Friday, December 27, 2013

Covered Bridges Half Marathon 2014! In!

For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I was on the ball enough to register for a beautiful race **several months** in advance!  

I read that the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in beautiful Woodstock, Vermont, was one of the most beautiful half marathons you could hope to run in New England, and looking at the pictures I totally believe that!

I also read that because of the small field they allow, registration for the race sold out in 14 minutes in 2013!  Knowing nothing more than 1) I love Vermont, and my favorite races have all happened in the beautiful Vermont countryside, and 2) I have a thing for covered bridges (Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood??), and 3) if it sold out that quickly, people in the know must be really in love with this run, I set my calendar alert to 20 minutes before registration opened for the 2014 race - which was December 9th, 2013. 

Not pictured: me, running...

I don't know how many minutes it was before it sold out this year, but I refreshed frenetically as the hour turned over and the registration page went live, typed as fast as I possibly could, shelled out the $75 and got a spot, all within maybe 5 minutes. I'm so happy to be running this race!!

My current favorite half marathon memory was the Green Mountain Marathon, which ran past some of the most gorgeous countryside, orchards, horse farms, beautiful views of Lake Champlain. It was "hilly" for my flat-lander legs, but I PRd there probably through sheer excitement to see what view I'd find around the next corner. 

(my favorite view: the woods behind someone's house FILLED with painted birdhouses)

For personal reasons I'm really excited to be part of the Vermont running community right now, even if just tangentially by showing up to all of their gorgeous races. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

...and a merry Christmas run!

Winter hasn't been a season of long runs for me. I have big plans - 15 miles on Sunday, or even just 11 miles on a Friday when I don't have much going on at work - but somehow, no matter how good the cold air feels to me, my body seems more inclined to slow speeds and long, gradual halt-grindings. I do more walking during winter runs than I ever do in any other season. 

In summer, except for on the hottest days, walking is part of a "failed run". It doesn't matter if I run 14 great, energetic miles; if I walk the final 0.5, it's a "failed run" and I feel diminished by it for the remainder of the day. Summer, spring and fall are times for beating my best speed or distance and coming home covered in sweat and salt-caked clothes. But winter seems to be the season of 6 mile runs. 3 mile runs. "just around the lake" runs. "At least I got out there" runs.

I put off my Christmas run until 330pm. This is dangerous for me, as by 330pm I've generally found other things to do with my day, or I've eaten something that a jarring cadence will make me regret, or I've negotiated myself into an early morning run the following day and rationalize that an afternoon run would verge on a dangerous two-a-day, and to avoid injury I'm actually WISE to stay at home at this point.. an hour before sunset at any rate... etc. It goes like that. 

However guilt over my consumption of 5 toaster waffles over the course of the day, covered with Chocolate flavored Whipped Jiff peanut butter, got me into my running clothes and out the door. It was 28 degrees and I managed to totally nail the running wardrobe choice. Even last winter - 2 years into my running career - I was overdressing. This year I finally wised up and realized that if I wasn't a bit uncomfortably cold when I walked out my front door I'd overheat by mile 3 and hate myself, and I wore running tights, warm ankle socks, compression undershirt, long sleeved t and a fleece vest. It was PERFECT. A quick win for me as I trotted down my street.

My biggest challenge lately, besides winter laziness, is my lack of anything good to listen to while I run. At some point I've gotten addicted to audio books, but in the course of becoming an aficionado (one f? really?) I've also become something of a narrator-snob. Finding a good story with an excellent narrator that is high energy and absorbing enough to carry me through a long run? Well, that's a sweet and rare thing. I have some old favorites, but they are all in danger of becoming memorized as I've relied upon them between new discoveries - which are few and far between. Today, for Christmas, I cued up the second half of Ready Player One - an old favorite that has an exciting late-half action sequence that lasts several hours, and a narrator that has gotten me through many a long run without noticing the miles slipping past. I've tried to forget the book as a treat for a day like today - make it brand new again. As I ran down my road I turned on the familiar story, and while it wasn't brand new, it was a nice backdrop to my other thoughts about my life and the day. 

I ran through the park across the street from my house. This was the first path I'd ever run on during my "couch 2 5 K" days. It is paved, not very traveled except by dog walkers in the off-season, it smells like pine, has gentle hills and beautiful woods and passes the world's most perfect swimming lake with a rope swing Ky has cannot resist swinging on - even when the lake is ice and any rope-swinger risks a polar bear plunge if they lose their grip on the rope. (So far, no calamities - in fact, Ky's high school senior picture was taken mid-swing on that very rope, apparently floating effortlessly over the red and orange tree-reflecting lake).  

As I ran, memories flowed in and right back out of my head. One of the joys of running is what people always urge during meditation: thoughts come, are noticed, and then keep going, leaving only a faint emotional impression and requiring nothing more. I breathe in winter air, icy in my nose, chilly in my throat, warm in my lungs where it circulates, filling me with oxygen, before flowing out in clouds into the air. It's refreshing. I feel like the inside air I've been breathing can finally be displaced by something healthier and fresher. I feel like I'm cleaning out the cobwebs in my lungs and in my mind. 

My shoulders drop. My mind relaxes. My neck releases its hold on the back of my scalp and I grow a few inches in height. My stride changes, my feet making more (and less) contact with the ground. My breathing deepens and slows, absorbing more oxygen with every breath, as if I'm diving underwater and letting each oxygen molecule diffuse before surfacing to take another breath. I become a nicer person. Smarter. Happier. More efficient. 

I go easier on myself. I forgive myself for all the small mistakes I made that day that I tend to beat myself up over. I remember why I love running. I remember why I spent $100 on running shoes that will last 6 months but dither over $70 boots that will last 3 years. 

I live in a town where people smile hugely and genuinely when they see you on the bike path in the off-season. In our tourist town, seeing other people enjoy themselves after September is a great thing because we know that everyone we see is local, compadres, fellow weatherers of storms, entitled to enjoy each pleasure that happens outside the summer season - our hidden treasure, the Fall, the odd Winter day when it's 50 and sunny, hehehe this is all ours! - and on Christmas it's doubly that. There are smiles, hellos, "happy holidays!!!" and "oh, it's beautiful out today!" and "looking good!!" (this last only from the old men, who can get away with saying this to a woman in spandex, in sunlight, in the holiday season, clutching their little old wife's hand, a celebration of "young folks" doing athletic things with a smile, in the off-season...).

Today's run was wonderful. Town bonding, the most gorgeous sunset I have ever beheld - over the icy cold bay water, as seen past the orange and gold salt marsh - a little red fox I initially mistook for someone's off-leash dog trotting ahead of me for so long that I felt it was trying to lead me somewhere. 

Without even trying, small bubbles of gratitude rose up in me.

I was thankful for my perfect running shoes and expensive, warm and cushioned socks. 

For the icy cold but clear air, the shingled houses on the beach front, the red fox and the two little kids being pulled by a furiously energetic Christmas puppy on a new leash. 

For the fact that nothing on my body hurt. I didn't have to go to the bathroom. I remembered to wear my head light and my reflective vest.  I had Swedish Fish in my pocket if I got hungry. I had two Wollaver's organic ales in my fridge when I got home.

For the teenage boy in a deer-stalker cap resignedly humoring his elderly grandparents who were wrapped to the ears in scarves, each clutching one of his arms as they surged excitedly into the cold wind toward the salt marsh and sunset. (I loved seeing that)

I used to think a runner's high was like an actual "high" -whatever I thought that was. (In truth, my only experience with drugs was in the hospital when I was in hour 24 of labor with little Ky and the nurse gave me a shot of Demerol to sleep, but instead I chose to stay awake through it and watch Frasier, enjoying the unexpected experience of being drugged, and finding it MUCH to my liking) But I always thought of being "high" as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, or like someone whose brain is senselessly going a mile a minute. And what I feel while running is more of the Demerol feeling - finding something interesting and worthy of attention in each mundane moment. I'll take it.

Merry Netflix Christmas!

Ky is off to visit with stepsiblings this year and for the first time I find myself alone on the big day. I can hardly connect this day to actual Christmas. It's sunny, it feels like a lazy Saturday in March or April, except for the suspicious lack of traffic outside and the unfortunate lack of updating in my favorite blogs. 

I don't feel sad, or celebratory, or even particularly bored. In fact I've managed to watch three Netflix movies (Blackfish - excellent! and two episodes of Luther - emotionally draining and deep, and somehow very satisfying Christmas morning viewing), and paint my kitchen cabinets, and eat Vann's waffles with whipped Jiff twice in a row in preparation of a long run I haven't gotten around to doing yet, and talk to my parents and sisters to say MC, and broadcast random MC texts to groups of friends, and play a few rounds of words with friends, and eyeball some awesome Frye harness boots on ebay (snipes in place, fingers x'd) and take umpteen million more pics of the cats to snapchat with non-clever captions for Ky. 

And it's only 1:45pm!

After a huge struggle between visiting my aging parents and staying home to recover from the last semester of teaching and work, I feel like I really made the right (if guilt inducing) choice. I feel peaceful. 

And I'm really looking forward to plumbing the depths of Netflix's further recommendations based on my viewing history. Bridezillas? Say yes to the dress? The manufactured fireplace with the Christmas music playing in the background? Figuring out if John Luther really IS going to be framed for a crime he didn't commit? 

Peace is not overrated.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I don't know, universe

A few things I'm thinking about this Christmas eve:

1. Therapy. What is wrong with me? This is my big "starting over" stage, reclaiming my single, footloose life stage, empty nesting - and I feel totally flat. I feel like I've been working my ass off for years, multiple jobs, multitasking at home, crisis management, keeping everything together - and now that I'm 40 and my chick has fledged, I have nothing to show for it. 

I have my child - an admirable, strong, smart, fierce and deeply goodhearted young adult, and I couldn't be prouder. 

But then there's the "me" part, the part that is just me as an individual. I don't resent all the investment I made in parenthood - in fact that's the BEST part of what I have now, when I look at my life as a whole. I can feel proud of it; a real, tangible accomplishment. I feel like I have to explain that, for some reason. But the rest of my life seems to be pretty barren. And I don't know how to remake that.

2. That weird way that things have of turning to shit as I look at them, sometimes. Now is one of those times.

As if it's not enough that I'm alone for Christmas - and I mean totally, entirely alone on the day, for the first time in my life. But then this trail of just shitty, stupid things start appearing in front of me.

I make my morning coffee with sugar free peppermint mocha creamer and smile on my way to my comfy warm bed, thinking that even when the bigger picture looks grim I still have the simple pleasure of a really good cup of coffee. Cue the mug dropping from my hand on the stairway, bouncing off every other step, all the way to the bottom with as much excessive splashing as physically possible, the walls covered, the stair carpet soaked, Ky's leather boots saturated, my white down coat hung over the bannister splattered, the mug finally rolling (thankfully unbroken) under the bench at the bottom of the steps. 

I pass a pile of cat puke off to one side under the Christmas tree. My bright side thought: well at least it's off to the side and I can clean the coffee first before having to deal with it... Cue a second pile of cat puke appearing directly in my path on the return trip from the kitchen.

Stuff like that. The cats constantly fighting. I'm out of waffles. The sophas customer service is closed today, and I urgently need to speak to them. I feel like a loser, in general. Like the universe is telling me I'm a loser, that there's no need for brightside thoughts, that improving my attitude is useless and I need to be taken down a peg.

Yet still, even considering these things, I'm also watching Love Actually - a true sign of Christmas spirit and hope. :)