Archive for August, 2010
In January of 2009, Bill and I visited Tateyama, Japan for a marathon. We picked Tateyama because it is a sister city to Bellingham, and before we embarked on our trip, we contacted members of the Sister Cities association in Tateyama and told them we were coming. To this day, when people ask us what our favorite marathon was, we both agree that the Tateyama Marathon is our number one!
We were given a royal welcome in Japan, as if we were old friends returning from a long absence. In fact, we were old friends, though it was our first time in Tateyama. Bellingham and Tateyama have been sister cities for over fifty years and the relationship between the two cities was mirrored in the attention shown to us upon our arrival.
The marathon course in Tateyama was spectacular. We had a view of Mt. Fuji for several miles and perfect cool weather for the whole race, but the reason we loved this race more than any other is because of Tateyama’s citizens. For 26.2 miles, people lined the streets yelling encouragements, applauding, waving and offering refreshments. I’ve never smiled so much during a marathon.
Why am I reminiscing just now? It’s because I just found out that two Tateyama runners will be coming to Bellingham for the Bellingham Bay Marathon (BBM)! Now we’ll have the privilege of returning the hospitality and friendship that was offered to us! One runner will do the half-marathon on September 26 and the other will do the full marathon. The Bellingham Sister Cities Association sent out an invitation for them to come this year and the BBM has offered to take care of their entry fees.
It’s only one month away till our visitors arrive. If any of my readers are interested in hosting, meeting or hanging out with our old friends (who we’ll be meeting for the first time, too), just send me a shout out. The Bellingham Bay Marathon has also offered to provide two “companion” entry fees, so we need one full-marathoner and one half-marathoner to step up to the plate (or the starting line, as it were). It’s time to break out the sake!
As I ice my plantar fasciitis, I’m thinking about the hilarity that is me on a bike. I’ve got my Superfeet, and I’ve done as I’ve promised so far this week (granted, it’s only Tuesday) and stayed off my feet. No running and very little walking. It’s harder than I thought it would be. In order to get exercise, I broke out my bike on Sunday for a 1.5 hour ride. Today I rode for another hour.
Here’s the thing about my bike-riding skills: They are severely lacking. I like to blame this on my brothers, though it may not be fair. The way I remember it, when I was a kid, every time I got a new bicycle, my younger brothers took it apart as soon I spent the night with a friend. As a result, I never really got over that wobbly stage that children go through when they first learn to ride.
Neither my husband, Bill, nor my dear friend, Jack, will ride with me without personally fitting my helmet for me. If you add this unsteadiness to my dismal sense of direction, you’ve got a disaster on wheels. Tonight I decided that I would ride to Fairhaven to meet Bill, and he could drive me home with my bike in the back of his truck. What should have been a 35 minute ride took me an hour of weaving between streets as I lost my way in a city I’ve lived in for 15 years and nearly fell over every time I had to stop at a light.
I finally made it to Fairhaven, grateful and tired. Can’t wait to run again.
Yesterday morning at 8:00am, Bill and I boarded a ship called Coastal Explorer and headed from Seward out of Resurrection Bay. The end point of our cruise was to be Holgate Glacier, but in order to get there, we had to pass through the Harding Gateway where we encountered a pod of Orcas. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned that one of my very favorite things to do in this world is to watch Orca whales. As part of our wedding weekend we went whale-watching directly from Bellingham Bay. Then in Australia back in 2007 we took a cruise into Nelson Bay and watched as a single, gigantic Humpback Whale breeched for over an hour. I was in grateful awe to see him, but watching a group of Orcas remains my favorite thing. It’s like peeking in on your neighbor’s family dinner. Orcas are a matriarchical species. Each pod follows its matriarch through the waters looking for food and breeding in season with the males from other pods.
Hanging out with a family of Orcas is a very intimate experience. In the pod we saw yesterday, there were several calves poking above the water beside their mothers. The family stayed with our boat for at least forty-five minutes before we had to move on toward the glacier. Forty-five minutes of heaven!
An hour later, the glacier was as spectacular as the whales. The captain pulled the ship up close and we sat with the motor off, waiting for large chunks of ice to break free and crash into the water. We weren’t disappointed. Large pieces of the glacier wall plunged down hundreds of yards, echoing into the canyon like thunder on a rainy day. Although it is magnificent and beautiful to see the calving of the glacier, we were saddened to hear that the Holgate Glacier, in fact the whole Harding Icefield in Alaska and all of the glaciers it feeds into are receding so quickly that the ecosystem in the area is being affected in ways still in question.
After some time with the glacier, the boat headed back toward Resurrection Bay and stopped at the Chiswell Islands on the way to see the bird rookeries. I’ve been nervous around birds since I was a little girl, but over the past few years, I’ve learned to appreciate the diversity of the bird kingdom through my travels. At this rookery, we watched the very colorful Puffins nest in the rocks above while sea lions swam in the waters below.
Tomorrow we run Humpy’s Marathon in Anchorage. Today we picked up our race bibs and chips and spent the day in town. The weather looked promising, though I’ve heard that Anchorage has had the highest number of consecutive rainy days they’ve ever seen in their history. We keep our fingers crossed for a reprieve in the morning.
At the pasta feed this evening, I met Bart Yasso, whose book, My Life on the Run, is next on my reading list. He is a well-known runner and a Runner’s World contributor. But he’s also a really nice person. We chatted about South Africa (he recently ran the Comrades, a 55.9-mile race that starts in Durban), and a bit about writing to inspire others. Tomorrow, Bart will be announcing the names of runners as they come across the finish line and he promised to stay to end for the back of the packers! What a treat.
If I’m not too tired, I’ll post a race report tomorrow night. If I’m trashed, I’ll post it early next week. Peace to all.
We have three days until Humpy’s Marathon in Anchorage, so we rented a car and drove down to Seward. Tomorrow morning we’ll be taking a cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. Apparently, we’ll be seeing Exit Glacier as it “calves” into Resurrection Bay. But today we hiked to the edge of the other side of the glacier to get a peek of it from land. The sky sprinkled rain on us the whole way (about 2 miles round trip), but the glacier was worth it.
For more information about Kenai Fjords National Park, click here.
Every Sunday, Bill and I watch a CBS show called Sunday Morning. Yesterday the program had a segment about a theater camp for kids somewhere in rural New York. As I listened to interviews with the children, who claimed their lives were changed by participating in theater during their three-week stay at the camp, I was transported back to high school.
As a student at Mountlake Terrace High School, I elected to participate in our drama program. I was not an athlete, a chess player, or a singer. I didn’t play an instrument, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in a cheerleading outfit. This left theater.
Our drama teacher at MLTHS was smart. Mrs. E, as we called her then, had a stutter growing up and understood deeply the experience of self-consciousness that most kids feel in their adolescence. As a result, she led her theater troupe from a stance of mutual respect and inclusivity. Everyone who wanted to participate had a role. If we weren’t on stage, we could help with costumes or lighting. No one was excluded. She gave speaking parts to popular jocks and social pariahs alike – and insisted we treat each other kindly.
I’m not sure I was much of an actress, but she gave me significant on stage roles more than once and, like the kids in the Sunday Morning segment yesterday, it changed my life and gave me confidence. I learned that I could memorize long speeches, cover for other people’s mistakes, change costumes in less than two minutes and share in putting together a product that elicited applause and appreciation from an audience.
Yesterday, as I reflected back on my high school theater experience, I realized that I have the same feeling of confidence when I run. I wasn’t the greatest actress – and I’m not the greatest runner. But just as I felt a great sense of being a part of a collective troupe back then, I feel a part of a running community now. I could have ended up in a competitive drama club (think Glee), but instead, I was taught to connect rather than compete, and that’s how I run now – to connect with myself and nature. I’m glad for this, since I wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning anything even if I felt inclined to compete. Just as I did under Mrs. E’s tutelage, I get to be content with trying my hardest.
Thanks Mrs. E. I bet you never thought I’d be thanking you for helping me be the best runner I can be!