Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

There is no one I think of more on Thanksgiving than my mother. During my childhood, we usually spent Thanksgivings, just the two of us, watching the parade on TV, cooking a modest Thanksgiving chicken (no need for a full turkey for two), making whipped cream for our pumpkin pie from scratch, and sometimes heading to the movies afterward. On a day when many people are surrounded by dozens of friends and family, we spent a quiet day, just the two of us.

My mom, Charlotte, around the time of the chicken-chasing episode. 
Unfortunately, I also think of her on Thanksgiving because of that terrible Thanksgiving five years ago that we spent in the hospital, hoping her turn for the worse didn't mean what the doctors thought it did, after her recovery and release from the same hospital the day before after an eight week stay. I said goodbye to her in that room as the sun rose the day after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2009.

There are many enduring gifts my mother left me. One of my favorites is the image of her, chasing me around our small apartment pretending the dead chicken we were preparing was alive and flying (gross, but it still makes me smile). More life-changing than that chicken, perhaps, is the way she slyly convinced me to run a marathon, something I thought I'd never do.

A runner before having (non-running related) knee problems, she always encouraged my new-found love of the sport in my early twenties. After she spectated at the California International Marathon in December 2008, she asked if I'd thought of running a marathon. "Gosh, mom, why would I ever want to do that?" When I moved from 5ks and 10ks to the half marathon in March of 2009, she asked again. Again, I said no, and she left it alone. One weekend in October 2009, I ran a half marathon before visiting her in the hospital. Of course, she asked me if I was going to run a full, and of course I said no.

When 2010 came along, I was underwater and couldn't make my way up. In the summer, I realized I needed to find something to help me feel like my life mattered again. When I saw an email advertising a marathon training group, I heard her ask me again if I was going to run a marathon some day. And the rest is history.

Today, I'll give thanks to my mother for the gift of the marathon. Sometimes it makes it very difficult that I think of her when I run, but I'm always glad when I do.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Durham Deserves Better

My family was car free during my childhood, out of economic necessity primarily, but also because of my mother's lifelong passion for being active and healthy. We walked and rode the bus, and we also rode our bikes. I learned from a young age how to safely navigate traffic, and have continued riding as my primary form of transportation for a good part of my adult life. Sacramento is a place with a pretty comprehensive network of bike lanes, mild weather and many people traveling by bike, making it generally safe place to cycle.

When I moved to Durham at the beginning of the year, I was surprised by the scarcity of bike lanes, and felt a little less sure of myself navigating through traffic here. I longed for the infrastructure and critical mass of riders I was used to, and was heartened to learn about Bike Durham, a new nonprofit which works on cycling issues, and the Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC), which advises the City Council and Board of County Commissioners on bike and ped issues.

As someone professionally immersed for the past seven  years in active transportation, sustainable built environment and community engagement around both, I enthusiastically became involved in both Bike Durham and BPAC. Durham may be behind the curve on bicycle infrastructure, sidewalks, and supportive policies for active transportation, but that is no reason to sit back and let this great city fall farther behind! There are many people willing to work to make this change happen, and all of Durham will benefit!

This afternoon I had the privilege of participating in a community conversation about how to make Durham a safer place to bicycle. The forum, hosted by Bike Durham, was in reaction to three recent fatalities of Durham cyclists. Pamela Lane, Kent Winberry, and Tony Morris Turner, from my understanding, were practicing safe cycling techniques, but died as a result of motorist inattention/negligence and poor infrastructure. As Bike Durham's president Jack Warman stated, they deserve better. Everyone in Durham deserves better.

Bull City Coworking, which hosted the forum, was packed with around 80 people this afternoon, there to discuss how to make Durham a safer place to ride a bike. Pamela Lane's fiance shared his thoughts on the presumption of cyclist responsibility for their own deaths, and the lack of consideration and action taken on injured and killed cyclists behalf by law enforcement, media, and others in positions of power. Lots of heads in the crowd nodded.

In smaller groups, we discussed what we thought needed to happen to make Durham more safe. While there was anger, frustration, and sadness expressed, people also expressed love for this city, and sincere commitment to foster improvements. Some of the crucial steps to a safer Durham included:

  • Education for cyclists as well as drivers on how to coexist on the road and navigate safely.
  • Enforcement of laws when cyclists are injured and killed in collisions with cars. 
  • Commitment by the elected leadership to make cyclist safety a top priority.
  • Development of a Complete Streets policy to operationalize the inclusion of this key objective in the Comprehensive Plan. 
  • Funding the infrastructure needs to make more of Durham's streets safer for cyclists. 

Many other thoughts were expressed, as well as challenges to the room to show the elected leadership how important this issue is to Durham. I am hopeful that if even half of those who attended today get more involved in Bike Durham and other avenues for engagement on these issues, we can make change possible for Durham. 

To make Durham a safer place to be a bicyclist (and pedestrian), I commit to use my service on BPAC as an avenue to improve the political climate for active transportation policies and funding in Durham. Gathering support from key partners will be crucial, as will recruiting new participants from throughout Durham. I hope the Complete Streets policy can become a reality, and that funding for crucial infrastructure will be dedicated. 

I invite you to join me in December at the BPAC Community Engagement Committee, where we will discuss priorities for 2015, and how those will foster improvement for active transportation in Durham. The meeting will be held on the second Tuesday, December 9, at 6:30PM at Geer Street Garden

I also encourage you to attend the Bike Durham Advocacy Committee, held on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 (check for details on their Facebook page), or one of the other committees held each month by BPAC or Bike Durham. There is always room for another voice! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Race Report: Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon

This medal is almost as big as my face!
I came, I saw, I conquered? 

No, that isn't accurate.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?

No, though more accurate. I think I'll go with a gem from James Joyce:

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

On Sunday, November 2 (two years and eleven days after breaking my leg), I finished the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon in 3:57:55. This finish was not my goal (meeting my PR of 3:50), but another finish under four hours is always welcomed. Here is how it happened.

I set out in the 42 degree chill at 7AM, planning to run around 8:45 for the first half of the race and speed up later if I could. 8:45 put me exactly on track for a 3:50 finish, and didn't seem too far fetched considering my training. I wish I had my Garmin summary so I could be more accurate, but that was lost in the ether when I tried to upload it.

I ran the first eight miles around 8:25 to 8:30, too fast as always. I felt great. It seemed that there were more downhills than up, or at least the uphills weren't as bad as I'd anticipated. I stuck to my nutrition plan (for maybe the first time ever!), having a Gu or Clif Bloks at two miles, then every five miles after. I drank water, but not too much.

Around miles 9 through 11, I slowed a bit, to 8:45 to 9:00 or so. More hills had appeared. I still felt fine, and felt good about being closer to my goal pace. I continued right around 8:45 through the half marathon point, and reached the 15 mile marker, where Neil was waiting, two minutes ahead of target.

The first half or so of the race snakes through downtown Raleigh, which was very exciting to run through. I especially enjoyed passing all of the historical markers at a pace that allowed me to actually read them for once. After heading out of downtown, the race hits the Greenway, where I knew to expect both beautiful scenery and some killer hills.

Heading out along the Greenway, the course goes past Meredith College toward the North Carolina Museum of Art. I realized early on in this segment that being in downtown had been shielding some not insignificant wind, which was now making the run a bit more challenging. No matter, I felt fine.

Unfortunately for me and my grand plans, just after I hit the 16 mile mark, my right hip started screaming with pain. Right hip? But I thought the left was the injured leg? Well, the series of injuries (both my broken leg and an earlier car accident in June 2012) have caused me to favor my left, putting strain on my right. As a result, my right hip is soooo tight that I can barely sit cross-legged. During mile 16, I thought I'd quit when I got back to the spot I'd seen Neil, which would be mile 20. Through 17 and 18, I thought I might stop at the next aid station and quit there. I was going well past 9:00 per mile, and was crossing my fingers that the pain didn't indicate permanent damage.

Luckily, by mile 19 or so the sharp shooting pain retreated a bit, and I was able to speed up. Still hurting, but much less so. Needless to say, my 3:50 goal had flown the coop.

Coming in to the 20 mile mark.
Seeing Neil at mile 20 was a relief, and helped me slog on back towards downtown along the Greenway. Mile 22 brought the worst hill, but I was expecting it. (Side note: The San Francisco Marathon is way hiller than this race.) We exited the Greenway after Meredith College, and made our way along a short out before turing back and heading into downtown.

The last few miles were tough, but I knew I still had a chance at a sub-4:00 finish. I reeeaallly didn't want to go over 4:00. I'll forgive my terrible first marathon, and even my 4:02 at Rome (due to a packed course that stopped dead several times), but I will not accept another finish over 4:00! My strategy involved math right before every mile marker, subtracting the appropriate number of miles from 26.2 and calculating that, at each mile, I could run as slow as 10:00 miles and still make it.

Make it, I did. I crossed the finish in a bit over 3:58 gun time, and headed over to Neil just past the finish. He helped me grab my sweat check bag, and helped me limp to the food area, where I downed a donut and two pieces of pizza before grabbing my delicious Lonerider Peacemaker Pale Ale.

Almost there!
So, getting back to the quote I began with, what mistakes did I make, and what did I discover? My main mistakes, as always, centered around not doing enough PT, both for my injuries and for preventative maintenance. I didn't really foam roll that much. I taped my leg religiously, but that wasn't enough. If I want to continue to run marathons and not feel like my leg is about to fall off, I need to stick to an aggressive stretching and strength regimen that deals with my hip and joint issues. Lesson learned!

Now, to decide if I have enough time to remedy these issues before my next marathon, which is January 17th!