Thursday, November 16, 2017

Things you can't say out loud. Or google, apparently.

Fair warning: I don't have anything funny or clever or insightful to say. I just have rawness and honesty and clumsy attempts to articulate it. But maybe some people could use more of that. If you are one of those people, please come in. If not, no worries, shenanigans and silliness will resume at some point, please stay tuned.

I want to rest. No, that is a lie. I never want to rest. But I want to want to rest. I think it's the thing that will make all the other things better. Usually that thing is running. But not right now. Right now my body is just like "nope." So I listen. Begrudgingly, I listen. I do my short, slow, solo runs. It's not enough. Which is probably the lesson here. The stress and emotions and struggles have been piling on lately, so much that I can feel it in my bones and tendons and joints - a pain in my foot, familiar old aches in my hip and adductor, fatigue in my back. My body, in its infinite (and sometimes infuriating) wisdom is preventing me from running away. That's all well and good, except that I mostly run towards. A better version of myself. I don't feel like myself when I'm not running like 30+ miles a week (no matter what other workouts I do instead). I feel like only half of a person, half alive. I have only half as much patience, contentedness, joy. It's not enough. I am not willing to accept it as enough. But it is the reality of now. So it is enough for now.

The path back to running all the miles I want to run involves time and rest. This is somewhat problematic as I am a restless and impatient patient. I don't even know how to rest - real restorative, rejuvenating rest. What does it entail? How do people do this? How do they rest their brains and legs and hearts? I googled 'how to rest,' expecting to find instructions like
1) get a giant bear suit/sleeping bag
2) enter woods
3) join cuddly bears in hibernation
4) it is recommended to bring a hostess gift, like a cake or pot of honey.

Or maybe just
1) curl up on the couch and bask in the warm, sugary embrace of British and Australian baking competitions
2) wish  taste-a-vision was a thing that existed.

But the google did not say this. Instead it mistook me for someone religious and returned a bunch of results about Sabbathing and whatnot. I don't need a rest from technology. Technology and I are cool. Technology found me a maximum puff coat stuffed with synthetic warmth technology instead of animal parts. It reminds me of events I want to attend and shows me pictures of cute animals doing cute things. I need a rest from the expectations society puts on women to be small, quiet, agreeable, at the expense of our own needs, desires, health. I don't want to be smaller - physically, mentally or emotionally. I want to be everything that I am. I want to be infinite. I don't want to be quiet when I am screaming inside. I don't want to be agreeable to things with which I do not agree. I don't want to laugh at things I don't find funny. I don't want to pretend not to feel things just to avoid making other people uncomfortable. I don't want to hear people bragging about how much alcohol they drank and the "hilarious" things they did. I don't want to hear another person say "at least you had a good relationship with your dad." Yes, I had a good relationship with my dad. Not everyone gets that. I am one of the lucky ones. He was a great dad. He was a great man, tree fort builder, jokester, storyteller. He was human, with faults and demons, like everyone else. He loved us and he liked vodka. He lived a good life, though it was too short. And he died a bad death - sudden, alone, of liver disease and chronic alcoholism. It's not fair. Life isn't fair. Death isn't fair. Inside all of us there is lightness and darkness. You do the best you can to muddle through the darkness and turn it into lightness you can send outward into the world. 

Grief is an invisible weight. Life goes on and so do you, except now you're burdened by this heavy, cumbersome sadness that makes everything more difficult. It cannot be fixed or outrun, it can only be endured. It doesn't ever go away, you just get stronger with every heavy thing life asks you to carry. No one else can see this invisible burden. It's different for everyone. Some people won't understand. They think you should just choose to be happy to do what they do. Some people will understand, so much so that it will bring you to tears. The good kind of tears, those you cry when you feel seen and loved for your whole messy, complicated self. You  may not have the words to ask for what you need. You may not even know what you need, but they will, somehow they will know and they will show up and give it to you. They will bring your Mozzie to the funeral home and say "my friends thought this was weird but I knew that you would love it." They will come to your house on your birthday and say "I know this is a sad day" and hug you and cry with you. And you will be eternally grateful to know these people and promise yourself that you will get your shit together and strive to be one of those people as many times as you can for as many people as you can. You don't exactly know how to do this, but you will watch and learn. And you will rest. Because even an unstoppable force cannot go full-speed ahead at all times. Sometimes the best way forward is to rest, to refill yourself with energy and patience and understanding so that you have more of it to give to others.

Lyric of the moment: "Just say something perfect, something I can steal. Say look at me baby, we'll be fine, all we gotta do is be brave and be kind..." ~The National "Baby, We'll Be Fine" (Google will not tell you this, but I will: A thing you can do when you have all the feels is listen to The National during your showers and planks. And also sing at the top of your lungs to Kesha's "Praying" every time it plays on the radio in your car. You can also cry while doing those things. It's ok.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Lost in loss, found in friendship

I feel like I'm failing at most things most of the time. But for some reason I've been extremely fortunate to meet the actual best people. And every day I learn from their example how to be the kind of person I want to be.

Danielle called me the other day and we were talking about sadness and loneliness and how sometimes it's hard to keep in touch when you're sad because you don't want to call and just be crying on the phone. She said "I'd take you sad." And I said "I'd take you sad too."

It was exactly what I needed to hear. Society has a low tolerance for other people's sadness. You're allowed to be temporarily sad at certain places, like funerals, and then it's like enough already, pack that shit away, time to move on to more Instagram-worthy sentiments. But that's not how grief or loneliness or sadness works. Loss is a huge part of life. Everything and everyone you love you will one day lose in some way or another. Even happy life changes, like a new job or relationship or baby, can be tinged with the loss of your old life. Sometimes the choice of a new path means the irrevocable loss of a really great former path. Sometimes the losses pile up and it feels like you're drowning in it, except other people don't see it, they're walking by like "lovely day for a swim, isn't it?" Or some people do see it but make comments like "Everything happens for a reason" or "Happiness is a choice" or (insert inspirational cliché or unsolicited advice here). This is the equivalent of throwing a blanket over the drowning person. It makes the onlooker feel better by covering up the unsightly display of despair which has made everyone in the vicinity uncomfortable. But now the drowning person feels not only like it's taking everything they have just to stay afloat, but also feels alone and ostracized by their sadness. Then someone comes along and doesn't try to fix you or smother you with positivity, but just sees your pain and comes to sit with you in your sad place so you're not alone there. And that is true love.

Life is beautiful and brilliant and the best ever. But it's also so fucking sad sometimes. Tragic and depressing things are happening all the time. I don't think we're doing each other any favors by pretending everything is wonderful all the time. Yes, many things are wonderful. But many wonderful things have been lost. And giant pieces of our hearts have been lost with them. And sometimes it's just really fucking hard to get enough blood pumping through your veins with the little pieces of your heart that remain. You know you will get through it, you just have to go through it. It takes as long as it takes. And in the meantime, you feel overwhelming gratitude for those who give you pieces of their hearts as yours heals, and you try to do the same for others wherever you can.

Lyric of the moment: "Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face? Do you realize we're floating in space? Do you realize that happiness makes you cry? Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?..." ~The Flaming Lips "Do You Realize??"



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Grand Adventures in Arizona

Arizona is a land of rattlesnakes, brutal heat and breathtaking canyons (literally last breath-taking for the ~770 people who have died in the Grand Canyon since the 1800s). The toads are poisonous, the snakes are venomous, the plants are prickly and sometimes it's too hot for planes to land (you know, all the makings of a great adventure)! Bonus points for there being no toll roads in the state, so you don't even have to pay to drive towards your impending death!

Last year on our first wedding anniversary, Pete and I were on different continents so we wanted to celebrate our second anniversary (the first one we'd actually get to spend together) with a grand adventure. Neither of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, so we decided to spend our anniversary exploring one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

We flew into Phoenix on a sunny, 102°F Saturday. The woman in the seat behind us on the plane handed us Ziploc baggies with ear plugs, Lifesavers mints and a note from baby Sophia apologizing for any crying that might occur during her first ever flight (aside from her impeccable manners, baby Sophia has excellent typing skills and good taste in mints). We spent the afternoon wandering around Old Town Scottsdale, being touristy (i.e. taking pictures of all the different kinds of cacti), being hot (Pete) and being so excited to finally be in a place where I wouldn't need pants or a long sleeve shirt (me).

The best thing we found in Old Scottsdale

Cacti of Arizona


Sunday morning we headed to Tonto National Forest and did a 9 mile loop (Pete had wanted to go to the national forest and I'd read about the loop on Todd's Desert Hiking Guide. Thanks, Todd!). We parked at the First Water Trailhead, then took trail 104 to 241 to 236 back to 104. For the first 5 miles, we saw a snake every mile, 4 of them rattlesnakes! At the end of our trip, Pete was getting a haircut and the stylist told him she'd lived in Arizona her whole life and had only ever seen one rattlesnake. On our first full day in the state, we saw 4! (We also saw a bunch of toads. I don't know if they were poisonous, but they were cute). That was enough rattlesnakes for us! Thankfully, we didn't see any more snakes (or any scorpions, which is another thing in Arizona that is trying to kill you) for the remainder of our trip.

Tonto National Forest (popular snake hang out, apparently)

Snakes!!


We stayed at the Marriott in Mesa, which had a gold elite members concierge lounge that served free "evening snacks" (cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, pretzels, gummy bears, brownies, etc.) It was the best! So much so that the other Marriotts we stayed in, though they looked much fancier, were disappointing due to their lack of free snacks (thought the Marriott in Phoenix had free laundry machines, soap and dryer sheets, which was pretty sweet). The only reason we got to go in the gold elite lounge was that Pete spent months living out of a Virginia Marriott last year during his pre-deployment and post-deployment training. Luckily, he won't have to do that this year so his gold elite status will end soon. I will happily trade in free snacks for having Pete home.  I will also happily ride this free Pete and free snacks train while it lasts.

Monday morning we hiked Camelback Mountain, which was about 4 miles roundtrip, including the walk to/from the car (there is no parking lot, only on-street parking that was crowded). We followed the Cholla Trail, which is a bit longer and less steep than the Echo Canyon Trail. Though it's rated as "extremely difficult," I didn't think it was difficult (some people have gotten to the summit in only 20 minutes, and that I would find very strenuous/impossible). Near the top, you had to climb up the sides of big rocks and that was my favorite part, obviously. From the top you get a 360° view of the Phoenix area, which was amazing. We checked out of the hotel and drove to Flagstaff, stopping in Sedona for lunch. I saw a sign that said "Coffee / Ice Cream / Bakery" and I was like "I want all those things!" Once inside I was kind of disappointed in the bakery and ice cream selections and Pete was upset that the menu consisted of "only three sandwiches." But the coffee was good, the sandwiches were good and they gave us a tiger order marker instead of a buzzer/number. Monday night we went to the Lowell Observatory, where we got to see Saturn and a nearly full moon through the telescope. Pete also had his longest ever fart in the bathroom there (which I know because he proudly proclaimed it to me afterwards).

Sunrise from Camelback Mountain

On top of Camelback

Tiger!

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I went for a run in Flagstaff. I headed for the Northern Arizona University in search of a track, which I did not find. Instead I found a giant lumberjack statue which was even better. We headed towards the Grand Canyon, stopping to see Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupakti National Monument along the way. The highlight of the day was taking a helicopter (!!!!!) tour over the Grand Canyon! (This was my first ever time in a helicopter and it was awesome! Pete got to take helicopter rides through the desert last year but they were the bad kind where someone might shoot a rocket at you. This year's helicopter ride over the desert was much more scenic and we got to see elk and buffalo, none of whom shot any rockets at us).

Looking for a track, met a giant lumberjack

Volcano!

Ancient pueblo

We're next to a helicopter!!!!

We're in a helicopter!!!!

Grand Canyon from a helicopter!!!!


We stayed at Yavapai Lodge, which is about a mile from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. There are shuttle buses that you can ride to all the South Rim viewpoints. Walking around the Visitors Center on Tuesday evening, I was a little worried reading all the signs about the heat (in the 80's at the rim and the 100's at the bottom of the canyon). We were planning to hike the South Kaibab Trail and the signs said not to go farther than Skeleton Point (3 miles from the rim) for a day hike between May and September. There are plenty of bathrooms along the trail but no water refill spots except at the trailhead.

I really wanted to see more than 3 miles of the trail, but I also didn't want to be one of the 250 hikers who have to be rescued from the Grand Canyon each year (or one of the 250 people who are bitten by squirrels in the Grand Canyon a year. I'm not sure if these are true statistics or if all the caution notices just use the number 250, but either way I did not want to be one of the statistics). Wednesday morning I was in a bad mood. Pete was all "Happy Anniversary" and I was all "Everything is stupid here. Everything I want to do is against the stupid rules for staying alive." But we had made it two years of marriage and we were going on an epic adventure! I ate a Clif Bar, drank some Mountain Dew, pooped in the trailhead bathroom and felt much better. Once we started out on the trail at sunrise, the funk fell away and I was having a blast. To say the Grand Canyon is beautiful is a severe understatement. It looks like a painting - layers of reds, purples, greens and pinks under a blue sky - but a painting you can climb on, which is even better. We stopped to take so many pictures and just to marvel at the surreal landscape. Pete had 170 ounces of water in his pack and I had 82 in mine and we just decided to take it easy and see how we felt. Around mile 4.5 down the trail, Pete wanted to stop and rest before the long trek back up to the rim. He suggested that I continue on down to the river and he'd wait for me to come back up, but I didn't want him to have to wait for me in the heat for hours, so I just ran down to mile 6 and then power hiked back up to him. I had fun running down (I am still working on my downhill running, but South Kaibab is well maintained and not super steep) and even more fun climbing back up. This was my first time canyoning and I prefer it to mountaining because you get to go down then up instead of up then down (I always feel like climbing down from a mountaintop is anti-climactic. The climb up is the part I enjoy most). Once I got back to Pete, we headed upwards back to the rim. I was so excited that whenever Pete stopped to rest, I'd hike up ahead then run back down to him, then hike up again, doing hill repeats like a crazy weirdo. It was not a rim-to-rim or a rim-to-river-to-rim or whatever else people who are stronger and faster than me do in the GC. But we spent 6 hours and 13 miles on an epic trail and didn't run out of water or get bit by squirrels or die. That's my kind of anniversary!
Anniversary-ing it up in the GC

Having a grand time in the Grand Canyon


That view though!

We didn't die!



We ate lunch at the Yavapai Lodge's restaurant and dinner at We Cook Pizza And Pasta, both of which were mediocre (It is true that they cook pizza. It is not true that said pizza is delicious. But! I have to credit We Cook and its brochures for informing me of the existence of Flinstones Bedrock City. So totally worth the so-so pizza). I was not impressed with the food situation at the South Rim or in Tusayan (a little town close by). I don't know why but nothing really tasted good to me (I realize this is an insanely privileged thing to say. I'm extremely fortunate to be able to eat whatever I want whenever I want). Except the Swedish Fish we ate on the trail. Those really hit the spot. And the General Store's snack selection is legit.

On Thursday morning, I was up before the sun so I ran along the Rim Trail, chasing the giant moon in one direction and the sunrise in the other. It was glorious! I could look at the Grand Canyon forever and never tire of that view. Somehow all that emptiness made my heart feel really full. At JP's Stage Stop in Tusayan, we got coffee (very good!) and breakfast sandwiches (very tasteless) and most  importantly, we found in their giftshop the best book ever: Over The Edge: Death In Grand Canyon. We perused the book while drinking our coffee, then at every gift shop we saw (and there are many, many gift shops at the Grand Canyon) Pete would say "Look, they have your death book here!" I didn't really want to pay $25 for a book, but I was also fascinated by the book and did end up buying it at JP's on our way back to Phoenix on Friday (and reading it on the plane ride home. Totally worth $25. It's one of the most interesting, horrifying, incredible things I've ever read. It's not all about death - there are rescues too, those are the best parts. Pete and I joked that every anniversary we're going to go to a different national park and then I'll buy the book about all the deaths there). Valle is just outside of Tusayan so we decided to check out the Flintstones Bedrock City, a decrepit, weird, awesome "amusement park" and RV campground. We were the only visitors there. It was eerie and also most excellent. For $5, you can slide down a giant dinosaur, crawl through a giant snake and walk around cement replicas of the Flintstone and Rubble houses and other Bedrock City buildings in various states of decay. There was even a headless figure in the jail. The lady selling the tickets apologized that the train ride wasn't working since someone had mistakenly left with the key. That just added an extra layer of weirdness and randomness to this strangely awesome roadside attraction. The only thing that was not awesome was the Bedrock Candy. It looked like rocks, which was cool, but tasted like all the worst jellybean flavors, which was not cool.

Husband Man in Bedrock City

Wilma & Betty's houses
Dino-slide!

Like the train, this car was also inoperable


On our way back through Tusayan, we stopped at the IMAX to watch the only movie it shows, The Secrets of the Grand Canyon. I will sum up this movie by saying:

Things to do in the Grand Canyon (South Rim), from best to worst:
1. Hike into the canyon!!!
2. Helicopter tour!!!
3. Flintstones Bedrock City (the best $5 you can spend in Arizona)
3. Literally anything else (other than dying)
4. The Secrets of the Grand Canyon IMAX movie (the worst $12 you can spend in Arizona)

We spent the rest of Thursday afternoon riding the red shuttle to Monument Point, The Abyss and Hermit's Rest and checking out the canyon views from those overlooks. On Friday, we bid adieu to the canyon and headed back to Phoenix. Pete drove as I read aloud the best sections from the death book. Friday night we went to the Diamondbacks vs Padres game, which was neat because I'd never been to an indoor baseball stadium before.

Friday morning I ran 8 miles along the canal in Scottsdale, then we had breakfast at a restaurant with flying pancakes on the ceiling. The pancakes we ordered did not actually fly but they were quite tasty. Then it was time to head to the airport and make our way back home. No babies gave us mints on the return flight, but as we were deplaning in Rochester, a little girl behind us said to her dad "I'm exhausted. My legs don't work. Can I ride on your back?" (This is totally me after an ultra). It was a fantastic adventure out west with my favorite adventure partner. Someday I'd like to go back and see the West and North Rims of the Grand Canyon, it was just too far of a drive to add to this trip. But now both the mountains and the canyons are calling and I must go (and hopefully not end up in a book about people who died there). I know I say this all the time, but that's because it's true: I am so lucky that this is my life and Pete is my  husband and these are our adventures. I hope we get many more years of exploring the summits and depths together. Preferably with good ice cream and without poisonous snakes.

Preventing forest fires

Sadly, the only mountain lion we saw in AZ
Heart eye emojis times 87 million


Lyric of the moment: "And we roll on in the darkness. To some city far away. Lug our sorrows, pains and angers. And we turn them into play. There's no time to dwell upon it. It's this life that we chose. That made it all worth living. Through the horrors that life throws..." ~Drive By Truckers "Grand Canyon"


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Midsummer Madness 2017

When we signed up for Medved's Midsummer Madness back in May, I was excited. I love inaugural races and Medved runs are always a good time. But as the race approached, the excitement was quashed by apprehension. After both other races I've run this summer, I've been shot in the heart by arrows of sorrow, so part of me was like oh shit, what bad news am I going to get after this race? But as usual, most of me just really wanted to run. The race didn't start until 2:00pm, but I woke up early and felt like running. So I did. I ran to Cobb's Hill and did a couple of hills and loops around the reservoir until I was grinning from ear to ear, like kids in a candy store who have also just realized they can fly.

I ran home, showered and opened the mail to find the certified Letters of Administration appointing me as the executor of my dad's estate. Oof. Grief is always lurking about under the surface and you don't know when it's going to rise up and leak out of your eyes. This is the last thing I get to do for my dad, to make sure that his affairs are handled in the way he would want. But I still think executor sounds like Skeletor, as if it's some kind of villain in a superhero saga. Death is an unavoidable part of life and sometimes you're hit with harsh reminders of that fact. So I did the only thing you can do in situations like this. I ate a chocolate chip bagel with peanut butter from Balsam, cried in the car on the way to do estate-related errands, felt grateful for the nice men at the bank and the postman we asked if there was a post office box nearby who said we could just give the mail to him, put on my gold shorts (Pete calls them my space shorts) and went to run in the woods.

I wanted to run this race with Pete because I don't know how many years or miles we'll get to have, but I want to spend as much time as possible adventuring together. I knew there would be three loops for a total of 13ish miles. I knew there would be hills and mud. Because Mendon. And Mort and Dan. I did not know (or forgot) that this race started at Stewart Lodge (Pete and I first drove to Hopkins Point, where the spring Medved Madness starts, only to find a wedding reception instead of a race). I did not know but was delighted to find that there would be Scooby Snacks (Scooby Doo cinnamon graham crackers)!

Somehow every race turns out to be exactly what I needed. And this time, what I needed was ridiculousness: My gold space shorts/heart-shaped sunglasses outfit. A whole group of us going the wrong way because someone had removed a bunch of course marking flags and put them in a pile on the ground. A relay runner with a sign on his back saying "Papa Bear" telling us that medved means bear in Russian. Pete hunched over on the trail to get low enough so that I could massage the cramp in his shoulder with my elbow. Running what must have been every single grassy field in the park. The trash can at Stewart Lodge that said "Inedible" in big letters on the side. It was absurd. It was the best.

Life is brutally short. So you do what you can in the time you have. Put on the weird, short, ridiculous shorts.* Run the ups and downs, twists and turns together. Revel in the absurdity and the awesomeness of every day of aliveness you get.

Thanks to Gustavo for the photo

*It's a terrible myth that you have to look or be a certain way to wear something. Wear whatever the fuck you want. It's your body. Adorn it however you'd like. There is no size, shape or age limit on awesomeness.

Lyric of the moment: "Some of us surviving. Some of us just roaming. Some of  us hoping the world will move more slowly. And some of us alive..." ~Judah & The Lion "Suit And Jacket"

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

This Is Marriage: Day 716

Pete and I met on a trail in Rochester circa 2013, but the trails of our lives leading up to that point were vastly different and thus we have two fundamentally different worldviews. Pete built his life on a foundation in the military/security so he approaches things from a risk mitigation/protocol/chain of command point of view. Whereas I built my life on a foundation of people - I met people online and lived with them, I met people on trails and lived with them, I met stray dogs and brought them home -so I'm all unlocked doors/tell me everything about you and let's be friends forever/writing my innermost thoughts on the internet. Sometimes we balance each other out. (Like when I forget to lock my car door and someone rifles through the cars in our neighborhood and I'm like eh, nothing was taken, there's nothing of any value in there, and it's sad really because it's an act of desperation or unhappiness. And Pete buys a floodlight/security camera for the garage and gets notifications on his phone whenever anyone crosses the threshold of our driveway). Sometimes it causes conflicts. Like when he doesn't react the way I'm expecting (i.e. how I would react) or I don't react the way he's expecting (i.e. how he would react) and there are misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Disagreements are inevitable. It's how we deal with them that matters. And we are learning how to disagree better. It's not about who's wrong and who's right, in a marriage you're both on same team. It's about telling each other how we feel, trying to understand the other person's viewpoint and working together to resolve the conflict. Because love isn't docile or meek. Sometimes it's confrontational and bold. Sometimes it's pointing out problems and shining light on the dark bits and doing the messy, uncomfortable, important work of changing ourselves.

In the 3 years we've been a couple, we've lost both our dads and gone through Pete's deployment to Afghanistan. That's a lot of life and death and stress and grief. I would not wish those things on anyone, but I think going through them has rather forcefully "encouraged" me to become a stronger, more grateful and more compassionate person. I know what's important to me - people, effort, running, experiences - and I spend my time, energy and money accordingly. (And I have been extremely fortunate to have more than enough of all of these things).

There are moments I look at Pete and I think stupid heart, what'd you do this whole marriage thing for? This is really going to hurt when it ends (Because it's going to end. Even if we make it through everything else, we're going to die at some point). And then I think you are unbelievably lucky to have someone who loves your strengths and weaknesses, who holds your hand on the happy days and the sad days, who climbs mountains with you and indulges your over-enthusiasm for being as ridiculous as possible at all times. So appreciate the everloving crap out of every day you get to be a part of this and be the best damn life partner you can possibly be.

Marriage is worth fighting for, hand in hand.

Me: "A giant lumberjack!!! We need to stop and take a picture!"
Pete: (does not want to stop but stops anyway)
Me: "Do you want a picture with him too?"
Pete: "No, I'm good."
Me: "Is it because he's taller than you?"
Pete: "Yes."
Pete: (Apropos of nothing, but said as if we'd been having a lengthy
debate about it) "Actually I think I will poop at that McDonald's" 

Lyric of the moment: "Love is mystical. Love will break the chains. You might feel invincible. And you might be afraid. Light in darkness will show you the way, give you the power to believe again..." ~Cold War Kids "Love is Mystical"








Monday, July 31, 2017

Confessions of a DIPS-omaniac

I got mad at a book. Yes, an inanimate object that I read voluntarily. Yes, I am aware this is ridiculous. But I finished reading this month's Extreme Book Club book, You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero, and I was angry at it. Not like defenestrate-the-damn-thing angry. (Though that would have been fun. Except it was a library book. And I live in a ranch, so it would have been like a 5 ft drop. Highly unsatisfying). Just angry in the sense that I felt a lot of swears towards it. Like fuck this fucking vision board/manifesting your ideal life shit. Sure, I'll just glue some pictures to a goddamned poster board and think positive thoughts and then everyone will get affordable healthcare, no one will ever be discriminated against and my dad will be alive again. It's not the book's fault. The book is just trying to help people. Probably I'm not the right audience for this particular brand of helpfulness.

So I went back and finished my current non-book club book, Mike Doughty's The Book Of Drugs. Drug memoirs fascinate me, even though drugs and alcohol have never appealed to me in any way whatsoever. But many other people enjoy them, some moderately and some obsessively. Maybe I'm just trying to figure out why I'm so different. I'm starting to think it might be the whole reality thing. People talk about turning to drugs or alcohol seeking an escape from reality. Whereas I have sought to run into reality and experience the agony and the ecstasy, the excruciating pain and utter exhilaration, for mile after mile after mile. I have not wanted less reality, only more of it. I have not wanted to dull the edges of life, only to sharpen them, to feel everything - every weird, wretched, wonderful thing.

So I'm not a vision board person. I'm not a dipsomaniac. Though I guess I am a DIPS-omaniac (possibly a DIPShit?). For those of you more sane than me, DIPS stands for Donuts, Ice Cream, Pizza, Speedway, this ridiculous/crazy/awesome idea Valone and I had to run 14ish miles, stopping to eat donuts, ice cream, pizza (and runner's choice of gas station food/drink at Speedway) along the way. Because we're lucky and we know a lot of awesome people, we had plenty of company on our DIPS Challenge half(ish) marathon Sunday. It was a gorgeous sunny day, filled with gorgeous sunny people, Misfit Donuts, Salvatore's Pizza, Perry's ice cream from Sonny's Deli, gas station Mountain Dew (me) / Slim Jim (Valone) and 2 long, epic hills. Here is some hard-core reality: eating cheese pizza and then running up Browncroft Blvd and Penfield Rd is not a thing that makes stomachs happy. But it is a thing that makes hearts happy. Infinity of thanks to Valone for being an epic human/ridiculous run co-creator and to all our friends old and new who came out to run or tandem bike with us. If I had a vision board, it would just be pictures of you. (And Pete and ice cream and toucan shorts and hundreds of dogs). Until next time, my loves. And there will be a next time. We still have a lost cactus to find (We saw a missing cactus poster outside the donut shop and it was the best/saddest thing ever.)

And it begins (Photo by Gustavo, running/photographing superhero)


Donuts! (Photo by selfie-expert Valone)
Speedway! (Photo by selfie-master Todd)

Pizza! (Thanks to Todd for capturing our pizza toast)

Ice Cream! (Photo thanks to our fearless leader/selfie taker Valone)


Lyric of the moment: "Before the time runs out, there's somewhere to run. Wake up. Run for your life with me..." ~Foo Fighters "Run"

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Skin and bones and muscles and guts

I watched To the Bone on Sunday. I'd heard about the movie and told myself I wasn't going to watch it. But then I changed my mind. I changed my mind about a lot of things last week. Things like ginger (Delicious!), radishes (When roasted, not entirely terrible!), underwire bras (I quit! No more of these ever!), long road runs (I do like random, weird adventures and hey, my joints didn't hate me afterwards. Score!) and flowers (I still think giving someone fresh flowers is like saying, here I got you this thing that is going to wither and die very soon! You get to watch it die! And it's going to drop pollen and petals everywhere, making quite a mess! But! That's life. Those flowers are all of us. We're living and dying simultaneously. The people in our lives are a gorgeous bouquet that we get to watch live, and die. It's joyful, sorrowful, messy and a beautiful privilege).

So when I was browsing Netflix and saw To the Bone listed there, I changed my mind about that too. I hadn't wanted to watch it because I knew it would feel more like a memory than a movie. I was mostly right. Though with the added bonus of Keanu Reeves. I would watch paint dry if Keanu Reeves was in it. Pete came in the room at around the midpoint of the movie, watched a few minutes and said "I don't get it. This movie has no plot." There was a scene where the main character measures the circumference of her bicep with her thumb and forefinger. I hold up my hand, thumb and pinkie finger touching to form a circle and say, my arm used to be this small. Pete says "And now you can do chin-ups!" For a moment I wish I had the luxury of seeing this as a movie without plot. But to me the plot is everything. Starvation, physical and emotional. Emptiness. Perfectionism, a death by a thousand tiny cuts. Choosing life. Becoming a person who believes she deserves to live and love and enjoy life. From skin and bones to muscles and guts. And Living - really, truly, completely living.

For a moment I wish I did not understand this so acutely, that I didn't recognize so much of myself there. It's a past I am happy to leave behind. I haven't been that ghost of a person in a long time. But I stop myself from wishing this. I can't erase the past. I'm not held captive by it, but it is a part of me. It will always be a part of me. The part that led me to here, the awesomeness that is my life today. Sitting on the couch, eating chocolate-covered bananas. Watching a movie that's like a painful memory. Feeling the old pain rise up and leak out my eyes, only to be assuaged by compassion and overwhelming gratitude.

Choose life. And then fucking get busy living it. It will change everything.

Lyric of the moment: "Skeleton you are, you are my friend. And I will be there for you until the end. And even though, when I take you out, you've got me, you've got me standing in an awkward position. With unwanted attention and a need for explanation. I could, I could never let you go. And that is all I know..." ~Kate Nash "Skeleton Song"

Friday, July 7, 2017

Good Grief

One of the many gifts distance running has given me is the ability to tolerate feeling multiple, seemingly contradictory, emotions simultaneously. Whatever I'm feeling in the moment, be it pain, fatigue, sorrow, discontent, annoyance, impatience, there is also an undercurrent of thankfulness that allows me to feel happiness even in the saddest times and to maintain a lightness even in the darkest moments. So in the aftermath of my dad's death, I have been able to ride the wave of grief on a surfboard of gratitude. I will never see or hug my dad again, but I got to have a funny, loving, amazing dad for 35 years. I didn't get to say goodbye to him, but I got to have decades of shared laughs and adventures. My dad will no longer be physically present in my life, but nature and nurture made me so much like him that my mom has often exasperatedly exclaimed "Why do you have to be just like your father?!" And for that I am eternally grateful. Every tear, every pang of sadness is a reminder of the vast beauty and overwhelming amount of love that I have been fortunate enough to experience. And yeah, it really sucks, this sudden and unwanted initiation into the dead dads club. It sucks so unbelievably much. But a life without loss is a life without love. And that's a far, far sadder fate.

sparklers, campfire



Lyric of the moment: "And wherever you've gone and wherever we might go, it don't seem fair. Today just disappeared. Your light's reflected now, reflected from afar. We were but stones, your light made us stars..." ~Pearl Jam "Light Years"

Monday, June 26, 2017

Everything is beautiful and everything hurts: Many On The Genny 2017

I could not have predicted, nor do I have the words to adequately explain, what this race would mean to me. I registered for the Many On The Genny 40 mile trail run in Letchworth State Park a year ago, knowing that it was so far out of my league. But I have run hundreds of miles with Eric and Sheila. They are some of the finest humans I have ever met. And I knew that their race would be one of those once in a lifetime adventures. I did not know if I was up to the challenge of completing it. I did not know that the warm fuzzy aftermath of doing so surrounded by this amazing community and my tramily would be my bolster as I received the most devastating news of my life. I just knew that I had to do it, that every time I get lost in the woods, I find the best parts of myself.

MOTG, Letchworth
At the start. Thanks to Matt for the photo


 Somewhere around mile 30, I was ready to be done. The first 20 miles had flown by. It was muddier than I expected, due to all the rain the night before. I slipped and fell on a slick downhill but I landed on my butt and was fine (thanks, rear airbags!). I got to run and chat with some awesome ladies. I did shots of Mountain Dew. I changed into fresh socks and shoes, which I'd never done in a race before. It was life changing, even though they were dirty again within 10 minutes. It was sunny and warm and felt like running in a rainforest. With breathtaking waterfalls. We took a few wrong turns, but quickly realized our mistakes and got back on course. The volunteers were the actual best. Running into an aid station and hearing people call your name and care for you, even though they are the ones who have the harder job, is like coming home (if your home was filled with delicious snacks and wonderful people, which if you're lucky like me, it is).

MOTG, Letchworth
Thanks to Sherry for the photo and for sharing a few miles with me

Miles 20-30 were lovely as well. I was still in good spirits and had even better company. But then around mile 30 we hit the most desolate part of the course and I found myself mostly alone. I was tired but still moving forward, though at what seemed like a glacial pace. I felt like aid station 4 would never come. Luckily I had grabbed a handful of Twizzlers at a previous aid station, so whenever I started to get discouraged I would pop a Twizzler and get that jolt of sweet sugary happiness. When I felt sad about being alone, I'd tell myself things like "You can do hard things" and "You can do this. You're so stubborn, you can do anything." Eventually I caught up to a guy and followed him up and down a couple of creek crossings, some of whose descents and ascents were a bit precarious, especially on tired legs. After he crossed he'd look back and ask if I was ok. People are the best. And then I was alone again. I finally made it to aid station 4 and then began the seemingly never-ending stretch of trail to aid station 5. I was so, so ready to stop. Nothing hurt, well other than normal I've-been-running-for-so-many-hours soreness. I was just tired of being alone in the woods and missing Pete. Then "Tear You Apart" by She Wants Revenge came on my iPod and I picked up my pace to match the beat. I saw someone up ahead and was overjoyed to realize it was Matt. I caught up to him and told him I was sorry he wasn't feeling well (he is way faster than me so I knew something was wrong if I was seeing him now) but I was so happy to see him and have someone to run with. We commiserated about the fact that it seemed like we should have gotten to the water drop by now and it was looking like this race was going to be over 40 miles. Around mile 35 my butt started to chafe. I mean how ridiculous is that, 35 miles deep in a beast of a course and the only thing that really hurt was my ass crack? How does butt chafe even happen? That was an experience I could have done without. Eventually we came to the water drop, a family hiking in the woods gave us watermelon, and then at long last the siren song of "The Final Countdown" welcomed us into aid station 5. We sat down for a couple minutes, I drank more Mountain Dew and a volunteer asked if I wanted "boob ice" (Um yes, yes I definitely do. Putting ice in your sports bra is one of the best things you can do on a hot day). Matt calculated that we could still finish under 10 hours. I didn't care about the time, but I was so ready to be done. The last 4 miles seemed interminable but then suddenly I was at the finish hearing Pete call my name. I was surprised (and so incredibly happy) to see him there (He'd run 27 miles then decided that was enough. Because he's the smart one). I high-fived Eric, gave Pete a great big bear hug, then hugged Matt after he finished. Those last miles would have sucked even more without his company.

MOTG, Letchworth
Thanks so Sonia for the photo and being a volunteer extraordinare


I remember thinking during a solo stretch of the race how ultrarunning is like life, or at least how life should be. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, laughs and tears. Some days everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. Some days everything is beautiful and everything hurts. But somehow you always get what you need. When you think you can't go on, you find the strength to go on. When you think you're alone, you turn the corner and find a friend, or a stranger who will become a friend. People ask what you need and give it to you. You ask what people need and give it to them. Everyone understands that yeah, this is a fucking excruciating journey, but it's sublime and transformative and almost unbearably awesome. Most of all, they understand that the whole point of everything is to be here for each other. And you need that, man you need that. Life is hard. And brutally short. Sometimes the pain and the loss are overwhelming. But you can do hard things. You can do anything. We can do it together.

My trail family, my heart

Saturday night my body hurt so much that I couldn't sleep. But Sunday morning, when I found out that my dad had passed away unexpectedly, the physical pain paled in comparison to the agony of my heart breaking. My dad (and my mom) are the reason I am the person I have become. Dad built us stilts and two tree forts, he gave me my sense of humor and taught me how to catch and throw, he suggested that I join the Cross Country and Track teams when I was 14. I don't know where he got the idea, he wasn't a runner himself. But it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I started running and it changed everything for the better. I fell in love with running, I fell in love with life. I found the very best husband and friends and the kind of inspiring, supportive community that everyone should get to have. So thank you, my friends, for filling my heart with enough love to make it through the hard things, the pain and loss and grief. I don't know if I will stop crying. I do know I will never stop missing him. And that the depth of the hurt is a measure of how incredibly fortunate I am to have called Thomas J. Pratt Jr my dad.

Dad and his clone

For those of you who may ask what I need, it is this: If you knew my dad, please share any stories or pictures of him you might have. If you didn't, please hug someone, tell your people what they mean to you, love each day as if it were your last.

Lyric of the moment: "Oh, it's a fragile thing, this life we lead. If I think too much, I can get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders. Want you to know that should I go, I always loved you..." ~Pearl Jam "Sirens"

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Notorious MOTG

In 4 days I will run a race. Though to call what I do racing is laughable. It implies a certain speed, talent and competitive spirit that I will never possess. I don't race. I explore, I adventure, I wander through the woods eating peanut butter sandwiches. Other people race. And I cannot wait to hear about their triumphs. But I am not the hare. I am the tortoise, a steady, relentless force. On Saturday I won't be running against a clock or anyone else (maybe against a cutoff time. I would like to beat that if I can). It will take me as long as it takes me, this quest to cover 40 miles on foot. I'm not a racer. So for me this is not a race. It is poetry in motion. And I, a fumbling runner and comically bad poet, will struggle one step at a time, to let go of doubts/expectations/the past, to fully enjoy the present moment, to find the answers to the questions I can't stop asking and the words to tell you how much better my life is for having known you. I'm not ready for a race. But I'm always up for an adventure. So while I'm quite sure I cannot run that far and might actually die, I'm also jonesing for some Indiana Jones type shenanigans. Nadirs of Letchworth State Park? Hopefully not The Broken Skull, The Temple of Doom or The Last Crusade.

All fears aside, I've loved this course since I first ran part of it with Sheila in 2015 (Thanks to Eric for the pic!)


We'll see what Saturday brings. For now, all I've got is terrible poetry.

It seemed like a good idea a year ago
Running The Notorious MOTG
Now it looms over me like a mighty foe
And that's no hyperbole

40 miles around gorges Letchworth
A challenge most daunting
As I traverse the water chiseled earth
Will I be weighed and found wanting?

Do I have what it takes to go the distance?
Probably not, but I'll try anyway
'Cause this is the highlight of my existence
Exploring the woods with you all day

So lungs breathe deep, eyes savor the view
On this quest through forests, creeks and muds
Heart explodes in feels thanks to you
And most of all to Trail Methods


Lyric of the moment: "I could chase you til my heart gives out. Even if it means that my tears dry out. 'Cause I'm a little broken, I hope you understand. Can you take me as I am? Can you take me as I am? God knows I ain't perfect, it's not like I had planned. Can you take me as I am? Can you take me as I am? ~Johnny BLK "As I Am"