A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles… and buses and subways…

I LOVE New York! I love the energy there! Don’t know if I’d love it that much if I lived there for many years, but I like to think so.

New York City is a different sort of adventure than the outdoor settings that I typically enjoy. It is an an adventure never the less. Getting around on the public transportation system? The New York system may look confusing to the average suburbanite, but since I’ve been able to get around public transport in foreign countries, I have a reasonable amount of confidence getting around NYC. Besides, if I have a problem, I can always ask directions, and usually get a reply in English! What’s the problem?!

I’m finding that the more places I go, the busier I get, the more stories there are to tell. The problem is that the busier I get the less time I have to write the stories. I’m learning to find my voice here in this blog.



Firecracker! July/August ’08

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I’ve had a great relaxing time for a couple of weeks in July staying at a cabin in Wears Valley, just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains . If you have ever visited, then you know why this park carries that name. The photo at right was taken from the porch of the cabin where I stayed, looking down into the valley.

I hiked, ran Cades Cove loop (closed to traffic Wed & Sat mornings), ran on the trails, and backpacked for a total 162 miles in 2 weeks. I also chilled out on the porch, read, soaked in peace and quiet, and other sorts of good things to do on vacation. I even went to Dollywood! Yee-Haw!

I slept in a tent pitched on the deck of the cabin. So I got all the benefits of outdoor camping (nature sounds, fresh air, rain pelting the tent) with all the amenities of modern life (plumbing, jacuzzi, well-stocked kitchen).

Question 1: What does one do when hiking along an isolated trail by a stream and one finds the most perfect skinny-dipping place? Why, the natural thing, of course! It was wonderful! A low, gentle waterfall, a deep pool, cool water, mossy rocks to put your stuff and dry off on. So fresh!

Question 2: What is worse than coming across a bear when hiking by yourself? Coming across a baby bear when you don’t know where the mama bear is! WHEW! When this happened, I just backed up, made lots of noise, prayed, and waited. Then I just kept going! Fortunately, these Black bears don’t normally see people as food (unlike other bears). Over the 2 weeks I was there I saw a total of 11 bears!

I don’t have any profound conclusions or epiphanies from my reflections to share with you. I just had a great time resting. Although covering as much ground as I did may not sound like rest, my mind is more free when my body is occupied in movement. As I passed through isolated sections of the forest, I was reminded to look for, to feel, if you will, the Deep Magic of Aslan (from Chronicles of Narnia). It truly feels like a magical place.

The Reads: I did read Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and I highly recommend it! I also read through the book of James most mornings. I’m still not done with that book – still getting stuff out of it. I’m also still working my way through Prayer by Richard Foster.

Pics: I’m not the best at remembering to take my camera, or even remembering to take photos when I actually have my camera, but I’ve posted new photos up on my Flickr page, which you can access on the right hand side.

Next: Currently I’m in Birmingham, AL for the weekend as I start another travel stint. I’m still hoping to return to China by early October, but this is now visa-dependent. We hold these things lightly, don’t we?

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Calgary Marathon

Headline News: Katherine Tanks, Wins with Attitude

The finisher medal for the Calgary International Marathon, was a belt buckle! Of course! Calgary is cowboy country! The race course headed right through the Calgary Stampede grounds, through the Calgary zoo (yes, say hello to the monkeys and lions), over hills and through suburbs and trails to a park and back downtown. It is the most beautiful marathon I’ve done so far, and also the friendliest.

If it was the best marathon I have done, it was also my worst. I started out right on my goal time (3:30) and hitting those splits every km and I was still at personal record (PR) pace at the half, but I was struggling and I knew it. I just didn’t know how badly I was struggling. I had to walk so often – I usually don’t walk at all. I had to set a goal that I wouldn’t walk the last 5K – and I made that! My finish time was 3:58:31.

It just wasn’t my day. Sure, I could throw out lots of excuses: too much travel lately, too much eating out, mp3 player died 2 days prior to the race, high altitude, etc. But there are no good ones. I just didn’t have it in me on Sunday. But the physical struggle was nothing compared with the battle for my attitude. Those who know me just a little know that I’m a competitive person (understated). I don’t do anything athletic “just for fun”, even if I start intending to have fun, such as playing golf with my dad. I certainly don’t run a marathon just for fun. There is too much work and time that goes into that preparation that I have to race it and I want a PR every time I run a marathon because I know that I can run so much better than I have been doing the last couple of years.

As it was becoming clear that I was not only NOT going to get my goal time, NOT even get a PR, and may not even break 4 hours, and as my body was resisting, negativity started to seep, and then flood into my psyche and I could have been overwhelmed.

I started to think about what it really means to enjoy myself at this time running in so much pain. What did it feel like to run my first marathon – going back to the “first love” idea. I kept looking around and being grateful for getting such a beautiful place to run. I focused on my form. I absorbed encouragement from the spectators better than I absorbed my Clif Shots. I kept a smile on my face (or was that a grimace?). I started to feel happy and grateful for the opportunity and that I can pull off this marathon. I also started looking forward to the ultramarathon (50k) I want to do in September and that this is just a train-through to prep for that! Yeah, I’m in love!

The week prior to the marathon, I was encouraged by the Narnia movie “Prince Caspian” where Aslan wakens the trees and causes them to move to destroy the enemy. Well, if God can move trees – and I believe that he can – then he can move my legs and lungs to move in miraculous ways as well. I was hopeful. I have done the best that could do in my prep so far. Perhaps God would move me a little better? Although he didn’t move me the way that I had wanted him too, he moved me just the same.

Ya gotta get to the start line first!

The story of the marathon starts July 4, when I traveled to Calgary. I almost missed my flight! For some reason – perhaps I have been chronically jet-lagged the last couple of months – I mixed up the times in my head. I told my friend that she could pick me up at 7:40am for an 8:20am flight. What the @#%*!! was i thinkin’?! I discovered the brain lapse at about 7:30am. Fortunately it was 7:30am on July 4, which meant that I could go Mock 2 down 28th St, stopping (just) at traffic lights, and moving on. I pulled up to valet parking as my friend met me there to deal with my car as I ran off to the gate. No checked baggage, DIY check-in kiosk, and I made it to the gate as they were seating the passengers! WHEW! Of course, I still had a breakdown as I realized what a mess I’ve really been recently and how much I need a break.

I finally checked into the dorm at University of Calgary 12 hours later and crashed. The next day, all I had to to was pick up my race packet, find a grocery for food, and rest. This I did and it felt great!

Marathon is over, Stampede has just started

After the marathon, after I recovered my head and could walk (literally), I rushed back to the dorm to shower and change and go on to the RODEO! The Calgary Stampede is probably the largest rodeo and stageshow in the world. It was amazing and if I didn’t know that I would otherwise not ever wear a cowboy hat (except in Texas), I would have bought one! I’m not usually a festival/carnival person, but this was actually fun. It could also be post-race giddiness carrying me through Monday’s events as well.

In Calgary, I also got to watch world-class speed skaters practice in the Olympic Oval at the U of Calgary. I also made friends with Chinese and Thai people as I sat with them at events and on commuter trains speaking their native languages. I love that they love the cowgirl outfits and got all decked out! Sunday night I enjoyed a great dinner with Man-Chiu Poon and his wife Vivian. They are both Chinese doctors living in Calgary but remain quite active in developing young doctors (hematology in particular) in mainland China. Dr Poon was instrumental in helping me sort out care and treatment for Hosanna, the orphan girl I’ve been telling you about. This was the first time we have been able to meet in person – I certainly expect to continue collaboration with him in the future!

No photos, please

Sorry, people – no photos of Calgary or marathon or anything. I couldn’t be bothered to take my camera – I didn’t think I’d see much to take photos of (another brain lapse), and I certainly can’t take photos of myself running a marathon. So no pics. Next time, come with me to the marathon so I can have someone take photos of me. I’ll let you know if there are any of the professional photos of me worth purchasing.