Monday, April 25, 2016

Time on Feet/Gator/Raft

I spent most of the weekend outside, playing in the wilderness with friends. And it was fantastic. On Saturday, I was on my feet from 7am to 5pm, running with Alison, Bob and Todd at Black Creek Park, followed by trail clean up work with TrailsRoc (shoveling stones, fixing trails, singing Oompa Loompa songs and riding on the back of the gator), more running with Sheila, Eric and Valone at Durand, then going home to mow the lawn, eat dinner and fall asleep. On Sunday, Sheila, Eric, Todd, Valone, Lisa, Rob, Sheriff Ron and I ran/hiked parts of the Many on the Genny course at Letchworth then went white water rafting with Adventure Calls Outfitters.

I don't know how to explain it other than to say that time spent outdoors is like some kind of magic elixir for the soul; it soothes your sadness, assuages your suffering and connects you to your freest, wildest, best self.

And sometimes you need that. Because life, man. That shit is hard sometimes. Like a practical jokester being all so you thought you'd never want to get married, eh? Here's this guy who's going to change all that. But hey, now that you're married, we're sending him to the Middle East for 6 months. Because people be fightin'. And everything you do while he's away reminds you of him and makes you miss him even more. And every call and email and card feels like a gift. Like when he calls you from one of the unit's stops, tired and jetlagged and sleeping in a bunk bed, 40 people to a room, but tells you he's on his way to Baskin-Robbins because he was thinking of you and decided to get ice cream in your honor. And you get this warm feeling like, this, this is my person.

Sometimes it's hard to be a person in the world. But it is also amazing. I don't know how to fix all the problems. But I do know this:

Go outside. Be with people. It will change your life.

Lyric of the moment: "Cause what's the point in living unless you're living wild..." ~Judas Priest "Running Wild"

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Falling in love with nighttime runs

Running in the dark is turning out to be quite an adventure. After 20 years of running, I have finally gotten my first black toenail. And black eye! It's getting legit up in here.

My alarm went off at 3 o'clock this morning, but I was already mostly awake. My brain was ready to run. My legs, not so much. Ideally, you want both head and legs to be on board at the start of a run. But you really only need one of the two. Danielle came over at 3:30am, because she's the very best kind of friend, a partner in crazy/potentially ill-advised adventures! We ran to Ellison Park and hit up some trails (Allegedly. The park doesn't technically open until 6am). On the way there we were questioning how creepy this run was going to be. Fortunately, it was not actually that creepy, though we did see several pairs of eyes glowing in the woods. One of them was definitely a deer because we could see its body. The others were also probably deer. Or werewolves. The moon did look pretty full. It was very dark and quiet, just us, the Big Dipper and the hills with eyes.

We headed back up Coyote's Den, where we were supposed to meet Bob and Allison at 5am. We got there around 4:45 and didn't want to stand around getting cold, so we figured we could do a loop of Corbett's Glen (Again, allegedly. That trail was also not technically "open" yet). But that took longer than expected so we were a little late getting back to Ellison. We saw Bob's empty car and headed back down Coyote hoping to find them somewhere on the trails. It was still super dark and I was worried that we wouldn't find them, but thankfully we did! I would have felt bad if they got up early to join this insanity and we somehow missed them. As the four of us ran, the sun started to rise. I was lost in the beauty and the magic of the moment. Which was the whole point. I mean, I need to practice running at night as part of my Candlelight 12 training. But especially this week, as Pete is going even farther away, I needed a little middle of the night trail magic.

At this point my legs, which had been heavy at the start (due to the cumulative effect of Fit1 and spin class and hill repeats), were feeling pretty good. We made it up Booty Maker hill, then on one of the flats I tripped on something and went down hard. I didn't even get a chance to have one of those oh shit I'm falling and I am powerless to stop it moments. One second I was vertical, the next my knee, hand and face were hitting the ground. Somehow my shoulder managed to hit a tree on the way down. Because apparently I don't do that whole Kung Fu movie thing where your opponents come at you one at a time. This was a taking-on-the-whole-forest-at-once kind of fall. To date, it is my most epic trail fail. I came away from it relatively unscathed, save for a shiner, bruised knee and dirty face. But my bones were all still on the inside where I like them and I could still run, so (f)alls well that ends well! I am actually kind of happy about it. I'm always worried about falling on the trails, but somehow once the thing you're worried about actually happens, it ceases to be this big, ominous thing. This is an almost comically timely lesson. I could have done without the black eye, though it does make me feel sort of tough and pirate-y.

We ran back up Coyote's Den and hugged Alison and Bob goodbye. Danielle and I ran back to my house with cookies in hand (Thanks Alison!!!!). In total I got in about 12.5 stupid o'clock miles. Danielle is super badass and went on to meet a friend to run 8 more miles on roads. I went on to meet my friends Shower and Vanilla Bean Latte (This is a concoction that they make at Glen Edith and it is the best at being delicious and keeping me awake at work).

I'm really starting to fall in love with this whole nighttime running thing, albeit a little too literally for my liking. And in large part, it's thanks to the excellent company of my awesome adventure friends. There's a saying "Nothing good happens after midnight." But we're disproving that, one crazy run at a time.

Lyric of the moment: "You pull me through. Because I am rich when I'm with you. When you’re by my side, oh running through the night, catching eyes in the moonlight. We’ve got all the things we need, all the things we’ll ever need..." ~Tiny Ruins "Running Through The Night"

Monday, April 18, 2016

Some days

Some days are heavy, weighed down by the gravity of loss. Some days are light, a happy haze of sunshine, adventures and excellent company.

Some days you find out that your favorite birthdate twin is suddenly gone, departed far too soon. Some days your partner in life and everything is far away. Some days you get to be Tigger, bouncing, tree climbing, cheering and laughing in the woods. Some days are filled with running and friends and parties and campfires.

Thanks to Jenn for letting me borrow Tigger
to cheer at Muddy Sneaker! And to Stephen
for being the director/photographer!

One day you realize that all your days are miraculous. It is due to a series of miracles that you are alive and healthy, that you are surrounded by amazing humans you are lucky enough to call friends, that you live in a world filled with so much technology that everything is literally at your fingertips. So much so that time travelers from the past would think you are some kind of sorcerer. That's how magical and miraculous your everyday life has become.

On the heavy days, remember the lightness and the miracles. The best of which are these people, the heart and soul of all your days.

Lyric of the moment: "My whole life looks like a picture of a sunny day..." ~Sleater Kinney "Modern Girl"

Thursday, April 14, 2016

3am: Adventure Time!

Usually, I run approximately zero miles between the hours of 7pm-5am. But someone around here registered for a 12 hour overnight race in July, so I figured it was time to start getting in some late night/early morning time on feet. And I needed a mid-week long run since I'm not running Muddy Sneaker on Saturday, though I will be there to spectate. (Dressed like Tigger. Obviously. When you get a chance to be Tigger, you take it. Thanks and bounces to Jenn for letting me borrow her costume!). So I figured there's no time like zero three hundred on a Thursday to get this party started. Though when my alarm went off at 3am, it felt less like a party and more like the aftermath of the apocalypse. It was eerily quiet as I left my house, a little before 3:30am, and ran to Cobb's Hill. No pedestrians, no cars, no sounds. Nothing. Rarely do I experience such silence and stillness. There's a special kind of magic in the pre-dawn hours. The day, yet to unfold, is all tabula rasa and possibility.

I arrived at Cobb's Hill around 4am and commenced my favorite hill repeats, up the gravel hill to the top of the reservoir, down the road and back around to the bottom of the hill. My second time up the hill I already felt tired. My legs and back were still sore from Fit1 on Monday. But I have become quite fond of the soreness. I still don't look like I have any muscles at all, so the soreness of a good strength workout is like a postcard from my muscles, like hey, we're still here, getting all SWOL and shit, staying hip to the current slang. Also, we like peanut butter. When the second hill repeat already felt like a struggle, I began to have serious doubts about my ability to even finish this run, let alone run in circles for 12 freaking hours. But the hills, man. They give you what you need. The more hills I ran, the better I felt. I always lose count of how many I've done, so this time I decided to pick up a rock on each uphill and leave them at the top to mark my progress. Running downhill after my 10th hill, I saw Gustavo and his 5am Fit1 class. They were the first people I'd seen all morning. I did 4 more hills after that, for a total of 14, the most consecutive times I've ever run up Cobbs.

Thanks to G for taking a pic of my makeshift rock abacus!

A little before 5:30am, I headed towards Winton Rd to meet up with Chris and join his last easy run before leaving for the Boston marathon. We met at the intersection by Wegmans, then headed back towards Cobb's hill, where I waved to Michael, who was riding his bike to 6am Fit1, and then back to my house. Chris continued on towards his house and I continued on towards my shower and then towards a peanut butter-blueberry waffle sandwich. I ended up with just over 16 miles. All in all, it was a successful first pre-sunrise adventure. It remains to be seen how successful I will be at staying awake at work for the rest of the day. I stopped to get a vanilla bean latte at Glen Edith on my way to work, but I have a feeling more caffeine might be required this afternoon, lest I pass out at 5pm tonight. I have a long way to go before July! Miles to go before I sleep!

Lyric of the moment: "And if all that you are, is not all you desire, then come…Come, come alone. Come with fear, come with love. Come however you are, just come. Come alone, come with friends, come with foes. Come however you are, just come. Come alone, come with me, then let go. Come however you are, just come..." ~Damien Rice "Trusty And True" (Because it's like the siren song of the hills, calling all those who want to be more awesome).

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mess The Dress 2016

Sometimes I think my legs have a mind of their own. They want to run. So they do. That's what happened at Mess The Dress on Saturday. This race is one of my all time favorites. What's not to love about an event that combines trail running and fancy dresses?

Except, the night before the race Pete called me and when I saw his face, I started to cry. He said the hardest part of his deployment was not the long hours or being yelled at, it was being away from me, knowing that it was causing me pain. And that made me cry even more. I said I didn't want to run Mess The Dress without him. For the past two years, we've finished this race hand in hand. The prospect of doing it without him was just too sad. Pete asked me what time the race started and said he could run with me via FaceTime. Unfortunately, he had to do more firing-guns-at-things training on Saturday and the race didn't start until 10am, which was too late for him to join me. But the fact that he would offer to do that made me smile.

Laura picked me up Saturday morning and we arrived at Black Creek Park under cloudy skies and swirling snowflakes. It was cold enough that we had to wear tights and long sleeve shirts under our dresses, which kind of harshed our glam. But the lodge was warm and there were plenty of awesome outfits to admire. Laura, Jenn, Rob and I did a one mile warm up then headed to the start line. I didn't really feel like running, or more specifically, running in the cold. I am weary of wearing so many layers. I was finding it hard to muster any enthusiasm for the race, even though I love it. But I guess my legs had other plans. I went out faster than I usually do and I just kept up the pace. It was one of those lucky days when everything goes well and running feels effortless. The miles flew by quickly. There was mud, but it wasn't bad. There were piles of rocks to jump over. The sun came out and it was a beautiful day in the woods.

Photo by Ron Heerkens and The Ascend Collective

I caught up to Prem, chatted with him for a bit, then he told me to go on ahead. I splashed through some more mud and soon I was running uphill to the finish line. When Eric called out my name, I realized it was my first time running this race as Jen Lacey, and when I saw my finishing time, I realized it was also my fastest time on this course. Apparently, if you want to get faster, just change your last name.

At the finish line, Valerie gave me some insanely amazing hot chocolate, which totally made up for the fact that it was still hot chocolate weather in April. I didn't feel sad anymore, I didn't even feel tired. There's nothing like a TrailsRoc event to make any day dirtier and more fun (special thanks to Sheila for having all the best ideas). 

Hot, dirty ladies everywhere!
(Thanks to Jenn for the photos!)

Another fabulous day of trails and dresses!

I don't remember thinking about much of anything during this race. I was just in it, lost in the immediacy of the moment. I do remember marveling at how running always seems to give me exactly what I need. That day, what it gave me was the feeling that whatever happens, be it mud, sadness, the second coming of winter, it is bearable, and even beautiful. And a feeling of gratitude, for having legs that love to run and a heart that is so full of love for all these people and these hijinks.

Lyric of the moment: "We are always running for the thrill of it. Always pushing up the hill, searching for the thrill of it. On and on and on we are calling out and out again. Never looking down I'm just in awe of what's in front of me..." ~Empire Of The Sun "Walking On A Dream"

Thursday, April 7, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 214

Pete and I are FaceTiming and he's telling me about his day, which involved firing guns at targets. He tells me he scored "Expert" level on the accuracy test. I ask him what kind of gun it is and he says "M-(some number that I already forgot, so I'll just call it the Peanut M&M), which is an update from the M-(another number that I forgot, so I'll call it the Pretzel M&M)." And I say "I have no idea what a Peanut M&M gun is, how big is it?" He tells me it looks like his dad's gun. As in, the one we found hidden in a secret compartment in the back of Fun Gus (Pete's dad's van, which he gave to Pete when he went into hospice) and it looked like a sniper rifle (or what someone like me, whose stance on guns is basically MacGyver, thinks a sniper rifle looks like) and I was all like "Why is there a gun in Gus?! Your dad was totally a hit man, wasn't he? I mean, this whole mini-van thing is the perfect inconspicuous vehicle for a hit man to drive." Even though I know his dad was really into hunting and that was the purpose for the gun.

Later I am reading Station Eleven, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where all the gas for automobiles has run out and everybody travels by foot, and suddenly I think What if there is a zombie or other apocalypse while Pete is in Afghanistan? How am I ever going to find him again? And then I think maybe we should make some kind of plan for this, like procuring a helicopter (good), jet (better) or teleporter (ideal). I mean, I would walk for however many years it took to get to Pete, but let's face it, Afghanistan is a difficult place to walk to from here. Apparently, these are the things I think about now. Which might seem ridiculous. But look at the monomaniac who is currently a real life, actual presidential candidate ('Murica!). An apocalypse may not be that far fetched.

Marriage is getting to spend your life with the person you'd walk the earth to find after the apocalypse.

Lyric of the moment: "I got guns in my head and they won't go. Spirits in my head and they won't go. And I don't want a never ending life. I just want to be alive while I'm here..." ~The Strumbellas "Spirits"

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunshine and hail

Saturday morning, on my way to meet Alison and Bob to go run in Ithaca, I got a text from Pete that said "I love you. Off to the gas chamber." (It was gas mask training day. That is a thing, apparently). I laughed, because it's absurd. The reality of our lives this year is just absurd. And then I cried, because WTF humanity? The shit our species is capable of is so fucking depressing sometimes.

Then we went to Ithaca and it was gorges. There was sunshine and waterfalls and hills. So many hills. There were Danger signs, that we climbed over and ran past, of course. Bob said "How dangerous could it be?" It wasn't dangerous. It was fantastic. Then came the hail. You know, because that's how Spring rolls in Upstate NY. We ran faster, because of the hail, and to stay warm. And then the hail stopped and the sun came out and there were more waterfalls. Somehow, every time we got to a waterfall, it was sunny. And then we went to Ithaca Bakery, and later to extreme book club night, where we ate penis pasta and peach pie. And all was right with the world.

Well, almost everything. There is this giant, 6'3'' hole in all my days now. It can't be filled by miles or adventures. It will only be filled when Pete comes home in November. I signed up for all these races thinking they would distract me and make me too tired to worry or have any feelings beyond the desire to eat and sleep. And because they sounded hard. But Pete is doing the really hard things, the 12 hour days and 7 day weeks, far away from home. I think about him all the time. It makes me cry, both from sadness and happiness. It is hard to put into words, this feeling of profound absence mixed with overwhelming gratitude. Because yes, there will be a giant hole in my life for the next 7 months. But it's only because 2 years ago I was lucky enough to meet a giant in the woods who changed my life in every way, who became my partner in love, life and adventure, whose presence is the very best part of all my days.

That's how it's going to be I guess, this weird juxtaposition of aching awesomeness and sublime sadness. That is life. Sometimes you get sunshine, sometimes you get hail. Sometimes you get both. But you just keep going. And it is gorgeous. 

Lyric of the moment: "I know you're sad and tired. You've got nothing left to give. But you'll find another life to live. I know you'll get over it. So when you're caught in a landslide, I'll be there for you, I'll be there for you. And in the rain, give you sunshine. I'll be there for you, I'll be there for you..." ~Oh Wonder "Landslide"