Monday, December 31, 2012

Lucky Number Thirteen

Almost exactly this time last year, I was fighting off sleep to get my final post of 2011 done.  Guess what I’m doing right now?  Pull this laptop from me and I’d pass out in about five.  As I mentioned last year, social media networks are bogged down with party pictures and status updates of high hopes for the new year.  For the past week, we reflexively reflect on 2012 to find the good, bad and the life lessons. 

I distinctly remember telling a few friends that this year was going to be ‘all me’.  I gave birth to my second daughter in 2011, so my focus for 2012 would be getting my body back in shape.  I kept that promise.  Early this year, I put my body through some rigorous training for the PA Tough Mudder.  The Mudder changed my personal perspective; I proved that it was possible to juggle multiple life obligations while fitting in extreme training.  Because the Mudder wasn’t good enough I felt it necessary to run a half marathon the following day (unofficially dubbed Muffin Madness 2012).  I wonder how crazy Madness 2013 will be for me??  In mid-July I started training for the Philly Marathon, once again, reinforcing the importance of family support to get the job done.  Without the help of my family, I would not have crossed that finish line in November.  My ‘racing’ year around these two major events was peppered with other local races.  My ‘buddy’ group grew to incorporate more novice runners with a commitment to find wellness and the added bonus of friendships. 

I sadly said good-bye to two family members, Uncle Phil and Aunt Rose.  News of their deaths instantly brought me back to my childhood, temporarily pushing me into a dark space.  I also had the unpleasant experience of attending the funeral of a young girl.  The environment was quite suffocating as I tried to make sense of the situation.  Unfortunately, I handle the passage of time with deep sadness and fear.  It’s a challenge for me to accept this facet of reality.  Perhaps it’s something to work on in the future.  And, my last bit about death: Adam Yauch passed away in May of parotid-gland cancer, three years post diagnosis.  You can read about it’s impact on me here

I’d be a liar if I said that 2012 sucked.  Here’s some of the good:

Training with my Mudder buddies.  The girls’ birthdays.  Perfecting my guacamole.  Las Vegas stories.  My new couch (If you met my previous couch you’d be right with me).  Cooking new dishes.  Reading new books.  New & old friends.  OBX vacation.  Writing.  Setting a 10K personal record on my 35th birthday.  Runner’s World Hat Trick.  Philly Marathon.  Watching Ava bake cookies.  Seeing my grandmother.  Neil Young with my Dad & bros.  Opportunities.  New traditions for Christmas. 

Last year I made a few ‘resolutions’.  Let’s see how I did:

Listen to more Foo Fighters – Mission accomplished.  The Foo got me through some tough training times when I couldn’t bear the silence. 

Watch more movies – I still haven’t seen a movie in the theater since 2007…there’s always next year.  I think I’ve seen a few more movies.  I’ll keep this on the list.

Make a quilt – I planned to make a race shirt quilt.  Although I don’t have a finished product, I do have the shirts and a general pattern.  Hey, it’s a start.  

Read a book that has nothing to do with running – I actually read at least three books that had nothing to do with running: Bossypants, 11/22/63 and The End of Your Life Book Club.  I love how all these books have NOTHING in common with each other. 

Write more – Believe it: right now, without publishing this blog post I have 26 posts for 2011 and 26 for 2012.  What are the odds?  Looks like I’m going to ‘one-up’ myself in about ten minutes.  :)

Breathe more.  Sleep more.  Love more. – I think I’m good here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Mile A Day…

My last post focused on my submission to the body.  I needed to put my legs up (both literally and figuratively) to give my body a break from months of marathon training.  Oh, yeah, and running a marathon on a cramping leg.  Every breath we take affects the world around us.  We harmonize with the Earth like a rippling lake or a breeze through a tree in spring.  Perhaps it’s the butterfly effect or six degrees of Kevin Bacon…regardless, we’re all connected.  By the way, have you seen this?  I digress. 

What goes up must come down, yes?  We’ve all heard that cliché; I dislike them, but in some cases, it’s applicable.  So my high was a successful completion of the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18th.  By Saturday, November 24th, I was on my way downhill as I realized that running in the short future wouldn’t be possible.  On Wednesday, November 28th, I sat in disbelief as I accepted responsibility for an unfortunate situation.  This moment would soon become the beginning of my ‘rock bottom’.  As if confirmation of the world’s end came directly to me, I decided to cut my losses and pick up what I needed to move on.  I’m not sure if I cut ties, but distancing myself from everything would be the best move.  Plan B is a generalized blueprint I had been scheming since I was on maternity leave with Allison the summer of 2011.  Plan B always was a pipe dream.  Plan B contains the plans that some people joke about following IF they hit the lottery.  On November 28th, my friends, Operation Plan B was the only option.  My goal would be to implement a Plan B, even if somewhat modified.

In the midst of all this crap, I did not run, not even one mile.  I might have hopped on the bike twice.  I certainly didn’t adhere to any of the original plans I laid out for myself in the post-marathon recovery period.  Life is about change, so I would adapt.  I continued about my daily business as the stress compounded.  My attitude changed – not necessarily for the better and I began to lose touch with myself.  Thankfully, I, along with the help of my family, recognized that I was miserable.  I needed to understand that all good things come with time.  There IS an end in sight'; there IS a light at the end of the tunnel (cliché yes?). 

Everything happens for a reason.  Last week I attended an employee forum.  Before signing in, I was greeted by a lovely group of women who offered to take my blood pressure.  I willingly accepted with a chip on my shoulder.  I bragged about my low BP suggesting that we take bets.  Much to my dismay it was high, like hypertension high.  Shit.  They assured me that the reading could be false based on a number of factors.  After the hour long meeting, I tried again.  Fail.  High again.  Immediately concerned about this, I had a salt-free dinner.  The rest of the week was riddled with dizziness, consistently higher readings and headaches.  We also had little Allison scheduled for a myringotomy (tubes in ears).  Fearful that I could drop over at anytime, I called my physician and scheduled an appointment.  I got the canned response from the nurse directing me to go to the Emergency Room if I experienced shortness of breath, migraines and/or chest pain.

I arrived at the doctor’s office twenty minutes early with a book to pass the time.  Reading could be considered a form of relaxing activity, but is it when the book you’re hooked on is called The End of Your Life Book Club?  Sometimes I really have to laugh at myself.  My physician, whom I truly appreciate, listened attentively as I rattled off the activities of the past month, my updated medication list and my recent symptoms.  Doc recorded a low BP from each arm as I sat back with a smile on my face.  As we talked about the Philly Marathon he asked how my running was going.  I sadly stated that I tabled my activity to let my leg heal.  I planned to give 2013 a hell of a run, but I needed the break.  Doctor’s orders told me otherwise.  He advised me to get back at it.  I left his office with my visit summary in hand.  I skimmed it while standing in the hallway.  ‘Clinical Impression – Elevated Blood Pressure, Stress.  She needs to continue everything she’s doing (diet, etc.).  Resume running.’

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Girl and Her Mat

My body feels bored already, but that’s probably my head telling my body how to react.  My leg hurts and I’ve accepted that part…I think.  During the Philly Marathon, my left calf cramp kicked in at mile five.  I continued to push past that to finish with a smile on my face.  The pain that endured two days following didn’t tarnish my ear-to-ear grin.  So there, ha!  I win.  Tuesday’s gym experience was quite eventful after a mere thirty minutes on the bike.  I started to roll my sore and swollen calf when my shin appeared to cave in on itself.  Modern medical marvel?  No, just some sexy pitting edema (Google it – hot stuff).  By the time Thursday rolled around, post-massage, I felt like myself again. 
Saturday’s activities would set me straight.  I ran the Bethlehem Turkey Trot 5K while pushing my darling ladies.  And please let me elaborate on the adjective ‘darling’.  The girls failed to cooperate with each other for most of the race.  Allison wanted NOTHING to do with the gloves I continued to put on her pudgy hands, Ava wanted EVERYTHING to do with touching Allison.  Both girls REFUSED to share the blanket I brought.  Playing referee before and during the race was the easy part.  Pushing over 100 lbs. through the flat streets of Bethlehem (sarcasm) with a sensitive calf would prohibit me from walking normally for the rest of the day.  I was overjoyed to push the whiny carriage across the finishing mat in the hopes that my cramp would subside with some stretching.  No dice.Since I got to the race later than I had hoped (yeah, I realized my bib was at home about 1/2 of the way there), my parking spot was less than desirable from a distance perspective.  And I had to walk up hill, in the snow with no shoes.  Might as well have been that bad.  I tried to exercise my left ankle throughout the day and I made sure to ice it after a tender massage.  I knew that after care and time my calf would be back in business.  The most challenging part for me is the passage of time.  Passing time = no training.  Bummer.  As of yesterday, I surrendered to my body by not participating in any more races for the rest of 2012.  This doesn’t sound too bad, but I’m worried that I’ll lose any sense of focus if there’s nothing mapped out in the near future.   
Today, I rolled out my yoga mat as a way to officially mark my period of rehabilitation.  Sounds dramatic, yes, but do you know me?  I spent a good forty-five minutes genuinely breathing through every pose as the sunlight peeked through the room.  I placed myself on the mat in Savasana with a long exhale.  My focus wouldn’t be lost; my focus would shift to what’s important.  Right now, the focus is on recovery.  I spent eighteen weeks training for a marathon – building strength and endurance while making sacrifices along the way.  The chapter of recovery won’t be as long, I promise you, but it’s time to make other sacrifices while building my strength back up again.  I just have to keep telling myself that.   

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Go Big to Go Home

I ran a marathon on July 3, 2010; Muffin Madness 2010, to be exact.  The course wasn’t a Boston Qualifier, the tee-shirts weren’t made of technical fabric and there was no chip timing.  With some help from my friends, I organized an unofficial marathon all for myself.  So, check?  Done.  No…that’s not how I roll.  After learning I didn’t get selected in the NY Marathon lottery I reactively signed up for Philly.  I felt the need to make my marathon trek legit.  I convinced three sorority sisters* that Philly would be the place to be, so they signed up and kicked off their ‘get-ready’ plans.  I started training in mid-July with a three mile run in a new pair of Brooks.  Normally, I run in my Vibrams, but I wasn’t sure if my legs or feet would hold out the distance.  I purchased the super light Brooks based on the advice from my neighborhood running store.  Some days, my training felt like it was lasting forever, but, as I sit here, I can’t believe it’s over. 

I FINALLY got to Philly around 7:30 pm Friday night.  The traffic was unusually difficult to navigate which delayed my arrival by an extra hour.  After exiting the highway, I blew past the hotel entrance, not once, but twice.  I carefully navigated my husband’s car through a side street and pulled into the hotel’s valet parking chute.  Within ten minutes, I exited the elevators in a mad rush to enter my Presidential Suite.  That’s right; I got a sweet suite.  I’m not sure how I scored that, but I wasn’t going to question my good luck.  The weekend would be filled with pre-race rituals and superstitions; clearly, this was in my favor.  I cleaned up, picked up my race packet and had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I indulged in a semi-sweet glass of wine and an entree of pot roast with vegetables in a deep red gravy and a side of Yukon garlic mashed potatoes.  Woah.  It’s a blessing I wasn’t racing the next morning.  I returned to the room, ahem, Presidential Suite, and went to bed fat. 

Up early Saturday am, without an alarm, to realize that my hotel didn’t have NBC as a channel.  Weird.  I got myself together and headed toward the art museum for a three mile shakeout run with Bart Yasso (read: smitten).  Originally, the thought of running ANY miles seemed ridiculous, but the short jaunt relaxed my mind and gave me an opportunity to socialize with other runners.  I spent the time running along side a displaced NY Marathoner.  Lord help me remember her name…turns out she teaches English Literature at a college in Chicago.  Lord help me remember the name of her school.  Nevertheless, we completed the run, offered best wishes and went on our separate ways.  I’ll save you from the dreamy-eyed recap of my finish line photo with Mr. Yasso followed by a personal Starbucks breakfast.  And, no, I didn’t ask for a job. 

Saturday ended with a low key dinner at Garces Trading Company on Locust Street.  My two sisters, Liz with her boyfriend and Cassie with her parents, met up with me, Marcus and Chris, another close friend, for a deliciously gluttonous, but classy dinner.  Just short of doing shots of the infused oils and balsamic vinegars, we practically licked our plates clean.  The group broke up for the evening and four of us embarked on a brisk walk back to my Presidential quarters (teehehe).  I packed a post-race bag, packed my go-home bag and carefully re-laid out my race gear.  A warm shower calmed my mind again.  I literally crawled into bed and passed out just as my wet head hit the pillow.

(There is a chunk to this story that involves two people entering the Presidential Suite.  They attempted to navigate the room in silence.  But we all know how drunk people really act.)

Rise and Shine - Race day.  Within thirty minutes the occupants of the Presidential Suite pulled themselves and their gear together like a tornado ripping through an unsuspecting neighborhood.  Cassie, Marcus, Chris and I met up with Liz and Sarah, another friend, in front of the Starbucks before making the 1.5 mile walk to the Start Line.  I’m not going to lie – it was COLD.  I’m not sure if the layer of Vaseline on my legs actually kept me a little warmer, or if it was all mental.  I tucked my ears inside my hat, crossed my arms and hugged my hands under my warm armpits.  For a moment, I remembered high school marching band competitions in the middle of November.  Chris left to line up in his corral (ready to conquer the half) while Marcus wished me luck with a strong hug and kiss.  A blanket of uncertainty covered my entire body as we started to line up in our corral – purple, my favorite color.  This race was a big deal; failure is not an option.  I toed an invisible line with thousands of eager runners.  Cassie bounced up and down in front of me before quickly turning around.  She expressed doubt and I, looking her with honest eyes, repeated one of my mantras: “The day will come when I can no longer do this.  Today is NOT that day.  Today is NOT that day.”  I had to repeat this a few times so I would start to believe.  And just like that, we were off…

My Muffin Madness recap took you through almost every mile across three separate blog posts.  I won’t do that to you.  This post is already ridiculous and we didn’t make it to mile one yet.  I’ll do my best to summarize. 

The Philly streets were lined with great people.  This was my largest race to date – both distance and crowd support.  Cheering fans, funny signs, cowbells and those pain-in-the-ass vuvuzela’s echoed against the buildings in each city block.  I carefully navigated the field paying mind to the imperfections in the road.  Before the second mile, I pulled off my 2010 Peeps Fest 5K shirt and tossed it to the curb.  Game on.  I heard, and noted on the race map, that there was a fairly nice incline (potential oxymoron) between miles 8 – 10.  My sources did not disappoint.  As racers pulled to the right side of the road in a near crawl, I split the middle the ate that hill…and ate it…and ate it.  Damn, it was a long incline.  I let out my signature howl about halfway into the hill only to, once again, startle some close runners.  Thankfully, a few people, mainly women, echoed my call.  Signs marking the marathon/half-marathon field split were visible on the roads after we pulled away from the zoo.  Like Moses parted the Red Sea, or so I’m told, the runners split almost immediately.  I hugged the middle of the left lane ready to set the lap on my watch.  Based on the time, I hit the halfway mark at about 2:07; this wasn’t a personal best, but I was on my way to potentially hit four hours.  I felt fresh, ready to continue the rest of the journey.  We split; I set the lap and took off with a smile on my face. 

It seemed like forever until we reached Manayunk – I might have hit a small wall leading into the boisterous neighborhood.  A loud woman, bundled for the weather, handed out delicious orange wedges while shouted, “Welcome to Manayunk!!!!”  What a relief!  I ripped the wedge out of her hand and crammed it into my mouth like Cujo would a fox.  The sweet juice oozed from the corners of my mouth and the citrus scent gave me a fresh outlook.  I heard Manayunk had hills, but the elevation map displayed the terrain like blackheads compared to the blistering pimple at miles 8 – 10.  But, damn it.  Any hill at miles 18 – 21 can suck the life out of a confident runner.  At this stage in the game, I kept glancing at my watch, hoping for the miles to just tick by.  I anxiously looked ahead to see any glimpse of a mile marker; they were larger than life – IN YOUR FACE – surely there was another one come up.  Maybe this was the wall.  I wanted to stop running; I couldn’t stop thinking about the miles, water, shot blocks, hot/cold, wind, blisters and that damn nagging cramp in my left calf.  THAT NAGGING CRAMP I HAD IN MY LEFT CALF SINCE MILE FIVE.  Mile five.  That was a long time ago.  How long have I been running really?  Well, I’m not going to hit four hours, but I’m okay with that.  I’m just going to focus on the finish.  I AM going to finish.  Right??  What mile are we at anyway?  AND WHERE THE HELL IS THE NEXT WATER STOP.  Okay.  I hit a wall. 

By mile 24, I miraculously pulled my head out of my ass and kicked it into high gear.  The excitement of finally closing in on the finish line gave me the extra energy to kick my legs the last two point two miles.  Lest we forget about that point two.  Did I mention the cramp in my left calf?  I got that around mile five.  As we approached the area surrounding the art museum, the crowds grew as well as their screams.  I rounded the corner and sped down the straightaway to the finish line.  Just before finishing the point two of the race, I caught a glimpse of my fan club wildly cheering for me.  I high fived Mr. Yasso and, while crossing the finish mat, I high fived Mayor Nutter.  Sticking with my routine, I stopped the watch and raised my hands in accomplishment. 

Muffin Madness 2010 Report Philly Muffathon 2012 Report

At the end of the day:

  • I actually made it in 5:03:24.
  • I loved seeing everyone along the way.
  • Dan and Dawn ran way more than I ever imagined.
  • I motivated people to get their asses in gear. I have the responsibility to be a role model for my family & friends.
  • We ran through a total of four sprinklers and got hosed down by a large woman in a stretched out tube top.
  • Jeff drank apple juice. :)
  • Dan and I finally held hands.
  • I spouted off approximately 300 expletives just during the last 6 miles.
  • During the race I ate 3 gel packets, 1 packet of electrolyte/carb jelly beans, 1 serving of shot blocks and 1 piece of gum; I drank 32 oz. of Lemon Lime Gatorade and 48 oz. of water.
  • After the race I ate 3 hot dogs, 1 cheese burger, 2 large handfuls of ruffled potato chips, 1 cup of macaroni salad, 1/2 cup of potato salad, 1 piece of cake and a lot of Doritos.
  • My pre-race weight was 125; my post-race weight was 125 (this proves my science of hydration worked).
  • I burned over 2200 calories.
  • I gained 11 blisters on my feet, semi-permanent sport bra marks and a whole lot of respect for myself.
  • It took me three days to get my legs back.
  • I have one hell of a group of friends that support me…no matter how crazy the idea.
  • I will do this again…and I plan to shave an hour off my time.

At the end of the day:

  • I actually made it in 4:16:18.
  • I loved seeing Philly fans represent.
  • Liz and Cassie came along for the ride.
  • I coerced three people to sign up all the while continuing to motivate people. 
  • We ran through some of the most historical areas of Philadelphia.
  • Apple juice would have been a bad idea for anyone.
  • I high-fived the mayor.
  • I spouted off expletives at EVERY water stop.  
  • During the race I ate two sleeves of Shot Blocks and drank about 10 oz. of Lemon Lime Gatorade and about 20 oz. of water.
  • After the race I ate two soft pretzels and one Train Wreck, gluten included.
  • I didn’t care anything about my pre-race weight.
  • I burned over 2400 calories.
  • I birthed 1 additional blister on my feet, rubbed my waist raw with the help of my SPI belt and gained a whole lot of respect for myself.
  • It took me three days to get my legs back after fighting some wicked edema in my right leg. 
  • I have one hell of a group of friends that support me…no matter how crazy the idea.
  • I will do this again…and I plan to shave off the additional sixteen minutes and eighteen seconds to hit an even 4 hours.

And then, after all that, I went home.


Cassie, Me and Liz pre-race


Me, Cassie and Liz sporting some heavy metal

*Due to an injury one of my sisters needed to stop training.  Although she wasn’t physically with us, we know her support carried us to the finish.  Next year, baby…

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Go Big or Go Home: Part II

I’m finally taking a few moments to relax before hitting the streets of Philly (again) for a lovely evening of eating.  The pre-race rituals begin tonight, but this time it’s huge.  Tomorrow is the Philly Marathon.  M-A-R-A-T-H-O-N.  That spells MARATHON.  I made an impulsive decision to sign up earlier in the year and quickly recruited a few unsuspecting sorority sisters along the way.  I distinctly remember peeling through all my running books to settle on the ‘perfect’ training plan.  Operation Philly Muffathon kicked off Monday, July 16th with an easy three mile run. 

The past eighteen weeks challenged my stamina, mental endurance and, sometimes, my patience.  I rarely strayed from the plan; hell, I even logged a ten mile run during my OBX vacation (read: How to properly hydrate during a North Carolina run in August).  I continued to enter races sparingly, all the while making sure I saved my energy for longer distances.  Most early morning runs started between 4:30 – 5:30.  I tiptoed in darkness through the bedroom searching for my gear (next time I’ll get it organized the night before).  I strategically navigated the stairs so I wouldn’t hit the creaky spots.  My loving and supportive husband minded the girls as I spent hours running. 

I ran a boat load of miles, drank a shit load of water, took at least five ice baths, used a full roller of BioFreeze, ate thousands of calories, applied Body Glide like I was buttering thirty ears of fresh, hot corn, washed a lot of clothes, upgraded myself from ‘Expert’ to ‘Master Snot Rocketeer’, bonded with friends I hadn’t seen in some time, rolled my legs enough to turn my muscles into Jello and listened to my previous Ava say, ‘Mommy, you smell.’ after every long run.  And honestly, through all the bitching, complaining, soreness, headaches, fevers, fat days and wardrobe malfunctions, I loved all of it. 

Tonight, I’m going to celebrate this milestone weekend with good friends.  I’ll religiously lay out my gear and do some light stretching.  We will share our training stories, personal triumphs and hopes for tomorrow morning.  Tonight, I relax.  Tomorrow we kick some Philly ass. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekend Warrior

Late post

Finally, a quiet evening has fallen on my home.  The kids are snuggled in their beds and except for an occasional cough from Allison’s room, silence fills the second floor.  I parked myself on my favorite couch with a fleece blanket and a cup of hot chocolate (I know it warm).  The glow of the TV and laptop softly lights the room as I focus on this post.  Although I’ve seen Halloween more times than I can count, I needed to change the channel; I’m home alone.  No thank you.  I’ve been trying to figure out what to talk about even though I have a short list of hopeful posts.  I just came off of a unique and fantastic weekend; I think it’s best to share.

This past weekend was the Runner’s World Half Marathon and Festival in Bethlehem, PA.  Earlier this year, once registration opened, I hopped on the website and signed up for the Hat Trick – three races (5K, 10K and half marathon) in two days.  Yup, sounds crazy enough for me.  I’m in.  The weekend festivities would give me plenty of opportunities to socialize with Runner’s World staff.  It’s no secret that I’d love to work for the publication in any capacity, so this could be my foot in the door. 

Starting the second week in July, I started a marathon training program to prepare myself for Philly in November.  The up-coming Hat Trick would only serve as another training run in my marathon schedule.  As the weeks rolled on I increased mileage and became quite diligent in following a plan.  Thankfully, I kept the plan a little flexible.  Some minor wrenches required modifications – foot pain, nagging cold, childcare and getting a good night sleep – such as shifting some days around or skipping a low mileage workout all together. 

I knew that the October Hat Trick would screw up a regularly scheduled long run, but I was okay with totaling two days worth of miles and calling it a win.  And sticking with my need to put a cherry on something already amazing, I decided that our near annual trip to Dorney Park’s Haunt would be the Friday before the races.  The weekend would be go-go-go – that’s how I roll.  I spent Friday night eating shit (as in buckets full of crab fries dripped in fake cheese sauce), screaming my face off and walking around the amusement park.  These activities should be avoided the night before lots ‘o races.  The cherry on that night was strolling home at midnight, only to fall asleep at 1:30 am.  Excellent. 

Regardless of the prior evening’s events, I sprung out of bed at 5:15 am with the nervous energy of a soon-to-be Mom in labor, um, minus the protruding belly.  I felt sick to my stomach, but needed to eat something – it would be a while before I could eat again.  I showered and dressed, grabbed my bag and walked out with a smile on my puffy face.  I mentally prepared for the day during the fifteen mile drive to Bethlehem.  After navigating the city from parking lot to parking lot, I finally squeezed into a lot, grabbed my crap and started to walk to the Festival.  I met up with a friend (who thankfully had parked closer) and put my gear in her car.  I carefully pinned my bib and we made way to the start. 

With so much activities during the day, I could see myself spending the entire weekend at the Festival attending seminars and meeting some of the editors.  I quickly realized, during the break between the 5K and 10K, that I painfully missed my family.  The day didn’t feel right being without them.  I left early enough that everyone was snoozing.  I missed their faces…even the dog’s.  I think I almost cried during the 10K, but that was probably some dust that got kicked up into my eye around of the turns.  Yeah, that’s right.  Dust.  I finished the 10K, chatted a little, took a few pictures and then went to my car.  And then went to my car.  That wasn’t a typo.  I forgot where I parked.  I wandered back and forth among a few designated parking lots looking for the car while I talked with a friend.  Hey, we needed to catch up; this was the perfect opportunity!  Once I got home, I spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening relaxing the the family.  It truly was a joy to see them. 

I drove back to Bethlehem to see Matt Long speak.  If you don’t know who he is GOOGLE (yes, that’s a verb, oh and a command).  I met another friend and we climbed the stairs to the top floor.  The open room, framed out with tall windows, overlooked the steel stacks.  Matt pulled the crowd in with his dynamic speech, peppered with humor.  I wished that more of my friends had been there to hear his story.  Most of the audience waited in line to get Matt’s autograph; I was absolutely one of them.  Too bad he couldn’t sign my iPad copy (#VictimOfTechnology).  Before leaving Bethlehem, I purchased a hot chocolate spiked with Malibu Rum.  I strolled in early enough to chat it up with the hubbs before turning in for the night.  I used the extra time to repack my bag and lay out my outfit for the following morning.  Running a half marathon the next day would be considered a piece of cake compared to the sixteen miles I ran the previous weekend. 

I prepared for the half by running the course a few weeks prior.  It was sadistically amusing to hear the field’s moan and groans each time we approached a hill.  I’m almost always prepared for hills and I used the opportunity to pass a lot of people.  Staying true to myself, I yelled a few times during the race, most notably on the hills.  And by yelling, I mean I mustered up a bellowing cry from the base of my soul which could cause any runner in a quarter mile radius to turn and look towards the origin of the sound.  I almost literally bumped into a man named David Patrick who is from the Bethlehem area.  He firmly believes that he could run with a martini.  Nice man, David Patrick.  In conversation, he invited me to a post-race party that The Baker’s were having in his honor.  David’s wife made sticky buns.  I rounded the corner away from the steel stacks and back onto Daly Avenue.  Again.  The 5K, 10K and half courses all had the same finish.  I was sick and overjoyed as I climbed the road’s incline.  The chute, leading to the finish line, was packed with cheering spectators.  I hugged the right side of the course, scanning the nameless faces.  The sight of my family brought tears to my eyes.  Or maybe it was course dust lodged under my contact.  Yeah, that’s right.  Course dust.              

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


We all have dark secrets; some darker than others.  Sometimes we do our best to keep them protected in the vault, but time may erode the fortress allowing little pieces to seep out.  We find comfort in the passing of time and believe that we’re safe from the memories.  Tonight, the drawbridge came down over the moat and the silence was broken. 
During today’s weekly run I helped two ladies keep a steady pace.  Seven pm quickly approached as we jogged toward the parking lot.  These Fall months bring shorter days, evident by an earlier sunset behind tonight’s thick, threatening clouds.  The women, who will remain nameless, talked of a mutual friend’s future trip to Salem, Massachusetts.  In the spirit of Halloween I decided to share a story of my own. 
It’s been years since I remembered the events of 1996.  We three didn’t make a pact to keep everything secret; it was almost understood.  What started out as embellished folklore turned into a near nightmare.  The original story, watered down through the years, reached my ears in the Spring of ‘96.  Initially enthralled with the tales, I shrugged off any thoughts of reality.  The details appeared to be from campfire monologues, clearly crafted to spook the audience.  As the Fall season rushed in, the campus took on the darkness of the witch.  Crunchy leaves fell from the near-bare trees lining the stoned walkways.  The cold chill of whipping wind wrapped around the vacant buildings in the early evenings.
We three fell in step with each other.  The bond grew stronger as we spent countless nights together.  At some point the conversations turned to the passed-down fable.  In disbelief of the tale, we decided to do our own unconventional detective work.  Perhaps this was the mistake.  Fearful to put anything into print, I’ll save you from the horrific episodes haunting us for weeks.  We tried to remain sane and always, physically together.  At the time, we may have whispered some information to our extended circle, but we kept a lot within ourselves.  Eventually, the months peeled off the calendar and most was forgotten.  Or just temporarily suppressed.
Tonight, I gave more details of the haunting memories – fallen angels and distorted appearances; superstitions and bone-chilling encounters.  As the words left my lips, I felt as if I was breaking the silence without approval.  I continued to defy some unwritten code leaving myself exposed to the terror.  My account of the events planted a small seed of fear in the women.  They really have nothing to fear, as I have the first hand memory.  And, it will take time for these refreshed memories to fade (or be suppressed) from my consciousness.  Those women can walk without fear, for I will occasionally look over my shoulder praying for the secret to die.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Figured It Out

On Wednesday evenings I help coach a group of people aspiring to run their first 5K.  I hung back from the rest of the pack to stay with a woman who expressed challenges with her breathing.  We got to talking (which kept her breathing nice and steady) and I asked a simple question: “Why do you run?”  So, yes, a simple question which is almost always followed by simple responses like “Running helps me keep my weight down”, “I love to eat, so running helps me balance it out” or my favorite, “I don’t know.” 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think I figured myself out.  Just this weekend I ran my longest distance yet – 16 miles.  Sixteen miles is a long time to spend with yourself, especially when ten of those miles are on the dreadmill in a dank basement.  Times like these are what soul searching (or sole searching) is made of.  My mind begins to wander during the early miles and I think about everything from a potential blog post to the fabulous pot roast recipe I pinned in Pinterest.  I think about what I’m going to do that day, or not do, all the while planning out my next running route. 

This Sunday I really figured out why I run.  Lace up your shoes, ladies and gents; I’m going to answer this simple question.

Running gives me a psychological balance that not too many things (or people) can do for me*.  With each step and varying pace, the road is always there without passing any judgment.  The road always supports me with each step.  The road provides unconditional protection no matter how hard I pound it.  My pre-run preparation is virtually religious and mundane.  I pull everything together in no-time and briefly meditate on a route plan.  My personality allows me to argue internally – “Maybe I should run down to the Parkway, but sheesh, that hill back towards Cedar Crest is killer, especially after nine miles.  But, hills are good for the soul.  But, flat would be best; I am running a total of X miles after all.  But with the Philly course being so flat, training on hills would make the marathon seem like a walk in the park.”  Yup, this is me. 

I’ve heard some people say that they go on ‘auto-pilot’ when running.  Not me.  I’m almost constantly trying to sort out stuff.  I do, interestingly enough, have a consistent theme running through my head – death and dying.  I can’t stop thinking about the worst possible scenario.  I don’t know how to stop it.  I try to run from it, literally; it never fades. It reinforces the fact that it will never go away.  I cannot handle the fragility of life.  Almost daily, I referee a battle between my head and my heart – if I didn’t care so much death wouldn’t be a problem.  But, alas!  My heart is too big for my brain – I can’t help but care.  I don’t understand religion and I certainly don’t understand ‘the plan’.  I’ve heard that God has a plan, but it scares the shit out of me that I don’t have one frickin’ clue what’s in that plan.  How can I just plainly accept people moving on with out me?  Answer that.  I do not accept the passing of time, fading memories, tattered photographs and aging bodies. 

Some of these runs are peppered with sobs triggered by one of those memories or a mental trip to the future.  There is, thankfully, a point in which the physical pain of the run sets in.  My mind turns it’s back on death and focuses on the tedious task of keeping the feet moving.  The road, as if knowing my thought pattern, intervenes.  It hears my thoughts and hopes to steer me straight.  It pushes back and gives me something else to think about.  My head falls numb and I’m in a state of thoughtlessness.  THIS is my runners high. I start my run in disarray, near insanity, but leave the road lucid.  Most of my thoughts fall to the floor like the droplets of sweat from the ends of my hair, only to return again.  I run to contemplate this crap and to keep it far from my day-to-day.  I enter each day with a smile and do my damnedest to keep it there.  I run to suppress the darkness; it’ll choke the brightest light.  I will not go gentle into that good night.   


*There’s one person who almost understands me.  He is my rock.  I’m lost without him. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Go Big or Go Home

This year, I decided to post something different than my annual reflection of September 11, 2001.  Perhaps this post will not only put a smile on your face, but give you the opportunity to laugh out loud…maybe even roll on the floor while doing that.  Maybe.

This may come as a big shock to you, but I like to run.  Sometimes I even call myself a runner.  For years I have been fascinated by the sport – it caters to every body type, age and lifestyle.  I continue to stick my nose in training books and biographies, blogs and magazines – all related to running.  I keep my pulse on area races of varying distances in the hopes of suckering someone to sign up with me.  I thoroughly enjoy the thrill of watching a novice sign up for their first 5K, 10K, half…you name it.  I make an attempt to run with them or cheer them on just to feed off their nervous pre-race excitement.  I consider myself highly educated on the subject, but please don’t confuse this with knowing all. 

For the past two years I have become internally obsessed with one aspect of racing – crossing the finish line with ‘nothing left in the tank’.  I continue to ask more experienced runners what this means to them; what does it feel like physically and emotionally?  Based on my inquiries I never raced to exhaustion.  I absolutely work myself – sweat, blisters, breathless finishes, but I never felt completely wiped out.  I’m not fast, so maybe I was incapable of pushing it.  Well, until this past Sunday.

Back in June, I registered two marathon relay teams of five runners respectively.  I always suspected that the level of shit talking would increase tenfold based on the previous year’s match-up.  Not only was I competing against the other team, but I was competing against myself.  The 2011 relay was my highly anticipated post-pregnancy debut.  Please note that I am NOT a professional athlete (I didn’t want to lead you on).  I ran my heart out during that third leg, but failed to make up any of the time we already lost.  I crossed that exchange with disappointment on my rounded shoulders.  Twenty-twelve would be my year for redemption.   

My racing hobby flourished this year with three PR’s, a Tough Mudder and the initiation of Philly Marathon training.  Obviously, I have something to prove to someone about whatever, but I believe I’m accomplishing all that.  Some of the speed work I incorporated in my training program helped shave time off my pace.  I was beaming with confidence, just fresh off a birthday 10K PR.  These little legs carried me 6.2 miles at a steady 8:30-ish pace.  I was impressed. 

I’ll spare you the stories of Sunday’s race, but keep in mind that the shit talking between the two teams escalated to an all-time high.  I maintained confidence that I’d smoke my match-up to make up some time we expected to lose in the first leg.  As a reminder, I am NOT a professional athlete.  To no one’s surprise, the rival team member reached the first exchange before my guy.  It felt like an eternity, before I saw that Tough Mudder with white sunglasses round the bend, but when I did, WHEW boy!  I vaguely remember yelling at the top of my lungs and jumping up and down. 

“Go Big or Go Home” 

I’ve heard this phrase throughout my life, whether it was related to sorority pledging, managing large projects or playing an intense game of asshole.  I decided to give this phrase a ‘Google’ to only confirm my appropriate use of the words.  Go Big or Go Home; Balls to the Wall; All In; Eyes on the Prize…The list of motivational quotes is impressive, but this one in particular strikes me.  It’s black and white – this or that.  Would you rather give it your all or just shuffle through?  I think you know my answer. 

So, I hauled ass – the kind of ass that a little shrimp, with an equally short torso and pair of legs can move.  It’s the kind of ass that just about takes your breath away.  My adrenaline blazed through my veins as the sun blistered my eyes.  Everyone had a target on their back; I passed them all.  I swiftly wove around people clogging the hydration stations only to rip a flimsy cup of warm water from some poor volunteer’s hand.  With authority I chucked the empty toward a pile of folded cups while making my way back into the heart of the trail.  I quickly navigated the shallow puddles all the while maintaining my sizzling pace.  In the near distance, I caught the rhythmic ringing of a bellowing cowbell – I just knew this was my teammate.  As I passed, I bragged about hitting my fastest 5K time, ever.  I approached the exchange with such gusto that I almost forgot to hand off to my next runner.  We high-fived and off he went. 

I decided, long before Sunday morning, that I would ‘Go Big’.  Without a doubt, I finished my leg of the race with no gas in the tank – I was spent.  After I scoured the exchange for water it took me a decent fifteen minutes to cool down emotionally.  I immediately felt my friendly blister (which is on top of a blister, on top of a blister, on top of a callous) balloon within my shoe forcing me to temporarily modify my gait.  I couldn’t believe my pace; I never ran that fast in my life.  Post-race, I made it home to shower and take a two hour nap – something else I had never done before. 

People appreciate documented accounts of virtually everything.  Sure, I could tell you that my feet were dancing flames, but who are you to believe?  Sometimes I have a way with words; maybe I embellished the story.  What’s that other saying??  A picture is worth 1,000 words.  How about three pictures?

 Via Relay Handoff 1  

Via Relay Handoff 2

Via Relay Handoff 3

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Supper

I still remember the Sunday Suppers of my childhood.  Mostly, we’d always have the daily dinner as a family, but Sunday was special, and in the same breath, typical.  Mid-Sunday morning, the comforting smell of pan fried meatballs would permeate through the house.  Those little packages of deliciousness would be delicately plunked into the large pot of simmering red gravy.  Throughout the day, I’d sneak a meatball or two, pour a little extra on top and sprinkle a little cheese.  Occasionally, I’d catch my Mom grabbing a meatball or nonchalantly dunk a bread end into the pot.  Our burned mouths supported the fact that we couldn’t eat it fast enough. No one questioned what would be served for dinner.  It was Sunday.  Every Sunday was gravy day. 
Last night, my sister-in-law made some delicious stuffed mushrooms as the appetizer to our grilled kabob and rice dinner.  The mushrooms pulled me back to my grandmother’s living room during Christmastime.  She stuffed the little pudgy fungi with a mixture of breadcrumbs, sautéed garlic and chopped mushroom stems, parsley and parmesan cheese.  Occasionally, hot, Italian sausage crumbles would make an appearance in the baked hors d’oeuvre. 
So, today…I reheated two of the stuffed mushrooms and immediately thought of my grandmother, Frieda.  Ahhh, Frieda.  My heart filled with sadness for my fading childhood and my aging elders.  There was a time that Frieda would spend hours on her feet, sweating in the kitchen while preparing a feast of feasts.  We tasted throughout the cooking progress in true Italian fashion – boisterous chatting with arms waving.  Frieda taste tested everything to the point that she barely ate the meal she prepared.  She sat at the table, drinking water from her ‘everyday’ glasses with her arms crossed over her chest.  She’d lean forward and micromanage the feeding frenzy to make sure that everyone had enough food on their plate.  An Italian woman's worst nightmare is to run out of food and have the company leave hungry.  This paranoia forced Frieda to overcook and overfeed, which led to the eventual overstuffing. 
As time progressed, her arthritic hands continued to stuff squid, bake her famous stuffing and fry eggplant.  A few years back she let me stay in the kitchen with her while she made her gravy.  It was the summer of 2008.  Marcus and I traveled, with five month old Ava, to the shore for the week.  So, there we were, on a Sunday, sweating in the small kitchen frying pork, sausage links and meatballs.  Frieda directed me during the process, in her Italian forcefulness, all the while educating me on making tasty gravy.  The secret ingredient shocked me.  When it’s time I’ll pass it on. 
Ahhh, Frieda.  Her hands are unable to assemble the greatest eggplant parmesan and her memory might not recall those secret ingredients, but I will not forget the times we spent together bonding over the process of preparing some of her signature dishes.  Next Sunday, I’ll dedicate to Frieda.  It’s gonna be a feast to remember!

Frieda and Ava - Easter 2008

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Love Letter to My Body

Dear Me -

I can’t quite recall when the physical abuse started, but it was a long time ago.  I also can’t remember what pushed me over the edge, but it couldn’t have been just one thing.  Your mind endured years of verbal abuse from so-called friends that you tried to ignore and forget.  The words suddenly became unspoken and transformed into your reality.  I can’t craft a decent enough apology to undo all the deprivation.  Please know that I do recognize this and my mission thus forward is to redeem myself. 

Even though I finally permitted you to indulge in delicious delicacies, I still spent a number of years pushing you down.  If it wasn’t the ill fitting clothes, it was the way in which my white, chubby frame blinded me in florescent illuminated dressing rooms.  I hoped to not pass a mirror or window for fear of seeing that ugly girl – Me.  Time eventually healed this oozing wound.  Only a small scar was left behind.   

Today, I can stand tall knowing that I have overcome so much in my life.  I love the person who is writing this letter and I hope to reflect the same sunshine to my daughters.  I am beautiful.  I am hopeful that, one day, I’ll accept everything about myself that society shuns or air brushes.  I walk into this next chapter knowing that sagging skin, wrinkles, cellulite and stretch marks are just battle wounds of being a strong woman.  Watch me shine.




A Love Letter to my Body

Thursday, July 12, 2012

One of These Days

“One of these days, your heart will stop and play it’s final beat.”

- Foo Fighters. Wasting Light. RCA, 2011. CD.

This song.  This song.

I distinctly recall standing on sore feet in the Wells Fargo Center, half deaf already, holding Marcus’ hand and hearing Dave Grohl weave his lyrics through my bleeding ears.  I shouted along with the rest of the crowd as tears streamed down my face.  As the words rolled off my quivering lip I remembered that call, almost two months to the day, when my world started to melt around me.  I almost lost a very special person – one of my rocks.  This song brings back all those memories, but somehow makes me that much stronger than the puddle I was on September 12, 2011.  That event forced me to realize that I would be facing adult-like challenges in the future.  I would have to be strong; I would need to overcome all fear. 

I put so much passion in to my Tough Mudder training.  I had everything to prove – to myself AND to others.  I attempted to run from the darkness that aggressively attempted to swallow me.  With each push up I felt closer to eternal life.  Every bruise, sore muscle and blister was just another badge of honor – a small sacrifice to disappear.  Don’t misunderstand – I was scared shitless.  I tried to train the memory away, but it only faded slightly.  I’ll spare you the Mudder details such as the cold wind, icy water and beaten legs.  We started as a team and ended as a team, but there was one thing that I had to tackle on my own – THE PLANK. 

I am deathly afraid of heights.  My heart races, palms sweat and my body gets numb.  I knew that I would need to climb walls and cargo nets, but I’d have the help of my team to get me through.  The Plank is a 15’ leap off a ledge into a freezing cold pond.  Give me a break.  I knew it was coming; I was dreading it.  There would only be two options: Go for it or chicken out.  I can’t recall how far we’d gone, but I could see the infamous Plank in the distance.  Nothing changed; I was overcome with fear.  As I approached, I decided it would be easier on me if I just went for it.  I picked up my pace and pulled away from my team.  I got a good boost and scaled that wall like it was my mission in life. 

I pulled myself up to the ledge and started screaming at all the people.  “FUCKIN’ JUMP ALREADY”; “JUST FUCKIN’ DO IT”.  I definitely scared some poor girl and the guy in front of me jumped to save himself.  Then.  It was.  My.  Turn.  Something inside me called the shots.  Without any thought I walked off the edge.  The fall lasted less than two seconds.  The cold water shocked my body and for a moment I thought I was going to drown; I might have even died for a minute.  I never touched the bottom, but an eternity passed before I bobbed up to the surface.  My feet were heavy as I tried to swim to the muddy bank.  People were there waiting for me.  I struggled to reach out as they pulled me out of the water.  I got back on my own two feet and realized that I was okay. 

My piece of advice: Just fuckin’ jump.  People will be there to pull you out and soon you’ll be standing on your own two feet, stronger than ever.  Just fuckin’ jump.  I promise…it’ll be okay.  Muffin Mudder

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Fragile State

Like a melting icicle mightily holding onto a gutter or a sandcastle teetering on the edge of the shore line – all things beautiful come to an end.  Insert as many clichés as you remember: nothing lasts forever; live each day as if it is your last; cherish the moment; every cloud has a silver lining; everything happens for a reason…blah blah.  Quite honestly, most of these catch phrases tick me off.  I see them as a way for people to cope with the uncomfortable or settle for crap.  I don’t like it; not one bit.  This, however, is all my problem because I CANNOT accept it. 

If you know me, this post will not come as a shock to you.  For those reluctantly peering in through the window, I’ll give you a little show.  Every now and again, I take a short break from the day-to-day craziness.  I imagine that most people would embrace this type of break; I try my damnedest to escape.  This downtime tortures me with reminders of life’s fragile state.  My runaway train is heading toward a milestone birthday – yes, ladies and gents, I will be 35 in a little over two months.  Sure, sure, I’ve heard all the comments: “Oh, Puhleeze, girl, you’re only as old as you feel”, “Thirty-five?  Talk to me when you turn 40!”, “Well, you don’t look a day over 25!.” 

I do feel old.  Don’t misunderstand: my body is in great shape (well…better than ‘good’ shape), I don’t think I really look 30 (maybe that’s a stretch) and I’ve successfully managed my coarse grays (at least that’s what I believe).  I have a great memory – I might not remember where I placed my keys, but I remember the outfit I wore on ‘clash day’ during spirit week in 9th grade.  Another year ticks by and I cannot believe my age.  I distinctly remember being a chubby girl in Catholic school with my pink-rimmed glasses.  I turn around and see my parents, clearly older, holding their grandchildren and bouncing them on their knees like my grandfather did to me.  I run my fingers through Allison’s wavy tendrils as I remember mine pulled into short pig tails.  In the present, this makes me smile, but give time to reflect and I’m a puddle. 

At the end of this past week, I had the unpleasant experience of attending the services for a former co-worker’s young daughter.  As expected, everything was so overwhelming.  I found it difficult to breathe as we wove through a maze of picture collages, karate trophies, awards and a display of the girl’s communion dress.  The maze opened up to the viewing room where I spotted my co-worker and his family.  I paid my respects while choking back tears.  This situation hit too close to home.  I’m searching for answers; I’m looking for the silver lining, if you will humor me.  My questions are too much to entertain.  But, why, why do our hearts grow to love and hope, when it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye?  How can our lives be sprinkled with sweet kisses and smiles, with sunshine and stars to have it crumble like the castle on the shore?  How can I rid myself of this thought-provoking poison?  Maybe I push hard to fight the age or run to outrace the fire of the Phoenix.  But, much like the fire, life is all consuming; we will yield to the dying of the light.  Through pain and tears I’m going to keep fighting like hell. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Not Yet Procrastination…Not Yet.

I read a blog post tonight that talked about marathon training.  The author began her eighteen week program today.  The best part about training, aside from the excitement surrounding the future race, is the first day is a day of rest.  How sweet!  This innocent post slapped me in the face; I need to pull myself together and assess which training plan I’m going with.  Additionally, I sadly realized that I haven’t published anything in a while.  I wanted to crank out Tough Mudder stuff, recap of the past year (in lieu of my daughter’s first birthday) and just other stuff.  I’m a slacker.  Actually, I’m a little busy, both work and home.  When I have a free moment I usually sleep through it.

So, today, I finally realized that I need to ‘buckle down’ (flashback: Mom saying this over and over about my high school studies) and initiate Operation Philly Marathon Attack.  I recruited two sorority sisters to join me in November for this momentous occasion.  After all, the Philly Marathon will be my first organized marathon. 

As the blog post suggested I’m going to check out the ‘Train Like A Mother’ book to see what that does for me.  I also have a good training program from ‘The Complete Book of Running for Women’.  Philly will be my first organized marathon, so I’m going in with open eyes and open ears.  Does anyone have a training plan they rely on?  Care to help a girl out?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sweet Nothings Are Sweet Everythings

In February, I posted an entry with some of ‘the little things’ that put a smile on my face, warm my heart and ease my mind.  I was reminded late last week that there are so many little unexpected moments that could mean the world.  It could be the starburst glimmer in my Ava’s eyes or seeing my Allison pucker up her baby lips.  These moments, gestures, experiences, visions…deserve to be bottled up in my heart forever.  Here’s a few more:

Watching my girls play in the grass on a spring evening.  Running water logged trail in the mist of a humid, morning shower.  Discovering the ultimate Pandora station.  Catching a glimpse of a beautiful girl as she’s off to a prom.  Hearing my ‘applause’ tree sounding in the breeze.  Glistening dew drops.  Planting flowers in warm mud.  Running my fingers though freshly washed hair.  Holding my kids while they sleep on my chest.  “Can you color with me?”  Okay…bye.  :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Even the Little Things Can Make a Huge Difference

My vacation starts tonight; I’m work-free through June 3rd.  I have no real set plans, just ideas of outdoor work, house cleaning, lounging, reading, writing and, of course, running.  This past week, albeit four jammed-packed days, presented challenges, both in the workplace and personally.  I’ve had some difficulty fitting in good gym sessions and tacking on the miles, but I matched that with eating a little less processed.  Aside from my daily two-Splenda cup of coffee and a few handfuls of Baked! Tostitos, I’ve honored my body.  Every morning I woke earlier and earlier; this morning I was up, without my alarm, at 5:10 am.  I stared dawn in the face and accepted the mission of grabbing every opportunity, ahem, while drinking my bold coffee and logging into work. 

So this vacation…I’ll honor my time by disabling work e-mail from my phone and leaving the tasks behind.  I hope to take a nap when it’s needed and go for long trail runs when the mood strikes.  I vow to sit on the deck, with drink in hand, under the umbrella, writing or reading.  I promise to keep ‘Corporate Christina’ under wraps by wearing minimal makeup and wrinkled clothes.  I guarantee at least three well-prepared, soul satisfying meals that scream ‘VACATION!’.   

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bodhisattva Vow

I think the storm has passed.  Good thing I didn’t wait for the rain before I decided to go running.  I would still be sitting at this table.  Please give me a few moments (or paragraphs) to be unbelievably ridiculous and sentimental while I wait for my gluten free brownies to bake.

I can’t remember when it all started, but I can still hear the music.  I remember watching MTV, ya know when they played music videos, mesmerized by three punkish kids bouncing around rattling rhymes about defying parents and being, well, punks.  This chubby, glasses-wearing geek loved the sense of rebellion that oozed from the television.  “Fight for Your Right” was our anthem.  I was too young at the time to fully realize the impact those lyrics had, but soon enough I was able to apply them in full effect. High school brought on a whole set of challenges for me.  Quite frankly weren’t we all in the same boat – awkward, pimply kids looking for acceptance?  My best friend drove a car – a red Probe to be exact.  There’s nothing cooler than buzzing around town with your best friend, sun roof open, smoking butts and listening to the Beastie Boys…OVER AND OVER.  I can’t remember how many times we listened to Ill Communication, but we spent those afternoons drilling the music into our heads.  I was “that kid in the corner”* slouched in the passenger seat with my sunglasses on, looking cool, um, er, whatever.  There are some days that I can still pick up on that ‘late Spring’ scent with the faint odor of a freshly lit cigarette.  The thought brings a smile to my face. 

The Beastie’s music matured and so did I, to a point.  As high school came to a close I sadly became consumed by so much anger. I practically sped off to college for an education in who-knows-what.  Leaving home would allow me to finally be myself (whatever that meant).  My expectations burned into my every day realities of college socialization.  On the surface I adapted well, but deep down I had no friggin’ clue or concept of how to advance my life.  My valiant efforts of staying straight were met with small defeats along the way.  “I’ve been through many times in which I thought I might lose it.  The only thing that saved me has always been music”**.  I recall a night during my junior year where I was delivered some disturbing news.  I immediately picked up the phone, dialed my girl Jenn and within an hour, I was in a car headed from Staten Island to Jersey.  We flew across the Goethals Bridge with the windows open – yup, it was another Ford, but definitely NOT a Probe.  I cupped my hand over the edge of my Newport and lit the end.  While taking a long, relaxing drag I made a few decisions that would be carried out.  The car speakers rattled in exhaustion from the funky bass lines while I checked my head back into the rest.  I exhaled and sunk further into oblivion.  I eventually made it back to campus, a few days later, resigned as president of my sorority and dropped out of school.   Well, maybe I talked with admissions and had them take me back a few days later.  Regardless, my life was changed forever, but that music kept me going; it kept me alive. 

I eventually cleared my head and got some of my shit together.  It took some time to detach myself from the poisons that surrounded me.  I threw myself into my studies – literature, to be exact.  Simply, I was in the business of intense reading comprehension.  I enjoyed diving into the cryptic Shakespearian plays and tearing apart the fairy tales of my childhood.  I grabbed this developing analytical skill and applied it to all Beastie music to date.  Weeks at a time I had their albums on shuffle, pressing pause only when I left my dorm room.  I had matured past the bass riffs and staccato raps to really appreciate the “Flowin’ Prose”***.   I distinctly remember the release of Hello Nasty – I woke early, for a college student, and made my way (via bus) to the local record store (back then they still had tapes AND records).  I walked out of there with the first copy of the long awaited album and rushed back.  The other CD’s were carefully removed from the changer in order to give Nasty the spotlight.  After about two weeks of continuous play, I reintroduced the older albums back into the mix for the ultimate in shuffle play. 

I could speak forever about seeing them live six times, taking a yoga class with Mike D or getting a high five from Yauch during a show.  The excitement in hearing To The Five Boroughs, a kick ass shout out to NYC, almost made me implode.  I must have checked the website daily in anticipation of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.  Their music was the progressive soundtrack to my movie – the movie of ME.  Those three white rappers from NYC taught me a lot about being confident, being myself and just being real.  Not a moment goes by, while listening to any of their songs, where a memory isn’t sparked by a lyric.  The shocking reality of Adam Yauch’s passing reminds me that life IS short.  The world lost a music pioneer, philanthropist and gentle soul.  Today, my soundtrack ended, but it will forever be on repeat. 


“A butterfly floats on the breeze of a sun lit day
As I feel this reality gently fade away
Riding on a thought to see where it's from
Gliding through a memory of a time yet to come
Smoke paints the air
Swirling images through my mind
Like a whirlpool spin beginning to unwind
And I stand at the edge cautiously awaiting
As time slips by
Carefully navigating by the stars in the sky
And I sit
And I think to myself
And on the horizon the sun light begins to climb
And it seems like it's been so long since he shined
But I'm sure it was only yesterday
A cold chill of fear cut through me
I felt my heart contract
To my mind I brought the image of light
And I expanded out of it
My fear was just a shadow
And then I voice spoke in my head
And she said dark is not the opposite of light
It's the absence of light
And I thought to myself
She knows what she's talking about
And for a moment I know
What it was all about.”

photo (5)


*Beastie Boys. “Sure Shot”. Ill Communication. Capitol, 1994

**Beastie Boys. “Professor Booty”. Check Your Head Capitol, 1992

***Beastie Boys. “Flowin’ Prose”. Hello Nasty, 1998

****Beastie Boys. “Namaste”. Check Your Head Capitol, 1992

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Morning Muscle Meltdown

If you’re a Facebook friend you’ve been blasted by status updates and pictures of me and my team, Will Beer for Run, throughout this past weekend.  If you haven’t already unfriended me or unsubscribed to my updates, then you’re a true friend, or have mastered the art of oblivion.  Saturday, April 28, Will Beer for Run gathered in a huddle just past the participant check-in at the Pocono Manor Tough Mudder.  The huddle was more of an effort to commiserate over windy cold as opposed to looking united as a team.  I felt mildly responsible for the situation; after all, I have a knack for being pushy, borderline forceful.  I used this skill to get people to register for ‘possibly the world’s toughest event’.  We did, however, befriend a gorgeous woman named Brandy.  She was wrapped in the shiniest silver with a black skull and crossbones stamped across her chest.  The group passed her around and took a long swig.  Brandy became the internal warmth that pushed us to the starting line.  Of course, we had to climb a wall BEFORE getting to the line.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

We were set to launch at 8:20 am, but needed to participate in some pre-game festivities.  The MC literally warmed up the group by getting us pumped.  He spoke of being united, kicking some ass and paying homage to our service men and women.  The pep talk was peppered with lots of HOO-RAH’s, followed by reciting the Tough Mudder Pledge.  The energy from my team and the ground hit me hard.  Feelings bubbled in my gut (no it wasn’t Brandy) and triggered an internal fire that pulsated through my entire body.  I was ready; we were ready.  Let’s do this.

I’ll spare you the details of barbed wire, ice tanks, electrocution, jumping off fifteen foot planks and climbing more walls.  I continued to feed off the energy of the crowd, the unity within my team and the mental grit needed to get through the course.  We, together, pressed through at least twenty obstacles over at least twelve miles to come out victorious.  This energy heightened my hyperactivity by bringing out the best of my screams, the flowery obscenities and the ‘DAMN, RIGHT I CAN DO THIS’ attitude. 

Wrapped in foil capes and wearing our orange halos, we shivered to catch the cheese wagon back to the Pocono Raceway, where our dry clothes anxiously waited.  Operation Get Dry was in full effect as soon as the van doors opened.  We peeled the cold, wet, muddy clothes from our beaten bodies and threw on warm clothes.  Of course, we loitered in the parking lot to drink a beer before piling into the warm van, headed for Allentown.  After hot showers, the BBQ was going and an outdoor fire was lit.  The calorie consumption wasn’t anything to bat an eyelash at.  Some of us were refueling, like Phelps, after a grueling day, others were also carbing up for a half marathon the following morning.   We exhausted ourselves rehashing the day’s events – retelling story after story for anyone who would listen.  Eventually, people faded one by one, headed for their warm bed.  After the last guests left, Marcus and I cleaned up and turned in.  I had another big morning. 

On Sunday, I met Gooch (his idea) and his wife Steph in a parking lot close to the half marathon start.  I stepped out of the car proudly displaying my Tough Mudder shirt with orange headband. I put on my Vibrams and adjusted my compression sleeves just below my severely bruised knees.  Gooch, also wearing his Mudder shirt and sporting orange hair, and I chuckled at our craziness as we walked to the start.  The day, already warmer than yesterday, held promise as the sun warmed our bodies.   Again, I’ll spare you the details of the race, but I’d like to get a few points across.

I have done some crazy things, but NEVER have I done these things without the unbelievable support of my husband, friends and family.  Please don’t mistake my gloating as conceit.  I love my life.  I want people to love their lives, too.  There’s so much out there to enjoy.  I want people to join me to see what awesome things we can do together.  I am a bully.  I want awesome, but I can’t do it alone.  I can’t climb walls myself – literally and figuratively.  Come with me.  Let’s find awesome together.  You don’t need to do a race with me to be supportive or feel the awesome.  Just come along for the ride.  I promise you won’t want to go back.  But, beware, I do have a potty mouth.  

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that:

  • I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge
  • I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time
  • I do not whine, kids whine
  • I help my fellow Mudders complete the course
  • I overcome all fears

 mudder team

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Climbing the Summit

Life consists of multiple lines eventually intersecting at one or multiple points forming a complete journey.  These lines support all of humanity, whether or not there is a direct relationship.  We all contribute.  One of my lines, started a few months back, will become part of the bigger picture at the end of the month.  I regained the confidence necessary to carry me to the end, both literally and figuratively.  Today’s excursion added the finishing touches to a long road riddled with bumps and detours.  I walked out with my head held high with minimal injury. 
While waiting for my running partner I turned to the sun and did a few modified salutations to warm my body, set the tone and pay some respects to the Mother.  We took the direction less traveled and quickly descended the rocky trail with cold feet.  The sun pushed any clouds aside and lit up our pale skin.  Occasionally, stopping to catch our breath and wipe our brow we silently looked around, soaking in the beauty of this warm April day.  We had potential and used it to our advantage; our sore feet tackled the highs and lows the trail offers to it’s unsuspecting patrons. 
As we approached the fifth (or so) mile I knew the Summit wasn’t too far in the distance.  It seemed like we were at the lowest point as the climb began.  We pushed out of the tree lined trail and proceeded to hammer up the path littered with large rocks.  Without the protection of the cooling trees, the sun set my skin on fire motivating me to move faster.  I looked up to see the crest of the trail yield to a circular grassy patch overlooking the entire Valley.  Strangely enough (yet so perfect), a bench is parked in the center of the circle.  We jogged over to the bench – it was if we couldn’t sit fast enough – and admired the view in silence. 
At that moment I accepted so much of me.  Getting there was an uphill battle, but I made it.  The reward of admiring the world from a distance, in silence, made the journey worth it.  The emotional and physical pain of the trail broke me down, but only made me stronger.  This became my driving force to conquer the Summit.  I stood up and really could see the forest for the trees.  Silence was interrupted with a slap of reality.  Guess I can’t run from everything.  Like a merry-go-round moving too fast I felt nauseous, but knew I had to fight to the finish.  With three (ish) miles left we pulled ourselves together for the last stretch.  No easy task, by any means, but we muscled through the remaining lows and highs to park ourselves under a tree in the cool grasses.   

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What’s That Chinese Symbol?

Once the warmer weather hits, another side of my wardrobe rears its head.  It’s not ugly; if anything, it’s a beautiful, colorful angle that I introduce to the world.  Staying entirely appropriate, a long pant transforms into a Capri and a dreary skirt gets made over into it’s uplifting, light cousin.  The blouses thin out and the sleeves retract.  Naturally, my blinding white skin reflects light until I ‘come up to color’.  Shorter bottoms expose my legs and show off a golf ball sized tattoo on my right ankle.  Twice this week already I was asked about ‘the Chinese symbol’ on my ankle.  It’s become habit to lower my head, almost in disappointment, and try to explain the ink on my leg. 

I attended a private liberal arts college in the mid-nineties with all intentions of pursuing my career in music.  Ahem, then it was a career in English.  I dreamed of writing/working for some prestigious company in New York City.  I could have argued until the cows came home as to why it was ridiculous for me, an English major, to take such required classes as science or psychology.  I wanted to spend more time focusing on African American Literature and Women’s Poetry, but I was forced to pick some ‘elective’ classes.  For some reason I took my fair share of philosophy, regardless of my strong dislike for the professor.  I also started to lean towards the religious studies.  Only one prof taught the medley of religion classes, but hearing good things about him I signed up for my first Eastern religion class.

And there he was – Dr. Kaelber (there it is…in print).  Dr. K was an older man – well, ‘older’ in the definition of a 20 year old college student.  He had just past-shoulder length hair that he neatly pulled back to the nape of his neck and he kept his distinguished (read: grey) beard neatly trimmed.  This ‘Frontier Man’ look was polished off by a black or grey tee shirt tucked into a pair of dark jeans, capped off with a shiny belt buckle and a tattered pair of cowboy boots.  I’m not sure if it was the ‘older man’ image that filled his classroom with overly flirtatious women or the actual material.  He paced across the room while he lectured, never referring to notes, which mesmerized me like focusing on a metronome for three hours.  I couldn’t tell you then what he talked about the first day, but the honeymoon was over.    

Women, no matter how devoted, started dropping the class like a hot potato.  Kaelber didn’t screw around.  The man gave us all the materials and information necessary, but most people couldn’t focus.  We failed quiz after quiz.  I stuck it out for the long haul, but to no one’s surprise I bombed the class pretty good.  I’m sure he didn’t remember me, after all, he failed hundreds of people throughout his career.  I, however, couldn’t take this level of rejection; I needed to prove myself.  (Oh, good God).  So, I signed up for the same class.  I worked my butt off by taking hand-cramping notes, reading book after book and actually listening to what Kaelber had to say, not just spending the class time examining his gait in those tight jeans and cowboy boots. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the class, but became obsessed with learning more about the Eastern religious.  We dove into the details of Hinduism and Buddhism.  A familiar symbol was plastered all through some of the texts and scriptures we studied.  The symbol I focused on was primarily seen in Hinduism, but variations of the symbol (based on translations) and definitions varied very little.  I wanted to be everything this symbol stood for – I wanted to embrace all that existed and stay true to my roots (read: ‘roots’ is a becoming a cliché word, but the journey continues).  I wanted to believe in the potential of everyone and everything.  This was my lifelong goal.  I chose to have it tattooed on my body as a constant reminder. 

So, the tattoo of the ‘OM’ symbol isn’t Chinese.  It’s really a Hindu symbol for the actual sound that’s present in Sanskrit writings.  Officially, Sanskrit isn’t a spoken language anymore, but it is the vehicle for religious writings.  I am NOT Hindu and the ink isn’t a tag to profess my love for yoga.  This is my daily reminder; sometimes I just need to pay more attention to the mark on my leg and not get distracted by cowboy (4)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Sweet (and Possibly Savory) Little Things

Since my last post life has been nothing shy of routine and relaxed.  Sure, I recovered from the impromptu altercation over a fender bender and I survived a five day trip to Vegas, sans husband and children.  I think he survived, too.  The overly used phrase ‘What happens in Vegas…blah, blah’ was not the mantra for one loose-lipped member of our traveling team.  So, for the record, I kept the shenanigans among the Vegas group. 

Being away from my family for those days gave me time to reflect.  Of course, I spent time at the conference and of course, I made it a point to eat well; not to mention, I reserved some time for adult beverage indulgences, but I had the luxury of spending two separate visits (a total of four hours) in the Caesar’s Palace Roman Baths and Spa area.  W-O-W.  This experience gave way to a nirvana of quiet time and body rejuvenation.  All guilt of being 2500 miles away melted as I slipped on my robe, just pulled from it’s own sauna.  The stress in my legs, a result of half marathon training, slowly escaped as I crept into the 55 degree soaking tub.  I spent time in the cedar and steam saunas before finishing up with a brief entry into the Arctic Room. 

All these luxuries let me reflect upon the little sweet (and possibly savory) nothings that are typically taken for granted.  Here’s a short list, off the top of my head, in no particular order.

Lavender Earl Grey tea with sugar and cream.  Espresso flavored tequila.  NY style pizza.  The smell of fresh cut grass.  A child’s discovery of their hands.  Chocolate milk after a long run. My moon roof.  Brie and ripe pears.  Toasting marshmallows over the fire pit while lounging on our patio.  Running with friends.  Running with my family.  Running alone.  Summer tomatoes, fresh off the vine, dancing with sea salt and a splash of olive oil.  Crock pots.  Cucumber sandwiches.  Swimsuits and bare feet.  Moroccan oil.  Hot baths.  BioFreeze.  Books about running.  Books about epidemiologic disasters.  Sangria and mojitos.  Cooking shows.  Massages with aromatherapy.  Figs with honey.  Writing.  Grilled steaks, medium rare.  Lemonade and iced tea.  Avocados with lime, salt and blue tortilla chips.  Sneaking kisses from my girls.  Settling into a snuggle with my hubbs.  Spending three hours on a technical trail.  Setting ridiculous goals which typically push my body to the max.  Tea pots.  Thanksgiving dinner.  Daydreaming.  Water ice. The elegance of a fountain pen.  Black tie dinners.  Clean sheets.  Older couples holding hands.  Memories.  College notebooks.  Old photos.  Water with crushed ice.  Sand in my toes and the ocean in my ears.  Rosemary trees.  Cherry blossoms.  Compression socks and running skirts.  A good knife.  My Keurig.  Soft hands; smooth legs.  Chirping birds at 5 am.  New baby smell.  Coming home to dinner being done.                     

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Human Obligation

It’s late…well, maybe not late to you, but my body checks out at a certain time.  It’s as if my brain has been programmed to do an automatic shutdown during a particular window of time.  So that window of time just kicked off about thirty minutes ago.  I still have to squeeze in a training run.  It’ll happen, even if it’s with my eyes closed.  For those of you friends with me on FaceBook, I made a status update sometime last week about nearly being hit head on in a parking lot.  I smacked my horn to alert the woman of my presence.  Instead of her taking ownership, acceptance, responsibility – whatever you want to call it – of her actions she deflects the problem to me by flashing her middle finger.  Huh?   At what point in that situation was I behaving like an asshole?  Hmmm.  More and more, I believe we, as people, have a human obligation to respect each other, help whenever we can (whether or not it’s our job) and pay it forward.  We are all on the same team; let’s act like it.
Within the past year, I have put on the ‘same team’ jersey and climbed up on my soap box.  As a young child I was advised to keep an open mind and respect people’s beliefs, regardless of mine.  On the same vein, I shouldn’t sacrifice or bend my own constitution.  I put on my ‘same team’ jersey, laced up my shoes and took the Human Obligation campaign to the workplace.  Not to disappoint, my peeps were already registered voters for the Human Obligation party.  It would be a challenge to spread the word and get people on board, but ‘WE CAN DO IT’.* 
There are a few simple guidelines to get this to work:
1). Treat others how you would like to be treated – is this so far fetched?  Say hello, as you pass a fellow co-worker or stranger in the hallway or on the street;It’s just polite.  Offer to help someone find their way, carry a package or hold a door open for them.
2). Believe that you do make a difference.  Each positive thing you do touches someone.  At least one of those people will pay it forward. 
3). You are not perfect.  We’re only human after all. 
Guideline #3 can be seen as the loophole or caveat.  We all make mistakes and we all stray from the straight and narrow.  Just get back on the horse and grab the bull by the horns.  (Insert any other overly used clichés here).
Today, started off to be a great day.  All of my Valentine’s stole my heart with their hugs and kisses.  Although some work obligations kept me from eating a normal lunch or going to the gym I made the best of it and pressed on.  I looked forward to the end of the day where I would see my beautiful girls at their day care Valentine party.  The hubbs would be working late, so it would just be the ladies again.  I arrived at day care and much to my surprise Marcus was sitting in the pre-school room with our youngest bouncing on his knee.  He was just passing by and stopped to see the girls.  Within ten minutes the baby was passed to me and we all said our good-byes. 
It took some time, but I piled everyone and everything into my car and left for home.  Unfortunately, while we were stopped at a red light, a distracted driver (no not texting, or sexting, or surfing, or boogie boarding) rear ended me.  I immediately checked in with the girls to see if they were okay and then envisioned my five month old Sweet Dee with a crumpled rear.  I pulled over, put my flashers on and got out of the car.  Without assessing the damage, I looked at the younger driver to say, ‘What the [insert choice word here] are you doing?’  Immediately on the defensive, of course, she exclaims that there’s no damage.  This was a fact.  The impact shocked us into fear, but the reality was that there was no damage to either car.  This is what a bumper does – it’s a buffer for idiot, but not entirely reckless driving.  Doing the right thing, regardless of the severity, I request the exchange of information.  The driver runs across the street and sequesters two individuals (assumed, known) back to the scene before continuing with the conversation.  I proceed to take a vicious verbal beating from a woman who tells me that I’m not doing the right thing.  She’s throwing her body around like a gyrating dancer while yelling at me curbside. 
The Italian, with Staten Island influence, in me started to bubble to the surface.  My palms got sweaty as my hands shook and my body was overcome in an uncontrollable hotness.  It took everything I had to dial back the compulsion to escalate the situation.  Fifteen years ago this would have been a real rumble, but age has mellowed me.  I also have a HUMAN OBLIGATION (see the theme) to be a role model for my children.  I swallowed my pride, eventually got the information I wanted and I left the scene.  I’m not exactly sure how I was labeled the guilty party and why I was the recipient of the unnecessary wrath.  I believe my strained ability to hold back my feelings made me the bigger person.  I stayed true to the obligation.  Maybe one day they will pay it forward.  All I can do is continue to hope and have faith. 
In the meantime I guess I’ll go run.  I need to alleviate the stress or I just may punch a wall.  :)  

SHOUT OUT: I've become an advocate of exceptional customer service.  We, as people, need to be a support to those around us and help in any way possible.  The 'it's not my job' doesn't fly with me.  Recently, I attempted to order an iStick from a Canadian company Dew Motion.  They make electronic performance gear.  Check out their site.  I had some trouble and eventually contacted Mike Turner at the US office.  He helped to settle the ordering issue and get the device shipped over night to my husband in Maine.  To boot, Mike read the blog.  Heck yes, you'll get a shout out.  THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!  GOOD PEOPLE...PAY IT FORWARD! 

*Please be advised that any political references do not denote a personal preference in political party and/or candidates.