Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What's A Day?

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson  
New Years Eve...New Years Day...A New Year. What does it matter? What 'changes'? Nothing. Nothing changes. The birds, and the worms, don't care. Don't know. The stars and the mountains continue on as they were. The earth revolves. And yet we humans seem to put so much stock in this whole New Year thing. Good riddance to the old. Hooray for the new. The new is good. The new is change. It's the same as when we vote in politicians for 'change' even if we don't know what that 'change' is. Change is good. Right? And like magic - a new job, a new house, a new car, a new lover, a NEW YEAR, will make 'it' all better. And even if IT is pretty good, the new will be even better.
“Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering 'it will be happier'...” ~ Alfred Tennyson
Ah. Hope. It's a good and a bad thing. Hope is great when we act. But hope without action brings little that's rewarding. Yes. We can be 'lucky' in life and things just come to us - like good fortune - but do we feel better about ourselves based upon good fortune alone?

What the New Year does encourage us to do, as intentional beings with a concept for the future, is, it encourages us to take stock. We look at the good, the bad, the ugly, and decide where we want to go next year. The sad things is that most of us forget about these goals, dreams, aims, desires before the calendar reaches mid-January. Then we sink back into our safe little habits - some of which may be good, but some of which may be holding us back from what we really want for our future. 

So. I am writing this, and will post it to my wall as a constant reminder of what's important to me now, while I'm paying close attention to these things. While the world becomes new again. And the possibilities are grander:   

My goals continue to be what they have always been, every day, day in and day out - Cultivate Courage, Be Real, Be Fierce, Be Fair and Just. But with the dawning of a New Year I simply want to remind myself that this is what I've always been after and will continue to strive for.

Do Something Scary: Be Courageous
I want to do something that terrifies me. Not a foolhardy kind of thing, but just a 'big thing FOR ME' kind of thing. The kind of thing I'm scared to commit to AND the kind of thing I'll be sad about if I don't commit to it. A key part of this, though, must be my willingness to accept failure if I must. It's easy to 'commit' to the things you are pretty sure you can do. But those things that are on the outer reaches of possibility (of course, this is always personal), those are the things that cause fear and trembling but also make life so much more vivid. Courage means feeling just the right amount of fear - and I will continue in my quest for this virtue (though I continue to fall so very far short of it). Courage also means going on when things feel like they aren't going well - believing that it all matters when you feel like nothing really matters. This is more a life issue than a running issue. As I say many times to many people: Running is easy. Life is hard. And sometimes that is true.

Focus on Who and What YOU care about. Remember the difference between what is real and what is image:
Okay. I admit it - In the past I never gave a hoot what people thought of me. I did my own thing and for the most part that was all that mattered. I cared about what those near and dear to me thought, but that's as far as it went. Now, I find myself sometimes, sometimes, dragged down by things that really should be unimportant to me: The opinions (supported or not), lives (real or embellished), and successes (earned or imagined or happy fortune) of those who really don't matter. Social media is great, but when little things start eating away at you, things that really don't matter, then you know there's a problem. I tell myself it doesn't matter. I KNOW it doesn't matter...And yet some things eat at me, and I'm not proud or happy about that. So. I will do better to focus on me and mine and what is real and what matters. 
One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things. ~ John Burroughs
Don't compare. Be fierce:
Need I say more on this??? Have I ever NOT said more on something?? I will keep at my little, busy running thing, I will keep at my silly, seemingly pointless blogging thing, I will do the best I can as a mother, wife, coach, friend...and I will not put myself down because others seem to be running farther and faster and getting more hits, and I will keep plugging away at this little project I call ME and my life. Because that mythical land "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."  doesn't exist except in Lake Wobegon, which of course doesn't exist. I will continue to fiercely go after what I care about because I care about it. (Now. Follow my blog so I feel good about myself!!! Bwahahahahaha)

Live well. Be Fair and Just:
This is just something I always hope to be. I know I fall short at times, but I try. The concern about fairness and justice motivates many, if not most, of my choices in life. It's a major reason why I decided to go into Philosophy. And I try, always, to treat people this way. In my personal and professional life I am hell bent on doing what's right for those with whom I live and work and love and call friends. I try to stand behind what I say. I say what I mean. I don't pull punch. And I am what I am. That's the goal, anyway. 
 
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It's all a work in progress. We are all in progress. We aren't just what we are, though we are that. We also are what we will be (but not yet), and what we will be in the future is somewhat undecided right now. The fact remains, though, that this whole New Years thing is nothing but symbolic tradition. But then lots of important and meaningful things are nothing more than that. It does give us pause and make us believe that we are new again. That so many things stretch out before us waiting to be realized. The things we give up on later are now still living possibilities. But these are my goals, my resolutions I suppose, for each day, not the year. And I resolve to revisit them everyday - I hope I can make it past mid-January! And in all of this, I am proved to be, against my better judgement, an optimist.

If only we could hold on to that thought, that desire, this notion of the possible, from today until next December 31st, and on and on until the end of our days.

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Addendum:

And ignore the pessimists ;)
Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion. ~Mark Twain

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Out On A Limb

"Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
On November 23rd my seven week experiment ended on the streets of Philly, and so now comes some much needed self-reflection and self-assessment. Did I journey to some place interesting? I don't know. Did I shimmy a bit farther out on the limb, reaching for the fruit - maybe, a bit. Right now, it feels like I may have crawled out a bit too far, cracking the branch, threatening to send me crashing to the ground.
"Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." ~  Robert Louis Stevenson
What may be risky for one person may be just be the same-old-same-old for someone else. And what may be risky for you now, may not be so risky in the future if you test those uncharted waters. We do learn about ourselves when we take risks and do something a little scary, maybe even a lot scary. After my little personal (since this is always personal) experiment, I'm left assessing the outcome.

Did I get my fingers around that coveted piece of fruit? And what fruit was I really reaching for? As it turns out, I might have grasped a piece of fruit I could not see until I crawled out on that branch...

Oct. 4th: St. George Marathon - 3:46:36  Masters PR and a solid BQ - But, not what I was aiming for.
Oct. 18th: Des Plaines River Trail 50 miler - 9:15  2nd AG
Nov. 23rd: Philadelphia Marathon... ?

Five days after running Des Plaines I was hit with a flu that just would not quit. I have not been sick at all in a couple years, so I tried to deny that this was happening. But the painful, lung searing, hacking continued for the entire time leading up to Philly. "Eh" I told myself. "Who cares. This one is just for fun. I've done my races. My season could be done now." And that's true. I had a good run at Des Plaines, which really is one of the high points of my running year. I may not have run brilliantly and it wasn't easy, but I did something that I didn't know I could do, and that mattered more than I expected it to matter. St. George went pretty well, and I can't complain too much, but I want to because I had higher hopes for that one, even if I did manage to salvage it and come away with a decent race. Still...it wasn't quite what I wanted - the weather and my body did not entirely cooperate with my intentions.

And that thorn of desire sticks in my mind as I fly off to run Philly...

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Saturday: I get to Philly late in the afternoon, driving from NJ with Dawn and Christine...check-in to the hotel. Get to the expo. In and out fast...Walk to the hotel alone, in the dark, through a gentle drizzle. I try to settle in. My roommate is out with her running club for dinner so I have some much needed quiet time. I eat my rice, tofu, veggies - Bonus: There's a microwave. It feels almost decadent to eat hot food. I watch totally lame TV. I chat with Sandra on FB. She asks me what my plan is. I don't want to worry her if things go all off the rails so I try to be noncommittal while giving her some glimpse into what I may be thinking. And, I think about why I'm here, in this Holiday Inn, 18 floors up, in Philadelphia, 1600 miles from home.

I think about why I'm here.

Why AM I here? Well, I signed up, for one thing. And that's pretty much why I'm here. I've wanted to run Philly, though truth be told I was on the rebound when I registered, freshly rejected by NY even though I was in the time qualifying lottery. I felt burned then. A lover scorned. So. Screw you NYRR. I'm gonna run Philly. I was one of the first 1000 to register and got the sweet deal. But now...now...now...why am I really here.

Could I somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat and do here what I wanted to do in St. George? The weather is looking pretty perfect. The course is fairly fast. Will my lungs and sinuses cooperate? Are my legs and heart recovered from the 50 miler? So many questions. Who knows how they will respond to something new. And so, I chew over my options and my food, and I ponder...

...What risks am I willing to take?

The next morning we have about 1.4 miles to walk through the dark to the start corrals. As we make our way through the bustling pre-marathon city, all I'm really thinking about is checking into my Southwest flight at exactly 6:05 a.m. We get to the start area and the porto-potty lines are epic. Now. I've run a few big city marathons: NYC, Chicago x 2, Boston x 2, and I have NEVER seen such long lines. I move farther along. I find some with slightly shorter lines but they are moving at a glacial pace. I still have to drop my gear at the UPS trucks. I haven't found any water, anywhere (damn I should have brought some) so I slowly suck on my pre-race gel hoping some saliva will help with digestion. This is not going well. I wait and wait and wait. I suck on my gel. A guys asks if I have another. Nope. I have one for mile 13 and I sorta need that. So I give him a bar from my gear bag. I have about 5 minutes to check my bag and get to my corral. Runners are starting to get aggressive about the potties, and as I jump into one I get bellowing at with "Hey Hey Hey"s from a line of runners who need to learn about sharing...and being nice...and taking turns! Blech. This isn't starting out well.

And then I run to the UPS trucks, drop my bag and trot off to the corrals. I enter into the 'Black' corral just ahead of mine and make my way back. I see bibs from corrals way way farther back. Hmmmm. Ok. I get into my corral: green. (Later I will note that I should have stayed in Black!).

The national Anthem is sung and the gun fires. The first corrals are off.

Standing in the corral I cast my eyes around looking for any familiar faces. I know they're out there, but I can't see them. I stand there wondering what exactly I'm feeling. Ennui, maybe? Apprehension? Nothingness? I don't know really. I have my splits written in sharpie on my arm, as always, and they are for the risky option. We walk to the mat. Go...

The first 8 miles is a congested cluster of runners running all different paces. Both the marathon and half marathon go off together and stay together until the 13 mile point. The narrow city roads, a super twisty course and the crowds of runners running all sorts of paces, make for a tedious challenge. Mile one: a woman goes down to the pavement hard in front of me. I jump around her almost going down myself. She bounces right back up and runs, seemingly unscathed. The roads are full of pot-holes and wavy asphalt like I've never seen before. Add to this the fact that aid stations at this point are only on one side of the road and you get a total cluster F#$k.  People are running in large groups across the entire road. I jump up on the sidewalk repeatedly to get around runners.

But, I'm doing what I can do. After the half splits off and away I breathe a little sigh of relief as the marathoners set off past the Art museum down toward the Schuylkill River. I'm running along, taking stock of how I'm feeling, and suddenly feel two hands grab both shoulders. Then a foot catches my right foot on the side throwing me off balance. I turn around wondering if it's someone I know. A man, towering over me, peers down at me. All I see is his red shirt and hat. I do not know him.

"What the F&%K!!!" I yell at him. 
"You cut me off!" He yells down at me in return.
"I did NOT! I'm running in a straight line!"
And then he drops back. I run on. 
Another man runs over to me. "Are you okay?" 
I'm fighting back the tears welling up in my throat. "Yes. I'm just a little upset. That sucked." 
"I saw the whole thing. What a jerk." 
We then start chatting about how this race sort of sucks. We talk about Chicago. NYCM. Boston. I really just want to stop at this point. I'm so bloody done with the whole thing. But I press on.  I'm still about on pace for my 'A' goal and I feel pretty okay. Not great, but okay.

Then the shit hits the fan. At some point, somewhere in mile 16, something weird begins to happen to my right leg. At first I wonder if it's from being stepped on by the red-shirted-menace a couple miles earlier. Then I wonder if I'm bonking - it's been so long since I've bonked that I can't really remember what it feels like - but it's only happening in part of one leg. The rest of me feels fine. As I run on, the side of my knee starts to tighten up - importantly, my right side is my 'good' side. I have had NO issues with my right side in years!!! Aaarrgggg. The tightness starts spreading down to my ankle and up to my hip. My leg feels like a cement peg-leg with a giant charley-horse overtaking one side of it. I can't really use it. I throw it forward, ahead of me, and push over it like a crutch. It hurts so much with every step and I know if this continues this will be my first DNF ever - and how the hell does one get back to the start when they drop? Because we are basically running an out and back for the whole second half of the race, we are always running against the traffic, so to speak. Sections of the road are highly cambered and I begin wondering if that's it. I try to move to the middle of the road, weaving in and out of the cones, in an attempt to find more level ground.

My pace drops by 45 seconds per mile for miles 17 and 18. I see Esther as we do a short off-shoot out and back. She looks strong. I am happy about that. I've been looking for her since the start. At least I know where she is. By mile 19 I'm still sort of running, and the tightness hasn't gotten worse, but it's holding steady. I know I'm running strangely because I can feel my big toe slamming against the front of my shoe. This has never ever happened before. Shortly after the last turnaround, I see Esther again. "Catch up with me." I call out as we high-five each other.

And so goes the rest of the race. It is a painful push with all I have. Each mile I take as it comes. My pace picks up again out of the shear will to get this the hell over with. But I just can't seem to get back to where I was before the wheels came off - and I am giving it everything, everything, I have. 

I cross the mat in 3:49:13.

I turn back to look for Esther. I see her coming down the hill for the finish. She crosses. She has a new 20 minute PR and a 10+ minute BQ. She is glowing. I hug her and congratulate her. 

All I want now is a beer. Maybe three. Esther has me covered! :) 

And then I make my way back to NJ that afternoon...Up at 3 a.m. the next morning to fly back to Colorado via Chicago. I am bleary, screaming tired. I'm a wreck.

And...I'm a little depressed...and relieved. 

I'm depressed because Philly didn't go so well. I'm bummed that I didn't really like the race. I have rarely not liked a race. Is it me or the race? I think it's me. I'm pretty dang sure that it's me. I'm relieved that I'm done with this little experiment. I'm relieved that I didn't do half bad with any of it. But I'm depressed because: A) It ended on a sourish note, and B) One of my main desires remained out of reach. I always tell runners that we tend to focus on the negative and forget, or downplay the positive. I am guilty of that now. 

I accomplished a lot, for ME, in seven weeks even when dealing with illness and exhaustion: physical, mental, emotional. This was a very personal journey and I succeeded. I decided to do something and I did it. So, now I think about it all and pick it apart - and ask, why do I feel it ended badly? Answer: Because Philly really sucked. Why did Philly suck? Answer: Because I didn't run the time I wanted and it hurt a whole hell of a lot. Okay. Well. What were you willing to RISK when you wrote those splits on your arm before bed Saturday night? Answer: Oh. Now you're going to call me on this??? Not fair. (Stomps feet)

Well, I guess I was willing to risk having the whole thing blow up in my face. It would have been much safer to just run Philly nice and easy, take in the city, have a pleasant romp on a beautiful day. But that's NOT what I decided to do. I decided to take a risk and try to run. So, 'them's the breaks', as my dad always used to say. I risked failing. I failed. So what? What I didn't fail at was taking the risk. It would have been easier to say; Look. You've been sick for 4 weeks straight. You are tired from a marathon and a 50 miler - just have fun for cricky sake. But the fact is, I made my decision - and that decision was: See how you feel. Have the splits you want. Go for it. And if it all goes to hell, well, then deal. And that's exactly what I did.

And now there are new seeds planted, asleep beneath the soil of my spirit, just waiting to reach forth, up into the sunlight...
"If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." ~ Annie Dillard

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Are We There Yet?: My First 50 Miler


 “If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” ~ T.S. Eliot
What do you do after you do something you never thought you could do??...
A few weeks ago I did something I have never done before, and something I haven't done in a very long time: a) I ran a 50 miler, and b) I did something I wasn't at all sure I could do.

When I signed up for the Des Plaines River Trail 50 Miler last November it was so far in the future that it sounded like a really cool idea. And then, almost a year later??? It still sounded like a really cool idea...maybe for someone else.

What the F#@k was I thinking?? Delusions of grandeur are easy to maintain 11 months out, or 2 months out, until you're on the plane, 2 days before the race, and you haven't trained for the dang thing.

And so, as I am 30,000 feet up, heading north, I have the iPod cranking - and I'm re-reading a Dean Karnazes book - getting a little stuck on the story of his first 50 miler, complete with uncontrollable rigor mortis like cramping and projectile vomiting in his new Lexus following the run. Oh. Yummy. I forgot this part from the first reading - or perhaps it didn't stick because I wasn't facing a 50 miler in 2 days.

I haven't had any appetite for the past week, and I'm starting to feeling like a foie gras goose. I nibble crackers non-stop. Any more than that seems to send my stomach into flips of upset-ness. 

Okay. I land, Sandra fetches me, and we get the her house and just chill. Chilling is good. I never chill. And I never have a WHOLE day to chill. Is that good or bad?

Jeni shows up Friday afternoon and we all head to the hotel in Lincolnshire. I still can't eat, but since I've brought my own food (as I always do) I just nurse it over the course of the evening. And while Sandra and Jeni eat like normal people at the restaurant - I have ice water.   

So, y'all know the drill: Sleep (aka, toss-and-turn), up at the crack-o-crack, choke down a bar, coffee, check accuweather a bazillion times, decide what to wear, finalize drop bags...and off we go.

And as the darkness turns to dawn the RD announces an unexpected water crossing around mile 7. Okay. It would have been nice to know about that before sending off the drop bags to their various locations. His reassuring words: "You're all ultra runners so you know how to deal." Well, sure. I would have put a pair of dry shoes in my bag at mile 14, not at mile 26. Whatever. Just deal

This becomes the theme for the day for me: JUST DEAL

And so we're off. Jeni and I don't have specific plans to run together, but our expected paces are about the same - so we stick together. I should clarify: her expected pace. She actually trained fairly well for this, though she started a little later than is optimal (shhhh. I didn't tell her that ;). But I haven't trained for this. I just ran the St. George Marathon 2 weeks ago. I really have no idea what to expect. 

The first little out and back loop, everyone gets lost, adding about a half mile to the run, and we aren't even at mile 3 yet! Having run extra so early eats at your mind and screws with it even as you tell yourself to let it go. 

Just deal.

Around mile 3 it starts sprinkling rain. By mile 4, it's pouring with a strong headwind. This was not what accuweather told us would happen. It told us about the wind just not the rain - or rather, this much rain, this early. We hit the water crossing and are able to traverse some sketchy rocks to avoid the 2 feet of water (not the 4-6 inches reported at the start). 

We get to our first drop bags and I fetch my visor, another shirt (my wind shirt is at mile 26), a gel, more HEED, and we discover, having stopped long enough to get chilled, that it's fecking cold, and the wind bites. But at this point we are feeling a bit giddy at the absurdity of our best laid plans gone to shit.

Just deal.

And so it goes. By mile 15 Jeni and I are no longer talking with words. But we are very much there together, silent - but together. At about mile 18, she turns to me and says, "We have run way faster and way farther than this, and I've never felt so bad." I feel the same. "It's just mental." Not that that is reassuring in the least.

At around mile 22, an aid station has pickles. "Yeesh", I say to Jeni, "What I want is pickle juice." The volunteer says, "I have that." Opens the jar and pours us each a tasty, tangy cocktail and we drink it up. Everyone looks on unable to comprehend what we just did. 

And it rains steadily until about mile 25. The next drop bag station is at mile 26: Pee, change socks, eat a gel, refill my HEED, grab a bar, and we stiffly walk out of the aid station to the enthusiastic cheers of the volunteers. It's a little worrisome leaving the comfort of the aid station...

As we start running slowly, Jeni's quads begin cramping. She's very concerned, having had many painful cramping experiences in marathons. She clearly thinks she's done for. I simply say, "Give it 15 minutes for the carbs you just ate to hit your system. You'll be fine." I am also working out a somewhat less debilitating adductor cramp, and my calves keep zinging me. After a few minutes of walking, we're able to run again. I look at Jeni and say "We gotta get to the pickle juice."

The pickle juice station now has different volunteers. I hold out a cup, "May I have some of that pickle juice?" motioning to the pickle jar. He pours about a finger's worth. "No. Fill it. Please." "Ooookaaay." he says doubtfully. Jeni gets a cup and down the hatch. 

And here is where I make my first of several big mistakes: I have a small 8 ounce hand held. I should have refilled it with the course fluids at that AS because it's getting low and the next AS is about 6 miles away, AND the sun is just about to come out. Stupid move. 


At about mile 36, we see Laurie up ahead. She's come out to run the finish with us - and of course has no clue that we really stopped talking at mile 15. We aren't the best running company right now. By the time we get to the next aid station with our last drop bags, I've been without liquids for about 2 miles. Normally this isn't a big deal - but after 38 miles, it is a big deal. 

At this point I can no longer do the math to figure out how far we still have to go. I ask a volunteer: "What mile is this?" She says, "Mile 37, unless you ran the extra at the start. Then 38" Oy. My brain just went kaputsky. I refill my hand held, choke down a gel, and then make my next big mistake. As we painfully hobble off to reawaken our legs, I look a Jeni and say, "I cannot stop again. I don't want to have to restart." And as I look at her I see she's nibbling on a bar. Shit. I should have grabbed a bar. Oh. Whatever. It's only 13 or so miles. A half marathon. A gel will be fine. *Butthead*

Just deal.

At the next aid station I see Sandra's bright orange jacket as she waits for us with her bike (she's already run the half with an injured foot). I look at Christine, volunteering at the aid station, and say "We can't stop. But I need a drink fast." She hands me some Accelerade and we keep going as I yell back "Thank you!" And Sandra joins the parade.



About 5 minutes later, Jeni and I seem to hit this weird zone - and it happens to us both at the same time. We start picking up the pace - we both note that our watches say about a 9:15ish pace. Our feet are completely in synch as we pound down the trail. I can hear Sandra and Laurie behind us quietly saying "What are they doing?" and other indiscernible mutterings. I blurt out, "We want to be F%#king DONE!"

And we keep this up for a while. Then my watch goes blank, as it's been warning me of for quite some time. We reach the final aid station with fuel, and I look at my bottle, and I think - I'm good. It's gotten cold again - but my concern should have been carbs not fluids per se. Big mistake number..too many. I should have refilled...again.

We get around the water crossing again, this time I almost fall in and we continue to plug away but I can sense that Jeni is feeling stronger than I am. She is always about one or two steps ahead - and I can just feel it. At this point, both her fueling and her training are becoming apparent. Mentally she has been in this weird zone of total focus for a while. She didn't notice when Sandra joined us for many minutes and warnings of bikes approaching from behind are responded to very sluggishly - BUT she is running strong. With what I think is about 6 miles to go, I look at Jeni and say "You know you've felt worse with 6 miles to go in a marathon." She nods. With about 3 miles to go the gap between us steadily grows.

From the 37/38 mile mark on, there have been mile markers for the marathon and the half marathon - but they make no sense, and Laurie and Sandra tell us that they're all wrong.  By mile 45 or so, I'm starting to get really pretty irate because I have no idea how much farther I have to go, and I really want to know and this thought just sticks, like a needle, in my exhausted brain. People keep saying "You're almost there"..."You're almost there." But my god. What does that mean???

We pass a sign that says "One Mile To The Finish". "That's just wrong" both Laurie and Sandra assure me, and then begin explaining why it's really less than a mile. All I can say is "Guys. I just really need you to stop right now."  I feel awful snapping at them, but I'm having a hard time just dealing!

We approach a bridge and I see Jeni ahead cresting it and moving on. As soon as I hit the bridge something wonky happens to my eyes. The feeling that the bridge is moving leaves me feeling unsteady and with about a half mile to go, I start getting tunnel vision. The ground becomes wavy. My blood sugar has bottomed out and all my HEED is gone. Having passed out many times over the course of my life due to hypoglycemia, I back it off. I still have no idea where the finish is, but I now have no choice but to walk. "I'm sorry you guys, but I have to walk." Sandra comes up next to me and softly says, "You're almost there. The finish is just around this turn." I turn to her. "This is not a choice." "Okay".

Just dealing.

A couple minutes later Jeni's friend Carol runs out to find me. "You're almost there. The finish is right around this turn." "Did Jeni finish?" I ask. "Yes." At that moment I do actually know that I am almost there. That there really IS a finish line and that I will make it. I start running, and just before I hit the shoot, Sandra runs up beside me and we cross the mat:  9:15. 9th woman overall, and 2nd in my age group.

The RD looks me in the eyes. "Congratulations." Then he looks at Sandra and hands her my belt buckle as she holds me up. I am pretty out of it but managing to hold it together as Sandra slowly leads me back to her car. I can see Jeni across the field, and I want to go to her, but I just can't.

Nothing on my body wants to bend, but sitting down in the car feels like heaven. I see a bag of chips sitting on the console. I don't know whose they are but I rip them open like a starving famine victim and devour them greedily. I don't even like chips, but this is the best thing I've ever ever eaten in my life. Jeni appears at the window, peers in and says, "I love you." I open the door and we hug, a tired, satisfied, grateful hug. 

               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What did I learn: Well. My fueling was crap. I'm a light fueler - in marathons. I take one gel and whatever liquid fuel is offered. When I ran a 50k, I took 2 gels. Now, for a 50 miler...what the hell was I thinking? I kept saying to Jeni along the way as we passed those walking, "We're running a 50 like marathoners." And that's because we are marathoners. We only walked out of air stations and during the cramping incident. Otherwise we ran. BUT I learned a very very very important lesson if I ever plan to do anything like this again - and that is: HEED + 3 gels + 1 bar = blood sugar blowout. There is a BIG difference between 26.2 miles and 50 miles. And the last 13 miles is not 'just a half marathon'. When I think of it now, I want to hit myself upside the head.

I also discovered that I may still be able to do things that I may not know I can do. I learned that I can deal with situations that I can't possibly anticipate. I, again, was reminded how very important it is to me to have people I love and care about with me along the way - And that's not just to accomplishing the task. I never really questioned finishing (until mile 49.5) - but what made the finishing and the doing so much more, is having so much support and having people I care about with me.  

Once again, THEY made the day for me. And this stuff is like drugs - You just want more...
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ~ Helen Keller
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why We Love Our 26.2 Stickers

"Those who enjoy their own emotionally bad health and who habitually fill their own minds with the rank poisons of suspicion, jealousy and hatred, as a rule take umbrage at those who refuse to do likewise, and they find a perverted relief in trying to denigrate them." ~ Johannes Brahms
So, once again, a runner-hater a$$hat has found traction in the running community...and we all band together and defend ourselves, and in the process, give said a$$hat, the attention he so desperately needs in his pathetic little life.

I'm not here to give him any more attention and I won't post a link to his drivel, for all you really need to know of this piece is the following:
"You’ve seen them a lot recently. The little oval stickers on the back of cars that say “13.1" or “26.2" or some other seemingly random number. The number relates to running, 13.1 being the distance of a half-marathon. And every time I see one of these stickers I just want to run it off the road.
It’s amazing how three numbers and a decimal point can single-handedly turn someone into a big, arrogant butthole."

He erroneously claims that stickers on cars are meant to show that we are "fans" of something - which is a bogus claim at worst and incomplete claim at best. When I stick a sticker on my car, it is not to show that I am a 'fan' of something. Sure. I am saying 'I like X", But the REAL purpose is that it is an attempt to single myself out as an individual - to other individuals who may be like me: political stickers, team stickers, various sports stickers, dog breed stickers, school sticker (oh, he should attack all those "My kid is an Honor Student ..." crap. Sheesh. Talk about braggers!!!),vegan, animal rights, gun/hunter (nut ;) rights...whatever it is...we want to connect with others like us.

Here's why we love our running stickers: We are members of a tribe. We love seeing other members out there. We greet each other out on the roads and trails when we run AND when we drive. We wear our race shirts for the same reason...And, because pride is NOT the sinful thing he seems to be intimating! We've done things we have every right to be proud of. And, what WE do has no bearing on what you do or do not do. 

This is a case of flawed logic and small minded jealousy, with a dash of ignorant hate thrown in.

Am I bragging with my stickers??? No. It's JUST FECKING RUNNING! BUT,  I am proud to be a member of this amazing, inspiring, life-filled, inclusive, welcoming, encouraging tribe.

As Socrates argues in the Apology (and I am taking creative liberties with his argument): It is best to make yourself the best 'you' you can be. Stop trying shut-up those who are doing better, or encouraging you to be better.  Worry about your own soul. You are not made better by putting other, who are trying to be better, down.

Oh. How arrogant! And, Yes. I need to add that 50 miler sticker stat!!!! I'm such an arrogant butthole.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Solitude of the Solo Runner

“The long-distance run of an early morning makes me think that every run like this is a life - a little life, I know - but a life as full of misery and happiness and things happening as you can ever get really around yourself” ~ Alan Sillitoe
The Routine: Up early for a shake out jog. Kiss the kiddo and husband goodbye - and off I go. At this point no one even notices that I'm leaving. There's the cursory wish of 'good luck', but it's just same old, same old now. I pull away thinking, "It wasn't always like this". Park the car at the long term lot, jump on the shuttle to the terminal (calf cramps kick in with a vengeance), through security, to the gait. All so predictable. Board the plane with 101 purple T-shirted Denver Landscape Co. employees off for a debaucherous company weekend trip to Sin City. It's 9 a.m. and they are in full on parrrtaaaaaaaaay mode. As we board, one remarks: "Well, the good news if that it's currently 92 in Vegas." My response, "Not good news. I'm running a marathon tomorrow." They all stare at me incomprehensibly...Fly...Land...two shuttles to the 'cheapo' rental car office...and then off to St. George, through the desert. 90 miles per hour feels like a crawl through this immense space...So, I call Cecilia...Why not. I'm finally sitting down. And I have time...and I drive and talk...She is supposed to be here with me, but life got in the way. She doesn't really believe I've gone by myself...


It's been many years since I have been here. Hmmmm how many?? Must be 13+? More??? I have spent A LOT of time around Vegas and St. George during my serious rock climbing days - before the house, the kid, the too-many-hours-of-work, and before I started running races again...Yes. When I was young. And this becomes a bit of a trip down memory lane. I cruise through the Virgin River Gorge, a place I've spent countless hours climbing, zoom past Cedar Pocket where we used to camp, and glance up the barren rocky hills where I've run so many miles, so long ago...


As I approach St. George the town feels like an old friend. I remember it all. I find my hotel, freshen up, and head to the expo. I hate expos, so I'm in, get my packet, t-shirt, stop at information for bus pick-up parking info...head off to the bus pick-up to scope out the situation...off the Starbucks to get a cup of Joe for the morning...and then back to the hotel where I will not move for the rest of the day...

I watch crap TV and a movie on Netflix, and eat as much salty stuff as I have. My calves are still giving me grief. I tell myself "Eh, it's happened before with no issues during the race. It's fine." Still, as I try to relax my left calf and shin feeling like it is in a vice - like the fascia is squeezing the bejesus out of the muscles. I eat my dinner (yes, brought with me from Colorado) 'hangout' on facebook, check in with the runners I coach running marathons this weekend, phone home, read for a bit, set a couple alarms for 4 a.m. and turnout the light...And the second I close my eyes, what I see in my head, is my waking with the sun up...I see myself oversleeping. The whole day I have been remarkable relaxed, and in an instant this thought creeps in and will not loosen it's grip for the remainder of the night. This is a problem with traveling solo. You are alone. Hell, I could die in my sleep and no one would know...and so, I spend a restless night arguing with the useless thoughts in my head...

I finally get up at 3:50, and 10 minutes later both (feckin') alarms go off.

Since I'm up early, I shower in a futile attempt to wash the blood-shot from my eyes...dress, plan the gear check bag, and off to the bus pick up... Wait on line with a couple guys from CO. Everyone around me seems to have run this one before. I get the course beta. The bus ride is LONG...through the darkness. We pass flood light lit aid stations, where we will be at some point, but on foot...and then reach the start area lit up like daytime - flags line the start area, blowing frantically in the 25 mph winds. The air is choked with bonfire smoke, and the whole start area resembles an over crowded refugee camp. We are delayed about 15 minutes, the last buses arriving literally minutes before the start. Wheelchairs are off...And we are off.


It's still dark and I can't see my blasted watch. Heat blankets blow across the road like tumble weeds, and make for a bit of an obstacle course. Eh, just take it easy. The first 7 miles are perfect, though I do note that my quads are not feeling as fresh as I'd like. Starting at 8 miles the course goes up. The hill out of Veyo is steep and a mile long. And for the next 7 miles we go up mostly with an occasional down. The sun pops above the mountains to the east, and within minutes the temperature climbs noticeably.


At 15 miles I pop into a porta potty and then race out to make up for lost time...and at this point we crest the high point. I look down the hill, toward Snow Canyon, and all I can think is, "I could ski this thing." It's STEEP. I mean really steep. I try to run light and quick, spinning down the hill, but as it lets up for a bit, I feel the fatigue in my quads rising.

One of the things I really did not anticipate was the steepness of the downhills. I ran a lot of downhill training runs. I'm good at downhills (there's not much I am good at), but this was too downhill. Maybe it was the downhill half I ran two weeks earlier, I wonder - perhaps that was too much, too close - but whatever it is, the down was NOT agreeing with me on this day.

And so it goes...down down down. And I am beginning to feel zings of cramps in my left calf and both quads. I pull it in on the downhills, and pick it up when things flatten out, but I'm really trying to avoid a colossal meltdown. I started out with a small handheld full of HEED and intended to chuck it and use the aid stations, but the aid stations are a total cluster - they have them only on one side of the road and they are too compressed. There's banana peels, orange and melon rinds, Vaseline sticks, etc covering the ground and everyone comes to a complete stop. So, I hang on to the handheld, refill it with Gatorade and water, and forgo as many water stops as possible, grabbing the occasional cup of water to pour over my head.

When we get into town, the heat is building. Someone hands me a baggie of ice, and though I've only got 2 miles to go, I clumsily peel it open and pour in down my bra. At this point I'm having non-stop cramp-zings shooting through my legs and I'm trying to just keep going and not fall flat on my face as one hits mid-gait. As we turn the last corner, I see what I believe is the finish ahead and just do my damnedest to get there without completely seizing up. Each time I press, my body presses back.


 But somehow I manage to cross...3:46:36.


And that makes it 1 minute and 37 seconds off my goal of sub 3:45. Why did I want sub-3:45??? It's the Chicago guaranteed entry qualifying time. So, I guess I'll try again on that one - but this time might be good enough to get me into the second wave at Boston. Looking on the bright side.

And though hot and tired and crampy and a little disappointed, I do muster a little smile ;)

I hang around the finish area hoping to catch Monica, a runner who I coach but have never met in person. I know that if things have gone well she should be close behind. As I stumble over to bag check and creakily try to replace my newtons with Birkenstocks, I hear "I think I know you". I look up and it takes a moment to register that it's Monica. A person I know!! I haven't seen anyone I know in 2 days. We hobble off to find her family.

Monica is ecstatic, having just run a 27 minute PR and a 4+ minute BQ. And with this news, my own disappointment melts away. She has just experienced the magic of the perfect race. I can feel it radiating from her pores.

We hangout for a while, and I savor the brief human companionship, and then I make haste back to the hotel to shower, checkout and head back to Vegas for my flight home...and alone again, I head back through the desolate desert. I have a couple hours to kill so I head west of the city out to Red Rocks Canyon, where my husband and I have spent a lot of time climbing and I had some of my more memorable road-trip sends (that's rock climber lingo for completing a route/project).


As I stand at the entrance of where the old Oak Creek Campground used to be (climber digs), taking this picture, I think back...and back. Another time. So much is different. So much remains the same. The first time I saw these formations I was 31 years old - 20 years ago. How can that even be? I stand there for a very long time...and think. 

I make my way back to Vegas, drop off the car, shuttle off to the airport, 2 hours to kill...and, finally, have a giant IPA in hand. I have no one here but myself, but I strike up numerous conversations with strangers, watch people be people, and again feel deeply thankful to be blessed with the life I have had and do have.

And the fact is, that it is these alone trips that allow me to tap into these things. So, while it can be lonely, it's more often a solitude that reveals things that need to be felt again.
Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone. ~ Paul Tillich

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Your Theory Is Crazy, But It's Not Crazy Enough To Be True.

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough." ~ Niels Bohr
When I was pregnant, the hospital wanted all expectant couples to take a birthing class. The problem was, that finding a class that met at a time when both my husband and I could attend, given our totally whack teaching schedules at that time, was difficult to say the least. So I started canvassing my mommy friends: "What did you learn from birthing classes?" I asked. The unanimous answer was: "To breathe in and out like this, (with accompanying demonstration)." Hmmmm. Well, is that worth all the fuss and bother?? I asked my OB/gyn: "Do you think I should take a birthing class?" And her response was: "It all depends on your and your husband's comfort level with the whole thing. If you aren't worried, and if your husband isn't worried, then it's not necessary." Well this was probably about 6-7 months into my pregnancy and so I figured, yeah, I'm not super worried. I mean women have been giving birth for thousands of years. I'm sure I can do this. Empirically, the theory seemed sound.

And then week 39 hit.
And my belly popped out like a freakish overripe watermelon - and I looked at myself in the mirror and thought "OMG. This thing has to get out of me!"


And then my theory began falling apart, challenged by the bare reality of the thing.
And yet. Somehow it all worked out.
"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Now: It's November, 2013, about a week after running the NYCM. I'm warming up for the USATF Club X-Country race in Boulder when I receive a message from Sandra - something to the effect of: There's a screaming deal for the Des Plaines River Trail Race 50 miler, Oct 2014 - But you need to register by midnight. Now the idea of running a 50 miler has been popping in and out of my head for a while, so I figure, what the hell?? If I don't run it, it's not a huge deal, right??? Of course that works in theory, since the registration fee was so small - but then there is that thing about signing up for a race and the feeling of commitment it carries with it...so the money isn't the issue, but that second part? Yeah. Not so easy to ignore.

Now, Fast forward to April 2014. Registration for the St. George Marathon quickly approaches. Because the race graciously allowed me to defer my 2013 entry due to the flood in Boulder, I'm set to run 2014 - and it's 2 weeks before the 50 miler. I ask if I can defer to 2015, pretty sure that's not gonna fly, and as expected, it's a no-go. So...decisions, decisions...

So I think long and hard on what my approach should be. And my reasoning goes as follows: St. George is hard to get into. St. George is one of the best courses in the country. It would be a shame to turn this into a training run for a 50 miler - plus it's a little too close for that to be ideal. The truth is that I really want to race St. George. I don't want to just run it. BUT training for a marathon and a 50 miler are entirely different beasts (that's MY approach anyway) - so, to train well for both at the same time is a foolhardy, ill-advised  goal: If I train for the 50 I will be overtrained and undertrained for St. George (in different ways). If I train right for St. George, I'll be just plain ol' undertrainined for the 50. What to do...what to do...

So, my decision in June was: Train for St. George, give it my best, and survive the 50 miler 2 weeks later (and I won't even worry about Philly 4 weeks later. Ugggg).

And this all made perfect sense until about a week ago, when the reality started to set in. Add to this reality the fact that I'm training several people for 50 milers, one of whom is running the DPRT. Seeing what 'my runners' are doing vs. what I'm doing is a little nerve wracking. I mean they're all doing great - BUT I'm not doing any of that. Oy. What have I gotten myself into.

Was I suffering from hubris back in June when this theory seemed to make 'the most' sense??

But here I am. It's too late, now, to do otherwise. I will have to stick with the plan and see where it leads. But, like approaching labor and delivery, I'm getting a wee-bit anxious about my theory that made so much sense several months ago.

Time will tell the tale...Somehow, it will all work out.
"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is. " ~ Yogi Berra


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Running and Cheating

 "A lie dies not consist in the indirect position of words, but in the desire and intention, by false speaking, to deceive and injure your neighbour." ~ Jonathan Swift
Registration for the 2015 Boston Marathon opens up this coming Monday. Many will be vying for a coveted spot in this race of races - experience of experiences - for runners. Five years ago I had few thoughts of ever running Boston, or really caring much either way. Boy have things changed...

After last years Boston Bib Counterfeiting scandal, I started thinking about some of the scams and cheating I've witnessed in running over the years. I asked a question on Facebook (posted in some running groups and my 4000+ friends and followers) about how people feel about cheating in races. Most of the responses were on the order of: Well, that's their deal and they should feel like crap but I'm not going to say anything. Well, I have said things (usually ignored). And the sad thing is that cheating doesn't only cheat the cheater, it cheats us all.

A runner who I coach got her BQ this spring after training like a crazy woman through a grim Wisconsin winter. She mentioned that she saw a pace group (the 3:45 group, so a BQ for some) cut the course short by several 100 meters. She called out 'cheaters' at them, but they went on their merry way - On to get their BQs and PRs and dreams of cheating glory. Something to be proud of? Consider the runner I coached to a 13 second BQ last year, who gave everything she had on that day and on every training run, day in and day out, who didn't get a spot because it filled before her time qualified in. How many cheaters were ahead of her? This isn't just about the cheater. This is not just a self-regarding vice. Cheating hurts others by stealing from them what you do not earn.  

Five years ago I ran my second marathon, 15 years after running my first marathon, the Maine Marathon, in Portland, Maine. When I ran that first marathon I had no clue what I was really doing, I just ran it. I trained a little - ran some long runs and had been maintaining a steady diet of 50-70 mpw in those days, even though I had given up racing several years prior. I just ran, and ran a lot. And so for kicks I ran a marathon, in the pouring rain and 35 degrees. And I had no idea what my BQ time was. I knew I'd be moving from Maine to Colorado soon for graduate school anyway, so running Boston out of the question. Several days after crossing the finish of that first marathon I discovered that I missed qualifying by 21 seconds. Whatever. I didn't care.

Now, fast forward to 2009. September, Boulder, Colorado. I'm toeing the line for my second marathon. My only aim is to complete it since I made a pact with the powers that be that if I recovered from an injury I was told I would never recover from, then I would run a marathon and raise money for a charity. I need to finish so that I can collect the dough and make good on the promise.


At the start the mercury is already climbing into the 70s with a steady, dry, desiccating wind, and the forecast is for the high 80s. But hey, I just need to do it, I don't need to do it fast.

This was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I swore off marathons FOREVER. Somehow I got 3rd in my age group. And this led me to look at the results and that led me to notice something odd about the 2 women who beat me, both of whom managed to get BQs on that cloudless 88 degree day - not a drop of water or Gatorade to be found and with the unnerving sounds of sirens ringing through the air.

At the 10k mat my split was 55:05 (about an 8:55 pace). The two women who beat me were running together and hit 10k at 1:15:05 - 20 minutes behind me and running about a 12 minute per mile pace. At just past the 13 mile mark the course does an out and back off of a loop which leads back to the finish - turning around at 17ish miles (no mats at the turnaround), and then crossing a mat at 20 miles. I started coming undone at about 16 miles and by 19 miles the cramps took hold. At 20 my pace had slowed to 9:30ish and then the final 6 miles was a slow hobble, ending in my slowest marathon @ 4:27. The women who beat be had no 20 mile split after which it joins back up with the loop. These things happen. Technology is not infallible (I had people freaking out when one of my splits never recorded in NYC last November and yes, I did run the whole thing). But BOTH chips didn't record??? Hmmmmm.  Their finishing time was 3:57. A 9:04 average pace - which, if you calculate the pace they would have had to run from that 10k mark, means a blistering negative split on a very hot day. Maybe not impossible, but very very very unlikely. The fact that they BQed by almost 3 minutes (at that time the time they needed was 4:00) made me question the lack of that intermediate split and how they could have managed running that time when at 10k they were on pace for a time well over 5 hours. Could they have actually run this race in it's entirety? I went to looked at their race pictures - both wore long black tights and skirts. Hmmmm. This was a small race. I certainly didn't see them pass me. I would have noticed that attire on that day. I wrote to the RD. He said he would check into the irregularities and get back to me. He never did...This was all before I ever cared about running Boston, and BQs and all of that. But now I see this extra dimension added to the problem of cheating.

Last year I ran the Great Cranberry Island 50k. This race is also a Boston qualifier and records your marathon split but the BQ only counts if you finish the 50k. The race is about 8 laps up and back down the one road on the island (I should say 'was' because 2013 was the last year this race was run). The turnarounds have no mats. The start/finish area which you cross 8 times and the marathon point were the only mats. At one point I saw a woman turn around about 1/2 a mile before the turnaround at the boat landing. It was in a more heavily treed area where I saw people occasionally hop behind a tree to pee, but in this case I saw her turn around early. At this point she was one of the top female runners in the race, so I kept an eye on her. At some point she dropped out, and I let the whole thing go. But the fact is that anyone could have done that. When I saw her there was a little lull in the runner traffic, and she may have not seen me. As the day went on, people became more spread out. So, did others do this??? Did others see others do this. Do any of us care??

Earlier this year I was a course marshal for a half marathon/10k combo. My station was just about 100 meters past the 10k turnaround (again, no mat at the turnaround). At first my attention was consumed by directing traffic and making sure the half marathoners didn't get run over. But as things slowed down I glanced up the road and noticed people randomly turning around on the 10k route, not anywhere near the actual turnaround point. And did anyone say anything? I didn't hear anything. So I started yelling at the perpetrators that they turned too early. I was after all a course marshal so I should be doing this - but that actually wasn't what I was sent out to do.

Sure, maybe none of this matters in the grand scheme of things, but I doubt I'm the only one who sees this stuff.  

Well, maybe no one else cares about this but I do. When my runner told me about what happened with the pace group, I contacted the RD. I thought that he should know what his pace leaders, at the very least, were doing and in plain sight. Did anyone else say anything (I know my runner did)? How many of these people will be sending in their registrations for Boston next week? How many people who deserve to run will be locked out due to the numbers game?

What I find so disheartening is the apathetic, 'It's all good', 'Whatever' type attitude that so many seem to adopt. Why? Probably because it's easy. It's hard to call people on their crap. It's hard to stick one's neck out.  And in our silence, we become complicit. One of the character building aspects of sport, the character we carry with us into the world at large, is the satisfaction of honest effort and clear outcomes. Cheating has no place here. But, it's easier to shake one's head and go get a beer...

“There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.” ~ Walter Lippman

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blog Hopping...And Hoping: And A Little About Me


“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”  ~ Anne Frank
It's been a Loooong summer at my house and besides running, working and child entertaining I have had neither the time nor the mental/creative energy to write a blasted thing - and this makes me very sad, and frustrated.

So when I was asked by Diane Wilhelm to participate in a little 'blog hop' thingamajig, I thought, "Oh goodie, something to get my writing butt in gear". Of course I received her message at about midnight, after a 3 hour frenetic, exhausting drive through the Colorado mountains capping off a day of watching and waiting and preparing to run and then not running...etc etc etc...at Leadville 100.

So after that "Oh goodie" thought, came the "Crap. I'm exhausted. I can't do more". But I said "Yes".  And here I am plucking away at the keyboard, and I want to thank Diane for the nudge - for thinking of me and spurring me to action. I really need a swift kick in the patooty, but this works too! I have missed writing entirely too much, and without writing I lack grounding. And so here goes...

You can check out Diane's post at: http://www.boldmovesdiary.com/something-different/

The Blog Hop is titled: "My Writing Process" and it covers these four questions:

1. What am I working on?

A better question might be: What am I not working on??? Golly, I have so many things percolating around in there, that it's a mess of craziness in my head. I have a million and one projects: Book ideas, half written blog posts, short stories (Yes, I USED to write fiction - but that's too scary to share ;) , that sometimes I don't know where it begins and ends.

It would be lovely to say: Oh, yes. I'm working on a book - I mean who isn't working on a book??? It seems that everyone I know has either written a book or is writing a book. Even my husband has written a book and is working on another, and I have to live with him! So, yeah. I feel like a total loser.

At this point I just need to get back in the habit of writing and carve out some little bit of time to do it. But my life right now makes this very difficult. And yet, it's true, I believe, that we make/find time for what matters...and so if it matters...

My dad was great story teller and writer, and always bemoaned his lack of time for reading and writing. His sense of duty, to take care of so many things he may have cared less about (though he cared about taking care of others which lead to his actions) meant he never made the time. These opportunities don't just fall into our laps. You really must go after it with a pitchfork. Now that he is gone, I find this a tragic thing. I don't want to follow in those shoes...

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I guess you would call this blog a 'running' blog, but more often than not I'm not writing about running itself but something I thought about while running or something that running and life share in a general sense. As a college philosophy instructor for 16 years, I find it impossible not to bring philosophy into every aspect of my life. So, it is an essential part of how I view the world, and that comes out in my writing. Sometimes my approach is pretty analytic and I pick things apart to make sense of them and other times it's synthetic, and I try to put the seemingly disparate pieces of existence together in an attempt to make sense of things that just don't always make sense.

This blog is also fairly personal, and this is a good thing and bad thing. I'm thankful that my mother doesn't read it. I've opened myself up a few time here and shown things to complete strangers what I have never shown to those closer. Perhaps it's the anonymity of the interwebs that makes me feel comfortable doing this, but for a fairly private person, it's strange and risky and scary. And yet it's the scary posts that I've received the most heartfelt response to - when I reach out and readers reach back, and it helps them and it helps me - and so, it's worth the risk. If I am nothing else I am always ME. What every that is, it comes out, even if I don't know what it is.

I was once told, after I started my own business, that I needed to watch what I wrote. I thought long and hard about that, and honestly, this idea made me feel pretty sick, and it didn't make me feel very good about myself. I have to sensor ME? How depressing is that?  I decided that I had to continue being me, and if people didn't like it then they needn't work with me. Period. I am always who I am, and I don't want to associate with anyone who wants/expects me to be other than I am. That may make me a bad businesswoman. So be it.
“Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka
3. Why do I write?

Oh dear...Why do I write??? Well, I've always written, though sharing what I write is a more recent thing - and initially I kept my identity under wraps because it was just too terrifying to attach my writing to ME. I need to write. It's like I need to run. I need to love. I need to connect. I need to go out into nature every-single-stinkin-day. I need see beautiful things. I need to see that there is, somewhere, justice in the world. We have needs and we have wants. Part of understanding who I am is knowing the difference between these two things. My life is richer when I view it through a writer's eyes. It is just that simple. I see things differently when I write - when I'm in the midst of a writing project. 
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ~ Anaïs Nin
Socrates maintained that we are most human when we are discussing and arguing. I suppose this is my way of being human. Writing is the attempt to reach out, out into that great big world out there, and to connect, somehow, with someone.

4. How does my writing process work?

Oh, I really don't have a "writing process".  When I'm inspired to write about something I just sit down and do it. Some posts take 20 minutes to write, and some take 2 days. I rarely work on anything for longer than a couple hours, and even that is rare. When I sit down to write I am there because I have something that is bursting at the seams and must be released. My ideas usually come to me when I'm running, and my best writing (as in most satisfying to me) happens when a thought is fresh and vivid. When an idea takes me by the throat and shakes me a bit. That's when it's good - for me, that is.

I wish I could be more purposeful, more methodical. I remember reading about John Cheever, everyday, sitting down at his desk in his underpants and just writing. Writers who do it day in and day out and are disciplined - Oh, how I admire that. There was a time in my life when I would have loved to call myself a 'writer' (Okay. I still would), but without that discipline, it doesn't happen. I suppose if I could simplify the other stuff, then that could happen, but now life is overflowing - which is good, and hard. Then again, that is just another excuse...
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
So that does it, as a start, for me. For now. And so I hope, as with most things, that this will spur me on, and get me thinking again in a way that gets my life vibrating again. For that's what writing does. And running. And love. And that's why we're here. To vibrate. For all we really are is energy. Shake it up...


Next week:  I'm handing off the baton to two bloggers who I know well and admire as people and writers:

Danica Lucker @ http://www.runworkliverepeat.com/, A fellow 'running' blogger who has supported my efforts from the get-go, and is the real deal in writing and running and parenting and all the other hats she wears.

Peter Beal @ http://www.mountainsandwater.com/ , who is my husband. Yes. Talk about nepotistic. But I wouldn't have ever started blogging without his example and encouragement - and he will also try to take credit for my blog name - but in fact that was a collaborative effort. He writes about rock climbing, nature, art and much much more.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Courage: An Active Virtue

"You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor." ~Aristotle
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.” ~ Lao Tzu  
I've spent a fair amount of my life chewing over the qualities, attributes, ideas surrounding, meanings attached to, implications of, possible ramifications of, confusions over: Courage, authenticity and integrity.

These were things I delved into in graduate school, though that was hopelessly out of fashion in uber analytic American philosophy. So this became a personal, somewhat private, obsession. I wrote my masters thesis on Integrity but that question remains unsettled as all essential questions often do. But recently I've become more consumed by questions concerning courage. Perhaps it's because I fear I lack this most primary of virtues. Or perhaps it's because I fail to see courage when it's there.

 And I wonder; Am I possibly confused about what courage looks like? What it actually IS?.

So what is courage? (and no. This is not the first, nor is it likely the last, time I've written on this) Well, obviously one way of looking at it is as the virtue of acting in the face of fear, danger, standing your ground (literally or morally). It's feeling fear, recognizing that a situation is perhaps threatening, and dealing with it rationally while still feeling the fear. As Aristotle says: Courage is feeling just the right amount of fear - not too much (cowardice)  and not too little (foolhardiness).  Courage is dealing with a situation based on the realities of the situation itself PLUS your individual ability to respond to the situation. Bah blah blah. I'm not so interested in this kind of courage right now.

Because courage is also something else - something perhaps even bigger. It's not just a reactive virtue. That is, it's not just something we need when some situation is foisted upon us - it is a virtue we need in order to create a meaningful life - and that is the ACTIVE side of courage. When something is pressed upon us we have little choice but to respond in some way - and hopefully we will do well. But what about the courage when we act on something even when we are not forced into it.

Runners get this. As silly as running is, we are a little bit courageous every time we step out the door for a run (it's safer to stay on the couch or stay in bed) - every time we sign up for a race - every time we toe the line with butterflies in our stomachs. AND especially when we do something that pushes us out of our comfort zone - and where that zone lies is entirely individual. And that is an active choice. It doesn't happen to us. We do not have to do this thing. We choose to do it. And that choice changes us forever. We are not the same person after as before. That act of courage contributes to our characters - a courageous character - whether we see it as such or not. But, if you just do the same thing over and over, if you do the things you are pretty sure you can do, does that require courage? Yes, I think it does a bit, but not as much as when we do something that scares us.

We (like to feel/believe that we) are all safe in our little corners of the universe - the ones where we feel confident, in control, safe, or at the very least, not in peril (of course this is a colossal lie, but it makes us FEEL we have control). But that is not what we are here for. What we are here for is to discover what we have to give, where we can go with this one life we know we have (others are as yet unconfirmed). And every single time we do one thing that makes us feel uncomfortable and scared but also a little bit excited, then our lives become greater - for that spreads out into all aspects of life.

Think about something that scares you but also makes you smile inside and out, and you feel a little gitty at the mere thought of it - at the audaciousness of it. And then do that.
 “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ William Faulkner
Courage is found in unlikely places.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why I'm Not a 'Real' Running Mom

 “I’m probably just as good a mother as the next repressed, obsessive-compulsive paranoiac."  ~ Anne Lamott
The 'Running Mom' movement has really, really, gained momentum, and I am happy and grateful for it. I'm grateful that moms have the support of other moms to get out there and run: to carve out time for themselves; to understand that they have a right to claim that time for themselves; to get that they are better moms when they take care of themselves, that they still count too. Let's face the truth - there's still A LOT of people out there who believe that mothers should always put their families before themselves in everything they do. We moms even foist this crap on ourselves, berating ourselves for being selfish if we really want to go for a run. Moms have serious issues claiming time for themselves and feeling okay about it, so the moms running movement is a fantastic development, and it means that so many more moms are out there running, feeling strong and supported and empowered. And this makes them better moms. And let us not forget, that 40 or 50 years ago, women were simply not allowed to run long distances. And mothers??? No way. It went against nature. Things have changed so much, so much for the better, even in my lifetime.

Before I begin: A disclaimer
What I am about to say has to do with ME and me alone. This is not a comment on my friends, who I value and treasure, and who happen to also be moms. This is not about the wonderful groups of moms I sometimes run with - they energize and invigorate me. I envy their belongedness (Hmmm, There's a world) and I'm just trying to find my place in this silly world.

But here's my thing - I am NOT a 'Running Mom". Oh, I wish I was. I wish I fit somewhere, but I just don't, as much as I have tried. I usually feel that I'm in a no-woman's land of neither here nor there, and it can be a lonely place - or at least an awkward place, for me. I don't fit with my kid-less friends, and I don't really fit with my mommy friends - well, not the way they fit with each other.  It's sort of like that truism: Being a mother (biological) does not necessarily make you a mother/mom in the sense that matters - the "mothering' sense. There's reproduction - simple biology - and then there's more. Well, just because I'm a mother (I hope in BOTH the biological and nurturing sense) and I'm a runner, does that make me a "running mom"...OR, another mother runner????

First: I'm old: Older than all the other moms who have kids the age of my kid. Now, I may be immature and 'young for my age' and in denial about a lot of stuff, but I'm still sometimes 20 (or more!!!) years older than many of them. I could be their mother!!! So, this is awkward, and while they are nice to me, the truth is that they relate to me differently than their other mom friends.

Second: I was 'me' for a lot longer than I have been a mom: How do say this without offending people I admire and care about??? I am a mom who doesn't really feel that this is what defines me - but it's part of me. I spent the first 43 years of my life as 'me', no kids, no desire to have a kid until I hit 41. So, this mom thing is a bit of an after thought, and truth be told, I often feel like a bit of a fake in the company of other mom-runners. I mean this wasn't just part of my nature that manifested itself at the appropriate time. I'm all off, as usual. Un-natural. Odd. Oy.

Third: I was selfish for 43 years and that habit is ingrained: I've never had a problem claiming time for myself for running. My husband and I DID argue about OUR time, but we both stood our ground and claimed it. Yes, this can be a point of friction, but we worked things out, usually. That's still something we have to balance. I ran through most of my pregnancy. I bundled up my 5 week old daughter, in a Colorado, January winter, and ran for hours with her in the BOB without the slightest guilt about it. In retrospect, perhaps I should have felt guilt, but at that point, a new-old mom, I had no running mom friends - so I didn't even know how this stuff was done. I wasn't even on Facebook then! I knew running. I did not know mothering. So I muddled my way through. What did the other, 'real' moms think of these mothering gaffs? I can only wonder.
March, 2017: Three moths old
I suppose I approached the whole thing a bit like some of my climbing mom friends. Interestingly I do not see a 'climbing mom' movement the way I see a 'running mom' movement - maybe climbing moms are different? Hmmm. But my climbing mom friends took their infants out to the crags in back packs, bundling them up and attempting to keep them safe from any rock fall potential. Bringing the kid to the crag just seemed to be an extension of bringing the dog to the crag.

April 2017: 4 months old
Perhaps it's just the fact that I ran for so many years before I became a mother. Perhaps this is all 'in my head'. Perhaps I am making something out of nothing. Perhaps, perception is creating my reality. Or, maybe it just is true that some of us don't fit nicely into these things, as I have never fit anywhere. And this is one reason I love running - Runners often don't fit well anywhere, and find a fit in not fitting along with others who just don't fit so well. And mom runners, themselves, may not feel that they fit so well with non-running mothers which is why they gravitate to this community.

And yet, becoming a mother changed me. I may be a little less selfish. I know there's someone else in the world who I would die for without question and who I could not possibly love more, even when I'm angry as hell at her. Being a mother makes my actions in this world more important. She adds to my self, something I could not know before - but even that is a selfish thing - all about me - what she does for me. She renders all my actions more important in some intangible sense, can't quite put my finger on it, way.

And so I am a mother. And I am a runner. Does that make me this breed of 'mother runner'? I don't know. And perhaps I'm not the only one out there confused and conflicted about how these pieces fit together. It's a work in progress.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Advice

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”  ~ Umberto Eco
My father has been gone for 7 and a half years. He died 4 days after my daughter was born. And I never got to ask him about all the parenting stuff because I had no experience with that and so I wouldn't have known what to ask him. Now questions occur to me almost daily. Though he was 1600 miles away from me I talked with him daily that last summer and fall -  over the course of his illness, while I was pregnant - I was creating a new life, and he was dying. 

Of course I've written about my father many times before, mostly with respect to running. He is why I am a runner - both the encouragement he offered and the example he set, but he made me in other ways as well. I get my philosophical temperament from him. My mother always got irritated and bored with our philosophical banterings and digging into subjects that made her squirm - like the absurdity of God. For us, these exercises were necessary.

 
My dad was a horticulturist. He began working in a greenhouse, in the Garden State, at 16. Now, this was a tough Brooklyn kid. He grew up in Flatbush where all the Irish kids were destined to be cops or inmates, as he told it. His delinquent proclivities lead his parents to send him away to school in Goshen, New York, fearing he was falling in with the wrong element. Soon after, the whole family moved to Cranford, New Jersey. He drove hot rod cars too fast, drank too much, and carried his cigarette packs rolled into his shirt sleeve. He was just a bit of a hellion boy. But, as my mom describes him - he was different from the other boys. There was something deeper there.

So what would lead this tough guy to start messing with flowers? And how did he know, at 16, that that was what he wanted to do with his life (he claimed that he knew right away)? I asked him this once, when I was a teenager. His response: "I knew that I would want to do it even if they didn't pay me".  I will never forget those words. They burned into me and set me on one path rather than another.

We say things to our kids. We never know what will stick and what will bounce off, away, forgotten down the path to oblivion. Today I am grateful for the things that stuck and for the father that I got.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Being Present

"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present." ~ Eckhart Tolle
Time passes. Things happen in time. But in reality, time is nothing. All there is is now. The past is no more. The future is nothing but possibility. Sometimes we become confused about the real nature of this existence we have in our grasp now. This happened to me recently and now I'm trying to learn from it.

How did it all begin?...

When last I wrote I was in the middle of my great experiment: My week off from running post Colfax Marathon. This was the first voluntary (non-injury caused) break I've taken in, well, ummmm, yeah. Decades. Though I've only been back at the racing thing for a little over 5 years, I still ran and ran and ran, day after day, week after week, year after year - steadily since I was, hmmm, 21ish. Before that it was more on and off. But, for most of my adult existence I have just run and run and run.

So, I took a week off - Okay, technically 5 days (a work week) and then ran a short 6 mile jog with some friends and then took the 7th day off. During that week what did I do?? I biked, quite a lot for me, but short rides by biker standards (20-25 mile rides) and I swam. But zero running. Oh, and weed pulling - I did a fair amount of that. And I tuned into my recovery - I enjoyed my rides - took it all in - went to new places - saw old things in different ways. It was a pretty good week.

And then Monday rolled around and I ran - a sweet, hungry, freeing 10 miles, bright and early on a sparkling Memorial Day morning. And then I went off to enjoy a wonderful time on the Bolder Boulder Women's Elite Press Truck.
 
...and then off to the Boulder Creekfest with the family. It was a frenetically busy, wonderful day.

And then as I stood on the potty line waiting my turn, I pulled off my shoe, standing on one leg, to extract a pebble. As I pulled the shoe back on I felt a sharp pain at my sit bone. OUCH. Oh. What...the...He%%??!!. And it continued hurting, a little, in the worrisome 'what is this' way that these things tend to do. The next day I went for an easy 5 mile jog but all was not well. So, I gave it an extra break choosing to bike the next morning. And things felt better by that night, good enough to give a short gait clinic and run with a local running group.

And as I jog around Waneka Lake, as the sun sinks behind the Rockies and the air cools, I am tuned in completely to everything my body is telling me. I am being present...


Things are looking up...But after a week off, and this little blip, I'm champing at the bit a bit.

The next morning: I leave early for another easy, testing, 5 and things feel much, much better. Not 100%, but better. Phew. Nipped that.

Then I jump on the bike and coast the half mile down to my daughter's school to volunteer for the Heather Heatherwood - her school's end of the year 1 mile fun run.

And, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This day is a shiny happy place. All is good and right.

The kids arrive, assemble, and we're off.


 
My husband, daughter and I trot along and my daughter is doing great. Friends crack jokes about how it's cheating that I'm pacing her. We all laugh and soak up this moment. I pick it up a bit to get ahead - snap a picture, fall back into the the flow, and repeat several more times. Each time I tell myself not to push it - but I feel good...
 

I keep reprimanding myself for going ahead too fast - for worrying about the pictures. "Just run with Sophia" I hear in my head.

As we turn and head up the hill, the last quarter mile, I see the fire trucks ahead, and a tall arc of water spraying up into the sky and showering the kids below. I want to get a picture of this, and so I gun it up the hill. As I get about 20 meters from the trucks, I turn my gaze back, over my shoulder to see where my daughter is. As I do so, my left foot hits a drainage dip in the road.

I never even see it coming, though the mistakes I've been making all along have been asking for it. But as my brain registers that my foot is not landing where and when it's anticipating the landing, my entire body responds. I catch myself with my still mending left leg - fully extended - and due to the dip, overextended. In an instant my hamstrings, glutes, and piriformis shoot intense pain to my brain. 'Oh no no no no." I say as I grab my butt and slow to a hobble. My left leg cramps up. I try to jog. No go. I walk to the finish, too slow to get there to see my daughter finish. I am stifling the tears as the day turns instantly dark.

Why the darkness? It's not actually the pain. It's not actually the injury, though I realize immediately that this one is serious (and yes, I am VERY upset about this - mainly because I caused this. Stupidity caused this). The darkness results when I realize that I was not present - not for me, not for my daughter, not for this day and these moments that will never happen again. We can get so sucked into taking pictures that we miss the moments, the actual experiences, and on this day I was slapped in the face with this truth.

I had succumbed to what Plato refers to as the world of (mere) image. A dull copy of the real. Even in the world of perception, there are levels of reality. A copy of an experience is pretty much on the bottom of the divided line. I had chained myself up in Plato's dank cave of ignorance, thinking that what I see is real, through that lens. But what's real is on the other side of that lens.

The rest of the day, I am in tears because I wasn't there for my daughter, for me, for my family. I missed out on something I can never have back. She ran the whole race, and I wasn't there. Why?? Because all I wanted was the damn picture. I should have been running beside her, with her. She will never run that run again. This is a day we can never do over. This is the first time I have looked at most of the pictures that I took that day.

And I hope I've learned my lesson. I pray that I have learned this one thing: Be present.
"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." ~ Buddha

Addendum: My awareness of this phenomena first occurred to me in 1999, at the Louvre, in the Mona Lisa room. I didn't own a cell phone at that time. Or maybe I did, but it was decidedly low tech. My husband and I stood before the Mona Lisa, and all around us were others, phones and cameras pointing at the painting. No one else was LOOKING at the painting. WTH??? You can see a picture of the Mona Lisa in any art book. But are you experiencing the Mona Lisa, as it hangs before you, looking through a lens?? Look with your EYES. Be there when you are there.
Similarly, we all know that a picture of a breathtaking sunset pales in comparison to the real thing. The picture is always a bit of a disappointment.

Tunnel Hill 100: Living as if Living Matters

I wanted to title this "Running After Heart Failure".  I like the ambiguous way it can be read.  However, I can be superstitious,...