Let it

Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
Harvey MacKay

Monday, June 30, 2014

It gets better

I went to bed last night with plans to kick this depressed funk in the behind and get up early to run Farmington Canyon solo. I needed mountains, and I needed them anyway I could get them, stat.
My plans began to unravel around 2:00 am when my 4 year old darling daughter awoke screaming and sobbing. I knew before I made it off the bed what the problem was. Her heartbreaking sobs in the middle of the night are not new. Thankfully it only happens a couple of times a month at most. When she was 3, the front of her ankle was sliced open by a shattered porcelain doll. We got it stitched up and it healed with just a faint scar, but every once in a while she has horrible nerve pain. I snuggled her close and massaged Deep Blue Rub and Frankincense essential oil into her ankle, foot and leg. Half an hour later, her breathing had calmed and I left her sleepy side to slip back into bed beside Aaron. Once usually does it. She should sleep through the rest of the night. I left my alarm on. Maybe I could still manage an early morning.
4:00 am. The screaming began again. It doesn't usually come back so soon. I hurried to her side and repeated the ritual. Shushing, kissing, calming, holding tight. Then lotions, oils, massage. They weren't as soothing to her as they usually are. I carried her back up to bed with me, hoping that my presence would be calming enough to let us both sleep. She slept restlessly, tossing and turning. I hoped that Aaron was at least sleeping through all of this.
5:00 am. Her pain was more palpable from less than a foot away. She pushed me away as she simultaneously clung to me and cried. I went through the ritual once again and when she could breathe again, I asked if she wanted to be in her own bed. She did. I carried her down the stairs, leaning precariously against the wall to keep from tumbling drowsily down. She snuggled into her pillow. I climbed back into my own bed, reached over, and turned off the alarm. I needed the sleep.
I woke late and faced the morning determined to be without regret. I would get done what I could and let it go to try again tomorrow. As the day progressed through cooking and cleaning and laundry, my mood took a nosedive. I had an epiphany. Not a particularly new one. This past month I have forgotten to be important. I am important. I need to treat myself that way. I need tune-ups and rest days and me time, to revel in the things that make my heart sing. No one has prioritized me lately. Not even me. I was tempted to feel outward resentment, but my logical brain argued that if I wasn't prioritizing me, then how could I expect anyone else to? I make so much sense sometimes. Bother. So I changed over the laundry again and laced up my trail shoes. I put my twelve year old in charge and headed for the canyon under the noonday sun. I wouldn't have the time or cool of morning I would have had earlier, but I knew what I needed and I set out to get it. Single track, dirt, greenery, wildflowers, vertical climb, stream crossings, waterfalls, squirrels and lizards, blue sky and cicadas. And the long downhill cruise. I could feel my brain sigh with pleasure each time I stopped to take in the view. I never get sick of that.
5.75 Miles
1,266 ft vert
12:34 average pace

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Some things just are.

It's been a busy week. Saying good bye to some, welcoming some home, on kid duty, being a good friend, picking up where others need me to. Being supportive, being helpful, trying to keep up, and make up, and do enough... be enough. I'm tired.
All the while I try to get my runs in. Because I guess signing up for an ultra finally makes me a runner? And if it's part of my definition, then I have to do it, right? Who would I be if I didn't?.... Right?
I have run a total of 7.6 miles this week. Once upon a time, many years ago that would have been a good thing. But that was before I was a runner. It's no longer good enough.
I've been in my running clothes almost since the moment I got out of bed this morning. I thought that maybe if I put them on, I'd make it out the door eventually. Well, the hubs was gone, and the kids woke up. The oldest got home from a week of scout camp, exhausted, stinky, dirty, in a junk food crash and moodier than I've ever seen him. 7 hours later my running clothes are covered in bits of breakfast, tears of children, dirt, hair clippings (the boys were shaggy so I thought I'd tackle that before they showered), cleaning solution (the dog pooped in the basement?), marker and paper clippings (the elderly neighbor needed help making signs)- everything except my own salty sweat. I haven't run. Aaron says I can go out when he gets home from his race, but I know I may not want to even if I somehow have the time.
Some of you might get sick of reading about this funk that I'm in. But really, that's why I'm writing so much. To accept what is. I think maybe if I put it in writing, I can remove myself just enough to appreciate what I have done and not dwell on what I haven't.
This morning as my elderly neighbor, who has absolutely no brain-mouth filter, sat dictating what to put on her signs, ("Should I tell them why they need to remove their shoes? I've had the carpets done. Do they need to know that?"), she glanced over and said in her thick Australian accent, "Your upper legs, your thighs, they've gotten chubby, haven't they?" For a split second I was almost offended. Then I remembered that I've long since stopped caring about her questionable sanity and particularly unfiltered opinion. I replied calmly, "Dear, that's not something you say to anyone. Ever. Even if it's true." With a slight intake of breath, she began to back pedal. "Oh, I suppose not. I didn't mean. I don't... I don't think of you as fat. You are muscular! You- you have muscles! So strong!" With a gentle smile, I reassured her that I was fine. "Darn right, I'm strong!" She puzzled, "What would I say then? How would I put it?" I replied frankly, "Just don't say anything. Why would you need to?" She blinked. "Oh." And then abruptly changed the subject.
It's a fine balance, accepting where you are and trying to progress all at the same time. It's hard not to be discouraged by where you are, when where-you-wish-you-were peeks around the corner and wants to play the one-up game. It's also hard not to make excuses for your shortcomings, to stand up for where you are so much that you don't put the work in to move forward.
I don't know how to wrap this up prettily. I guess this is just me trying to talk myself out of beating myself up.
What is, just is. It will change. It always does.

I ran. 5.35 Miles 15:28 Average pace My 9 year old went with me, turfed it hard in the first half a mile and insisted on walking it off and finishing the planned route. It made for slow going. Frustrating as a runner, but made me a proud mom.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A discussion with myself

My alarm went off at 6:10. I turned it off and closed my eyes. "Just for a second." I thought. "I need to pee, so I won't really go back to sleep." Routinely, Chico- my snorty, chubby little chihuahua will insist it's time to go out as soon as I've so much as stirred. He was my back up plan. Surely any second now. I rolled over and looked at the clock. 7:15. Dang it. Oh well.
No! Not 'Oh well!' You didn't run yesterday!
I did kettlebell swings and pushups and handstand practice. I tried to fix the car, and I cut things... with power tools. That's got to count for something.
Put your shorts on and get out that door.
Guh! I'll go later.
You have a super busy day ahead. You'll be pooped by the end of it and wouldn't you like to spend some guilt-free time with your husband tonight before he leaves for the weekend? If you leave now you could get 3 miles in before he leaves for work.
Ugh! Is 3 miles even worth it?
Three is better than nothing.
I hate it when you make sense.
Besides, you have to pee, remember? You're getting up anyway. Might as well make the best of it.

I stood on my front porch in my running clothes and stared at my Garmin. The satellite connection was synced up and ready to roll. Usually once I'm geared up and out the door, the rest just happens. Not today. I stood there in stillness, expressionless face gazing back and forth, unsure of where I wanted to go because I didn't want to go anywhere. Not true. I did want to stand on top of a mountain, but that wasn't happening in the next 30 minutes. Up. I'd go up and just loop the roads. But I kept going up. The nearest trail to my house. I'm sick of this roads business. Dirt. I need dirt.
I don't feel like running. My thighs are sore from sprints and kettlebells.
Then hike for a while. Just keep moving.
.....And I call myself a runner. Lazy, slow legs.
Hey! Be nice to yourself. Those legs are awesome. What? You think you can shame them into working harder?
And you think I can love them into churning up this dang hill? Stupid effing hill.
Kristyan, that is not you. And yes, I think you can. Give 'em a little love.
I know, I know. It's not me. You're right. C'mon legs. You gorgeous, awesome, powerful, hard working wonders. Let's go. Don't stop. We've got this.

My shoes churned up the sand as I fought gravity, my steps not slowing, but my body lagging in space. Churning, pushing, fighting, so much work to move at all. I reached the top of the hill. I knew this mountainside well enough to know what lay waiting at the top and greeted it with panting resign.
Nice work legs... and heart and lungs.
They were making themselves very apparent at that moment.
Next hill. Let's go. We'll hike this one.

As I topped out and consulted my watch, I realized it was time to head toward home. I spied a little off-shoot- a less used trail that I was unfamiliar with. I took it. Following along away from, and then back toward the main trail. It didn't take me anywhere different, but I was glad I'd taken it. I had tried something, and while it got me nowhere new, I had scratched an itch, satisfied a curiosity, and I knew what it held now. I never had to wonder about it again. And I had no nagging 'what ifs'. How's that for a life metaphor?
I started down a technical section at a good pace. Lots of loose rocks and gravel over old, packed, embedded stones. The type of stuff that silences conscious thought wandering and makes the whole of your existence live in that moment. Makes life as simple as foot placement. I felt a break in my mood. The release of tight, twisted things unraveling. Just move your feet. A smile started to play at the corners of my eyes.
Ahhhh... there it is.
The harsh, modern sound of a text message. I knew what it was. It was two of my favorite people saying goodbye. Aaron's parents were on the plane to Russia. Tightness threatened to take over my throat as tears stung my eyes. Just keep moving your feet. You are fine. Breathe. I let gravity take me down, interrupting it as little as possible with my footsteps. Gotta get home. I'm out of time. I pushed it down the hill, onto the pavement and through the neighborhood where my friends were going about their mornings. I greeted my next door neighbor, crossing paths with her as she finished her morning bike ride.
I was drenched. Salty. Cleansed. Not all better, but on my way for now.
2.6 miles
553 ft of climb
13:50/mi average pace

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Accountability for a Moody Athlete

I write blog posts often, but rarely ever take the time to make my thoughts shiny enough to allow my ego to publish them on the interwebs. Lately I feel like I need an overflow to somehow cope with my training moodiness. Someone to be accountable to- even if it's a non-specific someone who doesn't really care. So here goes.
The moment I signed up for The Antelope Island 50k and started looking at training plans, running became homework. It's like when you LOVE to read, except when your teacher assigns required reading, and a mental wall just appears for you to smack face-first into the moment you pick up the assigned book. Yeah. That. So I didn't run this past weekend. And I didn't run Monday either, even though I had the opportunity to. I just overthought my chosen 50k training plan and griped about how it's too many miles per week and I'd burn out before the race. I actually do think that's true, and I'd rather cross train instead of putting hundreds of unnecessary miles in. I digress. The point is, I was moody and whiny and I still am. I'm lonely, but too slow to keep up with most runners. I'm sick of running alone.
I got up this morning to go meet up with my neighborhood running buddies- who are awesome at lifting my spirits and telling me I don't suck even when I do. I hadn't actually coordinated with them, but that hadn't stopped us during the school year, so I held out hope. At least it got me out of bed. Vacations and scout camps have thrown us all off schedule. No one showed. Again. I told myself that if no one showed, I'd try for the 600 meter hill sprints that pop up in my hated training plan. I thought I might warm up for a couple of miles, so I ran some neighborhood roads, planning to loop around to a hill I had in mind. I made my way past the school and through summer morning sprinklers that threatened to lighten my grump status. Then I came around the corner to heavy machinery, construction workers who were awfully quick to gawk for 6:30 am, and a closed road and sidewalk. Back the way I came. The sprinkler run wasn't quite as light-hearted on the way back. Up the hill, around the corner. I passed my own street, dismissing the temptation to go home and climb back into bed. I moved along, deciding at random to wind my way up and down the hilly neighborhood streets and trails between frontage road and 200 E. When I reached the bottom of the steep hill that I had mentally chosen for my 600m sprints, it wasn't steep. My memory had misled me. This gentle slope was my nemesis? No. Not remotely. I glanced at my Garmin and set off at full speed, eyes on the top of the hill ahead.
Well that was underwhelming.
10 seconds into my full bore sprint, I started slowing. I pushed on for five or ten more seconds, and then slowed to a walk, my heart beating out of my chest and my breathing tight. What kind of a runner am I? Psh. I'm supposed to sprint for six hundred meters? I walked a little further up the hill, glanced at my watch again and took off, thinking surely I could do the other half and reach the top in one more sprint set. "Can't? Or don't want to??" I repeated to myself as my legs ran out of juice, pushing just a few seconds longer. I walked to the top of the hill. I headed south again, greeting a walker through my sweaty wheezing, wanting to assure him that I really was in shape, but I'd been sprinting, see? I didn't. What does he care? I just smiled and greeted him casually with my fists on my hips. As I reached the top of a cross trail, I decided on a whim that sprinting downhill for 600 meters might make me feel vindicated, and took off again. I made it for about 30 seconds this time. Nowhere near 600 m. Nope. Still not good at this. I set a couple more short and sporadic sprinting goals. To that bench. Past that rock. From that tree. Wheezing and gasping my heart rate back down in between. Then I resumed my normal "running" pace and made my way back to my home road. Standing at the bottom of my hill, I had to give it one last go. A glance at the Garmin, 3...2...1. Push it. Don't stop. Don't stop. Can't or don't want to? Can. I can, I can. Don't stop. Keep it up. Keep it up. 1 minute! Gasp. Wheeze. Walk. One more shot. 4...3...2...1. Push! 4 more houses, three more. To the mailbox, don't stop! I reached my front porch sucking air through a soda straw, heart pounding in my ears and legs burning hot jelly. I took a good look at my watch.
5.04 miles
10:59/mi average pace
5:07/mi fastest uphill sprint
It'll do. I do feel a little bit better.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why? (Thoughts on the Bryce 100 and other ultra stuff.)

I registered for a 50k. As in trail race. As in 31 miles on my feet under only my own power. I'm excited. I'm terrified.
I can't quite figure out why I keep doing this to myself. I'm not a runner. My body responds so much better to weightlifting and yoga and HIIT. Running is HARD for me! Every time I sign up for another race, I think to myself, "As soon as this one is over, I'm done. I'll back off the distance and just stay fit enough to enjoy the occasional adventure run." And then I do the opposite. I push harder. I go longer. I need more. It's an addiction. And it has nothing to do with the actual act of putting one foot in front of the other. It's about the connection. It's about knowing my limits and pushing them. It's about connection with nature, with my inner self, with the trail and ultra running community.
My family spent last weekend working the Blubber Creek Aid Station at the Bryce Canyon Ultras- 100 and 50 mile races. Every time I am involved in one of these events, I am reminded why I love this sport. As I stood at the edge of the mountain, looking out at miles upon miles of raw wilderness, I remembered. I had dragged my kids out to the middle of wondrous nowhere to help out and then camp in the cold while my husband and I stayed up all night. I had lifted, hauled, dug, unpacked, set up, built, arranged, rearranged, broken down, re-packed, and spent over 27 hours on my feet with little respite. I had baked under a hot sun at high altitude with my face over a hot camp stove, and shivered through the chill of handling water and ice in the middle of a chill night. I handed off hundreds of quesadillas, burritos, wraps, pancakes, bacon, sausage, cups of ramen, broth, cocoa, coffee and coke, barely remembering to feed myself as the sun set and the moon kept its watch across the sky until the sun rose again. I was physically running on empty. I felt coarse and spent. And yet it wasn't about me. I was exhausted and I felt amazing. As far as I was concerned, personal effort and cost didn't matter. It wasn't about me this weekend. It was about my friends. These amazing souls. These giants in spirit who dared to boldly go out where most dare not go, to shed the mundane, to defy the complications of everyday modern life and strip fully down to their rawest and purest, most vulnerable selves. To find out where their true strength lies. To see what they are made of. To make life simple, if only for a day.
It comes at me again and again- the meaning of the sanskrit NAMASTE:
'I honor that place in you where the universe resides, that place of love, light, truth and peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, WE ARE ONE.'
These athletes, they are finding that place in themselves where the universe resides. As I am with them and as I serve and aid them, I cannot help but love them. We are one. These are my people. They are amazing, and they inspire me to go beyond the mundane. They push me to question the difference between 'can't' and 'don't feel like it'. They make me want to intimately know what I am made of.
So I signed up for a 50k. And all the excuses and complications and mental fodder are ramming around inside my skull right now. But I guess it's my turn. Time to get to work.