Success Strategy #2: Creating Accountability

Feb 10
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice, Reflections, Training

One of the most important things we can do if we really want to reach our goals is to create accountability for ourselves. I don’t know about you, but my internal locus of control only goes so far in keeping me honest–even with regard to goals that are truly meaningful to me. Take my goal to shave an hour off my average marathon finishing time. If I hadn’t told people I would blog about my training, I wouldn’t have had any reason outside of myself to stick to my training plan all year.


Last Saturday I took my last pace run before the Austin Marathon this coming Sunday. I went north to Blaine, WA (just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border) to do a seven-mile fun run. My goal was to keep all seven miles between 10 minutes and 10:30. But one thing I know about myself is that if no one is looking, there’s a chance I’ll say something to myself like, “Well, it’s no big deal if I slow down to an eleven-minute mile on the hill.”

To help keep me on track, I invited my friend Pam to join me on the run and she graciously agreed. For the whole seven miles, Pam stayed perfectly consistent. If I slowed down, she remained solid, which helped me hold onto my own intention to maintain my pace.

When we make a commitment to ourselves and don’t share those commitments with others, we have only ourselves to rely on when we get tired or lose momentum. And while it’s true that no one else can do the actual work for us, sometimes some one else CAN hold the optimism or faith in ourselves that we need to push through doubts or exhaustion.

If you’re working toward a goal and you could use a little accountability to keep you moving, try some of the things that have worked for me:

1.  Create or join a group that meets regularly to support one another (this is a great one for athletic goals or goals related to creative projects).

2. Find a coach who will hold your feet to the fire.

3.  Blog about your journey.

4. Find a partner who is working on a similar goal. Throw out friendly competitive challenges to each other.

5.  Talk about your goals and plans to anyone who will listen. The more people who know what you’re doing, the more people you’ll feel accountable to.

What other strategies do you have to keep you on target, friends? I’m always looking for more ways to hold myself accountable to my intentions.


The next time you “see” me, I’ll be in Texas. I’ll let you know how the race goes. Cheers!


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?

Gratefulness. And Training–Week #36

Sep 6
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in 2013 Challenge, Around Town, Reflections

Have you ever had someone visit your town and when you took them for a run you noticed new things about your regular route that you never noticed before because you’re seeing it through your visitor’s eyes? Well I have. Monday Bill and I took a run with a friend of a friend who was visiting Bellingham (and who is now our friend). For an hour, we toured Whatcom Falls Park, through the cemetery, and up to the bridge that crosses Alabama Street. We wanted her to get a look at Bellingham from atop the hill. While we were standing on the bridge, Bill pointed out landmarks:

“Over there is the university. And out beyond the bay you can see the San Juan Islands,” he said, pointing out the green mounds in the water I usually take for granted.

I stood back and listened to his narration–and looked out at the panorama. I was suddenly struck that I live in a very beautiful place. In fact, Bellingham is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been (and I’ve been to every continent, as you know)! If I were a traveler visiting my town, I wouldn’t want to leave. And since I live here, I only have to leave when I go on vacation.

Sometimes I forget to be grateful for what is right in front of me. Not this week.


Sunday: Pace work. Bill wanted me to try a new workout with him at the track. His plan was to jog down to the track from our house (one mile) and then do four one-mile repeats, speeding up each mile by one minute, before jogging back home. He planned to run his miles at 10 minutes, 9 minutes, 8 minutes, and 7 minutes. I knew I couldn’t keep up beyond the nine minute mile, so my repeats were as follows: 10:00, 9:00, 9:30, 9:40. If the goal was to run the last mile faster than the first, I might have been better off speeding up by only 15 seconds for each mile. Live and learn.

Monday: Six mile run with our new friend, Talca.

Tuesday: Slow couple of miles.

Wednesday: Speed work. 4 miles total with 25 minutes of that time doing ins and outs at the track (slow on the curves, hard on the straights).

Thursday: Slow couple of miles.

Friday: Slow couple of miles.

Saturday: A half marathon that starts at the Lummi Stommish Grounds. I’m doing this just to get the miles in and not so much for time, so I expect to finish in around 2:25.

It’s nice to be back on track. How’s your training going? How did summer treat you? What are your goals this fall?

Hi Again

Sep 2
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in 2013 Challenge, Reflections

Last week was the first week in 2013 that I didn’t post anything here on 7marathons7continents. We had a very full week; my beloved (Bill) retired after 30 years as a teacher of ESL and director of an international exchange at Western Washington University.

I’m prouder of Bill than I can say. I’m not sure I’ve ever had it in me to set my mind on doing a job for so many years, but I’ve always admired Bill’s tenacity. He puts his whole heart into everything he does, a quality which mostly benefits me and sometimes irritates me. As a recovering perfectionist, I like to think I’m wholehearted (as opposed to perfectionistic) in most of my endeavors, but I do occasionally like to engage in activities halfheartedly. But Bill never approached his work with anything other than integrity and commitment. Over his years at WWU, more than 4,000 Japanese students came through, and Bill made it his job to make sure the program he directed offered each of them a quality experience that would change their lives for the better.

Now, he’ll be recalibrating, cleaning the garage, finding a new rhythm. And I’ll be working around having him in the house more often–happily.

On Training:
I’m getting up to speed after two weeks off of running while we were in Japan. This last week I managed to get my miles back up to about 25 and did both my pace and speed work. Today I got out for six miles with Bill and another friend. I’ll be back to posting weekly workouts on Friday. My coach, Carol Frazey from, has just launched her 6-month marathon training program for a group of women training for the Austin Marathon. I’m ahead of the game because I’ve been training all year to shave off an hour from my marathon average, but I’m excited to have the extra support of her weekly seminars and regular emails. If you missed out on working with Carol this time, don’t worry. She’ll run her program again.

Cheers to all of you. I hope you’ve been enjoying these past few weeks of summer.

The Wind Horse Half Marathon Race Report

Jul 22
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Around Town, Current Events, Race Reports

Well friends, last week was the first week in 2013 that I failed to blog and catch you up on training news. The reason you didn’t hear from me is that I spent Friday (my usual blogging day) rushing around town (Costco, Haggens, equipment pick-up at the city) in preparation for our annual Wind Horse Half Marathon. The race was on Saturday, and by Sunday I was too wiped out to put two words together.

If you’ve never run the distance in Bellingham between Fairhaven Park and Clayton Beach, you don’t know what you’re missing.  The course travels along the Interurban Trail right above the shoreline of the bay. You can’t beat the views of the San Juan Islands or the aroma of “woods”—green ferns and moss—that follow you the whole distance. We Bellinghamsters sometimes take for granted the number of gorgeous trails we have to run on. But because the Wind Horse run had a lot of out-of-towners running the route this year, we heard “What a beautiful course!” so often that I had to pause and give thanks on Saturday and promise myself to really appreciate the view the next time I run the trail.

As you may know, we created the race to raise funds for The Blue Sky Education Project, a local non-profit that raises funds to send children to school in Bellingham’s Mongolian sister city (Tsetserleg). Only $50 buys a child everything she needs (school supplies and clothing) to go to school for a year. This year we’ll be sending at least 50 children off to school. One of the things I love about our little race is that it has a very Mongolian flavor. We give out “khadags” to winners and serve barbequed meat at the finish line. It’s true that meat is not usually your typical recovery food (we have bananas, bagels, and oranges, too), but in Mongolia, meat is the primary food source. Many people are still nomadic, traveling with their herds and taking all their sustenance from them—milk and meat (we stop short of serving milk at the aid stations—runners just get water).

Our racers seemed unusually happy this year; we agreed there were more smiles than usual coming across the finish line. The weather was perfect, after all.

Bolor, Andrea, and I (the three race directors) want to extend our heartfelt thanks to EVERYONE who participated in our event on Saturday: Volunteers, runners, and our significant others (Eric, Janna, and Bill—they support us in our craziness every year).

(You can check out in the video below with pics from previous years.)


As you might imagine, my training has been a bit disrupted this week. I was sore after last Sunday’s See Jane Run half marathon, so I took Monday off and only walked on Tuesday. Wednesday I took a slow three-mile run, and Thursday and Friday I did 4-mile pace runs.

Because I’m running another half-marathon on Saturday (the Anacortes Art Dash) to try once again to meet my goal of getting in under 2:15, I won’t be running hard this week either—a little tapering never hurt anyone. I’m excited about the race this coming weekend because I really think the hard race last week was good preparation. My strategy in Anacortes will be different than it was in Seattle. I’ll be wearing my Garmin and will work at starting out slower so that I have something left in the last part of the race. (Is anyone out there going to the race? I’d love to say hey if you are.)

The Art Dash will be my last race for a few weeks. There’ll be a bit of a disruption in my training through the first part of August because I’ll be traveling to Japan to accompany Bill as he celebrates 25 years with the program he directs AND as he celebrates his impending retirement!!!! I’ll be traveling around Japan to work on some research for my next book, so I’ll be doing a ton of walking, but I may not get much running in. The urban planners who envisioned Tokyo didn’t exactly take runners into consideration, so there aren’t terrific places to get long runs in. There are parks with trails, and I’m sure I’ll get some shorties done in the mornings before the humidity hits 200%, but these will serve only to help me keep my fitness level intact. I WILL be blogging (and posting pictures) from Japan, so be sure to check in during the first two weeks of August if you’re a fan of virtual travel.

See you soon.