Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wooden Mirror

A few times, during this morning's slumber, my body reminded me of yesterday's 8 mile run, a stiff neck and some down and dirty core work.  I needed to calculate every movement when changing positions; my body was sore.  Before the alarm sounded, my eyes peeled open as my bladder called for relief.  I opted to get a move on to attend an early yoga class at a studio I've never been.

The warm space and inviting substitute welcomed me.  After exchanging pleasantries, I parked my shoes along the wall before finding a home for my mat.  I noticed, positioned across from me, a sad girl.  Oftentimes, she gazed into the distance, away from my mat, with a terribly sad look on her face.  Her eyes, barely opened, seemed to hold the weight of the world; the creases of her mouth hung down giving the illusion that her cheeks could not be held up by her upper jaw any longer.  I tried to ignore the girl, and most of the time I was successful.

Working in the boundaries of my own practice, I painted a picture on my mat; a work of art laced with challenges, breathless moments and a little sweat.  Every now and again, my eyes would reset on the girl.  She remained stone faced, her mood unchanging with the slow flow.  Distracted, I couldn't comprehend why she could not find the sunlight.  I turned my attention back to the remainder of the class, feeling the burn of the final poses.  I thankfully shifted into savasana, carefully placing a bolster under my legs for added support.

I gave myself permission to completely relax.  The mat loved my body back, supporting each inch.  I didn't think about that girl, rather my mind drifted to an unnamed place.  The time in savasana was short lived.  Within five minutes we were encouraged to introduce movement back to our bodies.  I hugged my knees into my chest, rocking side to side re-awakening the lower spine.  I rolled to my right side for a full breath before pressing myself up to seated.

In unison with the practitioners, I pressed my hands together in front of my heart, bowing my head to an audible 'Namaste'.  I folded over my lotus legs, dropping my hands forward onto the mat.  I raised my head, looking up towards the girl, but she must have left my view.  For a moment I couldn't find her.  As I rolled up my mat, she caught my eye.  With the mat tucked under my left arm, I looked back to see her image burned into the wood floor.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Get Lost

If I could rewrite this, the morning would have been different.
The stars aligned.
The heavens opened.
The birds flew from under my feet.

I ran so hard that day - slow, but hard.
I gifted myself a challenge.  I had not run a trail since Quadzilla in July.  I missed getting lost like that.  The previous day, I made an impulse purchase on a pair of Brooks trail shoes.  After Quadzilla, my shoes (4 years old) were so trashed that I had no choice, but to throw them away — a bitter sweet moment.

It's not easy during the climbs; my pace drops dramatically.  I eventually find peace in the scenery and the sounds of my feet shuffling through the freshly fallen foliage.  This scene is all too dangerous considering what could lurk beneath the beauty — symbolism that kicks me in the face.  I wanted to fall, badly to get over that fear, but my will refused to let that happen.  I got high after the 1st mile; the blue skies pulsated beyond the towering trees.  I swear I lost my eyesight for some time.  The tunnel vision was incredible.  That place lets me focus on nothing but the placement of my feet.  She listens without judgement.  She welcomes me with open arms every time.

I stopped half way to rest my weary head on an inviting rock, jutting over the creek.  I looked up at the sky, vibrating pockets of blue tickled by the tops of the trees.  I looked behind me, dropping my head back, lifting my heart high in matsyasana (fish pose).  I breathed with my eyes soaking in the fresh air and crisp water.


Staying mindful to the run, I picked myself back up to carry on.  I climbed the ridge, cresting at an opening, overlooking the city.



I paused here for a few reflective breaths before slinking back into the trees.  The remainder of the trail steadily drops which permits me to open my stride, picking up the pace.  I returned to the start, stopping at my car for a swig of water before taking the trail unknown to me.

The path supported my increasing speed.  I rounded the corner headed south.  The enclosed space poured onto a side street, reconnected by a boardwalk.  I hit the planks with such force, rattling the earth below.  I picked up the pace flying over the structure.  With each foot strike, startled birds escaped from their shelter.  I ran harder.  Like the parting of the seas, birds flew from both sides of the planks giving me the illusion that they were lifting me up.  I ran harder.

I believed I could go faster.  So, I did and I will.














Over and Out

Prelude -
I drafted the majority of this post back on Sunday, October 18th.  I continued the story as if it was that day.  Time travel on Halloween...hmmm, sounds appropriate.
Happy Halloween!

**************
Let it be Sunday!

I 'slept in' until about 7 am which is a remarkable feat for me.  I reached for my phone, checked the time and quietly slithered out of bed where I was immediately reminded I raced the previous morning.  My soles of my feet released after a few paces.  They were thankful for a slow start, one in which I wouldn't be running again.  My soul thanked me for the latest journey we'd embark upon - two months with no structured training.  The no training training could have had a different start had yesterday been unfulfilling.  I needed to get off on the right foot, so to speak; I'm glad we made that happen.

I spent four months training for a marathon that I lost.  I think I'm owning that now; moving on.  I envisioned a more smooth plan that cycle like the waves I so yearn to see.  But I, the hurricane, rolled in to disrupt the way, changing the course of things forever.  Post marathon, I failed to make sense of things further pushing me under water.  I just wanted to close my eyes and let the water wash over me.  Sometimes I could see myself sinking to the bottom, in slow motion, face up.  A small bubble in the corner of my right eye, looking towards the surface, reaching out, but losing touch.  Such a dramatic picture, but I grappled with the reality of my run.

Q: Why was I doing this to myself?
A: Not really sure.

Instead of drowning in my bullshit I did two things (in September):
1). I signed up for the New Jersey Marathon (May 2016), with intentions to try for a Boston Qualifying time...sigh, again.
2). I told my coach I was going to race the Runner's World 5K...sigh.

In the short few weeks leading up to yesterday's 5K, I had a few failed workouts as the result of being unfocused, but I pressed on (cause I'm a glutton for punishment).  I tried to make peace knowing that I love the road and what happens will happen and blah blah, insert all the bullshit cliches here.  Last weekend's girls' trip to Rehoboth invigorated me.  I didn't think about the run, or about the calories, or the drinking (well, I thought enough to KEEP drinking) or much of anything that tends to sneak into my pretty little head.  Whatever it meant, I was ready to race.

The business of the week and evening before kept me distracted from Saturday.  The girls participated in the kids run at Steel Stacks and, as always, made mamma proud.  We picked up a later-than-usual dinner.  I ordered and devoured a not-the-usual pre-race dinner of spicy veggie drunken noodles.  After the kids turned in, I carefully gathered my gear, laying out what would be a flat Muff representing Team Oiselle for the first time.


Aside from the usual rituals the morning of, I was prescribed a 30 minute warm up, peppered with short bursts of speed work to prep my legs for the work.  Three and a half miles later, I bundled up headed for the warm building with my hot tea in-hand.

I connected with a few Crazies for chatter while stretching out my hips and legs.  I sensed us all take a deep breath knowing that this was another silent moment for us.  Staying tough, we hugged it out and went our separate ways.

I lined up at the 7:30 mark, shaking out my body.

I'm not fast, but I'm fast for me.
I don't toe the line, but I get pretty goddamned close.
I snuggled in an open pocket, surrounded by a few intense athletes, giving off the air that they'd be gunning for a good time, too.  Although the sun kissed my skin, the low 40's air reigned supreme.  Following the tail end of the National Anthem I reluctantly removed my top layer, throwing it to the side.  My comfort was forever lost.

I pushed off at a steady pace, passing my car on the way out of the complex.  The sea of runners flowed over the bridge and up the biggest hill of the course.  Knowing this would be a short race, I picked off people on the climb, dropping my arms to release my shoulders and lift my heart.
I thought of nothing, but the run.
- sun on my face
- light on my feet
- breeze in my hair

On the return, I established the kick on the downhill and sustained that on the straightaway, knowing my pace would drop on the remaining inclines.  I climbed the final hill which lovingly transitioned into a downhill to the finish.  The course snakes alongside the casino, wrapping around the front of the steel stacks.  As I rounded that corner, a huge gust of wind fought me.  Ah, the hurricane reared its ugly head.  I charged through, pushing my face towards an eventual sprint to the finish.  My feet hit the brick paved path (the final few dozen strides of the race) at a sub-7 pace, topping out at a 5:04.  I promise you that everything went black.  I saw nothing; I heard nothing, but my breath and my feet hitting the radiant cubes.

I crossed the finish line just seconds from breaking my PR.

I needed about 30 minutes following to get my wits about me.  The runner's high encapsulated my physical and emotional body.  I walked on clouds, slurring my words to anyone who engaged me in conversation (not an unusual reaction for me).  With a smile, I jogged back to my car to get out of my clothes, pulling on a warmer, fresher set.

My 5K PR stands strong on a flat course.  Knowing that I came within a breath of knocking it down, on a hilly course, makes me beam with pride.  I set out to kick some ass and that's exactly what happened.  Accomplishing that goal to tie up my racing season helps set my mind at ease.  I have no solid plans, but I know it's going to be a tough road, requiring an emotional reset.  This is exactly what the universe has planned.



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lately

It's been a week since my last post; even longer, the post before that.
I haven't said anything meaningful — at least by my definition — other than over analyzing a shitty marathon experience and seriously modernizing (or some may say bastardizing) the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  I used the blank canvas to whine and complain.

It's most tragic to have a million beautiful phrases swimming around in your head, but no great way to weave them together in a gorgeous presentation.  This feeling stifles me, like a hand on my throat; there's so much to say, but the words can't come out.  When an occasion calls for a purposeful conversation, I tend to shy away or even stumble over myself.  I can't quite form a verbal eloquence to support much of anything, but give me a voiceless medium and I'll just flow.  I used to write...a lot...with pen and paper.  Old journals, arranged on a bookshelf in my bedroom, remind me of the times I spent spilling my thoughts across those pages.

I credit my enduring love of running for rekindling the passion I had for the written word.  I wrote in high school and silently, focused on it in college.  Family, work, and other past times prevent me from dedicating enough attention to this fading habit.  What I need to do, with everything I enjoy, is make the time.  Sometimes, what's really needed to jump start things is a fresh perspective.  And that's what happened this weekend.

Running brought the Crazies together about two years ago.  Today, we're still running strong, but the course is different.  Sure, we might not literally hit the road together as often anymore (different goals, injuries) we're still in the race, together.  We've been through a lot of interesting times, both good and bad.  We always try to keep our friendship going with activities OTHER than running.  This Friday, we left the Valley for a weekend getaway in Rehoboth.

Without giving away too many details, we revived our friendship with laughter, too many snacks and some libations.  I celebrated my 25th birthday, we paraded the bachelorette party through the outlets and threw down a mean game of Cards Against Humanity.  These frames of life were captured with the help of a few selfie sticks (maybe the best invention for this trip).  Two near-death experiences wedged themselves between slow motion moments of breathless giggles enhanced by afternoon sunshine.

Today, I familiarized myself with the morning as a soft alarm tone roused me from a deep slumber.  I didn't want to crawl out from under the covers, but a hot tea was prescribed.  Two Crazies and I walked out of the house into the intoxicating Sunday sun for a tall drink.  An occasional conversation broke the comfortable silence, soon followed by the sounds of our shoes and the secluded singing birds.  Peace fell on my soul, a sensation I maintained for the remainder of my travels.  I completed the run over a wood planked bridge lined with lush topiaries and blossoms.  I felt safe on the planks — safe to say anything, encapsulated by nature.  I inhaled deeply until I flirted with the burn at the base of my lungs, breathing in the light of the day.



It's been some time since I really enjoyed a run.  Lately my focus had been nailing the workout, which has been resulting in failure.  Sure, I love the run — the prep, the act and the subsequent high.  But, today was different.  A rejuvenated force whispered life into my body; my feet felt light as the road came up to meet them.  I tasted the slightest hint of the sea salt scent, softly sitting on my skin.

I can't let external forces grab my throat and stifle my words.  Like a run, they need to fly.



Saturday, October 3, 2015

Finding Flow

Years ago, lots of years ago, my Dad gave me this great book called Finding Flow by Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi (say that name once, correctly).  I took the words to heart eventually finding my own flow.  Over time, of course, if a steady state of flow isn't maintained life's consistent off ramps throw distractions into the smooth continuity.  I'm sure people around me have different opinions, but I (in bold face) felt that during my marathon training I upheld flow.  As expected, whether the outcome of the race was favorable or not, I knew that things would crumble a little.  For me, I need a sense of structure or I'd come undone (side note: sometime during the painful final miles of the marathon, I repeated this chorus envisioning a long thread from my tank trailing behind me, slowly, coming undone).  I filled the run-less days with swim and yoga sessions, both filling my soul with their own version of silence.  The force of September threw darts, poking more holes in my already fragile path, presenting work place shifts, home life adjustments and other unmentionable dynamics.  My recovery days blossomed into road runs — life after marathon — a welcome transition to running 'just because'.

Attempts to Find Flow
I picked up a new pair of shoes (good riddance Newtons) to rekindle my relationship with the road pre-dawn.  My time on the mat became more of a spiritual quest instead of a rigorous training obligation.  All these facets started to converge just before hubbs and I left for an anniversary getaway to Niagara Falls.  All the bullshit questions, concerns and stressors that started to come to a head were temporarily relieved.  Just go with the flow.  The Falls, quite an amazing site, minimized everything.  We're just one drop in the universe, pushed over the edge until we reunite into one smooth flow.  Still searching for it; in time, I'll be reunited.





Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Swallows of Pride

I'll spare you the details of how I prepared for months to race this marathon.  You read most of those posts along the way.  I'll refrain from describing the nervous excitement that itched the back of my brain when all things went silent.  I will pause from laying out how beautiful the first half of the course was for me; with each step I moved closer to my goal.

Yes, I finished a marathon in a respectable time, although it was a far cry from my planned time.

I flew.  I flew without much effort being fully supported by all the wonderful spectators (most notably my fan club).  Something happened, physically, while approaching mile 16: my quads seemed to turn to stone.  With another mile in the books, my feet started to cramp, balling up in my shoes like fists.  I was toast.  I tried my hardest to think myself above the physical pain; it didn't help.  I made peace with my goal slipping away.  I also decided to quit and cash in my DNF status (Did Not Finish).

My husband, an angel in disguise, talked me through not quitting.  I pressed on to cross the finish line while swallowing my pride.

Done.
This picture will lead you to believe that I was happy with the end result.  A picture can tell a thousand words (notice my right balled up foot), but this one isn't speaking the full story.  The hoopla and fanfare at the finish didn't allow everything to sink in.  I spent some time in the medical tent icing my legs and getting stretched.

The Girls
It's not easy to run by your biggest fans without stopping for hugs.  By the end, I just wanted to hold my kids.  That was cooler than any race medal.

After lunch, we returned to my car where I finally had a moment to think.  Tears rolled down my face.
I missed it.  All the planning, training, sacrifices and I watched it slip away.
Sigh.
I've had so many people point out the silver lining; I ran a marathon.  That's an amazing feat that stands alone.  But, I did that last year.  This time was supposed to be different.  This time was pushing it to the next level.  I pushed, but I came up short.

President Obama once told a group of schoolchildren to not let failure define them.  I'm working on owning this.  I cannot let this race define me as an athlete.  I will not quit until I do exactly what it is I set out to do.  Like the phoenix, I will rise above these ashes.  For now, I need a mental and physical break, but I'll be back on the road soon — maybe Saturday.  :)

"She believed she could, so she did."
-R.S. Grey, Scoring Wilder


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Let's Fly

I had the luxury of sleeping in this morning (and by sleeping in, I mean 6:30).  I embellished that regal feeling by taking my good old time preparing a delicious fruit/veggie blend before my final run.  As I tried to stifle the boisterous sound of my industrial blender, my gaze shifted out the kitchen window to the bird feeders on the patio.  A few birds fluttered around, snatching up the little bit of seed scattered on the ground.  Just like that, I noted my fascination with everything birds; it all seemed clear to me.

****
College, my hazy undergrad years, created so many opportunities; opportunities that I probably passed up because my focus wasn't on academics.  All things good and bad that I'd never change.  I'm not sure when in time the realization of not graduating with my class kicked me in the face, but it happened, hard.  My initial reaction was to sink deeper into my hole of fabricated bullshit.  I stayed there a while until I opted to put on big girl underwear and do awesome.  In true Muffin fashion, I took those lemons and made limoncello.  I attended school an extra year to sufficiently pass with enough credits to earn my Bachelor of Arts in English.  My final credits, an independent study in the spring semester, was spent with Mr. Hensley.  Throughout my college career, he showed patience and understanding in my difficulties.  A gentle man, he introduced me to a poet, A. R. Ammons, who wrote about the likeness between humans and nature.  Like my studies of Emerson, I took to Ammons' writings.  Notes in the margins, underlined phrases and dog eared books became my new life.  All my conversations with Hensley and all my readings paved the path to a thesis that would focus on Ammons' use of avian imagery in his works.  Longer story short, I got an A and broke out of that cage.  

Years passed.  I continued to soar through my life with the occasional turbulence.  All the support of my friends and family would not allow me to crash during the dips; they helped me keep my head up and my wings out.  
Our first daughter's name means like a bird.  
In the manner that I picked apart the avian imagery in Ammons' poetry, I do the same with Foo Fighters' songs.  
I travel everywhere with the shadow of a phoenix, always by my right side.  
I dream of speed while being light on my feet — faster and faster I go.  
****

I returned from my final run to drink a delicious cup of coffee.  Ava and I went outside to refill the feeders.  Also superstitious, I didn't want to upset my flock by neglecting their nutrition.   

There's one goal for tomorrow.  
I'll have my flock supporting along the way.  
Head up; wings out.  
We're gonna fly.  





Wednesday, August 19, 2015

And It Goes A Little Something Like This

I recall a conversation with my husband a few weeks ago.
It went a little something like this:
Me: Ya know, I'm nailing all my training runs and I feel good.  
Hubs: Well, clearly there's enough time left in the plan because you haven't had your breakdown yet.

Hmmm...breakdown?
Impossible.  Sure, the stakes are higher, but I'm no rookie.  LVHN Via will be my 4th marathon.  As we like to say in my department: This isn't my first rodeo.
Foreshadowing will tell you that someone shit the bed — to state it so eloquently.  

A difficult work schedule between me and my husband left a lot of our family life to be desired.  We toggled conflicting 12 hour shifts, including weekends, while shuffling the kids' schedules and attempting to maintain a semi-normal dinner time.  Whelp, that all went to hell in a hand basket (yet another wonderful saying) by the second day.  Shoot.  Makeshift dinners and impromptu trips to Grandma's supported sleepless nights and early mornings dunked in buckets of coffee.  I certainly ate like shit, but did my best to ensure I logged every mile.  Since I needed to maintain some serious mileage I moved two of my long runs from a Saturday to a Friday morning.

Last Friday, I got off to a late start, but felt well rested and prepared for my 3+ hour run.  In preparation for logging at least 20 miles, I organized my gear for a start time of 8:30 am.  My plan was to weave through a few neighborhoods and ride a main road to a fitness park (paved 1 mile loop) for some laps before heading back home.  I figured the park would provide a little bit of serenity with its traffic-free path.  I could not have been any more wrong.

I stopped about an hour in to buy a bottle of water.  Standing in line wasn't great for my legs, but I honestly had no choice.  I poured the ice cold water into my handheld while dropping one flavor and two carb tabs; and, off I went.  I was a slow go; my legs started to feel like lead, but I pressed on.  I needed to get warm again; that was certainly the problem.

I made it to the fitness park around the 10 mile mark.  I spotted Coach's car with the hatch open and he, spraying sun screen on his legs.  Crap.  I need to pull this together.  I sprung to his car when we exchanged surprised pleasantries.  I dropped my phone by his car (relief) and carried on.  I left my handheld at the entrance to the loop before picking up my feet for the first lap.

As the laps progressed, my internal dialogue went something like this:
Yea, this is working out.  I feel great.  No worries about dodging traffic.  Good plan.
I wonder how long coach will be here.  Maybe I can finish my entire run here and catch a ride.
Oh boy, I'm not going to be able to stay here long.  I'm dying.
Why am I dying?  This is terrible.
I should just head home.
Maybe I can walk.
I can't walk.  I'll get caught.
This sun is killer.
What's my pace?  God this pace is awful.
I can't run a marathon.  

Sound familiar?  Yes, because it is.  I went through this last week.

I grabbed my handheld and jogged back to my phone, but not before running into Coach.
Our discussion sounded something like this:
Coach: How do you feel?
Me: I'm fine, I'm not, I'm fine, I'm dying, I'll be okay, I won't be.
Coach: So you're conflicted?  (He's a funny guy).
Me: Yea.
He gave me some positive reinforcement; words that I had been trying to use myself on those painful, mindless laps around the bleeding darkness that oozed like hot lava.  But, he can deliver them in such a way that makes me believe just a little bit more.  Again, that went to hell in a hand basket in the amount of time it took for me to travel from him back to his car.  His colleague asked me how it went.
The response went EXACTLY like this:
Me: I have one fucking hour to go; I'm not done.  This isn't over and I need it to be over.
More hateful words left my mouth, but I didn't feel any better.  Nothing helped.

I walked across the street to fill my water bottle again.  I tried to chunk up the rest of the hour, but like all the words in the world, nothing helped.  I traveled north on a main road, battling traffic.  After a hollering Coach passed me in his car, I embraced the opportunity to walk.  I immediately unzipped by personal item belt and reached for my phone, calling my husband.  I, a pathetic sobbing mess, rambled on the phone, still while battling traffic.  The world of a runner's high crashed head on into an abyss of negativity.  This was it — this was my breaking point; I melted.  I eventually ended the call and started shuffling again.  I probably made it another 2 miles when the oasis of my local WaWa brought me to a screeching halt.  I walked in there, defeated, covered in sunscreen, sweat, tears and gravel.  I held open the door of their drink cooler airing out my body, while undressing every beverage with my eyes.  I settled on a bottle of water and one deceptively healthy looking drink.  I pounded the water before the clerk extended his hand to take my wet, crumpled money.  I sipped from the other bottle as I walked out, headed home.
So, I walked.
I walked the near 2 miles back to my house and collapsed on my driveway.
Melting Pavement
For a few moments, I heard nothing.

I had two rally phone calls before I choked down food and took a shower.  I left the house twenty minutes later for a much needed massage; I had to give my head a break.
I tried to pull myself out of a funk, which, honestly, was only possible with a solitary evening: braless, in a recliner, shoveling drunken noodles while watching Seinfeld re-runs.  Bliss.

Hindsight is always 20/20, or so the saying goes.  It wasn't until two days later that the root of my problem dawned on me: maybe my nutrition on the run was out of whack.  After a little back and forth with Coach he posed a blinding question that made me high five my face:
Coach: You've only been taking in ~48 cal for a 3 hour run???
Me: Yea.  Ugh.  I'm laughing at how dumb this is.  I'm a moron.  Wow.  






Sunday, July 12, 2015

Redeeming Confidence

This past week has been nothing shy of absolutely crazy.  An out of state concert, the usual after work/camp activities, multiple incomplete trips to the grocery store and the preparation for an upcoming vacation to the shore — I should not be surprised that my training runs haven't been the best.  Truth be told, I was unable to complete my Wednesday speed workout mainly due to insufficient sleep and the high humidity.  The week slowly began to collapse around me as time continued to peel off the clock.  I needed to make peace with my poor excuse for a workout and move on.  I struggled in a sea of doubt, silently crying out for a life preserver.  A boost in my confidence was vital to the success of my training.  If I couldn't finish an hour of tempo repeats, how on earth could I accomplish my upcoming LSD (long slow distance) or a full marathon.  Crap.
Thursday's short run added a flicker of hope in what would be the pre-vacation masterpiece of my longest run in the plan to-date.  My family and I would be driving to North Carolina early Saturday morning; a plan that voided any chance of an LSD.  My long run would be Friday morning before work.  I organized all my running accessories that evening — hydration bottle, electrolyte tabs, headlamp, Body Glide, shoes/shirt/socks/shorts.  As if my house didn't already seem unkempt, the latest spread of items certainly pushed it in that category.  Following a yoga session, I had a bite of protein to eat before turning in for the night.  
My alarm called to me at 4:15 am Friday morning.  I could have snoozed until 4:30 and pushed out my start time even later, but I had to nail this run.  Time was against me; I still needed to work, do laundry, finish packing and just relax.  Slow and steady would be my mantra.  I walked out into the darkness with a beacon of light illuminating the space in front of my feet.  With the start of my watch, I was off gunning for an adjacent neighborhood to meet up with a friend.  Exactly two hours thirty-five minutes later, I stopped my watch and began a brisk walk towards home.  
Long run — check.
Friday work day — check.
Car packed — check.
I am in North Carolina's Outer Banks for the week, using the break from my usual every day to unwind and recharge.  My training will continue and even include a 5K race mid-week.  Already I feel the disappointment and stressors of last week washing away like the surf from my feet.  I must remember that this training is difficult by design; I must adapt to the ever-changing conditions, whether physical, mental or external.  For now, I'll flow like the waves in the ocean.  

1st OBX Run


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Killing Me Softly

Monday night the hubbs and I went to see the Foo Fighters (for the 2nd time!). The show was in an upscale Camden, NJ neighborhood (sarcasm); the venue smelled like fresh foot vomit, cigarettes and sweet pot. Thankfully all these smells hung in the air due to the blanket of humidity that hovered above the lawn section of the outdoor center. I was impressed with the variety of gluten free options (just popcorn), so I opted to roll the dice on purchasing $7 of stale tortilla rounds generously covered in liquid 'cheese'. Oddly enough, I felt this dinner choice had more nutritional value than a bucket of popcorn drowning in a pool of artificial butter. Call me crazy. The band freakin' rocked, restoring my faith that rock and roll is still very much alive.  They played a near three hour set. Only once did I panic about a later than usual bedtime.
We tried to leave the 'parking lot' (shit hole of a half assed paved area with pot holes and more stank), but were detained for close to an hour due to the nonexistent event staff. Long bitching story make a smidge shorter, my head hit the pillow around 2 am. Disaster awaits...
I planned to get my Tuesday run in after work as opposed to waking up at 4:30 am; that would have been good for nobody and NO body. The day dragged on, fueled by a nut bar and weekend coffee (cream and sugar); I powered through a delicious Greek salad with chicken and one (ONE!?!?!) stuffed grape leaf. I wanted to poke my eyes out, but I welcomed the necessary travel between two meeting locations to keep me on my toes. Before taking the girls to swimming lessons, the hubbs made dinner and I took off for a steamy run. My word, it was hot out there. I kept the pace easy and got in my planned 40 minutes by circling the hospital trails like a shark in the North Carolina waters (too early?).
I sat at swimming, in the room resembling an inside out fish bowl slowly fading in the hard plastic chair.  While typing most of this post from my phone I obscessively noticed an extra period floating around (located here - . -) and spent a good five minutes trying to corral it in with my finger.  Got it!  
I got home to scarf down another shitty dinner which had about an hour to digest before my yoga sesh.  With the girls in bed and the hubbs in the office, I retreated to my mat for 60 minutes of poses with the glow of a Shark Week feature illuminating the room.  The next day's workout appeared benign on the surface which, as foreshadowing will tell you, was a mistake.  
At 5 am this morning, I stepped out into a simmering pot of chicken noodle soup.  Well, there are no noodles, because I'm gluten free and to be honest, I didn't see any vegetables; however, the atmosphere had a murky appearance, just like a lighter colored broth.  Another long bitching story made just a wee bit shorter, I couldn't finish my workout.  I was tired and thirsty; my upper back started to give out.  I made it halfway through my first tempo repeat.  GAAHHHH.  I altered my route back towards home to get a much needed cup of water.  And that was it.  I parked my ass on my yoga mat for some easy recovery poses.  I'm currently in the process of 'getting okay' with not finishing my workout.  Coach won't be disappointed; I know that.  But he's not going to let me get away with it. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

All About That Base

No, silly it's not the song; and it's certainly not about my ass because I don't have one.
I do remember a time during my junior year in high school...
The 2nd base drum player passed out before we got moving in the Halloween parade.  We rolled his body off the course, onto the sidewalk and I strapped on that drum.
Ooop, that's not it.

Where am I?  Ah, yes, base.

Early May, I hired a coach to help me run a BQ at the LVHN Via Marathon.  That's such a small statement for a big project.  Those words look pathetic in print, so I'll add a little perspective.  The process kicked off with a two layer assessment: 1). Q and A/interview and, 2) running.  I received a multi-page document to ponder before our first face-to-face meeting.  My insides bubbled with excitement at the thought of pouring my running soul onto this near blank canvas of interrogation.  And then, I started writing.  I stressed about completing the 11 page document with enough detail for the coach without making my 'athletic career' (huh?) sound like a waste of time.

Best or favorite race?  How could I possibly choose?
Describe last week.  Wow.  I only ran 3 times at 5 miles tops.  Shoot.
Athletic resume.  Huh?  Yea, so I was the chubby kid in elementary, the bando in high school and the stoner in college.

I sent coach my responses before our planned meet up at Starbucks.  We spent the better part of an hour hopping around the document where I had the opportunity to elaborate a little further on my weak-sounding answers.  At first, I might have given off an uptight air, but I quickly released a few 'f' bombs which took the interview process in another direction.  I let my virtual hair down.  After all, if this dude was going to train me he might as well get acclimated to ME.  We wrapped up an hour of discussion with an exchange of money and the promise to set up the second half of the assessment: the physical challenge.

The following week, I met coach at the shop around 9 am.  The day already started competing with itself for the most humid May morning.  I'd be sweating like a pig in no time.  I walked in, nerves firing, and immediately inquired about the deliverables for this appointment.  We would run together, then he'd put me through a series of progressive drills to analyze my form, acceleration and overall pace.  He also mentioned that some of my activities would be captured on video.  I immediately informed him that this would be absolutely awkward, but he could have cared less.  We walked about a half block to the stop sign and started at an easy pace with a left towards the trail.  Coach and I looped the trail together before coming to a stop in the middle of a straight stretch.  He instructed me through a handful of drills, a few were video taped, then we headed back.  I was drenched in sweat, smelling like a foot suffocating in a nacho chip bag.  He offered a few corrective comments on my form and told me what to expect in my upcoming plans.

I paid for the first four weeks with the caveat that I'd sign on for another three if I liked him.  'Fair enough,' coach said.

So last week, I planned to swing by the shop and drop off a check for the next three months.  I glanced at the week ahead noting the period comment for each week.  The labels defined the upcoming week as Base 3 Week 1.  Wait.  What?  Base?  Base?  I was still building base?  I spent all winter and early spring logging 25-ish mile weeks and I was still building base 7 weeks into training. Oh, shit.
The girls accompanied me on the short car ride to Emmaus.  We walked in to find three athletes on trainers; coach standing in front.  He approached me and the crew, welcoming them with a gentle hello; they put on their shy faces as they peered into the gym.  I made a comment about me continuing to build base, following up by mouthing the words 'Crap, I'm gonna get my ass kicked.'  No sooner than those words left my lips, I suddenly felt the rest of the air in my chest being sucked out.  The sun no longer shone through the windows and the room grew cold.  Coach focused on my eyes as his turned black, reaching into the belly of my soul.  He breathed the fear of the unknown into me, all the while chiseling a crooked smile across his stone face.  He said nothing, but his mental whispers educated me on the storm of hell that's coming right for me.

At least, that's how I remember the encounter.

The Road to Via




Friday, June 26, 2015

I'm Gonna Go for a Run

I'm not working today, but still planned on meeting a few of the straggling Crazies for a short run at 4:50 am.  Last night's earth shattering splits and lotus practice stirred up enough energy that I woke at 4:40 with a dull headache that could have turned into a screaming nightmare within seconds.  I opted out of the run, but got out of bed anyway.  I planned to head out a little later for a slow 30 minutes; yesterday's set of hill repeats warranted a lighter workout.
While the Keurig warmed up, I grabbed my work laptop and handled a few items I couldn't wrap up yesterday.  I sat in the darkness, soon enough with a hot cup of coffee, typing away.  I thought of my Dad.  He's always been an earlier riser, using the quiet time to read, meditate, work, whatever.  And here I sat, decades later, mirroring his actions.  Ava, another early riser, got up about an hour later.
I grabbed her a chocolate milk before putting on my run gear.
"I'm gonna go for a run."
Those words echoed in my head as I opened the garage door to the outside world.

I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run...

With that, I hit the road towards the hospital.
I was thankful for the slower pace even though I knew I could handle more.  For the first few weeks of training, I experienced difficulty in holding myself back when coach asked me to.  I'm now approaching the other side of the seesaw where I need to really cherish the slower paces.  The increased speed workouts will demand more focus and energy.

I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run.
I'm gonna go for a run...

I came back to that echo picturing myself as a little girl with pigtails hearing those words come from my Father's mouth.  He looked like every other runner in the 80's with his sweat band, cotton gear and New Balance shoes.  I took the short trail to the hospital noting the increased traffic.  Right, it was close to 7 am — change of shift.  If I planned my route accordingly, I'd be hitting the back entrance around the time my Dad would be pulling in.  Just the thought of seeing him in the car and me on the road made me smile.

I rounded the bend back towards my street.  I navigated the awkward four-way stop to continue home.  As planned, I saw Dad's car approaching.  Each with a smile and an enthusiastic wave, we crossed paths.  My heart filled with such joy until it closed in on my lungs and started to squeeze.  I tried to muster a few deep breaths, but I was met with resistance.  This overwhelming force started to crush my chest until I opened my eyes wide.  The tears poured from their corners, bouncing off my cheeks.  I continued running.  My pace picked up while I sobbed audibly.  I can honestly recall the last time I cried like that on a run - September 20, 2011.

I'm gonna go for a run...

The flashback of that memory had a yellow hue with worn edges.  Time will eat through that fragile picture until there's nothing left but dust.

I'm gonna go for a run...

I got back to my driveway at the 30 minute mark, stopped dead in my tracks, bent over and wailed.  I paced in my driveway to pull it together and cool down after the run.  I caught a glimpse of myself in my car window, noticing the lack of pigtails, my developing facial lines and the craters of sadness under my eyes.  I took a few cleansing breaths to bring myself together.
Damn hip opener practice.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Last Twenty Four Hours

The title of my post sounds like a steamy novel, or maybe a blockbuster movie about binge drinking in college, or maybe even a mini-series about a housewife being held in captivity.  Much to your dismay, this post contains NONE of these themes; well, most likely not...I think.
I had a scheduled day off this past Monday, planned weeks earlier with a friend.  The original idea was to hit the trails, but unstable weather put a wrench in that scheme.  We decided to take it down a notch and drop into a yoga class.  Prior to arriving, I checked out the instructor's profile to get an idea of the yoga style - Power Yoga; okay, I can get behind that.  The instructor looked cute; I knew this would be a win for my friend - no brainer.
I dropped off my car for service (and yes, the breaks STILL squeal).  There's nothing more stereotypical than a young woman dressed in yoga clothes getting out of a Subaru Forester with her BPA free water bottle and a top of the line yoga mat.  I handed over my keys to the gentleman behind the desk and walked to my friend's car, ahem, Subaru.  We picked up some beverages from Dunkin Donuts (my ushe: hot tea with sugah) before zipping across town to the studio.  After checking in, we got ourselves situated in the warm room.  Although the humidity of late spring showers hung in the air, the heaters were cranked to their almost hotter-than-hell setting.  I loved it!
We were led through a Power Yoga flow with enough sun salutations and standing lunges to set the coldest corner of the earth on fire.  A few times, I found myself backing out of a Warrior pose to relieve the illumination in my quadriceps.  The practice transitioned to a pair of balancing poses, one of them being Eagle Pose (Garudasana).  I love this pose for a number of reasons; let me count the ways: 1). both the arms and the legs are heavily involved - opposing forces;  2). the stretch in the upper back is one of the best, especially on the inhale; 3). the hip/IT band stretch really wrings me out, in a good way; and, last but not least 4). there is something so uplifting when i slide my top leg across its counterpart and wrap my foot around the hind calf.
I digress.
As the group was led into the pose, the instructor began to talk some gibberish about the origins of the pose and once fully executed, the body begins to recall the last 24 hours.  So there I was, in Gaurdasana blanking on what I had done during that time.  Yup, I had no clue; it was refreshing.  I didn't hurt myself trying to find those memories and I certainly did not do a damned thing to project the occurrences in the next 24 hours.

I, at that point in my life, just was.  







Saturday, June 13, 2015

Retrospective Foresight

I'm closing in on my 5th week of marathon training.  It's been an amazing journey thus far, complete with six-day-a-week runs, a love affair with a cookbook and a near daily reunion with my yoga mat.  The demands of my life schedule paired with this training is slowly affecting my shut eye time: the frequency of my less than 5 hours/night is increasing.  Thursday was a prime example of a less than stellar slumber, but I got up anyway at the crack of dawn to hit the road for about 5 miles.  At some point in the course, I hopped over the nearest curb to follow the sidewalk for a bit.  I immediately thought of my spicy grandmother, Frieda, yelling after me.

Pick up your feet, Love.

I could hear her voice echo in my childhood psyche.  She lived in North Jersey down the block from the Lyndhurst train station on Court Avenue.  The sidewalks grew uneven over time due to increasingly large tree roots; years of use contributed to the crumbling edges.  Pick up your feet, Love.  I focused on the squares of pavement quickly turning over in harmony with my pace.  I paid special attention to the placement of my feet to ensure a safe landing each time.  I repeated that command over and over, until I was reminded of another directive.

Speak clearly and distinctly.  

I repeated that over and over, envisioning her face, picking up the Jersey accent.  I smirked upon realizing this pair of mantras fit the training perfectly.  My plan to run a well executed marathon is in development.  The plan is clear, precise.  All I need to do is pick up my feet and the rest will follow.


Court Avenue, Lyndhurst, NJ
Map Data: Google, Sanborn








Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Swanky Shack

Over the past few weeks, I've briefly noted my lack of writing.  Not everything I write winds up in this stupid blog; but even my sweet notes and self memos have been missing from my life.  So, I said, I note this inactivity and push it further back in my cluttered mind.  Today, I feel as if I've been giving the illusion of a well presented home with disorganized rooms.  Work is crazy, I'm closing in on the end of week 4 in my marathon training, summer has unofficially kicked off and I gave up alcohol.  My legs are always freshly shaven and I try my darnedest to shape my eyebrows with my $30 tweezers in an effort to save the trip to the salon.  Yes, I could use a drink and maybe a dye job, but I refuse to spend 3+ hours every six weeks for a fab fix.
Here I sit on my couch with legs propped on a mid-week rest day.  My coach gave me two choices today: 1). Follow a light run/yoga plan or 2). Take a day of rest.  I opted for the prize behind door #2 and rocked the hell out of it.  I might go so far as to call this a 'breakthrough workout'.  Oh, and yea, I did hire a coach.  Remember that goal of running the LVHN Marathon for Via with a Boston qualifying time?  Yea, I said that.  This marathon is important enough that I wanted more professional guidance.  I did not want to spend my energy on managing a training plan.  In this scenario, I do what I'm told.  Don't get used to it, though; there's a first time for everything.  


Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Own Private Paradox

Emotionally, I am becoming softer.
I, too, am becoming more stoic.

It's been a while since I really, really cried.
I shed a few tears last week, then again at the end of March.

My features are hardening with the passage of time.
My heart is on fire, while my brain is melting.

Again, this ugly (to me) theme of the finality of life is creeping back into my thoughts more than ever.    I struggle to comprehend this definitive stake in the ground.  People around me seem to have a general acceptance of this reality; several try to rejoice, while few embrace the comfort of a life after death.  I am not in any of these circles.  I feel like an outsider looking in at times, but mostly standing with my back to the window.  I have written this before, but I care to not go back and link to these posts.  I noted my refusal to accept 'our' eventual fate.  I run from it, both literally and figuratively.  My quickening pace temporarily erases these thoughts.  Only when I slow down or stop, everything rushes back, flooding my head as if I was beginning to drown.

Tonight, like most nights, I tucked my two angels into bed.  My youngest requested that her prayer be said again.  I knelt at the side of her bed and leaned over her, resting my elbows alongside her waist.  She grabbed my face with her warm hands to cradle my face while I recited her prayer.  With her intense eyes, she focused on my lips, watching their every move.  An 'Amen' closed our moment, soon after,
sealed with a kiss.  I walked away, holding on to her emotion, knowing that one day this will all be over.

Sometime soon, again, these thoughts will blend back into the wallpaper of my soul, but for now, tomorrow, I will run faster.

And add tissues to my Sunday grocery list.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I'm Never Going to Run Again

Last year was a big year for my running.  I greatly improved my speed and endurance which helped me make great strides (no pun) when it came to placing in my age group.  I secretly vowed to repeat or better my 3rd Place AG finish in the 2015 Emmaus 4 Miler, but nailing 4th in my AG (and no PR) in the St. Pats 5K a few weeks ago didn't sit well with me.  Sure I ran hard and actually sat in the same place of my AG as the previous year; I didn't feel ready.
Staying true to everything that encapsulates 'Muffin Madness', I raised the bar on my 2015 goals.  Of course, shaving time from 'signature' races is ideal I have my sights set on something much bigger than that.  After a great 2014 NYC Marathon finish, considering the weather and the course, I wanted to try my hand (or should it be feet?) at qualifying for the Boston Marathon at the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon for Via in September 2015.  Great, there it is in print.  
The Emmaus 4 Mile Classic is the last race before marathon training.  A good run here would emotionally give me a little boost.  I've been spending time investigating a lot of training plans and even looking at options of hiring a coach.  I know that my time with the Crazies is going to diminish, temporarily, while I shift my training from logging miles to kicking the shit out of myself.  I'm looking forward to taking this to the next level.  
But I digress.  Today, I ran the Emmaus 4 Mile Classic.  
The hubbs left early this morning for a business trip.  I solicited my Mom to hang with the girls while I ran.  To my surprise, my Dad also came to the race.  I orchestrated the morning routine with some rolling/stretching, caffeine and a great, light breakfast before getting myself and the girls dressed.  I got to the local high school in less than 10 minutes with about 45 minutes to spare.  Everything seemed to fall apart from there.  I forgot the cowbell, which translated to the girls' disappointment; my watch wasn't working, which translated to my own disappointment.  I feared a fast start which would make me crash and burn half way through; my watch, at least for this morning, would be my pacer, but clearly that wasn't happening.  Crap.  I had to pee again, I felt disoriented and to top it all off, I felt the need to put on a good show for my Dad.  He's always proud — not sure what I needed to prove here.  
When the time was right, another Crazy and I toed the line.  Well, maybe not the line, but we were maybe 4 people deep?  We lined up behind 'buns' (this blondie with the longest legs in the world), ready to rock.  About 1 minute before take off the crowd was injected by shaved chest man.  The humor in this situation helped ease the tension in my shoulders, and the same within my head.  With virtually no warning, we were off.  
In the 2014 Classic, I lined up behind Jane and followed her groovy shirt until I, surprisingly, passed her on a hill.  Jane wasn't there and I had no such person in my prevue.  I thought I could follow buns for a while, but that lasted all of about 2 1/2 minutes; she was fast (wound up finishing 2nd female overall).  I panicked: I wanted to repeat, I wanted to find that high again; I wanted, I wanted, I wanted.  What I NEEDED was to chill the fuck out; this mental tornado was screwing with a good run.  Race or not, I was out in the sunshine; I should have just let it be Sunday, but sometimes I suck like that.  About 1 1/2 miles into this race, I hated running, again.
I chuckled at myself since this is a feeling that's all too familiar:
I hate running.
Everything sucks.
I should stop running.
I'm not going to BQ Via.  That's just a dumb thought.  
I taste blood.
I can stop to puke, that's pretty hardcore.
Is this over?
Without my watch, I couldn't determine my pace, but I knew, at least for the first half, I was working hard.  I doubted my ability to continue.  At each intersection, manned by someone of authority in a reflective vest, I wanted to stop and request an ambulance.  At the second water stop (stationed mid hill), I wanted to grab a cup and walk.  By the time I crested that hill, I felt a wave of nausea and visualized myself puking down the front of my shirt.  With a hard swallow, I pressed on, doing none of the above.  There is NO WAY that I can train my ass off to BQ.  No.Way.  I should just surrender and leisurely train for Via (by no means am I insinuating that marathon training purely to finish is a leisure activity).  I can't do this.  I hate running.  I looked back to see a decent gap between me and the next runner; I just needed to maintain my pace, whatever that really was.
I hit Berger Street for one last climb to the downhill back to the high school.  As my right foot crossed the virtual crest, I unleashed my legs and let them rip.  I rounded the corner left and caught a few men while wiggling myself curbside; we rounded the next corner right to see another Crazy cheering me on (she ran a solid 10 miles yesterday — good girl).  Knowing that the final turn towards finish was in sight, I kicked hard outrunning three runners to finish just over 29 minutes.  The race isn't chip timed, so we needed to stay in finishing order.  I held on to the gentleman in front of me as I ripped my tag off my bib.  I gently pushed him forward through the chute praying he would not come to a dead halt.  I needed to keep moving or the world would have stopped turning.  I grabbed a bottle of water before walking back to my fan club.  I wanted nothing more than to have my girls hold onto my legs.
If I set a PR it was only by a few seconds (official results not yet available).
I did repeat my 3rd Place AG Finish.
I guess I'll reframe and go into marathon training with a positive outlook.
Coffee always tastes better out of a winner's mug.

The cream and sugar


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gratitude

The past few weeks have been absolutely nuts at work.  I shifted into a new role managing an area that I know a whole lot of 'not much' about.  It's been a challenge getting up to speed on everything from the people, the opportunities and the lingo, but I'm feeling a little more comfortable.  I'm expending a lot of energy during the work day; the hours fly by.  My mind is in a sort of marathon training — each day I'm able to endure a longer meeting, or a more difficult scenario, but after that training is over, I'm ready to just collapse.  
I quickly discovered that I would need to keep myself in check to save both my own soul and my delicate family.  I'm creeping away from Facebook and my other social media guilty pleasures in an effort to make better use of my 'free time'.  I rekindled my relationship with some podcasts and have been listening to them in the car, or if I can grab ten minutes over lunch.  Sometime last week, I tuned into Another Mother Runner's podcast with Kristin Armstrong.  While I have my own reservations on listening to anything Kristin has to say (sounds like another blog post), I pressed play.  I know, from past books/podcasts, that Kristin professes her spirituality.  Again, regardless of my hesitations, I enjoyed the interview.  She started talking about her morning routine which includes sitting down with a cup of coffee (priority) and her journal to document a gratitude for the day.  

"I am grateful for...because..."

The identified item/person, etc. doesn't have to be anything earth shattering, rather, it's presents 'you' the writer with a simple focus/meditation for the day.  I really liked that.  
So, I started a few of my own that I'd like to share.  My gratitudes weren't identified, in most cases, early in the morning, but they still transformed my day.  

3/27/15 — *I am grateful for the hustle and bustle of Allentown because it reminds me of the vibrance the city once had during my childhood and marries it with my days in New York City.*  On that Friday, I arrived at a newer Allentown restaurant early enough before the other party joined me.  I sat, in silence, sipping water while watching the city come alive during the lunch hour.  

3/28/15 — *I am grateful for my legs because they have the power to carry me through miles of rolling hills.*  During the Kutztown 10 miler, I started to round the bend of an upward climb and immediately thought of the amazing push that brewed in my body.  I meditated upon the farms and beautiful landscape.  It was on that hill that I honored my legs that could move me forward.  

3/29/15 — *I am grateful for family time because we can make memories together.*  We took the girls on a hike at Trexler Nature Preserve.  So granola, but we enjoyed our time in nature.  Not once, did I feel 'I'd rather be running the red trail than walking the green.'

4/1/15 — *I am grateful for my girls because: their hair, smiles, giggles...it's so easy to lose focus...and then, is it too late?*  I'll keep the background to myself.  

4/2/15 — *I am grateful for Jane's Addiction because the music reminds me of summer evenings and hopeful feeling of freedom.*  I heard this song tonight on my way home from the girls' swim lessons. This band was a piece of my life's soundtrack the summer before college.  I spent the time hanging with a small group of friends focused on developing our independence.  It's a point in time I recall being so free — no responsibility, no dependencies, no cares.  

We walk the path together.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Head Aches

A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog written by a woman losing her battle with cancer.  I arrived late to the party; I believe she originally used the platform to speak of motherhood and kindness.  With her breast cancer diagnosis, Kara Tippetts transformed her words to give the reader insight into her journey and her reliance on God.  Like some of you with Muffin's Madness, I received updates on Kara's new postings in her Mundane Faithfulness blog.  This morning, like most Friday mornings, I woke up to check in with the Crazies.  The rain was pouring down and maybe I'm getting soft, but I just wasn't interested in hitting the road.  I tried to fall back asleep, but that didn't work.  Instead, I checked the weather, Pinterest and my e-mails.  I had not checked my Muffin account in a few days; I missed two Mundane posts.  I started to read the first post from my phone, quickly realizing that Kara had passed away on March 22nd.  I immediately sprung out of bed to head downstairs for a cup of coffee and a bigger screen.  

And now, here I sit, at this empty kitchen table with a hot cup.  

I cannot wrap my head around Kara's perceived grace in dying.  
I cannot wrap my head around her willingness to leave this earth...her husband...her four children.  
I cannot wrap my head around the amount of strength that her family must develop (or had developed to this point) to continue walking forward.  

I'm so stubborn and I refuse to accept the endurance of such pain.  

And now, here I sit, a blubbering mess, trying to make heads or tails of this...ALL OF THIS.  What is all this around me?  What happens next?  How did 'we' lose focus on what's really important?  But...what IS really important?  

Too early for a drink?  I guess so.  
Photo Credit: Brad Kayal
http://www.bradkayal.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Do As I Say

I can be a bit of a preacher.  My Crazies know this; my family knows this.
I know how to do things.  I know some stuff.
Ask me for advice and I might talk your ear off.
Ask me for advice and opt for a 180, I might take it personally, in silence.
But this time, I went rogue.

5K Race Advice

1). Believe in the Taper - I personally find it silly to taper for a 5K; however, I, on average, will crank out 20 mile weeks.  But, there is value in customizing a taper.  For example, maybe going all out on a training run a few days prior isn't smart; maybe killing in the weight room should be the task for next week.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
I killed it twice in the weight room.  There's nothing like a different sore from a different set of leg strength training exercises.  Oh, and my arms, did I tell you that I burned out my shoulders on Friday?  No?  Oh, well, I did.

2). Stick with What You Know - The night before a race is no time to try new foods, or get completely shit faced.  I think the potential outcome (no pun) speaks for itself.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
I concocted what could have been the most dreadful casserole.  But boy, was I proud of myself.  I made a chopped tuna and hamburger salad with BBQ sauce, celery, onions and jalapeƱos  and mixed it with some gluten free pasta.  I poured it (more like plopped it) into a casserole dish, sprinkled it with gluten free panko and cheese before broiling.  Tasty.
I would have had a few drinks, but I was too full to lift the bottle.

3). Caffeine Could Hurt You - If you're used to having a cup of coffee before a run, this approach might be okay.  If you don't routinely load up on caffeine, doing so on race day could work against you.  Play it smart and skip that extra cup.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
I had my cup of coffee with a bowl of deliciously topped steel cut oats - nothing unusual.
About an hour from race time, I dropped a tab of Nuun Energy Cherry Limeade into a 16 ounce bottle and drank up.  Oh, that flavor is so tasty — never had it before.  Oh, there's caffeine in here — never had an energy drink pre-race.  Oh, well.

4). Don't Go Out Too Fast - Try to steady your adrenaline and save your kick for the second half of the race.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
Well, duh...I went out too fast, but I had my fan club with me every step of the way.

My Fan Club

I did everything I shouldn't have done, but it didn't necessarily end in tragedy.  By the report on my Garmin, I crossed the finish line less than one minute from my PR (which was, incidentally, grabbed at this race last year).  I know I'll be smarter next time around, but I don't think I cared enough to 'do it right'; And, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
So, there (sitting proud having defied myself while eating a tofu and bacon burrito bowl)!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Piece of Me

The winter months add a lot of weight to our bodies.  We eat heartier foods, but we're also pushed to dress in bulky layers to stay warm.  Summer clothes make a home out of the backs of our closets while the sweaters and coats take the limelight.  The entrance way into a house becomes littered with gloves, hats, and boots; this is their temporary resting place until the next outing.  As an all-weather runner, I have an additional wardrobe in the rotation.  Winter requires me to break out all my cold gear like jackets, face masks, and running tights.  I also have a few pairs of gloves that I'll wear together on bone chilling days.
The past few weeks have been somewhat of a Runner's Delight; going for a 5 am run at 30 degrees is practically a heat wave considering the freezing temperatures we've endured since December.  Needless to say, it's quite welcome.  Spring is in the air and I can smell it.  My Friday morning kicked off with a 5 am run with two of the crazies.  Twenty-seven degrees dictated a lighter winter get up of tights, arm warmers, short sleeved shirt, ear warmers and one pair of gloves (versus the usual 'two').
The route was tough (gosh, marathon training is going to break me), but we successfully nailed almost 5 miles well before the sun started thinking about making an appearance.
We spent maybe 5 minutes stretching before we went our separate ways.  I returned home to a hot cup of coffee and a lot of hip openers.  Before I knew it, the house blew up in its usual morning hustle of pre-bus activities.  With Ava on the bus, I organized the rest of myself to take Alli to day care.  I got her buckled and walked around the rear of the car to the driver side.  I noticed something on my rear bumper.  Oh no.  Oh yes.  It was...
ONE GLOVE.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

At that moment in time, I knew exactly how other people felt when one glove went missing.  I felt hopeless; I needed to find that other glove.  Images of single gloves laying face down in a slushy parking lot or strategically placed on a door knob waiting to be claimed flooded my mind.  Hell, even OJ, made his way in there.  Crap.  I lost a glove.  I then inwardly retraced my steps.  I took of my gloves at the end of our run and put them on the back bumper before we stretched.  Clearly, I didn't grab them when I was ready to leave.  I.Just.Drove.Away.  Oh God, that poor glove.  Oh God, those poor gloves.  One glove fell off the car somewhere on my way home and the other had to witness the whole thing.  I left the house in search of the missing glove, with the surviving glove on my lap.  I drove the same route as I did that morning, in reverse, with no success.  I took Alli to day care and drove the route, again with no luck.
The gloves were free, but they were with me all winter.  They endured cold mornings and runs - both great and not so great.  Perhaps this is a sign of spring and Friday was the last day I'd need those gloves.  Perhaps this is a sign that I shouldn't put anything on my bumper.
Crap.




Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love: A Timely Post

I 'slept in' this morning in a haze that was last evening's moonshine.  I experimented with a few alcohols to make The Dirty Shirley.  Whew, that beverage hit me hard, as evident of my passed out body splayed in the corner of the couch.  I almost used Shirley as an excuse for not running today; it would have been an easy sell considering I couldn't hit the road with my Crazies.  I, instead, did the exact opposite.  I put on a DVD for the girls and bundled up to make the trek into the dungeon.  My podcasts were queued up; I hit the belt with an easy pace.  Immediately, in typical fashion, I started talking myself down from the intended mileage.  "Eight?  Wow, I definitely can't do eight.  Maybe I'll do five.  Yea, five sounds great."
As I closed in on mile 5, the second podcast kicked off with its Valentine theme.  The podcast hosts, Dimity and Sarah of Another Mother Runner, interviewed Denise Dollar who founded Heart Strides.  My mind started to wander into the concrete blocks just ahead of me as I thought of the women that Heart Strides helped.  I shifted my focus to all women, then all people who might need a life time out to take care of themselves.  Oftentimes, we can put so much energy into someone, maybe a sick child, or into something, such as our jobs, that we lose sight of pouring energy into ourselves.  Balance is not easy to find; it is not easy to maintain, but when we're balanced our energies are put to better use.  

So, today, on this Valentine's Day - don't forget to be kind to yourself.  



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Silent Snow

Last Thursday, a light snow blanketed the area which contributed to a slower go in the morning.  Everything about that day got off on the wrong foot; my insides were on fire.  In an effort to calm down, my 3 year old Allison and I talked about finding our focus for the day.  We talked about the properties of snow — fluffy, cold, silent, and 'snow' (Alli's Captain Obvious description).  I took the word 'cold' literally to heart and tried to breath in the flakes, cooling my fiery disposition.  We then shifted our focus to the word 'silent'.  When falling, snow does not make a sound, much like rain.  I proclaimed that our focus for the day would be the silencing of the fire inside.  Together, Alli and I breathed deeply.  I sat taller in the driver's seat and released my grip on the steering wheel.  Today would be a great day.
And I was tried.  Tried by those around me and the silly decisions they stood by.  I continued to grapple with road block after road block trying to make sense out of the bumps in the way.  Mid-day, I threw in the towel past a faint memory of my silence.  The fire returned; nothing but time settled the glowing embers. 
Yesterday morning, I was again, faced with snow.  This time, I met my match head-on.  
My chest cold fought for domination, but I knew the fresh air and a decent run would help ease the pain.  I checked the temperature before rolling out of bed at 4:30 - yup, it's cold, twenty degrees cold with an even colder real-feel.  My car warmed up and I suited up.  A few sips of water, a cough drop and ten minutes later, I drove to our meet up.  
Our shoes supported by Yaktrax, we three hit the streets' packed snow on our route.  We talked for some time; I, mainly, distracted by the landscape.  Most of the homes maintained their overnight silence, undisturbed by the approach of morning.  I felt like a bandit streaking through the night, waking the homes and stealing their paths of freshly fallen snow.  The path slightly curved to the left up a short hill, before leveling out to a route lined with street lamps.  The glow bounced off the snow creating the illusion of a diamond lined street.  It was here, at this point in time, that I heard the silence of falling snow.  A calm fell over me.  My body, warm, accepted the serene moments that followed our steps through the remainder of the journey.  
I did not want the time to end, realizing that if I had the focus, it would last forever.  




Saturday, January 17, 2015

It Just Goes to Show...

So, I'm a Girl Scout Cookie Mom.  Yup, go ahead - have a laugh.  I'll be waiting here when you get back.




And we're back.

Today we juggled a birthday party and our first cookie booth in a beer distributor.  Yes, we booked the troop to sell cookies in the lobby of a beer distributor; council approved, of course.  I wanted to hand out recommended beer/cookie pairings, but I guess it wouldn't be appropriate for our little ones to be endorsing alcohol consumption.  Riiiiiiight.  Overall, the girls did a good job selling cookies and using their manners.  I only felt like slamming a few beers a handful of times; and, I don't drink beer.


Ava started to melt before I.  We were both hungry, had to pee and just wanted to sit the hell down.  I fashioned a makeshift chair for her out of two empty cookie boxes.  She plunked her tired little frame down like a sack of potatoes and hung her head in her hands.  I continued to stand with my right leg over my left trying to breathe through the urge.  Just before the end of our three hour stint, the rest of our family helped pack everything away to make room for the next troop.
Ava worked hard; she was grumpy and tired.  I did not have a plan for dinner (other than take out), so we gave Ava the choice.  "If you could get take out from anywhere, what would you like."  (Please don't say McDonalds; Please don't say McDonalds; Please don't say McDonalds.)  "MCDONALDS!"
Crap.
Fast food and I go way back.  Point blank: I don't eat the shit.
Wellllllll, I will eat a salad from Chick-Fil-A.  But other than that, no way, Jose.
When I was pregnant with Ava in '07/'08 I breathed for Burger King.  I ate Whopper Juniors like it was my job.  I had a side gig as a fitness instructor and lived a double life ingesting fast food.  Fast forward 9 months and 60+ pounds later - I was a miserable bloated human being.  I promised I'd never do that to myself.  I have also read so many books about fast food manufacturing that I could vomit recalling the scenarios.
I might have taken Ava to McDonalds at 9 months on our way back from Tennessee.  We needed to stop somewhere and that was the best place (?); yes, that really is a question.
So, tonight, both girls really wanted to go, so I sucked it up and went.

I immediately stressed out.  I turned off the radio and requested silence in the car.  I asked Marcus to help me out if I said anything wrong to the drive through attendant.  I swung around the little curve, stressing about my unfamiliarity with the menu.  Salads; where are the salads?  In true fast food fashion, the salad menu was the smallest section, hanging out on the bottom right hand of the electronic trifold.  I, very slowly, ordered the food, almost ending every fragmented sentence with a question.  I was out of my element.  Paranoia set in as I envisioned cars piling up behind mine; irate drivers hanging out their windows, in line to feed their greasy cravings, like the drug that it is.  After finishing the order, I pulled around the horseshoe to pay at the first window and then made my way to the food chute.  The window slid open and bags of food were rapidly firing into my hands.  In a matter of 60 seconds I had everything.  I pulled away from the building still sweating a little.  Of course, the hubbs made fun of me while we envisioned the local road runner's club taking an impromptu group run through the parking lot of McDonalds.  Yea, I was kinda paranoid that I would be seen.

Sticking with the Parents of the Year mojo, we planted the little beauties in frot of the TV and served their dinner.  Damn, McDonalds forgot their dipping sauces.  Ugh.  Well played.  I pulled my Southwest Salad out of the crispy bag only to observe wilted lettuce lazily supporting a few slices of grilled 'chicken' among a few black beans, ten corn kernels and 1/4 lime.  Thankfully, my dressing was not forgotten.  I drizzled half on the salad and put the lid back on to give it a good shake.  Excited about a squeeze of fresh lime, I grabbed the wedge and went to give it a squeeze when it snapped out from between my fingers, sliding across the kitchen floor.  It just goes to show...I wasn't meant to eat at McDonalds.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Monday's Motivational Magnets

I find a lot of irony in today's world when it comes to little pieces of happiness.  For example, I would think that motivation is reborn from actions or spoken words — perhaps not from seeing a quote on a magnet or a picture on the Internet.  Nevertheless, the uplifting images or the inspirational sayings plastered on websites such as Pinterest speak to the masses.  I'm guilty of 'pinning' those after a short reflection almost never to see them again.  Except for two...

In 2011, I ran my 1st marathon.  The way in which I organized the race and had my team rally around/for me, I feel, inspired people.  I know personal stories in which lives were changed that day, certainly, mine being one of them.  I honestly can't remember the timing, but I received a card from a friend sometime shortly before or after my race.  The words in that card (saved in a box) warmed my heart, but the magnet inside resonates to this day.


This magnet lives on my refrigerator.  I see it multiple times in a day.  There are a lot of commands in this 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 square.  I certainly do not follow its direction in entirety every day, but in the morning I give it a read while trying to hold on to one piece that will carry me forward.  At the end of the day, usually when packing away dinner or reaching for that bottle of 'Orchata, I'll glance again for a split second to reflect on a moment, situation, or time in which I did one of those things.

Last week was the first full week I worked since pre-Christmas.  The girls went back to school and I jumped back into the work inferno.  We had a rough-go for a Monday.  Ava, all bundled up, came to me for a hug before going out to the bus stop with the hubbs.  I hugged her tight and kissed the top of her fluffy hat (cue fuzzies sticking to my lip gloss).  I pulled away and said, "Ava, be your best today."  She affirmatively responded with, "Mommy, I'm my best every day."  Yup, she blew that magnet out of the water.
 
So, starting today, be your best.
Be compassionate.
Be strong.
Be human.

We are on the same team, playing the game of Life.
"Live as if this is all there is."