I pushed them to do the full 1.6 miles? Maybe not. I’d say the goal accomplished and we’ll just let this bunch revel in the joy they’ve discovered in the games.

And what of that last handful of runners? I’m not one for choosing favorites, but I do really like this bunch. Maybe it is because these kids remind me of my own discovery of running, or maybe because I’m a sucker for witnessing “Ah-ha!” moments, but I’m really enjoying my “I didn’t know I could do that!” group. These are the runners who are part of Foot Patrol because a sibling is also running, because on a whim they thought it “might” be fun, or because one of their friends told them about it at school and their parents were happy to have them participate in a low-cost, local fitness program. For the most part, these are 2nd & 3rd graders who are active in other sports, but who have never really paid attention to what their bodies can truly do.

Last week we were blessed with cool, but dry sunny afternoons for Foot Patrol, truly PERFECT running days. Some of the runners had been asking if we could go ALL the way around the lake. Since many of them had covered 3/4 of the distance comfortably the week before, the coaches and I divided the kids into a few different groups to meet their pacing/distance needs. I took a group of 4 boys, 3 of whom were ready to go, go, go. The fourth boy thought maybe he could, but he wasn’t sure. With one last chance to run with another group, he decided to stick with us and off we went. Thankfully there is a bathroom half-way around the lake, for despite the requirement that everyone make a pit stop before Foot Patrol starts, all four boys were happy to make a second pit stop. At this point that fourth boy started having doubts about continuing. The other kids were amazing at encouraging him and I promised to stick right with him so we could choose distances and then take walk breaks if he wanted. Feeling more confident with our newly set plan, we were off for our second half.

About .10 mile from the cross walk back to the Y, the boy looked at me and said, “I’m not sure I can run anymore.” Since he had been pretty chatty along the way, I didn’t share his doubts, but I didn’t argue with him. Instead I had him lift his chin to look ahead and see where on the path we were. When he did, his already big eyes got even bigger. “We’re HERE already? That’s the Y up ahead!”

“Yup! Did you surprise yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah I did. I didn’t think I’d ever make it around. But I DID! That was EASY!” He quickly shook off his self-doubt as he stood a bit taller to finish up his run. That Saturday he showed up for the YMCA’s annual Fall Classic 1.6 mile/5K fun run to run with his parents and little brother. His little brother is a Foot Patrol runner, too, and was so inspired by his big brother’s accomplishment (and his own good training, of course) that he decided HE could do the 1.6 mile run, too. And he did.

What about you? Do you find yourself facing a daunting task and wonder how you’ll ever accomplish it? Put your chin up, face that finish line and surprise yourself. You can do it.

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Tomorrow morning is Race Day. Well, not for me, but for many a runner or triathlete. On Twitter I saw that the Berlin Marathon is tomorrow (um, well, maybe today with the time differences!). In Seattle tomorrow marks the first time our city hosts the Trek Women’s Triathlon. It gets underway at 7:15 – those of us volunteering will check-in at 6AM so we can be on the course and ready to support the athletes by Start Time.

This morning I was hoping to meet with a group of women for a trail run to kick-off this weekend of excitement, but Mother Nature had other plans for me. A downpour (not a light drizzle, it was TEEMING!) kept me inside, even though one woman DID show for the group run and kicked out a fabulous 5 miles in the rain before heading to Vinyasa class. I told her she earned her cape and that she can count on me being there next weekend (even if it IS raining – I’d like to earn a cape, too)! I will say that the other 4 or so women who will be doing the early morning Saturday runs also opted to stay dry, so I wasn’t the only rain-shy runner in town.

The thing about tomorrow, though, is that rain or shine I WILL be at the race! I’m signed up to support the bike portion of the race. I’m looking forward to being on the course and seeing what it entails, as I really am a runner, not a triathlete. I’m also excited to be taking part in this event as a volunteer because it is an all women’s event and it is fun to feel the extra energy that’s around for women’s races than for co-ed events.

And now that I know the kids are finally asleep, I’m off to relax a bit before going to bed early. I want to be well-rested for the race tomorrow and will have to leave the house around 5 to park and be ready by 6. Yikes! I might have to bring along some toothpicks to support my eyelids . . .

Happy running, biking, swimming and volunteering to everyone in race communities tomorrow. And congratulations to those of you who completed an event today, including an old high school friend of mine who marathoned today. Enjoy your well-deserved rest day tomorrow!

I’m not really a competitive runner. I just like the way running feels, the way it clears my head and the way it leaves me feeling strong. I enjoy races, but haven’t been one to push myself toward any goals since having the kiddos. But all that is about to change!

Now that I’m back in my running shoes 4-6 times/week, I’m curious about how much distance I’m actually covering. Before now I think the statistics would have frustrated me since I really couldn’t get in more running. But NOW I’m in a groove and I think the statistics will help me build up my distance and encourage me to consider building speed as we approach the summer months and some fun 5K & 10K races.

I know there are fancy things I can do to track my runs (heck, I can do so on my Garmin, right?!), but for starters I’ve been recording my distances by hand on our family calendar. There’s something satisfying about hand writing the numbers. Perhaps June will be the month that I learn to utilize the high tech tools I have – when I’m really getting outside more for my runs and gearing-up for some races.

I look forward to reporting my total for May at the end of the month!

How about YOU? What motivates you to go the distance or pick up your pace? Take a second and leave a comment!

Have a great week . . . and happy running!

Here we are at Monday again. While not everything is falling into place as I’d like, I can’t seem to accomplish my tasks as quickly in reality as I do in my brain, and our home has been plagued with the first round of colds this season (and we’re out of tissue!), there are STILL many things for which I am thankful. Here are my top 5, in no particular order:

1. Cooler weather means I can pull out my sweaters and my Keens/Dr. Martins. I love my chunky shoes. Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em.

2. Morning naps (Little Sister’s, not mine – I would enjoy a daily morning nap I’m sure, but I’d be frustrated that I wouldn’t be accomplishing tasks). I’m enjoying these while they last. Something tells me the days with naps are numbered.

3. The Seattle Symphony Tiny Tots series. We’re headed for the first concert of the year on Friday, this time with some friends! Can’t wait!

4. The magic of the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Raising Sand concert last Wednesday. It was a LATE night for us, but it was absolutely amazing. Led Zeppelin fans have every right to be sad that Plant won’t be reuniting with is former band members . . . but they should seriously consider checking out his new projects. I can’t believe how T-Bone Burnett transformed some old classics to be hauntingly wonderful new pieces using bluegrass instruments and the voice talents of Plant & Krauss. I could just go on & on & on & on . . . it was simply one of the best concerts I’ve attended – and I’ve seen some good ones!

5. I’ll be signing books my birthday weekend in November at the REF runs for Riverview Turkey Trot (which was the topic of my first post , which was just 147 short posts ago – woah!). Somehow the event had slipped my mind (not my calender, though!) . . . until I read my name in the paper as one of the attractions for the Expo! Things have been a bit slower than I like with the book, so it is great to know that my “name” can help promote a wonderful event that will benefit the health and wellness programs for a school district. And, it will motivate me to get some longer runs in over the next few weeks so I can take part in their inagural 10K race!

And YOU, kind reader, what is something for which you are thankful this fine Monday?

I just finished up with an easy 30 minutes on the treadmill while my kids miraculously played happily beside me. Hooray! It was apparently so much fun playing with trucks and with the dog that when we were finished my daughter walked over to her crib to request a nap. My son is happy to relax and watch Word World for a bit (which is good because he’s home from school today with a nasty cough and needs the down time) while I finally get to post my race report from Saturday morning’s 10K.

To get an idea of what the run is like, here’s the elevation for the race (it’ll make your eyes pop!). Somehow the route map isn’t available anymore.

The weather here has been pretty constant for the last 2 weeks: drizzly and in the 50s & sometimes low 60s. Blah. For the race, it was much the same. My husband and I hadn’t considered packing gloves as we packed up the kids to drop at my parents’ house, but thankfully I had a pair hanging out in the car (hooray for me, though sad I didn’t have a pair for hubs) – I think they made a BIG difference for me, though they were fleece and got pretty heavy by the end.

So, we left the kids with my dad and picked up my mom so she could do her first 5K. Though she pre-registered and we were doing race day registration, we made it through the line first and then ran back to the car to drop off the race bag and do a bit of a warm-up (and potty break!). Before we knew it, it was time to GO!

The race started fairly flat for about a tenth of a mile, but then started the assent up the first hill. Though we got caught up in a fast start, our first mile was right around 10:20. Not terrible, but slower than I really wanted. Mile 2 clocked SLOWER (agh!) at 10:40, but that’s really where we were primarily UPHILL. Things picked up for Mile 3 (though now 2 days later I can’t recall what it was . . . somewhere around 9:50, I think). I forced my husband to take a few mini walk breaks with me (he would have pounded out 8:30 minutes uphill, if he was doing this on his own), but they were really rejuvinating and helped me find a good groove as we continued on.

My parents’ neighborhood is right at the top of our final big hill, which was the PERFECT place for my dad and our kids to plant themselves (in the pouring rain!) to cheer on the runners. It was thrilling to have our very own chering squad. We saw their lone umbrella as we made our way up the hill – us with our arms over our heads waving to them to see us. We could see that Dad recognized us and he had the kids start waving harder than they already were. “Go, runners!” yelled our son, until he spotted us and started dancing around, “Go, Mama!” “Hooray, Dad!” Little Sister flapped her arms and squealed as their treasured “Papa” worked to get a few photos of us in action. It was really the highlight of the race. And from there on out, we did manage to pick-up the pace with happy hearts and soaked (but warmed-up) bodies. Sorry the photo is so blurry – it is hard to take a good pic while holding a wet toddler and umbrella in the rain! And, yes, for those of you who “know me” – that IS a yellow hat I’m wearing (see, Running Knitter, you don’t have to worry!).

Mile 4 was at a 9:40 pace – and the flat part was coming, followed by the fast downhill. I forgot to mention that they had a photographer planted near the crest of the MONSTER hill to capture our survival. It was nice to see that they got photos of us on the way DOWN, too. I can’t wait to compare the two to check out the difference in facial expressions. We did Mile 5 at a 8:something pace, with Mile 6 sprinting down toward the finish at an 8:20 pace. Talk about a day of negative splits! Edit: The results are now posted and as it turns out, when all was said and run, I finished in 58:46.77 (7 out of 14 for my age group).

I overheard that there were about 100 runners for the 10K, which is amazing since there were only about 30 the first year (3 years ago). Only a handful of folks passed us and we managed to pass some of them in the second half of the race. I may not be the strongest runner on the hills, but I’m getting better. AND, I do have the endurance, so even if they were faster on the hills, the hills wiped them out and we were able to keep going strong. That part made me smile.

The kick into the finish was great. I felt so strong that we sprinted past the “crowd” of 5K finishers and folks arriving for the Duvall Days Parade/festivities. It was a bit crazy with people milling about, and I did have to yell out “On your right!” to zip safely past some 5K finishers (they ran on a different course – a trail run – but our finish lines were the same). It was fun to see that in just under 59 minutes we were able to pass the 5K runners who started 15 minutes after our start. AND, I was excited that my mom crossed the line ahead of us, probably at around a 37 minute finish for her FIRST EVER 5K – hooray, Mom! Sadly we forgot to get photos to prove she was there, but one of her friends did note that “we were walking together, but your mom was much faster, so I told her to go on ahead and run. She just blasted right past me!” That’s so cool!

Anyway, we finised the morning by quickly heading back to my parents’ house to retrieve the children (peeling Little Sister out of her crib from her 20 minute nap) so my dad could take his van and piano to the parade line-up. We rushed home, changed out of our sloshy shoes and wet clothes, threw the kids in the double jogger and hoofed it 2 miles into town to see the parade (downhill). After enjoying the bands, horses, seeing my parents in the parade, etc., we made the 2 mile uphill walk back home, rounding out our milage to 10 for the day. What a FULL morning!

I could probably write more, but Mr. Music is desperately seeking a snack and Little Sister is waking. I’ll post the photos ASAP. They’re fun!

Oh, and did I mention I like the 10K distance so much that I’m doing it again this Saturday? A flat one this time, so maybe I’ll PR (easy to do since this week was my first – ha!).

And while I’m actually thinking about photos, I’ll go ahead and throw in one from the in-person Book Launch Party in May. From left to right: My mom, my aunt, Maria (the lovely hostess!), me, my husband. My dad was the photographer (as usual, it seems!) and took care of documenting the start of the party before we all forgot to take pictures when the guests started to arrive (which is what always seems to happen to me – just like I tend to forget to get a fork at the start of a buffet line – it is inevitable!)!
Have a great week!

Though the morning was chilly and drizzly, it turned out to be a good one for a run. I got the kids ready for the day while my husband caught a few extra minutes of sleep, then headed out on my own to join about 100 or so locals for the Riverview Educational Foundation Turkey Trot in Carnation. This relatively new race (this was the second year!) offers a 5K, a 10K and a scavenger hunt – The Wild Turkey Hunt Urban Legend.

I opted to run the 5K, as we’ve been passing around cold after cold at our house and I have only been able to run a handful of times in the last few weeks. This race was great motivation for me to get back into a regular routine of running. Also, I’ve been focusing on my foot strike form, so the race presented me with the opportunity to try out my new foot strike outside on a trail. This race was just the thing I needed all around!

There weren’t many of us on the course this morning (compared to the summer races around here, anyhow) and I found that I really didn’t know any of my fellow runners. I usually enjoy the energy of running with friends and neighbors that I know, but this morning I found that the energy in the air was just as positive and encouraging amid the crowd of unknowns, giving me an opportunity to reflect and truly focus on my return to running and my physical form. Yet another thing this usual social bug needed!

The school district’s superintendent, Conrad Robertson, warned us at the start line that there might be a few muddy spots along the way and that we were welcome to run around or through any puddles on the course, the choice was ours. He got a few chuckles of response, but little did we know that in a few places there wouldn’t be too much choice.

I found myself remembering Robertson’s words as I watched the field of runners ahead of me seemingly dance across a narrow bridge, manuvering across the leafy, puddle heavy stretch of the course with fancy tip-toe footwork. I joined in with my own leaps, twists and occasional light splashes, thinking that the bike riders that were politely awaiting their turn to cross the bridge wouldn’t have nearly as much fun as they rolled through our obstacle course.

Only one dog participated in the event, a young Weimaraner who doubled the distance her person had to cover to reach the finish line. I was fortunate to follow this twosome for the first third of the race, laughing to myself about how that pup really had no idea what was going on and why she wasn’t allowed to take a dip in the river along the way. While the river was off limits for her, she did manage to take Robertson’s words to heart, choosing to run full speed ahead through a LONG puddle, splashing her owner as she moved her gangly, too long for her body, legs. This was a good morning for a pup to run, too!

The race course took us along the outer loop of a Girl Scout camp. It was the perfect location for a fall race, which would have been even more enjoyable if the sun had graced us with its presence, BUT, still provided a calm atmosphere for the middle of the race. The unexpected suprise on this stretch was a cabin full of girls in their pajamas cheering for us as they watched us through the giant picture window. There they were, with pigtails and slippers, jumping up and down, waving excitedly as we hurried past and waved our own greetings in return. I wonder how many of those girls might lace up their own running shoes for a race someday in the future, thinking back on our field of runners as we trotted through the drizzly morning in conquest of the finish line.

In the end, this race was probably the slowest I’ve run (I finished right around 30 minutes flat), but it was what I’d consider one of my best. I took the time to enjoy what I was doing, I was focused on my body position and technique, and had time to reflect on my surroundings. Today’s Turkey Trot reminded me of my passion for the sport of running – my love of the process, being in the moment and the groove of a good pace, respecting the generosity of the volunteers who enable me to race, and the fun of rubbing elbows with others who enjoy a good run.

Originally Posted by me on 11/10/2007 on the Balanced Steps site: www.balancedsteps.com