Today I’m hunkered down at the North Cascades Institute for a three-day writing retreat (I’m working on a young adult novel about a high school girl who can read minds). I’m grateful to have time in this beautiful place, tucked away behind Ross Lake, to string together my thoughts and to bring those thoughts to the page.

My friend and hostess, author Tele Aadsen, and I were talking yesterday about how ideas come to us. She was quoting Gertrude Stein who said, “It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.” I appreciate this sentiment. For me, the hours I spend running alone are those necessary loafing hours. Especially on my longer, slower runs I have time to delve deep into the puzzles of life.

Sometimes, when I first step onto the trail, I’m agitated or irritated by a thought I haven’t had the time to bring to completion, and I’ll spend the first mile or two working through what I wish I would have said to someone or what I’d like to do about a dilemma I’m having. But usually after I’ve worked through what is immediately on my mind, I turn my attention to deeper questions, unsolvable mysteries. I think about the nature of relationships and wonder what the word God really means and ponder the connection between people and their dogs. These musings usually lead me to think about how I would articulate the momentary conclusions I’m coming to. How would I WRITE about love or God or dogs?

And before you know it, I’ve got sentences coming to mind, paragraphs forming in front of me in the air I’m breathing. The last part of any long run is all about trying to hold onto the brilliant ideas I’ve developed in the middle part of my run.

But no matter how many ideas come to me out on the trails, there arrives a time when the runner has to sit her butt in the chair and get her thoughts onto the page—which brings me back to today. Today I’ll be swaddled all day in my sleeping bag with a beanie on my head and something warm in my cup. I’ll close my eyes with my fingers on the keyboard and will transport myself into the mind of my main character and try to channel her into my computer. Certainly at some point I’ll take a break to stretch my body (just a tiny bit sore from yesterday’s workout—see below) and walk through the woods and snap pictures of the mountains.

And then I’ll get back to work.

As always, I’d love to hear what running brings to you. Does it bring stories you feel compelled to write? Or much needed meditation time? Maybe you run through anxiety and come out the other side feeling calmer. In any case, blessings to you from the quiet of the forest today.

 

On Training:

On my pace days (Wednesdays) I’ve been doing Yasso 800s and loving them. Bart Yasso was a champion runner and is now a contributor to Runner’s World. The idea of his training technique is that if I (or you) can do a half mile (800 meters) in 4 minutes and 30 seconds (4:30), then I can do my marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes (4:30). Get it? If you’re marathon finishing time is 3:40, you would do your 800s in 3:40. Whatever your projected finishing time is, you train by doing your half miles at that time IN MINUTES until you can do 10 repeats.

So I’m building up to being able to do 10 repeats of the half mile in 4:30 each. In between each 4:30 half mile, I walk/jog for the same amount of time. I add one more repetition of the Yasso 800 each week. I’m up to 6 so far.

Yasso 800s are tough. 4:30 for a half mile is a 9-minute mile and that’s about as fast as I’ve ever maintained for a five K (once–several years ago), so I’m really pushing myself out on the track. But what I like about this exercise is that I feel like I’m pushing AND succeeding! Twice around the track in 4:30, while hard, is doable. Over and over.

Has anyone else trained this way?? How did it go?