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Posts Tagged ‘running’

The blog has been a little quiet lately but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting around doing nothing.

1.  I had a wonderful two week visit with my family, one of the highlights being a trip to Grand Haven, Michigan to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. Yes, I took a dip in Lake Michigan.

2.  I ran the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Indiana in high humidity and 80 degree plus heat. I’m glad I crossed the finish line before they called the race due to hazardous heat conditions.

3.  While I was in the Midwest, I received some good news: My middle grade novel has been chosen as a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Annual Contest. Winners will be announced in August at their annual conference.

4.  I accepted a job for the fall semester. I will be teaching English to the ELL (English Language Learners) students at West Valley High School.  It is a ¾ time teaching position and just for the fall semester, kind of perfect for me in terms of keeping my writing going.

5.  I’m going hiking in the Italian Alps in late July/early August.

6.  And, am I working on a new book? You bet I am!!

Interesting. Is that public information?

That’s all the news that fit to tell. What have you been up to lately?

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The start of the Equinox Marathon.

I think life is composed of many marathons whether you are walking, running, writing, raising children, caring for elderly relatives, teaching, whatever the important things are in your life that you are continually working on and growing from.

For me, the Equinox Marathon, which I ran on Saturday for the 8th time, is a metaphor for life. It’s a pilgrimage up steep, tree-lined roads and trails to the top of a dome (think small mountain) and then back down a different way.

The high-point of the course, Ester Dome, is the most distant spot in the photo.

At times during the race I’m giving other runners a wave or a nod or a word of encouragement and receiving them as well, and acknowledging many of the fine folks lining the accessible parts of the course. But mostly, I try to approach the run as a form of meditation, where I’m relaxing my body, a small smile on my face, while I put one foot in front of the other.

And this is true with writing, teaching, driving, doing the dishes, having a conversation, whatever. When I focus solely on the task at hand, I both enjoy it more and do a better job as I’m swept into that elusive world of just living in the present.

Just like everyone else, I worry about things I have no control over, get nervous before giving a presentation, space out and burn food on the stove, stick eggs in the freezer—the list goes on.

During the race I worried about running too fast and burning out. I worried about my stomach cramping up from too much Gatorade. I worried about reinjuring my knee. I worried about tripping and doing a face plant. But these worries were interspersed with moments of smiling and being totally aware of what I was doing, which was making this amazing pilgrimage with 800 other people. Some walked and some ran. Some people finished in under three hours, some in over eight, but we all did it together.

A lone runner coming down Ester Dome.

It is kind of like being in a community of writers. No one is going to write your book for you, but hopefully you’re getting a lot of encouragement and comfort knowing that even though you are responsible for each step you take you are not on this journey alone.

What draws you away from being in the present moment? And what brings you back? And, have you ever stuck anything in the freezer that didn’t belong there?

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In between some amazing sessions at WriteOnCon I had to keep sneaking out to the garden to harvest the vegetables that have pretty much taken over our lives.

On one of my harvesting forays I saw some brown blurry movement. At first I thought it was just the sun and shadows playing tricks on me. Something kept sneaking into my line of sight and disappearing.

I sat down in a chair in front of our greenhouse and this little munchkin popped out from under one of the raised beds.

Short-tailed weasel

He proceeded to dart in and out of cover for about a half hour. Luckily for me, WriteOnCon has great archives so I didn’t have to worry about missing something while I hung with the weasel. 

I got a few fleeting photos. He was a fast little sucker. Cute, too.

The little guy made my day, but WriteOnCon made my week. A big thank you to Jamie Harrington, Elana Johnson, Casey McCormick, Shannon Messenger, Lisa & Laura Roecker and Jennifer Stayrook for working the magic that made it all happen. 

All the presentations are archived on the WriteOnCon website. It is a great resource for writers. I’m not even going to try to pick a favorite, or most helpful, post or vlog or live chat. They were all very high quality, professional, fun and thought provoking.

Today I’m heading out on a twenty mile run with a friend in preparation for the Equinox Marathon. We both have some knee issues limiting us, but our running mantra is: Slow miles are better than no miles.

Happy writing, and have a great weekend!

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Smoke plume from the Willow Creek fire just six miles from town.

I hope the smoke stays away from town. This weekend I’m running in the Santa Claus half-marathon  so fresh air would be nice.

Have a great weekend:-)

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About a year ago I had a little knee surgery to smooth out a slightly torn meniscus. Last weekend I ran sixteen miles, my longest run since before the surgery. My knee isn’t back to normal, and that three-hour marathon goal I was closing in on a few years ago is looking pretty distant; but I’ll keep on running if I can because I love it. With age, injury, and wear and tear, it’s inevitable that the human body slows down, breaks down.

One thing I love about writing is that barring any major physical or mental impairments, you can keep improving forever.

My recipe for improvement has one simple ingredient: Persistence.

For me, persistence means:

  1. Not wasting whatever amount of time I’ve created in my life to write.
  2. Studying well written novels and craft books and attempting to apply what I’ve learned.
  3. And, to paraphrase Laurie Halse Anderson: asking how I can make what I’ve written better instead of looking at it and saying this is pretty good.

I’ve heard a couple successful writers say that if you don’t have what it takes to write, i.e. talent, you never will. Quit wasting your time. James Scott Bell, in his book, Plot and Structure, referred to this as the Big Lie. He spent several years of his life believing the Big Lie before he realized that he could learn how to write fiction. Now, as you probably know, he’s published over twenty books.

What does persistence look like for you?

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Toeing the Line

The start of the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, Alaska. 

When I ran my first marathon, I had little idea of what I was doing. I ran slower than I could have, so when I crossed the finish line I was smiling. I was hooked. I wanted to keep running marathons, and I wanted to improve my time.

So, I started running more and more, and figured that by putting the miles in, I’d improve. A year later I ran my second marathon. I improved my time by a few minutes, but was hurting at the end, and it took weeks to recover.

(That’s not me, but it’s an accurate representation of how I felt.)

Long story short. Logging a bunch of miles didn’t really help much because I didn’t know how to train.

So, I talked to other runners, read books, and focused my training. Over time, I’ve improved some as marathoner, but I’ve worked harder than I imagined I’d work after crossing that first finish line.

When I finished my first novel, I was excited. Then I tried to make it better and learned how much I didn’t know.

A few novels later and I’ve improved, but I think much of my improvement has come from major rewriting, trading manuscripts for critique, reading craft books, taking a creative writing class, and studying other novels.

This running/writing analogy isn’t perfect, and I know there is no substitute for putting in the hours writing, but I’m curious: What are you doing to improve your writing besides writing? Is there one thing that has been particularly helpful? Where’s the balance for you between writing and doing other things to improve your writing?

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Everyday Heroes

Last week the temperature dipped to 30 below—our first cold snap of the season.

sunset

The sun was going to set soon, and besides cracking the door open to get a draft for the woodstove, I hadn’t had any fresh air all day.

I do most of my writing on a treadmill so I’d had a lot of movement, but no real exercise. (I can walk 1.5 miles an hour and still type. It keeps my back happy.) I wanted to go running, but running at 30 below is hard on your body. The bottoms of your shoes lose all their spring. (And no way was I going to run on the treadmill after walking on it all day!)

 

 

I decided to go for a walk instead. It’s much easier on the body.

I’d been walking for about ten minutes when I heard footsteps behind me. It was my neighbor. My eighty year-old neighbor. Running.

He doesn’t run fast, and he’s always hunched over, but he runs every day. I often see him on our road, but have also seen him as far away as three miles from home. 

We’ve exchanged a few words over the nine years I’ve lived in the neighborhood, but mostly we just wave at each other.

One spring when I was trying to keep our road from washing out (as you can see, I failed), I ran into his wife and learned that he had started running  late in life, after being very ill.

 

 

 

 

A day rarely passes when I don’t think about him. He’s an everyday hero who inspires me to keep pushing myself in all areas of my life. I’ve told all my friends and family, near and far, about him.

Do you have any everyday heroes in your life? Who are they? How do they inspire you?

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