On Saying Goodbye

Jul 29
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014

photo-2Here we are. This is the millionth selfie the two of us have taken at airports during our 9 years of marriage. We always snap a pic just before we fly out of Seattle. And here we are again. Only this time we’re leaving for five months.

When Julie dropped us at the airport in Bellingham at 3:45 am, I burst into tears—the first time I’ve ever cried about leaving home. I do so love to travel, but this is a big trip.

Friends, you’ve made leaving for this long very bittersweet. Though we are excited about our adventure, I’m sadder than I can say to miss out on five months of running events, Write Outs, coffee times, happy hours, long walks, and short runs with you. Thanks for being in my life.

Jane and Fuji seemed to know something was afoot this morning as we dragged our luggage out to Julie’s car. They climbed in their crate as if to say, “Take us along!” And then they climbed out and climbed all over us with wiggles and kisses as if to say, “Don’t forget to come back.”

Our gratitude to Julie for taking our two canine creatures into her home. And gratitude to our new friend H for living in our home as if it is her own. H, we know you will love Bellingham and we know all the pieces to your puzzle will fall together.

Finally, thank you to Peter R. for inviting us into the Alaska Board Room Lounge at the Sea Tac Airport where we have been able to sip on excellent coffee while I write this blog post.

Off we go.

Here We Go on Our Grand Chilean Adventure

Jul 22
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Travel log


What a time this past five months has been. In February, on the weekend I was in Texas running the Austin Marathon, Bill received Bill with Chile bookword that he had been given a Fulbright Grant to work for a few months at a Chilean University. He learned about the grant the day BEFORE the marathon but didn’t tell me until the day AFTER the race because he thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I knew. He was right. As soon as I knew the grant had come through, I started making lists. The minute I got home from Texas, we hit the ground running.

  • Start applying for the visa
  • Find someone to take care of the dogs
  • Find a house-sitter (doesn’t have to be the same person who cares for the dogs)
  • Prepare curriculum (mostly Bill)
  • Clean the house
  • Say goodbye to friends

Of course the list of what needed to be done in order to get ready to go was long and involved. And it didn’t even include what we already had on our schedules:

  • Bill and Cami to make a road trip to Oregon, California, Utah and Arizona
  • Bill to run the Boston Marathon, after visiting the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame
  • Cami to run a half marathon in Lancaster County, PA to see if she could meet any Amish women runners to interview for her new book
  • Cami to direct the Wind Horse Half Marathon
  • Cami to write two articles for Adventures Northwest Magazine

And certainly, my original get-ready-to-go to South America to-do list didn’t even anticipate:

  • Have tumor removed from cat’s tale and administer 10 days of antibiotics to reluctant patient
  • Treat dog’s newly developed allergy to pollen with steroids three times a day for two weeks
  • Go to no fewer than 10 chiropractic appointments to treat ongoing plantar fasciitis
  • Bill to help son (who happens to be a brand new first-time father himself) move into new condominium
Bill's Grandson Maxwell

Bill’s Grandson Maxwell

But anyway, here we are—one week from our departure date.

The thing about life is that if we don’t grab hold and live it for all its worth, we have to settle for something less than full-on living. Every time I have to make a decision about whether or not to engage in some major undertaking, I ask myself the same question. “Will I regret not doing this when I’m on my deathbed?” I imagine myself lying in a hospital near the end of my life (I know, it’s morbid, but stay with me), pumped full of morphine so that only bits and glimpses of my life find their way to my consciousness. What regrets will I have? Will doing or not doing this thing in front of me right now be one of them?

The first time I asked myself this question was twelve years ago when my grandmother, who had just turned 75, wanted to visit Norway. She’d found relatives—a cousin of her father—and wanted to see her dad’s childhood home before she was too frail to travel. I was the only one in the family with any international travel experience, and I knew she would be safe if I took her. If I didn’t go, she wouldn’t go. But I was in the middle of my divorce. I was tired and broke, and traveling to Norway would mean charging that trip. I’d never had credit card debt before, and this trip would take a year to pay off with the salary I was making at the time.

One night I lay in bed wrestling with the decision of whether or not to take my grandmother to Norway. She had some urgency about the trip (actually, looking back I think she felt that if she could get me away from home, maybe I would start to heal), but I simply couldn’t afford to go. The thought came to me, “What if I said yes and it took me a year to pay off the trip? Would I regret that decision on my deathbed? Or what if I said no and the opportunity passed? Would I regret not going?” And the answer was obvious.

I charged that trip to my Visa and it took me more like two years to pay it off—with interest. And Norway with Grandma is one of my richest experiences to date.

So when Bill told me he’d gotten the grant he’d applied for and asked me, “What do you think? Shall we say yes?” I knew how to make the decision.

Leaving home for nearly five months right now gives me mixed feelings. I LOVE my life in Bellingham and have some major projects on my calendar for 2014. But Bill has always wanted to work in South America. He applied for this grant twice; it took three years to get it. When we applied the first time, I wasn’t in the middle of structuring a book or working with writing clients; now I am. But when I asked myself what I would regret, I knew I would regret passing up the chance to have an extended cross-cultural experience. The chance to learn Spanish. The chance to find a favorite coffee shop in Concepcion (the city we’ll be living in). The chance to make friends with people I don’t know yet. The chance to go wine tasting in Chile and Argentina. The chance to find favorite running trails in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The chance to see my best friend live out one of his life-long dreams.

Off we go, then. We leave next Tuesday on a series of flights that will take us more than 24 hours. Come along for the journey. I’ll be posting at least every week with pictures, news, wine recommendations, running reports, adjustment struggles, new friends, and whatever else occurs to me.


Did Not Fail!

Jun 25
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Guest Blogger, Race Reports, Training

Dana Platin is a rock star. She’s one of my heroes. I asked her to do an interview with me, and she agreed. Here she tells about her recent and only DNF (Did Not Fail).

Q. Dana, tell us about the half ironman you’ve been training for. How did you choose this particular race? What drew you to it?

I chose two half- IronMan races as part of my training plan to work toward racing a full IronMan in early August 2014. An IronMan endurance race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run with a total distance of 140.6 miles. Not normal, I know. The half distance is 70.3 miles with a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. I raced two of these 70.3 IronMan races between May and June 2014 as part of my preparation for the IronMan race coming up on August 3, 2014 in Boulder, Colorado, 38 days away!


Q. What was your training schedule like as you’ve prepared for the big race?

I train 6 days a week with a combination of speed swim trainings, strength swim trainings, long distance swims, speed work on the bike, climbs on the bike, speed work with my runs, hill training with the runs as well as long distance runs. Some days, I would combine the biking and running. I wake up at 5am and grab a cup of coffee before I head out the door; this has been my ritual for years. I train between 5:30 am and 7:30 am and then get home, shower, and go off to the office. I have a busy job and have had to learn to plan out all my trainings and work tasks every day, week and month in order to be able to fit this all in. It sounds like a lot, but the training actually is the most peaceful time of day for me. It’s quiet time where I can be alone with myself. I believe my best ideas come to me when swimming, cycling, or running, and I use this time to help me meditate, decompress, and recalibrate for the day to come.


Q. I know you recently had to make a difficult call with regard to one of your half Iron Man races. What was that race like? Highlights? Lowlights? Funny/scary/frustrating/victorious moments? Paint a picture for us of your experience. Take us there (this is where you tell the story of the event).

I have raced over 12 years with a mix of 5km runs, 10km runs, half marathons, marathons, and century rides, 8 half IronMan distance races, IronMan full distance, trail half marathons, mountain expeditions…you get my gist. I have a LOT of mileage under my belt, and I have always finished every race. Now, I haven’t always finished strong and have even finished injured, but this recent race was the first race that I DID NOT FINISH.

In racing, there are terms such as DNF (did not finish) and did not start (DNS), in which the individual signed up for the race did not show up to race or actually dropped out. The results are posted on the Internet and the entire world (if they are looking) knows you were a “no show” or didn’t finish. So I knew I would have a little bit of “ah shit, gotta explain this one.” I usually don’t care what others think, but the explaining I have to do for myself is the hard part. I have been close to not finishing before when I was injured. In those cases I would have to walk to the finish line, slow down the pace, but never have I fully dropped out.

Here’s a snapshot of the series of events leading up to my first DNF…

We showed up at 6am to get our wetsuits on for the open water swim. The temp was about 50 degrees in the morning and the water was a brisk 61 degrees. Everyone was nervous about the cold including me. I hadn’t swum in waters that chilled before but had so much training under my belt that I felt my strength would help me overcome. I put on my wetsuit, which was warm and toasty. I step into the water, my toes felt frozen but the water didn’t seep into my wetsuit. I stood in up to my knees and still didn’t feel anything. I figure, “I got this, it’s not that bad.”

The gun goes off and I dive in headfirst. I come up gasping for air and a shock went through my system as I felt the cold. WOW, this is freakin’ cold!!! I try to take a deep breath and swallow some water. I then get kicked and pummeled by the lovely men to my left and right as it’s a mass start with a couple of hundred people. I had the onset of a cold the day before, nothing major but a bit of congestion and an earache. Still, I start to find my place in the water, set the pace, find my stride and rhythm. After about 5 minutes, I felt my chest tighten up and had a hard time breathing, I slowed it down as I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t swimming that fast? My legs felt like dead weight and my arms even heavier. I was only 5 minutes into the swim; I had at least 35 more minutes to go! What was going on? I stayed calm and mentally put myself in check. You can do this and “will” be ok. Do not wave the kayak guy to come rescue you, I said to myself.

I turn around and see the shore right there, I can actually swim back and get out of this right now. I tread water, try to breathe and have a moment of “knock this negative talk off” with myself, and onward I go. I have never been scared in the water or panicked. I have seen my triathlon comrades hugging the buoys waiting to be rescued by the safety kayakers or small boats (if you raced in South America, we had fisherman as our safety water peeps J), but I’ve always been fine. This was a strange new experience for me and I didn’t realize the cold had such an impact on me, I just thought I was slow and the wetsuit was too tight causing me to feel cement arms and legs. 40 something minutes later, I make it through the 1.2 mile swim. I get out all water logged with frozen cheeks. My arms were still there and moving. Phew, I am done with the swim!

I try to run to the transition zone to get out of my wetsuit to grab my bike. There are 2 guys there who are serving as volunteers—called “strippers” (LOL)—who help you strip out of your wetsuit. They grab my suit and strip it down, and I fall backwards as it was so quick and I was still frozen. I think of the movie frozen and all the hype around that song “let it go” and just start singing to myself the same lyrics! Am I going insane? I am out of the wetsuit and find my bike. I put on my cycling helmet and shoes, and off I go. I have my race nutrition in a small pouch on my bike, so I drink some electrolyte mix and eat 2 fig newtons (my favorite on the bike) to get the proper fueling for the next hour. Pedal, chew, breathe, drink, pedal, chew, breathe, drink and breathe some more. Off I go. I am cycling like a bat out of hell.

timerI am cold and trying to warm up and still in a bit of shock that I made it through the swim. I am hitting it hard, flying past everyone on the bike. I am in my aero bars on my bike which has me arched forward in order to be as aerodynamic as possible to move at a faster pace. I am confident, pedaling harder and harder, making up time, breathing well and pushing on. I have a total of 56 miles to ride and it looks as though this will be my personal record for timing on the bike. I am 1 hour and 20 minutes into the ride and my bike clock shows 28 miles have been completed already. I am on track for a 2 hour and 40 minute 56-mile ride. WOOHOO!!!!! I am flying and feeling good.

In the aero bar position you shift your gears up and down from the aero bar shifters. Suddenly, I shift one of the gears and notice the shifter is coming off and flimsy. It comes lose and is hanging, meaning I can’t change the gears and need to ride the remaining 28 miles in the same gear! OMG, this isn’t happening. As I am processing the new mechanical situation of my bike, I fly over a bump and my water bottle sponge that is nestled in between the aero bars pops off and I am being splashed by my limeade electrolyte mix; I am sticky, thirsty and riding single speed in a half IronMan race being bathed in this sticky, sweet and salty electrolyte mix.

Instead of hitting the panic button, I make sure to put myself in check—laugh at how ridiculous this is and then stay calm. I put my mental skills training to work at this point; I carry on and stay focused on what needs to happen next and stay positive. I have learned that when I get negative in a race it just sends me on a downward spiral, and I refuse to let negative talk take over. Just keep pedaling, find that cadence with the one speed you got and make it work. No need to panic, just pedal, push, breathe and ignore the annoying splashing of limeade electrolyte mix in your face. I roll into the finish line in 2:59, completing the 56-miles happy that my gear didn’t completely fail and that I made it through the arctic swim and bike ride. I didn’t get my personal record (PR) on the bike that day but did get my PR on mental skills training and putting up a good fight when the going got tough!

Next, I get off the bike with my sticky face and fingers from the limeade bath I took and race to the transition zone to leave my bike, take off bike helmet and cycling shoes, and put on running shoes. Every minute counts, so I am trying not to fiddel faddel in the transition zone. If it were up to me, I would take a nap in the transition zone, but off I go… I start running an 8:30-minute mile. Whoa slow that down, I tell myself. Then I am at a 9-minute mile, which is the pace I usually race at.

I start to feel my chest tightening up. I have never felt this before during a run. I am not sure why since I just biked so strong and felt fine with no breathing issues. It was the same tightness I felt on the swim, so I slow it down and take some deep breaths. I can’t get air in my lungs. I am now at a 12-minute mile and still can’t breathe. I start to worry and think, Should I tell someone? But maybe it will go away. Just run it off… I continue to run and now at a 13-minute mile, it gets worse. I see an aid station and some very cool women volunteering. I stop and I wait for a minute, deciding if I should share my secret. “Hey guys, do you have any water, gels, bananas?”

“Yes, we do,” they give me the “looking strong” cheers, and I choose not to tell them how I am truly feeling as I am worried about the consequences of my sharing. I would be told STOP, DROP OUT, DO NOT FINISH. I keep going. It starts again; I can’t breathe. I am thinking now, Do I have asthma? It’s not going away and now it’s getting scary. I make it through the next mile and see another group of volunteers. This time I take the plunge and tell them about my symptoms.

They immediately help me, worried it was my heart. They got me all nervous, but I know I am in perfect health, I don’t have heart issues… but could I? SHIT!!! This is “it.” My first DNF…

They ask if I want them to call a medic and I say no, that I will walk back since I didn’t feel dizzy—just tightness in my chest and lack of breathing. The two women stared at me like my response wasn’t going to work for them and they didn’t want me left alone. I convince them that I will walk slow and be fine. They let me go, although one of them came to check on me on her bike (she was awesome.)

I had that long walk of shame; the walk I always wondered about with fellow DNFers. On the walk, I am processing how this feels; I am not finishing this race. I had these moments of asking myself if I should push a little harder and see? But I realize this was the right decision, a wise one, and the decision of a person who knows her body and is being smart about her health.

This wasn’t about getting a PR or the best time or always finishing. It was about making sure my health,

well-being, and security come first. I actually felt empowered and good about my decision knowing it was the right thing to do. I had enough racing under my belt to know that I would finish if I could. I had done it many times before, but today wasn’t that day. DNF it would be.

I walk back, and as I walk, my breathing gets better and my chest is doing better. The medics checked me out and said I had bronchial spasms from the cold water, and it got exacerbated on the run from the up and down motion. While on the bike, I was crunched over and protected, and that is why I didn’t have the spasms like I had in the swim and the run. They wanted me to watch for signs and symptoms of edema and pneumonia that night, and luckily I took care of my health and recovered the following day. I felt more like a badass that I was even able to persevere through the swim and the decision making of saying “enough” on the run and not beating myself up afterwards.

So there it is DNF, DID NOT FAIL. I turned the Did Not Finish into a Did Not Fail nor Fret. It is what it is, and as long as you can walk away from each experience knowing you gave it your best, then there is no failure. I went on to race another half Iron Man five weeks later in Boulder, Colorado and had no medical problems. There I finished strong. I enjoyed the race, stayed strong mentally, and obviously had my bike shifter fixed and bought a new aero bottle so my electrolyte mix wouldn’t bathe me again!

Lessons learned. There can always be another race. One race shouldn’t be the way we measure our overall performance. I have been 100% committed to this Iron Man plan. I know there will be good days and bad; the important piece is “how” we race and “how” we deal with the setbacks.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer many years ago and lived in the northern Andes of Ecuador. It was there that I learned to persevere and push on. Some very powerful women and girls taught me these lessons that I carry with me on race days.

Dana on her bike!

Dana on her bike!


A huge thanks to Dana for sharing her experience! We learn as much from the struggles as we do from the victories. 

Join Us for Our Half Marathon!

Jun 5
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Around Town, Current Events, Preparations


Summer in the Northwest is the best. Today I’m sitting on a friend’s porch (in my shorts and t-shirt!!) enjoying bird songs and blooming flowers.

I’m here with pen and paper making some of my final to-do lists for the fourth annual Wind Horse Half Marathon, which is coming up here in a few weeks (July 19 to be exact). I do love co-directing this event every year, and this year there’s more to love than in years past. Why? Because we have a new partnership with the Bellingham Sister Cities Association!

As you may know (because I blab about it all the time), the Sister City program, developed by President Eisenhower after World War II to promote citizen diplomacy (otherwise known as “world peace”), is and has been an important part of my life since Bill and I visited one of Bellingham’s seven sister cities in Australia many years ago (Port Stephens).  Subsequently, we also made our way to two of Bham’s other sister cities: Tateyama, Japan and Punta Arenas, Chile. Our town’s newest sister city is Tsetserleg, Mongolia, and while I’ve not yet visited, I have been involved in raising funds to provide school uniforms and supplies to the children of Tsetserleg for the past few years. The proceeds of the Wind Horse Half Marathon have gone to The Blue Sky Education Project, which distributes the funds as needed.

Well, this year, the Wind Horse Half Marathon and the Bellingham Sister Cities Association are teaming up to put on the race. This way, we can benefit two organizations we believe in with one super fun event.

If you haven’t participated in the Wind Horse Half Marathon before, consider joining us this year. The course runs parallel to Chuckanut drive. On a clear day (which we promise to have on July 19), you can see the San Juan Islands while you enjoy the cool shade of the trail and smell of pine and ferns. We are a low-key, low-cost race, but we do serve a barbecue after the run in the tradition of the Mongolians. AND, you’ll get a medal with our awesome graphic on it. We’re walker friendly (we’re just generally friendly, too) and have very cool first prizes–also in the Mongolian tradition–for the female and male finishers (but you have to be 21 years old to take it home, or we would be arrested). Sign up now, if you haven’t already. See you there.

To sign up for the race, CLICK HERE.


If you’d like to volunteer (and we do need peeps to support our runners), send an email to [email protected]


For My Friend, Ted. If I’m not a (fill in the blank), what am I?

May 25
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice

From my Psychology Today Blog

For Ted.

More than a month ago, I started to feel a dull ache in my left heel. Slowly, over the course of about a month, the ache turned into a sharp, stabbing pain that hurt every time I brought my foot to the ground. I knew it was plantar fasciitis because I’d had the condition once before, but I didn’t want to believe it was back.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-running-shoes-grass-concept-closeup-image-image32803581Determined not to let pain slow me down, I kept running, wincing through each short run I took around town, suffering the consequences of aggravating an already aggravated foot. To ameliorate the pain, I moved my running to the track—softer and more even ground than I usually travel. But that alteration in my practice didn’t help. Each day, no matter that I stretched and iced and massaged and took ibuprofen, the pain in my foot increased. And then one evening, I got up from the sofa where I’d been watching TV, and I nearly collapsed when I put my left foot down and pain seared through my foot with an intensity I couldn’t have imagined possible.

For two days, I could hardly walk.

I made an appointment with a runner-friendly health practitioner in town hoping she would have a magic cure, but guess what she told me? You got it: “Stop running for awhile.”

“Stop running?” I cried. But how will I get any exercise? How will I clear my mental cobwebs? How will I socialize? How will I get the fresh air that keeps my depression at bay? “For how long?” I asked.

“Well, let’s start with a week and we’ll see how it goes.” I think she could see the panic in my eyes and didn’t want to tell me this healing could take months.

During several consecutive gorgeous days (rain would have made staying off my feet easier) following that conversation, as I sat on the stationary bike in the gym, lamenting my bad luck, I kept catastrophizing in my mind, imagining I might never run again. The thought kept coming to me: Who am I if I’m not a runner?

For better or for worse, being “a runner” is an essential part of my identity. My writing, my friends, my weekend activities, and my vacations are planned around running. My marriage is based, at least in part, on a mutual love of and commitment to running. The idea that I might have to organize my life around some other central identifying factor makes me feel disoriented.

As I was trying to wrap my mind around how to draw on other aspects of my personhood to anchor myself (I am, after all, more than a runner—I’m a good friend, a dog-lover, a reader, a deep thinker, etc.), a friend of mine was heading into a crisis.

One day last week, I got a call from “Ted,” telling me his divorce, a long time coming, was final. Ted, someone I love like a brother, said, “I’m so devastated I don’t know what to do with myself. We were kids when we met. If I’m not her husband, who the hell am I?” And I recognized the question immediately. Ted’s question, based on a life change quite a bit more profound than my temporary loss of running, is still the same question.

Who are we when something (or someone) central to our sense of well-being and identity is removed, summarily taken away?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-drowning-man-image23554982I listened with empathy as Ted told me how he felt like he was literally out in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight to mark his whereabouts. “I’m lost,” he said.

“I know,” I replied. And I do know. When I went through my divorce, I felt for almost a year that there was no solid ground beneath me, nothing to reach for or hold onto. My heart broke thinking of Ted treading water for months to come. “It’ll take some time—maybe a lot of time.”

For some losses, time is the only thing that heals. Though we do everything we can (go to therapy, work through self-help books, meditate, exercise), one cannot rush healing.


If and when you lose something or someone so crucial to your orientation in the world that you feel you’ve lost your very self, consider being especially kind to and gentle with your heart. This loss, whatever it may be for you right now, is major, life-changing, self-changing. And it must be treated with great respect and kindness. Your pain is a sacred pain; it deserves the patience and persistence a parent offers a child when teaching a new and foreign skill like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or tying one’s own shoes.

And although floating in deep emotional waters without your usual compass is scary as hell, there are a few things you can do to soothe yourself while you’re learning to navigate at night by the constellations in the sky.

  • Regularly put your hand on your heart and remind yourself that you are still present, still real. You still matter—even though you are not who you think you should be right now.
  • Let loved ones be your anchor. You only need one or two caring friends who can hold hope for you when you can’t hold it for yourself. Let them be solid when you are not.
  • Take brief vacations from your pain when you allow yourself to think about who ELSE you are besides… fill in the blank (his mother, a runner, her wife, a six-figure earner—whatever your loss).

Not one of these things will take away your pain. Maybe even time won’t do that, but there will be a day when you wake up, climb out of bed, and feel like you know who you are—someone different from who you used to be perhaps, but still you.