Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DNF=Do Not Fear

I miss writing.  I miss running, too.  I miss it so much that I decided to run a half-marathon last Sunday without any training.  Zero.  I hoped it would inspire me, humble me, and motivate me to get back out there.  I knew I could get through 6 or 7 miles without a problem, but anything beyond that was like a dark abyss of unknown.

I need to rewind.  Where's that button?  Here I sit, with 2011 already 1/4 over. Yes, it really is, as my 12-year old recently reminded me.  I have turned 40 (as he also regularly reminds me) and the 40 miles have not (yet) happened.  Also, I pulled out of the Big Sur Marathon, my birthday trip/gift to myself, and it had nothing to do with part of the course falling into the Pacific Ocean.  If I let myself ponder all these things for too long, I, myself, would fall into a dark abyss worse than the second half of the 13.1.

Life shifted, big time, for me at the end of January, when I took a full-time job managing a new fitness studio, and teaching all my indoor cycling classes for them.  My entire schedule changed and is booked solid with work and kids.  We, runners, are creatures of habit and routine and my old routine is now nonexistent.  I am just starting to feel a certain rhythm return, much like the early stages of a long training run.  It sometimes takes me 30 minutes to feel smooth.  But, along the way, running and writing have been put away in that box, the last one you open after you've moved into a new place.  Finally, I've gotten the top off and am letting it air out a bit, figuring out how I can fit it all in.

So, now, we fast-forward.  I am corralled at the start of the More/Fitness Magazine Women's Half-Marathon in Central Park, with 2 hilly loops out ahead of me and a nagging pain in my left foot that has been coming on over the past few weeks.  It feels very much like Plantar Fasciitis, but I don't want to admit it.  As I said, I haven't been running, but I have been teaching a lot of indoor cycling classes, and it feels worse the more I teach.  Clip placement?  Pushing too hard on the pedals?  Still trying to figure it out.  But, I still taught 3 classes the day before, and I am not inclined to give myself a break.

Standing there, I am listening to the shivering women around me talk about training and nervousness and times and I feel like an outsider.  I think back to my first half and how I was exactly like them.  I look down at my number and see my age...40...printed there like an entry stamp into a new club...a new age group.  I think back over my past races, my years of running, the past 6 months of my life and my girlfriends who are in different start groups.  I feel incredibly alone.

The race starts with "the sisters are doing it for themselves" blasting over the speakers and I instantly miss the guys...badly, and this surprises me.  I am all for Girl Power, I mean, I have a Goddess tattooed on my rib cage.  But I want that energy there, I really do!!  After the usual weaving around slower runners, which reminds me, I honor your presence in every single race and I don't really care how long it takes you to finish, but, please, if you are going to walk the race, please, please, start with the walkers, please?

Anyway, after all the weaving, I settle into a nice groove and, around mile 5-6, it becomes a reality that I am not going to run through this pain in my foot.  It is increasingly worse, I am limping, barely able to put any pressure on it, which throws my form off so badly, I start to feel it in my hip.  I suddenly develop Multiple Personality Disorder and begin talking to myself (I am in Central Park, so at least I still blend in).  The conversation goes something like this:

Me: "Okay, you are really hurt.  You are in pain.  I think we need to stop."
Myself: "No, I have pushed through pain before."
Me: "Not like this. Do you really want to be a hero today and limp for the next 6 miles, risking further injury, not being able to work or run for months, all for a race you are not even dedicated to?"
Myself: "I don't want a DNF.  I have never dropped from a race."
Me: "Are you having fun?  Are you enjoying this?"
Myself: "No."

And my legs stop.  I start to walk.  Limp, actually.

Being a 2-loop race, I know the finish line would also be at the 1/2 way mark, so I decide to stop there, spectate and cheer on my friends as they come through.  I watch the sub-2 hour pacing balloons, that I worked hard to pass, go by me.  I think about how my expensive, symbolic "throw-away" shirt will not get tossed on this day.  I think about what it's like to be one of the people who motivates others for hours each week and wonder, now, who motivates and supports us when we need it?

And as I watch the finish, I really focus on the faces of the women running through-the strained expressions, the smiles, how everything seems to melt away as the glance up at the finishing clock and know they have done IT.  I so relate.  I get to watch Jen kick ass and run a PR, her second one in 2 weeks.  I remind her that her sore quads are worth it.  She now owns it.  I see another friend let go of time goals because she's enjoying chatting with a friend for the whole race.  I remind Kim, and I hope she really gets it, that, while she ran the race slower than she hoped, she pushed through her own pain and mental doubt just to finish because she worked that hard to get to the start, and that is what counts more that anything.   I believe there is a lesson for each of us in every race we run, and it's never about how long it takes to get to the finish line or whether we actually do.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bookends

"For all that we struggle 
For all we pretend 
It don't come down to nothing 
Except love in the end 
And ours is a road 
That is strewn with goodbyes 
But as it unfolds 
As it all unwinds 
Remember your soul is the one thing 
You can't compromise 
Take my hand 
We're gonna go where we can shine"
-David Gray, "Shine"

Sunrise 
There is no gentle or nice way to put it.  For me, the first hour of 2010 sucked and the last hour of 2010 sucked.  Those 2 hours sit on opposite ends of my shelf like evil, gargoyle-shaped bookends, sneering at me, daring me to move them away.  In between them are stacked volumes of experiences that occurred during the year.  Some are shiny and new, standing tall, calling out to be read. Some are worn and used, with tattered bindings and dog-eared pages, re-visited over and over again, the lessons still not memorized.  Others are filled with memories and snapshots of accomplishments, races and runs, reminders of what worked and what did not. Still others are in the discard section, maybe to be burned in a beautiful bonfire, or maybe to be passed along to someone who can benefit from the words.  These chapters, stories, experiences and manuals all come together to form quite a year.  As it ended, it felt mostly like a year in which I closed many doors and left behind the things I no longer need in my life. 

The good news is that I feel the new energy, and the first hour of 2011 was already better than the last hour of 2010.  Maybe it's all in my head, or maybe things have really shifted.  The sun is shining brightly, it is warm for 1.1.11 here in NY, and I had a gorgeous 6+ mile run with Jen.  Part of our route takes us past the waterfront, across which we can see the Manhattan skyline.  Today, as we rounded that bend, I looked out at the sandy beach, grey-blue water and city to my right.  I looked ahead at the black pavement, outlined by  the white piles of snow, leftover from our blizzard, the sun reflecting off its melting puddles.  I noticed how warm I was and how good the air felt to breathe, and I had only one thought: "Man, we are so lucky to be able to run here, like this..."  

And now, it feels so good to replace one of those bookends.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

sometimes


"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life" 
-Mumford & Sons 


Sometimes a run is just a run. 
Sometimes it needs to be completed as training for a race or to reach a goal. 
Sometimes a run is time away from something...
or time with something, someone, myself.
Sometimes a run is long, enduring and easy,
 sometimes it's hard.  
Sometimes it's full of laughter and conversation.
Sometimes it's silent.

And, sometimes, like my last one, it's a short, fast,
 heavy breathing, heart-pumping,
 cold air stinging warm lungs and skin, 
nose-running, tear-inducing,
 all-out effort 
to pound away all of those things
 that need to be released in order to feel like
 I am
 gliding
 again.  

Yeah, that was a good run.

Happiest of Holidays to you and all those you love.  
May you have many miles ahead of you into 2011 and beyond!  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dirty Birds • Dirty Moments • Dirty Thoughts

"At the drive-in
in the old man's Ford
behind the bushes
until I'm screamin' for more
Down the basement
lock the cellar door
And baby
talk dirty to me"
-Poison

PCS has the best t-shirts, but this one is my favorite so far...

In my world, dirty is good.  One of my earliest memories is, as a 3-year-old, playing in a pile of dirt in our new yard, making a new friend who wandered over to see what I was all about.  I am forever grateful that I had parents who encouraged us to run out the door, barefoot, into the yard, woods and ponds, to dig and explore.  I am who I am because of those experiences, and I often tell my own children (who are growing up differently than I did) that coming home dirty is a sign of a good day.  Today was one of them.

In a conversation the other day about racing, I observed that there is a moment in every race that I wonder, "WHY am I doing this?"  Surprising even myself, I paused for a moment and quickly scanned back over as many recent races as I could.  Yup.  It pretty much happens every time, and I can usually remember exactly where I was when the thought popped up.  It only happens for a second or two and the other moments far outlast this tiny one, but it still happens.  

Today, during the Dirty Bird 15K Trail Race, I had the moment after I saw 3 people stumble and fall during the first 1/4 mile of the run (maybe even during the first 1/8).  We were still crowded on the narrow trail and they all fell victim to the rocks that were partially hidden under a blanket of leaves, waiting, like giant nesting turtles, to snap an ankle.  My own trip came much later, it was a soft fall, and it was a root, not a rock, that grabbed me.  After seeing others with bloody knees at the finish, I consider myself lucky!!

Looking back over the run, my report doesn't read like a story that unfolds over the course.  Instead, it is a series of moments that occurred like a connect-the-dots picture...draw the lines in between them, and it all becomes clear:

•road-tripping solo from Long Island to PA just to run in the woods • seeing the sunrise that came up behind me, the huge orange sphere peeking through the New York City skyline as I drove away • hearing the awesome race volunteers, especially the guy who saw the NY plate on my car and asked me with a tilted head, if I just drove this morning to do this?? Oh, and the woman who was cheering us on at the start, yelling, "TRAIL RUNNERS ARE THE COOLEST PEOPLE!" • feeling the hippie trail runner energy that was especially present today • seeing my favorite slogan of the day, on a female runner's hat: "I don't chase after boys, I pass them." • smelling the chimney smoke • hearing the distant, popping gunshots of hunters • running into the short but sweet reprieve from the rocky trail into a grove of pine trees, tall and thin, reaching for the sky, smelling like Christmas, their needles pillowing the earth • being inspired by the speed and agility of the strongest runners • saying a prayer of gratitude to the person who introduced me to this blend of insanity and joy, in a way, bringing me home.  I hope you received it • finishing strong • tasting the salty, creamy, warm soup as my body cooled off, I peeled off the dirty layers and headed home •

Dirty Shoes




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reflections


"It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken, 
Perhaps they're better left unsung. 
I don't know, don't really care 
Let there be songs to fill the air. 

Ripple in still water, 
When there is no pebble tossed, 
Nor wind to blow. 

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, 
If your cup is full may it be again, 
Let it be known there is a fountain, 
That was not made by the hands of men. 

There is a road, no simple highway, 
Between the dawn and the dark of night, 
And if you go no one may follow, 
That path is for your steps alone."

-The Grateful Dead

I woke up this morning thinking about the descent of the holiday season.  I have 2 races planned over this Thanksgiving weekend.  One, my local neighborhood 8K Turkey Trot, and another, a road trip to a 15K trail run in PA.  I am psyched for both.  I have never been a fan of Thanksgiving, for many reasons. Yet, there is still something about this time of year which helps me center and reflect on my life.  

Today, it began with going over to my other blog and reading my writing here about last year's Turkey Trot.  It remains one of my most favorite blog posts.  In reflecting back over this year, I realized my gratitude list is enormous.  I struggled to sum it up into one idea, but I finally got it.  Today, it is the people in my life for which I am most grateful: The people who love me, laugh with me, cry with me, ride with me, sweat with me...the people who hold my hand, who challenge me, whose footsteps fall in rhythm with mine during a run...the people whose writings inspire me and who have found something of value in mine...the people who hold the mirror...the people who stand by my side when I am stuck in the hallways of my life, one door closed behind me and the new one yet to open...the people who are standing behind that new door, I do not even know they exist, yet they open it with a huge smile and say, "welcome in"...the people, especially my children, who make me pause, every day, and think, "I am the luckiest girl on earth."


Late last night, I was encouraged to get out of the cozy comfort of my bed and step out on my balcony to look at the moon.  Its light was reflecting off of my neighborhood, the masts of the sailboats across the street and the bare branches at the tops of the trees.  As I looked up, I was reminded that, no matter where our feet are planted on this earth, or what phase it is in, we all look up at the same moon...connected.

Oh yeah, and don't forget to kick butt in all of your Turkey Trots.  Happy, Happy.







Saturday, November 13, 2010

Caumsett

"i thank You God for this most amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes"
 - e. e. cummings




A few of my meters have been running close to empty, but my connection to nature was the one that needed to be filled the most. I knew that, once it was, all the others would rise up as well.

So, I decided to take a drive to Caumsett State Park here on Long Island for a run. The Goddesses must have known how important this was to me, because they shined down the most gorgeous, warm, November day.

I prefer to run unencumbered, with the least bit of gear possible, but I was going by myself and was planning to be out there for hours, so I brought a light pack.  Once I decided this, I grabbed my son's small digital camera to take along, "just in case."  For a long stretch of time, that camera did stay in the pack and I actually did run, but I was also able to photograph a run like I have never done before and it was just magical.  This is just a sample...

I eventually got a little turned around (okay, lost) in the single-track sections, so I pretty much stayed on the main trail.



Hmmm...little green orb...


Right after this, a beautiful buck jumped out of the brush in front of me. He was probably the biggest one I have ever seen, with a good set of antlers and a huge white tail.  He jumped into the marshland and we made eye contact before bounding off.  Completely startled, I think I stopped breathing for a few seconds.    

Beach sand.


End of the beach trail.


Cactus on Long Island








By now, I am off all trails entirely, thanks, in part, to the nice guy I met early in my run, who was also taking photos and encouraged me to venture in and enjoy the way the light was playing off the leaves.  


Perspective.




Stopped here to sit and meditate.  The leaves were falling like snow.  






I had a nice reintroduction to reality.  During the last mile back to the parking lot, I caught up with the guy from early in my run and 2 others who were on mountain bikes.  As I ran past, I heard them (loudly) say they were due for a tequila party.  Being a fan myself, I said, "Hey, can I come?" "Yes!" they all yelled in unison, "You seem like our kind of girl!"  Nice.  


Oh, yeah, and it's exactly 4 months to 40.  








Thursday, November 11, 2010

Playing the Lottery

"Hey, you never know."

In my life, I am currently playing 2 lotteries (well, 2 that involve numbers, anyway).  #637160 is my entry number for the NYC Half-Marathon in March and #673422 is my entry number for the 2011 NYC Full next November.  It will be 2-3 months before I know if get a spot in either.

I am trying to come to terms with this whole process.  Obviously, it has to be done, but I am not a big fan.  While there's that part of me that believes we end up with the experiences we are meant to have, I still want the opportunity to run.  Please??  I know I can get involved with a charity as I did last year, but, it would also be nice to know that I am just "in."

After giving my inner control-freak a hug and telling her it's all going to be okay,  I choose to put the energy forward that I WILL get in and then just let it go...surrendering it to the Goddesses, who are (literally) always on my side.


On the same day I was pondering all this lottery nonsense, I received an email from Pretzel City Sports (a group that puts on wacky, fun and challenging trail races in PA), advertising their Thanksgiving weekend "Dirty Bird" 15K trail run.  In big bold letters, it reads, "NO ENTRY LIMIT!!"  I had to smile at the irony.

I haven't even signed up yet, but I'll make the drive to be at that trail race and, next year, I might be running through the concrete jungle.  As much as I love to do one, I love to do the other more.  As much as I appreciate the low-key trail run, I get intoxicated on the energy of the city.  As much as I embrace the the changing terrain and scenery of the trails, I enjoy the consistency of the pavement and running in the shadows of skyscrapers.  It's the yin and the yang, the fire and the water, the balance, and I just love, love, love that I get to experience it all, even if I have to take some chances to get there.