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


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.