Thursday, May 29, 2014

Me. Just Me.

It's Thursday.
I thought about the specifics of this post while I was running a new (new to me) trail earlier this morning.  The words and phrases filled my head to a point where all I 'heard' was noise.  I refocused my gaze on the trail to keep my feet light over the technical terrain.
And now, here I sit, roughly twelve hours later and I just can't write.
Me.  Just me.
I've been on vacation all week.  Me.  Just me.

Memorial Day weekend kicked off last Friday night with much needed family time.  That pretty much summed up Saturday and Sunday, oh yeah, and Monday - we grilled, played outside, went swimming, got dirty, drank and had a great time.  I logged nine miles with a few of the Rainbow Runners on Saturday (kicking some serious ass in the final two) and hit the trails Sunday morning for a quick, but dirty four on the mountain.

A few months ago, I scheduled my ACE Health Coach exam on May 28th at a testing center in King of Prussia.  Since I needed to take the day off for the exam AND I would already have off for Memorial day, I opted to take Tuesday off.  Then I decided it would be dumb to go to work for two days, so I extended my request through the remainder of the week.  I planned for Tuesday to be a good training run at Trexler.  You've seen me write about this before (if you read my crap).  If you know me personally, I can't stop talking about this place.  It's my heaven and my hell.  I couldn't wait to get back there.

View from my car
The only real decision I need to make when I arrive is on the direction - Right or Left.  It's 8.5 miles no matter which way you go, but each direction is entirely different.  I decided to go right.  Almost every time I start running there (regardless of direction), I say to myself, "What the fuck am I doing here?"  And so the love/hate begins; the heaven and hell.  After about the first mile (always seems to take forever), I got into a groove.  I was going to kill the trail as much as it would kill me.  I settled on that fact as I charged forward.

The Summit
I stopped at the Summit to take a selfie (God, yes, I just said that).  I sent the picture to two friends who would appreciate the view (and get pissed off they were at work while I was out playing).  This specific location stirs up some memories for me; I always like to pause my run here to breathe in.  With no more than five minutes of downtime, I slung my CamelBak over my shoulders before chugging down the hill.
I distinctly remember Mile 4.  The mile marker is snugly situated at the bottom of a hill.  While carefully digging the balls of my feet into the terrain I silently repeated 'Effing Mile 4; Effing Mile 4; Effing Mile 4...' until I reached the top.  I never stopped; I just kept going.
There's a section of trail that opens up into what looks like a scene from The Lion King.  When I'm with a group, I break out into song (Circle of Life).  This time, I kept the tune internally as I opened my stride, flying through the scenery.  I turned an easy corner, came to a complete stop and took another deep breath.

Breathe Here
And with that, I was off.

I finished the trail in what would be my fastest time to date.  I ripped off my CamelBak before making it to my temporary resting spot.  I tossed my stuff to the grass and immediately took a calf relieving Downward Facing Dog.

Without going into too much detail, I drove to King of Prussia Wednesday morning to take (and pass!) the ACE Health Coach Certification exam.  The testing center was everything I expected - same levels of stressful monitoring (and bullshit rules) as I had encountered over ten years ago when I took my GMAT's.  My anxiety over this test began two weeks prior, especially over the math concepts I needed to apply as they related to BMI (and converting height to centimeters/weight to kilograms), heart rate intensities, ideal body weight/lean muscle mass, blah blah.  One hundred fifty questions and one hour forty-five minutes later, I finished.  I got nervous finishing so soon.  I had no plans to start from the beginning to review every answer, so I hit submit.  After advancing through an acknowledgement and nervously clicking through a crappy survey, I was presented with a passing score.  Yay.  Good enough.  I needed a drink.

Today, I ran.  Another trail.  Again.  Me.  Just me.

A New Adventure
After purchasing my mountain pass, I drove my car back to the trail head to park.  A group of older people, decked in L.L. Bean attire and donning walking sticks, had pooled in the gravel lot clearly waiting for another party before hitting the trail.  They seemed to descent upon me like flies to honey waiting with anticipation as I was asked if I would be going on the trail.  I responded, letting them know that I would be running the trail.  I could sense both disappointment and relief in their faces.
I spent five minutes fighting with my Garmin (another love/hate relationship).  Satellites - check; trip reset - check; feet go - check.  And into the woods I went.

I spent about ten minutes getting acclimated with the trail markings (after looping around in a circle twice - oh look, there's my car).  I paused a few times along the way to take some shots, but for most of my run, I never looked up.  Pick up your feet, girl!

Easier Footing

Don't Look Up

Not Quite the Top of the Mountain
I can see my car...

Another Bridge
The landscapers were busily primping the greens at the base of the mountain.  I could hear, in the distance, the sounds of a chainsaw.  I uneasily quickened my pace while painting a horror picture in my mind.  Woods.  Masked killer.  Chainsaw.  Great.  I can be such an asshole.  Based on my sense of direction (getting better as I get more lost in ANY woods), I felt the trail leading towards a clearing.  Yup.  That's what happened.  What I didn't expect to see was the chairlift in action.  I DID expect to see a masked man or a dead body hanging from one of the chairs.  Idiot.

I think I sprinted across the clearing still focused on looking down.  I wanted to be mindful of my foot placement and I didn't want to see the body in the lift.

Closed Trail Leading to the Top of the Mountain
A few of the trails were roped off.  I would have liked to run up the rest of the mountain.  Maybe it'll be open some other time.  

The trail wasn't exactly labeled well, but I followed what I could as best as I could.  I crossed over two clearings and all the chair lifts.  With my keen sense of direction (and faded memory of the trail map), I expected to begin my descent.  The next section is what broken feet are made of.  I had passed a 'Caution' sign and giggled.  I then turned around, not much long after, to take a snapshot.

True Story - No Joke

Silence was eventually replaced by the babbling of bear creek and soon, accented by the distant chainsaws and my quickened pace.  Although the trail ran down the backside of the mountain, a few quick rises in elevation challenged my hamstrings.  This trail is frequented by mountain bikers; God bless 'em.

Oh look, I see my car.

No, Thank YOU
I felt great as I approached the end of the trail, smiling.
I jogged across the parking lot and down a path next to the lake before turning around to power up the path's hill.  As I unlocked my car, I noticed a young man exiting a mini-van.  He looked hardcore with all his gear and visually light bike.  We exchanged pleasantries.  Hmmm, hardcore lookin' mountain biker.  Tattoos and piercings.  Mini-van.  Well that's interesting, I thought, as I piled into my station wagon.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Never Say Never

I never thought I'd be back in Tennessee willfully.  I never imagined being in Tennessee, at will, and being relaxed. Whelp, here I am.

A wonderful friend of mine moved just outside of Nashville a few years ago and I actually scheduled a family-free trip to visit.  Yesterday was my first full day without kids, work and any level of responsibility.  The lack of ties just about killed me.  I can't recall a time in which I had been so relaxed.  We chatted for four hours at the kitchen table while drinking cups of coffee and tea.  After an afternoon of lunch, pedicures and a quick stop at the grocery store we headed back home to grill some delicious steaks.  I hurried up the stairs to my room to grab my glasses and pop out my contacts.  I believe that the lack of responsibility and deadlines forced a dull headache.  I needed to pull it together before we head out the door to a bluegrass festival.  After a few orange mint mojitos to take the edge off, I took the last little bite of steak and wiped it across my plate.  My word, what a delicious meal!  I needed that.  Within thirty minutes, my girlfriend, her husband and I piled into the car for the short drive to the festival.  Sixteen dollars per person includes four beers each (!) and live music until 11 pm.  The unseasonably cool Tennessee air kept us bundled in sweat shirts and a heavy blanket; our tailgate chairs were positioned in a horseshoe on the grassy field which was riddled with groups of people sitting on blankets, chairs or a combination of the two.  Kids pranced through the darkness led only by their glow sticks while their parents staggered behind as beer sloshed over the rim of their plastic cups.  All around us, musicians of all ages gathered in small groups to collectively crank out tunes familiar to the even smaller group of bystanders.  The sweet smell of kettle corn paired with smoky BBQ and undertones of beer seemed to push the clouds aside, revealing a heaven of stars.

I decided sometime yesterday afternoon that I'd be taking Drew to a yoga class.  She's not new to yoga, but she isn't a regular practitioner.  I found a studio, close by, that offered a mid-morning All Levels class.  Being 'in the know', I wasn't sure how 'All Levels' friendly a 'Vinyasa Flow' class would be for a beginner, but I was willing to roll the dice.  I woke early today, again sans alarm.  I tiptoed down the carpeted stairs and hobbled over the gate (to keep the dog on the first floor) towards the kitchen.  Without making too much noise, I set up the coffee maker to brew a strong pot of butter pecan coffee (delicious, BTW).  I spent close to an hour in my Health Coach book (cert exam on May 28th!!!!) before anyone else woke up.  DJ, dressed in his fatigues, emerged from his room first; Drew followed ten or so minutes later.  I took a shower after a light breakfast and dressed for class.  Thirty minutes later, we went to class.  I pre-paid for the class; all we needed to do was check in and lay out our mats.  The studio was WARM.  I knew within no time we'd be sweating buckets.  I grabbed a few props (blankets, blocks) to place by our spots as the instructor sauntered into the studio.  The door clicked behind her and she immediately started talking.  The music was a little loud and 'unconventional' (Fleetwood Mac, The Cars...), but I eventually tuned that out.  I found the occasional  Southern lingo, mindfully interjected into the script, distracting, but I learned to just smile through that commentary ('Those Warrior B's look beautiful, y'all').  Savasana wasn't as long as I prefer (less than 5 minutes), but after the vigorous flow it would have taken me at least ten minutes to zone out.  We rolled up our mats and placed the props in their respective cubbies as we bid farewell to the group.

And now, sitting in 'my' chair, feet propped on the ottoman, I am reeling off a tasty lunch and a HUGE Ranger win.  I could pass out, but I opted to surf the webs and write this post.  Soon we'll head to East Nashville for tasty food and well, whatever the hell we can do in East Nashville.   I do miss being home, but Mamma needed this break.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

All in the Name of Fashion

I'm home, on my couch with a full belly. I'll pass out soon.

I spent the evening exploiting myself in the name of fashion and yoga. I think that last part is an oxymoron.

I ate light all day knowing I'd be modeling form fitting clothing at an event. My hollow belly yelled at me during my hair and make-up session.

Hours later, I thankfully slithered into my favorite jeans and my Rangers tee (they suck, BTW) before heading home.

Mindful eating flew out the window as I shoveled food into my face. Now my belly is saying other things.

I need to motivate myself to get off this couch.


It's caked on.
So happy to be in jeans.

I had a decent time meeting other yoga instructors in the Valley, but I realized that what I did, is everything I'm not.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 1, 2014

On the Seventh Day

The progression of Spring means a lot to me: fresh air flowing through open windows, lightweight jackets paired with cropped pants, and outdoor activities.  This Spring - Spring 2014 - means the end of my yoga teacher training journey.  After all this time, almost 200 hours to be exact, it feels as if everything passed in the blink of an eye.  I signed up for the training (January 2013) fully aware of the commitments and sacrifices I would need to make in order to dedicate myself to the work ahead.  These sacrifices absolutely referred to my usually packed race schedule.  With the class schedule in hand for the first few segments, I knew I’d be missing out on at least three races.  Eventually, I succumbed to the inevitable; I could not be in two places at once.  Outside of the classes, I was charged with some self study and reading exercises to expand my horizons beyond the physical lessons and lectures.  One of these growth opportunities was handed to us at the start of the final segment: “Practice for Seven Days Straight and Journal Your Experience”.  Crap.  Seven days straight.  I practice fairly regularly, but seven days straight…that’s going to be a challenge in itself.  Perhaps, another sacrifice.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014: DAY ONE
 With the hubbs away I would not be able to get out the door for a long run with the Rainbow Runners.  I woke early before the girls and hopped in the shower to get warm.  The temperatures were on the way up again, but the evenings continued to hover just around freezing - something my body doesn’t accept well.  I tiptoed downstairs and rounded the corner to the family room.  Already, at six-thirty, the sun flooded the deck.  I observed from behind glass doors.  I rolled out my mat, facing East, and stepped my bare feet together.  My only focus was my gazing points, my drishti.  It took a few moments for me to get into the groove of my Sun Salutations, but before enough time passed, I was in a zone.  The movements performed by my body were initiated by the changes in my drishti.  I soon lost myself in my line of sight, almost as if I wore blinders.  Nothing else mattered.  Earlier, I predicted a short practice, but made sure that I included a back bending series and headstand.  The drishti continued to be my mental and external focus.  I pressed up into Urdhva Dhanurasana, full back bend, lifting with my heart as my physical gaze fell between my hands and my mental gaze rose through my chest - a difficult feeling to put into words.  I breathed through two more rounds of the pose before taking rest on my back.  I quickly flipped myself upright to prep for headstand.  From table top, I placed my forearms on the mat and interlaced my fingers.  For YEARS, I would pull my palms apart to accommodate the back of my head.  Sadly, this ‘modification’ caused my forearms to roll out.  I’m not sure if this contributed to any misalignment, but I have been focusing on keeping my palms together - I think that gives me more lift in my chest while I have more leverage to ground my forearms into the mat.  Maintaining drishti, I gingerly elevated my legs into headstand.  I maintained twenty ocean wave-like breaths as I looked through the spot on my mat.  As gracefully as I elevated my legs, I brought them back down and rested in Child’s Pose.  One vinyasa (still holding onto my gaze) and three finishing poses, I laid down on my mat to rest.  I finally found the perfect nook for my head to rest and I heard the first child wake.  Five minutes later, little feet whizzed past me and I got up.  
Although I felt a little incomplete without a good Savasana, I embraced the morning.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014: DAY TWO
Easter morning.  The kids would be up in no time, anticipating the arrival of the bunny.  My mat time was quickly shrinking, so I wasted the moment no longer.  I unrolled my mat, facing East and started with a few warm up rounds of Cat/Cow.  Distracted, I wondered why ‘we’ say ‘Cat/Cow’, when the first pose in the pair is ‘Cow’.  Go figure.  Just like that, I was completely distracted.  I didn’t want to focus on my drishti; I did that yesterday, so I felt it necessary to find another intention.  I decided to throw the Primary Series out the window and work through more easy poses to loosen up.  It felt most natural to open the sides of my body while lifting through the crown of my head.  Each movement was met by my lengthening spine.  I briefly transitioned to standing for a few Sun’s and a Trikonasana/Virabhadrasana flow before making my way back to the seated poses on the menu.  And then, just like that, I heard the creaking of the floor boards upstairs.  Someone was awake!  I sat in lotus for five breaths; I took another five with my torso folded over my legs and transitioned to my back for a five minute Savasana.  
Again, second day in a row, I felt a little incomplete without a full Savasana, but I was thankful for the time I spent on the mat.  

Monday, April 21, 2014: SHOULDA BEEN DAY THREE
I had the day off, but like most mornings, I got up early.  Today would be my first morning in a week since I was able to run with the Rainbow Runners.  I looked forward to meeting up with them.  The women were in their taper week leading up to the St. Luke’s Half Marathon on Sunday, so my days and distances with them would be numbered and shortened.  We met at 5:15 am and set out for five miles.  OF COURSE, the weather was just above freezing.  I ran in 10 degree weather this winter, but my body has given up on making that work anymore.  Bring on the warm mornings.  I wore just enough clothing to maintain a comfortable temperature during the run.  I felt cruddy - bloated and slow.  After logging five miles, I was thankful to get into my car.  I flipped on the heated seat before zipping home.  I began to shiver in my clothes, but I couldn’t even muster enough energy to peel my sweaty gear off.  I ripped off my shoes and dove, practically head first, into the corner of my favorite couch.  Knowing I’d pass out for a little, I set my alarm for 7 am.  The ladies had off from school; we didn’t need to worry about catching a bus or making the day care breakfast cut off.  I couldn’t move, but I needed to get out of my now cold with sweat clothes.  Instead I reached for my snuggie and well, I snuggled up.  I recall shivering until I passed out.  Hard.  Even my mental will to get through fifteen minutes of asanas post-run was no match for my ailing body.  I woke before the alarm chimes and dragged myself up the stairs for a warm shower.  No better.  I returned to the couch, this time with two kids attached to me, and passed out again for a half hour.  I fought a low grade fever with aches and chills all day.  Instead of squeezing in a yoga session during the girls’ afternoon quiet time, I put Alli in her crib and Ava and I passed out in my bed for almost three hours.  The day was a wash and I, sadly, never put my toes on my mat.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014: DAY ONE…AGAIN
I started again.  I still wasn’t 100% when I slithered out of bed on Tuesday morning, but I needed to do something.  Without rolling out my mat, I spent about ten minutes doing some light stretches while standing.  I still had this unexplained abdominal pain which urged me not to do anything crazy.  If anything I felt a little more ready to start the day.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014: DAY TWO…FEELS LIKE GROUNDHOG DAY
The beautiful chimes of my phone gently woke me at 4:25 am.  I hit snooze knowing I would have at least ten more minutes until I needed to get out of bed.  I planned to meet one of the Rainbow Runners for a nice four mile run.  I poured myself off the side of my bed, paying mind to the snoozing husband.  Within five minutes, my gear was on and I got in the car.  I felt SO much better than I had days before; the pace was great, the route was welcomed and the company continues to be threaputic.  We finished up before six am which gave me plenty of time to stretch out and shower before waking the girls.  I fired up the Keurig and unrolled my mat onto the kitchen floor.  It sounds weird that I’d practice in the kitchen, but I wanted a more firm surface supporting my mat.  It makes me feel more grounded.  After two slow Sun Salutations I barely remembered being in the kitchen.  My flow focused on being grounded through my feet.  With each standing pose, I channeled my breathing through the center of my foot.  It almost expanded and relaxed with my exhales.  My toes separated and I felt the surface area of each foot come in contact with the mat.  In Virabhadrasana, I really focused on grounding through my back foot.  That heel shot through the mat, lengthening my Achilles, my entire calf and up to my hip.  The back of my leg completely released.  I repeated on the other side with an added boost of energy.  My body craved that pose.  Continuing with the theme of grounding, finished with a few seated poses (before heading into a brief Savasana) in which I built from Dandasana.   After writing this, I realized that subconsciously my morning practice revolved around grounding because I did not feel grounded since getting sick.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014: DAY THREE
The chimes got me again the next morning.  4:25 am.  This would be the last run with the ladies since they were winding down to their half marathon on Sunday.  I took advantage of the time with them.  The same situation as yesterday unfolded.  Since we ran a little further (5 miles) I didn’t have as much time to practice, but I again rolled out my mat in the kitchen.  I practiced almost the same sequence of poses as the previous morning.  They felt just as good.  More grounding was what the yogi ordered.  

Friday, April 25, 2014: DAY FOUR
I planned to ‘sleep in’ for a number of reasons: no one would be running, I could use a few extra zzzz’s and I had an appointment with a trainer at noon.  There was no need for me to get up ‘early’.  At 5 am, my chimes poked at my ears.  I snoozed.  The chimes radiated from underneath the covers.  I snoozed.  The chimes got in my head.  I shut off the alarm and slowly put my feet on the carpet.  I successfully snoozed for about 45 minutes (much needed).  After making my way downstairs, I fired up the Keurig and did some light standing stretches while looking out the kitchen window.  I took fifteen minutes to loosen up before starting the morning rush.  
My noon personal training appointment was geared towards helping me train for a killer trail race in July.  I really believe that I’ll make some great progress and meet my goal (she says optimistically).  I spent extra time post-appointment to fit in a few Sun Salutations.  There’s something odd about doing yoga in a gym - heck, it’s where I’ve done most of my teaching, but the atmosphere of a gym isn’t exactly conducive to relaxing and letting go.  I made the best of the time and got lost in a few Upward Dogs.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014: DAY FIVE
Saturday.  No real plans.  Sweet.
I ‘slept’ in until 6 am.  I planned to get in a near-full Primary Series practice.  I got pretty close.  
Just like my first DAY ONE, I melted into my drishti and saw nothing else.  I really notice this happening when I’m transitioning to Upward Dog - my eyes practically roll back into my head.  As my chest lifts, my throat opens, and my gaze settles into my third eye, those eyes of mine just start to roll back like marbles.  I love the feeling.  Knowing I wouldn’t have 90 minutes of dedicated time, I skipped a few seated and reclining poses to move to the shoulder stand sequence, back bending and head stand.  My drishti stayed strong through the end.  I practically collapsed on my back into Savasana.  Sweet sunshine pouring on my face through the sliding door warmed my body and turned the corners of my mouth upward.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014: DAY SIX
Today would be the last class in my yoga teacher training program.  THE.LAST.CLASS.  I can’t believe all the time and energy spent a little more than a year would be over in a few hours.  Just like that.  
I walked downstairs around 6 am and rolled out my mat for a little warm up much like the one I described in my first DAY TWO, Easter morning.  Later that day, at class, I’d be teaching a 20 minute segment out of a 60 minute class.  Although I’d be practicing the remaining 40 minutes, I needed to be more aware of what was happening around me.  Spending the solo time on my mat helped clear my nerves about the upcoming class.  I wasn’t overly prepared for my teaching responsibilities - I needed to work with two other women on the content and we all have different teaching styles.  It was not, by far, a bad experience, just different.  One of my responsibilities would be to talk the students through getting into our peak pose of ‘Bakasana’.  While on my mat, I warmed up enough to talk myself into the pose (having done a little YouTube research to get a little perspective).  I focused too much on my nerves that I couldn’t even get into the pose.  I decided to rest in Child’s Pose and forget it.  

Monday, April 28, 2014: DAY SEVEN
My running ladies would absolutely NOT be running this morning in light of yesterday’s half marathon.  All women put up great times - the result of mindful training.  I still couldn’t believe that I missed running that race.  
With enough flexibility in my schedule, I planned to come home at lunch for yoga on the deck.  The sun was shining and I couldn’t resist the opportunity.  Thankfully, I live only one mile from my place of business.  I had plenty of time to scoot home, change, and practice all before my 1 pm meeting.  Yay!  Drishti would be my partner-in-crime, again.  The sounds of the day can be distracting, but my drishti helped me center my thoughts and keep me present on my mat.  I developed a flow of sorts that continued to build off of a Sun Salutation A.  Eventually, my Sun practice matured to a Sun B flow.  I definitely lost myself in the practice as I can barely remember anything about that time.  I do know that I loved living in my upward dogs and my backbends were just amazing.  As in DAY FIVE, I collapsed on my back into Savasana; the sun soaking my body.  I finished up with a grounded Padmasana.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014: DAY EIGHT…FOR GOOD MEASURE
I went for a run with one of the ladies.  It was a nice shakeout run of four miles.  The wind was a little intense at times, and we absolutely cut corners from the original route.  We weren’t looking for any sort of distance; we looked to get outside and get the legs moving (regardless of how fast or slow).  We finished about quarter to six which, again, gave me enough time to roll out my mat for a good half hour.  And I did just that.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014: DAY NINE…A DAY OF REST
I did nothing.  An early appointment prohibited me from getting any activity before work.  
I did, however, spend a roughly ninety minutes with some good people.  It’s not a group that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being with, but I’d like to do it again.  
We talked about work, and no work, and stuff, and nothing.  We laughed and sighed.  We sat in silence; we engaged in separate, simultaneous conversations, with a light jazz in the background.  We ate; we drank.
We talked about five minutes of happiness.  The goal was to put everything aside, much like ‘we’ do in Savasana.  I envisioned being in the Savasana sweet spot for five minutes.  My eyes practically rolled to the back of my head just thinking about it.  Five hours later, I stopped by a local eatery and ordered my favorite salad to-go.  I drove halfway to my next location, which happened to be a Starbucks, and parked the car in the lot.  I turned off the engine, left the radio on and opened the moonroof shade.  The rain was pouring down in buckets.  I felt safely exposed in my car.  The Doors’ Riders on the Storm softly broke through my speakers.  With each mindful bite, I focused on the rain drops pooling on the windshield.  The water slowly distorted my vision, but I soon was able to focus through the water to basically nothing.  I saw nothing with open eyes.  I found the sweet spot.