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Monthly Archives: October 2015

SOLO

Two weeks ago, through another group, I was challenged to go on an adventure by myself, the only requirements were it had to be at least two hours away and be something I did by myself. My immediate reaction was fuck yeah, these kind of trips are my jam!

I’m very good at being by myself.

My second reaction was…camping! For the past two years I’ve been wanting to rediscover camping; for the better part of a year the mountains have been screaming my name. Excuses always come up: not enough money, car can’t travel, no gear. The biggest excuse has consistently been the lack of a partner because going to a strange isolated place and sleeping in the dark is scary! And there is safety in numbers. Coach was too busy handling life stuff, friends had their significant others or families to appease so I’ve just simply been waiting for a person to come along and love camping so much they want to be my trail friend.

Thanks to the journal challenge, I said fuck it and went to the mountains and woods all by myself. Chevy and I took our sleeping bags, packed a few things and set out for Smith Mountain Lake at 1600 on Saturday. Chevy didn’t relax much on the drive to the park, he knew we were on an adventure and he is not one to miss out on anything fun.

We arrived at Smith Mountain Lake just after 1900, checked the Late Arrival box for our tent site assignment and off we went to find it in the dark. An adventure in itself when the car you’re driving only has one headlight.

Deciding on a pull-in site because it was easier to identify as being empty, I unloaded our sleeping bags and pack from the car then got us settled with dinner. Chevy was excited to be in a new place with new sounds and smells. I was just excited to be in the woods surrounded by a community of campers, fires burning and lots of laughing. Instantly I felt like I was home.

After we ate dinner, we walked to the bathrooms and did our thing. Then I changed into comfy clothes because jeans are not worthy of sleeping inside a bag, or anywhere for that matter. We ended up chillin’ under the picnic table in case of rain. Chevy seemed to feel a little bit safer under there, too.

Collage 6Ready to settle in for a bit, I climbed into my bag and Chevy sat next to me on his green blanket. I read The Summit Seeker or wrote in my journal. I remember once turning off the headlamp and looking straight up into the sky and the tops of the trees. The sky was filled with clouds, no stars were visible, and yet I felt like I could see everything.

Every once in a while Chevy would lay down but there was much going on so he was on alert the whole time. I let him be till he started growling at the guy getting into his hammock; even then I mostly let him do his part because I need him to be weary of strangers so he can alert me. I let him do the growling thing for a while till it was clear the guy wasn’t coming anywhere near us and only then did I try to get Chevy to settle a bit. I was unsuccessful. Once quiet time set in – rules stated it was 2200 – Chevy was at ease.

We went to sleep and I woke up a couple times sweating so it’s safe to say the 20F sleeping bag works. Chevy woke me up once with his shivering so I covered him with the blanket since he was all the way on the mat (my torso and head were on it, apparently I slept at a diagonal). We curled up in our usual position and once again fell fast asleep. The next time we woke up it was 0745 and I was so excited because I hadn’t been the least bit afraid to fall asleep in the dark completely exposed to the world!

I DID IT Y’ALL! I PUT ANOTHER NOTCH ON MY BADASS BELT!

After walking to the bathroom so we could do the morning potty thing, we ate breakfast. Chevy understands well the concept of second breakfast.

Collage 7It was shortly after I had finished when the woman from the neighboring site came over to bring me breakfast. She said she saw me sleeping outside and thought I’d like something warm to eat. She shrugged saying it was only cinnamon strudel, I smiled and gladly accepted, thanking her a few times. I introduced her to Chevy because he was trying to get to the bowl. We made small talk for a bit, discovering she was from PA, then she walked back to her camper.

This is why I’m drawn to camping and trail running, y’all. Something about nature brings out the best in people. Everyone I’ve ever met has been kind and generous ready to give you the shirt off their back.

After breakfast, I read for a bit and journaled some more, making a Tip List for myself. Then we explored the park since I knew there were trails around the area. We call these peekaboo trail days.Collage 1We came back to the car to get my phone (the above pictures where taken later). I decided to sit around for a while enjoying the quiet and serenity of the woods. I read a lot more of The Summit Seeker, Chevy napped, and we left the day unplanned, doing whatever felt we were called to do.

Somewhere before noon I decided since we needed a potty break we’d go explore some more.
Collage 2Collage 4

Collage 5Beautiful colors, right? I ran down the slight decline seen in the picture on the left, arms waving overhead and shouting, “WEEEEEEEEEE!” Chevy didn’t even flinch. We walked/ran about six miles, I’m not sure because I didn’t track it via my watch and I’m okay with that. I didn’t do it for the watch or the training miles, I did it because we needed to explore somewhere new and wander. I did realize somewhere in the middle that I needed to be mindful of my steps so I’d know how we got there. It’s a lot harder to know where you are on a trail in the fall when the leaves cover everything.

I feel I need to brag about my trail dog for a minute. He loves being out in the woods as much as I do if not more. He is so used to trails and their general smell he had no trouble locating paths for us to follow. I’m a proponent of following your dog because we humans miss stuff with our insensitive noses and limited eyesight. I think Chevy knows I’ll follow him most anywhere, too, because we were walking on the road heading toward the cabins to see what was in that direction when I looked to the right to see why he wasn’t with me.
SOLO 8He was sitting here, just like this, waiting for me to notice. When I called him, telling him to “come on”, he still sat there looking at me like, “But you’re missing something!” Realizing what I was looking at, I chuckled and said to him, “Yep, you’re officially a trail dog now.” I took his picture and then I followed him down the path on the left. After about a mile it went dead, but how else would we have known if we hadn’t tried?

We got back to the road and continued our way to the cabins, my intuition proving correct about the possibility of more trails. We followed a blaze of ribbons tied to trees to discover another part of the lake. Chevy was a bit chicken at first but once I walked on the dirt, so did he.
SOLO 7

Collage 3Having my curiosity sated, we began our walk back to the campsite. Before we set out to explore, we had made plans with a friend to meet her and her family for a late lunch in Lynchburg which was on the way home. We got back to the car around 1430 and off we went, to beautiful downtown Lynchburg an hour away.SOLO 26After lunch, Chevy and I decided to go for a walk to look around. My friend and her family decided to join us and we ended up walking six miles on a really cool paved trail. It turned out to be a lovely fall day and we needed the girl time. I enjoyed getting to know her daughter, telling G I am more than happy to be her fun aunt since I’m really good at that. Next time we hang out we’re going to climb trees.

Then it was time to head home.

It’s so hard to say goodbye to yet another weekend of self-made epicness.

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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Smith Mountain Lake

 

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turning the page.

My parents taught my sister and I to be independent thinkers, to do what we wanted, not what everyone else was doing. For my mom this must have been hard because she used to very much be a people pleaser.

My dad taught us to be independent by including us in his adventures in car repair. I remember clearly the day he made me take every single tire off my car and put each one back on. I was 16 and newly licensed. He said something like, “I’m not raising dumb girls.” He wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves in case he wasn’t around or so we wouldn’t need to depend on a guy for our needs. That lesson has been both a blessing and a curse, my sister and I each inheriting iterations of his mechanical abilities. He also taught us all about engines, carburetors, fuel injectors, spark plugs, thermostats, brakes, etc. There was a weekend maybe 12 years ago where we spent Valentine’s Day weekend taking out the engine and replacing my main crank seal. It took us two days: one day to take out the engine and all its parts, one day to put everything back in. My dad didn’t let us observe, he told us how to do it while he observed. He would get us started and it was up to us to figure out the rest.

Girls are socialized and often taught from a very early age that we shouldn’t go out into the world without an escort. (Read: man.) That we need protection from the rapists and murderers and kidnappers. That somehow we are only safe when there is a man by our side. Women are weak and men are strong, one only has to look as far as any language for proof.

I am no different, I receive the same messages even yesterday. I let it stop me for a long time, too.

One story I’ve been telling myself for a long time is that I want a man to save me. I think it started sometime in my senior year of graduate school, so about four years ago. I’ve been telling myself if I have this partner, then I’ll be able to afford to feed my Wanderlust. I’ll have someone to hug me on the bad days. Except mostly, as I keep finding over and over again, most men are not able to handle a strong independent woman who doesn’t need them. Boyfriend’s have only tried to put me in a cage of social conformity*.

Lately I’ve been wondering why I’ve been so focused on finding a life partner. Why does it even matter? No one can save me, I can only do that for myself. Maybe I need to actualize self-love first, to know that expecting someone else to “complete me” is bizarre and well, kinda stupid. I thought I had a grasp on the concept of this loving myself thing, but how could I if I’m in a constant state of anticipation, waiting for someone else to fill my holes with mortar?

The story started changing when I faced this truth and reminded myself I have Medusa and now Lilith forever memorialized on my arms; I am bookended by strong independent women who were their whole selves unapologetically. I chose them as a reminder to myself that I am allowed to wander freely just as any man. As myself, I am enough. That this missing piece of me has been here the whole time.

It is me.

Maybe this is my journey. Maybe there is not one perfect person out there for me but many whether they be platonic or romantic. Maybe I need to stop micro-managing the details, focus on the how not the why. I do know self-love is the best feeling I have felt since holding Dante’ in my arms after his birth. It is a joy so deep it explodes from my center. Imagine instead of the Alien that explodes from the chests of their hosts there is bright blue blinding effervescent light that fills you with warmth. Or the heat of Cyclops is radiant, giving life instead of destroying it, filling others with love. It is the Care Bear Stare.

woman with wings 2 This is how I feel right now at this very minute and it’s all mine.

When I went back to school at the age of 26 to get my degree, I abstained from dating because I didn’t want to risk being talked out of my goal. I face this determination again as I set about feeding this aching Wanderlust. There are so many trails to run and mountains to climb! There is so much to see and discover about my gypsy heritage. I want to feel my heart fill with smells and sounds of deference.

The risk of having my wings clipped** is too great and I’d rather be an ultra runner through hiker than someone’s wife or girlfriend.Those are not my end game.

Life, is.

.

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*Reading options on this topic include I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; Trifles by Susan Glaspell, and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
**I think I may have figured out my next tattoo.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in truth

 

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the stories we tell ourselves.

Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it…it’s just easier if you do.  ~Byron Katie

We tell ourselves stories, good and bad, every morning upon waking up: I’m going to be great today. Ugh, it’s only Wednesday, this day is going to suck. I have 12 hours to get through today, the day is going to drag. Yay, it’s Friday, welcome to the weekend! These words set the intention for our day whether we realize it or not.

The same goes with our running. If we say to ourselves, “I’m not that fast…” or “I’m slower than molasses…” or “I know I’ve worked hard for this race, but…” we’re taking away from the real story, that we’re out there running regardless of speed or distance and loving every mile. Each of us is out there putting in the work. And because these are the stories we tell ourselves, they are carried to our friends and maybe even groups of strangers. How many of you have said some iteration of, “I’m not a good runner like you, but…”?

Here’s a fancy notion: it is okay to believe in ourselves. It is okay to claim our badassery and whatever it means in whatever context. Whether you have only run a 5k or 50k, it’s yours. Own that shit.

Truth is powerful and it prevails.  ~Sojourner Truth

When I started running so close to six years ago I did it on a whim, a means to get the dogs exercised faster. I had no idea how fast I was running or how far. For the first six months I mapped out a path via mapmyrun and six days a week ran that route. A dog and I walked to the starting point at the same time each morning and traveled west, winding through downtown. I did not have a Garmin, nor a smartphone. I had no idea such technology existed. Every 3-4 weeks, when I received the signal from my body it was ready, I increased the distance by one mile. Looking back, I realize this taught me to trust and believe in my body’s natural capabilities, a foundation that has served me well.

One story I used to tell myself until about a year ago was that I wanted to get faster and faster and faster, I wanted to run Boston! Except I really don’t. To be honest, I’ve never really cared about speed, only how far I can go. Last summer I finally admitted to myself, and said out loud to Coach, that I wanted to start running trails permanently. I declared myself a trail runner. I finally admitted to myself that speed is really not something I care about and let that go.

I told the world the truth and the world said, “Okay, what took you so long?”

And you know what? The world didn’t explode. My friends still love me, sometimes they even join me for a trail adventure. The most important is they still support me through every training season and every race. I struggle with this truth every once in a while as I watch friends qualify for Boston or set their personal records, yet at the same time I am confident I am right where I am supposed to be.

When you are honest with yourself, putting your truth into the void that is the Universe, an amazing transformation begins to take place. A weight is lifted from your chest, you can breath a little easier, thoughts become things. You start setting goals and then you start crushing those goals. Before I had arrived at the start line of my fourth marathon last April I had decided to run a 50 miler, I knew it was time to move on to the next thing. I knew it was time to start moving toward my authentic self.

Fear, to a certain extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves.”  ~Cheryl Strayed

Another story I used to tell myself was my need to be liked by everyone and join in all the reindeer games. Except if you know me, you know that’s not true and finally so do I. Having never been much of a joiner, I have chosen to train for most distance races on my own instead of joining a training team. I’m inclined toward The Lone Wolf.

To be honest, I’ve been more an original personality than a joiner. I have no desire to do whatever everyone else is doing, I prefer taking the path less traveled. I’m a wanderer, one who likes to keep moving, discovering new places and ideas. I am elated when I get to walk about a strange city or trail on my own, discovering nuances and intricate details. Lots of people run marathons now and though I have only run four, they lack a proper challenge. My friends run marathon after marathon; I am amazed at their tenacity and determination because I’ve grown bored of the distance. It is because of this longing for adventure that I know I will eventually progress to running a 100 miler.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the Moon, the Sun, and the Truth.  ~Buddha

Fear keeps us from living our truth and being the person we were meant to be. Fear is a lie. This weekend I embrace my first solo camping trip (of many) at Smith Mountain Lake. I’m tired of waiting for some One to come along who likes camping as much as I do. We only have this one life. We are only guaranteed today. Don’t wait for the perfect time or enough money or that Boston qualifier or the right partner, just do it. If you want to run trails but are scared to run them by yourself, do it anyway. Live. Don’t die with regrets or a bucket list.

So me and my dog are going camping all by ourselves. It’s gonna be so fucking awesome and badass, I’ll let you know how it goes.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in truth

 

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Parallel-o-gram

The first week after the IMTR I took it easy, giving my body a chance to rest.

The second week I was ready to run but still took it easy mostly in hopes my left leg would have more time to heal.

By the third week runnerability was setting in and I was starting to become Oscar the Grouch. One afternoon I took myself for a walk in Dutch Gap and that seemed to take the edge off. The following afternoon I took my MTB back to the trails and wandered for 16 miles. That helped knock the chip off a bit more.

Entering into the fourth week I decided that was enough, I was going to run anyway since my leg was no better or worse than before.

Have you noticed your runs being dependent on how you feel or what’s going on in your life? Say you’re the happiest you’ve ever been so your run rewards you with the ever elusive high. Or someone you cared for died recently and your legs are lead. Maybe you’re newly single, running through heartbreak and the anxiety of what to do next is causing your runs to be scattered and harried. Perhaps you’ve got a new job and the elation causes you to feel like you’re flying instead of running. Maybe you woke up and everything clicked; it all felt just right. It’s also possible you could be running for your life.

strength tomorrow

I’ve been in a funk since finishing the IMTR. It was my Big Goal race, the large almost overbearing objective I had set for myself.

And now it’s done.

During this time of rest and now recovery I recognize just how different I feel after achieving that goal. As I said before, it taught me that if I want it bad enough, I can do anything. I learned to trust myself and my body because we are capable of the incredible. I feel like crossing the finish line of that race introduced me to my whole true self, that I have come full circle into being who I was meant to be.

Leading up to the race I could tell by the pull in my gut that it was nearing the time to say goodbye to Coach and move on to the next phase in life. I wanted him to join me in the last 13 miles as I figured it would allow us to end with a bang, to go out while we were on top to use a cliche’. Except I ignored that feeling because my heart wasn’t ready to accept the inevitable loss of a best friend and now, a month later, we said goodbye anyway but not from the place of joy and love and kindness I desired. Regardless of how or why, saying goodbye to a best friend is hard and there is often a grieving process involved.

I’ve become a huge proponent of running how I feel yet I’m careful not to let that be my excuse. Even if you think you’re doing fine, your body will work through the puzzling emotions with or without your cognizance. The months leading up to the death of my dad I remember my body feeling heavy, full and exhausted. Practicing yoga was hard and I struggled to keep up with the yogi when before I could move through each vinyasa with ease. When I was deep into a depressive episode, running was so exhausting I was barely able to get out of the house or even my bed.

Sometimes opening your self and embracing all the feels, inviting each emotion to wash through you, is the best way to get them out of your system sooner than later; it is these moments when your body is able to release the tension or aggression. I’m reminded of a poem by Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi wherein he says to go ahead; cry, scream, yell, laugh, curse, rage. Get it out and enjoy the settled understanding after the storm has passed. Grace will help you find the patience within yourself to know that fast run will happen tomorrow if you let yourself feel that feeling today. Gratitude will allow you to accept what your body can do in this one single moment.

It’s no coincidence I made up my mind to push play just as sadness was entering my body. My brain understands the running has been hard because I took off three weeks and after two weeks you start rapidly losing your VO2 max, stamina, muscles start to break down, etc. Any pause in running lasting longer than two weeks means you’ll be starting from square one or close to it, you’ll essentially be starting over again. My brain totally gets all this. However, my heart says the running is hard because my body is heavy with sad loneliness and the fear of the unknown.

So here I am starting over again in myriad ways. It’s hard and a little bit scary. For now I run how I feel and let my body go through what it needs in order to find its way back to greatness with confidence. I know it will get there because that 50m taught me to believe in myself and my strength. I’ve been in this place before and each time I have survived, emerging better, tougher, durable. I try not to push myself when I’m sad and attempt at temperance when I’m feeling awesome. Everyday, everyrun, I simply embrace the feels and figure no matter what, I’ll try again tomorrow.

Who knows, that might be the best run of my life.

weak v strong

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2015 in recovery

 

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