Monday, July 31, 2017

Confessions of a DIPS-omaniac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Skin and bones and muscles and guts

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Good Grief

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

sparklers, campfire

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My trail family, my heart

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

Dad and his clone

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Notorious MOTG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Pretzel cones and other minor epiphanies

When I find myself searching for something - direction, answers, reassurance - I often re-read the Tao Te Ching, Rudyard Kipling's "If" and Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata." I am drawn especially to the end of the latter: "Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should...And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy." 

It appeals to me not because it is some immutable truth. I don't know if the universe is unfolding as it should. I look around and see so much hatred, violence and fear in the world and think how can this possibly be what "should" happen? I look around and see so much love, kindness and pretzel cones piled high with ice cream (This is a fantastic new thing it has taken me 35 years to discover and it is the best!) and think why isn't life like this for everyone all the time? I don't know who is in charge of folding or unfolding the universe. But I do know that it's not me (Lucky for all of us. I can't even fold a fitted sheet). Many things have happened, are happening and will happen that are out of my control. Things I like, things I dislike, things I want to change, things I can't change, things I don't understand, things that are depressingly unfair, things that are unimaginably beautiful. In a vast and ever expanding universe, I am impermanent, insignificant. And I find this comforting. It reminds me that control is an illusion. 

What I can't do: Control everything, or even most things. Especially not what other people think or say or do.

What I can do: Accept uncertainty, discomfort, change. Strive for vulnerability over defensiveness, curiosity over judgment and compassion over cruelty in my thoughts, words and actions. At times when I fail to do so, apologize and keep trying. 

Lyric of the moment: "Try a little tenderness, maybe some benefit of the doubt. Another person's point of view, try to listen not to shout. Hold your opinions loosely maybe you're not always right. Show a little mercy, and hold on to love real tight. It's a wild world we're all trying to find our place in it. It's a wild world and no one seems to understand it. But there ain't no way I'm gonna quit it. Love is all we got to give away..." ~Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors "Wild World"

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Cayuga Trails Marathon 2017

Apologies in advance. This is not going to be a very exciting race report. I don't have anything funny or insightful to say. But the Cayuga marathon is an awesome race and I'd highly recommend it. The trails are gorgeous and challenging. There is also the 50 mile trail championship option, for those superhumans out there. I have no idea how anyone can run 50 miles that fast or even at all, but they do, and it's fantastic to witness. Plus, you don't get many chances in life to run next to waterfalls on a sunny June day while a bagpiper plays, so you've got to relish those opportunities.

The weekend itself was fun, and not just because I love any excuse to go to Ithaca and to see so many of my favorite people. Pete and I drove to Ithaca on Friday night, went to packet pickup and dinner with Alison, Bob and Todd (delicious ramen and super cool ice cream rolled up into tubes and topped with whipped cream and candy!), then went to sleep in a fancy Marriott. In the morning we headed to Robert Treman State Park and stood around talking to everyone while we waited for the race to start.

At a little after 8am, the ram's horn sounded and we were off. From the get-go I didn't feel great. I'd had bad poops in the morning (TMI, sorry. But if you're squeamish about poop talk you'd do well not to read anything written by runners). My stomach held up for the first half of the race, though my legs felt heavy right from the start and my brain was not into it at all. Luckily I somehow managed to keep up with Alison, Todd, Danielle and Anne for most of the first half and this made the internal struggle worthwhile. It had also gotten pretty warm, though there was a nice breeze so I didn't feel too sweaty. I did go through all the water in my hydration pack, but the TrailsRoc aid station at Buttermilk Falls was just ahead and I knew I could refill my water and refresh my spirits there. The whole first half I'd been thinking just get to the TrailsRoc aid station and then you'll have no choice but to keep going to make it back to the car. That's the good thing about out and back courses - once you go out, you have to keep going in order to get yourself back.

I knew it was going to be a long, slow slog back to the start/finish at Robert Treman. And it was. I had started the race emotionally and physically depleted and 13 miles of running over logs, up stairs and ridiculous hills and through some sections of especially putrid mud had not helped the situation. I felt guilty for not running with Pete. I had been training so hard and I'd wanted to run my own race, but then I just spent the whole race feeling like a selfish and shitty person. My stomach hurt on the way back, but that probably would have been fine if I'd been in a better mood. It was a constant struggle to keep a positive attitude during the whole race, but more so in miles 13-27 when I was mostly alone. My Dude brain was all look at all these amazing trails and these amazing people! Waterfalls! Pine needle forests! Some guy in a tree! A dog! More dogs! Did I mention waterfalls?! But then the mean voice would be all everything is amazing here but you. Why are you even here? You don't belong here. You need to drop from Many on the Genny. You can't run 40 miles, even if something was chasing you. And then the Dude brain would be like yeah, totally. I'd just give up and be like okay bear, go ahead and eat me. I don't wanna brag but I'm seasoned to perfection over here, I mean check out this dried salt all over my neck.

Important aside: Super Infinity of thanks to the incredible volunteers and spectators, especially Jeff, Amy, Sheila, Eric, Picasso, Barb, Jim, Ron, Sean, Dave, Katie, Tim and Diesel. Every time I saw a friendly face it was like a hit of the best pain-relieving and mood boosting drug.

Thanks to Sheila for the pic! And being an awesome sauce spectator/volunteer!
I had an unusual pain in my left foot (when taking off my shoes after the finish, I found a stick in there so I'm hoping that was what caused the weird bruise I found on the ball of my foot), my stomach was crampy and my legs were fatigued, but nothing hurt that much. I've definitely run through worse. Sometimes the runs where you feel less than stellar are the most valuable. You learn that things can fall apart and you can still keep going. I don't think I ate nearly enough during this race, but I just didn't feel like eating. I did drink coke and that helped a lot. Though when I say drank, I really mean spilled all over my face and legs, as apparently I am incompetent at drinking from a collapsible cup. I was purposely trying not to look at my watch and just focus on forward motion. My brain was getting a little foggy and I kept feeling paranoid that I was lost. The course was super well marked and there were flags all over, it was just mental fatigue and my own terrible sense of direction taunting me. I was being hypervigilant about looking for flags. I didn't get lost. Actually, I even corrected this one guy ahead of me who took a wrong turn. I did however, almost die no less than 8 times during this race. There were so many times my foot caught on a root or slipped in the mud, my heart and several expletives leapt into my throat and I was sure I was going to go down hard. But every time, my body adjusted and righted itself. Effortlessly. Like it was nothing. Stabilizer muscles for the win. I am just a middle of the pack runner. But I am so thankful that I get to do this, that my body is capable of doing this. Even on the days when it feels kinda shitty, it is still awesome.

I almost cried at several points during the second half of this race. Especially when my watch said 24 miles and the volunteer holding the flag on the bridge said "Only 3 more miles back." Fuck. So I guess this is going to be a 27 mile day instead of a 26 mile day. Stupid trail miles. Can't just be 26 miles. Gotta be 26ish. Ish gotta be a whole other fucking mile today. Of course it does. I told myself I could cry when I got to the car, for now I needed to save that oxygen for breathing. I did finish. And I did cry in the car. Until I had to run to the bathroom. Except I couldn't run, so I had to hobble to the bathroom and spend some very uncomfortable minutes there. While also being thankful there were real bathrooms here so I didn't have to do this shit in the woods or a busted porta-potty. I washed my face and hands, cleaned the mud off my legs, hung around at the finish line with friends and felt almost human again.

Pete finished strong. I always tell him he's a better runner than me. I train incessantly just to be a mid-packer. He can run a hilly, stair-y beast of a marathon even though his longest run this year has only been 12.5 miles. He asked me how I'd done and I told him my time and he said offhandedly "Oh, I thought you'd do better this year because it wasn't as hot." Even though rationally I knew he didn't mean anything by it, I started to cry. It was like someone had voiced aloud what I'd been thinking in my head for 27 miles. I thought you'd do better. At friendship, at life partnership, at human-ing, at life. You should be better. We left shortly after Pete finished, as we had a long drive back to Rochester and we were both tired. My stomach was still unhappy, which was kind of a blessing since it's more socially acceptable to excuse yourself by saying my stomach hurts instead of my heart hurts. I was sad to leave my friends. And ultra finish lines are so inspiring. People do these crazy, impossible things and make it look easy. But I also needed food and rest and home. We stopped at a store to get crackers and chocolate milk, then to pick up a pizza for dinner. The much needed calories vastly improved my mood. After sleeping for 10 hours, and a short yog Sunday morning to reassure myself that my legs still worked, I felt much better.

My finish time was not entirely terrible. Pretty similar to last year, though that's a silly comparison since it wasn't the same course and I'm not the same person as last year. I am admittedly disappointed at myself for being in a funk and not enjoying it more (I did however thoroughly enjoy wearing my toucan shorts for so many miles. Thanks to Chris for being my outfit twin! He looks much better in the shorts than I do). But that is running, that is life. All I can ask of myself is to do the best I can with what I have and keep going, keep trying. Because I'm so unbelievably lucky to be here, in the presence of the awesomeness that is all of you.

Lyric of the moment: "If you're lost you can look and you will find me, time after time. If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time..." ~Cindy Lauper "Time After Time" (Because it came on my iPod right after I almost fell for the final time and I was like Fuck, almost died again. Thank you body. You're the best.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

I would run 26 miles and I would run 40 more

This month I have two big races: Cayuga Trails Marathon tomorrow and Many on the Genny in 3 weeks (many = 40ish, if all goes well). I signed up for Many on the Genny a full year ago and since then I've run the highest consistent mileage of my life. I've done hill repeats and squats and chin-ups and long runs and even a few speed workouts. I got a piece of glass stuck in my foot. I got a piece of glass out of my foot. I ate ice cream for breakfast. And for second dinner. I got pooped on by a bird. Is it enough? Probably not. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about these races. Even though I know that's silly because really, who cares? I don't feel worried about my time or finishing place. I can't really control that. I may have a great day, feel great and run well (for me). I may have a shitty day, feel shitty and have to make my own sweetness out of the suck. I feel worried because I've been so tired this week, weighed down by stress and other people's expectations, which I'm failing to meet. But then! I was saved yet again from my trainwreck of thoughts by the awesomeness of people. I stopped to get an iced latte on my way to work (full disclosure: we have coffee and chocolate milk at home. So really the latte is just an excuse to pet Millie, the dog who frequents the coffee shop with her human) and a woman who works there (or is possibly the owner? I'm not sure) said "I haven't seen you in a while! Do you have any races coming up?" (Eeek! Yes, yes I do. But why, for the love of cake why, did I think I could do these things?) I don't know how she remembered me or even knew I was a runner (maybe from the not-so-subtle smattering of stickers on my car?). Add in some lovely texts from incomparable human/friend extraordinaire Laura and I finally relaxed.

I don't know what's going to happen. Maybe I'll get lost and fall into the gorge (I mean, hopefully not. Also, this is why we need a zipline). Maybe I'll meet a bear and we will eat peanut butter sandwiches and he will follow me home (Dear Universe: hint, hint!!!!!!!). What I do know is that it's going to be exhausting and excruciating and exhilarating and most excellent. And there's no place I'd rather be. Running is my joie de vivre and my self-care. Some people de-stress by getting pedicures or taking baths. I register for races that are out of my league and then spend a lot of time getting sweaty and muddy and talking and laughing and being ridiculous at 5am. Because filling the unforgiving minutes with distance running and people transforms them into extraordinary moments.

The truth is it doesn't matter what happens on June 3rd or June 24th. It doesn't matter how slow I run those races or whether or not I finish. It matters who I became in training for them: Someone who is not much to look at from the outside but who strives to be braver and more benevolent and bigger on the inside. Someone who knows that vulnerability begets strength and temporary discomfort begets awesomeness. Someone who refuses to be contained by limits or doubts or shoulds. Someone who got to run 19 miles up and down Richs Dugway and swing at Hopkins Point at sunrise and jump off into the snow (and have hilarious trail conversations where Mort says "Treasure hunt me!"). And hopefully someone who can run for a really long time, loving every minute of it.

Lyric of the moment: "Gentle storm, rage away. And fall in love with me every day..." ~Elbow "Gentle Storm"

Friday, May 26, 2017

This Is Marriage: Day 628

Our greatest strengths can at times be our greatest weaknesses. The things we love can at times irritate the hell out of us. But we persist. We challenge, we struggle, we grow. We learn better and we do better. Sometimes we break. If we're lucky, someone pours love and understanding into the cracks. And those annoyances transform into assets.

Pete and I are very independent people. It's one of the reason we get along so well but it's also the underlying source of our conflicts. We are two people used to having our own houses and our own lives who now have to figure out how to co-captain the same ship. Sometimes we're running around lakes and eating ice cream. Sometimes we're in the middle of an emotionally charged conversation and Pete farts on the counter and I am horrified (and also trying not to laugh at how someone could think plates belong on the couch and butts belong on the countertop) and I'm all like Oh my god, no one will ever want to come eat at our ever house again! and Pete is all It's fine, see? I'm cleaning it with 409. Some days we will argue about staying in a treehouse rental on vacation because Pete has no interest in treehouses and thinks it's out of the way and I cannot for the life of me fathom how anyone could doubt the awesomeness of a fancy treehouse. Most days I would rather mow the lawn than cook (Because outside chores are way more fun than inside chores. And screw you, stereotypical gender-based divisions of labor). Most days Pete will think floor piles are a good storage system. All the days we will agree on the necessity of cheese and crackers (and jokes about cutting the cheese).

Sometimes love is a cheese plate
Sometimes I will feel like I am failing at marriage and I just cannot even with this wife thing. One day someone will leave a note on my car accusing me of parking selfishly and the next day I will leave work to find a chocolate bar on my windshield and a card from Pete addressed to: The World's Best Parker. Some days I will be upset at Pete's habit of taking pictures of me when I'm not paying attention because they are THE WORST and MOST UNFLATTERING pictures ever. And he will say "they're so cute" and I will hate them until he is scrolling through them one day and I see a picture he surreptitiously took of me at my Valentine's Day party a few years ago. And I won't even care how terrible I look because my heart is too busy exploding in feels for MOZZIE!!

Wherever this ship is headed, I am the luckiest for having been invited aboard.

Marriage is a ship you build to weather any storm (and to take you to all the fancy treehouses, obvi!)

Lyric of the moment: "Someone swears their true love until the end of time. Another runs away. Separate or united? Healthy or insane? And be yourself is all that you can do..." ~Audioslave "Be Yourself"

Friday, May 12, 2017

How much is enough?

How much is enough? In running, in life? Am I strong/happy/intelligent/talented/wealthy enough? Am I good enough? At friendship, marriage, work, human-ing?

How many of you have asked yourself these questions? *raises both hands*

If so, let me propose two answers.

The First

There are so many better questions to ask. Questions like:

How can I help?
How can I be happy with less?
For what am I grateful?
Where am I struggling and how can I put more love there?
How are others struggling and how can I send some love there?

When we ask the how much is enough? questions, what we're really seeking is a jolt of reassurance (yes, you are doing enough, relax dude) or a slap of motivation (no, you could do more, get your butt going!). But they are false idols and you don't need either. Am I enough? is a judgmental question rooted in fear, insecurity or uncertainty. You don't have to worry about those things. You don't have to compare yourself to anyone else (or to your past selves). Life is uncertain and sometimes scary. But you can just let that be the truth it is without worrying about it or trying to change it (you can't change it, by the way. Sorry, dude. None of us can). If you let go of the impulse to judge or control things, there is no need for that line of is it enough? questioning. You can just be who you are, your own unique imperfect self, living your own unique imperfect life, and realize how amazing that is.

The Second

If you absolutely must know, then yes. You are enough! You are so fucking enough! (swears for emphasis on the fact that You. (yes, you!) Are. Enough). Whatever you are right now is enough. That doesn't mean you can't work hard or take on challenges or learn new things. Do all of those. They will change your life for the better. It just means that you are doing the best you can with what you know and what you have right now. And that's all any of us can do in any given moment. When you know better, you can do better. But there's no particular size or shape or income or any other arbitrary accomplishment you need to achieve in order to be enough. Wherever, whatever, whoever you are right now, you are valuable and beautiful and awesome. You are enough.

Let me reiterate, in case you still have doubts:

how much is enough
Hugging sea lions agree that you are so fucking enough

It's true. Read it (over and over and over, if you have to) until you believe it. The more you can accept and internalize this, the better your life will be. You will be more compassionate with yourself and others. You will stop taking things personally and your interactions with other people will improve. It will create a space of grace that will allow you to act from a mindset of gratitude and generosity rather than a mindset of fear and inadequacy. Give yourself that space. Give others that space. It's the nicest gift.

Lyric of the moment: "When we grew up, our shadows grew up too. But they're just old ghosts that we grow attached to. The tragic flaw is that they hide the truth. That you're enough. I promise you're enough..." ~Sleeping At Last "You are enough"

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Medved Madness 2017

This year Medved Mudness would be a more appropriate name for this race. Though running 15 miles through mud and rain, on a course that runs through a pond, does require a certain amount of madness. Pete signed us up for this race months ago, but after a rainy week with nothing but rain, rain and more rain predicted for the weekend, I started to get cold feet. Cold rain is my least favorite running weather. Well, that's not entirely true. I suppose that honor belongs to hail. But when I woke up Friday morning to a steady rain, I figured eh, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and ran a few miles to acclimate myself to the deluge. Saturday I went to play on the Crescent trail for 4 hours with Bertrand, Green, Mertsock and crew. There were a few very wet and muddy sections but most of the trail was in decent shape and luckily the rain held off until we were done. I knew I wouldn't be so lucky on Sunday.

Sure enough, my figurative cold feet turned into literal cold feet less than a mile into the race. At the starting line, Mort had promised us four things: mud, wet feet, good food and beautiful trails. Madness/Mudness delivered on all four. The first (blue) loop, I ran with Pete. It was like some kind of weird mud tasting event where we sampled all the different types of mud - brown stinky mud, black slightly less stinky mud, shoe-sucking calf-deep mud. It wasn't too bad though. We've definitely run through worse mud (I'm looking at you, Finger Lakes 50K 2015). After 5ish miles, and running around the bucket in the pond, per course directions, we ran back through the start/finish chute (well, I ran. Pete moonwalked). We high-fived Mort and headed out for the second (pink) loop.

By this point, everyone was spread out so we got to run the next 5ish miles with the woods mostly to ourselves. I've missed running with Pete and it was so nice to get in 10 miles together, even though it was a bit cold for my liking (Though there are far worse things than having to wear gloves in May). Loop two wasn't terribly muddy, at least in comparison, although it was decidedly windier in places. The sun managed to peek out a a few times, but then it would get cloudy and drizzly again. Pete decided he wanted to stop after 10 miles and at first, I was a little bummed that I'd have to run the third loop alone, but once I was out there running, I was like a kid me in a candy store. No matter the weather or whatever else is going on in life, once I'm out there, I'm just running wild and free and happy. 

I'd left my hydration pack with Pete and decided I would try to finish the third (orange) loop in under an hour. This was by far the muddiest loop. And that's really saying something. I walked through the obscenely muddy spots where it was hard to judge how deep it was, but I ran all the rest. It started to rain again, but I was warm enough and close enough to the finish that I didn't really mind. I was just happy that I felt so good (thanks, body!). Even Cardiac Hill seemed shorter than usual. And I did manage to finish this loop in under an hour. It may not have been the smartest way to end a 52 mile week, but it was fun. 

Madness is one of those races I have to be talked into (I don't like Sunday races), but every year I leave full of salt potatoes and very glad I ran it. Because running for hours in the woods is a kind of madness. The very best kind.

Conehead & Husband Man on the far right. Photo by Daniel Medved

Previous episodes of Madness: 2106  2015  2014

Lyric of the moment: "There was a time when my world was filled with darkness, darkness, darkness. And I stopped dreaming, now I'm supposed to fill it up with something, something something. In your eyes I see the eyes of somebody I knew before, long long long ago. But I'm still trying to make my mind up. Am I free or am I tied up? I change shapes just to hide in this place but I'm still, I'm still an animal..." ~Miike Snow "Animal"

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rebuttal to the body shamers

This morning during a HIIT class at the gym, the instructor mentioned how it was now shorts season, then made some unkind remarks about a random stranger she had seen who was wearing very short shorts, had "dimpled skin" and was "too young to not be toned." It had nothing to do with the workout and made me not want to go to this particular class again. Early morning runs/workouts are my favorite way to start the day. Listening to disparaging remarks about strangers is not. I know judgments are more about the judger's own insecurities than anything to do with the judged. Happy, self-actualized people don't feel the need to denigrate others to feel better about themselves. Yet I still felt saddened and disappointed by her words. Society inundates us with so many judgmental and body-shaming messages as it is and to see women doing this to other women is disheartening. The instructor wasn't talking about me but she might as well have been. I wear short shorts when I run or work out. I don't have a perfectly toned butt or thighs. I have cellulite, bruises, scars. But I don't think this makes me any less of a runner/woman/person. My self worth isn't defined by the way I look. I care far more about the size of my heart than I do about the size of my ass. I didn't take her comments personally, but they still bothered me because that body shaming mentality is so pervasive in our culture. And I felt compelled to spread a counter-message of love and acceptance and awesomeness. So this is my rebuttal.

I often Instagram pictures of me practicing chin-ups on my home chin-up bar. Not because I'm good at chin-ups. I'm actually terrible at chin-ups. But I'm good at effort and persistence. I'm an ordinary person attempting extraordinary things, again and again, and becoming stronger in the process. So this is a picture from the other side. These are my not-toned legs. They are strong and have run thousands and thousands of miles. These are my shortest and most toucan filled shorts. They are ridiculous and I love them. These are my not-toned arms. They work hard to pull me up (since I haven't yet figured out how to levitate). This is me, perpetually trying to be a stronger, kinder, better person. This is my wall, which reminds me "You must not be afraid to dream a little bigger my dear." This is me telling you that you are beautiful and amazing and capable of epic things. In fact, you're a rare, limited edition, one-of-a-kind masterpiece of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. And so is everybody else. So let's use our words and actions to build others up instead of tearing them down. Let's be excellent to ourselves. Let's be excellent to each other. And let's work hard and party hard for as long as we're lucky enough to be alive.

Lyric of the moment: "All of your flaws and all of my flaws. When they have been exhumed, we'll see that we need them to be who we are. Without them we'd be doomed..." ~Bastille "Flaws"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The story behind the book. Or WTF am I even doing here?

So if you didn't know, I wrote a book. It's not a big deal. It's a pretty short book, more of a booklet really. That's not the interesting thing. The reason it came to be is. So this is that story, the story behind the book.

Flashback to the beginning of this year. I found myself struggling with a lot of personal (non-running related) things. Watching the country devolve into a terrible dystopian reality show was stressful (America's Got Talent Racists! Misogynists! Homophobes! Xenophobes!). Work was stressful (in a bad way). Figuring out how to actually live with the person I married was stressful (in a good way, the kind of way that forces you to be a kinder, better human. See: Stop taking shit personally that is not personal. And: Rut-roh! In your efforts to avoid making the same mistakes you've made in the past, you've overcompensating so hard that you're venturing awfully close to kind-of-an-insensitive-jerk territory. See also: Don't assume someone else can read your mind, even if you think it's glaringly obvious that no, you don't want cold water thrown on you as a "surprise" while you are taking a shower).

When it rains, it pours. But even when it pours, I run. And I'm just happy to be out there. One stupidly early morning, I was running, generating neurons. You know, as you do. And I realized that I'm the best version of me when I'm running. It doesn't matter what happens, if I'm having a good day or a bad day, if running feels effortless or nigh impossible, I'm just excited to be there. Somehow I have become that (borderline insufferably happy) runner. I decided to figure out how it happened so that I could become that relaxed/non-judgmental/easy-going/insufferably happy person in the rest of my life. (Because I do not half-ass things. I am a whole ass or I am nothing!). So it began. I ran a lot. I thought a lot. I cried a lot. I felt all the feels. Like what the fuck am I even doing with my life? Things are sad and mean and I'm not doing anything to make them better. And I'm letting Pete down by not being the best life/adventure partner that I can be. It was heavy. Like there's-something-wrong-with-the-earth's-gravity heavy. But I kept running and writing and I found the things you can only find by getting lost.

I learn many things the hard way. I then forget and have to relearn them. That's why I'm always writing things down. This blog, the book, everything I've ever written is just me leaving little word breadcrumbs for myself to find my way back to I-Love-Everything-Land and Be-A-Better-Person-Ville. With my extensive vault of faults to work through, I'll probably end up being quite a prolific word-slinger. Apologies if you thought you were going to be rid of me anytime soon!

So I wrote the book, then spent a while hemming and hawing and realizing I could spend forever editing it to death. Instead I decided it was good enough and released it out into the world, where it could be ignored or judged or used as firewood. I do not care if this book is a "success" by anyone else's standards. If even one person gets even one iota of happiness or feels even one tiny inkling less alone in the world, it will be a success in my book (I could not resist using this expression here. Language, man. It's endlessly entertaining). I enjoyed the process of creating it and putting it out there for those who choose to read it. Most importantly, I caught a glimpse of an answer to the question, WTF am I even doing here? I'm not particularly talented at anything. But for some reason I have this gift of finding love and happiness in everything. So I'll keep doing that and sharing my experiences along the way. Because the world sure could use more love and happy.

Party on, my friends. As always, infinity of thanks for being here.

If you want to check out the actual book, you can find it on Amazon as an eBook Running For The Thrills: The art of running and living happy. Now available in a new print version! Or on Barnes & Noble as an eBook for Nook here. There may soon be an audiobook as well - I'm undecided on that. Feedback and opinions are welcome! Please share the links with anyone you think might be interested. I will now stop talking about this as I fear it's becoming annoying.)

running, happiness, ultrarunning

Lyric of the moment: "Let me assure you, friend, every day is ice cream and chocolate cake. And what you make of it. Let me just say, you get what you take from it. So be amazed. And never stop, never stop. You gotta be brave. All this beauty, you might have to close your eyes. And slowly open wide. And watch the sun rise..." ~The Weepies "All This Beauty"

Monday, April 10, 2017

Life is my running coach and running is my life coach

Running and being alive are two of my most favorite things. I've found that the lessons I learn from one are often applicable to the other. Running makes me better at life and life makes me better at running. Life and races are a crapshoot. I can do my best to prepare, but a lot of things - weather, other people, random acts of The Universe/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Whatever - are out of my control. Some days everything seems to go my way and I fly through my run or my life effortlessly. Some days I fall in a pothole/puddle/well of negative thoughts and wallow there crying until I get enough sleep/carbs/hugs/stupid adventures to restore my energy/optimism/sanity. Running and life are constantly teaching me lessons in letting go - of judgments, expectations and attachments - and in giving more - effort, kindness and love. They push me, at times with gentle nudges, at times with epic blows, to be ever stronger, wiser and more awesome. The flexibility, fortitude and fearlessness I've gained running the trails of my city help me to navigate the trails of my life. Learning from and overcoming the faults, failures and frustrations of my life helps me deal with the low points of a run and make the best of whatever happens. Sometimes travel plans or illness lead to a missed workout and it's Coach Life's way of saying Slow down, rest is important too. Sometimes my legs lead me to just the right place at just the right time to catch a beautiful sunrise and it's Coach Running's way of saying See how awesome life is? Relax and party on. I don't follow a set life plan or a training plan. But there's a method to my madness and a madness to my method that always seems to lead me to Awesometown.

Lyric of the moment: "Good and bad times we've been through. You got my back and I got yours too. All of my life you are in my crew. I'd do anything for you..." ~Transplants "Gangsters and Thugs"

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fortunate Cookie

Pete's had a bad cold since Friday and I was trying so hard not to catch it. But yesterday I woke up with a sore throat and a bad attitude. What am I, fucking Mar-a-Largo and all the douchebugs want to stay here? I felt annoyed at my body for being so very flawed and imperfect and not even being able to fly, even though I've spent the better part of 21 years trying. I felt annoyed at my mind for being so very flawed and imperfect and failing at all the things. But that was not helping anything, so I left that pity party early and went in search of chemicals. I didn't start this fight but I was damn well going to finish it. I needed to get some hardcore nutrients on that shit, so I pounded all the vitamins, tumeric, Cold-Eeze, Ricola lozenges and gross, licorice-y Throat Coat medicinal tea I could find. After work I picked up some Chinese takeout tofu vegetable soup (when I'm sick, nothing tastes as good as that soup and those crunchy noodle things). A fortune cookie told me "Everywhere you go, friendly faces will greet you."

And I laughed. Because it's true. So unbelievably awesomely true. It's like the Universe was telling me, chill, dude, you'll be fine. Suddenly I realized that every mistake, every perceived failure somehow led me to the exact right place and the exact right time to meet the most incredible people (and the utmost incredible Mozzie). All my flaws somehow led me to the very best places, led me to you. Maybe this ideal of the perfect, flawless, impenetrable self is overrated. Maybe I am me, maybe I am here because of my weird, wibbly wobbly timey wimey bits, not in spite of them. That cookie wisdom, man. It gets me every time.

(This post is brought to you by the letters NYQUI and L).

Lyric of the moment: "These things and more I wish I had not done.But I can't go back. And I don't want to. 'Cause all my mistakes, they brought me to you..." ~The Avett Brothers "All My Mistakes"

Saturday, April 1, 2017

19 miles of hill repeats: a series of increasingly terrible Haikus

With all the snow melt and rain, the trails are a sloppy mess, so Matt, Alison and I took our long run to the streets. Somehow this turned into the epically terrible stupid excellent idea to run Rich's Dugway hill repeats. For three hours. Because nothing could go wrong with that plan. It was, as they say, an experience. I've run the Dugway many times before but only for an hour at a time. That is more than enough. Well, until you have three hours and two friends to make it into an adventure. That's what they call it when your watch is all sorry, dude, ran out of numbers, your heartrate is just a sad black line now, right? Hills were run. Conversations and laughs were had. Until laughing hurt our abs too much. The house that always smells like pot smelled like pot. We saw a cat carrying a dead squirrel in its mouth. I wished someone would carry me around. We saw another runner, Doug on the Dugway. We ran for 3 hours, 14 ups, 2100' of elevation and 19 miles. I wondered how I'm ever going to be able to run more than double that at Many On The Genny in June. After many more idiotic adventures like this one I suppose. So until next time, I wrote a bunch of terrible Haikus about our April Fools Day/A Fool's Errand Run. Because these are my Saturdays, these are my awesome friends, this is my life. And it's the best.

Let's run hill repeats!
For three hours! Fun. So fun.
Fun as in insane.

Here we go! First one.
Shit. I'm tired already.
Sweet, sweet downhill. Yes!

Up, up, still more up.
Thank Ultra Gods for good friends.
Hills alone would suck.

That house smells like pot.
That cat has a dead squirrel.
Dugway's a weird place.

Up and down and up.
Watch says my heart rate is null.
Am I dead? Zombie?

Legs, everything hurts.
Focus on what doesn't hurt.
Hair. Eyes. Fingers. Boobs.

Still alive. Oh good.
Is this the last one? For real?
Nineteen miles! Damn!

So this is my life.
These are my rad, badass friends.
I'm the luckiest!

Lyric of the moment: "Well you'll only ever really know you're living if you're totally sure you're dying. Maybe we get where we want to go. I don't know....Well if I've got a leg to stand on. Then I'm pretty sure I can work myself up into a run. And I'll keep heading in your direction..." ~Against Me! "12:03"

Friday, March 24, 2017

Saying Yes. Or how I ended up on the radio.

Sometimes The Universe will send you gifts. Wrapped in questions. Like hey, do you want to run at 5am? / or during an epic wind or snowstorm? / or up all the hills? Or hey, do you want to join our radio show? And you have two options. You can get swept away in the rushing cascade of thoughts detailing all the reasons you are in no way prepared for or capable of doing those things. Or you can let your excitement be your guide, say yes! and jump on in.

Confession: I've never been "ready" for anything I've done. I've never felt that oh yeah, I've got this, 100%, piece of cake feeling. Other than towards an actual piece of cake. But, and this is the important bit, that has rarely stopped me from doing things anyway. So when say, I hear about a 40 mile race in Letchworth or this tall guy on top of a volcano asks me to marry him or Chris asks if I want to talk about running on the radio, my first thought is an excited yes! followed inevitably by my second thought, oh shit, I don't have what it takes to do that! Luckily my excitement reflex is faster than my doubt/fear of failing reflex or else I'd miss out on all the best things. Because the truth about awesomeness is that it's not about being "ready,"it's about taking risks, trying new things, pushing past the fear of failing or looking foolish and making the best out of whatever happens. Now I'm not saying screw all preparations, just fly by the seat of your pants! (Though if you have flying pants, that is super cool and sounds like quite a party). By all means, do the work, put in the time and effort. But ignore that voice that says things like "you're not ready, you're not good enough, they're all going to laugh at you." Listening to that jerkface is a one-way ticket to Boringsville, with a layover in Regretown.

So when Chris and Kendra asked me to join their Running Inside Out radio show on WAYO 104.3, I said yes! before they realized their lapse in judgment. And now you can hear us talking about running on Mondays at 6pm on WAYO 104.3 FM or at I don't know what I'm doing and sometimes I say the wrong thing. (And always I start singing Harry Belafonte's Day-o in my head whenever I hear WAYO. You know, the song from Beetlejuice! Day, he say day-ay-ay-o. Daylight come and he wan' go home). But I love it and I'm having a blast. Feel free to bring your ears to this party live or to past episodes online as we run our mouths off about running. Feel free to let us know what topics you want to hear us ramblin' on about. And definitely feel free to tell that mean ol' jerk voice in your head to piss off, 'cause you've got your own adventurin' to do. (Little known (possibly alternative) fact: present participles are just more fun when you end 'em in apostrophe instead of g).

Lyric of the moment: "Now my life is sweet like cinnamon. Like a f*cking dream I'm living in. Cause I'm playing on the radio..." ~Lana Del Ray "Radio"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

This Is Marriage: Day 556

Confession: While marriage is one of the best things I've experienced, it's also one of the most challenging. It takes a lot of work. Mostly on yourself. Because in marriage, as in life, you will at times suffer disappointments, hurt feelings and conflicts. You will at times be the cause of disappointments, hurt feelings and conflicts (hopefully unintentionally - intentionally causing hurt feelings is not a good way to human). Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes you will make mistakes. Sometimes you will handle these failures and mistakes well, sometimes you will handle them poorly. Sometimes you will wonder who this person even is that you married and conclude that he must have been raised by wolves. Sometimes you will wonder who you even are and why someone would have willingly vowed to spend all the years with you. But you will find a way through all the feelings and conflicts. You will venture into some intense, introspective shit. You will struggle and you will become better for it. And that will make all the difference.

Marriage is awesome. And it's hard. Maybe it's awesome because it's hard, because it pushes you through difficult conversations and uncomfortable feelings towards a better, more gracious and understanding self. It's a perpetual process of trying to be a better life partner today than you were yesterday. Admittedly, this does not come naturally to me. On occasion I have thought it would be easier to live with a house full of bears than with Pete. I assume he has on occasion thought it would be easier to live with a house full of beers than with me. On so many occasions I have thought about filling our house with pet bears. So yeah, I'm not a wellspring of effortless and eternal compassion. But I will keep trying. Because if there's anything worth putting my time and effort into, it's my relationships and figuring out how to be a better person in the world. So I will remind myself that there's no right vs. wrong, there's just us and figuring out how to make life more awesome. That we're imperfect, our marriage is imperfect and that's ok. That it is not in fact a personal affront if someone ate all the peanut butter cups while I was sleeping. I will strive always to be excellent to all and party on.

Lyric of the moment: "Saw the waves but not the tide. I couldn't stay, I don't know why. A sailor married to the sea. My luck is a lost key..." ~Metric "Waves"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Inadvertently celebrating National Pancake Day

Yesterday, Mr. Internet told me it was National Pancake Day. On the ride home from eating pancakes at Cartwright's Maple Tree Inn. But the story of this pancake adventure begins days before. Because sometimes adventures don't go as planned. That is to say, they end up even better.

When I came home from my run Sunday morning, Pete and I decided to go on an impromptu pancake pilgrimage to the mecca of maple syrup. Pete used to go to the Maple Tree Inn with his dad and he's been wanting to take me there for a while. Cartwright's is only open from February 14-April 15 each year. Because nothing says Happy Valentine's Day or Happy Tax Day like pancakes, am I right? Or maybe those are just the worst times of the year in New York and we need the promise of pancakes to see us through to spring. So we drove to Angelica, NY only to discover that Sunday morning is the actual worst time to go pancaking. The parking lot was overflowing and both sides of the street were lined with cars all the way down the street to the house with the giant dinosaur in its front yard (Yes, I agree that dinosaurs and pancakes is almost too much awesomeness for one stretch of back-country road. Almost). There was a seemingly interminable line of people waiting outside and neither of us were very interested in joining them. Enter our backup plan: eat at Brian's USA Diner. No pancakes were consumed and sadly, there is no longer a giant bear statue in the yard next to the diner so it was kind of a letdown (And what happened to the bear? Why didn't it end up at my house? So many unsolved mysteries).

We figured a weeknight might be a better time to pancake, so we headed back to Angelica on Tuesday after work. When we arrived, this conversation happened:

Me: I have very high expectations for these pancakes. Why would all those people spend so long standing in line unless these were the best pancakes ever?
Pete: I think you need to lower your expectations.
(walking through the parking lot)
Me: It smells like horses and butts here.
Pete: It smells like purses?
Me: What do purses smell like?
Pete: I don't know, I was going to ask you. Tampons and lipstick?

There was only a short line this time and we were seated within 10 minutes. For $7 you get all you can eat buckwheat pancakes and the most delicious maple syrup I've ever eaten. I would not recommend waiting for hours for these pancakes, but they were good. The maple milkshake however, is legit. Sweet but not sappy, perfectly creamy and cold. Apparently the record of pancakes eaten is 93 (I asked our waitress because it's the obvious question). Pete and I were happy to eat 7 and 3 pancakes respectively, plus 2 eggs for me and 2 eggs, bacon and sausage for Pete. We also bought buckwheat pancake mix and maple syrup to take home with us for future pancaking.

This milkshake brings all the boys to the yard

On the ride back to Rochester, we passed the time laughing over ridiculous conversations like these:

Me: What is something you could never forgive me for doing?
Pete: Cutting off my penis. Shooting the penis.
Me: So like if you came home and the house was full of live baby polar bears, that would be okay because no harm came to your penis?
Pete: Yes, that is true.

(MJ's Thriller plays in the background)
Me:  When we retire, I'm going to wake up one day and say this is the day we learn all the dance moves to Thriller. And then we'll perform it.
Pete: Yeah, definitely.
Me: Do you think there's a resume out there that includes Diabolical laughter at the end of Thriller as a job/skill?
Pete: Of course there is.

Me: If I die during Many On The Genny, will you go back and carry my cremated ashes the rest of the way?
Pete: Yes, honey.

I laugh and know that I am the luckiest. For this life and this marriage where every day is a weird and hilarious adventure.

Lyric of the moment: "Honey comes from honey bees. Maple syrup comes from maple trees. But nothing in this world, none of these, are as sweet as you..." ~Mayer Hawthorne "Out of Pocket"

Monday, February 27, 2017

Doughty & Wheatus & Waffles & Canada & Life & Everything

Friday after work, we packed up New Gus (Pete recently traded in Old Traverse Gus for New CR-V Gus) and headed for Canada. It's quite fantastic that we can drive for a little over an hour and end up in a magical country with universal healthcare, a base 10 measuring system and a Prime Minister who understands compassion and quantum computing (swoon!). Months ago I saw that Mike Doughty and Wheatus were headed to our neck of the woods and I told Pete I really wanted to go to the concert. He agreed to go, despite having never heard of either of them. They were scheduled to play in Toronto on Saturday and Rochester on Sunday. We weighed the risk of driving north in February against the probability of me being able to stay awake for an 8pm concert on a Sunday night, and decided to make a getaway weekend out of it. As luck would have it, Pete had enough Marriott rewards points to get us a free two night stay and the weather was unseasonably mild.

Saturday morning, we woke up to a thick fog and went for a run at Humber Arboretum with the deer, woodpeckers and fat black squirrels that looked like miniature bears. We ran 5ish miles of dirt and paved trails and then Pete felt that was enough, which I was secretly happy about since I was tired and had a headache.


Favorite Husband Man

Arboretum Love

After taking advantage of the hotel's free continental breakfast, we planned out what to do before the concert. Pete chose the Art Gallery of Ontario and I, of course, chose the tallest thing in the vicinity, the CN Tower. The AGO was like the most torturous playground. It was full of spiral staircases you weren't allowed to slide down and art you weren't allowed to touch. They should really call this the You Can't Touch This Gallery. I really, really, really wanted to jump on this artwork:

Art is a wall sink. And a giant hamburger. Apparently.

And pet this one:

It is so hard not to pet a dog. Even an art dog. 

We happened to be standing in front of Peter Paul Rubens' painting "Massacre of the Innocents" (1610) when a tour guide came through, so we learned that the painting sold at action for $117 million and was later donated to the gallery. The painting depicts the biblical story of King Herod who, after being informed by the Magi of the birth of the newborn King of the Jews, ordered the execution of all young male children in Bethlehem out of fear of losing his throne. Pete remarked how the story depicted man's willingness to do anything to maintain his power, even killing children. I found it depressing that anyone would pay a hundred million dollars for a painting of dead babies and more so that 400+ years later, insecure, fearful men are still trying to gain power at any cost.

As we ascended the CN Tower, I felt even more tired and heachachy and worried that I wouldn't be able to stay awake for the concert, but eating vegetarian nachos at 1150ft with my tallest husband remedied that. I love heights. I find that I can often solve problems just by getting high, as in high off the ground. The height bestows a larger perspective, reminding me of the expansiveness and beauty of the world and, in comparison, the manageability and insignificance of my problems. I decided the CN Tower is my new happy place. It's got everything I love: heights, views, a glass floor that can hold the weight of 14 large hippos, and bear and moose statues galore. At the gift shop, I bought a polar bear hat (!!!!) which is clearly meant for children but I don't care. I don't think there's an age limit on awesomeness.

My new happy place

In the tallest tower with my tallest husband

Glass floor that can hold 14 hippos. No actual hippos were present. 

So many new friends at the CN Tower

We spent the night eating ice cream topped waffles and being thoroughly entertained by Mike Doughy and Wheatus. The former paled in comparison to the latter. And that is the highest compliment I can give anything: it was so awesome it surpassed waffles and ice cream combined. Last year I saw Doughty and Scrap on their Living Room Concert Tour in Albany, which was more of an acoustic show. So it was really neat to see them in Toronto playing with a full band. If, like me, you are a person who loves music but dislikes crowds, especially crowds that jostle you or spill alcohol on you, concerts can be tricky. But this one was my kind of concert: smaller venue, comfortable seating and a quirky, funny, fantastic show. Pete enjoyed it too, even though it's not the kind of music he typically prefers.


Mike Doughty!

Sunday morning I went on a chilly, wintery run from our hotel. I failed at finding a park, so I just ran around the outside of the airport watching the planes land. On our way back home, we stopped to see Niagara Falls and buy maple sugar candies, then had a surprisingly easy time crossing the border back into the US. The customs guy didn't even ask us any questions, other than what was the purpose of our visit and did we buy anything. Pete said "pleasure" and I said "I bought this hat!" and the guy laughed and waved Pete and his polar bear passenger on.

Niagara Falls

Sunday afternoon, I ran a few miles at Ellison with Alison. When I got home, Pete was taking a nap, so left to my own devices, I randomly decided to make crackers (Like from scratch. I know, right? Who even am I now? But don't worry, it's not too domestic, they only have 4 ingredients) and buy cheese from the Trader Joe's. I don't know where thoughts come from, but my brain was definitely in full-on most excellent ideas mode this weekend.

And it's about freaking time. I've spent much of this year feeling like the low point in an ultramarathon, that place where you're like I don't think I can do this, I don't have what it takes, I just want to lie down on the side of this trail and cry/sleep. And then I remembered, but you love this shit. I don't know how to explain it. It defies explanation. It defies common sense. It hurts. A lot. But it is awesome. It's like life. And marriage. And anything that is challenging and exhausting and utterly transformative, that forces you to confront your flaws/faults/failures, to accept rather than deny the darkest depths of your being and bring them out into the light, to become braver, stronger and whole. Some days are Wheatus and waffles. Some days are uncomfortable confrontations and embarrassing feelings. But you keep going. Of course you do. Because this trail, this marriage, this life, is your heart, your everything. Because you love it. Because there's no place you'd rather be.

Lyric of the moment: "Yeah I believe the war is wrong. Don't believe that nations can be steered. Lead the world by smarts and compassion. By example, not coercion, force and fear...Down in the mouth and not half right. But I can feel the changes coming on. Bloom like the flowers in bluest night. Bloom like the sunlight in my song..." ~Mike Doughty "Move On"