Monday, August 31, 2015

How to adult

As kids, we can't wait to be adults and do whatever we want to do. But as adults, I think we sometimes forget that the awesomeness of adulthood is that you get to do whatever you want. If you don't want to do something, you don't have to do it. You may have to deal with the consequences of not doing it, but at least you have the choice.

Out of all the wedding tasks, I naively thought that making a seating chart would be one of the easy ones. Order some cute table cards and fill them out. I was half right. The first part is easy. The second part is near impossible. After hearing complaints from people who didn't want to sit next to certain other people, I had an epiphany: screw it, we're opting out of this nonsense. These people are adults and they can sit wherever they want. This is not a day for petty conflicts or drama. This is a day for eating, drinking, playing games, dancing, and walking on stilts. This is a day for having cake and cookies too. This is a day for being merry and getting married. So that's what we're going to do.

And that, my friends, is my new adult philosophy. If something is unnecessarily complicated or stressful, I'm going to opt out of it. If I don't want to do it, I'm not going to do it. Because I'm an adult and I said so.

Lyric of the moment: "Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right..." ~Bob Marley "Three Little Birds"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

On embracing the uncertainty

Life is nothing if not uncertain. Sometimes that uncertainty can be a bit overwhelming. What if I take this big leap and it doesn't work out? What if I attempt this big, epic thing and I fail? The fears will try to hold you back. The Doubts will try to convince you that you can't, that you don't have what it takes, that everyone will laugh at you. I do not know if it is possible to eradicate fear and doubt. Probably that's a bad idea anyway. But I do know that you can just tell those naysayers So what?

So what if I'm tired? I will keep going. So what if I fall? I will get back up. So what if I fail? I will try again, try harder, try better. So what if this thing I worked so hard to build gets knocked down? I will use the pieces to build something even more awesome. So what if I don't know what's going to happen? I will do what I can to make the best of it.

Here's the truth: the more you embrace reality instead of resisting or avoiding it, the easier and more joyful life becomes. That doesn't mean it will be all sitting on rainbows eating cake all day. There will be challenges, sorrow, loss. Embrace those things too. Let them open you up and teach you and strengthen you. The more open you are to life, the more awesomeness can get in. And there will be awesomeness. So much that you will wonder how it is even possible.

Lyric of the moment: "Come with fears, come with love. Come however you are. Just come, come along. Come with friends, come with faults. Come however you are. Just come, come along. Come with me, and let go...Come, come along. Come with sorrows and songs. Come however you are. Just come, come along. Come, let yourself be wrong. Come however you are, just come…" ~Damien Rice "Trusty and True"

Monday, August 24, 2015

A tale of two ladies. And 26.7 miles.

On Saturday I had the honor of tagging along on Sheila's trail marathon training run at Letchworth State Park. She has basically been running a marathon a week for the past few weeks as part of her training for the Virgil Crest 50 mile race. (Yes, you read that correctly. Fifty miles. The appropriate response is "Damn, girl! You're the epitome of badass!")

I hadn't really intended on running a marathon distance. I was just planning to run by feel, and I thought I'd only make it to 20 miles at most. But it was such a beautiful day with the best of company and the miles just seemed to fly by. Here is the recap, as I recall it:

Gus (The van. He was in full-on Fun Gus mode on Saturday, which means he was actually recognizing and connecting to the iPod. Sometimes he refuses to do so. He is a rather temperamental DJ.) and I left Pete's house at 5:40am and made our way down to Letchworth. We met Sheila, Eric, Valone and Jeff at the Mt. Morris Entrance and parked at the Mt. Morris Dam Overlook Area. Sheila, Jeff and I headed out on Trail 20 around 6:45am. (Note: all further descriptions of this run are approximate because I have the worst sense of direction and I never have any idea where I am at any given time. But all of the following events happened at Letchworth Park, New York State, Earth 2015. In the Berenstain Bears Dimension, apparently. I grew up in the Berenstein Bears Dimension, so how we got here is anyone's guess).

Sheila, Jeff and I took Trail 20 to Trail 19a to Trail 19 to the road. Along the way we passed a stone chimney, which is all that remains of the Civilian Conservation Corps officers' barracks at Gibsonville. The highlight of this part of the run was crossing the stream by the waterfall. And Jeff's selfie skills.
Photo by Jeff. Long arms for the win!

At this point, we said goodbye to Jeff, who ran back to his car and headed off to see Erica's 5K race (To Erica: Congratulations! And this is how it starts. The 5K is the gateway drug to longer and crazier races. Join us!). Sheila and I were running on the road for a bit and saw Eric, Valone and Picasso a few times. They were the best aid station/crew, meeting up with us to offer encouragement and water and fruit roll-ups (I had totally forgotten about the existence of fruit roll-ups and was happy to discover they still make this staple of childhood lunch. What exactly are they made of? Why are there cartoon characters on them? We may never know).

We were on Trail 17 for a bit I think. I mostly blocked it out because it was overgrown and kind of uncool. Then we tried to follow Trail 15, but there must have been a turnoff that we missed because we ended up in a jungle of weeds that was taller than us. We decided to backtrack and run back up to the road. We ran a few miles on the road until we came to Rocky Raccoon, a creative mile marker the guys had made for us out of road kill. Now that is friendship!

Just chilling with his intestines hanging out. (Rocky photos by Sheila.)

We then took Trail 11 on the other side of the road. This trail was not my favorite as it was overgrown with prickers and scratchy weeds. I joked that next time we should bring Edward Scissorhands to run in front of us and clear the way. I think it was on this trail that Eric and Valone were hiding in the bushes and jumped out and scared us. Good times. We crossed back over to the other side of the road and took Trail 13, then Trail 1. We passed the St Helena Picnic Area and Tea Table, which had these really cool stone tables for picnicking. We followed Trail 1 all the way, past Lower Falls, Inspiration Point, Middle Falls and Upper Falls. Along the way, Sheila and I stopped to take pictures with the giant bear statue near the Adventure Calls rafting parking area. If you've never taken a bear selfie or gone on an Adventure Calls rafting trip, I'd make plans to get on that post haste.

Sheila's bear selfie masterpiece

I'm just gonna sit on that bear's hand. You know, as you do.

Trail 1 was also my favorite trail of the whole run. There are a lot of steps, which is kind of a bitch 20 miles in, but the waterfalls are spectacular and more than make up for it. It's the most scenic kind of hill work.

Waterfall selfie by Sheila.

Thanks to Eric and Valone for the running photos and excellent crewing!

Somewhere during our time on Trail 1, Pete texted me that he'd made it to Gus. He had mountain biked from his house to the Genesee Greenway trail and taken that all the way to Letchworth, a total journey of about 43 miles. My friends, this is the man that I'm marrying. He is a tall drink of awesome sauce. I think it was at Inspiration Point that the guys met back up with us and then we had three of the tallest, funniest and best trail runners supporting us the rest of the way. We were 23 miles in by the time we got to the end of the Gorge Trail (Trail 1). We had talked about calling it a day there, but I don't think it was ever really a serious option. We only had about a 5K left to make it a marathon day, so why not?

To marathon or not to marathon? As if that is even a question!

We crossed over the road to Trail 2 and then it was a lot of uphill. But we got to see Council Grounds and Mary Jemison's house and then run downhill to the guys and the cars. By this point, Lisa had arrived as well (yay!). We changed out of our sweaty clothes and drove back down to the Footbridge Nature Shoppe parking lot and walked to the Stone Foot Bridge. More steps and waterfalls and selfies, oh my!

Valone shrugs off bystanders offering to take the picture for us. The selfie is the point.

Then the 6 of us went to Brian's USA Diner for a delicious lunch. Pete and I were tired and went home to relax and eat PB&J and Chex Mix for dinner. Sheila, Eric and Picasso hiked to a lean-to for the night, then hiked out again and ran more miles, making it a 70 mile week for Sheila! You can read more about her awesomeness here.

On Sunday, Chabot texted me to suggest that I blog my race calendar because it seems like I'm doing a cool trail event every weekend. I never really thought about it, but I guess I am doing a cool trail event every weekend. Sometimes I can't even believe that this is my life and these are my people. How did I get to know so many amazingly talented and hilarious and kind hearted people who want to run all the miles and have all the adventures, people who I can talk to about anything and everything and who accept me for who I am, no matter how sweaty and dirty that may be? I am the luckiest ever.

Truth be told, I sort of had a meltdown on Friday night. Because, life man. Shit is getting real around here. I can run an impromptu marathon training run no problem, but when the hairdresser asked me if I had any pets, it was all I could do to keep from crying. In less than two weeks I'm getting married. And then I will have a husband (who is in a deployable unit in the Reserves) and a new last name and a step-daughter and a step-granddaughter. And I don't know if I have what it takes to do those things well. I feel woefully unprepared. But running, that I can do. I can run for hours and hours and not feel tired. Or feel tired but not enough to stop. But it's just as important to know when not to run, when to stay and feel the uncomfortable things and ugly cry in front of the person you love the most and have the hard conversations about the hard things. And that my friends, is the most epic of adventures.

Lyric of the moment: "So hear this please. And watch as your heart speeds up endlessly. And look for the stars as the sun goes down. Each breath that you take has a thunderous sound. Everything, everything's magic. Just sit back and hold on, but hold on tight. Prepare for the best and the fastest ride. And reach out your hand, and I'll make you mine. Everything, everything's magic..." ~Angels & Airwaves "Everything's Magic"

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Truth and burritos

The truth about love is that it's inexorably linked to loss. The truth about strength is that it's not synonymous with stoicism. The truth about burritos is that they are delicious.
Saturday afternoon, I took Mozzie to his new home, which is basically like a doggy nirvana. Debbie and her dogs are the sweetest and I know Mozzie will be happy and well loved there. But it was still hard to let go. I would have been a mess had it not been for the endorphins (from Saturday morning's run on some of the Mighty Mosquito course) and the company (infinity of thanks to Laura and Alison for going with me).

Inadvertently, we had managed to plan a burrito-themed party to celebrate Danielle's upcoming Squamish 50K adventure the night before we had planned a 45 mile roundtrip bike trip to Burrito Fresco in Brockport. Happiest, most burrito-filled of coincidences! So the rest of the weekend I was distracted by adventures in consuming iced chai and ice cream and buying Déjà Poo at Parkleigh (because it smells good and is the most hilariously named bathroom air freshener) and having a burrito & fire pit party to celebrate Danielle's awesomeness and biking on the Erie Canal Path from Brighton to Brockport and back, with a stop for burrito lunch (Regrettably, I didn't get pictures of the best graffiti from the canal path. My favorite is the one that says something like "I tried to paint your face but it was too pretty to capture." Runner up: "Bitch took my space" with an arrow pointing to the graffiti below it). But then it was Sunday night and I was trying to avoid going home for a bit longer because I didn't want to face the emptiness of a Mozzie-less house. Pete made me dinner and made me laugh, which are two of the nicest things you can do for someone. But then I knew I had to go home. Sometimes life is sad and you can't burrito your way out of it. Sometimes the only way past is through.

Photo thanks to Laura's phone & random dude on the Erie Canal Trail
The truth is that sometimes you just have to go through all the feels. Sometimes you feel happy and sad simultaneously. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable. But that's ok. It's all ok. You can just feel however it is you feel. You don't have to judge it or feel bad about it or pretend you're ok when you're not. I don't think strength is about never showing your feelings. I think it's about being honest about them. Whenever I do that, a funny thing happens and I just feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude. Sometimes life is sad. But it is also beautiful and amazing and filled with the kindest, most awesome of people.

Lyric of the moment: "I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you..." ~Ben Folds "The Luckiest"

Monday, August 10, 2015

TrailsRoc Mighty Mosquito 99 Mile Relay

This past weekend was the inaugural TrailsRoc Mighty Mosquito 99 mile relay race. I'm having trouble finding the words to adequately express the enormity of gratitude and love I feel for TrailsRoc in general and this event in particular. Infinity of thanks to Eric, Sheila, Ron, Sean, Mike, Valerie, Dave, HBO and all the volunteers (especially Laura and Sonia. Next year you'll be running with us!) for your countless hours of work putting on this event and fighting off possums/mice and being the epitome of awesomeness. All the love and hugs to my SWAT Team, SPC1 and 99 Problems But A Mosquito Ain't One for always bringing the laughs and the encouragement and the snacks. Innumerable high fives and car touchings to Brian VB and Mike V and Chris O'B. I don't even know how you ran your 99 miles and 65 miles and 40+ miles out there but it was the most inspiring and impressive thing I have ever seen. All of my love and my everything to Pete who let me borrow all the things for this weekend, from his van to his cooler to his deodorant (Somehow I always forget deodorant when I spend the night before a race at Pete's house. But I did run the fastest I have ever run on trails at this race, so maybe there is something to that manly deodorant).

Friday night, my best friends from school had a pre-wedding BBQ party for Pete and I and it was so much fun. It is amazing to have friends who have known me since 7th grade and who are crazy busy raising these adorable tiny humans but still make time to hang out with the likes of me. I am the luckiest.

Saturday morning, Pete, Steven and I packed up Gus (Pete's van. I call him Gus because of the license plate. Sometimes I call him Fun Gus), and headed to Balsam Bagels for breakfast, where we ran into Bob. Once we were sufficiently carbed up, we headed to Mendon Ponds Park to check in and set up our camp/van camp/chair & snack circle. Van camp was made up of Gus, Shamu and Candy Van and was quite vantastic!
SWAT Team. Game faces on.

The race course consisted of three 5ish mile loops and each relay runner would run each loop once, staying in order. The SWAT Team really brought the beast mode this weekend. Steven, Alison and Brooke all crushed it with super fast times on loop one, then it was my turn. Loop one, marked with yellow flags, was a fun, hilly 5.5 miles. I'm pretty sure Ron designed this loop to hit all the highest hills in the park. It was awesome! I was a little nervous at the start. I don't care about competing and we were just there to have fun, but at the same time I didn't want to let my team down. The few days before the race had been stressful for me with some personal stuff going on, so I had done the thing where I cried a bunch to get it all out and then got to the place where I knew that somehow everything would be okay. Then, as it usually happens, I started running and everything turned out better than I could have ever expected. With my Beast Mode socks on, I headed out, hoping to complete this loop in under an hour. The time seemed to fly by. I was running mostly by myself, but I did get to see a few people in passing. At one point, I had some gunk in my throat so I spit it out. It was a perfect spit and I thought that Pete would be proud (a couple of months ago we had been running in Mendon and Pete stopped to give me some spitting lessons). Then I heard my watch beep and I looked down to see that I'd already run 4 miles! Surprisingly I was running pretty fast, for me at least. I turned a corner and saw Chris up ahead, just out for a 40+ mile training run on a super hilly course like it was no big deal. I was all like "O'Brien!!! Awesome job, you've got this!" And he turned around, probably like who is this crazy person yelling at me? I stopped to walk at the next big hill, then I heard him say "Get up there, Pratt!" so I knew I had to run the rest of the hill. I mean, if he was out here doing this loop 6 times, the least I could do is run this one hill. So I did. Then I got to run across a big log and that was awesome. Soon enough I was making my way to the finish, where I handed off our race bib to Bob. While Bob and John sped through their loops, I relaxed at chair camp with the crew, eating snacks and playing frisbee and climbing trees with Danielle.

Loop two, marked with blue flags, was a fast and flat 5.3 miles, designed by Sheila. I loved this loop. I was really cruising. I looked down at my watch once and was stoked to see I'd just run a 7:50 something mile. This race was the fastest I'd ever run on trails before and it felt great. Some days everything goes your way and you get to run fast and full of joy. There was a nice section of two way traffic on this loop, which I loved because I got to see a lot of friendly faces both coming and going. Before I knew it, I was coming back through the finish line again. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out and laughing. And all I could think was this is it, this is living at its best.

Then it was almost midnight and I was wrapped in a blanket at the finish/exchange point, waiting for Brooke to come in. Loop 3, marked with orange flags, was 4.5ish miles designed by Mike M and wound through meadows and root-filled trails. It was dark and I'm a morning person through and through, but oddly, I was super awake and pumped, albeit a tiny bit worried that I would get lost by myself in the dark because I am terrible at directions. Steven told me I'd be fine by myself in the dark, and I probably would have been. But like most things in life, it was better with good company. Alison and Brooke had both come in with the runners from Summer School Varsity XC, a team of teachers. So when it was my turn to head out, their teammate, Dan, said he would run with me. I told him I would try to keep up but he should totally go on ahead if he wanted. He promised to stay with me for the whole loop and he did. Trail runners are the best.  As we headed out, he joked "Didn't your mom ever tell you not to go into the woods with strange men?" And I said "That's how I met my fiancé." He definitely pushed me to go faster than I would have if I was on my own. And it was a lot easier to find our way in the dark with two headlamps and two sets of eyes. Or sometimes three sets of eyes. We saw some glowing eyes on the side of the trail at one point, but luckily it turned out to be just a deer. During one of the meadow sections, we stopped to look up at the stars for a few seconds. I hardly ever run at that time of night and it was so peaceful and amazing out there. Soon we were running through the finish line again and then Bob and John brought team SWAT in for a 2am finish.

I slept for about 3.5 hours. In a van. Down by Hopkins Point. Then Pete, Steven, Brooke and I went to Pete's to shower and then Bob met us at the Golden Fox for breakfast. Then it was back to Mendon Ponds to pack up our stuff and say our goodbyes. I don't think I have ever been so tired or so happy. This race was most likely the last race I will ever run as Jen Pratt. And I couldn't think of a better way to pay homage to the era of Pratt and to welcome in the future era of Lacey. May the adventures and the runs and the love continue!

Lyric of the moment: "Run. Running all the time. Running to the future with you right by my side..." ~No Doubt "Running"

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dear people of earth:

The internet is a harsh place, man. Whatever choices you make, there will be people who disagree with you. When you put yourself out there and talk honestly about your circumstances and ask for help, you will get a lot of lovely, heartfelt responses. And you will also get total strangers who know nothing about you or the agonizing decisions you've had to make leaving their very judgmental and unhelpful (and also sometimes hilariously misspelled and grammatically incorrect) comments.

I knew that it would happen, but it was a risk that I had to take because I really need to find an amazing home for Mozzie by September. I'm really struggling with this and I am heartbroken over it. But loss is an inherent part of love. Sometimes life throws you curveballs and there are no easy answers. Some problems can't be solved by OTC meds. I know that I shouldn't care what other people think and that I shouldn't let their comments bother me. I should be stronger than that. And usually I am. But I wasn't yesterday. Yesterday I had too many feelings and it was all too much. I'm assuming that people have good intentions and they mean well. But what I needed was not to read "3 billion men and you can't find one that isn't allergic to your dog? This is an absolute requirement for people I date." or "I'm allergic to dogs and have four! Tell the boyfriend to take allergy pills or take a walk! Seriously!! Shame for giving him up for a guy! And shame on this guy for allowing it." or "Dump Pete and keep the dog! This is a no brainer." What I needed was less judgment and more compassion. Isn't that what we all need? We're all doing the best we can with the circumstances we have and we don't know what it's really like to be anyone else.

So to anyone who is going through a hard time or has to make a tough decision or is struggling, I'm sorry. Sometimes life is unfair and unreasonable and downright sucky. I don't know what it's like to run a mile in your shoes, but if you need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold or an ear to listen, I have two of all of those things. And if what you want is someone to just sit with you in your sad place for a little while so that you don't feel alone, I will do that with you.

From Robot, With Love

Lyric of the moment: "I was just wondering if you'd come along to hold up my head when my head won't hold on. I'll do the same if the same's what you want. If not I'll go. I will go alone. I will run and I'll be ok..."  ~Dave Matthews Band "The Stone"

Monday, August 3, 2015

Once in a blue moon

Friday was a blue moon, a rare occurrence where there are two full moons in one month. It was a weird and emotional day. Both my wedding ring and dress arrived in the mail. I love the ring. But the dress...not so much. It's too big, plus it's strangely rigid and constricting and itchy, not to mention that I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in it.

The ring (gold moon and white sapphire stars).
It was embarrassingly difficult for me to avoid beating myself up over that. Of course it is inconceivable to my brain that it could be the dress that is poorly constructed instead of me. I had to take deep breaths and tell myself it's just a dress, it's not important over and over until the urge to defenestrate the damn thing subsided.

Because it's not important. As ridiculous as it is, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that somewhere there is this one perfect dress that I will put on and suddenly be magically transformed into everything I always wanted to be. But that's not how it works. Transformation happens slowly, while you're off having lady adventures running/hiking in Hi-Tor and peaching friend's cars and running in Lucien Morin Park and SUPing and trying to maneuver your car backwards through a tiny little opening because someone double parked and blocked you in and eating ice cream on rooftops with your SWAT team. You become who you want to be when you do the things you love and spend time with the people who accept you for who you are.
Me in the dress (source)

I think maybe there will always be things about me that I wish I could change. At the same time, I can't help but feel a certain fondness for all my scrapes and mosquito bites and inexplicable bruises and many imperfections. Because they are the marks of a life well lived and a body that gets up to so many adventures.

Because life is about taking chances. And yeah, sometimes you take a chance and buy a dress online, sight unseen, and you feel so uncomfortable in it and it's totally not you at all and that's kind of a disappointment. But sometimes you take a chance and go new places and try new things and make the kind of rare and exceptional friends you only find once in a blue moon. And if you're really lucky, sometimes you take a chance and say yes to that tall guy who keeps asking you to go on bike rides (though you can't figure out why because you're terrible at biking) and then you're riding through Mount Hope Cemetery and he asks you what you want to happen when you die and you say you want to be cremated and launched into space (obviously) and he is surprised and says that's what he wants too, and you don't even know it yet but suddenly you have found everything you were always looking for but didn't think actually existed.

Lyric of the moment: "And one day we will die and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea. But for now we are young. Let us lay in the sun. And count every beautiful thing we can see. Love to be in the arms of all I'm keeping here with me...What a beautiful face I have found in this place that is circling all round the sun. And when we meet on a cloud, I'll be laughing out loud, I'll be laughing with everyone I see. Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all..." ~Neutral Milk Hotel "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea"