Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pam Iyer on the Road

Pam Iyer on the Road

This land is my land, this land is your land from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters… this land was made for running free. Pam Iyer of Fort Collins didn’t sing this modified verse when we talked, but I left with the tune in my head. That and “fitty nifty united states…from 13 original colonies…”
            Between January 2009 and June 2011, Iyer,  then 56, raced 13.1 miles or longer in every single state, beginning in Carlsbad, California and ending in Kona, Hawaii. She ran through cacti, along sea coasts, on an island, in redwood forests, in a cypress swamp, in vineyards, on horse trails, through Amish country, over covered bridges, to Hoover Dam, around Crazy Horse Monument, past banks of snow so high she couldn’t see the ocean from the coast road course, past many state capitols, and to the fifty-yard line in the Rose Bowl Stadium.
            Forty-two times she won her age group, 55-59 or 50-59 in smaller races. She won a hand-carved bird on a tall stand that she could hardly get home in the Dismal Swamp race Florida, a dog tag with her name imprinted in a Memorial Day race in Lenox, Massachusetts, a hot wheels VW bus in Michigan, and a piece of rock from Crazy Horse Monument. She ate chocolate at every aid station at the Mud and Chocolate race, was handed a flashlight to get through a mile-long tunnel in Wisconsin, zig-zagged in and out of cacti and clambered up enormous boulders in Arizona, sloshed through a downpour in Connecticut, and baked in 95-degee temperatures as she climbed endless steps in the Double Dipsea in California.
            Iyer works in the office at Rivendell School and, except during the summer months, squeezes her races into weekends. She’s learned so much about accessing cheap air fares that she feels qualified to become a travel agent. She found a $98 round-trip to Oklahoma and another time drove to California so she could fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii rather than taking the expensive flight from Denver.
            Fond memories are running the Colorado Half Marathon with her daughter, Kristin, doing her first, and completing a race in Napa Valley with Rachel Pettit, an 11-year-old student at Rivendell.
             Iyer’s fastest race was a 1:37 in Deadwood, South Dakota, her slowest is difficult to compute since several of her races were 25 k trail runs, longer than the 13.1 mile distance. But she doesn’t care much about times.  What she loved most was visiting different parts of the country, getting to know the people and the culture, and using the little time she had to see the local sights.
            In Alaska, the half-marathon started in downtown Anchorage close to the J. C. Penney’s store, but racers were warned to beware of moose once they got out of town. She ran with 8,000 others on the coast in Long Branch, New Jersey and with several dozen in Iowa—destination a town called Marathon.
            When Frank Shorter presented her award in Kona, he learned she was from Colorado and kissed her on the cheek.
            Iyer says maybe she’ll do the whole routine over again.
Update: June 25, 2014. Pam is already making her travel plans for this coming fall. She continues to do a half marathon somewhere once a month.           

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Getting out the door

Getting Out the Door

There’s  something I like to call an “annoyance barrier” that has the power to keep you from running, especially in the winter. It could be as innocuous as a question from someone close to you who says, “You’re not going out in this weather, are you?” Or you might say to yourself, “I’ll wait until this afternoon when it’s warmer.” Risky. Life is way too likely to intrude.
If you’re “over the hump,” if you’ve been running long enough to know you’re going to get in some miles this day, you may not be excited about braving the wind, but you’ll go because you need to, you want to, no matter how miserable that first mile is likely to be. After that, you know you’ll warm up, the kinks will loosen and the little aches and pains will diminish. Sometimes, to your surprise, you’ll slip into “the zone” and have a great run despite the weather.
You don’t buy it? Okay. Maybe it won’t happen like that every time, but most people who run regularly will tell you that no matter how hard it is to get out the door, they are never sorry that they went. Below are some gimmicks to pry you out of bed, into your running clothes, layer after layer if need be, and out into cold, darkness, wind, and even snow.
Make a date with a friend. Commit to showing up at a specified time and place.  You’ll be less likely to cancel when someone else is counting on you.  Fort Collins runners Cathy Morgan and Melinda Frye have been meeting at 6 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, regardless of temperature and conditions, for long enough so that it has become a sacred routine.
Plan ahead. Decide what you’re going to wear and choose your clothes the night before. Sounds silly, but it represents a tiny bit of commitment that can be helpful.
Remind yourself that a run is necessary, that it will give you energy and allow you to bring added enthusiasm to whatever task you undertake.  There’s no better time or place to problem solve. I’ve often wished that someone would invent a convenient mechanism for preserving on the spot the ideas that pop into my head out on the road.
If you’re new enough to running that it hasn’t yet become second nature, try this: In the words of long-time Fort Collins cross country coach and runner T.S. Berger, “Start slow and taper off.” Jump in your car and measure out a one-mile loop beginning at your own front door if possible. Decide how many days of the week you are going to run—at least three and perhaps as many as five, and go out and attack that mile. Start slowly. When you can’t run any longer, walk. Once you’ve caught your breath and are smiling again, begin to jog. Repeat this scenario until you’ve completed the mile. When you can run the whole mile without walking, you’re ready to add some distance, no more than five minutes’ per run.  And keep smiling. It means you’re having fun!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Battle in Seattle

The Colorado sun shone brilliantly when I came home from the Battle in Seattle. I had no war wounds. In fact, I wasn’t even sore. I was just happy to be back in the sunshine after my first cross-country running experience.
            With a Boulder Road Runners team, I competed in the United States Track and Field Association National Club Championships on December 10.  In the masters division, more than 150 women 40 and over attacked a 6k course on slick damp grass.
            Seattle-classic cloud cover and forty-degree weather called for a layer or two more than our orange and white team singlets, plus gloves and hats for the wimps among us. But spirits ran high as the masters men competed followed by men’s and women’s open divisions (under age 40).
            By 5 p.m. it was standing room only in the ballroom at the Seattle Renaissance Hotel. Individual and team winners received rowdy cheers, applause and medals for their accomplishments. A celebratory dinner completed a memorable evening.
There’s a camaraderie among those committed to most any sport that makes one thankful for the existence of human community. Running is no exception. It took a huge number of dedicated people to pull off the USATF event at such a professional level.  The last minute details were tended to in damp, nasty conditions. Volunteers along the course shouted encouragement to runners all day long.
I jumped at the opportunity to go to Seattle, because of the meet, but also because I have connections there.  My grandson Adam, newly-graduated from college, recently moved to Seattle.  I crashed on his couch for a few nights. During my stay, I came to appreciate the graceful way he and his two roommates approach jobs, graduate school, keeping house, and living harmoniously together. In their neighborhood, we ate pizza at Tutti Bella, and saw A Child’s Christmas in Wales at Stone Soup Theatre.  We hung out for a while at an Ultimate Frisbee tournament where Adam and his girlfriend, Allison, played with great enthusiasm.
 I once in lived in Seattle, and after nearly fifty years, I’m still in touch with long-time friends from my days at Queen Anne High School. I was in town long enough to catch up with their lives and reminisce over a long lazy lunch overlooking Puget Sound. Saturday evening the generations came together as one of my high school friends and her husband entertained Allison, Adam, and me for a festive beef bourguignonne dinner.
            What does this rambling have to do with running?  I’d like to suggest that should an opportunity arise to participate in a running event in a place where you have a history, or that you’re curious about, or where you have special friends-GO!  Don’t talk yourself out of it because you don’t have time, it’s too expensive, or it’s a whole lot of trouble to pack up and travel.
The memories you come home with will far outweigh any travel hassles you may encounter. Wherever you go, when you come home, you’ll be grateful for the Colorado sun.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Running Life


It’s a question I’m asked with great regularity, especially by people I haven’t seen for a while. It’s a way to break the ice—an easy conversation starter. Yet there’s a smarty little part of me that wants to answer, “Are you still brushing your teeth?” Now, that’s not very nice, but what I’d really like to say is, “Yes, I am still running, because after 40 years, it’s as much a part of my day as brushing my teeth, and honestly, I hope to keep on running until the day I can no longer hoist a toothbrush  to my mouth.
I didn’t run in high school or college or during the years when my children were very young. But when I turned 35, I read an article about how the “first hundred miles are the hardest,” and I began to run. I did it in the dark, in time to be home to get four kids off to school, and because in the early seventies, women who ran were enough of an oddity that it was best done in the dark. Only four or five years earlier, Kathryn Switzer registered with initials only, wore a hooded sweatshirt, and hid in the bushes because women were not allowed in the Boston Marathon. In 1980 when I ran in Boston, there was a qualifying time for women over 40 only because I wrote to the race director and asked what he had against older women. Will Clooney wrote back and said that if I could run a 3:30 marathon, I’d be welcome in Boston. I did it with 30 seconds to spare.
My one mile-every-day jaunts in the dark ended after I entered my first race at age 40, a 10k.  I had a little success, and for the first time in my life, realized that maybe I was competitive, and maybe that was okay. Because I came to running late, my competition has always been with myself, to see how well I can do. It’s one of the many things I love about the sport. More often than not, runners offer encouragement when they pass each other. As recently as last September I was helped to run a faster than expected 10-mile time because of a stranger who helped me out by setting a speedy pace and sticking with me.
Running isn’t a sport that suits everyone, but for me it provides an uncomplicated way to stay in shape, enjoy fresh air every day, maintain a decent weight, and be in touch with a whole community of people who feel the same way. Races get the adrenaline going, and are often a chance to visit new places and meet new friends.
As the years go by, I am ever more grateful for the benefits of running and for the fact that I can still do it. I now have the pleasure of running with grandchildren. It doesn’t get any better than that.  I look forward to sharing some running experiences and a few tips for getting started and staying committed to my favorite sport in future columns.