Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude

Even in the most raucous of settings, one can find some solitude if you time it right.

While in New Orleans for a long weekend recently, I went for a run Saturday morning and had Bourbon Street to myself, as the soapy residue still lingered along the curb.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Solitude” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Solitude.

Zen on the Trail 

It has been a long week. The candle was burning at both ends most days; I sacrificed some needed sleep to find those extra hours in the day. So when the end of the work day rolled around on Friday, it was tempting to just pour a glass of wine and tell myself  could postpone a run until the weekend.  After finding great camaraderie and motivation through the “Another Mother Runner” podcasts that often keep me company on the road, I signed up for a 5-week training program through the “Train Like a Mother Club” to jump-start the fitness machine after taking a break following the more intense training earlier this year for my June marathon.  Nothing like a  virtual community of training partners to provide some accountability… in addition to my faithful companion.

Today’s training schedule called for a “Zen Run” – leave the GPS watch behind, pull out the ear buds if you run with music, and just go while letting go … It was exactly what I needed.

Corbin was born the year I turned 40, and as I approach another decade marker, Corbin and I both are a little grayer, a little slower, and more appreciative of the little things … OK, perhaps Corbin has always been blessed with that joie de vivre ….

We set out with the intention to enjoy a leisurely 3-mile loop on the trails before the sun set.  While the days are growing shorter, tonight still had echoes of summer …. almost 70 degrees, a tad humid (by Duluth standards), and forest sounds more reminiscent of August than September.  As my trusty pal has aged, he has become more sensitive to the warmer temperatures, particularly if the humidity is up, so he did not stray far from my side as we trotted along at an easy pace.

Corbin used to pull me up the hills with my hands-free leash around my waist. This evening, I found him preferring to slow to no more than a fast walk up even the smaller inclines.

The somewhat muggy conditions on the trail made for a perfect meditative pace.  We jogged, we walked, we took note of the signs of the changing seasons.

When Corbin was younger, he would run twice as far as I would on a trail run, looping out and coming back to me, again and again.  Now, he was just as happy to stop at the river overlook and catch his breath as I caught mine, before we started off again.

I admit to feeling my eyes fill with tears at one point as we ran along, realizing that this very well could be my last fall running with my dear four-legged friend on these trails, given how much he has slowed down over the past year.  I was reminded, though, that Corbin is blessed with that gift that we all seek — enjoying and living in the moment.  As we trotted side by side, he looked up at me with a grin.  I let go of the worries of what the months ahead may hold. We just ran and I was grateful for the time we had right now.

I got my zen on and cleared my head, noticing the gifts that Mother Nature had placed for us to enjoy along the way.

We paused periodically to admire the treasures of the great outdoors.

The diversity and delicate details on the forest floor are awe-inspiring if you take a moment to truly appreciate them.

We extended our 3-mile loop, by another mile or so, continuing to intersperse walking with running.  I let Corbin set the pace – he would slow on an upward incline, and then once the trail sloped downward or flattened out, he would start trotting along again.  We embraced the silence between us, and filled it with the evening sounds of the woods.

Our relaxing evening jaunt came to a close, and the sun started to peek through the gray cloud cover.

We made a brief detour before heading home, and stopped to say good evening to Lake Superior. Peaceful and serene, the big lake embodied that zen I sought and found on the trails with my dear friend.

Ciao! ~ Kat

She Believed, So She Did (Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners)

For those following my blog though the WordPress Reader, this post didn’t seem to appear when I initially edited it to publish yesterday. In the spirit of that often-seen running meme …. “How do you know if someone ran a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!” ~ Kat

Travel. Garden. Eat.

As I sat on the bus at 5:45 a.m., I was reminded that the next several hours were going to come down to believing I could do it … I would do it … I was going to run a marathon.

Despite the weather forecast, my anxiety disappeared the day before the race (perhaps recounting the Top 10 Reasons I would not let the forecast mar my marathon experience was the outlet my nerves needed).

Grandma’s Marathon morning dawned warm and humid by Duluth standards, minimizing layers that needed to be packed for the early morning shuttle ride to the starting line.  While on the bus, my friend jokingly said to me, “Better start your watch now!” because it often seemed so slow to connect during our training runs …. and I looked down and saw an empty wrist — my GPS watch was still plugged into the charger at…

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She Believed, So She Did (Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners)

As I sat on the bus at 5:45 a.m., I was reminded that the next several hours were going to come down to believing I could do it … I would do it … I was going to run a marathon.

Despite the weather forecast, my anxiety disappeared the day before the race (perhaps recounting the Top 10 Reasons I would not let the forecast mar my marathon experience was the outlet my nerves needed).

Grandma’s Marathon morning dawned warm and humid by Duluth standards, minimizing layers that needed to be packed for the early morning shuttle ride to the starting line.  While on the bus, my friend jokingly said to me, “Better start your watch now!” because it often seemed so slow to connect during our training runs …. and I looked down and saw an empty wrist — my GPS watch was still plugged into the charger at home! I took it as a sign that time truly should not matter, and it was a reminder to be fully present during the journey that lay ahead of us that morning.

Lined up in the starting corral with 7,200+ runners at Grandma’s Marathon 2016! 
A good friend is someone who says, “Hey, do you want some company for 26.2 miles?” And then at mile 22 or so turns to you and says, “I must really love you a lot to have agreed to do this with you!”  My friend had run 13 marathons, the last being 15 years earlier …. and came out of marathon retirement to help me get to the finish line of my first.

It was a brutal day for a run.  It was over 70 degrees F at the start with humidity pushing 80%.  The flags signaling race safety in light of the weather conditions (based on the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines) quickly moved from yellow by the 10K mark, to red by the halfway point, to black (signaling extreme risk for heat exhaustion) for the last 8 -9 miles of our race.  We were not planning on breaking any records even on the best of weather days, and kept our pace slow and steady, walking through the aid stations that were staffed by volunteers every two miles beginning at mile 3, and then every mile beginning at mile 19, to maximize hydration, dump a cup of water or two overhead, and stuff ice cubes in the sports bra to help with the heat that was inescapable.

As we left the aid station at mile 25, there was no more stopping, and we picked up the pace, just wanting to be done!  Words were few, as we focused on the last turns to the finish line.  I could feel a burst of emotion seeing that arch of balloons marking the finish line, with Duluth’s iconic lift bridge looming in the background.  Partners in training and partners with hands jubilantly raised as we crossed the finish line together in 5 hours, 15 minutes — on a day that many seasoned marathoners said was one of their toughest, due to the warm temperatures and high humidity.

She believed, so she did ….

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Partners” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Partners.


Top 10 Reasons a Steamy Duluth Forecast Won’t Stop Me From Finishing My First Marathon   

When the local television station has this for their forecast …

Credit: WDIO-Duluth

… I feel the anxiety levels rise.  I can’t afford wasting that negative energy over the next 48 hours.

Last night I went for a relaxing 3 mile run with my younger four-legged companion, who reminded me that at whatever speed, you just need to enjoy the experience …

As I sip on my Powerade, and get up from my desk every hour to keep the hamstrings relaxed, I present you with my:

Top 10 reasons I won’t let the warm forecast for Grandma’s Marathon freak me out.

1. Lake Superior’s waters will feel amazing when I am done. Who needs a post-race ice bath when you have the big Lake?!

2. If I have to walk some to finish I simply have more time to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

3. Grandma’s Marathon knows how to put on a race – whether it be cold or hot – I know I will be supported well.

4. That lift bridge medal is waiting for me at the end.

5. Free beer is waiting for me at the end.

6.  I have run over 500 miles since training began in mid-January – including two 20-mile runs. I am ready.

7. Ice cream is waiting for me at the end.

8. I have a high-five to look forward to from our training group coach Tony Stensland at the Duluth Running Company, between miles 23 and 24.

9. The volunteers and community support along the course are awesome — from beer to bacon, from bagpipes …to troll dolls …. There’s some inspiration for everyone.

10. I am so grateful for the fact that I am able to run.  I might not be able to some day, but Saturday will not be that day.

“There will be days you don’t think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have.” ~ Author Unknown

Let’s do this!! See you Saturday!

Ciao! ~ Kat