You Asked What Happened

IMG_0001.JPGAfter I posted this gnarly first photo to Facebook, several people asked me what happened.

Oh how I wish I could tell you I was doing something fabulous like running away from a mountain lion or scurrying down a steep descent like Kilian Jornet.

Truth is, I was high.


Yes. I was experiencing that euphoria I get when I’m out running on a beautiful Arizona day with blue sky all around me. When I feel embraced by the solitude of the desert. When I am thankful for my healthy body. When I am keeping my eyes on my A race goals. When I feel like I could run forever and ever.

It was a smooth, flat, gravel-covered part of my favorite South Mountain trail. Not a rock in sight.

I was so excited to be meeting John at a designated point up ahead. We had plans to explore some new parts of the park.

I was wearing my favorite running skirt and top.

And then I totally bit it. No provocation.

The mountain biker behind me did not even blink, and he blew past me as I assessed the damage.

The knee felt sore and I felt scared, so I of course I finished out the run with 6 more miles.

Here’s what it looks like today. It’s still super sore but I hope to be out there again, soon, feeling like I could run forever and ever.



Day 12 Douro Valley Half Marathon

We woke up at 7 to prepare for our race, which didn’t start until 11. I knew I was in for a “day” when I squatted down to pack a few things and I had a hard time standing back up. But onward. We had our breakfast on the patio then started our drive at about 8 am. I’m  glad we started early because just before we made it to town some police officers stopped us. They spoke no English, but they gestured to us that the road was closed and we needed to just drive up there to Amamar and back down to Regua. Oh, okay. We’ll just do that. Up up up a windy mountain road, and down down down the other side. It added about 45 minutes to our 45 minute journey. Not only were we nervous about the steep, guardrail-less single lane roads to Anamar, now we were watching the clock and wondering where this road was going to take us and would we make it to the start of the race.

IMG 1146

Finally the road spit us out to a place where we could see people parking so we found a spot and started walking. We were confused because everyone was wearing pretty red race shirts. When we checked in we were told we couldn’t have one until the finish. Why did they get them and we didn’t? And no one had bibs on. Were we supposed to wear the bibs?

The start area was chaotic. I kept hearing people screaming, then pointing. Were we supposed to go over there? The race packet said that we would take a train to the start but people were getting on buses. A woman rushed up to me asking me a question. All I could do was shrug and say “I’m sorry.” A race organizer saw our bib numbers so he pulled us into a queue to get on the right bus. John needed safety pins, so he pointed to a man’s midriff and held up his hands and frowned. The kind runner spared one pin. I still can’t tell if this race start was more chaotic then starts in the US or if we were just confused due to the language.

We waited and waited for a bus. When one came, it was a bit of a free-for-all. When I say “The Portuguese people really touched me,” I mean they literally touched me. All over. John and I had to stand and hold on tight as the bus wound its way up steep and narrow roads. The boys behind me were laughing with a vigor that seemed more appropriate for a bar. But was I just being sensitive because I couldn’t tell what they were saying?

Get on the bus.

On the entire bus I think there were 5 women. That was my second (third? fourth?) indication that this race would be a little different. In the many half marathons I have run there are usually more women than men, and there are also people of all shapes and sizes. Here there were hardly any women, and lots of fit men. Okay. Race. What do you have for me next?

What the race had for me next was, it was really freaking hot. And yeah I know I’m from Phoenix. But we start our races at 6am. John said he thinks the race started at 11 so everyone could go to church. I don’t know. But I was sweating, and that’s saying something because I don’t sweat.

And the racers were fast. I was holding 9:30’s, and I was slipping farther and farther behind. Since the first part of the race was out and back, the leader passed running towards me then when I turned around I could see the people behind me. And the last runner was not that far from me. That meant I would need to keep up my pace or risk being the last one over the finish line.

My half marathon PR is 1:55. Since I haven’t been training as much since my parents died, my most recent half marathon was 2:09, on a flat course with a 300 ft gain and a 400 ft loss. I had planned to run a 2:10 here, which is perfectly respectable back home. But I started to get worried that I might really come in last.

River views.

Let’s just say you know your half marathon isn’t going well when you are having “marathon thoughts.” And boy was I having them. I got through about 3 miles by attaching myself to a runner with a nice pace, and refusing to let him out of my sight. I got through another 3 miles by promising myself I would spend the rest of the afternoon in a poolside lounger.

By mile 8 my legs were cramping so badly I thought about asking for a ride back to the finish area to meet John. I clearly was not recovered from our 18 mile trail run the weekend before. My hamstrings and calves have never hurt that bad. And I’ve done 65+ races, hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, climbed the Alps and the Andes and Mt. St. Helen’s. Simply put, I was in a world of pain. Here’s how I made it through the last hour. It might startle you. I put my head down and ran.

Finally at the finish line I saw John waving. He told me I had to exchange my chip for a shirt. I really wanted that shirt, and I had gotten through maybe 2 miles of the race just by thinking that if I quit I wouldn’t get it. John led me to the shirt tent and I handed over my chip. The gal said “small” and I tried to refuse, but couldn’t find a way to communicate it. Dear reader, you know I am not a size small. But she insisted I try it on and this is how she did it. She slipped the shirt over my head–right over my cap and my glasses and she yanked it and got her fingers down to my ample bosom before she stated, “It is too small.”

I was not certain how she planned to get it off me. I just knew for sure I wouldn’t be able to do it since I was 1. about to pass out from exhaustion, and 2. because after 5 weeks of physical therapy for a rotator cuff impingement, I am still in too much pain to take off most clothing, even items that fit properly. So I just stood there with the shirt stuck around my chest. No problem. She said, “May I?” and I nodded and she pulled it back over my bosom, and over my cap and my glasses. Then she reached back, grabbed a medium, and handed it to me with a sprightly “Congratulations!”

I turned around and there was John to save me from my misery. Since there was no food or drink at the finish, I let him know that to prevent me from passing out he would need to find me some sugar and some salt, stat. We finally found a snack bar. A quick and heavenly 7up and some Lay’s potato chips did the trick. Note John’s sunburn (the beer was his!).

Recovery, with sunburn.

Now, this is not to say that I had a bad time at the race or that I would discourage you from doing it. In fact, I hope you all sign up for the 7th Annual Douro Valley Half Marathon. Now that you know what I know, you’ll make better decisions than I did. And I hope for your sake that it rains. I ended up with a 2:11, despite the course’s 1150 ft gain and 1200 ft drop.

After about a 2 mile uphill walk back to the car we were ready to get out of Dodge. I had really been looking forward to eating dinner later that night at the Restaurant DOC, but since it was located 20 minutes down a windy road from our hotel we decided to stop there for lunch after the race so we didn’t have to venture back out. We changed our clothes in the car and cleaned up with some wet wipes. We stopped at the beautiful restaurant and ate and it was a delightful meal. I had my favorite dish of the trip–octopus carpaccio with pomegranate seeds and olive oil candy.

IMG 1157

From there, as promised, we went back to the casa where we had a nap, a swim, a Jacuzzi, played Scrabble, patted the puppies, and had a lovely dinner on the terrace with Molly, who works very hard at teaching people to relax. I sure hope that now I have learned my lesson from her.

DSC 0050


Interim Report

Before I post my race report for the Douro Valley Half Marathon, I want to post more information about the Madeira Island 25K Trail Race that we ran the weekend before the half. I have now been able to analyze the run on my Garmin, which explains a lot about why that race was so painful.

Now that I think about it, if you start your race at 3300 feet and run down to sea level but you have a net elevation gain of 3500 feet, then that means you have a net elevation loss of 6800 feet. I see. That’s why everything still hurts.



Day 3 Racer’s Meeting in Porto Moniz

Whatever you do, don’t do what we nearly did. Don’t run out of gas in the middle of a volcanic island where you don’t speak the language and you can’t call AAA. More on that soon.

Our day started with a gorgeous breakfast buffet overlooking the pools and ocean.

DSC 0019

After breakfast we had a job to do. That was to accept our rental car in the hotel lobby, then hit the road for a 1 hour drive across the island to the town of Porto Moniz for the Runners’ Check-In for our 25K trail race the following day. You might remember Samantha, our faithful guide on our France and Spain trip–the voice of our Garmin Nuvi 275T who tells us where to go. She did her job well, even through the bajillion tunnels that bore through the massive peaks all over the island. Let’s all take a moment to applaud the civil engineers who somehow made this island inhabitable. Even the airstrip had to be built from scratch on pilings into the ocean, since there’s not a flat spot in all of Madeira. Besides the hills and curves, the hardest part about the drive was the pouring rain. I can’t wait to see it tomorrow in the sunshine.

DSC 0041

After our check-in, which involved proving we had all of the required items such as a whistle, a light, batteries, food, and water, we drove all the way back across the island where the rain had stopped and we did a gorgeous hike out on cliffs that looked like the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It was a muddy trek, which will serve us well since I think our 25K trail run is destined to be a Muddy Buddy tomorrow. BTW, John already told me I look like a total tool, so you don’t have to.

IMG 0892

From there we stopped in a small restaurant in a small town where we ordered the “Plato do Dia” again. I could only eat about half of it. My goodness it was delicious. The freshest fish you can imagine, in a light flour and egg batter–almost chile relleno meets the ocean.

DSC 0088

From there we drove to the far north point of the island to Santana to see the A-framed houses.

DSC 0100

This is where it got sketchy. We stopped at a Petrol station only to have the British owner come out and say, “We have no Petrol.” Our plan was to climb up and over the high hill that is near the peak of the island. But we got to about here when our gas gauge started beeping.

DSC 0108

Luckily we could coast back down to a town that had some gas. Still, promise me you won’t do what we did. Just gas it up sooner. Why wait? What is that? Fun? No it’s not.

Now we’re back at the hotel. After a lovely dinner, and plenty of hydration, we’re all ready for tomorrow. We’ll be getting up at 5 am to head back out for the race.

DSC 0109




Training Adventure

I’ve been having some busy few weeks. Going to Physical Therapy 3x a week for my rotator cuff impingement, attending work events that last up to 3 hours past my bedtime, finishing up the semester’s 3 classes, completing Issue 7 of my magazine, planning my summer of travel to Portugal & Vermont & Minnesota. And, oh, there is that little nagging thing called training for two races: a 15.5 mile trail run and a half marathon. Our trail run is on the island of Madeira, and it starts at 3000 feet and drops to sea level. My training needs to include some elevation change–as much as I can manage in the desert.

So this morning, after a frenzied week of work and etc., all I wanted to do was stay home in bed with a book. What do you think I did?

Right. I ran from my house to the top of  South Mountain, through Hidden Valley to the Buena Vista Trailhead, down Summit Drive to San Juan Road to Central Avenue. Because, well, that’s relaxing #sarcasm.

Now that I’m home with a burrito in my belly, I can tell you that it WAS relaxing #notsarcasm. What a beautiful way to spend a Saturday morning. I can’t wait to do it again. Want to come? Here are the details.

Preparing for Portugal

I’m starting the 22 day countdown to our departure for Portugal. Behind the scenes we have been very busy preparing last details not only for this 2 week trip, but also for the 6 weeks I will be in Vermont and Minnesota come June and July. My departure for cooler climes only a week after we return Stateside means a bit of additional pressure, especially in the dog sitting department. And the what should I wear department.

There’s another particularly good reason we’ve been busy. We are doing two races during our trip so we need to make sure we’re in running shape. On May 14 we will be running the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 25K , which is a 15.5 mile run that starts at Achada Grande (Fonte do Bispo) at about 3000 feet elevation, and drops to sea level at Porto Moniz. In addition to making sure we can hack it, we need to gather the following items that are required by the race director:

– Thermal blanket;
– 2 Light (head or hand), with batteries reserve;
– Mobile phone with Roaming and with enough battery;
– Camel Bak, bottles or other means to carry water, with a minimum capacity of 1 litre;
– Food reserve in case of emergency;
– Whistle
– Rain cover jacket
– Pants covering minimum knees

Madeira Island
On the trail at Madeira Island 25K

Then on May 22 we’ll be running the Duoro Valley Half Marathon, in the UNESCO world heritage site at Foz do Rio Douro. We’ll run along the valley with gorgeous views of port country. Yes, that’s port the wine.

Douro Valley
Running along the Douro Valley in the heart of Port Country.

We’re really looking forward to our active vacation. And don’t worry, there will be plenty of eating to fuel our activity.

The Grading Bunker

Last week my Roomie Miranda and I were in the kitchen pulling fruits and veggies from our weekly produce box. I stopped passing pears for a moment and asked her, “What’s 50 times 30?”

She’s smart, so she said, “1500. Why?”

“Holy!” I said, “I get 1500 pages of student writing next Tuesday at noon.” (I’m not sure why I didn’t do that math 4 months ago when I wrote my own assignments.) I started passing pears again and said, “Time to prepare The Grading Bunker.”

The Grading Bunker is not so much a place as it is a state of mind. Perhaps the hardest part about grading 1500 pages of student work is the tendency to seek out any excuse to stop. The toilet needs to be scrubbed? The dog wants out? Did the phone just ring? The car needs an oil change?

No. It can all wait. The students need me. They have worked hard and they deserve my undivided attention.

The Grading Bunker allows me to sit down, shut up, and grade until I’m finished. Surrounded by some fresh flowers, my favorite snacks, some fizzy water, and sometimes a snuggly cat or dog, I sign up for the long haul. I sit down in the chair. I grade, I grade, I grade.

This is where my experience as a runner comes in handy. Running is fun, sure. But who really LOVES to get up in the pitch black morning and do a hard run? And out on the course, I promise you I have every one of these thoughts: “I can’t do this. I won’t finish. My feet hurt. I want to stop. My knees are creaking. I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. I’m grumpy. I don’t feel like running anymore.”

But, a runner puts one foot in front of the other.

And that’s what I do in The Grading Bunker. Breathe. Focus. Compliment. Suggest. Evaluate. Enjoy. Cringe. Clap. Laugh out loud. Admire. Respect. Remind. Reinforce. Finish.

Recently a colleague asked me how I make time to exercise despite all the grading I need to do. I replied, “I only have 13 years left in my job, but I have 40 years left in my body.” That’s one reason I try to focus on fitness and nutrition first. Another reason is that exercising gives me discipline that carries over to my teaching. It’s amazing what you can do when you commit to something body and soul.

And so goes The Grading Bunker. Start it. Finish it. That’s what I just did.

Day 7 Canoeing the Dordogne

This morning we needed to be down to the dock at 9 am in order to catch the shuttle for the canoeing. So John and I got up early and went for a quick run, then we had a lovely Beynac breakfast, which consists of white peach, cherries, goat cheese, and a croissant. I could get used to this. At 9 we presented ourselves at the parking lot for the shuttle, and we waited about 15 minutes for the driver, who was on country time. The shuttle took us up stream where we put in our canoes. The Hinckleys were doing 15 km with the kids, and John and I were doing 22 km. So we said goodbye at the first stop, and headed off to Cersac, where the bus driver took our picture and put us in the river.

Trish and John a la Dordogne

The first few km were very quiet and calm and we saw many birdies and fishies and enjoyed the green trees. Soon we paddled up to our first Chateau of the trip, which was the Chateau de Monfort. We had a beautiful view as we floated by. Next we came to another medieval town, La Roque-Gageac, where we pulled off and ate a picnic lunch of bread, cheese, and curry chicken legs left over from dinner the night before. We walked around the beautiful town built into a side of a cliff.

La Roque-Gageac

Soon we passed Marqueyssac and Chateau de Castelnaud, which we had toured the previous day. It was fun to see them from the water. We passed one more castle before we approached Beynac, which was even more impressive from the river. We really enjoyed seeing it from the water. We found the Hinckleys on the beach and John caught some fish for Justin.

John and Hinckleys

When we got home, it was time for a serious nap. We did that, then walked down to the restaurant La Tornelle for a dinner of fish soup, duck leg, and walnut cake. When we got home, the adults watched a movie while Justin played World of Warcraft and Emma enjoyed sitting on laps. What a beautiful day, and how sad we are that we have to leave tomorrow. Thanks again for inviting us to France Kirk and Corinne. It was so lovely to spend time with you and the house and region were so beautiful.

Day 4 Beynac et Cezanac

John and I started the day with what was supposed to be a little jog, but I saw a sign that said “Eglise du Cevenac” and I said “let’s go there.” The sign said 3 km, so that should be easy enough, right? Well, it turned out to be 3 miles (there really are too many English living here) and the last mile of it was straight uphill. But the setting could not have been more beautiful. It seemed like the Ohio back roads of my youth—dense forest, beautiful green fields, lily-pad ponds. We saw only 2 cars while we ran. It was cloudy and crisp. So up the hill we went. At a crossroads we saw two little farm houses, one with masses of potted plants, one with a cat on the windowsill.

Just about 400 yards up the hill, we saw an old paint horse in a pasture. He had a mop of blond hair over his eyes. I said hello, and John took our picture. He was, ahem, well fed, and I quite wished he could come with us if only for the exercise. But he was behind a fence, so John and I continued on our way up to the church. What a view! We could see for miles around—beautiful farms, country homes, and even a few chateaux. We toured around the little church, then headed back down hill. As we passed the horse he ran with me for a while on the other side of the fence. His workout for the day!

Old Paint

When we got back to the house, I did some Yoga on the lower terrace. What a wonderful view of the river, with fragrant roses and lavender surrounding me. When I came back inside John had prepared our breakfast—some croissants, strawberries, and local melon. We took it down to the upper terrace and had breakfast with le chat, who sat at the table like a person waiting to be fed.

When the Hinckleys rose, we headed to St. Cyprien to go to the market. It was huge! We bought wonderful olives, duck breast, more strawberries, zucchini, onion, potatoes, and a bottle of Irish beer from an Irish expat whose French accent made me laugh hard. The Hinckleys went home for lunch (Justin has food allergies so it’s easier for him to eat at home), and John and I stayed in town and ate at a café: a gorgeous salad with local walnuts, and a pizza with peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

When we returned home, we watched the Tour, then walked up to the castle. It’s a steep walk up cobbled footpaths, and it’s a major destination, so there are plenty of folks making the trek–some more able than others. But at the top is a beautiful castle and church. We toured around, and Emma and Justin showed off their own running skills, as we timed how long it took them to run from the entryway up to the church. John told them they had to run it 10 times and we would take the average. He takes the same approach to children that he does to our pups: Exercise them to fatigue!


We came home and made a lovely dinner and ate it in front of the window. This window makes us understand why so many French artists painted landscapes—you could imagine the view out the window being a large painting of a landscape hung on the wall of a home with no view. But this is a proper view, and I have to keep looking at it to believe that something so beautiful actually exists.

After dinner, the kids watched The Incredibles and the adults had some lovely conversation over the wine we bought out of the basement. Such a great day. Thanks again Hinckleys for inviting us to France.

Day 3 Toulouse-Beynac

We set the alarm for 7 am since we needed to run, then have breakfast, then drive 3 hours to Beynac. It felt like the alarm went off too soon! I think that 9 hour time difference might be catching up to us. We headed out for a run towards le vieux pont, the old bridge, and we started running along the river. It was chilly, and it had rained overnight, but the little streets were so pretty we had plenty to keep our minds occupied. Then we went back to the hotel and showered, and went to the dining room where John had his first ever proper French breakfast. It was delicious! Apple Juice, coffee, yogurt, ham, cheese, pastries, jams, and butter. It was yum.  The hotel had 2 big dogs and a cat, and we enjoyed watching them as we ate. Why is it that the pets here are so overweight, but the people are so fit? How does that happen? The old brown lab was so chubby he looked like two of my little Penny. But he was so pretty there on the steps. I had to give him an ear scritch.

Les Chiens

We drove about an hour into Toulouse, where we walked around the old city and went to the market. It was so very beautiful. We enjoyed looking at all of the shops on the meandering streets between parks. I had expected Toulouse to be more modern, and I was glad when Samantha led us right into the middle of the old city, where we wandered the streets imaging what life would have been like 200 years ago.

Le Marche

Then we drove towards Beynac, but had a little adventure first. We saw a sign that said “Vin” and felt we needed to follow it. So we drove down many narrow country roads, following each sign, until we came to a little farm house and parked. We got out of the car and walked around, but were about to leave since we did not see anyone. Just then a woman came out and said “Bonjour!” She took us into her basement and let us taste some wine. We bought a few bottles then got back on the road, where Samantha begrudgingly “Recalculated” our route back to town.


The town we were heading for was Sarlat—a larger town about 7 km from Beynac. They were having their market, and we were surprised that we kept walking, and the market kept going! We walked and walked, checking out all the items for sale. Soon we left and went to Beynac, our home for 5 nights with Kirk, Corinne, Justin and Emma. We arrived into town, which was swarming with gaping tourists. You can understand why—the whole town, about 100 houses and a large castle, are perched on the side of a severe cliff overlooking the river. It doesn’t even seem possible that these houses can be here.

Le Petit Village

We walked up two steep footpaths to the entrance of our place, Mont Joie, and started to settle in. The property has a total of 4 flights of stairs. The first floor is the main living area, then the master suite, then the downstairs ensuite bedroom, then terrace 1, then terrace 2. So there is plenty of room to spread out. We unpacked, caught up, then went to dinner at the Restaurant Hotel du Chateux, where John and I shared a Prix Fixe menu of duck salad, venison, and cheeses.

What a lovely home, and what lovely friends to share it with. It’s going to be such a nice stay.