Field Trip

Because Rogues are masochists hard-core, this Saturday’s long run moved from our usual location to a slightly more torturous scenic route west of Austin.

A lot of people think Texas is a flat desert, and while some parts of the state fit that description, the Austin area does not. We are part of the Hill Country–which, as its name implies, involves hills. Many of them. Steep ones, long ones, and steep long ones. As evidenced by today’s elevation map:


Alps? Himalayas? No, just River Place.

This route presented a definite challenge, but I figured it would be a good practice run for next Sunday’s Run for the Water ten-miler, the middle of which includes hills like this. So at 7am we met up with a bunch of other intrepid Rogues for our Saturday long run. Because I raced ten miles last weekend, I figured I’d only run five or six miles today. Turns out the route was six, so that worked for me.

It was dark when we started, but the main streets were decently lit. I wore my light-up hat just in case, but it was humid out and pretty quickly I wished I’d left it.

The road started flat, but most of the first 1.5 miles headed straight downhill. Then we took a water break, went downhill some more, and then started a long, steep ascent to the turnaround.

Hint: it's a steep hill when  the road disappears.

Hint: it’s a steep hill when the road disappears.

The main roads had a wide bike lane, but these twisty, hilly roads were narrow and left us just a thin strip of asphalt, no sidewalks. Even though the sun was up, I turned on my hat’s lights to help drivers see me. Lots of expensive cars raced past us, but most of them gave us space. On one stretch of road, though, four cars in a row actually drifted toward me. One driver looked right at me–made eye contact–and steered closer. I could have reached out and touched her fender. What’s up with THAT?

The hills were steep and long. The first hill I ran to the top, but the rest I got about 3/4 of the way before I had to walk a bit. The four of us who were running (more or less) together tag-teamed each other up and down the hills. And some of the houses we passed were just incredible–the small ones must have been 5000 square feet, and each sat on an acre or more. Some of these places probably cost $2 million. Except the one at the top of the ridge–that thing looked kind of like Tony Stark’s house, the one that fell into the Pacific in the last movie. Thinking about living in houses like these kept my mind occupied for a while.

The last mile, I had to go back up that long, steep monster from the first mile. I ran most of it, and when I (thought I) got to the top I realized there was more hill. Gah. This road ended at the park where we started, so around every curve, I expected to see that intersection. It seemed to take forever! But I ran the rest of the way back and didn’t feel like dying after I finished six miles.

It’s funny–back in September I felt out of shape and slow. I worried that my stupid IT band injury cost me the progress I made all spring. But sometime over the last couple of weeks, things started to click for me again. I struggled less, I ran longer and farther, and I felt stronger. And even though today’s hills were challenging, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and pushed on. I didn’t feel that “this suuuuuuuucks, when can I quiiiiiiiiit?” misery that plagued me all summer.

When I got back to the park I saw that someone had parked behind me, completely blocking me in. I decided to drop off my hat and grab a towel, then hang around for a bit–Rogue had mimosas and a raffle–and as I popped open the trunk, a guy from the group of basketball players ran over and apologetically moved his truck. I see so much rudeness on the roads most days–this was a refreshing change. Thanks, dude, whoever you are!

All in all, it was a successful Rogue field trip. And now: coffee and tacos.

2014 Army Ten-Miler

When I left Austin Friday morning, it was almost 80 degrees, sunny and humid. But when I arrived in Washington, D.C. I had to grab my trusty maybe-it-will-rain jacket from my suitcase because it was probably 25 degrees cooler. I jumped into J’s car and we headed to the race expo. I got my stuff and K’s, managed to find nothing at the expo to buy, and we were out of there.

The U.S. Capitol is undergoing renovations

The U.S. Capitol is undergoing renovations

K and her family left Cleveland before 5am Saturday, and they arrived at J’s house later that morning. The kids hadn’t seen each other since July so much shrieking ensued.

We ate a huge pizza lunch, then mostly sat around in a food coma the rest of the afternoon. I watched college football with J’s middle son while K and her family, overachievers that they are, drove into the city, starting at Lincoln and walking all the way to the Washington Monument. We were still full from lunch so we decided to forage for something small rather than go out for another big meal.

And then it was bedtime.

I don’t usually sleep well before a race, but I actually did okay this time. My alarm woke me up with the Top Gun Anthem, and I staggered around collecting my stuff. I had a lot of trouble with my ponytail this morning–I have long hair and use three elastic bands to hold it out of the way–and I had to take it down three or four times before it ceased to annoy me.

I had a small amount of coffee and bagel, and it was showtime.

We got to the Pentagon City Mall parking garage before 7am, and thank goodness we were not relegated to the top deck this time. The walk from the car to the Pentagon itself served as a good warmup. Literally. It was in the low 50s–a temperature I haven’t seen in months! I wore short sleeves and arm warmers, and I felt fine. My more northern compatriots, wearing multiple layers, shivered.

We ran into Cynthia and met up with J’s work team before entering the corrals. J and her husband (Speedy McSpeedersons) started early while K and I were in a later wave.

When we signed up back in May I had recently nailed a 10-mile PR and optimistically entered a time eight minutes faster than that. Little did I know that I’d spend half the summer injured. So as the race got closer, I revised my goals a bit. My “almost completely out of reach” goal was that original goal time, my “maybe” goal was to beat my 10-mile PR time from April, and my “doable” goal was to beat last year’s time for this race. I’d set my Garmin to alert me if we were slower than the “maybe” time.

These goals rattled around the back of my mind as we waited. I tied and retied my left shoe seven or eight times–I couldn’t get it to feel right. And I had to redo my ponytail yet again because one or two hairs had been pulled tight and it was annoying me. K got tired of standing, so she sat on the ground for a while.

K's perspective

K’s perspective

We chatted with a couple of nearby runners for a while. Finally our wave made its way from the parking lot to the starting line, a trek of probably a quarter-mile.

Spectators lined the bridges.

Spectators lined the bridges.

Most of the runners were veterans, active duty, married to soldiers, or running on behalf of soldiers who were injured or killed. T-shirts and signs honoring them were everywhere.

Shirts honoring fallen soldiers were everywhere.

Remembering fallen soldiers

The announcer pumped up the crowd while we waited. I briefly wondered why the flags were at half-staff but didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking. Then a woman we’d been chatting with (married to a soldier) asked the same question and I felt less ignorant. Finally, at the sound of a cannon, we were off.

Not ever race starts at the sound of a cannon.

Not every race starts to a cannon blast

The first mile went by pretty quickly. Every time we passed under a bridge, runners whooped and shouted. Then we looped up onto the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Ahead, thousands of runners filled the span, heading toward Lincoln with Washington in the distance. There is not a better view in road racing than that.

We made the dogleg turn onto Constitution Avenue where a small brass band played. As we approached, they struck the opening notes of “Chariots of Fire.” We cheered.

The road inclines up Virginia Avenue to the Watergate, and I remember it being a bit challenging on my hip flexors last year. But we kept up a good pace. We circled the Watergate and turned left, with the Potomac on our right. Another brass band began playing “Rocky” as we passed. Epic.

We continued past the Kennedy Center where a spectator blasted “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” from her iPod and someone asked if she could follow us playing that song. We continued on, sans Kelly Clarkson, past the MLK memorial on the right, then running parallel to Lincoln, the Reflecting Pool, and the WWII Memorial on the left. Trees lined the road, slowly changing colors, framing the Washington Monument in the distance. We were halfway.

As we ran along the back side of the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums, returning runners ran along the other side of the street. I moved over to the center line and high-fived runners coming the other way. They cheered “Good job!” and “You’re looking awesome!” as we slapped hands. I was ridiculously amused by this for at least half a mile, until we reached the turnaround.

K started struggling here. I could hear her wheezy breathing over my own, but when I asked her what was wrong, she couldn’t articulate it. “Everything,” she finally said. Tight hamstrings. A need to pee. General misery. Considering we weren’t quite done with seven miles, this presented a challenge.

I knew the stretch crossing the Potomac over the 14th Street Bridge was gonna suck. It’s actually three separate sections, and just when you think you’re making progress, there’s more bridge. In a car, you don’t notice the incline, but on foot, surprise! Just as G reminded me last year, when K seemed mentally spent I pointed out a group of Wounded Warriors and their carbon fiber legs. She rallied.

The last section of the race was different this year. At the end of the bridge we went up another damn incline, made a left, and wound around unfamiliar territory for another mile. I ran a little ahead of K, looking back periodically to ensure she was still hanging in there. I was suffering, but she was suffering more.

At the final water stop, she stopped at at a portapotty. I kept going, hoping she would turn on the post-pee jets and catch up. I got some water, used my inhaler, and ate a gel to buy her some time.

Under the overpass, into the Pentagon. Not much further. Someone yelled that The Bridge Right Up There! was the finish line, and I tried to speed up. Without my last year’s drill sergeant next to me (she had moved overseas), I had to channel her and get it done on my own. My hip flexors screamed, my lungs ached, and I was at my limit. But then I passed a huge group of service members in matching shirts. And in the lead were two soldiers supporting a young man who struggled to walk on two carbon fiber legs. He had his arms over their shoulders, and the whole group chanted and cheered him on. The guy in front carried an American flag. Wounded Warriors started at least an hour before my wave–this group had been at it for more than three hours. The grit and perseverance this must have taken? Wow.

I added my claps and cheers to the chorus, then tried to speed up. I have two good legs and the ability to run, so dammit I was gonna give it all I had.

Last year it felt like we finished at the back of the pack amid kind of a thin crowd of runners. The announcer called everyone’s names. Today I was surrounded by people, and he could only announce maybe 10% of them. It was a weird feeling.

According to my Garmin, I crossed the finish line two minutes faster than last year. K hadn’t caught me, and I was disappointed that we didn’t finish together, but I knew she wasn’t far behind. I walked through the ridiculously-long finisher chute, beyond wheezing. I think my breath sounded more like puppy whining for a treat than actual oxygen-CO2 exchange. I drank half a bottle of water and collected my challenge coin.

Challenge coin

Challenge coin

I backtracked to look for K and somehow missed her. Then I got a text: where are you?? Oops. I found her waiting with J and her work team. We took a couple of quick pictures and began the long trek around the Pentagon. This involved scaling gingerly lumbering over not one but two waist-high concrete barricades. Oy.

Along the way, we looked up to see an enormous flyover of vintage military planes. They were different colors, flying in perfect formation. This article says they were AT-6 Texan aircraft flying to honor disabled veterans. How appropriate!

Vintage plane flyover

Vintage plane flyover

Fortunately we had parked on the second level of the parking garage, so we theoretically only had to haul ourselves up one flight of stairs. But we couldn’t find J’s car and inadvertently climbed up (and then stumbled down) an extra level. Again, oy.

We took the back way out of the garage, then meandered along neighborhood streets to her house. As we drove, I felt my blood sugar crashing. I’d eaten a bagel for breakfast and I’d taken a couple of gels during the race, but my tank was empty now. No bueno. When we got home I ate a couple of cookies and drank more water, hoping to stave off a repeat of the post-race disaster in Cleveland. I showered and tried to rally, but as I walked to the car, the thought of sitting upright amid the vibrant smells of Thai food worried me.

In the end, I went back inside and crashed on the couch. I woke up an hour later when K texted to check on me. I realized I felt better and the thought of food no longer made me queasy, so I took her up on her offer to bring back some Pad Thai. I ate about half of it, and when the rest of the dinner party arrived (they walked the half-mile to the restaurant while J and K quickly dismissed that idea and took the car) they said I definitely looked better too. I had a headache but didn’t want to take anything–the thought of enduring stomach distress on my three-hour flight home horrified me.

There was much ass-sitting the rest of the afternoon. We checked out official finishing times online, and my two-plus-minute improvement held up–official time was pretty much dead-on with my Garmin time. K finished two minutes behind me–also faster than my time last year. She had a tough race, but she gutted it out and I am really proud of her. J ran with a torn Achilles tendon that will be surgically repaired in about two weeks, and although her time was slow-for-her, she finished strong as well.

Slow, sick, injured, healthy, fast, strong: we all earned the same finisher coin. And that means a hell of a lot to me. An emotional race through amazing views, toughing out physical discomfort for a strong finish is something I will remember forever.

I wore the race shirt home.

I wore the race shirt home.

As I got ready to board my plane home, the terminal erupted in applause and cheers. About twenty WWII and Korean War veterans lined up with their Honor Flight escorts to board first. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the applause and standing ovation lasted unbroken for more than ten minutes.

When I stepped onto the plane, one of the paramedics accompanying them thanked me for my patience while the service men and women (yes, there was at least one woman) boarded. I stammered over a reply–how could I be anything else? Wearing my Army Ten-Miler shirt, having the capability of running ten miles this day, seemed very small indeed. I wished my WWII-expert kid were here to talk to them and hear their stories firsthand. All I could do was smile.

D.C. or bust!

As I prepared to head out for our 40-minute training run last night, I worried about my knee. It had felt a little funky after Wednesday night’s hill repeats, and this route would be no easier. But I started running and nothing hurt–based on past experience, I’d know right away–so I breathed a sigh of relief and headed out.

We ran through a gated neighborhood. At first I just saw fancy-schmancy houses set back on large lots, but after making a left turn into the hills, I realized those were the starter homes. Huge mansions–one looked more like a cathedral than a residence–and long, steep, winding driveways filled the rolling hills. And then the rolling hills became steep Alps-like hills. I followed my coach’s advice to walk the hills, which, for the latter part of the trip out meant walking a lot. But my breathing was still raspy and it was hot and I was worried about my knee and my race, so I tried to just take it easy.

Didya think all of Texas was flat desert?

Didya think all of Texas was flat desert?

After 20 minutes I turned around. With the walking, my 40-minute run wasn’t quite three miles, but my first and last mile–where it was flat–were almost the same pace, so even though it was slow and my breathing wasn’t great, I managed a pretty consistent run anyway.

Later today I’m flying to D.C. where The Three Musketeers take on the Army Ten-Miler!

Hell, er, hill repeats

I am ridiculously glad I ran a solid nine-miler last Saturday, or right now I would be having a panic attack.

Last night’s training run felt pretty awful, even before we got to the hill. I’d gone to core class Monday night, and my legs were feeling the chariot-pull exercise we’d done with resistance bands and a partner.

Plus it was hot again–in the 90s–and I’m still struggling with my breathing. Recipe for disaster, no?

I ran the two miles to the bottom of the hill. I actually had to take a couple of walk breaks–ugh. At one point I thought I heard someone coming up behind me, but then I realized that sound? Was my own wheezing. Ugh again.

We were supposed to run 4-10 hill repeats. Because I have a race on Sunday, and because my knee is still a slight question mark, I went with four. From there, I ran wheezed through a three-mile loop back to Rogue for a total of 5.5 miles.


Full moon

I felt horrible. I was slow and sluggish the whole way, and exhausted by the end of it. If I hadn’t had such a terrific long run on Saturday, I know I would be panicking about the Army Ten-Miler right now.

I’ve got one more training run on Thursday, but I’m going to take it easy. My knee did not like the hills and it’s feeling a little funky today, so I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize Sunday’s race.

Next up: D.C.!

Ready or not?

With the Army Ten-Miler a week away, I needed a good long run this weekend. Emphasis on good.

Because of my IT band injury that didn’t fully resolve itself until early September, my training has gone more slowly than I expected. I’ve done my training runs, but in the heat, slowly, miserably, and with some walking. All of those limitations left me without a good gauge of my fitness level for a distance race. So this morning when I woke up to 50-degree temperatures–much like what I can expect next weekend–I knew this would be my moment of truth.

For motivation I wore one of my ATM shirts

For motivation I wore one of my ATM shirts

Rogue has a new training director, and she has created a bunch of new routes. For the most part I have liked the change of pace direction, except today’s route included something new in the first mile. I’m usually operating on auto-pilot at 6:30 in the morning–out the door, down the alley, left right left, up the hill to the water, one mile. But not today, so we had to pay attention and actually look at the map this morning.

Early on, I felt good. The cool weather made SUCH a difference! We ran up the hill at Mile 2.5, slow and steady. Downhill was easier, then it was flat for a while. We crossed the four-lane road and followed the path onto Brushy Creek Trail, then took the trail for about 1.5 miles to the sports park. I think the already-cool temperature dropped another five degrees down under the shade of the trail!

There are a couple of hilly sections of trail and we trudged up them slowly but at a run. Then out of the park, one more hill to go. I still felt good, but this hill is mentally difficult, so we had to promise ourselves we’d run the whole thing. I pretended it was the bridge near the end of the ATM–a long, gradual incline. One foot in front of the other, forward running progress. Then we hit the last water stop, headed for home.

It wasn’t fast, but we ran the entire nine-mile route, stopping only at the water stops. That’s my plan for the race too, so it was heartening to confirm that’s a reasonable expectation.

As we made the last turn down the alley, S said to me, “I think I could go one more mile, if I had to.” And I agreed. Which is good, because next week I have to. And I can’t wait.

At the last minute, I decided to run

I was hesitant to run this race for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve had trouble breathing all week, and I wasn’t sure if running a 5K race would slow my recovery. With the Army Ten-Miler in two weeks, I need to be healthy! And two, the race benefits a local animal shelter. Why would that make me hesitant? Well, a friend recently had a horrific experience with this particular shelter, and part of me felt really bad supporting an organization that caused so much hurt for her family. We’ve run this race the last four years and thought it was a good cause, but now I just don’t know. In the end, though, I decided that B and I had already paid for registration, so running or not running wouldn’t make any kind of statement one way or another.

I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to see so many dogs so soon after losing Shadow. B got his dog-petting fix, visiting with every friendly animal on the premises. I was happy to see many smiley dog faces, even though it was bittersweet, but I still wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing by being out there.

So it was with mixed emotions that we showed up at the starting line this morning. I pinned on my race number and set up my headphones, but I stood on the sidewalk until the last minute, only deciding to run and jumping in with the crowd after the national anthem.

IMG_9208[1]We’ve run this race all four years of its existence, and the course has been different at least three of those times. So I really had no idea where I was going, but volunteers stood at pretty much every intersection to guide us. I even saw a few familiar faces out there!

I ran the entire thing, but took it easy the whole way. It wasn’t anywhere near my best time, but not my worst either. But considering I still kind of sound like Darth Vader, I’m okay with that.


I still sound like Darth Vader

Naturally, now that my knee seems healed, something else has to take its place, interfering in my training.

On Tuesday, I had all kinds of trouble breathing, but I managed to complete my 4.75-mile training run. By Thursday, I no longer felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, but I still had an annoying cough. We ran 3.1 miles out on some trails at the county park and for most of it, I felt pretty good. The last mile, though, I had some trouble catching my breath.


This morning, I planned to run seven or eight miles, depending on how I felt. The Army Ten-Miler is two weeks away, and I’d like to get close to ten miles before the actual race! But last night’s margaritas this stupid cough didn’t make things easy.

We headed out at 6:30, into a slight drizzle. We took it slowly, but I knew early on it wasn’t going to be a pleasant run. Even so, I decided I’d rather run-walk seven miles than run all of a shorter distance. We stopped for water after a mile, walked part of the hill around two miles because I couldn’t catch my breath, stopped again for water at three miles, and turned around after 3.5.

The trip back went a little better–my stomach had been kind of funky, but I drank some Gatorade at the second water stop and that seemed to help. We ran more of the return route, and our last mile was our fastest. So at least we kind of redeemed ourselves there at the end. But I never could settle my breathing–I sounded horrible, I know.

I’m glad I got it done, even though it was unimpressive and unpleasant. My breathing is okay now, but sitting on the couch watching college football isn’t exactly strenuous.

B and I are supposed to run a charity 5K tomorrow, and I’ll decide in the morning if I’ll run it or not.  “Early must I rise. Leave now you must!”


Running with asthma, redux

Ah, fall. When a young man’s fancy turns…. Oh wait, no. Fall is when temperatures become slightly less oppressive and random rainstorms stir up lung-irritating molecules that have been dormant since May. And I wheeze my way through the day sounding like Kathleen Turner.

Monday evening it started with a wicked headache, then a cough. An asthma cough is different from normal coughs. It doesn’t sound like much at first, but if I give in to it, I’ll soon be barking like a seal from deep in my lungs. So I suppress it as long as I can. I slept poorly.

Tuesday morning, I had to break out my inhaler. I have a love-hate relationship with this thing–it helps me breathe when I’m struggling, but it makes me jittery and I stumble over my words. Not ideal for a middle school teacher.

Because it makes me jittery with a light saber–I might cut someone’s arm off. 

But my students were understanding and I managed to get through the morning, raspy voice and all. But by lunchtime, I couldn’t catch my breath, and my inhaler had zero effect. I couldn’t project my voice–I just didn’t have the lung capacity to breathe AND talk. Again, problematic for a middle school teacher.

My nurse friend K suggested a cocktail of Zantac and Benadryl, but I had classes all afternoon and no time to get to the store. Fortunately M was kind enough to swing by Walgreens and bring them to me just before 2:00. And amazingly, about half an hour later, I noticed I was breathing more easily and wheezing a little less. Hallelujah!

After school, I had to decide whether I’d be able to run with my training group. I had missed the first two Tuesdays (back-to-school night, then losing Shadow a week later) and didn’t want to miss yet another. But was it wise to run with diminished lung function? In the end, I felt well enough to try.

We ran a 1.25-mile warmup to the high school football stadium. Traffic came to a screeching halt at the one-mile mark, and for the next quarter-mile, I actually moved faster than the Corvette in the left lane.

From the stadium, we ran a “two-mile” loop which actually is more like 2.25 miles. Our coach had us work in ten 15-second bursts in which we picked up our pace to “comfortably uncomfortable.” Well yay, I was already there. ;)

The route made a square–downhill first, which meant finishing uphill. And I managed to pick up my pace those ten times.

I had a lot of time to notice vehicles and their drivers as I ran. Probably half of drivers were talking on cell phones. A frightening number had small kids riding in the front seat. A couple of passengers stared at me as they passed, like I was some kind of weirdo. I plodded along, trying to lose myself in Jameis Winston’s latest exploits via my ESPN college football podcast.

As I came up the hill, I focused on the traffic light that indicated the end of my loop. One foot in front of the other. I stopped at the water cooler, and my friends asked if I felt okay because I looked really pale. “Comfortably uncomfortable” indeed.

I know I’m behind on my training, mostly thanks to slowly recovering from injury. Six months ago, five miles was a breeze. Last night, I wasn’t sure I could run at all, let alone finish the whole loop without walking. I may have sounded like Darth Vader, but I did it.

We beat the Blerch!

If there was any run in which the Blerch was gonna get me, this would be the one.

It was a tough week at my house. We lost Shadow on Tuesday, and all week the weather matched our moods–grey and rainy. This weekend M and B are up at the ranch (they put flowers and a marker on Shadow’s grave) so I am on my own. Our house feels empty without her, but we are slowly adjusting to our new normal. To that end, I’m glad I’d signed up to participate in the Beat the Blerch virtual race this weekend.

The race kit came a week or so ago, and wow, it was one big envelope of happiness.

Envelope of happiness, I tell you.

Envelope of happiness, I tell you.

The stress ball lives on my desk and the magnet is on my fridge at school, and the other day one of my students saw it and gasped in recognition. “Respect,” he said with a nod. That made me happy.

We decided to run the 10K today (S and I are slowly coming back from injuries, and we felt 13.1 would be unwise) and we wore our matching Blerch shirts. We both even showed up in our green Rogue socks! We skipped the race numbers but brought the medals for later, and at 6:30 we headed out. The 95% humidity felt like swamp water, but at least the sun wasn’t frying us. It’s the little things, I guess.

Today’s route was a new one–lots of turns, but at least we only had to go 3.1 miles, then head back. I like the variety of a new route,  but I was not awake enough to follow a complex route for double-digits. I mean, c’mon. It even threw me that the water cooler was set up on the other side of the street this morning.

The most important thing I noticed during the first mile? No pain. Not even a twinge or a maybe or a phantom ache. I felt like I’d returned to my normal running gait again–no favoring an injured left side, no right side compensation. Noticing that something doesn’t hurt is almost as surprising as noticing that it does. My knee has given me problems since mid-July, and it felt weird to identify that absence of pain. But weird in a good way!

The second mile, I started feeling the swamp water humidity. We passed two guys (in running gear) sitting in a driveway, apparently recovering from their run. We said hi, and when they asked how far we were going, I said, “Just six.” I thought later, why did I feel like I needed to qualify that six with just? I guess because even though I don’t look like an athlete, I know I am capable of running longer distances and don’t want to look like a slacker to other runners? I’m sure there’s a psychological answer in there somewhere.

Somehow I lost track of how far I had to go, because I looked at my watch and saw that we’d run 2.5 and I thought, “Ugh, still a mile and a half to go before we turn around.” It took me half a mile to realize my mistake. D’oh!

Just past the water stop at mile 2.5, we encountered a house with its sprinklers running. Nevermind the fact that this area received 5+ inches of rain this week–I was grateful and I ran through them like a child on summer vacation. And conveniently, my watch hit 3.1 miles right in front of another house with its sprinklers on. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t run through those too.

We plodded our way back, slowly and sweatily. Around 4.5 miles, a friend came up behind us. We’d seen her earlier, so she knew we had the matching green shirt thing going on. She told us that as she ran behind us, she kept seeing green figures ahead. But then she realized they were the green trash cans sitting at the curbs of the houses. That made us laugh.

The last mile, we picked up the pace a little–according to my Garmin data, our last 1.2 miles were our fastest. It was truly a Long SLOW Run, but hey, we completed it. And then we got medals.

We beat the Blerch!

We beat the Blerch!

All things considered, it was a positive end to a truly awful week.


Do you pronounce it BlerCH or BlerCK?

Thank you for all your kind words and condolences about my dog. I’m sorry it was a tear-jerker post but I’m grateful so many people got to read about Miss Shadow. 

A Dog’s Life

I know this is a running blog, and I’ve never run with my dog–she was already elderly when I started running. But yesterday, Shadow crossed the Rainbow Bridge and we lost a family member.

Shadow came to live with us in July of 1997. She was about seven months old and had been living at the Austin Humane Society for a couple of months. We were told she’d been left in someone’s car as a joke, and the car owner had brought her to the shelter. The Saturday we met her was bittersweet–we sill mourned the loss of Jessie, a dog I’d had since ninth grade and had lost suddenly two months before, but our dog-less house felt empty and were ready to bring home a new dog.

We applied to adopt Shadow, but they told us two other people had applied first. They said that if the other applicants didn’t return for her by Tuesday, she’d be ours. It seemed like a long shot. On the way home, I spoke a silent plea to Jessie, asking for her blessing and her help. It sounds corny, but I felt like I needed her to know we weren’t replacing her.

When we got home, M left again, accompanying a friend to look at a car about two hours away. He hadn’t been gone half an hour when the phone rang. It was the Humane Society. Both applicants ahead of us in line had called to release their applications. Shadow was ours.


First day home

She was a high-energy puppy. I guess that blue heeler lineage contributed to her exuberance. She loved to race around the (fenced) back yard at top speed, chasing tennis balls. Turns out she was kind of a loose cannon though–once she got out the front door and took off at that same top speed down the street. Another time she slipped her leash and ran toward a busy highway. So from then on, we kept her on a tight leash (pun intended) unless she was in a confined area.


She loved to wade, not swim. But she had to stay on a leash.

She was about six years old when B came along.


B was about a week old.

I remember thinking he wouldn’t really get a chance to know her–she’d probably be gone before he was old enough to form lasting childhood memories of her. Spoiler alert: I could not have been more wrong.


A boy and his dog.

She loved to sneak into his room and climb up on his bed. And what dog doesn’t quickly figure out that under the high chair is THE place to be?

When she was about eight, the vet told us her kidneys didn’t look so hot, and she might not live to be very old. Spoiler alert: he could not have been more wrong.

In recent years, she’d slowed down. No more racing around the back yard chasing tennis balls, no more furious barking at the UPS driver. But her eyes were bright, her ears perky, and she still followed us around the house. She lost a lot of weight, her back legs didn’t work very well, and she fell down periodically, but she didn’t complain.


Hanging out at the lake

Two years ago, she developed an abscess in one of her molars. Her face swelled up and she had to have emergency surgery. This was tough on a 15-year old dog, but she was nothing if not stubborn, and she pulled through just fine.


Home from surgery!

In May of this year, she got a urinary tract infection and she refused food and water. We thought it was the end. But once she finished her antibiotics, she bounced back. At least as much as a 17.5-year old dog can bounce.

But her world shrank to the family room. She couldn’t jump up the one step between that room and the rest of the house, so we moved her bed and food. She was mobile enough to wander around the room, but not strong enough to push herself up off the tile when she slipped. We tried to keep her on the rug, but every so often we had to rescue her from under the bar chairs because she’d get stuck and her feet just slid around on the tile.

Over the last few weeks, her nights and days flipped. She slept like a stone all day, then wandered the family room at night. Nothing like being woken up at two in the morning by a howling dog who’d trapped herself under some furniture.

Last week, she started whining during the night, but not because she’d gotten stuck. She was uncomfortable in some way that we couldn’t figure out or comfort. She was okay during the day, but nighttime was a nightmare. The vet prescribed some medications that could help her sleep and calm her anxiety. One of them was a controlled substance and caused some amusement when I went to fill it at the local grocery store pharmacy. “Yes, it really IS for my dog!” But unfortunately, neither medication had any effect on her. It was like having a newborn again.

Monday night she started crying at about 9PM and did. not. stop. I spent half the night with her, M the other half. At about 5AM, almost time for us to get up, she quieted and went to sleep.

We knew we couldn’t let her go on like this. At almost eighteen years old, she didn’t have much more time left. She weighed no more than about 20 pounds, she was stressed, and the look in her eyes told me she was ready.

B opted to stay home, so he said his goodbyes in the driveway. As we pulled away, I saw heartbreak and grief on his young face. He’d known her his whole life. He indeed did get to know his dog well after all.

Taking her to the vet yesterday was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. They were extremely kind and compassionate, reassuring us this was the right decision. But it still hurt, and even writing about it now brings tears to my eyes again.

But a friend posted this to my Facebook page yesterday, and I think it helps.

Sorry for making you cry.

And my friend Jenn said something really profound:

One thing that has stuck out to me recently about pets is the idea that however long they are with you like Shadow for 17 years, that’s a long time and a big part of your life but you were her whole entire life, and I know you guys gave her a damn good one .

We were her whole entire life. And it was a damn good one. Rest in peace, sweet girl. We will see you at the Rainbow Bridge.


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