why I must play

It has been a long time since my last posting. A very long and painful time. It’s with an aching heart I write that Tanya, my comrade in all things fun and playful, has lost her 18-year-old son, Zephyr, in a ski accident on January 11 in Jackson Hole.

Since then I’ve composed many blog postings in my head while out on a run. This horrific tragedy requires a well-written reflection. I will be writing that post forever in my head. Instead, this is my shortened less articulate form.

Why we must play. I am not preaching why you must play. I am merely stating why I must play. Why, I think, Tanya must play. It is because with these runs, these steps—the literal movement forward step into the next step—that there is an expression of release and a moment of clarity. There is an awareness of self, of breath, of the mind that forces me to be in the present. Right here. Right now. I know that my head is clearer on a run than at any other point in my life. It’s what keeps me coming back to running. It’s what I know what to do. It’s what I’ve taught myself what to do.

I’ve had someone recently state that she’s not a runner although she’s running 7 miles 3 times a week to train for a half-marathon. Yes, Lauren, you are now a runner. She says “But it still hurts.” Yes, it’s not always easy. Running and easy are only connected when you don’t expand your limits. Once it’s easy, we push ourselves farther and challenge ourselves even more. That is playing. Playing is life.

The concept of play is one of happiness and skipping down the sidewalk or jumping one-legged through a  hopscotch game. My recent concept of play is one of much more importance. It’s not always an easy light activity. It’s weighted with love and remembrance and reflection. It’s therapy beyond what one could ever discuss while sitting in a chair in an office. Play is what it is. The definition changes with each day. I run with grief. I run for grief. I play to learn.

Right now I am training for my first marathon–May 15th, five days after I turn 40. (This forty milestone was a very big deal for me–a mid-life crisis in a way. That was until Zephyr died and perspective is now in place.)  My inspiration is Tanya (that’s another blog posting about her soon-to-be ultramarathon debut!). My inspiration while going up hills that hurt is Zephyr. My new mantra comes from graffiti at Zephyr’s school. It’s one I repeat with every beat–every step up the hills: life is beautiful. (It really says “life is beautiful, and stuff” but that’s harder to keep the beat with “and stuff” while running. In fact it’s harder to keep the beat with “and stuff” in life.)

Life really is beautiful,
and stuff.


Tanya & Leslie, 12k on Feb. 13, 2011. (She beat me)




Leslie & Tanya get to run at the Gorge apres Gorge

Leslie & Tanya get to run at the Gorge apres Gorge

Sunday marked the 7th annual Gorge aprés Gorge and the first time we organized a 5k timed run.

I’m proud to report that we had some fast people among us (5 and a half minute mile pace for the fastest man). I’m equally proud to report that we had runners among us–all of us. Out of the 47 runners, there were a few women who had never run a race before! One, as she ran across the finish line said, “I didn’t stop once! It’s the farthest I’ve ever gone.” This is the same person who emailed me a week before to sign her daughter up but said she couldn’t run that far. I’m glad she changed her mind.

There might be a few converted out there.

I started a new website to highlight this fun event–  www.gorgeapresgorge.com . Check it out, comment, look at the results, the new records to beat next year and the photos. Also we would love to know how we can make it better. (better parking?).

You are official.

This is a little story from my sister, a self-proclaimed la tortuga (running translation: slow and steady wins the race). This tale is about her first 50 miler run (not a typo!). She’s my inspiration.

“You’re official! You’re an official finisher!”

How nourishing those words sounded coming from Norm Klein, veteran race director of the Helen Klein Classic. This was 12 hours, 5 minutes, and 14 seconds after the start, after finishing my first attempt at 50 miles, after losing my way and backtracking, and after being told I would have to quit at the second-to-last aid station because I missed a cutoff. I was relieved to be official. I finished dead last and I was damn proud of it.

On November 6, 2010, I ran the 15th annual Helen Klein Classic (18 km, 50 km, 50 mile). The day started off early in the school gym, with a teary Norm announcing to a room full of runners that this was going to be the last race he and his extraordinary, accomplished wife Helen Klein were going to direct. After 25 years in the business, they decided it’s time to retire. All runners stood up and gave the Kleins a well-deserved standing ovation. Many runners had tears in their eyes, too. It was very moving and a great way to start off a day of ultrarunning. I was looking forward to seeing the sun rise and sun set during one run.

Norm walked us to the barrier, said a few last words, and then he sent us off in the dark. We saw the most gorgeous sun rise over Folsom Lake. For the first seven miles, I ran with a woman from Davis and a Virgin American Airways pilot from San Francisco. We chatted and things were easy and smooth. We were happy and not sure what the day would have in store for us, but we didn’t have to worry about that yet. Miles 1-20 took me four hours and five minutes. I felt good. Temperatures were perfect (high 60s) and my mantra at this point was, “I’m doing it. I’m running a 50.” Along the course, I chatted with the kind folks at the aid stations and with the fine runners I met along the course. Nothing but encouragement and support from all. For that, I was grateful.

My first big physical challenge was at mile 27. Legs started hurting. They didn’t want to continue on this journey that my mind did. I walked. The pilot and I were leap frogging each other. He would catch up and pass me, and then I would shuffle by him on the small hills. When we first met, some five hours earlier, we were polite and chatty. Now we were moaning and groaning and even swearing, taking solace in each other’s company on this incredibly hard physical and mental journey. Funny how you can just meet a person, whom you might’ve never crossed paths, and become BFFs out there on the course.

When I checked in at the school at mile 31, I was feeling tired but okay. Mentally, I knew I couldn’t spend any time there because it was also the finish line – if you wanted to stop, it wouldn’t be that hard to do – because of the course change (due to construction on the Hazel bridge), we were doing two out and backs from the school. After a very nice volunteer filled up my water bottle, helped me find my drop bag, and recommended that I take my flashlight (even though it was only 2:40pm, there was a good chance that I would be returning in the dark), I was off. Unfortunately, my new pilot buddy dropped out at mile 31. I was now alone.

Miles 31-40. Hard. Very hard. Jogged, shuffled, walked. Jogged, shuffled, walked. I mostly power walked from mile 38-44, and I enjoyed that break.

I felt that I had a good chance of making the 12-hour cutoff, but even if I didn’t make that, I would still go the whole distance. I was going to do 50 miles, come hell or high water. After the Negro Bar aid station (mile 44) I started running again. According to my watch I had five miles to go, not six—because I added almost a mile when I messed up on the course earlier and had to backtrack. So, at 11:50:52, when my GPS read 50 miles, I congratulated myself then and there, all alone, on the levee, in the dark. When I finally made it to the finish line (mile 50.89 per my watch), they were taking everything down. The floodlight was still on and someone saw little ol’ me shuffling and turning off my flashlight. “Are you a runner?” a teenager asked me. “Yes, I am.” And the half-dozen teenagers at the check-in table clapped for me as they wrote down my bib number and time. I smiled.

But since I was five minutes over the course cutoff, I didn’t really believe my run was going to count. Then I saw Norm walk over to me. He put his arm around me as he walked me back to the table of teenagers and asked them if they wrote down my info. Thankfully they said yes, and that’s when he said “You’re official. You’re an official finisher. Congratulations.” He gave me the finisher’s award—a snow globe on a square tile—and a hug. I exited the gym in the dark, with my snow globe and a big grin on my face. My race mantra changed from “I’m doing it” to “I did it!” I am proud to say I came in DFL. Thank you, Norm. And, best of luck to you and Helen. You both will be missed.

Yes, we can

I just showed this Runner’s World video to my eight year old girl. A few months ago, an eight year old girl won the 100th Dipsea Trail Race. It’s very inspiring! So, sit down with your boys, girls, grandmothers, and neighbor kids, because nothing is impossible.

Watch the video here

Side note: In my daughter’s math book, there was a question on probability. Is it _________ that you will climb Mt. Everest this year. (choose likely, possible, unlikely, impossible). And the correct answer was “impossible”, according to the book. WHAT?! Why not teach that expecting greatness is always within reach.

Gorge aprés Gorge 2010

the 7th annual!!

New this year:  5k trail run ($10) at 9am. Family fun run/walk still at 10am ($free)
Pass this along or I can send you a pdf. Please sign up for the run before joining your family for the walk. Our goal is 25 people for the run (we'll have some good prizes, too)


Okay, I know. It’s been way too long between posts. I had good intentions, yet this is what happened: I got injured. Not to feel sorry for myself (which I’ve already done a ton of over the last months) but I have been nursing a sore heel—posterior tibialis tendonitis or achilles tendonitis or perhaps both. Massage therapist>physical therapist>ART therapist. I find it interesting that when I go down the road-o’-injuries, I become woman of self-doubt and have no incentive to write about something that is so lacking in my world.

I won’t bore you with the details. Only to say that I’ll do my darndest to be back in writing form. I’d like to interview more women. On my list is women’s pro-football superstar Molly Goodwin. Any women who’ve inspired you? Let me know!

Coming up soon is the 6th annual Gorge Aprés Gorge on the Sunday after Thanksgiving: Nov. 28. New this year is a 9am 5k timed run ($10) and the regular ol’ 10am walk/stroll (free). Warm drinks will still be provided at the end (and potluck food goodies encouraged).

Yes. And this woman — the knuckle princess — from Japan is one of ’em.

check out this article posted on May 30 NY Times: Yoshida, the ‘Knuckle Princess,’ Arrives in U.S.

pretty amazing.