Friday, December 19, 2008

What A Day!

Well, once again, I've learned that the idea of success can definitely be relative. Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Yes and no. My goal was essentially twofold- 1) to help out the Seattle Public Library system by spreading the word about the amazing resources that we have all over the city here in Seattle, and to encourage folks to pay a visit to their local library, and 2) to that end- to run to all 27 branches and get my passport stamped at each one.

Obviously yesterday was not the most idyllic of days to tackle an adventure like this, with the snow coming down essentially all day long and below freezing temps all day. However, I had made a plan to do the run on yesterday, and with a day job flexibility to change my days wasn't really an option. So I went for it despite the weather, and had a wonderful day in a beautiful winter wonderland. The media was very supportive and helpful in getting the word out with a nice article in the Seattle Times, an interview on KIRO radio, and a story on KOMO 4 News last night, a feature on the Seattle Public Library website, and who knows what else. The support along the way was also incredible- from my friend Michael who documented the day and gave me pumpkin pie for a treat mid-way through, to a brand new friend Zack who joined me out of the blue for a lengthy chunk of the day, to all the fantastic support from the librarians I met at each amazing branch of the libraries. All in all, it was a wonderful day, and despite not totally making it with goal #2, I feel like goal #1 went swimmingly well, and I hope that Seattleites are more excited to go check out their library today than they were just a few days ago. Given all the bad news of late with our economy in bad shape, etc., I thought a bit of good news would be nice. We definitely need to count our blessings and be thankful for all we do have, and the libraries are certainly one of those things I'm thankful for.

So, on to the blow by blow of the day (though briefly) if you care to read on. The day started out with a bit of unfortunate news, and that was that the libraries would all be opening late (noon instead of their usual 10am opening), but knowing it would be a time crunch to make it to all 27 in 10 hours, I decided to press on as planned and just snap photos at branches until I could start getting my passport stamped. I started with a short run from home to the Broadview branch, then on to Lake City, Northgate, and back to Greenwood. At Greenwood I got my first passport stamp, so that was really fun. Then on to Greenlake, Wedgewood, University, and Wallingford branches. As I was running down Stone Way, Zack appeared out of the blue and asked if I'd like a bit of company. I of course said absolutely, and the miles passed very quickly as we talked for quite a few miles. We made it to Fremont, Ballard, over the locks to Magnolia (with a short pumpkin pie break thanks to Michael), then up to Queen Anne. Zack headed home at that point, and I braved the Queen Anne Ave. hill as I headed for the downtown branch. I arrived there about 4pm I think, and upon arrival learned that all the branches would be closing early at 4:30pm. Bummer, and at that point I was very torn about what to do- continue on the planned route in the dark as the conditions got more and more icy to a bunch of libraries that would be closed, or go for an amended route at this point. I opted for what I figured would be the safer/smarter option and cut out going to the West Seattle and South Seattle branches. I went down to the Int'l District branch and got there just before closing. As the cold was intensifying, I put on some tights, an extra layer on top, an extra pair of gloves, and pushed on in the blustery cold. I pressed on and snapped photos at the Douglass-Truth branch, Madrona, Capitol Hill, and finally the Montlake branch around 6:30pm. Somewhere along the way I realized my hydration pack was frozen solid so fluid intake was no longer an option, but then again I wasn't exactly sweating. With the dicey roads, I just continued north from Montlake and ran on back towards home in the Broadview area. All told it was probably about a 50 mile day, but a really fun journey indeed. I may attempt this again in January sometime since I missed seeing a good chunk of the branches this time, but won't guarantee anything at this point. I'll definitely get to the other branches at some point though and finish up my passport stamps.

Answers to the 2 most common questions I've gotten since/during yesterday's run;

-What were you wearing/how did you not slip?
I am very fortunate to be sponsored by a great company that makes excellent running gear (The North Face), and had just the right gear to be well-equipped for yesterday's weather. I wore pretty basic layers on top with a great waterproof hooded shell called the Diad, wore just normal comfy running shorts (tights would've been too warm), and had the perfect shoe for the weather- the Chinscrapers, which have great traction even on the slippery snow and feature a water resistant membrane through the upper which kept my feet warm and dry all day long.

-What on earth did you eat?
I must confess that my nutritional intake was pretty atrocious yesterday, and my wife (a dietitian at Children's Hospital) was appalled to hear what I'd eaten all day when I finally got home last night. Typically I'm far better about keeping up with my nutrition during a run like this, but I think with the cold weather my body just kind of went into hibernation mode. My best meal of the day was just before I started. I woke up very early yesterday in order to start the work day at about 4am so I could be done with work before starting to run at 10. I had a big bowl of oatmeal just before I started at 10, which sustained me for quite a while. Through the rest of the day all I had was a handful of gels, some sports drink (before it froze in my hydration pack), a small slice of pumpkin pie (thanks to Michael), and a candy bar. I refueled in earnest when I got back home last night though, and felt relatively fine throughout the day despite my careless eating.

Well, that's about it- that's the day in a nutshell I guess. It was an incredibly fun adventure and all in all a very successful day, and a great day for visiting the libraries. All told I visited 19 libraries and got 11 stamps yesterday- a good run in the snow for a hot weather guy from Mississippi. I think I may just stay inside where it's warm today though and maybe spend a bit of time on the old treadmill instead of another day in the cold. Thanks to everyone for all your support and encouragement yesterday, and hope to see you soon- either at the library or on the trails!


Ross P said...

Very inspirational. I like your logic to do something positive in light of the current negative economic news and all the negative news in general for that matter. I enjoyed seeing the coverage in the Seattle times too. Way to go and way to promote on of my favorite things in this city, the libraries! I like to utilize the online catalog and have things delivered to my local branch. You should do this in the summer when the weather is better and the libraries are sure to be open. Good job though, I commend you.

e. said...

Great job, I was rooting for you all day!


Anonymous said...

Sam-- I just read about your run in the American Library Association's weekly national news round-up-- congrats on your great snowy effort, and thank you for stumping for libraries! I graduated from library school this very week and fear for the library job market in this economy. On the other hand, the longer I'm unemployed, the more I can run, so Mont Blanc, here I come!

Either way, your inventive big day has inspired me to combine working for libraries and running somehow-- I'll get thinking on it. Maybe I'll put on a fundraising race...

Other ultra-running librarians: mountain maven Anita Ortiz and Vermont 100 champ Devon Crosby Helms... there must be others, too...

Good on ya' and happy trails,
Susannah Beck

Sam said...

Thanks for the great support!

Susannah, congrats on finishing library school, and I'll cross my fingers that a great job is just waiting for you! (or not I guess, so you have more time to train!) Best of luck as you prepare for Mont Blanc- who knows maybe I'll make it on the bus over there this year and see you in France.

Happy trails!

Devon said...

Dang, I wish I had known you were doing this, I would have HAD to join you as a librarian (and currently on leave employee at SPL). Sounds like a brilliant idea. There are a few of us ultrarunning librarians around :)

Congrats Susannah on finishing library school! My advice apply for continuous recruitment in major systems and have an incredible amount of patience. It can take a while, but its worth the wait!

Devon said...

And P.S. When/If you decide to do this again, I really would love to join you and my other librarian/ultrarunning friend Linda Barton would also.

Sam said...

Hey Devon! Well, mark your calendar because I'd love to have you join us for round #2 of the library run. My buddy and training partner Brock and I are planning on doing this library assault again on Thursday Jan. 22. Our route will be pretty much the same and should amount to around 60 miles for the day, and the goal is definitely to make it to all 27 while they are open (between 10am and 8pm). Shoot me an email at and we can coordinate details. Hope this'll work for you!