beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

For the last four years, Henry has been adding to and selecting from his pool of honeybee genetics all originating from feral, Pacific Northwest-adapted colonies. In order to propagate those genetics as well as maintain and increase his hive numbers, he started grafting his own queens last year. Grafting queens takes a lot of time, effort, skill, and bees, so it’s not really an activity for hobby beekeepers.  There are many other methods of creating new hives that work well on a smaller scale.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

To begin grafting, Henry starts his truck and lets it idle with the doors shut and the heat on full blast. When the interior air is preheated to about 90°, he selects a frame of brood with less-than-a-day-old larvae occupying the cells from a hive with preferred genetics. He gently sweeps off the adhering bees, and quickly moves the frame into the hot cab of his truck wrapped in a warm, moist towel if it’s particularly windy or cold. The larvae won’t make viable queens if they get chilled or dried out even for a brief time.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

In the hot truck with the doors closed and dripping with sweat, Henry uses a Chinese grafting tool to select tiny larvae from the cells.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Good lighting is essential for this task because the larvae are tiny and translucent.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

He gently but quickly scoops one up along with a bit of royal jelly that’s been left in the cell to feed the new larva.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

For grafting, he uses JZ-BZ queen cups and a cell bars available here.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Then he inserts the larvae into a queen cup and quickly covers it with a warm, damp towel.

Once each queen cup contains a young larva, he attaches two full cell bars to a special frame. He then inserts the frame into middle of the top box of the prepared queenless hive. Each cell builder colony receives two frames of queen cups for a total of 60 potential grafted queen cells.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

To configure a cell builder hive, Henry selects a colony that’s swarm prepping by building lots of queen cells. These hives will accept more queen cells and provide them with ample royal jelly, which is critical to raising good queens.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Henry goes through the hive and pulls out all the capped brood frames with adhering bees to put in the cell builder box. The cell builder hive needs an abundance of emerging bees at all times because newly hatched workers act as nurse bees. These nurse bees (less than three days old) are the only ones capable of producing a secretion called royal jelly. All larvae are fed a tiny bit of royal jelly early on, but queen cells must be packed with the stuff while the cups are being drawn out so that the queen larvae are literally floating in royal jelly. The consumption of lots of royal jelly is what physiologically differentiates queens from worker bees.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

While going through the frames, Henry is also looking for the queen in the hive, and he will destroy any queen cells he finds on the comb.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkbeekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

When he finds the queen, he puts her in a queen cage and sets her aside to be added to another hive later.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

The cell builder box with many frames of capped brood and lots of adhering bees but no queen is placed on a bottom board. Because the hive is so cramped, the bees will feel an intense biological urge to reproduce, so they will readily accept a large number of queen cells and care for them well.

Each cell builder hive is fed so that there’s an excess of food resources available at all times.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

About a week after placing the queen cells in the cell builder, Henry goes through the hive and eliminates any emergency queen cells the workers may have built on the comb. You can see a little Instagram video of this here (but please excuse a brief bit of foul language as I get stung in the face).

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Exactly 10 days after grafting, the capped queen cells are ready to be removed and placed in waiting mating nucs (small, queenless hives). The queen cells must be removed before any queens hatch or else the first virgin to emerge will destroy the other queen cells and/or fight with other hatching queens.

After pulling out a queen cell frame, he gently brushes some of the adhering bees off the queen cells.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

One at a time, he plucks the queen cells off the bar.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkbeekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkgrafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

These queen cells still have an excess of unconsumed royal jelly in the top, which means the queens have been provided with an abundant quantity of food while developing.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkgrafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Raising queens in Oregon, even with really good spring weather, is iffy. Henry has had grafts where 100% of the queen cells fully developed, but the average is more like 60%.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Before removing the queen cells, he’s already prepared queenless mating nucs to receive the queen cells. He pulls off the lids to ready them for the unhatched queen.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkgrafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward SparkHe plugs the queen cell in between two frames.

The queen should hatch within a few days and then proceed on her mating flight within the next two weeks when weather allows.

Henry will check the hives that receive new queens 30 days later to ensure that they are queenright with a healthy brood pattern. For a number of reasons, some grafts will fail or the queens will fail to mate and therefore be unable to lay eggs for new worker brood. Currently, about 70% of queen cells that are placed go on to be fully functioning, mated queens. Success rates go up for queens grafted during warmer weather.

If you would like to order an Old Blue queen particularly adapted to the environs of the Pacific Northwest, email Henry at oldblueseedco@gmail.com. He has a limited quantity available for local pickup starting next week through the end of August.

{ 5 comments }

{this moment}

May 16, 2014 · 6 comments

honeybee swarm in a tangle of poison-oak // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 6 comments }

kale family photo // Wayward Spark

My kids aren’t perfect eaters. Levi isn’t into carrots or oranges (except satsuma mandarins). Charlotte doesn’t like eggs or most kinds of beans. Neither one would touch a salad. But when it comes to kale, raw kale straight off the plant, they can’t get enough of it.

They have this thing called dinosaur kale eaters, which is pretty much what it sounds like. They pretend they’re dinosaurs, and they attack their prey with lots of rabid, growly noises. It’s kinda awesome.

kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark flowering kale // Wayward Spark

{ 9 comments }

{this moment}

May 2, 2014 · 2 comments

front porch clawfoot tup // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 2 comments }

honeybee brood comb // Wayward Spark

American foulbrood is a bacterial disease that has plagued domestic and feral honeybees around the world for centuries. Infected larvae die off and then begin to rot in the capped cells, and the disease spreads quickly within the hive and then to surrounding hives. Many beekeepers preemptively treat their bees with antibiotics and other chemicals to suppress American foulbrood, but those treatments can also have negative health effects on bees by messing with their digestive systems and making them more susceptible to other diseases. Treatments never completely cure American foulbrood, and bacteria can persist in the hives for a very long time. If beekeepers ever stop treating infected hives, the disease will roar back with devastating consequences for the whole apiary.

Some honeybee colonies can fight off American foulbrood infections on their own. In such cases, the disease will kill off some larvae, but workers will move in quickly to clean out the cells and cannibalize the dead larvae, reducing or eliminating the hive’s exposure to the disease. In that manner, the super organism can survive. This is called “hygienic” behavior and is a desirable trait for domestic honeybees.

Henry’s bees have been exposed to American foulbrood (as are any honeybees that join the massive effort to pollinate California’s almond crop), but he has never observed an outbreak in his hives. He is not currently treating his bees with any American foulbrood-fighting pharmaceuticals (or any other chemicals). It is pretty much inevitable, however, that one day sooner or later some of his hives will be infected. To prepare for that day, he has been selecting for hygienic traits so that his bees will hopefully be able to beat the disease before it takes hold.

To aide in his genetic selection process, Henry uses freeze-brood hygienic testing to evaluate his breeder hives’ hygienic traits. The test mimics American foulbrood by killing a concentrated area of brood, and then a beekeeper can observe how quickly and efficiently the bees clean up the mess. This year, he tested his 20 queen-mother hives, the results of two years of selection and the source of his future apiary’s genetics.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

To do the test, he first pulls a frame of solid, capped brood from the hive.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

He shakes the bees off the frame and sets it aside.

liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Sparkliquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Spark

He pours 10 mL of liquid nitrogen into a styrofoam cup.

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Spark

He presses a piece of PVC pipe into the comb…

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Spark

…and pours in a little liquid nitrogen. He waits until it freezes a seal around the base of the pipe to prevent leakage.

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Then he pours the rest of the liquid nitrogen into the pipe.

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkusing liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

He waits until all the liquid nitrogen sublimates and then waits some more until the comb thaws. He pulls out the PVC pipe, marks the tested frame, and adds it back to the hive.

hygienic testing of honeybees with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Twenty-four hours later, he pull the tested frame back out.

hygienic testing of honeybees with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

The photo above is exactly what he wants to see. The bees have removed 100% of the frozen larvae, cleaned out the cells, and started storing nectar and pollen in the empty cells. Three out of 20 of Henry’s breeder hives performed the task perfectly. Others ranged from 10-80% removal.

Hygienic behavior is only one out of 20 or so traits that he selects for. With beekeeping and queen selection, the vast number of known and unknown variables makes it impossible to successfully abide by hard and fast rules. These test results are just an indicator of hygienic behavior, and under different circumstances, the worst performing hives could do better and the best performing hives could do worse. It’s standard to do this test at least twice for each hive to get a slightly wider sample size. Henry may or may not do another round of testing, but he feels like his observations of other colony traits are more valuable information than this specific test.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

In other news…

The hive as a super organism wants nothing more than to reproduce and pass along its genetics, so as soon as workers begin bringing in natural pollen and nectar in the spring, hives start setting up to reproduce by raising many drones and preparing to swarm.  Most beekeepers consider inevitable drone production to be a waste of energy for the colony because male drones don’t forage, guard the hive, or take care of baby bees like female workers, but Henry manipulates and replicates the honeybees’ natural cycles and allows room for his hives to raise drones. Drones won’t mate with queens from their hive of origin, but each virgin queen will copulate with up to 20 drones on her mating flight (likely the only flight of her life). Encouraging a robust drone population in breeder hives increases the chances that Henry’s drones with selected genetics will mate with Henry’s virgin queens (also with selected genetics) in his isolated mating yards, especially early in the mating season when feral drones aren’t flying yet.

Henry added the frame in the photo above to the hive about four days before this photo was taken except that it was only just a rectangular wood frame with the 1/4″ “starter strip” of wood at the very top. In four days, the bees drew out and started filling the whole sheet of drone comb.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

The black plastic frame above was added to a hive about a week before this photo was taken. The white is freshly drawn comb on small-cell foundation. The bees’ ability to draw comb quickly and evenly is generally a desirable trait in honeybees.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Unseasonably good spring foraging weather and nectar curing conditions have allowed the bees to produce a significant amount of early bigleaf maple honey.

honeybee on comb // Wayward Spark

Here’s a bee hanging out on some brood comb.

DIY honeybee queen transport container // Wayward Spark

This is one of Henry’s really classy queen transport containers. If you’re interested in buying Henry’s Oregon-adapted queens for your own hive(s), email oldbluedeedco@gmail.com. He’ll have them available in limited quantities starting in mid-May. Local pick-up only.

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rhubarb chutney from Marisa McClellan's Preserving by the Pint // Wayward Spark

So many good things are coming to life this spring. For starters, RHUBARB (!) and the new cookbook, Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan!! The stars must have aligned just right so that I could dive into this recipe collection by starting off with our newly grown stalks of spring rhubarb in Marisa’s mustardy rhubarb chutney.

You’ve heard me refer Wayward Spark readers over to Marisa’s indispensable blog, Food in Jars, about a million times. It’s one of those spaces that has great recipes as well as in-depth discussions of canning techniques, safety concerns, and beginner tips. Marisa is a great teacher as well as a great recipe developer, and she’s been sharing everything she knows for five years on her (critically acclaimed!) blog.

I  own and love Marisa’s first book, Food in Jars, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of her second book, Preserving by the Pint, to see what else she had up her sleeve. Now that I have it in my hands, I will tell you why you should buy this book:

  • It’s super pretty–nice design, nice photos, easy-to-use layout.
  • The seasonally-organized recipes show amazing creativity, but they’re not fussy or complicated or full of expensive/hard-to-find ingredients. 
  • There are tons of resources for folks who have never done any canning before, but there’s also plenty to learn for folks who have done a lot of canning in the past. 
  • Marisa is a self-employed writer and preservation educator who has been offering up hundreds of recipes and tons of general information FOR FREE on her blog. The only way this model is sustainable in the long run is for us, the content consumers, to occasionally buck up and support content producers with actual dollars. Buying Marisa’s book is one way you can show your appreciation for all she does and to plant the seed for her future endeavors. I know people don’t talk about this a lot, but I think it’s pretty darn important in today’s media landscape.

Marisa is also touring all over the country with book-signing events as well as cooking classes. You can see her full schedule here. She’ll be in Oregon, her old stompin’ grounds, in June, and I am definitely planning on attending one of her events. I gotta say that I am stoked to finally be able to meet her face to face!

rhubarb // Wayward Spark

There are four rhubarb-centric recipes in the cookbook: Rosemary-Rhubarb Jelly, Rhubarb and Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Oven-Roasted Rhubarb Compote, and Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney. It was not easy to decide which one to try out first, but the chutney sounded unusual but approachable, so I went for it.

If you gave me a spoonful of this stuff with no backstory or other information, I don’t think I’d guess the main ingredient was rhubarb (so if you’re looking for something quintessentially rhubarb-y, I would try one of Marisa’s other recipes first). It is, however, delicious. Sweet, dark, tangy, and spicy with plenty of plumped up mustard seeds for some pleasant crunching. I’d put it in a loose category alongside barbecue sauce. Actually it’s a bit reminiscent of Marisa’s tomato jam. Marisa recommends pairing it with goat cheese and crackers, but I’m dying to try it out on a burger (meat or veggie). We also had dollops of it with rice, dal, cilantro, and corn relish the other night, a combo I really enjoyed.

Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney

from Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan

yeild: 4-5 half pints

1 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 small onion, minced
3/4 cup dried currants
1 1/2 cup packed, dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (I had a hard time finding the Aleppo pepper in the original recipe, so I subbed in hot red pepper flakes with great results)

 

Combine all the ingredients in a wide, nonreactive pot, place it over high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it bubbles, lower the heat to medium, and simmer gently, stirring regularly until slightly thickened.

As the chutney gets closer to done, make sure to stir it every minute or so to prevent scorching. You’ll know the chutney is finished cooking when you can pull your spoon through the liquid, and the space you’ve created doesn’t fill in immediately.

At this point, you can store the chutney in the refrigerator or can it to make it shelf stable for future use.

To can the chutney, funnel it into prepared, sterilized jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

fresh rhubarb // Wayward Spark

The Giveaway!

The good folks at Running Press have offered up a copy of Preserving by the Pint for one of you lovely readers. To enter, leave a comment with one of your favorite things to preserve or something new that you’d like to try preserving with a link to the recipe if you have one. You are welcome (encouraged!) to spread the word about this giveaway, but only one entry per person, please. US residents only. Entries are open until Friday, May 2 at 11:59 pm. A winner will be picked at random and announced next Saturday.

The giveaway is now closed. The randomly chosen winner is Brittany, a plum chutney fan.

My personal copy and the giveaway copy of Preserving by the Pint were provided by Running Press, but as always, the opinions and endorsements stated here are my own. 

{ 74 comments }

{this moment}

April 25, 2014 · 2 comments

beekeeping // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 2 comments }

Red Onion Woodworks

 Well, I FINALLY finished a pile of new cutting and serving boards for my shop. It’s been way too long since I added anything new, but apparently the winter/early spring just passed by in a haze of barbecue baking, kindergartener schlepping, half-marathon training, and Friday Night Lights binge watching. Or something like that.

But here they are, and let me tell you, they are pretty! I unearthed a secret stash of extra thick, super burly boards, the kind that everyone is always asking me about. I still have a few more burly ones to finish up, but this stock is extremely limited. Otherwise it’s kind of a random assortment as usual. There are more in the pipeline, so stay tuned if you don’t see what you want just yet.

Click the photos to see the boards for sale, and use the coupon code “SPRING10″ for 10% off your order through April 27. Happy spring!

Red Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion Woodworks

{ 2 comments }

{this moment}

April 18, 2014 · 0 comments

Oregon country road in spring // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 0 comments }

794th Place

April 14, 2014 · 10 comments

Camille Storch // Wayward Spark

I did it! 13.1 miles in 2 hours 18 minutes 39 seconds. (I don’t really want you to do the math, but I know you will, so I’ll just tell you that’s 10:35/mile.) In the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of good advice about running in general and running long races specifically in blog comments, on Instagram, and in person, so thank you to everyone who contributed. In addition to tips and stories, many folks told me to “Have fun!” Every time I read or heard that before the race, I silently responded, “Yeah right!” I did not sign up for this race to have fun, and I was prepared to not have any fun at all. I’m going to have to apologize to everyone I scoffed at because the actual event turned out to be, for the most part, a genuinely good time. Here are a random assortment of thoughts on the race:

I got really nervous for no good reason at home on the morning of the race. By the time I parked at the race location, however, I wasn’t nervous anymore. I got there pretty early and didn’t have much to do besides use the bathroom. The OSU marching band played at the starting line for about 20 minutes before the race, which was nice because it gave me something to focus on. It would have been nicer to use that time to chat with a friend, but I was on my own and didn’t run into anyone I knew.

I got a lot of advice ahead of time telling me to start out really slowly because I would feel an impulse to get going too fast with all the adrenaline and energy of other runners. Well, I listened to the advice and went REALLY slowly for the first three miles. The organizers had participants congregate behind the start line by estimated minutes/mile pace, and I found a spot near the 11 sign, but after the race started, hundreds of people seemed to pass me in the first couple miles. Thankfully, I didn’t have much of an ego about getting passed early on, and it was actually comforting to know that there were still hundreds of people behind me. After I was good and warmed up around mile 3, I passed quite a few more people than passed me for the rest of the race. (In the comments of my last post about running, Melissa shared a pretty inspiring story about almost coming in last in a half marathon.)

I was surprised by how many people were walking, especially in the first few miles. I would imagine that some intended to walk/run the race, but many didn’t look like their walking was planned. I was also surprised by how many people walked for a while but still finished ahead of me. Except for a few steps through each water station, I didn’t walk at all.

Sunday’s weather forecast called for temperatures in the 70s, and the race didn’t start until 9:30 am. Because all of my longer training runs were in cool/cold rainy/cloudy/frosty weather, I was more than a little concerned about dealing with heat. Thankfully, there was a nice breeze through most of the race, so I really didn’t start to feel overly warm or thirsty until about mile 10, and even then, it wasn’t too bad. Overall, the day was truly beautiful, and the course was super scenic.

I wore loose shorts and a basic cotton T-shirt for the race. I don’t have anything against sport/performance clothing, but I just don’t own any specially designed shirts, and I didn’t want to go out and buy one right before the race and run without testing it out. I heard a lot of horror stories from runners ahead of time about various kinds of chaffing and was recommended to lube up various body parts pre-race to prevent such chaffing. I also was concerned that I was going to be a sweaty monster after a couple of miles in warm weather. Fortunately, the breeze seemed to evaporate a lot of sweat, and my shirt worked out fine. I had a very minor amount of inner thigh/undie chaffing (TMI?), but it didn’t turn into anything serious.

In my training runs, I never ate anything or even drank any water, but in the comments of my last post about running, several people I trust mentioned this food stuff called Gu. I ended up buying some (at the local running store where the sales guy was super nice and spent a whole lot of time explaining all the different brands, flavors, and types of “performance nutrition” foods), but before the race, I decided that I probably wouldn’t be able to choke it down, and I didn’t want to try anything too new and crazy for the first time during the race. Then my friend Erin recommended Sharkies ”Organic Energy Sports Chews”. They’re basically glorified gummy bears. I ate a couple the night before the race and decided they might be bearable to eat while running, so I pinned a little baggie of them into my shorts kinda like this. (Thanks for the link, Rachel!) Around mile 8, I ate one not because I was hungry or particularly tired, but I thought it was about the right time to do such a thing. It was not unpleasant to eat (though it did gum up in my teeth a whole lot), but after the first one, I decided that I didn’t really want to eat any more. I also skipped out on the Gatorade and just drank the water offered along the way.

My nose ran like a faucet through the whole race. This happened in training runs, but I always blamed it on cold weather. Though it wasn’t a major issue, I did wipe about a quart of snot on the neck of my T-shirt, but it dried nicely in the breeze. Gross, I know. I’m not sure what the runny nose was all about because I don’t have allergies, and I don’t often have nasal issues as I go about my life in general.

The hardest mile was 7-8 because it was all up a slight incline. The longest, warmest, least motivated, least pleasant miles were definitely 11-13. I was kinda hoping that my slow start would allow me to have an extra energetic last few miles, but by that time, I was just working on getting to the end. Could I have run faster? Yes, but there wasn’t really any reason for me to “leave it all on the course.” I crossed the finish line, met up with my mom and kids who were watching, and didn’t feel like barfing or collapsing. I was tired, for sure, but I managed to stay upright for the rest of the day, walking, stretching, and even doing a little light housework.

The not-very-surprising miracle was that my training totally worked. Once I started running, I felt totally prepared. The thought of quitting or walking never even crossed my mind. Today, the day after, I’m a little sore but still wholly functional. It’s kinda crazy to think that just six months ago, I was gasping and wheezing during a two-mile jog.

One of the most interesting parts of participating in a run with over 1,600 other people is that I got to see a lot of different types of people running. I passed folks that looked way sportier than me, and I was passed by folks that looked less sporty than me. I used to get embarrassed when I thought about how slowly I ran, but there were lots of people in this race that ran even slower than me. The simple fact that I did this thing somehow makes me feel more entitled to be out there running on a regular basis, occasionally being seen by people when I can’t easily hide from them. Does that make sense?

So what’s next? I’m not sure. Levi’s teacher was trying to talk me into signing up for the Portland Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in May (probably not), and my friend Kara recommended the Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon in October. (I’ll consider it.) My friend Erin told me that running the Hood to Coast relay was one of the most fun experiences of her life, so if anyone needs an extra (slow) runner on their team for this year, let me know. The one thing that sort of solidified for me during the race is that I don’t think I’d like to run a whole marathon anytime soon. I think with proper training I COULD run a whole marathon, but I don’t think it would be very pleasant, and I definitely don’t want to devote such an enormous chunk of my life to the training. This race made me feel pretty successful in my running, and I would like to keep it up. That said, I’m also seriously considering buying a bike after not owning one for many years. It’s a good thing to change it up a little every once in a while, right?

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