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


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?






Thanks and Thanksgiving

Nov 30
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Around Town, Reflections

The women runners in my town are a rockin’ lot of babes.

For the past many years I’ve received an email a week or so before Thanksgiving inviting me to join them for the “Annual Thanksgiving Trail Run” up on the Galbraith trails, but I’ve never been brave enough to show up. As proud as I am to be a runner and to count among my friends the awesome women in Bellingham, I’ve always assumed that I would be a dragging caboose in a long line of fleet-footed trail runners up on Galbraith Mountain. I figured I would slow everyone down and embarrass myself. Still, every November when I see the pictures on Facebook of my women friends and their dogs getting ready for their one-to-two-hour run before they go home to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner, I regret that I didn’t join them.

This year, I decided to put my Inner Critic on the back shelf and to show up.

I AM SO GLAD I DID! You can’t really imagine how it feels to be in the company of 30 women and 6 dogs flying up and down single track dirt trails with their (pig) tails flying freely behind them unless you give it a try. Thank you, Bellingham women! You inspire me and make me happy to be one of you.

Thanksgiving Run

Fairhaven Runners Waterfront 15 K

Sep 16
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in 2013 Challenge, Around Town, Current Events, Race Reports


Notice the picture of me smiling like I’m having fun? This photo was taken by my awesome running coach Carol Frazey during Saturday’s Waterfront 15K in Belllingham–right around the halfway point, I think.

For months, I’ve been faithfully putting in my training as prescribed by Carol, making sure to get in at least the three critical workouts she recommends each week: one day of speed work, one day of pace work, and one long run on the weekends. And while I’ve managed to get PRs in both the 10K and half marathon distances this year, I’ve felt they were hard won and didn’t necessarily represent good race strategies. For my 10K PR, the last mile was a lovely, accommodating downhill (which I appreciated, but I do have to give gravity at least a little credit). For my half marathon PR (which was my best time by a handful of seconds, really), I’d gotten tired and slowed to an eleven minute pace for the final two miles–which means I’d run the first few miles too fast. (Let me quickly assure you that I’m not being hard on myself by noticing these things; I’m just looking at the big picture of becoming a more proficient and efficient runner. You won’t find me slipping into perfectionism, I promise!! I was content with both of those races.)

What I’ve been trying to do is what everyone says is optimal in a race: that I start at a reasonable and sustainable pace and hold it there so there’s something left in the tank at the end. I’m very excited to report that I achieved this in Saturday’s race.

I think because the course was super crowded at the beginning, I wasn’t able to start very quickly at all. On the narrow path available next to the traffic buzzing through Fairhaven, there simply wasn’t space to pass anyone, so I was lucky to have snuggled myself in the starting area among other runners who were also going for a 10 minute per mile pace. They kept me from using precious fresh energy too soon.

I knew the first half of the course would allow me to hold my 10 minute pace because there were no uphills to contend with, but mile seven and mile nine on the way back both had hills. I set my heart on holding 10 minute miles until I hit the hills on mile seven and then doing mile eight at 10 minutes or faster, if I could. And I could!! My final overall pace average was 10:03 and my finishing time was 1:34. That’s 10 minutes faster than the last time I ran the Waterfront 15K in 2011!!!

Friends, I’m here t tell you that if you keep up your training and don’t give in to discouragement, it will pay off. Although I’m an avid runner, I’m not a naturally athletic person. I’m also 46 years old, 135 pounds, and a lover of cheese and wine. My body is not built for Boston Qualifying, nor do I have the work ethic to push myself to the brink of common sense to get myself there. What I do have is what anyone can have: tenacity–in good-enough measures.

If you’ve been following me on this journey and working toward your own goals, I hope you’ll notice the small improvements you’re making and celebrate them. Sometimes movement is measured in time, sometimes in attitude. For me, more important even than the PR or the consistent strategy I employed during Saturday’s race was the fact that I had a good time. This is the first time I’ve come close to my time goal AND felt happy for the whole race. You might remember me saying at the beginning of this year that I was going to give one year to getting faster, but that if it made me unhappy to run harder, I’d go back to lallygagging my way through races. Looks like one can work hard and be happy at the same time. Who knew?

Lummi Run against Domestic Violence

Sep 9
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in 2013 Challenge, Around Town, Race Reports

Cami and Clara

Clara and I were two of about nine half-marathon runners Saturday at the Journey for Healing Lummi Run/Walk against Domestic Violence. This little run is special and sort of a secret gem. I found out about it because Bill discovered it online by chance and ran it last year. He warned me that the course wasn’t marked well and that there weren’t many aid stations (there was one). But he also told me that it was a run with a lot of heart and good will and that it was a beautiful course. I should do it to get some miles in, he suggested.

This is the second race I’ve been to that starts on the Lummi Reservation. Both times, members of the tribe have been present to sing a prayer and give their blessing to the runners. Yesterday’s prayer was melodic and full of yearning. This little race was begun several years ago, one of the organizers told me, as a cleansing walk on behalf of those hurt by domestic violence. It organically became a run–and then a race with medals for finishers. Though this run is as low key as you can get, runners can expect appreciation from those whose homes you run past, barking dogs with wagging tails, and a roving support van. Runners can also expect the drummers and singers who start you off with a prayer to be stationed along the course to keep the beat of feet hitting the pavement. The musicians were my favorite part of the run–besides running with first-time half marathoner, Clara.

The first several miles follow the bay. I ran about an eighth of a mile behind Clara most of that first stretch. We hadn’t met yet, but I had a feeling we would be spending the better part of two and half hours together. Since there weren’t mile markers on the course, and since my Garmin was acting up and didn’t start measuring until I’d been running for about six minutes, I’m not sure exactly where we were when I passed Clara (maybe around mile five). All I know is that when I came to a fork in the road where I clearly needed to make a decision, she was an eighth of a mile behind me. I stopped, turned, and shouted to her, asking if she knew which way we should go. With absolute confidence she steered me to the left and followed shortly (I’m glad she’d looked carefully at the course map!).

In a few more miles Clara caught up to me and we chatted our way up a long, gradual hill as a Lummi police officer tracked with us, checking that we were feeling alright and handing us water. Clara had a blister and fell behind me with approximately four miles to go. Still, she finished only a few minutes after I did. She told me it had been her first half!

I just want to shout out to Clara and to the organizers. Thanks for a lovely day. Thank you for the beautiful sweatshirt, a warm welcome, and for the yummy sliced up fruit ready for us at the finish line! I know this event is a labor of love, and I promise that as I ran the circle of the course, I held your original intent in my heart: that everyone would be safe from harm in their own homes. Blessings.