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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inspiration

"Here I am,  just waiting on this storm to pass me by.  And that's the sound of sunshine coming down, and that's the sound of sunshine coming down..." -Michael Franti & Spearhead 




I'll say it: I haven't been running.  At all.  It's been a tough month, but I am not going to waste words on excuses.  I am a little different than many runners in that, by teaching my Spin classes, I still get that "fix" of endorphins and, believe me, I can hammer out a ton of emotional stuff on that bike.  But, I miss my runs.  I miss the flow and the gentle stride I now call my own.  I miss hearing my own breathing.  I miss cool, fresh, air hitting my lungs. I miss being in my own space and that, if the needed tears come, no one has to see them.

As I'm sitting here, procrastinating preparing to teach a class, I look out at the gorgeous fall day developing on the other side of my window and I say, "I just need some inspiration, and I'm going to stay here and wait until it shows up.  Once it does, I'll be out there again."

And then I laugh.  Silly girl.  You know better than that.  When I really think about it, inspiration has been all around me, but I have chosen not to see it.  It was here in the energy of the NYC Marathon this weekend.  It was here in the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes that welled as I read an email from a friend, completely high after he completed it, his first.  It was here Sunday when my son sat on my lap on the sidelines of his flag football game, his 7 year-old body shivering from the cold and a tough elbow he took that threw him to the ground.  Yet, when the offense was called up, he ran right out to be with his team.  It was here yesterday in an an ultrarunning promo video posted on Facebook, set to one of my all-time favorite motivating songs.  It was here in a conversation with a new friend last night when I babbled on and on about the joys of running, especially the minimalist movement and doing it barefoot.  It was here in the eyes of my students, who do not want to do one more Tabata drill (ever), but they do it anyway.  It is here in a sunny, fall day, in the scent of fallen leaves, exactly like they smelled in the woods where I grew up.  You get the idea.  It is perpetually present...inside, outside and everywhere.  We just have to choose it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Layers

"The only baggage you can bring is all that you can't leave behind" -U2


It's marathon weekend here in and around NYC.  It's all over the news, and friends and family and famous faces are running.  I did it last year, for my first 26.2, and it will forever remain etched in my consciousness and my heart as one of those days that somehow defines me.  Admittedly, I am a little jealous, but I'm also glad I have not been on a training schedule these last few weeks.  

It's supposed to be cold tomorrow morning and I also don't envy those waiting on Staten Island for the start.  However, I know they will be layered up in all of their "throwaway clothes" that will be shed as soon as they get moving and their bodies heat up.  

I often choose my own throwaway clothes as symbolic, metaphors for things I am ready to discard along my journey...issues that have clung to me from phases in my life or relationships, like heavy, wet laundry.  I remember a particularly satisfying toss of my final layer on the Verrazano Bridge last year, high above The Narrows.  

Last night, I went out with a few good girl friends.  It was Jen's birthday and we talked about aging.  Most of the women are into their 50s, one is in her 40s and then there is me, about to cross that bridge.  I made the statement that my impending birthday has changed the way I am thinking and making decisions.  Simply put, there are things I refuse to take into my next year, things I simply refuse to carry with me any longer, layers I am removing and discarding along the curb, still being careful to toss them far enough so no one else trips up on them and stumbles.