Failed Lately? Maybe something is wrong.

I’ve had a busy summer and haven’t been doing a good job with this blog. Having some free time this morning I decided to finish up a post about the San Francisco Half Marathon which was July 31. Then I noted that my last post was about a scare that I had while swimming on July 5th.

It was then that I developed a problem breathing while out swimming in the cold waters of Ventura Harbor without a wetsuit. After subsequently buy a wetsuit I’ve had great swims all summer and swam a nice 1.2 miles on August 18th.

Before going out for a swim with a small group last Thursday someone asked, “how far?” I quickly responded, “1 mile!”

cautionIn my swimming I’ve developed a nice even every three stroke breathing pattern. This is what I did on Thursday. But about 10 minutes into the swim I had to switch to breathing every stroke. This was the first warning sign…one that I dismissed because I thought that maybe I had just gone out too fast.

Once that first lap was completed, I experienced the occasional cough while I was waiting for the other swimmers to complete their first lap. This was the second warning sign…one that I stupidly chose to ignore.

caution plusJust a little way into the next lap it was clear that I couldn’t swim, but I still was ignoring the truth. Once I made it to the turn around point I could no longer ignore that my lungs were just not working and I decided to swim to shore. A big mistake at this point was not letting anyone know the extent of my distress because as I swam to shore I found it more and more difficult to breathe.

At one point I was some paddle boarders and I contemplated calling for them to come and rescue me but I didn’t because that would have taken too much precious air. The only good thing is that I am a good swimmer and so I didn’t panic (much!) and finally turned on to my back and kicked my way to shore. Once on the beach I hit the sand and commenced coughing profusely. This was awful. A kind beachgoer gave me a bottle of water to drink.

While waiting for the others to finish (another swimmer had my car keys) I worked my way up to the parking lot, rinsed off my wetsuit and decided to go to urgent care.

Here’s another dumb thing…if you can’t breathe you probably shouldn’t be driving…thankfully I made it to the urgent care without hurting me or anyone else.

The office is on the second floor…I walked up the stairs and you would think that I’d just run a really fast 400 for how out of breath I was. Yikes! Once I made it in to the exam room, the nurse took my vitals and my blood pressure was an alarming (for me) 140/70. The doctor listened to me breathe and decided on a breathing treatment as well as a blood test to check for blood clots.

After the 20 minute breathing treatment (which was interrupted by my having to pee really bad…that bottle of water seemed to have gone right through me) I was still coughing a bit and my chest hurt. The doctor listened to me breath again and decided a chest x-ray was in order. So back downstairs for an x-ray. The walk back up the stairs was easier than the first time so that was a good sign (and yes they have an elevator but I’m a bit stubborn).

Back in the exam room I had to wait for a while and I was finally breathing well enough to relax. When the doctor came back in she said that I look better, I replied that I felt better…finally! Then she hit me with a big surprise, “you have pneumonia.”

That was a surprise! I asked, “How can I have pneumonia when I easily ran 20 miles on Monday?” To which she replied, “you ran 20 miles? All at once?”

Once they were assured that I don’t live alone (I guess in case I got worse), I was set up with some medicine and an appointment to return the next day for follow-up. That night I slept horribly and my husband reminded me the next morning of how the same breathing treatment (many years ago) amped up our (then) infant son for hours…so of course I didn’t sleep well.

On Friday I was breathing fine, but had a horrible headache. When I returned to the doctor’s office the nurse asked about the purpose of my visit and I replied, “apparently I have pneumonia.” To which she replied, “x-rays don’t lie.”

When I saw the doctor and told her that I have a marathon in 2 weeks she crossed her fingers and looked a bit dubious. Then she listened to me breathe and was surprised because my lungs were totally clear… and all my vital signs were good…heart rate of 48, oxygenation of 100%, and blood pressure was still a little high at 130/70 but she was fine with that.

Her advice was to take a couple days off training, run the marathon if I feel ok, and come back in a month for a follow-up x-ray. I asked if this was maybe exercised induced asthma but she said “no” because there is something on my lung x-ray. I asked about the other, more minor episode on July 5th and she said that we just don’t know…but that I am very fit… and finally concluded with, “sometimes shit happens.” I really like this doctor!

If you’ve managed to read this far on the very long post, I’ve had a major league headache for three days and so I decided yesterday morning to drop out of the race. However, my coach wisely suggested that I wait a few more days to decide.

Today, Monday (day 4) I finally woke up headache free…except for the lingering soreness that is the result of the headache!

It’s very possible that I’ve been fighting this infection all summer! Which means that I’m pretty bad-ass in the fitness department! Seriously though, this was a very scary thing to go through.

The moral of the story: stay fit and above all listen to your body because it really does try to tell you very important things.

February 11 – Voice

imagesToday, as I contemplate the word, “voice” I’m thinking about the voices that we hear over and over in our heads… like a record. Sometimes the voice is negative and I have great experience (as do we all I suspect) at listening, repeatedly,  to the negative voices.

You know, the voice that says, “it’s too hard,” “you’re not ready,” “you’re not fit enough,” “you’re not……..” Listening to these voices, like a broken record, can certainly wear us out. The good news is that these voices don’t need to have the final say. But to silence them we need new voices and we can get them when we surround ourselves with, and listen to, helpful people. This might sound a bit abstract, so here’s a running story.

When I first started running four years ago, I was training on my own. After some initial progress, my training kind of stayed at the same level for a long time. It seemed that when I raced or had a really hard time running, I was very hard on myself. The record going through my head was, “this wouldn’t be so hard if I’d lost more weight,” and “you should have been eating better,” and “you’re not getting better.” These voices are certainly not helpful in the midst of a race, or any activity. For the longest time I equated any difficulty encountered while running to be a sign that I was lacking in some way.

Last year I joined a training program for the 2015 Ventura Marathon and then later joined the running club. An early revelation for me occurred when I was talking to the coach about my inadequacies and he told me that it is supposed to be hard. He said that if it wasn’t hard, then I wasn’t working hard enough. Suddenly I had a new record playing in my head. “It’s hard…and I can take it!” My running started improving after that.

The other voices came from those in the running club. I still don’t know everyone’s names, but I appreciate them all. First, there were the long runs on Sunday mornings. I couldn’t run with everyone because, as a pastor, I had to get to church (and I’m slower too). So I would start an hour early and pass them on my way back and every time, I’d hear words of encouragement.

Here are my splits for the second half of the marathon. You can see the slow down at miles 24 and 25.

Then I began going to their track workouts. It could be intimidating to be running all out and still have people pass and pass and pass you so easily. But it never was (or is) because so often the person passing is saying “good job!” “keep it up” “you’ve got this”. New voices that continue to help me to push and push some more each week.
So now here’s the really good part of all this! Last Sunday’s Surf City Marathon was my third. In both of my previous efforts I struggled to finish and could say that I pretty much had to drag myself across the finish line. A goal for Surf City was to finish strong… to actually run the last 10k. I was doing well but started to slow down at miles 24 and 25. I think that at this point I had to decide whether I was going to dig in and push or allow fatigue to win. Then the voices came, “it’s ok if it hurts” “good job!” “keep it up” “you’ve got this!”

With this help I sped up and finished with a new PR by 30 minutes. I could say “I did this”, but I would never have been able to do it if I were still trying it all alone. And that’s the really big lesson, we need each other… we need to hear one another’s voices.

A 2015 Review…On the Running Side!

Last race of 2015. I love determination that I have. The photo has also shown me some work that I need to do on my form in 2016.

Like many people do at this time of year, I’ve done a bit of a look back at the last year. All in all its been a very good year. My work as a pastor has been going well, and connected to this my life as a runner has been amazing. I say these two are connected because I discovered a couple years ago that running has been a wonderfully spiritual activity. It is when I pray, meditate, relieve stress, and thankfully get a lot of sermon prep done.

I cannot count the times that I’ve discovered solutions to various problems while running. I cannot count the times that I’ve been able to just let my mind go and relish the moment, enjoy the scenery, and feel that life is wonderful. And those weeks in the past year that we’ve had very bad news in our country, running has helped me to process my own anger and grief. I hope that this has made me a better leader.

From a physical standpoint, running along with a vastly improved diet has helped me move from obese to merely overweight. I am working hard to lose more weight as part of becoming a better and faster runner.

As for improvement in the last year I’d say that the biggest impact was my participation in a training program for the 2015 Ventura Marathon. I wasn’t able to run with everyone due to my schedule, but I still felt part of the group… And the people in this group are awesomely nice, accepting, and encouraging. Now I’m a member of Vendurance Running Tribe and it has been great. I highly recommend joining a running club. I’m still kind of new in the group and hope to become more acquainted with people in the coming year.

Here are some statistics for the last year:

  • # 5k races: 8, all part of the Boogie Nights summer run series in Ventura.
  • # 10k races: 1, 4th of July in Oxnard (this was part of a training run so in all I ran 16 miles that day).
  • # half marathons: 2, in October (PR in the this race) and November (and another PR, beating my October time by 4 minutes). I also ran a half marathon relay with my daughter… making it 2-1/2 half marathons.

    Scott was nice enough to accompany me (via bicycle) on a 20 mile run. This photo was after 10 miles.
  • And 1 marathon, The Ventura Marathon in September. This was my second marathon and I improved my time from the first (Sept 2014) by an astounding 47 minutes!
  • Total miles run: 1,220 (compared to 846 in 2014, an almost 50% increase in distance).
  • Total hours run: 231
  • Weight at beginning of year: 220
  • Weight at the end of the year: 182 (goal is 155, which puts me at the top of the suggested weight range for my height).
Scott, Ethan (new son-in-law this year), Megan, Me, and Matt

A bonus is that my husband and my adult children are also running. It’s been a good family activity. When looking at all this I can say it has been a good year and I am looking forward to continued improvement in 2016!

It’s not really a resolution and will actually (hopefully) be accomplished in 2017… but my big audacious goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This will require me to improve my marathon by an hour… more on this later.

Happy New Year!


A Race Day Recap

I think this was mile 2
I think this was mile 2

Last Saturday I ran the Lexus LaceUp half marathon in Ventura. It was a lovely day and not too hot.

This race occurred 6 weeks after the Ventura Marathon. Back in August, when I signed up for the Lexus race I thought, “no big deal.” But then as my miles decreased substantially for my marathon race recovery I became concerned about my readiness for a half marathon.

It is at this point that I am thankful that I have been working with a coach on my training plan. I know that if I had been on my own I would have tried too much too soon after the marathon. But he had me easing pretty slowly (it seemed) back into a training routine.

Scott and me before the race. He did his first 10K.
Scott and me before the race. He did his first 10K.

My longest run prior to the latest half was 8 miles on October 17. During the week before the race I was a bit nervous as I wondered if I’d be able to jump from 8 to just over 14 miles (including warm up). I had to keep telling myself that this distance in my pre-marathon training was pretty easy, so I’d be good to go.

Race Day: this was my 5th half marathon and it was the first time I’d ever done a pre race warm up that actually consisted of running, another benefit of someone experienced giving me direction. So at 6:15am I ran a slow mile, hit the restrooms, did some dynamic stretches, followed by 4 strides. I was ready to go.

In lining up for the race I made the mistake of lining up towards the back of the pack (still feeling like a newbie?). The problem with this was that I had to start the race trying to get around a lot of people who were slower than me. This was a bit frustrating and totally my fault. Next time I will line up in a better position.

A strategy for my long runs and marathon is to walk for about 30 seconds every half mile. I usually do this for the first hour in an effort not to go out too fast. I actually did it for the entire Ventura Marathon because it was working for me in the heat (at least for 20 miles!). So I started my race with the same plan. I missed the first walk at .5 mile because it was too crowded to walk. I then walked at 1, 1.5, 2, and 2.5. Upon realizing that I was speeding up to make up time, I decided to just run.

This was a very easy course with a gradual uphill for the first 7 miles. When we returned (downhill yeah!) I was able to run at what for me is a pretty fast pace.

I started to fade at miles 12 and 13 and was trying very hard to stay on a good pace. It was hard but when I looked at my split times I didn’t fade as badly as it seemed. This is good as I’m trying to finish strong. In the last 100 yards I managed to sprint across the finish line!

After all this I’m happy to report that my official time was 2:13:11, almost 10 minutes faster than my last half marathon time of 2:22:56 (last December).

I’m doing another half marathon November 7th. Its another Saturday race. Yeah! It has lots of hills. Yikes!

The race included a coupon for a food truck item. I was able to enjoy an almond milk, banana, and date smoothie. Yum!
The race included a coupon for a food truck item. I was able to enjoy an almond milk, banana, and date smoothie. Yum!

The Ventura Marathon #3 – A Recap

The Ventura Marathon (and half marathon) is in its 3rd year and I’m proud to say that I’ve participated in some way each of those three years. Here’s a bit of a recap:

Some volunteers at our aid station in 2013. See the fog? And the need for long sleeves? I want to run in that!
My husband is in the center and two very good friends were volunteers at our aid station in 2013. See the fog? And the need for long sleeves? I want to run in that!

Year #1 (2013): I had been running for a couple years at this point and had even completed my first half marathon (Santa Ynez Wine Country, 2:31:01) by the time of the inaugural Ventura Marathon. So I guess I could have run, but instead I signed up as a volunteer for a water station. Actually not just me but me and another dozen or so members of my church. The date of the marathon happened to coincide with a special day of service in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), where church members were encouraged to volunteer in the community in some way. Other church members participated in some volunteer activities at the church. We all had a very good time and I was inspired to actually try and run the full marathon the next year. And… it was a nice, cool day.

Year #2 (2014): Once again our church participated in the marathon by volunteering at a water station. This year some students from nearby Cal Lutheran University joined us. I’m told that all who participated had a good time and were inspired by all the runners (and walkers) who passed by. As for me, I attempted my first marathon this day. Thankfully I was able to meet my goal, which was to finish. I did so in 5 hours and 51 minutes (course limit was 6 hours!). The entire second half of my inaugural marathon was hard, it was hot, but I did it! I was sore and tired for days, and already thinking about trying again. I then signed up for the LA Marathon, but then backed out because I had a series of nasty colds in January and February and thought that I wouldn’t be ready. The day I decided not to run the LA Marathon I signed up for my second Ventura Marathon.

Year #3 (2015): I wrote a post the other day about my preparation for this race. You can find it here:

I had a very ambitious goal of 4:59:59, which would mean I needed to shave almost 53 minutes off my time from last year. Up until race day I was mostly confident about this goal. I wasn’t entirely confidant because of the weather. It was forecast to be even hotter than the year before… plus humid!

See the concerned look on my face? This was about 4.5 miles in and the sun was starting to shine. I actually felt really good at this point!
See the concerned look on my face? This was about 4.5 miles in and the sun was starting to shine. I actually felt really good at this point!

I awoke at 3:30am on race morning and saw that it was 70° outside. That was the low…and did I mention the humidity? In a calm, let’s do this frame of mind I prepared breakfast, got dressed and headed over to the starting line. Once there I sat in my car, ate, drank a cup of coffee and tried to relax. Then 30 minutes before the race I covered my back and legs with frozen towels (a strategy I read somewhere during the week for pre-cooling).

Race time! In my training I had been using a run/walk method for my long runs as a way to ease into my pace. This was helpful because I tend to go out too fast. So for the first hour I usually walked .04 every half mile. This worked very well for me in training and it was my strategy for race day. However, because of the heat I decided that I would keep up the run/walk pattern for 16 miles and then evaluate. I then decided that I’d go ahead and keep the pattern for the whole race.

I saw the photographer and mustered up a thumbs up and a smile!
I saw the photographer and mustered up a thumbs up and a smile!

I felt good…actually I felt awesome… until I overheated at mile 20. Mile 21 was hard but I knew my church members and family were at the mile 22 aid station and they could give me an emotional lift. Also, and importantly, my daughter, Megan was going to run the last four miles with me. I am so thankful that she did because she was able to gently encourage me in what became the hardest 4 miles ever.

I eventually began a run/walk pattern of 30 seconds walk and run as far as I could (usually 30-40 seconds)… just like when I was a beginner! With a half mile to the finish I felt very faint for a few seconds and decided that it would be prudent to walk all but the last .10 mile. With about .3 to go the 5 hour pacer passed me and I only cared a little! I just wanted to finish at that point.

And finish I did in 5:04:18. A personal record by a whopping 47 minutes! In 80° and humid conditions. I know I’ll get to below 5 hours…way below 5 hours eventually. For today I’m celebrating 47 minutes.

Finish Line!!!!!
Finish Line!!!!!


A little over one year ago I attempted my first marathon, the Ventura Marathon. Last year I had two goals. The first was to finish the race. The second was to “hopefully” not finish last. Thankfully I achieved both of these goals… I finished in 5:51:54 and had a handful of people behind me. The course limit was 6 hours!

Tomorrow I am doing the very same race. However this time I am more prepared…way more prepared thanks to the wonderful training program offered by the Ventura Marathon. In fact when I compare my training efforts this year to last year I am truly amazed that I was able to finish.

In addition to running and running and running, this month I am meeting with all of the members of my church (we’re small so this is doable). During one of my meetings I mentioned my mantra for Sunday’s race: “I’m fit; I’m strong; I can breath”. Well this nice elderly woman said that she has a new mantra, something that she found in her reading:

“You don’t get what you want in life, you get what you prepare for.”

I love this! Not so much as a mantra but as a bit of wisdom. Of course one could always find exceptions to this, but it doesn’t defeat the valuable piece of advice in these words.

Since our meeting I’ve been thinking of all the preparation that I’ve done over the past few months. In addition to the mental work… including prayer and meditation while running I’ve put in more physical work than I ever have.

Here’s what I’ve done since May 1, 2015:
Miles run    648.10
10k races    1
5k races    8
Track workouts    6
Hill repeats  49

Reviewing all this gives me confidence that I am prepared. Tomorrow’s race will be hard. I will have moments when I feel great and I will have moments when I’ll have to dig deep. But I’m ready!

Me Worry? Getting to the Starting Line of the Ventura Marathon

Ten miles into my last 20 mile run. My husband carried water on his bike. I went on this long rung in the afternoon to help prepare for possible heat on race day.
Ten miles into my last 20 mile run. My husband carried water on his bike. I went on this long run in the afternoon to help prepare for possible heat on race day.

Maybe you’re worried about an upcoming race or event or difficulty.

Generally speaking I am not a person who worries. For the most part this is a helpful trait. Sometimes though, when I do board that worry train I can feel a bit overwhelmed.

I can remember that when I was younger my coping strategy with any big task ahead of me was to ask myself “what is the worse that can happen? Death?” The answer was always “no, I’m not gonna die!” so I didn’t worry. One day, while in college, I was sitting at my desk reading a novel just before a mid-term exam. A fellow student asked me, “how can you read before this test?” I replied, “if I’m not ready by now, no amount of last minute studying will help.”

Later, when I began to follow Jesus I learned that not even death can separate me (or anyone else) from his love. This caused me to rethink my earlier coping strategy, as death was not the worse that could happen. So it was even easier not to worry… until it wasn’t!

A week from tomorrow I will run my second marathon. My first was the very same race, which I completed in 5 hours and 51 minutes. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done… so of course I decided to do it again!

This year I participated in a group training program (highly recommended by the way). Amazingly, up to today, 4 months after starting with them I haven’t missed one workout. I’ve lost another 15 pounds in the process and my easy training pace is improved enough that if I just run at that pace I would take 40 minutes off my time. So I am ready! Last week I was even enthusiastic.

If I were my younger self I should be reading a novel and relaxing. But instead I’ve spent the last few days worrying, mostly about the weather forecast of +80°. So what to do? I need to follow some of the pastoral advice that I give to others. Maybe it can help you too.

  • Pray and meditate. As you do this, try to clear your mind of distractions. I sometimes visualize wiping all the worries away as if I were smoothing out some sand on the beach.
  • Think about other things. What plans to you have for after the race or next week or next month?
  • Don’t close yourself off from others. Catch up on what’s happening with family and friends. Visit someone who may be lonely. Volunteer.
  • If you are worried about something health or well being related, let others know what is happening so they can help you.
  • If you are like me and worrying about a race, remember your training. You’ve put in all the hard work so be confident in your accomplishments thus far.
  • Focus on what you can control. I have no control over the weather, but I do have control over how I will respond to it. Each of us has great power over our attitudes.
  • Know that you are not alone!

What tips do you have for combatting worry?