Monday, January 28, 2013

Bathing in Lazy

I don't relax well.  Sure I have moments where everything goes to jello but they're fleeting and few.  It's not that I don't need to relax, I do, but the pull of all there is 'to do' is much greater than the voice telling me to sit down.  This body is usually on the move.
One good by-product of running longer distances is fatigue.  I ran on Saturday with a new crew of old friends, Clair (whom you may know), her husband, Mike and our buddy, Larry, pack leader.  It was perfection.  We were four forty-something's churning out the miles on a crisp winter day running the picturesque back country roads.  We chatted it up and I giggled every time Larry signaled us about oncoming cars like a mother hen because he really is that nice.  Father protector.
By Sunday my body was tired.  My mind was tired from loose thoughts needing rounded up, so I made rest my goal.  After my usual coffee and meditation time I began Sunday morning in front of the woodstove and didn't move for four hours.  I sprawled on the floor and got lost in cooking shows, let my daughters play with my hair and watched them make a huge mess in my yarn and beads. My son disappeared into the world of Minecraft.  I submerged myself in a big ol' bath of lazy and dragged myself to shower around lunchtime.  One long, slow, do-nothing, sloth-like morning is about all I can muster but it is enough to reset what needs resetting.

I'm eyeing a new (small) race, the trail could make things interesting and provide a memorable baptism into the world of racing.  Four hours is a long time to ponder such important things.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Running, Resilience and Marky Mark

It was date night last Saturday so we went to dinner and then saw Broken City.  We'd been waiting for it, fans of the lead actor, or as my husband says, "I love me some Marky Mark" (who remembers the early 90's?).  I don't have to convince him to go see a movie starring Mark Walhberg, he thinks he's dragging me. 
It's not one for those averse to violence, cussing, or mortal sin, but rather a study of all three, a good, hard look at human nature with plenty of Hollywood drama thrown in. I sat there curious more than anything about the back story of the lead actor (as I often am), wondering about his real life's journey. I assumed Marky Mark's story was troubled and had to look him up.  Sure enough I found the tale of a former 13 year old coke addict, gang member prone to assult-turned long-time married successful father of four.  He attributes his turn around in part to a special priest who put him on the right path, the wake up call only prison can give, and reportedly attends daily Catholic mass. 
Just like an American movie, his life seems (on the surface anyway) to have had a happy ending, or middle as it were.  We all like happy middles, overcoming the odds, turnarounds, the underdog, triumph over tragedy, stories of resilience.  At least I do.
If I had to pick a word or a theme for myself this year, or something to strive for I'd pick resilience.  I thought about it before I went to see the movie. I've been mulling it over for some time.  Mr. Mark is resilient.  It's a hopeful word, a pick-yourself-up-and-dust-yourself-off kind of word.  It conjures images of coming back stronger, better, brighter with a whole new outlook.  Like a rubber band only improved. 
For whatever reason, call it a perfect storm (stormy, yes), I've felt a flip of the switch inside.  A change in perspective from swimming upstream to down, difficult to easy, complicated to simple, work to play, guilt to pleasure.  I'm reminded that every day is a do-over, a chance to start again, create the life I was intended to live, and to run with it.  And run I shall, I'm eyeing some ways to keep my feet busy this year and have plenty of company for the ride which is perhaps the best part, the icing on the cake.

As far as Mark Wahlberg goes, I'll continue to see his movies with my husband and I'm glad he's still alive.  I don't miss his days as a rapper/hip-hop artist, but I wish they hadn't cancelled his brother's TV show, now that was some good stuff.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Worst shower ever

I showered with this stinky boy last night in the small, stand-up shower off the mud room after he'd been sprayed by a skunk, or rolled in it, no telling, each possibility as plausible as the other.  There was no other option, it was all or nothing.  We were locked in together, in a tiny, steamy, coffin-like sauna of brewing stench that made my eyes water, he just panted and tried to bust out.
The things we do for our pets.  Or maybe I did it for me.  He could care less if he stinks.
I know, I know, you'll tell me there are fool-proof remedies and I know there are but I wasn't about to get out of my pajamas at nine o'clock to go pick up 3% hydrogen peroxide on a Sunday night so I could give him yet another dousing.  No, this would have to be good enough and good enough it was.
Now we've bonded in a new way, one I hope never to repeat only somehow, I feel certain we will.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


This is my go to scarf.  My warmest, cuddliest, squishiest, coziest one, perfect for the dreary winter weather we've had lately.  I made it a few years ago and love it so much I had to make another.  I'm happy to say my elbow is much better and has allowed me to knit, half of the new one is on the needles.  If this weather keeps up and they cancel school based solely on the threat of snow as they are known to do, I just might finish it up by the weekend.
The particulars:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Run rain run

Yesterday I ran in the rain and now my husband and both of the kids' bus drivers think I'm crazy.  The one with the crochety voice, snarled lips, lap blankets and who puts the heat on when it's 70 degrees out especially.  I've run in the rain before, my husband even ran in the rain that morning, but somehow when I do it it's weird and to that I say, poo.
My little blue jacket was a wise investment and kept me perfectly dry underneath, 'cept for the sweat.  My hands and feet were soggy but once I got going the water was no problem, I was focused, stopwatch in hand, repeats the goal. 
I have a stack of new books thanks to friends and I'm hopping from one to the next, feeling incrementally inspired as I go.  I also have a plan and in the wise words of my friend, Larry, "plan your run and run your plan".  Larry, I'm trying.
What's a little weather when you read a book about a guy who has run through every kind of storm, or when you read about your friend's adventure race in Borneo where she wound up with staph infections, 400 leech bites and lung flukes afterward and shrugged it off like the rest of us would a bad haircut?  I've started Chi Running and am thumbing through Run Less Run Faster on loan from Clair as well as The Runner's Diet so I can learn what I'm doing wrong there, I'm sure there's plenty.  And then there's a little book about healing, for the inner me, something I can only take in small doses but it's time and it's a good accompaniment to my daily meditation.
Whatever comes of all of the reading/running/biking the silver lining is this:  I am fully distracted and not perseverating on how much I dislike winter.  I dare to say I am finding just as much opportunity in winter as summer and if the weather gets a little hairy there's always the treadmill. As I write this I also see I'm not alone in my pursuit of wetness and fitness, that Clair also plans a full on dreary, rainy, winter run today and to that I say, it sure is good to have crazy friends.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Small victories: singletrack round II

I will never be a professional mountain biker, that isn't the goal. But I got out there again and down and up the hill I wouldn't even try last time. This new adventure is about saying to hell with 42, trying something new, getting out there even in the winter (yesterday it was 65, okay, doesn't count) instead of holing up inside and complaining about the cold.  It's about looking fear in the face, trying anyway and coming up on the other side.

We won't talk about how I almost took out my riding partner, yep, clipped her right in the side as I yelled, "i'mgonnarunintoyoui'mgonnarunintoyoui'mgonnarunintoyou!" and bam! I did as she stood there trying to catch me.  At least she laughed.  She said she thought I was going to stay on the trail.  A good assumption (yes!), but she doesn't yet know who she's riding with.

I'm tired of being afraid, of limiting myself due to the little voices in my head that don't believe in me and tell me I can't.  Yes, I landed on my ass once but I got back up.  No I didn't make it up every hill but I tried every one, I made it over every log this time and worked on my technique and watched the pro and learned as I went.  Isn't that what life's all about?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why run?

I thought about the thousand different reasons people run, everything from getting in shape to losing weight to accomplishing personal goals.  But when it comes to why I run, why I've always run, what it really all boils down to I came up with three reasons:
1.  I like it
2.  It's fun
3.  (at the present moment) I can
Of course I can go into much more detail than that, breaking each item down into sub-parts but I might lose you so I won't.  My husband says I like the idea of fleeing and he makes his index and middle fingers run down the arm of the couch when we discuss it, and in a way he's right and uses an interesting choice of words.  Fleeing without running away.  Yes.
I'm planning on running more in 2013, big foot in big mouth, thanks in part to two very strong supporters:  husband, Clair, both of whom apparently believe more in my abilities than I do in myself.  Funny what some people see in you that you don't see in yourself.  I plan to remedy that, maybe fake it a little till I make it, or just give up on perfection, get over it, get over myself, get on with life. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Singletrack: friends, fear and faith

Singletrack as defined by wikipedia is a narrow mountain biking trail that is approximately the width of the bike. It contrasts with double track or fire road which is wide enough for four-wheeled off-road vehicles. In addition it is frequently smooth and flowing, but it may also exhibit technical rocky sections and may be criss-crossed with tree roots. Single track riding can be quite challenging from a technical standpoint.
In other words, they tried to kill me.  Okay, maybe I'm being melodramatic.
The longer I live the more I realize it's never too late to learn something new.  While one school of thought may be that we are only young once, (ie. we are carefree as children, do fun and adventurous, maybe even stupid things as adolescents/teens, then we grow older, wiser, settle down, have families, slow down, get old, melt into the couch and become a bag of aching bones that groans while the youth of the world do what we once did and lament our misspent younger days), I'm proof that age really is a state of mind and conformity isn't for everyone.
The beautiful women above have recently introduced me to mountain biking and I'm ever grateful.  Not just for their generosity in showing me the ropes, but for being patient, encouraging and believing in me.  This simple thing is a huge gift once recognized. As they believe in me, I begin to believe in myself and realize what I've been missing and what I'm capable of.
I got over my aversion to wearing a bike helmet (so I don't die!) that exaggerates my already extra large head thereby making it a super bubble head.  It was time to have some fun, big head, tight pants and scrawny muscles be damned, I was gonna do this thing.
The pictures don't do these hills justice, especially when perched at the top, peering over handlebars, nevermind the roots you can't see.  She is fearless, confident, poised....
...I, on the other hand am hanging on for dear life and cussing uncontrollably...look closely at my mouth.
They popped right up on the other side....
...while I crashed into my handlebars two-thirds of the way up these steep climbs after flying right off my pedals.  I'm on the hunt for shoes, clipless pedals....
It literally took me three tries on two separate steep drops to psych myself up to careen down the hill and pray I'd pop up.  I had to breathe and give myself some serious pep talks before I could do it.  I summoned my meditative state of mind, I told myself to trust the bike, that if I just hung on it would take me through to the other side, I told myself I could do it and then I closed my eyes and went for it.
It was a good thing.  Even though I crashed and my feet flew off the pedals and I smashed into the handlebars and Ponytail had to catch me so I didn't tip over backward and fly down the hill.  Twice.  On this singletrack I learned how to negotiate roots as tangled as my daughters unbrushed hair, whoop-de-dos that felt like mini roller coasters and quick turns, climbs and logs that I once told myself I couldn't traverse.  Funny what the mind will do if you let it.
And had I known at the beginning of it all that Maureen (Rocket), our fearless leader is a former adventure racer extraordinaire and co-author of a book on the subject who trained for ultra-marathons I would have been terrified to try any of this.  In fact, I'd better not think about it too much or I might lose my nerve to go again!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Slackline party

My husband and the kids bought me a new slackline for Christmas.  Only this time I went old school.  I asked for the original, just climbing webbing, a couple of carabiners and one round, metal ring configured together with a primitive rigging, the way it orginated.  And I forgot to mention, a one inch line, all purchased from REI.  They thought I was crazy and when I opened the package, so did I.
I'd been itching to get a group together at our house after several friends said they wanted to try.  I piqued their interest here, even from our first rough go, to the next post complete with video. There has been a steady progression in skill level that made me want to take it to the next level.  I may have taken it too far!

Whatever happens, Saturday at least was a blast and I think I made some believers out of the crew that was here.  Believers that:

1.  slacklining is so much fun!
2.  you can't stop trying until you GET IT!
3.  it's a crazy good workout for your whole body and is great for kids
4.  it is ten thousand times harder than you think it is

Unfortunately at this point I was otherwise occupied and my friend picked up the camera so I found a ton of pictures of myself.  Yikes!  Until the next party that is.  We had a group of over twenty and plenty more who couldn't come.  If you missed the invite it's because I don't know you're interested.  Let me know if you want to come (locals) and you'll be included the next go around.  The weather's looking fantastic for this weekend so keep your ears open!
it was so hard all I could do was stand and wobble

wearing my son's Keen's

had to use the stool for balance like the old lady I am

warning: when you fall off this one it's a bit like a slingshot


Friday, January 4, 2013

Running party

I love to eat my words.

Let me start by saying I like to run but I've never run a race.  I consider myself a solitary runner, in it for the health benefits, what it does for my mind, body, soul.  If you love running you know what I mean.  If you hate running you think I'm crazy.

But, if I stop to think about it, the rare times I run with other people I blab my head off and enjoy it.  I just don't plan ahead to run with other people often.  Maybe I'm not who I think I am.

The other night, New Year's Eve, we were gathered around the fire talking, and a friend who has run many a race said he didn't have any planned this year.  He no longer felt the need to take time from work to travel or pay to run what he could on his own.  I chimed in agreeing completely having never run a race, really having no credibility or right to agree, but I did anyway as that has long been my position on the issue.  There we were, case closed, no races in 2013, no reason to pay for something we could easily do on our own.

The next day I remembered my son wants me to run a 5K or 10K or some kind of K with him. 

me to son:  "Hey, did you want to run the Monument Avenue 10K with me this year?"

son:  "YES!  When is it?"

me:  "In April.  You have plenty of time to get ready."

son:  "Sure."

With foot in mouth I started texting friends.  Turns out Clair and her daughter were already planning on running it and with just a mention that we were going to sign up I got five other people to agree.  I think it's one of the largest 10K's on the east coast or something like that, should be a big party.  Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Good advice

I am not going to give you advice but I'll share some that was given me last night, New Year's Eve.  It has nothing to do with resolutions, I don't make any, but it did stop me in my tracks and it just might turn me around.  Good advice will do that, of course.

We were gathered around the food, kindred spirits, us three, vastly different from one another yet sisters at heart sharing common stories, invisible bonds formed by similar circumstance and tales from long ago.  We three are the survivors, the phoenixes risen, the ones who picked up, moved on, away from trouble and now lead "normal" lives.  We laugh, nod in understanding with few words spoken about the past, little explanation is needed when you've been there.

The holidays were difficult again this year, as they always have been, only now the conflict is different, internal.  As I struggled with another year not knowing how to deal with the past so as to be in the present and move to the future I made no headway, just white-knuckled my way through, hung on for dear life and clenched my teeth until the holidays were over all while trying to put on the bestChristmasever! for my children.  It was a monumental feat.  Each year, each moment I look for the way to shed my history, to rid myself of the pain, the memories, the fear and repeatedly fail in my approach.

I thought about all of this last night as I listened to the stories. I learned new information, which fitted together the puzzle of past events that became clear. I garnered strength from these women, who held their ground, each living according to their beliefs, not compromising their safety, well-being or that of their families and I felt comforted, and in good company.  I posed the question, "But how do I rid myself of the memories?  How do I leave the past in the past and move on?  I can't seem to let it go."

And my dear friend turned to me and said, "Perhaps you don't.  Maybe you should pick it up, claim it.  It's part of who you are, it has given you strength, insightfulness, compassion, empathy and a beauty that otherwise may not have been."

Everything stopped at that moment.  I saw things in a new light, from a different perspective.  Perhaps all of this running and hiding I've been doing for as long as I can remember is pointless and wasted effort.  When this friend talks, I listen and I will tell you why.

Many years ago when we didn't really know each other, only each other's surfaces, we shared a similar moment.  It was Christmastime, one of my most difficult, the first out on my own, the tides had turned, I no longer saw my family of origin, I felt as if my life was over and just beginning all at the same time and as though I was torn in two.  I saw this friend at church, she walked straight to me and gave me a huge hug, a long, tight hug, the kind that means something deeper than hello and she said in my ear, "Something told me you really needed a hug."

Instantly tears rolled down my face.  She knew nothing of my past at the time, nothing of my story, or former life, only my wide smile that barely covered it all.

After seeing my tears she went on to say, "I had a dream about you last night.  I woke with a start and sat straight up in bed.  I knew immediately you needed my prayers and that the next time I saw you I was to give you a big hug and tell you so."

I cried more, I told her the holidays were hard but nothing else and I knew then that she was light to see, to follow, observe and hear.  So when she tells me to claim my past, to pick it up, to carry it and accept it as my own, as part of the rocks, stones and mortar that have made me me, I listen and I shall.