Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A toast to failure

Success gets all the glory, but the truth is that if you want to succeed you have to become very intimate with failure. To get to the places most worth finding, you have to get lost. To learn the most important lessons, you have to make mistakes. To become the explosion of awesomeness you are, you have to take risks and dare mightily, remarkably, at times even recklessly.

When I look back at my life, I see a past checkered with failures. And that is what made all the difference. Failing to do the things everyone else was doing lead me to create the life I wanted for myself. Failing at races lead me to become a stronger, happier runner. Failing at previous relationships lead me to Pete.

Failure isn't the bad guy. It's an important, necessary part of a life well-lived. It's what you do in the face of failure that matters. Will you take enough chances to risk failure in the first place? Will you fail ridiculously, totally, fantastically? Will you laugh about it and learn from it and keep on keeping on with your awesome self? That, my friends, is success.

Lyric of the moment: "And when you least expect, everything connects. Even when the hope is gone, there is you. And you'll keep your name. And the things in your brain just might see you through. 'Cause you are light. And in darkest night you shine. And I guess we're doing fine. But there's no escaping our spectacular failure..."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 recap: All these things that I have done

Last year at this time, I made an agenda for awesomeness in 2014:

Do 20 new things and run 14 races. The more ridiculous, the better. Obviously. But there are no rules, other than to enjoy myself. Because the secret to awesomeness is not in being better, faster, stronger, happier (though those are often bonus side effects) but in finding the joy in every opportunity, in living with enthusiasm and love and hilarity.

I didn't plan anything out ahead of time, I just rode the wave of life where it took me. (That's one benefit of knowing lots of amazing people who invite you to join their adventures. All you have to do is say yes and awesomeness ensues). Because for me the whole point of the exercise was not to engineer happiness or joy or improvement, but instead to find it wherever I happened to be, to embrace each experience and to realize the potential for awesomeness in every moment.

Here's where 2014 lead me:

2014 Races:
1. January Resolution Virtual Run
2. Johnny's Runnin' of the Green
3. TrailsRoc Mess the Dress
4. Flower City Half Marathon
5. MedVed Madness
6. Sehgahunda Relay
7. MedVed 5K for ALS
8. Charlie's Old Goat
9. Irondequoit 4th of July 10K
10. TrailsRoc 0spf
11. TransRockies RUN3!!!!!!!!! (infinity of exclamation points!)
12. Mendon 50K
13. Veterun 5K
14. TrailsRoc 0 degree WTF

2014 New Things:
1. New Years in NYC
2. Cancun, Mexico
3. Gin (the game not the drink)
4. Ethiopian food
5. Sumo citrus
6. Flannel shirt
7. Pilates
8. Smart phone
9. Watkins Glen
10. Fit1
11. Tequila (the drink not the game)
12. SUP Yoga
13. Fivrr (I laugh so hard every time I see that logo with the bear. It's like we're running out of its mouth. Ah, good times.)
14. Floating
15. Backpacking in the Adirondacks
16. MedVed Harrier Games
17. Hygge
18. I made pie. And whipped cream
19. Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala
20. Aquafit

It was a year of positive changes, most excellent beginnings and epically fantastic adventures. Not all of which are listed here. Most of which were legal. May the party continue in 2015 and beyond! I hope you'll join me. Let's go all the places and do all the things!

Lyric of the moment: "Another year you made a promise, another chance to turn it all around. And do not save this for tomorrow. Embrace the past and you can live for now...Say everything you've always wanted. Be not afraid of who you really are. 'Cause in the end we have each other. And that's at least one thing worth living for..."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 New Things #20: Aquafit

If I've learned anything today, it's that there's nothing like a mistaken text message in the middle of the night that says "Hey this is Rutger. I'm one of Matt Studley's friends. He told me you could help me out" to make you feel like you've made the right choices in life (I considered responding "What do you need? A 3 hour trail run? A frozen yogurt eating adventure? Yes, I can help." Because I'm pretty sure there are only two things you could possibly need at that hour: a run or dessert.) And that there's nothing like aquafit to make you feel young. And not just because you'll be the youngest person there by a good 20 years. Bouncing around in the pool makes you feel like a kid again.

I have been wanting to try aquafit for a while, but I was a little intimidated to be the only non-AARP member there. So I was excited when Laura and Danielle agreed to be my partners in aqua adventures. This morning we went to the Interval Aquafit class at Penfield Sport & Fitness and it was so much fun. The class was mostly older women and a couple of older men. The instructor seemed surprised to see the three of us and one of the women in the class thought we were college students. I've been out of college for a decade and I have no desire to go back to those days, but I certainly wouldn't mind looking, and especially feeling, younger than I am. The class consisted of sets of 90, 60 and 30 second intervals of running in place, squats, mountain climbers, punches, kicks, etc. With the added resistance of the water, it was a decent workout. And it felt great on my legs. The pool was heated and I was nice and warm the whole time. Afterwards, we sat in the hot tub for a few minutes and chatted with some of the adorable old ladies. One woman was there with her 93 year old mother! Now that's my kind of retirement! I really, really hope I'm still doing this 60 years from now.

As I got ready this morning, I was thinking that putting on a bathing suit after eating my weight in holiday cookies wasn't the most confidence-boosting idea. But then in the locker room before class, two old ladies said to me "I just love your suit. It's so cute. And that body!" Then they started reminiscing about how much they weighed when they got married. It was a good reminder that this is the youngest I'll ever be again and, unless reincarnation is a real thing, this is the only body I'm going to get. Sure, it's got imperfections, but it's also capable of amazing things. It's done everything I've ever asked of it and then some. So I think I owe it more celebration and less criticism.

Lately, I've been reflecting on my life and how to maximize the short time I have here. I'm hoping that if I keep moving, I can trick my body into staying young for as long as possible. And that if I keep saving aggressively, I can retire while I'm still healthy enough to get up to all sorts of shenanigans.

Lyric of the moment: "I am young and I'm alive. I want to talk about things. I am young and I own my life. I need to talk about it, baby...I'm right on track...I wanna do it right this time..."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why I'm not busy

I often hear people lament how busy they are, but there's a hint of braggadocio about it. It's like there's this contest and whoever works the most hours and juggles the most tasks simultaneously proves that their time is the most in demand and they are the most important person. And the prize is stress, exhaustion and unhappiness. I don't get it. But what do I know? I only enter contests where the prizes are money or free vacations.

I am failing terribly at being the busiest-most-important-person. I am not busy. I am not important. And it's quite fantastic. I spend my time doing the things I love to do. Which is primarily running, laughing, reading, adventuring, working (because it pays for the adventuring) and talking about future adventures I want to go on until people agree to accompany me. I can cram a lot of activities into one day and not feel busy if they are things I want to do and with people I want to see. But I like to leave some spare time for spontaneity too. Sometimes it's nice to just let life happen instead of overscheduling it all.

Granted, I am extremely fortunate to have the luxury of leisure time. Some of that is luck - I don't have to worry about my safety or where my next meal is coming from and I don't have to work two jobs to make ends meet. But some of that is choice - I don't have kids to chauffeur around to a bunch of activities every day.

The beauty of time is that everyone gets 24 hours of it every day and the choice of what to do with it. I don't know who invented the busiest person contest. It was probably someone trying to sell something. But I do know that participation is totally optional. If you like being busy, by all means have at it. You win. But if you don't, if it makes you tired and unhappy and grouchy, just know that you always have options. The only things you absolutely HAVE to do are breathe, sleep and eat/drink enough to keep yourself alive. So when you say you have to do something that is not on that list, what you really mean is that you want to do it or you feel obligated to do it or you don't want to deal with the consequences of not doing it. And yes, some of those things are important. But maybe stop and ask yourself how important. This is your one and only life. Make time for the things that are most important to you and realize you can opt out of the ones that aren't.

Lyric of the moment: "We are very busy people. But we've always got time for new friends..."

Friday, December 19, 2014

This whole being alive thing

The thing about life is that you don't know how much of it you're going to get. But you do get to choose what you do with it. I don't know how many years will be in my life, but I want to have as much life as possible in my years. So I don't want to be miserly with those years. I want to spend them all with reckless abandon, to live and love and use them up completely.

And I want to fully inhabit my life, to be present as much as possible. I am still figuring out how to do this. All those people shilling their "live in the moment" self help books are probably sitting on a beach somewhere eating ice cream. No wonder they're all "be here now." That's a pretty sweet moment to be in. I don't think a person who is, say, getting mauled by a bear, would be so into the moment. He's not sitting around thinking, I'm so in this moment right now, I mean this is living. The searing pain as that bear rips off my arm. The blood gushing everywhere. This is a totally unique experience I'm having right now.  

But somehow I have to embrace those mauled-by-bear moments too. Because if I want to live until I die, that means living everything. The deep, aching sorrows, the unadulterated joys, the spectacular failures and the glorious triumphs. All of it. The full monte of life experience.

Sometimes I forget how amazing it is to be alive, how miraculous it is that I even exist at all. That's how lucky I am. That's how much I've gotten used to this whole being alive thing. Even so, I don't take it for granted. I know my days are numbered. I hope that number is very, very big. But however many days I have left, I want to spend them with you.

Lyric of the moment: "Life without end wouldn't have any meaning. The journey to death is the point of our being. Well, the point of my life is to be with you babe. But there ain't enough time in the life that they gave me. I said we're all gonna die but I'll never believe it. I love this world and I don't wanna leave it. Said that death is a deal that you cannot refuse. But I love you and I don't wanna lose you..."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Semi-maximal velocity

At Tuesday's trail trot, we ran part of the Mendon 10K loop. I grew rather fond of that loop this fall, until my fifth consecutive time around it on November first, when I got so very, very tired of it. But it was like just the right amount of time had passed between then and now and I was happy to see it again. I ran the hills this time, which I hadn't done during training (because I became an ultrarunner for the walking uphill breaks. And because the aid station snacks are infinitely superior). When we got to one of the longer downhills, I decided to run it. Really run it, not carefully jog down it, holding myself back for fear of slipping or falling. And it's such a fantastic feeling to just let go and let gravity do the work. I don't know why I don't do it more often. Okay, yes I do. It's because I like to keep my runs on the vertical, not the horizontal. And I especially like it when my bones are inside my skin, not poking out of it at odd angles.

Still, I kept thinking about the WTF race. I ran a good 12 miles of that course without any traction. I'm still not sure how I managed that. Beforehand I was all I don't think I can do this, all those slippery, steep hills. I'm going to fall. Down that ravine. Into the pond. I wouldn't have even considered trying to run without the spikes, but they turned out to be more annoying than helpful. I thought I needed them, but that day all they did was impede my progress. Once I let go of them, or more accurately, tossed them aside in annoyance, I was fine. A little relieved even.

The truth is that it's possible to fall at any pace, traction or not.  And falling is inevitable. It's going to happen at some point. On the trails and in life. The terrain is uncertain. Life is ultimately fatal. But I think the only way to see what I'm really capable of is to go all in, full-speed (well, maybe not full-speed. I don't want to be an idiot about it. Maybe like semi-maximal velocity), flying through it. And if I stumble, I'll figure out how to go all stunt double on that shit, doing some kind of fancy rolling fall. Yeah, I wish. I don't really think it matters how I fall, only that I always get back up again and keep going.

One thing I'm going to do in the new year is to work on my downhill running. Not because I want to be competitive. Actually, I'd like to do a race where everyone crosses the finish line hand in hand, like a giant game of Red Rover. I only want to be fast enough to keep up with friends and to be able to pace anyone who asked. And also I'm hoping that becoming more fearless on the trails will trickle over into the rest of my life as well.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm a boomerang. Doesn't matter how you throw me. I turn around and I'm back in the game. Even better than the old me. But I'm not even close without you..."

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 New Things #19: Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala Ball

So far the best part of my thirties has been making so many "Yes!" friends, the kind of friends who are up for any adventure, whether it's running 15 miles of snowy, hilly trails or going to a black tie party at some dead people's mansion, or both in the same day. Mansions are not really my thing. My house is only 1100 square feet and I think even that is way too big for what I need. But having occasions to buy new dresses and getting to snoop around other people's mansions are totally up my alley. Plus it's always fun to try something new. Even if it turns out to be weird or I don't really like it, at least I get a good story out of it. And any time I have good company, I'm pretty much guaranteed to have a good time, regardless of the activity.

After Saturday's WTF trail race, Alison, Bob, Chris, Steven, Pete and I headed to Canandaigua for the Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala Ball. The mansion was one of the summer homes of super rich banking dude Frederick Ferris Thompson and his wife, Mary Clark Thompson, who was a governor's daughter. Yes, summer home. You know, because why wouldn't you have a house for every season? Not that I visit many mansions, but those I have seen all kind of look the same. What is it with rich people and taxidermy? They sure do love their dead animal heads and bear skin rugs.

The mansion was all decorated for Christmas and it was neat to walk around looking in all the rooms. But we made the mistake of not getting in line right when they brought out the hors d'oeuvers because I swear we were only upstairs looking around for ten minutes, but when we got back downstairs all the food was already gone. Although for me it was no big loss since I don't think there were many vegetarian options, and I only go to parties for the dessert anyway. Sadly, the dessert was mediocre. Actually, the tiny blue sugar cookies were fantastic, but there were only like ten of those and they were gone quickly (I did snag two of them since I hadn't gotten any food). They had a lot more of these chocolate mousse tart-like things, but they weren't as good. Considering tickets to this shindig were $55 each, the food situation was a little disappointing. But we had a great night of laughing and dancing to the weird mix of music that switched from classical waltz type stuff to Call Me Maybe to All I Want For Christmas Is You to Pit Bull. At one point I even thought this party was going to turn into a game of Clue. Because when I went to the bathroom, there were definitely drops of blood on the floor. Okay, so it may have been drops of red wine. But the ladies who work at the mansion said it is haunted. So I think blood is a real possibility. And I'm going to guess it was either the ghost of Mary Clark Thompson or Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with the candlestick.

Pete and I had gotten a room at the Inn on the Lake, as did Steven and Chris, so the six of us all went back there after the gala figuring we'd get some food at the hotel's restaurant. But apparently their kitchen closed at 9 and there was no room service either. So we headed across the street to MacGregors. Chris and I both ordered the Macho Nachos (but I got mine without meat or jalapenos) and it was basically a bottomless pit of nachos. Seriously, I think every time I ate one, two more nachos grew in its place.

I don't know if I'll ever figure out what I'm doing with my life. But if I'm spending my days running and smiling and my nights wearing an evening gown and eating a perpetual plate of carbs, and I get to share it all with fabulous friends and my favorite guy, I must be doing something right.

Here's to more occasions to get dirty, to wear dresses and to dance the night away.

Lyric of the moment: "But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash. We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair. And we'll never be royals. It don't run in our blood. That kind of luxe just ain't for us. We crave a different kind of buzz..."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Race #14: TrailsRoc WTF 15 mile

Thanks to I Am Lesher for the race photos!
When I ran this race last year, it was the farthest I'd ever run on trails. This year, it was barely even half as far as my longest trail run. But I don't think I'm ever going to get to the starting line of a race feeling completely prepared and confident, like no problem, I've got this. There are always questions, doubts. Can I do this? Do I have what it takes? And I think that is the whole point. Every race is a new chance to overcome fear and doubt, to find my limits and push past them, to expand my capacity for endurance and strength and awesomeness.

This course is definitely challenging and there are hills galore. All of which you get to run three times since it's a 5 mile loop course. I'm not fast or anything. I mean, the winner of the 15 mile race lapped me as I was finishing my second loop. But there was never a point where I felt any pain or even much fatigue (thank you pre-race Mountain Dew!) I don't know how Eric does it, but once again we had some perfect WTF conditions: a balmy 33 degrees Fahrenheit and slippery, snow covered trails. I had intended on wearing my microspikes again this year. But they fell off several times during my first loop and I got so annoyed I just ditched them at the aid station. Running without any sort of traction was definitely trickier and more tiring, but it also felt like a relief not to have to deal with them anymore (lately my love-hate relationship with microspikes is trending towards hate-hate). I felt a little unsure, a little unsteady on my feet at first, but then I let go and just went with it. I thought, whatever happens, happens, just keep going. I gave myself permission to fall, to fail. I trusted my feet to find their way over the uncertain terrain. And actually I only fell twice, both times kind of intentionally just sliding down on my butt on the steepest downhill. Though I ran mostly by myself at my own pace, I found plenty of company and comedic relief along the way. The first two times up Hell On Roots, I saw a gorilla at the top and I thought I really hope that is Dan in his gorilla suit because it's way too early for me to be hallucinating. On the trails, and in life, sometimes a gorilla calling your name is just the kind of insanity you need. By my third and final time up Hell On Roots, the gorilla was gone but I was thanking Yukon Cornelius for the rope, without which it would have taken me forever to get to the top. I think I was solely using my arms at that point, since my legs were all like what the hell did we do to deserve this? Annoyingly, my calves started cramping in the exact same place as they did last year, at mile 14, even though I made sure to take salt pills this year. Thankfully they were only tiny minor cramps this year and I knew I was almost done anyway, plus that cheesy Wilson Phillips song popped into my head: "I know that there is pain. But you hold on for one more day. And you break free from the chains." That made me laugh and I knew I was so close to finish line hugs, plus I really had to get to my hair appointment, so I kicked it in to the finish, where I got a high five and a "Go get your hair did" from Eric, a hug from Pete and then a double Pete-Eric hug. I wish I could have been fast enough to see other friends' finishes and that I could have stuck around to hang out more after the race, but I had to get all fancied up for our next adventure of the day, the Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala. And any day I get to run around in the woods getting dirty and sweaty and then get a fancy updo and dance around in an evening gown, all with the best of friends, is a most excellent day in my book.
This was the perfect race to cap off my goal of running, and more importantly, enjoying 14 races in 2014, because it represents everything I love about running and everything I want to be as a runner and person. I feel like I can't say enough thanks to TrailsRoc, Eric, Sheila, Ron, the Stories, all the incredible volunteers (and especially to Chris for his high fives and encouragement and to Ryan (I think that's his name but we've never been formally introduced) for getting my spikes back to me), to all my runner friends (I absolutely adore you all) and to those runners I have yet to befriend (I feel it's only a matter of time). To be surrounded by so much strength, grace, persistence, resilience, happiness and encouragement on a daily basis is overwhelmingly amazing.

Lyric of the moment: "Oh this life is beautiful, if you can find it. I just want for you to know that the world is ours. And if I had you in my arms, what I would do with you..."

Friday, December 12, 2014

The best, luckiest, most epically awesome year

So I'm two for two at MedVed's Harrier Games. At the first one I went to, I won free socks and at this week's games I won a store gift certificate for free Sauconys. (This is pretty much the closest I'm ever going to come to being a sponsored runner. Hey, if I can't be fast, I'll be lucky.) And that was just the cherry on top of the 2014 sundae. It has been the best, luckiest, most epically awesome year of my life. I don't know how every new year turns out to be even better than the one before, but I hope this trend continues for as long as I do.

Especially because I could use all the luck I can get for the WTF 15 mile race tomorrow. I'm not sure how I managed to run (and enjoy) all 15 miles last year, when it was even colder and more stupidly winterous than it is now. Last Saturday I was tired after only 10 miles on this course. And I'm kinda bummed that I won't get to run this race with Pete, since he's doing the 10 mile option. I should probably have switched to the 10 mile race myself. This year I've run the most and the hardest miles of my entire life. And it was amazing. But also kinda tiring. It's just that every time I tell myself to relax and recuperate for a bit, I don't. Because I get too excited and go all insane: so many runs and adventures and let's go everywhere and do everything! All the time! Forever! And Saturday's date is 12/13/14 so of course I have to run 15 miles. And maybe eat 16 cookies? Because, sequentialism? Numerology? Or something? Yes, definitely that.

I'm trying to relax, not put any pressure on myself and just enjoy the race. But there is some pressure to finish as fast as I can because the race doesn't start until 10am, so I have to run approximately 3 bajillion hills, remain alive, shower, put on real clothes and make it to my hair appointment at 1:45pm. Because I am hopelessly inept at doing my hair and we're going to The Fancy Christmas Gala at Sonnenberg Gardens on Saturday night. Because apparently I am now the kind of person who goes to galas. Just kidding. Unlike Iggy Azalea, I'm not fancy. But any excuse to buy a fancy new dress is okay with me. Though if I have to wear heels (and by heels I mean wedges because the only thing more impossible than trying to get up Hell on Roots hill three times is taking one step in high heels), there better be some serious dessert up in this shindig.

Lyric of the moment: "Won't you let me match your stride. I can slow down if you want to. We can handle it side by side. What do you say? Don't you want to? And I can understand. All I need is your hand. Oh won't you take the fall. It is me after all. I'd be lying if I ran away. I'd be lying if I ran another way..."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Schrödinger's lasagna

For some reason my brain told me to make veggie lasagna on Sunday. I don't know where the idea came from. I don't care about cooking. I don't care about lasagna. But I made it. Because once an idea infiltrates my brain, it becomes inevitable. Resistance is futile. I'm not sure if the lasagna turned out alright. I didn't taste it. I thought maybe it looked a little off but I'm no lasagna connoisseur so what do I know. I didn't care if it was a great success (which considering my complete lack of kitchen skills would have been a miracle) or if it was a total failure. And I realized maybe that was the whole point. Sometimes I am too sensitive, I care about everything too much. But lasagna, that's something about which I can be totally indifferent, about which I can have absolutely no expectations. Maybe it was my brain's way of giving me a break, a brief respite from caring. Or a lesson once again in doing things for the sake of doing them, with no attachment to the outcome.

The lasagna is currently sitting in my fridge. I have no interest in eating it. It's probably terrible anyway. But I kind of like not knowing. Right now it's like Schrödinger's lasagna, simultaneously awesomely edible and epically inedible. I won't know which one it is until I take off the foil and taste test it. It's a physical reminder to embrace the uncertainty. These are the facts of my life: I am currently alive. One day I will no longer be so. The only one who is guaranteed to be with me every step of the way between those two points in time is me. Beyond those three certainties, everything else is up in the air. Might as well get used to it.

I thought about throwing the lasagna away, uneaten. Like a Mandala painting, only made of carbs instead of sand. But Mandalas are supposed to teach you about impermanence, and I already know that all too well. It's permanence that I have to learn. Perhaps the next thing I should try to make is an Everlasting Gobstopper?

Lyric of the moment: "Wherever you are, know that I adore you. No matter how far, I can go before you. And if ever you need someone. Well, not that you need helping. But if ever you want someone, I know that I am willing. Wherever you go, I can always follow. I can feed this real slow if it's a lot to swallow. And if you just want to be alone, I can wait without waiting. If you want me to let this go, well, I am more than willing..."

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to avoid taking shit personally

Most of the things people say and do are a reflection on them, not on you. The vast majority of the time, it's not about you. Unless you're being a jerk. Don't be a jerk. But it can be hard not to take other people's comments and actions personally. Rationally I know that most of the time it's not about me, but sometimes emotions crowd out logic and I could use a reminder. So I wrote this as a pep talk to myself. I even made a helpful infographic:

Here's the thing about us. We filter everything through the lens of our own experience. As Anais Nin said "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." It's true of you. It's true of everyone else. So when something happens that upsets you, when someone says or does something and your immediate emotional response is one of hurt or anger, take a moment and remember this. Refer to the helpful infographic. What you are experiencing is not reality, it is only your perception of reality. This other person is not experiencing reality either, only his or her perception of it. So always try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe they are going through some seriously difficult shit you cannot possibly imagine. Assume they have the best intentions and their comments are innocuous. It is only your interpretation of them that is causing you hurt or pain. So change your interpretation. Realize it is not about you. Unless of course you were being a jerk and it is about you. Be honest here. If you were being a jerk, it's ok. It happens to all of us. Don't be hard on yourself, just make a sincere apology and try not to make the same jerky mistakes again. If you weren't being a jerk, relax. No one thinks you're a jerk. It's not about you. Go run through the woods with some pals under the moonlight, eat some cookies, give some hugs, do whatever it is that makes you happy. And let it go.

Lyric of the moment: "So light it up and let it go. Don't you see that you're not alone. Just light it up and watch it fly. 'Cause you could be anything you want tonight. It could be a beautiful morning..."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

All I want for Christmas is you

I find it hard to get excited about Christmas. I don't want to cut down a tree and bring it inside where it will die slowly, pine needle by pine needle falling to the floor. I don't want to clutter up my house with decorations and ornaments. I don't want to race around buying things no one needs. Some people get pleasure out of these traditions and I totally understand that, but I'm just not into it. I want Christmas to be magical and meaningful and instead it is commercialized and stressful. And then I am disappointed, sucker punched once again by my own impossibly high expectations. I don't want anything for Christmas. Thing being the operative word. What I want for Christmas is the same thing I want every day: connection, friendship, love, laughter. I don't want things, I want people.

Sometimes I convince myself that I don't need it, that I will be ok with whatever happens, that if I don't get lifelong friends and a life partner, I will still be fine. But pretending I don't want something just to save myself from possible disappointment and sadness is futile. Because the truth is that what I want most out of life is meaningful relationships, real connections, to feel less robot and more human. And if I don't get that, I guess technically I will still be fine. But I don't want to be just fine. I don't want to live a half life.

A little over a decade ago someone told me it would take 10 years before I would be able to connect with people. This person was basically a stranger and I should have forgotten the words as soon as they were spoken. But something about the specificity of the time frame - not just years, but exactly 10 years - made it seem almost like a curse. For some reason it resonated deeply with me, probably because I was afraid it might be true. And now that 10 years has passed, I thought...what, exactly? That someone else would come around to tell me that my sentence is up? Like the tarot card lady at Alison's birthday party? I know it's ridiculous to even entertain this notion and yet it speaks to the fundamental failing I have, the inability to fully connect with people.

Christmas only makes it clearer how out of touch I am. I don't understand why we have to run around going crazy buying lots of things to show people we love them. Can't we just tell them? Can't we just spend time with them and hug them and listen to them and go on adventures with them? I'm trying to opt out of Consumerism Christmas this year. My immediate family lives in different states now so I suggested that in lieu of presents we do something together in the new year. I don't know if everyone will go for that but at least I asked.

Last night it was cold and sleet/hail-ing. If I was sitting at home I'd look outside and think what a crappy night. But I wasn't at home. I was TrailsRoc-ing it up at Ellison Park. And we were getting pelted in the face with hail, climbing up big hills, getting stuck in prickers, getting lost outside the park boundaries, sliding down steep hills on our butts, talking about funny things and serious things and I was thinking what a great night. And why can't Christmas be like this? (And then I made myself some sweet potato fries and they were all salty and cinnamon-y and delicious. Because apparently the stove is the gateway drug to the oven. And I'm using pans now. I don't think I like where this is heading.)

I don't even like Ellison Park. And getting hail in my face isn't my favorite either. But it doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing. The thing about Awesometown is that it's not a destination, it's the company you pick up along the way.

So all I want for Christmas is you. Especially if you know how to break curses.

Lyric of the moment: "The nights are getting shorter. I don’t know where they go. And I am getting older. And it's starting to show...I don’t want to wake up lonely. I don’t want to just be fine. I don't want to keep on hoping. Forget what I have in mind..."

Monday, December 1, 2014

2014 New Things #18: That time I made pie. And whipped things

It's no secret that the stove and I are not friends. Because I want it to be a Replicator from Star Trek and it refuses to be a Replicator from Star Trek. But imposing my own expectations on others is kind of a dick move. So I decided to make friends with the stove in the best way I know how: over chocolate. In total honesty, I went to the microwave first but it just burned the shit out of the dark chocolate chips I was trying to melt. As my house filled up with the stench of burning chocolate, I turned to the stove as a last resort. The stove was surprisingly cool about the whole thing and melted the chocolate easily and without incident. And then I made a dark-chocolate-pumpkin pie and a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. By myself. Like a real person. Technically I made 3 pies because over the weekend I had made a practice chocolate pumpkin pie. But to keep up my I will never be domesticated street cred, I cheated and used pre-made graham cracker crusts from the store. (And I used recipes with 7 or less ingredients. It's the express check out line equivalent of baking.) The pies were edible, or at least no one said otherwise. Out loud. And no one died. Which is the mark of a successful adventure. Plus, at Alison's house on Thanksgiving, Bob taught me how to make whipped cream using a hand mixer. Apparently if you keep whipping beyond the cream stage, you can make butter. And beyond that, who knows? Now I kind of want to whip other things and see what they turn into. But I still wish I had a Replicator. Or TARS from Interstellar, because he has a better sense of humor.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm not a simple machine. I have become something else..."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On being a carbon based life form

I can never choose sides. It is impossible. Because there are no sides. The earth is round. And we are all spinning around on it together. I cannot comprehend the Us vs. Them mentality. We are all the Us. We are all the Them. We are all carbon based life forms trying to figure out what it means to be alive. We all want the same things. To be seen, heard, understood, remembered, loved. To have the opportunity to better ourselves and our lives. To find meaning and purpose and happiness. We are all so much the same. Maybe that is why it is easier for us to focus on the things that make us different. And no doubt those differences are what make each of us unique and interesting. But those differences can lead to the fear and anger that breed pettiness and injustice and violence and tragedy.

I do not have any answers. All I know is that very few things are black and white. Much of life is shades of grey. There are so many nuances and complexities involved in peoples' reactions and behaviors. So I try to strive for understanding rather than judgment. I try to remember that everyone has obstacles and struggles, everyone has experienced pain and hurt and suffering. Sometimes their words and actions are a manifestation of that hurt and suffering. There is more to someone's story than I can possibly know, not having lived it myself.

So I don't believe in sides. I don't believe in bad guys or good guys. I believe that everyone has a good heart but sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes the most egregious mistakes are perpetuated through history. I don't know why. It is senseless and so very sad. I don't know the purpose of any of it. But I think that my purpose is to be the best carbon based life form I can be. To be infinitely grateful for this extremely fortunate life I have been given and to do all I can to increase the love and light and happiness in the lives of everyone I encounter during my time here. And that means acting with love and compassion in everything I do. I'm imperfect. I often fail at this. But I will keep trying. Because if there is any point at all to our existence, I want it to be this: to love and take care of each other. Not just when it's convenient or when it's easy. But forever and for always.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm made of atoms, you're made of atoms. And we're all in this together... Ask a scientist, it's quantum physics. We're all in this together..."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Trust your footwork

I've been thinking about a conversation I had with Todd when he picked a greyhound as my baby spirit animal and said "You're a very fast runner without really trying and you tend to be chill after running." I wish I was as fast as a greyhound, especially on trails. Todd said "You just need to trust your footwork on the trails a little more." It's totally true. But I haven't figured out how to do that. There are times I want to let myself go and fly down the hills but I don't feel strong or agile enough for that and I have this nagging fear that every step could be the one that leads to faceplant. I know I need to have faith that my feet will find their way. On the trails of my runs and on the trails of my life. But I don't quite trust myself to take the right steps. Technically there are no "right" steps. But I would prefer to take the ones that don't end with me twisting my ankles and falling down ravines.

Have I learned nothing in all these years of running and living? How can I have still be so bad at this? I keep trying to be different, better, wiser. But I'm still the same person with all the same faults and naiveties, somehow both too stubborn and too flexible, wanting too much. (Though even I have to admit that no matter what shenanigans I've gotten myself into, my ultimate life trajectory has been one of increasing awesomeness. So at least I've got luck on my side, if not skill.)

I have a tendency to get stuck in my head, to run through all the worst case scenarios of what might happen, what I might lose, what people might think. And I have all this accumulated armor. The walls I build out of fear, the impulse to flee when everything is too much. But the armor is not protecting me from anything. All it does is weigh me down. I need to let it go and remember that whatever happens, I will be happy. Because happiness is a choice that I can always make. And the truth is that all roads lead to Awesometown. Some hurt a little more than others. But I can't waste time worrying about that. I have to go forth wholeheartedly, let my feet find their way and make wherever I am the best place to be. And if that place happens to be a ravine, I will get ravine red velvet cookies for all!

Lyric of the moment: "The days will pass you by. Don't wait to lay your armor down..."

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014 New Things #17: Hygge

I'm a little disenchanted with Fall. He was so warm at first but has become increasingly cold, dark and depressing. And he's always bringing that jerk Winter around. I'm made for sunshine and heat. I cannot stand the cold, dark days of winter. It doesn't help that I live in a city with 6 months of winter. But I've been cold everywhere, even at the equator (I wish that was a joke but it is ridiculously true. Isn't fat supposed to be insulating? I think all of mine is broken. It is also quite possible that I am cold blooded). Still, I don't want to be a whiny little bitch about it, so I'm always looking for ways to embrace Winter, or at least make him more tolerable. Today I'm expecting the delivery of my new puffy coat, which I bought online after reading a review where a woman in Alaska claimed it was very warm. I'm hoping that this coat is the one that will be up to the impossible task of keeping me warm. But I'm not that optimistic. I have been let down by coats and their empty promises before. I think it's going to take more than a synthetic down puffer for me to become BFFs with Winter. So I was intrigued when I read an article about hygge.

Hygge is a Danish word for which there is no English translation, but it means a kind of cozy well-being. Like the warm atmosphere created when you mix good friends, good food and good times. Also, something about candles. I've never been to Denmark but I'm pretty sure I've experienced hygge right here in Rochester. The closest English translation I can come up with is TrailsRoc. I will happily shiver through the never ending darkness and the bone-chilling, soul-sucking cold for all the runs, conversations, laughs and celebrations with friends. My skin may never be warm but my heart will be. If I can't be in the season I love (Summer + Robot 4Ever!), I'll love the season I'm in. I have a cupboard full of oatmeal and I'm ready. Let's make some new traditions and have a winter of epic adventures.

Lyric of the moment: "It's where my heart was made. And where my feet will always land..."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Veterans Day trifecta of awesomeness

Let's get yogurt!
There are three things for which I will happily get up extra early: running, adventures and people. So when I found myself in a car full of friends at 5:30am heading for runs and food and celebrations, I knew it was going to be a good day. Thanks to Pete for organizing our run-eat-run-eat-run-eat honor the veterans adventure.

At 6am, Pete, Steven, Bob, Danielle and I joined the RIT and U of R NROTC Unit and Veterans Alliance for their Veterans Day run. We ran from the U of R campus to Highland Park, where there was a short ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and then back to U of R. It's heartbreaking to think of all the lives lost to past and current wars, and even more so to realize that these cadets, so young and full of promise, could very well meet the same fate one day.

Handsome dudes everywhere!
After the U of R run, Pete, Steven, Bob and I went to the Veterans Day breakfast at RIT, where we saw more moving speeches and touching videos, and where Pete and Steven were interviewed by Channel 10 News (!) about their service in the Navy and Army respectively. At 11am, the 4 of us and Prem ran the Veterun 5K race at Mendon Ponds to benefit the Honor Flight of Rochester (We stopped by Jenn's place on the way to Mendon but she was in the shower, which totally foiled our plans to kidnap her. I mean, um, invite her to join us). The race was faster and more fun than I was expecting. All my training lately has been primarily long, slow distance (because LSD is my jam!) but then I do a 5K and I'm reminded how good it feels to run fast (well, fast for me. My race pace would be someone else's easy pace). Though in hindsight, I think eating eggs at breakfast was a bad choice because I had to have the "throw up or shut up" conversation with my stomach during this race. After the post-race food (I did not have a cheeseburger so I cannot comment on that, but the cookies were pretty decent), we visited Alison at work and then got frozen yogurt. Sooooo good!

At this point we all went our separate ways, but then met back up again for the TrailsRoc Tuesday Trot at Webster Park and post-run donuts (thanks to Jenn!). Three runs, good friends, good times: the trifecta of awesomeness!

Today was my first time ever really celebrating Veterans Day and I enjoyed hearing the stories of both friends' and strangers' military careers. I am always fascinated by other people's lives and stories, the incredible scope of their insights and the profundity of their strengths. Though I am as pacifist as they come, I wholeheartedly support the people who have served and who currently serve in the military. I wish that no one ever had to make the sacrifices they have made. But it is in part due to their sacrifices that I am able to enjoy such an extremely fortunate life, largely untouched by violence and tragedy. And I can't be anything other than eternally grateful for that.

Lyric of the moment: "I got soul but I'm not a soldier. I got soul but I'm not a soldier. Time. Truth. Hearts...."

Monday, November 10, 2014

The end of bad photos

I used to cringe when I'd see pictures of me from races or group runs. Somehow I always managed to look like a lumpy zombie. But then I met Pete. And he loves taking what I would call "terrible" pictures of me. Pictures where I'm driving or otherwise unaware I'm being photographed, pictures where my eyes are closed or I'm making a weird face. His phone is filled with them. I'd complain about how awful they were and he'd say something like "They're not bad, they're beautiful." At first I wanted to delete them but over time I sort of became inured to them. And then I started thinking, well what exactly is the criteria by which I judge a photo of me to be 'bad?' If I look particularly moribund or muffin-toppy? If I don't conform to the narrow definition of beauty depicted in the popular media? Why am I wasting my time and energy on this malarkey? They are simply snapshots of a specific moment in time. It's only my judgment of them that makes them "bad" or "good."

I can't change the photos. They are reality. That is what I looked like at that moment. But I can change my judgment of them. I can change my definition of beauty, I can expand it to be all-encompassing. If you ask Mr. Merriam-Webster, he will tell you that beauty is defined as:

The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives
pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit;
loveliness; a brilliant, extreme, or egregious example or instance.  
By that definition, virtually every moment is beautiful. Especially those moments where I'm running or enjoying the company of friends, the occasions which typically end up being photographed. Those moments are pleasurable, brilliant and lovely. And the moments we're running are usually pretty extreme, either in weather or duration or monkey business. Photographs are the physical evidence of these beautiful moments. They are not perfect, but they are real. And real is far more interesting.

This is a photo taken by Prem (middle name: Awesome) during the group run at Letchworth on Saturday.

(Apparently I can run with my eyes closed, which will come in handy if I ever need to nap mid-run.) I could point out all the things I dislike about the way I look in this photo. But I won't. Because it was a beautiful run on a beautiful day with some beautiful souls I am lucky enough to know. And when I look at this picture, that's all I want to see. Because adventure is about getting your wings dirty (as Danielle says, it's better to be a dirty angel than a clean angel), it's about getting out of your perfectly coiffed/perfectly posed comfort zone, it's about being fully alive and all that entails - the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's all beautiful.

I am declaring this day the end of bad photos. Wherever we are and whatever we're doing in photos and in life, there is love and joy and awesomeness to be found. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

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? And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast. It's hard to make the good things last. You realize the sun doesn't go down. It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round..."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mind, body, machine

I have been waiting for the inevitable post-endurance race immune system depression to strike.  Usually after long races I get sick. But so far I feel fine. More than fine actually. I feel better the week after my 50K than I did the week before it. Some of that is thanks to the chiropractor. He moved some stuff around, cracked my back, put ice on my knee and hip and reassured me that I'm fine, that all I needed was a minor tune-up. I think it was the reassurance that gave me the most relief. Before the race I had some nagging hip pain and I was worried it was going to be bad news. But I think the worry was more problematic than the minor aches and pains.

A few years ago when I had tendinitis in my ankle and it took to heal, I remember my primary care physician posed the rhetorical question "Are you sad because your ankle hurts or does your ankle hurt because you're sad?" (Did I mention that he totally reminds of me of Jeff Bridges? He is The Dude of doctors.) This was at a time in my life when I was subject to a lot of external conflict. And I am terrible at conflict. I find it excruciating and intolerable and overwhelmingly stressful. And Dr. Dude's comment was a light-bulb moment for me. Of course it would take far longer for me to actually act on this knowledge, but what he said made perfect sense.

And yes, I need to get better at handling conflict. I just want everyone to get along and be happy and turn every disagreement into a win-win scenario involving cookies, but I know that's not realistic and won't always happen (I'm willing to compromise on the cookies. Cake would also be acceptable.) As long as conflicts are resolved relatively quickly (and ideally in a compassionate manner), I'm totally fine. (I mean, I will probably cry. That's just what happens because I'm the kind of person who internalizes everything and then the tears are my outlet for all the pent-up stress, frustrations and feelings. So I will cry and then I'll feel better and everything will be fine.) But it took me a long time to realize that it is nigh impossible for me to be myself and thrive in situations where there is chronic conflict, whether from external sources or self-imposed.

So I guess it shouldn't be surprising that this year I've been able to run farther, recover quicker and feel immensely better than ever before. I've gotten back to my happy running place, where it's all about joy and camaraderie. And I'm in a relationship that's a much better fit for my temperament, that accepts me at my worst and brings out my best.

Probably I have now jinxed myself by admitting I feel so good. When you name a ship The Titanic, it's pretty much destined to sink. Even so, it must be said. It is such a weird and wonderful feeling to be living out all my wildest, most impossible dreams.

Lyric of the moment: "We've been through some things together, with trunks of memories still to come. We found things to do in stormy weather. Long may you run..."

Monday, November 3, 2014

A cosmic 'I told you so'

Last week a strange sequence of events led me to one of those moments where it felt like everything in the universe was conspiring to tell me I told you so. See? Everything works out for the best. Trust us. Apparently I need even more blatant reminders. Because I still had major angst, about everything, before my race on Saturday. Then once I started running, all I felt was this overwhelming sense of love and contentedness. It was cold and rainy, I was tired and achy and questioning both my ability to finish and my sanity. But mostly I was so, so happy to be there. Increasingly that is also how I feel about my life, that whatever happens there is no place I'd rather be.

I am trying to let go of my insatiable curiosity to know upfront how it's all going to play out and just believe. In the awesomeness of people. And that if there was a better way to go then it would find me. It always has.

I am starting to trust that there is hope for me yet. Though at times I still think maybe I am too weird to get one forever person. I don't mean weird as a pejorative. It's just that I am a lot of sometimes contradictory things. Rational and ridiculous, responsible and restless (almost to a fault on both accounts), feet on the ground and head in the clouds. I want to be independent but also feel like part of a team (I think maybe that's called interdependence). I want a life of travel and adventures, of minimal things and maximum people, of running and partying and enjoying up all of my days. But I understand that other people want different things out of life, that maybe I am too much motion, too much ridiculousness for one person to handle. It's cool. We can still share cookies and conversations about our disparate dreams. Come on in. Stay as long as you like. It's going to be quite a ride.

Lyric of the moment: "Every glorious disaster, every bond is gonna bring you faster out into the light..."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 Race #12: Mendon 50K

Thanks to super-awesome Stacey for the photo
As a strategy for running a successful first 50K, I would not suggest wearing a brand new running jacket on race day or being too nervous the night before to eat a decent dinner or having an inexplicable baseball-sized bruise on your left hip (perhaps you have unknowingly become involved in some kind of sleepwalking hula-hooping fight club?) and a weird pain in some muscle/tendon/other part near your right hip/back. Not to mention only getting 6.5 hours of sleep the night before and having a meltdown because you are so exhausted and overwhelmed with feelings that everything makes you cry. Or forgetting your deodorant so you have to borrow your boyfriend's deodorant and go to the race smelling very manly. But that is what I did. And this is what happened:

When I arrived at Mendon, it was dark and rainy, not quite 40 degrees yet. Fitting for All Saints Day I suppose. I certainly felt a little haunted. By past mistakes and injuries and bad races. But I started this year with the goal to run 14 races for the pure enjoyment of them, no expectations, no attachment to the results. And somehow that strategy had lead me to the start line of a 50K, something I never thought I would ever even want to do, let alone be crazy enough to attempt. So I shrugged off the ghosts of Jens past and went to sign in and get my race bib, then hung out with the crew until the race started. The course is a 10K loop with some great but hilly trails. No matter, because this is ultrarunning, where hills are for walking.

Thanks to superhuman 100 mile runner Ron for the photo
Loop 1: I started off running with John and Steve and with the combination of fresh legs and funny conversations about prosthetic testes and the differences between eskers and drumlins and gremlins, this loop seemed to fly by. Soon we were back crossing the road heading to the start/finish. Chatting away, we naturally gravitated to the road leading back to the pavilion. I remember saying something like "oh hey, are we supposed to be running where those orange cones are over there?" but not really thinking anything of it until people started yelling at us that we had to move over and run through the finish chute where the timers were. We had a good laugh over that one, as the 3 of us are the kind of runners who could get lost running in a straight line.

Loop 2: Again, the loop seemed to pass quickly, as time usually does when you have good company. By this point, the 10K, 20K and 30K runners had started and we got to see and cheer for a lot of friends as they passed us. It felt like running a race while simultaneously watching a parade. When we got back to the start/finish, we stopped to use the bathrooms. Assuming that all men pee way faster than I can, especially after I had to wrestle with my tights to get them pulled back on (seriously, for me the greatest struggle of this race was pulling my pants back up after the two times I stopped to pee. Those compression tights have a vacuum tight seal), I thought that John and Steve had already started the next loop while I was still in the bathroom. When I came out and didn't see them anywhere nearby, I figured I would just go my own pace for the next 3 loops. They are way faster and far more experienced runners and I thought I wouldn't have been able to keep up with them anyway.

Loop 3: I knew that finishing this loop feeling good enough to go back out for the fourth loop was the key to my being able to finish this race. Each loop was getting progressively wetter and slicker due to the rain. Luckily, the running jacket I'd recently bought for $24 at Marshalls (because it has a sweet pocket on the back with a fold-out hood) was keeping me dry and the perfect amount of warm. Both Alison and Bob stopped to chat/run with me for a few minutes as they passed and that, plus knowing that I was never more than 3 miles from an aid station with friendly faces, made it easy to keep going. Towards the end of the loop, I came upon Andrea and we chatted for a bit as well.

Loop 4: I don't remember much about this loop. I just put in my headphones and kept moving. I got lapped right at the end by two 50Kers on their final loop and seeing them get to stop at the finish knowing I still had another loop to go was a little disheartening, but everyone cheering at the TrailsRoc tent, plus Laura, Bob and Alison's encouragement at the aid station helped me get back out there.

Loop 5; I was so tired I didn't know how I was going to pull off this loop. I felt like I was running in slow motion and my fingers had started tingling at random. Maybe it was just my brain getting fuzzy, but this loop was strangely magical. Early on, I came upon the first deer I'd seen all day. It was walking away from me into the woods but when I said "Hi, Deer!" it turned to look at me like "Hi, weirdo neon/spandex human." As I passed the water tower I was like "Hey water tower, this is the last time I'll see you today. No offense, but I am really getting sick of you." When I got to 25 miles, I thought every step you take from here is the farthest you've ever run on trails and when I got to 26.3 miles I thought every step you take from here is the farthest you've ever run in your life. Later I met a guy named Jamie from Syracuse and talked for a bit as we ran. At the aid station, I heard excited cheering from Liz and from Danielle, who had been pacing Tammy for her last 2 loops. Tammy felt good so she went on ahead and Danielle stayed with me. My whole body hurt but thanks to Danielle, I was having a great time. We were laughing and talking about the adorableness of our dogs and then suddenly without my noticing it we were back at the road crossing heading to the finish. I was so happy to be done running and to see/high-five/hug so many friends.

So my friends, I think I just became an ultrarunner. And even though I broke my rule of not running for longer than I slept (it took me a little over 6.5 hours to finish), I think I'm going to like it here. Oh my god what have I done?

Thank you to Race Director Brian Thomas for putting on such a challenging and well-run race. Bonus points for ensuring some fabulous weather. I was really working on my tan out there.

Thank you to my trail family for all the training runs and conversations and for coming out to run and/or cheer today. The sheer amount of awesomeness at this race was beyond belief. Congratulations to all on your epic achievements out there! You lovely people are the reason I would rather be running 31 miles in the cold and rain than at home sleeping like a normal person.

Thank you to Pete for putting up with my ridiculousness, for letting me borrow your deodorant and your watch, for all the love, support, hugs, dark chocolate, the wings for my shoes and the pizza dinner. And for being the best thing I ever found on a trail.

Lyric of the moment: "I do it for the joy it brings. Because I'm a joyful girl. Because the world owes us nothing and we owe each other the world..."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A thousand times yes

Whenever I start to freak out about something (I mean, not like that ever happens or anything. Totally cool as a cucumber over here. Cooler than cool. Ice cold. Riiiight), I ask myself "Even if I knew that this would end badly for me, would I still attempt it? And the answer is always yes. A thousand times yes. Because whatever happens, it can't be that bad. Out of everything I do in life, only one of them will be the thing that kills me. I like those odds. And I'm a going all in with all my heart and effort regardless of the outcome kind of person. I don't half-ass things. I am a whole ass or I am nothing!

It is far, far better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. It is far, far better to try and fail than to be sitting at home eating Cheetos, never having tried at all. And sure, Cheetos are good and all. But you just end up licking sticky orange chemicals off your fingers. And my friends, there is a great big world out there with so many better things to lick. And if it doesn't work out the way you hoped, so what? Do it for the story, the adventure, the love of being alive. Get some consolation cookies, cry about it if you want, but then laugh about it and get back out there and do some more crazy shit. This is your life. Make it awesome.

Lyric of the moment: "Wherever you are, know that I adore you. No matter how far, I can go before you. And if ever you need someone. Well, not that you need helping. But if ever you want someone,  know that I am willing..."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Whose idea was this anyway?

I don't know what kind of lunatic has been making the decisions around here, but things have gotten out of hand very quickly. So now I am staring down the barrel of my first 50K. Whose idea was this anyway? Every time I've run the race loop, I've seriously thought there is no way I can do this 5 times in a row. Taper is supposed to make you feel rested and ready, but right now all I feel is tired and beat up. And my hips are being weird. (I know the hips don't lie. I just wish I could figure out what they're trying to tell me.) But I suppose I might as well embrace it. I have been running the crap out of this year. So in 5 days I'm about to feel the most tired and beat up I have ever felt in my life. And even if the weather is stupid awful and everything hurts and I want to stop, I have to find a way to keep going. Because that is the point of all this.

I am trying to be chill. I am trying not to have expectations. But truth be told, I am freaking out hard core. I am afraid of failing at this. Even though I know to do so wouldn't change my life in any significant way. There are always other races, other chances. And there are far more important things at which I am far more afraid of failing.

I do not feel ready, but I do feel willing. And hopefully that is enough.

When I get to the starting line, I hope I remember what a joy it has been to get there, all the hours spent running through the woods and hanging out afterwards, talking and laughing. All the ups and downs, celebrations and stumbles, the trails of our lives. When I get to the rough spots, because oh man there are going to be rough spots, I hope I remember to embrace the experience, appreciate the company I get along the way and trust that there will be more awesomeness (but hopefully not horse shit) around every corner.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm hungry, I'm dirty, I'm losing my mind. Everything's fine! I'm freezing, I'm starving, I'm bleeding to death. Everything's fine! I miss you. I love you..." (I'm pretty sure this is what it will feel like to run an ultra.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Things dangerous to come to

Last night, Mom, Mozzie and I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Well, Mozzie mostly just stared longingly at the bag of popcorn. The storyline was mediocre. But there were adventures and a good soundtrack and that's all I really need from a movie. And, even though they mentioned it ad nauseum, there was this quote:

"To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life."

Which is the truest thing I've ever heard.

I am 33 years old today. I feel simultaneously as if I have all the time in the world and no time at all left, as if I've had so many amazing adventures but the best adventures are yet to come. And that those best adventures are going to be the most dangerous, the ones at which I'm most afraid of failing.

I know that in the grand scheme of life, the universe and all things, I am very, very tiny. Inconsequential. Impermanent. Still, I hope that my time here, however long it is, leaves some net positive impact on someone or something. I still have a lot of work to do in that regard. I have rescued one abandoned puppy and made him feel at least safe enough that he no longer needs Doggy Prozac. But I killed three bugs in my house this year and inadvertently unleashed a canine hit-man on a fourth, so in the insect world I am a serial killer. Though I have fed what feels like 1,000 mosquitoes this year alone. So maybe I'm a benevolent serial killer? Like Dexter? I try not to kill things but sometimes it's really hard. Like last night, I ordered a veggie burger at Gate House but they mistakenly brought me a turkey burger, so I had to send it back and I don't know what became of it after that.

If you're reading this, I promise not to kill you. But seriously, infinity of thanks and hugs for being part of my 33 years of life and ridiculousness. You are the center of the cookie, which everyone knows is the very best part. Let's have 6.02 x 10^23 more adventures!

Lyric of the moment: "And I almost didn't find you. And I almost lived without you. There is nothing in this world I'd rather do than live with you...If you ever fear someday we might lose this, come back here. To this moment that will last. And time can go so fast. When everything's exactly where it's at, its very best..."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dollars and nonsense

I was at Parkleigh buying a birthday card for a friend and I asked the cashier if they sold stamps. He said "No we don't sell stamps here...But today is free stamp day! So you get a free stamp with the purchase of any greeting card." And that right there is the overarching story of my life. What seem to be disappointments are really opportunities for something even better than what I was originally seeking. It happens all the time. Not always quite so instantaneously, but it happens. I know this and yet sometimes I still get stuck in the wants, the disappointments, the losses. Then I go in search of a stamp and I'm told no, you can't buy that here. Because it's free. And just like that Life has handed me both the tangible thing I'm seeking and the intangible lesson that I really need. Intellectually, I know I am surrounded by abundance. I have everything I need. Everything will be ok. Better than ok. Everything will be most excellent. I know it but I don't always feel it. Sometimes it is hard to reconcile emotion and logic. It is hard to shake the feeling that I am totally inept at everything and it's only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down.

I want to live in appreciation of the abundance, not in fear of scarcity. I want to enjoy where I am instead of worrying about how it could go wrong. I want to get the most out of my life now (while still setting myself up for a kick-ass future/early retirement/maximum impending awesomeness). Recently it's been occurring to me that the best way to do that might be by letting go of all my security blankets that I think are protecting me but are maybe suffocating me instead. The biggest of which was my savings account. I kept way more money than I needed in there because it made me feel like I had options, like whatever happened I would be fine. But it was earning a stupidly negligible 0.05%  interest, and I needed to release my little cash moneys out into the world so they could grow and make more cash money friends. So I transferred about 60% of the money to my non-retirement investment accounts, transferred about 30% to an online savings account with Ally Bank that pays 0.90% interest and I kept 10% of it in regular savings for future house projects or adventures or whatever happens next.

I also signed up for so I can keep track of all my accounts in once place. It's convenient but it's a little depressing to be faced so blatantly with the calculation of my net worth. I think it is measuring all the wrong things. I don't want my net worth to be in dollars, I want it to be like 250 tiny unicorns and 3500 blueberry oatmeal cookies and 11,000 hugs and a million adventures and one American Bulldog and all the people.

Lyric of the moment: "This is how it works. You peer inside yourself. You take the things you like. And try to love the things you took. And then you take that love you made. And stick it into some, someone else's heart, pumping someone else's blood. And walking arm in arm, you hope it don't get harmed. But even if it does you'll just do it all again..."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Before and After

My backyard renovation is finally finished! It was such a mess that I don't have any before pictures, but it looked a lot like this:

It was basically a weed jungle (In my naiveté, I did not realize that doing a Google image search for 'weed jungle' would yield a bunch of pictures of pot farms.) I never went back there because it was pretty awful and un-hang-out-able. I wanted a low maintenance, chill space that people would actually want to inhabit.

Thanks to Zaretsky & Associates, it now it looks like this:

Usually I want things to stay looking new, as if no one has ever used them. But I'm kind of looking forward to seeing how this space grows out (hopefully not into a crazy jungle, though I wouldn't mind if some monkeys stopped by). I like my house to be clutter-free and just shy of obsessively ordered. I don't like having "stuff" around, unless is it very functional or something I absolutely loveLoveLOVE. But I also think it's good to invite in a little chaos, a little life. It keeps things interesting. Fortunately, Mozzie is very good at bringing in the chaos. There is already an indent on the back of my couch from where he climbs on it to look out the window. At first I was a little bummed about that. I mean the couch is only a few months old and it already looks used. But I'm starting to appreciate the lived-in look. After all, I have the only couch in the world with a Mozzie shaped indent. When I look at it that way, all I can do is laugh. And I suppose that's how life goes: the more you use it, the better it gets.

Lyric of the moment: "This is how it works. You're young until you're not. You love until you don't. You try until you can't. You laugh until you cry. You cry until you laugh. And everyone must breathe until their dying breath..."

Monday, October 13, 2014

How to be lost

Saturday was my first time attempting to run the Mendon 10K loop by myself. It was, how can I put this epic fail. I have spent hours running those loops, albeit always with friends, and I thought I had at least some idea of where I was going. But on Saturday I couldn't get it right. I don't even know what I was doing wrong, but somehow no matter which way I went, I kept ending up back at the fence where I started. It was like I was stuck in some repeating loop on the blue trail and couldn't escape from it. I was still cranking out miles, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get up to the water tower and over to the Pond Rd side of the loop. After about my fifth time ending up back at the fence, feeling like I was in some kind of virtual reality loop, I started laughing. I mean, I have a notoriously bad sense of direction but this was ridiculous even for me. Seriously, how was this even possible?  Was it a dream? A glitch in The Matrix? Wait, did I take the red pill or the blue pill? I figured maybe this was my brain's way of telling me it needed a break from the loops, so I ran over to the beach parking lot and hit up the trails by the boat launch and Devil's Bathtub. When I got back to my car in the Pond Rd parking lot, my watch said 17 miles and I decided that was enough for the day. It was not the run I had intended, but I got to run a few early miles with Stacey, then enjoy almost 3 hours in the woods by myself on a beautifully crisp fall day, so no complaints.

Last Saturday, while loopin' for Sheila's birthday run, I had my first trail fall of the year on this course. It wasn't even on a downhill or a particularly technical part of the trail. I was chatting away, tripped on something (possibly one of my own feet) and fell face forward. It happened so fast I didn't even have that moment of panic where you know you're going to fall but there's nothing you can do about it. But somehow I did turn myself around midair so that I landed on my butt and hands and then got right back up again, a little dirtier but otherwise completely unscathed. At first I was a little bummed because I wanted to make it through the whole year without falling. But then I decided that a better goal would be to get really good at trail falling so when it inevitably happens, I can remain uninjured and keep on going. I'm hoping I've gotten all the no-good-falling-down-getting-lost juju out during these training runs so that it will be smooth sailing on race day. But I don't want to think about it too much or worry about it. Whatever will be, will be. And I'll figure it out when I get there.

Sometimes I still find myself seeking reassurances, direction, security. But if it were possible to find them, I don't think that's what I really want at all. Sure, those things are nice and comfortable, but they are also static. And I am a wanderer, an explorer, a person of motion. I need a certain amount of discomfort in order to keep growing, I need a certain amount of uncertainty in order to keep believing that anything can happen. I need to keep getting lost and falling, because that's the only way to get to the places I want to go, places that I don't even know exist yet. 

Lyric of the moment: "Settle down, it'll all be clear. Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear. The trouble, it might drag you down. But if you get lost, you can always be found..."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The one with all the seamen

Last night Petty Officer First Class Lacey took me to the Navy Ball, a celebration of the 239th birthday of America's Seamen. But in my opinion, the Navy doesn't look a day over 230. The ball was like a cross between a prom and a wedding. It was in a Marriott ballroom, everyone was dressed up and there was a cocktail hour, a bunch of speeches, dinner and dancing. Of course the true measure of any party is the cake, and in that regard the Navy did not disappoint. Though if I had been in charge, I would have made sure there were submarine shaped sugar cookies too. And I have never been a DJ, so maybe I have no right to complain but lets just say this one left a lot to be desired. He played a lot of nonsense like that song where a guy just yells Shots! Shots! Shots! over and over. I don't know, maybe you have to ingest a lot of shots before you understand that one. But it was a fun night of dancing and laughing and I am happy to have had the chance to experience it.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about 'Merica and the military. I wish arms were only for hugging and we could all be lovers instead of fighters. But I realize that the real world is not the Willy Wonka's chocolate factory I want it to be. And I have the utmost respect for all the men and women who serve our imperfect but ultimately perfectly loveable country.

Lyric of the moment: "What do you do with a drunken sailor? What do you do with a drunken sailor? What do you do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?" (I remember learning this song in middle school music class, which looking back seems a little inappropriate. But maybe it was because that Shots! song hadn't come out yet. Or they were just preparing us for future careers in the Navy.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

2014 New Things #16: MedVed Harrier Games

Last night I got to participate in my first Harrier Games at MedVed as part of team TuTu Hot To Handle with Alison, Jude, Mark and Todd.

According to Mr. Dictionary, a harrier is:
a) A hawk of the genus Circus
b) A hound used for hunting hares
c) A person who engages in persistent attacks on others
d) A fighter aircraft that can take off and land vertically
e) A cross country runner 

The things we'll do for free socks!
This particular Harrier Games was a running scavenger hunt. But there is another one coming up in December so maybe that's where all the circus hawks, hare hunting, aircrafting and attacking will take place. That would be an interesting night for sure!

We had 75 minutes to complete challenges and take pictures at the locations selected by Mort. Our team ran a total of 7.5 miles around Pittsford, Nazareth College and the canal path, wearing tutus and having a blast. We were late getting back to MedVed so we lost points for that, but we did win free socks for being the only team who made it out to the mailbox at Route 96/Country Club to mail a letter to Mort. In hindsight a better Harrier Games strategy would have been to hit up the 3 mandatory checkpoints, then run to Wegmans and rack up points shaking hands with everyone in the store and eating a donut. But in terms of life strategy, mailing nice letters to people is a pretty good one. 

A hawk, a hound and a cross country runner walk into a bar...
It was a fun event and I'd definitely do another one. Any night that involves running, friends, ridiculous costumes and pictures, pizza, cider and cookies is my kind of night. And I'd do way more speed workouts if they were in treasure hunt form. Special thanks to Todd for being our photographer and for taking one for the team by fighting off a wayward branch on the canal, and to Jenn for letting me borrow one of her tutus. I think I'll get one of my own, as I'm pretty sure that a tutu is the answer to all my problems.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm Henry the eighth, I am. Henry the eighth, I am, I am..." (If you saw some tutu-riffic runners singing this song on the corner in Pittsford last night, that was us!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

You gotta have faith

Last night we were running through the switchbacks of Dryer Rd Park. I had gone out with the fast group. I don't know why. I'm not fast. It must have been the coffee/hot chocolate-Dayquil-ColdEeze cocktail rushing through my bloodstream. Or maybe I just like chasing dudes through the woods. We were running up and down and around and around. The haze of headlamps at dusk and the leaves obscuring the trail made a rather precarious path. I kept thinking that every step could be my downfall. But it was a beautiful night, one of the guys started singing The Who's Pinball Wizard as we headed down the Pinball trail, and I loved every minute of it. Pete said "It takes a lot of faith to run through these leaves." And I thought, I hope I can muster enough faith to run through life like this.

Then he said to me, "You are an incredible athlete." Or something like that. It was a very nice compliment so of course it went in one ear and out the other and I said "No I'm not." He asked why I thought that and I said "All I do is run, and not very fast or very far." I wish that I had just said "Thank you." But I don't consider myself an athlete. I know people who eat 100 mile races and Ironmans for breakfast. They are the athletes. I'm just a person who runs because I can't not run. I'm a middle of the pack runner at best, and I'm happy simply to be out there, running for hours and having all the conversations. Still, it occurs to me that I'm exceedingly lucky to be surrounded by people who see the best in me and I probably shouldn't be contradicting them all the time.

I think I just had a bad taste in my brain left over from the previous night's dressing room debacle. I went to the mall, which in retrospect was probably my first mistake. I mean, does any great adventure ever take place at a mall? Well, there was that mall scene in John Dies At The End. Maybe I'm just shopping at the wrong mall. Anyways, I went to the mall hoping to find a new dress to wear to Pete's Navy Ball on Saturday night. I don't know why I still think there is going to be this one dress that I put on and suddenly become the person I always wanted to be. It's ridiculous. But the myth of "the one" dress persists. I didn't even really like any of the dresses, but thought maybe they would look better on. Nope, not even close. I don't know what it is about the lights in fitting rooms, but they are like laser beams pointing out every flaw and laughing at them. And I don't get it. After running 24 miles on Saturday, I was feeling so good about myself and so thankful for my strong legs and then I stepped into a fitting room and I couldn't even look at my legs without feeling ashamed that they are not perfect, whatever that means. And it's just bullshit. I started to feel bad and then I thought, Shut that shit down. You get to choose how you feel. Don't choose this. Those dresses are ill-fitting and have weird necklines and you don't even like them. And yes, you have a mosquito bite on your neck. So what? How ridiculous and awesome is that? Who else does that happen to? Maybe that's going to be the next hot accessory. Ok, probably not. But whatever. Those bites and bruises and wobbly bits are the marks of a life well lived, a body used up to its full potential. You have nothing to be but grateful for and proud of that.

I went home, ordered a dress online and figured if it doesn't fit or I don't like it, I'll return it and wear one of the dresses in my closet. Sometimes it annoys me that I still get tripped up by moments of self-consciousness and body image issues, but at least I'm getting much better at talking myself out of them. I'm getting better at embracing the imperfections and the uncertainties too, at not knowing where my next step will take me but trusting that it will be awesome. Like the man said, it takes a lot of faith. Hopefully I get to chase him through the woods for the rest of my life.

Lyric of the moment: "In the place where I make no mistakes. In the place where I have what it takes..." (I don't know where this place is, but I'm pretty sure it's not a fitting room.)