On the Road to Boston

Apr 14
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Race Reports, Travel log

What a trip Bill and I have had so far. As you might remember, we were in Boston last year when the bombs went off (here’s my report from last year). Right from the moment we got home, we knew we would be back for the 2014 marathon. We both felt we needed to be at the race this year to show Boston our support and to connect with the many thousands of others who were present during the baffling and frightening tragedy that created so much grief for our country last year. We’ll arrive in Boston on Saturday so Bill can pick up his packet and I can map out my cheer-leading plan.

But before we land in Boston, we wanted to do a few other things out here on the East Coast.

First, we visited Philadelphia…


and took a tour of Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was penned.

Philly 2

After Philadelphia, we drove to Lancaster County so I could run the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon. In my mission to meet women runners from typically non-running communities who wear head coverings (see this post for more info), I’ve really hoped I might find an Amish woman or two who run. Since it’s been my understanding that the Amish don’t use email or Facebook, I didn’t think the internet would be my best bet for meeting anyone to talk to, so I decided I needed to find a race in Amish country.


The Garden Spot Village Half Marathon was a wonderful race that weaves its way right through the quiet community of New Holland, PA. Because I’ve been fighting plantar fasciitis in my left foot and haven’t done a run longer than 5 miles since the Austin Marathon in February, I gave myself the gentle personal goals of having fun and enjoying other runners for this race. I figured that even if I walked a good portion of the distance, I could appreciate the course. If I met a female Amish runner or two, all the better.

Race Day 2

As it turned out, I had a pretty good race (2:29). The first nine miles were on beautiful rolling hills that weaved through farmland. And the last five miles were gloriously downhill and/or flat. The weather was perfect (around 75, probably), and the course was well-supported. Several Amish and Mennonite families came out to watch the race along with their “English” neighbors. And there was at least one Amish woman and several Mennonite women in the race. Very briefly I was able to chat with one of them (whose finish time was 2:10!) after the race. Running is clearly not a common activity among the women in the community, but my sense was that, just as it does for me, running brings a lot of joy to those who do participate.

After the race in Lancaster County, we drove to Washington DC, where for the past two days we’ve wandered the streets of our capitol.


Yesterday we attended the Cherry Blossom Festival

cherry trees 2

Cherry trees

and went to the National Portrait Gallery, and then today we walked through the White House grounds, had lunch with friends Tacla and Richard, and then visited the Museum of American History.

As usual, Bill and I are cramming every minute of our travels full of adventures so that we come back to our lodgings exhausted each night. C’est la vie. Or at least c’est our lives.

Stay tuned for a Boston Marathon report.


Why We Run

Mar 23
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Around Town, Guest Blogger, Read This

As I may have mentioned, my husband Bill has recently retired from a thirty-year career—most of it as the director of an international exchange program at Western Washington University. This has meant he’s had a little time on his hands to catch up on reading through the stack of books that has been piling up on his nightstand for a long while. His retirement also means I can put him to good use guest blogging for me from time to time. So… allow me to introduce Bill with his first guest post/book review—hopefully the first of many more to come!

Not long ago, as I was sipping on an IPA in one of my favorite local Bellingham establishments (Elizabeth Station), someone whom I’d never met approached me pointing excitedly at the book I was about to open. “The guy who wrote that book is an amazing scientist… biologist, I think. He was also quite a runner in his day… I mean…a world-class ultramarathoner!” With this totally unexpected introduction to Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich, I couldn’t wait to jump in.

Why We RunApparently, Why We Run was previously published under the title of Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us about Running and Life, and to be honest I prefer the original title simply because this is a book that reminds us that insights into our own ability and passion to run come only from observing other animals and learning from them. And this is exactly what Heinrich does in his book. Framed in the context of chasing after his “dream antelope” of breaking the American 100-kilometer record, Heinrich explores, as a biologist and zoologist, how to prepare to run that far.

In a nutshell, this book shows what’s involved in running an ultramarathon race while pulling together the race experience with insights from his studies of animals. What can we learn from insects about running? What can we learn from birds about endurance? What does the antelope have that we don’t…and how did it become such an amazing runner? What insights into endurance running can camels provide us that antelopes can’t? And what’s the lesson to be learned from frogs? Why We Run takes a close scientific look at these questions and many more.

I found the chapter on racing fuel to be fascinating, as Heinrich experiments in his own training for the 100-K with a range of scientific insights about carbohydrates, fats, and glycogen depletion.(At one point in this chapter, Heinrich even quotes one of our legendary local Bellingham ultrarunners, Jim Pearson!) Heinrich’s training process was based on a series of experiments, some quite entertaining. His third experiment went like this:

“My third experiment was with a combination of lots of carbohydrate and lots of water – beer. I had done my trial runs on a 20-mile course, making a beer cache 10 miles out under some bushes. I timed myself out to the beer, downed the twelve-ounce bottle, then ran on and timed myself with the stopwatch over the second part of the course. If I slowed down, I figured I’d better try something else. If I speeded up, I could be onto something. I had speeded up slightly. For a real test, I entered a long road race toting three six-packs. Presuming a fast racing pace, I planned on having one every 4 miles. We took off like a rhinoceros in rut, and I was soon in the lead, chugging one beer after the other and increasing my lead even further. While starting to congratulate myself on the great run, with just three beers left to go, I suddenly felt weak. With two left to go, I lost all my will and just dropped out. I felt sick. More fine-tuning would not have been a bad thing if I’d really planned on this as something serious. However, I did not repeat the beer experiments. Instead I tried Ocean spray cranberry juice…..”

The last few chapters of the book, in which Heinrich describes his final preparations for the 100-K and the race itself, are worth the price of the book. He sets the stage for the race this way:

“This experiment of one will be, in the parlance of science, an anecdote. Nevertheless, it is still an experiment, not just a random happening. It is an experiment because I have been guided by logic derived from a vast body of experimental work on animals, and backed up by my own experiences. I’ve tried to incorporate the empirical facts and experiments toward achieving a scientific outcome, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done all I thought I could do.”

If you enjoyed Born to Run, you should definitely take a look at Why We Run. It’s a wonderful blend of world-class distance running with a firsthand account of the biology of running, by a leading authority on the subject.

Postscript: Two weeks ago while down in AZ to enjoy baseball’s Spring Training, I decided to register for a half-marathon which started and ended on a paved trail not far from the Mariners’ training complex. While I enjoyed the race, it was clear that I didn’t heed the insights into endurance running that camels (as experienced desert runners) could provide me with (see chapter 10!). Suffice it to say that camels are masters of heat management and water economy, while I did a lousy job of both on a warm Arizona day.

My thanks to my beloved for his review! I’ve yet to read the book, but it’s in MY pile now. It’s my goal here to post more running book reviews. Have you read Why We Run? What did you think? What other running books are you reading? And what are you learning from them?






Zion and Bryce National Parks

Mar 4
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Travel log

After leaving California, Bill and I made our way into Utah to visit Zion and Bryce National Parks. We’ve wanted to get over that way for a long time but have never really had our timing right to do it when we’ve been in the Southwest. Since Bill retired, his time is much more flexible and we’re only working around my writing and coaching clients, so we can travel during the off seasons–which in case you don’t know, are the best times to travel.

Before we left California, we stayed one night with Bill’s brother and sister-in-law. Since they had very recently been to Zion and Bryce, we picked their brains about which hikes to do and what not to miss.

Our first night in Zion we were warned that rain was coming the next day (much needed rain for the region, but we get enough of it in our neck of the woods to be disappointed). With the forecast in mind, we quickly settled ourselves in our motel room and changed into our running clothes. The drive through the park was gorgeous! We followed the scenic road to the end and took a run on the riverside trail (about 2. 5 miles round trip).

The red rocks of Zion

The red rocks of Zion

At the end of the riverside trail

At the end of the riverside trail

The next morning, we ran/hiked to the Emerald Pools and up the Angel’s Landing Trail to where it culminated in a scary scramble up some “stairs” to a high point. We didn’t go the last stretch, partly because I was freaked out by the climb and partly because the rains were coming.

A little freaked out at Angel's Landing

A little freaked out at Angel’s Landing


The next day I was pretty sore from our 7.5 mostly UP miles, so I was glad for a driving day. We arrived at Bryce in the afternoon to snow falling from the sky (and sticking on the ground). The folks at the visitors’ center told us the forecast was for snow through the next day. We decided we’d stay one night and see what the sky looked like in the morning. The park was too socked in to see anything that first night, but we hoped for even a brief clearing on Saturday to get some pictures.

No visibility Friday night

No visibility Friday night


Saturday morning we were thrilled to see blue sky! Bill took a run in the fresh snow along the rim of the canyon (about 4 miles).


Bill's footprints

Bill’s footprints



Then we hiked a three-mile loop from Sunrise point to Queen’s Garden and back up to Sunset Point. Check out the fun!

A Day with Seals

Feb 27
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice

Thanks to all of you on Facebook who expressed concerns for my well-being after my post about the Jack London Inn. We’re in Zion National Park now. All is well. We escaped the scary, creepy hotel early not much worse for wear, thankfully. But before we left, I called down to the front desk to see if we could get a coffee pot in our room and was told that they were all in use. Maybe when someone checked out I could have one, the clerk told me.

“Let’s get out of here!” I said to Bill. “I have a mind to see if I can get Kayak to take this place off their website.”

“Shhh,” he said. “Don’t say that so loudly. Keep your voice down.”

I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. He wore a serious look of concern.

Anyway, we had a great day planned the day we checked out, so we needed to hit the road. We drove through Berkeley, and I had coffee with Laura M, editor of my most recent publication (with my co-editor, Susan Tive), Beyond Belief. I’m such a relational person that publishing has been a tremendous blessing to me in that once you’re working with a publisher, you’ve got a team of people invested in your book. Laura–and Eva, Seal Press’s publicist–have been important in my publishing journey. I was very much looking forward to putting faces to names and voices I know well on the other end of the phone.

Laura showed me around the Seal Press digs and introduced me to the whole crew. I even got some insight into some of her favorite soon-to-come book projects.

I knew about six years ago. when Seal decided to publish Second Wind, that I’d found a special publisher, but while I was in the office meeting friends face to face and looking at the shelves of quality titles Seal has put out, I felt lucky once again.

After leaving Berkeley, Bill and I drove down highway 1 to see the coast of California.  If you haven’t done this, you should. Our West Coast rivals the Great Ocean Road in Australia or the road down to Cape Point in South Africa. Craggy rocks and crashing sea call out for drivers to stop every few miles just to gaze backwards from whence they’ve just come.

But for me the best part of the drive was just north of the town of San Simeon where the Elephant Seals congregate. I love sea wildlife, and seals are some of my favorites because they’re so unafraid of humans. They’ll look you right in the eye if you can get close enough.

Check this out.


So, a hard night was followed by a delightful day. That’s how it goes.

Now we’re checking out Zion and Bryce before heading to Arizona. Stay tuned for more pics.

Jack London Inn–Hotel California

Feb 24
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Travel log

“You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” -The Eagles

Friends, you know I’ve got a low bar for my lodgings when I travel. My policy has always been if a place is clean, safe, and quiet enough to sleep in, I don’t care much about what it looks like. Two weekends ago, I got to stay in a gorgeous hotel with some of the Fit School women in Austin, Texas where we were spoiled with good coffee in the mornings and a driver to take us where we wanted to go in the city. It measured far above my usual standards and I enjoyed the room–and the company.

This week, Bill and I are trekking down I-5 and decided to make a stop in  Oakland so I can scoot over to Berkeley in the morning to have coffee with my editor from Seal Press. In a rush to finish up our travel  plans last week, Bill booked us a room online at the Jack London Inn. Sounds literary, doesn’t it?

After arriving and seeing the state of the place, Bill went down to talk to the clerk at the front desk.

Bill: “The website says there are coffee makers and hair dryers in the room. We don’t have either of those things.”

Clerk: “That’s because everything has been stolen. You have to make a special request for those.”

Can I just say that you should never, ever, EVER be so cocky as to fail to read the reviews online before booking a room. This place is not so clean, probably not safe, and most likely won’t be quiet. Take a look:

The hole that looks in from the room next door.

The hole that looks in from the room next door.


The way I plugged the hole that looks in from the next room.

The way I plugged the hole that looks in from the next room.


Their website didn't show this.

Their website didn’t show this.


At least they have a TV. Too bad the remote doesn't have any batteries.

At least they have a TV. Too bad the remote doesn’t have any batteries.


The moral of the story is that you should ALWAYS read reviews. We  trusted the Jack London Inn website, and that was a mistake. On the positive side, Bill and I have a sense of humor–we’ll be fine. Plus, as a writer, I never know when a bad experience will be fodder for a good story, so it’s hard to be too dismayed over anything that happens. Still, I wish we could be sure we weren’t sleeping in a room next to a crack dealer.

I’ll give credit to my husband… he sure knows how to show a girl a good time!