Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Faux Pas

This morning, while surfing the InterWebs I discovered a hilarious slideshow from Runner’s World related to Runner Fashion Faux Pas.  I couldn’t resist. 

Here are MY Top 5:

  1. Wild Hair – for some reason, during most races I’m forever annoyed with my pony tail.  Too loose, too tight, too high, too low, too bouncy, too swingy.  Whatever the excuse, my hair situation clearly affects my mental well-being.  How do I resolve?  I let my hair down, of course. 
  2. Shorts Over Tights – during the colder Winter months I wear my cold gear tights.  Sometimes I’m compelled to throw on a pair of shorts on top.  This way I don’t feel so, well…naked 
  3. Make Up – I never leave home without mascara.  Period.
  4. Inappropriate Shorts Length – During the warmer months (March/April – November), if I’m not wearing a skirt, I’m wearing very short shorts. 
  5. “Clashy-Clashy” – Most of my gear (especially for races) includes flashy patterns and loud colors.  I don’t even care if nothing matches.  To polish off the look, I might accessorize with my hot pink and orange Vibrams. 

“Do Your Practice and All Is Coming”

The late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, father of Ashtanga Yoga, offered many words of wisdom.  He believed, and passionately taught, in the importance of constant practice.  Everything comes together with concentration, diligence and, well, practice.  This year, my physical and emotional fitness has shifted to include a yoga teacher training program while lessening my participation in organized races.  Less races = less training.  I do, however, make a few exceptions to all my rules.  There was a race that I needed to run this summer – Quadzilla on July 14th.  Two years ago, Quadzilla’s inaugural kick off, I absolutely wanted to sign up, but with Allison’s birth in early June running the race was unrealistic.  Last year, I decided to volunteer.  Seeing all the runners cross the finish line absolutely fueled my desire to hit the trail and conquer the beast.  I.WAS.IN.
I’ve said this before – the Trexler Nature Preserve Trails are my heaven and hell.  I get so excited leading up to a scheduled run there.  As my shoe hits the trail at take off, I am overcome with a wave of emotion – regret, frustration, hatred – that quickly shifts to pleasure as I climb the last hill.  My heaven and hell.  That same rollercoaster of feelings left the gate again as I submitted my registration for the 3rd Annual Quadzilla 15K Trail Race.  Would I tame the beast?  Do Your Practice…
My last race was the LVRR Super Bowl 10K in February.  I was out of the ‘racing’ groove, but I absolutely maintained a light and regular training schedule.  Two months leading up to the race, I incorporated hill repeats and hill suicides to increase my endurance (ahem, tolerance) during climbing.  As late Spring transitioned into Summer, almost instantly, the humidity rolled in to sit on my chest during my morning runs.  I, smartly, pushed through the uncomfortable, walking when necessary to relieve the pressure.  Every run was followed up by some yoga – even a few Sun Salutations if I was pressed for time – to center my mind and create the space my body needed to recover.  In addition to that, I fit three Trexler Border Trail (8.5 miles) runs with good company.  Doing My Practice…
Two weeks before the race, we traveled to OBX for a relaxing vacation.  I successfully maintained my grain free diet (three months and counting) with the exception of tasting the smallest possible bite of a fresh maple and bacon donut from Duck Donuts.  I fit in three runs, averaging 4 miles each, and one yoga class filled with lots of hip openers and twists.  Most of my runs kick off in the early morning, but I made a last minute decision to go for an afternoon run on our last day there.  I ran a total of five miles (1/2 South on the road, 1/2 North in the surf) at 2:30 pm in 90 degrees.  Did My Practice…
The week leading up to the race was a nightmare.  A dull head ache increased with intensity as the week progressed.  Work, after vacation, absolutely threw me for a loop.  In the back of my mind, I knew that running a hard Trexler trail would be EXACTLY what the doctor would order.  I internalized the desire to punch a wall, or drink myself into an oblivion.  I saved all of this for Quadzilla.  Friday couldn’t come soon enough.  Meeting-wise, I had a pretty light day.  I used my lunch break to take a yoga class.  Sadly, I couldn’t relax or concentrate during Savasana; maybe I didn’t even try.  After-work drinks, Saturday packet-pick up and evening BBQ distracted me enough that I started to unwind from the week.  Sunday would be the test.  Do Your Practice and All Is Coming.
I prepared a quick, but light breakfast with enough carbs and protein (lesson learned from my last trail run).  My late night gear gathering proved successful – I dressed, filled my CamelBak with ice water and left home.  I picked up a medium hot tea with sugar from Dunkin’ before jumping on the highway headed North.  My ‘absolutely-awesome-can’t-be-beat-keeps-me-moving-and-motivated’ playlist oozed through my speakers as it vibrated my soul.  I got goose bumps. 
I found a great parking spot with 45 minutes until race time.  As luck would have it, found all my friends to wish them well before making our way to the starting line.  I let them know that I wasn’t going to talk the entire race.  Usually, I’m fairly chatty with those around me - ‘hey, how are you?’, ‘damn, this sucks!’, ‘THESE HILLS! ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME?!?!?!’  Not today.  The more I talked the more wind I sucked.  I made the decision to save my breath, save my energy.  I might wind up expending more energy focusing on NOT talking.  Time would tell.  Off we went.
Single track trails in the beginning sucked.  I hopped off the ‘beaten path’ to pass walkers (!) and runners alike high stepping over nature.  Almost immediately my feet were wet, but I didn’t care.  I was going to own this trail.  I maintained great form uphill and downhill.  Eventually, the field spread out and I had some room to play with.  I played a game of Frogger with two women.  We chuckled under our breath as we passed some men on the hills (chicked!).  Before I realized, we made it 3.5 miles to the first water stop (of course, at the top of a hill).  
Excitement & Surprise
As you can see, I was quite surprised to see my friend at the crest. I grabbed some water, said hello, and continued down the trail.  I felt GREAT.  Fresh, alive, relaxed.  Strangely, today, this was my heaven.  Hell led me here.  I lightly toed the trail on the downhill while digging the balls of my feet on the way up.  I hovered over the gravel on each straight away.  I was drenched in sweat, but didn’t feel overworked.  I did, however, yearn to reach the water crossing.  The feeling of dipping your feet in water, especially, while running, instantly cools the body and provides a relief both physically and emotionally.  I experienced that during my OBX runs; I couldn’t wait to take myself back there mentally.
And there it was, like an oasis in the desert…THE WATER…
At water
I approached the opening in the tall grasses with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. 
I sloshed through the thick mud until my feet were entirely submerged in the water.  The picture speaks for itself.
I spent more time in the water than I should have, but at that moment, time didn’t matter.  I slowly navigated the mossy rock until safely reaching the other side.  With roughly a mile to go, I knew I was home free.  I heard the cheering crowd in the distance, but needed to wrap up the race with a 1/2 mile out and back through a grassy field situated on a sharp angle.  After what seemed more like two miles, the grass opened up to a short, but fast downhill road to the finish.  With enough kick left, I barreled down the hill to cross in 1:52.   
This is how I barrel:
Downhill to finish
This is how I finish:
Quadzilla Finish
That day I became Queen of the Hills.  I tamed the beast.  I ate hills for breakfast.  I’m already looking forward to next year.   

Thursday, July 11, 2013

S’chwerty Cray

Last week, we vacationed in OBX.  I had the lovely opportunities of getting in three decent runs and taking a vinyasa yoga class.  The yoga class kicked my butt more than the mileage – just like every run is different, so is every yoga pose.  I woke the next morning so sore in my torso.  Must have been from all the extra twists.  Regardless, I like being a little sore.  It’s a nice reminder of where I’ve been.  So, I spent a lot of time relaxing and now I’m back to reality.  This reality slapped me in the face on Tuesday.  I have no idea what the hell happened, but before I knew it I was sitting at my kitchen table, having just devoured my dinner, with a slamming head ache.  That night I slept.  Wednesday was a little more reasonable in terms of stress, but I picked up a neck strain along the way requiring ibuprofen, massaging and BioFreeze (my friend).  I also slept my face off that night. 

Today.  Today is Thursday.  AMEN.  Today should provide a little more relief.  My meetings, for one reason or another, are being moved or canceled.  I’m anticipating a fairly light day.  Hopefully, this gives me time to catch up on stuff. 

Today.  Today I sit here, drinking my coffee as I let the BioFreeze do it’s thing, looking towards the weekend. 

Today.  Today I sit here knowing that my neck needs to get under control as I have a race on Sunday. 

Today.  Today I sit here ready to tame the beast I lovingly call my ‘heaven and hell’. 

After this week, this short week, I’m going to eat the shit out of those hills for breakfast.  Bring it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth Flashback

It must have been the summer of '97.  From this point forward I didn't move home from college for summer breaks. When school let out I needed to move all my crap from my dorm to a temporary room in another air conditioner-free building. I worked part time in the maintenance office performing light secretarial duties for the administrative assistant. Patty let me do whatever I wanted. I spend a lot of time surfing the Internet...particularly playing around in some GeoCities communities. I met a guy from Italy who barely spoke a lick of English, but we got along just fine. Don't get excited; it was nothing romantic. We tried to communicate and learn about each other's cultures. He could have been bullshitting me, but I didn't care. Nevertheless, you get my point about not having any real responsibilities. It was a dream. I definitely took a few classes, maybe one of them being The Theory of Dreams, or some shit like that. I woke up, ate, worked, schooled, partied and fostered trouble. I, and small group of friends, owned the campus. We were overcome by the foreign students who invaded the freshman dorm - the air conditioned freshman dorm.  I can't remember what they were called. I actually just threw out a question to my sorority sisters. We'll have to see if anyone comes back with the answer.*
Occasionally, we hung out with a kid from another frat. I'll call him 'Dean' (to protect myself)...I think he was older age-wise, but was an academic year behind me (at some point this is debatable since I spent five years - including summer sessions - working on my BA). I couldn't quite figure him out...he was clean cut, martial artsy, but had dark eyes that told a different story. It was strange for a freshman to be an RA, but he didn't let that get in the way of a good time. He looked the other way when necessary. I met up with Dean after a less-than-thrilling July 4th BBQ meal in the campus dining hall. We, along with one other friend, smoked cigarettes in Trautmann Square (affectionately called Tiananmen Square) for what seemed like hours. Before I could light another, I cracked open the foil on a box of wine (classy) and followed Dean to the freshman dorm. He possessed keys to all the 'no' areas in the fourteen story building, including the roof access. We climbed the access stairs to a locked door labeled 'ROOF ACCESS'. I intently watched Dean unhook a mess of keys from his belt loop and flip through a number of multi-colored keys until he found the correct one. As he pushed the door open the setting sun blinded us momentarily.  Our eyes adjusted to the light. I continued to follow Dean around a concrete wall until we arrived at the base of rusted metal stairs - he, leading the way; I, carrying the wine. I gripped the flimsy banister as if it was the last thing I would do in life. The flight opened up to an edgeless concrete platform. We found homes for our rears and planted ourselves. I lit another cigarette and took a long drag. As I slowly exhaled, I focused on the horizon's landscape slowly appearing as the smoke dissipated. We could see for miles.  Then, dusk fell.  We sat in silence - smoking cigarettes, drinking wine. Without warning, the sky illuminated in the distant left, then the right, then straight ahead. Fireworks from all corners of NYC sprayed colored brilliance across the night. We didn't speak. 

Every 4th I recall the story. This time around, fifteen years later, we vacationed in OBX for the holiday. I knew there would be firework displays. Our house, situated in a small cul-de-sac off a private beach access, offered multiple decks to view the ocean and inland sides. Three sliding doors on the third level opened to two decks and a screened in porch, respectively. The middle deck was split by a flight of stairs to the ship watch. With nervous legs I wobbled up, gripping the banister with sweaty hands. Making sure to stay away from the side rails, I walked across the platform taking in the panoramic view. I could see for miles. When dusk fell, the housemates situated themselves in preparation for the show. Fireworks launched as close as the next house and both far away north and south. As the distant colors moved in what seemed like slow motion, a smile fell over my lips. I never thought that I'd be able to experience a moment like this again. The difference here is that I shared it with friends and family...better than Dean (who the hell knows what happened to him), a faceless friend and a box of crappy wine. Made for a great story though. 

*my girls never fail to let me down. The foreign students were called ELS, English Language Students. 
Photo: Brad Kayal

Monday, July 1, 2013

Holiday Holiday

Al Roker and Jim Cantore would have fought each other to cover the storm that descended upon Muffinville on June 22, 2013. The weather originally called for clear skies, but a fast approaching front turned the calm day into the prelude for the world's worst storm. The skies darkened and appeared to create an early summer squall...nothing more than a passing thunderstorm. I was confident that the storm would end just as quickly as it developed, but I was sorely mistaken.  The storm seemed to last for days. Each morning, I headed for shelter, but the winds continued to pick up.  The rain, already dumping record amounts, showed no signs of letting up. The basement flooded as water continued to rise from a little hole in the Earth. I maintained a 'glass half full' mentality while the wicked wind beat my body. Nearly thrown face down into a puddle I held on to a sapling, practically folded in half, trying to sustain its upright position after days of being thrashed westwardly. The rain eventually stopped, the winds died and the water receded. Today, cloudy skies over head.  A few cold drops of rain fell from above, cutting through the thickness in the air, to rest on my warm skin. I watched a sand crab meticulously dig his hole, close to the shore line.  He moved with such precision, stopping every now and again as if to tease me with his next move. 
I haven't paid any mind to the weather, my flooded basement or the damaged trees. Suddenly, they don't matter anymore.