Monday, December 16, 2013

1. Do one thing, every day, that scares you.

Dear Diary,

Sometimes my blog is an attempt to amuse, a chance to express, and sometimes it's a brain toilet. This is one of the latter. You've been warned.

This is part 1 of the three blog posts I've been meaning to do. The ideas has been knocking around in my head but I just haven't had time to put pen to paper, or fingertip to ipad. I can best sum up my time since doing the Marine Corps marathon in three events: going home to Alabama, trying to run at work, and going to Hawaii. First: going to Alabama, the thing that scares me.

I have been dreading and anticipating this trip since my neice announced her engagement. For one, Baboo wasn't going. He had drill weekend. I get restless without Baboo because he gets me. I can look at him, and he at me, and know that we're both thinking the same thing about whatever just occured. For another thing, my Alabama relatives, hell, about 95% of my living relatives, are as far to the other end of the political, religious, and philosophical spectrum from me as they could be, and so I was nervous. We're talking about people who made a point of buying chick-fil-a on th day of the walkout, when they might not have at any other time. Not because they think same-sex coupling is icky, which they do and won't admit, or because they think they're going to hell, which they admit but claim that it's not their judgement, "it's in the Bible." No, they claimed to be doing this to support free speech. I considered that for about five minutes, until it occured to me that the only free speech that they support is the speech that they agree with.

In any case, I arrived in Alabama onFriday at noon two days after arriving home from washington DC and the marine corps marathon. I left Alabama on Sunday morning. I came to attend the rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception. I came loaded for bear, ready to defend any and all challenges to my beliefs. Except--except that they weren't really there. Nobody came at me with torches, screaming, liberal commie pinko! Go home!! These were happy, pleasant, genuinely joyful and non-repressed people. They hugged. They smiled. They laughed. We chatted.

There are some fundamental differences in lifestyle. Whereas I have been working on purging most of my house of stuff, in my sister's house, stuff was everywhere. The woman loves a bargain, and she loves comfort and convenience. Her house, as I have mentioned previously when explaining why I am not a china kind of person, is a celebration of hard work, comfort, taste and consumption, from the kereug coffee maker (which seems, to me, to make very small amounts of sugary creamy coffee drinks, one cup at a time and quite expensively) to the classic cherry furniture.

These are nice, friendly people. Hard-working people. Not an unkind word in the bunch, from anyone, about anyone or anything. And why should they? Life is easy, and everyone they see and speak with every single day is exactly like them. And yet I'm left with the sneaking suspicion that if I wasn't like them--if my skin were darker, or my clothes shabbier, or if I spoke out about my beliefs, they wouldn't be as nice to me. I look just like them. But I've seen the facebook posts warning others about the gays. And, the muslims...who are taking over everything. I know what is discussed at their meetings. I know what they pray for...they pray for change. Not forward change, a change to the way things used to be. I felt unease from time to time. I've felt that unease since the day I left South Dakota and started a new life, like I was a fraud. Not really one of them. A former welfare recipient, liberal in their midst.

There is no mandatory recycling in Birmingham, and I couldn't see any evidence that it was done anywhere i went. I felt awkward throwing coffee grounds and eggshells in the trash, they usually go in my countertop composter. Throwing plastic in the trash just seemed wrong. Water poured everywhere, which i guess is appropriate, when it rains inches per month, instead of inches per year. No need to conserve.

I went for a run early Saturday morning, just before dawn. My sister was mystified. Why would I go running in the dark? There's a gym down the street. It was cool and humid, and hilly. A great run. I came back and sat on the back porch overlooking the woods. The porch, mostly unused, was full of leaves and sticks and one, large spider and its web. We eyed each other, warily. Detente.

Eventually I figured out from evesdropping that this kind of joy, the happiness that i saw, was the kind of happiness you have when your world is carefully insulated. They live in a bubble. They travel in bubbles. They go to the same schools, attend the same churches, and never, ever travel outside their own circles. They even take cruises together. They have no idea that life can be ugly, painful, and uncertain. Or they know it in theory, because they pray about it, every Sunday, these abstract sufferers, the children in some unnamed country, these sinners, those others. Then they return to their joy and happiness and the lives built on happiness, consumption, waste, and joy. They are the ones who do not walk from Omelas.

The wedding was splendid, and beautiful, and expensive, and wonderful. Nothing went wrong save for a brief mishap when a groomsman slipped on the stairs and was caught by a bridesmaid, while the gallery chuckled. Joyful. My sister knows how to throw a party. All ten bridesmaids, and all ten groomsmen, danced, and I did too, a couple of times. The guests were all fair, but tanned, tastefully appointed, beautifully dressed. The bride was beautiful and the groom tearfully sweet and clearly smitten.

Both evenings were spent in country clubs, where staff lined the edges and looked on, impassively, occasionally, and invisibly, removing used items from tables. I noticed them, and I wondered if that was an analogy for their life: on the margins, looking in. I wondered if the guests thought about them.

So it was mixed, all in all. Going home. Full of joy, full of unease. They say that you can't go home again, but you can. It's not that home has changed, it's you. Or me. It's me. It's home, but it's not home.

That's all I have to say about that.

...

 

Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm fat, i love candy corns, and I still hate cycling.

Dear Diary,

13. My weight loss continues, unbelievably. I was at 166 before MCM, and I'm at 167 now. That's 8 pounds down from September, and considering that I spent 10 days on the road, eating takeout, is not bad at all.

12. Inexplicably, Tanita fancypants scale says I gained a percentage of bodyfat. Because it is stupid, and hates me. It says I am 33% fat. Yes. Thank you, Tanita, for telling me that one third of my body is pure lard.

Going....
No.

11. HAVING SAID THAT...I started my new training plan last week, and ran EVERY SINGLE MILES IN IT. BOOYAH!!!

10. I'm still trying to work out Ironman training. The last time i did an Ironman I was a teacher. I left work at 3:00--the kids left at 2:25 and they made us stay for another 30 minutes, i don't know why...maybe so we wouldn't embarass them by passing the kids as we sprinted for our cars. It also meant I was free June and July for full training.

9. By the way, I love candy corns, did I mention? I savor them; it’s impossible for me to eat a candy corn all at once. When given a handful of them I nibble off all the tips on all of them, and then the middles, saving the yellow bottom butts for last, because that’s the best-tasting part. DON’TLOOKATMEINTHATTONEOFVOICE you know it’s true.

No, no, no.
...going...

8. I estimate that one serving (19 pieces) takes about 15 minutes of running to burn off. It’s totally worth it, IMHO.


7. FURTHERMORE. It’s also true that they taste better when they belong to someone else. I never buy candy corns; I’m satisfied to dip into the giant bowl they keep this time of year on the executive meeting table. Am *I* an executive? No. But that’s beside the point. Purloined candy corns are always better.


6. Now, being a purist, I do not eat oddly flavored candy corns. I also do not eat things that claim to be candy corn-flavored. I do not burn candy-corn candles.I will, however, tolerate mellow-cream pumpkins. They taste just like the yellow butts on candy corns. I can barely tolerate wrongly-colored ones, but as as they are properly flavored, I can close my eyes.

That's really all i have to say about candy corns.


...gone.

5. For the life of me I cannot figure out how to edit my blogger template on my ipad. If I could, I would change my upcoming races: Honolulu Marathon, The Dual trail marathon in Wichita Falls, Texas; possibly Three Days of Syllamo, Sharkfest 2014, Big Basin run, and Ironman Boulder.


4. Boulder, by the way, is a full Ironman. There seems to be a plethora of races where they say, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN and they're only half irons. This one is a full. I don't know why that should matter to me; but it does. The way I figure is, if the sun isn't sinking or set when I finish, I didn't do a full, the end.


3. My last one was five years ago. And yes, I still hate cycling. Much. I tolerate it in triathlon because I figure that it's the bridge between two things i love: swimming and jogging. The bike is my weakness, and it's not like Boulder is flat, right? God, I hate cycling. I hate feeling like people are trying to kill me. I hate evertime I've wiped out. I hated every time I got a flat and my race was over. I hate my ass hurting and my back and neck and shoulders gettng stiff.


2. DreadPirate and others have said to me, at times, if you did it more often you'd like it more. I challenge them to pick something they truly, truly despise and use that same logic. By that rule:


  • If you ate (food you hate) more often, you'd start liking it.
  • If you had your tooth filled more often, you'd look forward to it.
  • If you practiced stubbing your toe on the metal frame of your bed every night, why, it would hurt less and you'd be smiling, instead of swearing.

But, so, you can't do a triathlon with having a sore ass, right? I've learned a lot from endurance sports, namely, i may not be able to make something easier or more pleasant, but maybe I can make it hurt a little less.


1. So when. I signed up for this last summer i was all, "hell, it's thirteen months away!"


Then it was less than a year away.


Now it's less than nine months away.


Oh, shit...

...

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Leaving Birmingham.

Dear Diary,

had decided before going to the Birmingham airport that I would stop and lay flowers on their grave but I realized, as I pulled into the empty lot next to the veteran's cemetary, that I really didn't have a clear idea of where their graves actually were.

I started at the back of one small area, marching through thick sod. Looking for SMITH. I paused a few times, but just for a moment--nope, not the right Smith. Eventually I worked my way to the middle of the small area by the gate, but I was certain that I recalled the gate being ahead of me, to my left. There were more graves now the there were seven years ago, the only time i was here.

 

I turned back, carrying the heavy wreath. Marching the rows. Scanning left, then right. I stopped in front of a grave where the portrait of a young man in uniform, wearing his beret, was etched into granite, and lavished with fresh flowers. I wondered about his story. I moved on, reaching the front of that small section again, still not finding it. I turned back, to try again. It was cold, and the wind was picking up.

 

Now my eyes blurred with tears of self-pity, frustration and shame, so that I couldn't read the markers. What kind of a person was I? How could I not know the exact location? I panicked, envisioning a scenerio; I would never find it; drive to the airport to the rental car company with this huge floral wreath, where it would be thrown in a dumpster. All because I was a horrible, horrible daughter who didn't know exactly where her parents were buried. I was having a panic attack. Where was it? My conscience shouted. What kind of daughter doesn't know where her parents are buried?

 

When I reached the front of the small section, instead of turning back yet again, I crossed over to another small section past the gate, and then, there it was, in front of me. I was still crying, but able to take one deep breath, to let out slowly.

 

Without me sobbing and marching it was quiet, with only the rustling of leaves. The bouquet of silk my sister dutifully replenished every season was tasteful, in Autumn colors. I stood for a moment, and then bent, laying the wreath. I straightened, looked around, then back down. I felt at a loss of what to do, or say, or think...so I plucked a few brown leaves off my mother's marker and stood there some more.


For not the first or even second time I was overwhelmed with a feeling of frustration, of having been cheated. Then, just sadness--for them. They should have been at my neice's wedding yesterday. When the mothers and grandmothers were escorted to their seats my mother should have been there, escorted by my father. This was not how they envisioned the future: My mother dying of a weak heart, and then my father, of a broken one.

 

My mother never met Sweet Baboo. She never saw me finish grad school, or my children graduate, or me run my first marathon. She never saw me get my shit together. She was still worrying about me when she died. She loved to eat, and eschewed any physical activity. She left many paintings unpainted, and scultures undone. She never enjoyed her "golden years," dying at 61.

 

I'd hugged my older sister earlier, admonishing her to get back in the gym. She seemed shorter than she used to, and looked tired. I wondered if she ever had the same thoughts I had, that I didn't want to leave this aching void in my own children. This sometimes feeling of being adrift. I don't want to leave any broken hearts.

 

I run so that the people who love me won't lose me too soon. So that when I die all that will be left is talk of what a great, long life she had...and hopefully nobody will will feel cheated and angry with issues that can never be resolved and things unsaid.

 

I stood a while longer, but there was really nothing more to say, or do. I walked back to the rental, and drove to the airport, and by the time my plane left Birmingham I was dry-eyed and ready to go home, and return to my wonderful, long life.

 

 

...

Monday, October 28, 2013

TMI, and a race report

Dear Diary,

Right now, at this moment, go to where your training plan is posted. On a post-it note, write the following:

  • Dear self: the day after your marathon, you may wake up as much as 7 pounds heavier than before you started the marathon. You'll be puffy and bloated. DO NOT PANIC. This is NOT from that wood-fired pizza you ate the night after the race. The fourth day after the marathon, you'll start pissing like a racehorse and by the end of that day, things will be normal. So will your weight.

It never fails, no matter now many marathons I've run (Fifty-one, but who's counting?) I'm despondent, especially after this last go-round where I was at 166.4 on race day. I've achieved an eight pound loss. I've given myself to WeightWatchers the way other people give themselves over to Jesus...and I woke up the next day at 174 lbs.

Shit.

I tried googling this, and all I got was message forums, subject: "I'm up two pounds! What's wrong?" Complaints from tiny bird people for whom one or two pounds is a freaking tragedy and results in their size 2 jeans being a bit snug, instead of the difference between my waking and retiring weight on any given day.

Anyway. So, the Marine Corps marathon was my third marathon in fifteen days, and my eleventh for the year. I wish I could tell you that after the handsome young marine put the medal around my neck and shook my hand that I immediately went out and made the world a better place, but I can't. That would be a lie, and lying is wrong, even more wrong than a stocky, exhausted woman sitting in a tub of tepid water eating food with her fingers.

That's quite a picture I've painted, isn't it?

Such a hot-water post-race endeavor, by the way, inevitably leads one to discover that:

1) I should have used more body glide because, I'm chafed there, there, and there.

2) I somehow sustained several long scratches, mysteriously, on this urban road marathon.

Yes, it looks like that to me, too.

I seeded myself behind the 5:30 pace group, and the pacer was a talker. She introduced herself to us. And then started asking people to put their hand up in response to how many marathons people had done, and she went higher how about more than twenty? More than thirty? All hands went down except mine until she said more than fifty? The small crowd of 5:30 hopefuls turned to look at me and I explained that this was 51, to which people oohed and awed and clapped and I SWEAR it was the closest thing ever that I've had to being a celebrity. Then the pacer mentioned that she had done 106, and there was polite applause but nobody seemed as surprised by the thin, petite, youngish, energetic woman who had done 106 marathons as they were by the stocky, middle-aged woman who had done 51.

There was a cool display before the race where jumpers parachuted in, some with large American flag. Then a howitzer blew, and the race started.

I've never run with a pace group. She was a great pace leader. It was fun. At each half mile we would all throw our hands up WHOOOOO! And walk one minute. By the half marathon mark, though, I knew. I could no longer keep that pace and I dropped back, but just a bit. I finished behind them in 5:38:59. Ish.

What you need to know:

  • At packet pickup, if you bring a bag, you'll be in a long line to get in to get your shirt. Use pockets instead. Then you get to walk right in. Also, no drinks.
  • You will start near the Pentagon, pass the White House, Washington monument, Smithsonian, Arlington Cementery, and Capital. Somehow--and this is unbelievable--I missed passing the capital. I had no idea that it was there, and it DOMINATES the view heading north on that part of the map that looks like a penis. I was just too busy dodging people.
  • While this marathon holds great promise for running a PR, it's unlikely. There's just too many people and too many turns.
  • You may also pass a long line of pictures of fallen Marines from OIF/OEF that shows a picture, name, and age. It was the single most sobering moment in the marathon..
  • There is a cutoff at mile 20 of 4:40. I'm not sure if that's gun time or chip time.
  • After making the cutoff, everyone that I could see just stopped running and started walking. I passed a shitton of people.
  • Several long rollers in the first fifteen miles. Practice long up hills and downhills.
  • Right before the finish line there is a sharp uphill that's the final 1/10 of a mile. Save something for this. (Gaa)
  • The local support is fantastic. The marines on the course are 100% encouraging.
  • If you tire quickly of American Patriotism, this is not your race.
  • If you don't like crowds it's definitely not your race. It's easily the most crowded one I've done. By the end of the day, I was more than a little cranky from dodging and weaving.
  • There were lots of potties, more so than any other race other than the Air Force race.
  • After you finish, your family is NOT allowed in the finishing area. However, there is a family link-up area that is a bit of a walk from the finishing area, and you can meet there.

The race runs through Virginia and DC. I'm counting it for Virginia.

These are all borrowed pictures.

The end.

How did I miss this? ADHD, that's how.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His and Hers.

 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An unashamed commercial for my home town, and a race report.

Dear Diary,

I imagine at times that one of the reasons I'm not a better athlete is my lack of focus. I tend to get bogged down in little things, like trying to get one particular song to repeat on my player, taking pictures of how beautiful the sky is, and the beginning chafing on my left arm.

I ran the Duke City marathon, here in my town, for the first time ever. The first half of the marathon was pure punishment. My feet, legs, and lower back have now formed a union and have invited me for negotiations on what will happen next weekend. Shh. They don't know about the marine corps marathon yet. Anyway, my legs were tired. Might be related to the 55k I did in sand the week before. Or not.

I made the following statistical observations about cyclists on the bisque trail. Yes, I ran an ANOVA. Don't bother me with details.

  • Statistically, cyclists are duchier if they're male. Women tend to give wide passing space and even slow down a bit. Some even say "hi". Males tend to squeeze on by you, causing a breeze, determined to share your half of the trail. Why, how dare you suggest that they give you space as they pass! It's not like they demand space when they're being passed by...oh, wait.
  • the more spandex, the more of a duchebag you are. Of course, there are outliers.
  • Statistically, if you aren't wearing a helmet, you're friendlier. Still! put on a helmet, please!
Not my picture: Central Avenue, formerly Route 66.

I focused on my white whale, to keep my mind off how tired my legs where, and the odd feeling that someone had their hand wrapped around my rib cage, to keep my lungs from expanding.

White whale number 1: this was the runner with the teal shirt whose family showed up, swapped out her bottles, and gave her new supplies at mile 14. I decided I must catch her. She bolted down the trail and out of sight, sooooo....

White whale number 2: she had on a shiny skirt. She also made all manner of grunts and loud exclamations when she ran, giving her two reasons for me to try to chase her down. I worked on that for miles 18 to about 22, but she was rock steady. It wasn't easy. But then, lo and behold, at mile 23 as I finally struggled past her, there not too far ahead of me was teal shirt. At about mile 24ish. Sweet Baboo met me to accompany me. He doesn't pace, he follows. He'd been worried about me since seeing me on the trail, where I was "way back" in the pack. It wasn't easy, but I passed teal shirt around mile 25, passed a few more people, and blazed into a 6:23 finish that may possibly be the slowest road marathon I've ever run.

Not my picture. Cottonwoods against the fall Albuquerque sky.

It be hooves me to explain why I even bothered. This course was nice, though not the most imaginative one. It winds briefly through downtown and the Country Club neighborhood, before heading up onto the Bosque trail through the blaze of golden cottonwood trees with a Torquoise sky overhead.

Before I'd even reached the half marathon turnaround, the front runner came hammering down the path, a tall, skinny white kid. A quarter mile later the second runner came down. I wanted to say, oh, bless your heart--you're never gonna catch him, so must relax and have a good time on the trail.

I have run this trail in training, as it is the only flat run available here, about a hundred times, alone, I pairs, in groups. I suppose that might be the reason I have never done this marathon--I was so over this trail.

The Bosque trail is a nicely paved, two-narrow-lane trail that cuts through the city from north to south, avoiding all intersections by use of passunders. We are to be envied for it. It is well-maintained, has its own patrol, and on most of on each side there is city-owned "open space" where nobody can build. For much of it, on one side of the path is an equally sized gravel path. It's part of the riparian environment surrounding the Rio Grande River that cuts through the center of Albuquerque. It is heavy with cottonwood trees, and from my house up in the foothills, in the fall it looks like a steak of fire running through the valley.

The path itself is connects with a large number of other paths in the city, and one can literally run very long runs without dealing with traffic. From north to south it is something like 30 miles long, through the middle of the city. It connects with another bike path that runs through the city, slightly to the east, called the North Diversion channel. There are more paths traveling from east to west.

The Bosque bike path as it heads north, under Montano road.

Cyclists, runners, and people commuting by bike and foot use these paths to go all over the city, with minimal crossing of intersections and occasional travel through residential neighborhoods. It's one of the things that makes Albuquerque so great.

If I'm gushing, it's because I've never lived in a place so awesome. The mountains are to the east, so you always know what direction you're heading. In the winter, there is snow on the mountain, and skiing. I do not ski, but I like the idea of living in a desert with a river, where I can bike, run, and hike in the mountains with minimal travel.

The weather is great here, too, since the altitude in Albuqueque ranges from 5200 feet in the valley to around 6000 feet up in the foothills, near where I live. On the day of the marathon it was in the forties in the morning and never got higher than low to mid sixties--perfect for a slow run. Of course, that's an advantage for athletic training, too. We have groups of Kenyan runners that live here and practice running in our foothills. Traffic? Very manageable. Population? Around 600,000, I think. And don't forget that Breaking Bad was filmed here. New Mexican food? Sloppy-looking and extremely spicy and tasty. (Most New Mexicans roll their eyes at what other places call "spicy.")

Not my picture. Mountains, foothills, city, and river valley. FYI: I local saying is, "when the mountain's pink, it's time to drink."

The population of Albuquerque by and large, is a mixture of Latino Hispanics, White Hispanics, Pueblo and Navajo Native Americans, some African Americans, and oh, some White Euro-Americans too. There's some various Asian neighborhoods and associated restaurants. I don't think a lot of discrimination occurrs these days because nobody really knows what anyone "is." I've met blue-eyed Isleta Indians, and Latinos who speak with a Spanish accents but don't speak any Spanish. After a while, everyone just is. Living their life, doing their thing. I love that about Albuquerque. I take it for granted, and I'm startled when I travel outside of New Mexico and people assume from my white face that they can share very prejudiced thoughts with me. I'm not used to hearing it.

Yes, there is some crime here. There is also goodness. A city that just celebrated its 300 year anniversary has had time to settled into its identity.

So, it's with no small amount of embarrassment that I haven't run the Duke City marathon before. But when Sweet Baboo told me it was their thirtieth running, and I realized it was my fiftieth marathon, I just had to, you know?

So I did. It was my way of honoring my home. When Sweet Baboo brought me here in 2000 I wasn't impressed. Now, I wouldn't live anywhere but kitschy, quirky, Querque.

Giant "pots" representing various pueblo traditions line the inside median of east I40.




...

 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I am not so spiritual, but I do burn off demons when I run. A race report.

Dear Diary,

Himself the clydeologist is a deep thinker. He plans carefully and fully experiences what he does. I am not so much so. I gut things out. I push through, terrified, often marginally aware of my surroundings until I'm finished. Occasionally I look up and around and take in brief glimpses of beauty, before putting my head back down and slogging up the hill, down the valley, through the river, or into the finish. What I lack in good decision-making, I make up for in persistence. And bravery.

I think it's mistaken that I don't enjoy ultra running, because I always look so pained and I have a tendency to bitch a little. When I run, my mind is busy with the worries and aggravations of my week. As I run along, as the race wears on, the worries burn away. I purge. At the end I am tired, exhausted, and grimly accomplished. If I were a more spiritual person, I might say that the demons of modern life that build up inside of me are burned away, leaving me clean and ready to face new challenge.

And so it is this context that I present a race report for the Canyon de Chelly ultra. Here are six things you need to know about this 55k run.

First, it is gorgeous. I have never been to the CdC before, and although I've seen some pictures, nothing captures the grandeur of the place. If you are a slow runner you may get quite distracted and behind looking around in awe, grateful for this experience, and taking pictures, which will slow you down. That's okay. It's better to have this rare experience than try to put on your personal best. The RD, when telling us about his inspiration for puttin onn this race, was tearful talking about it, and he's run here before. This is an area where outsiders are forbidden unless accompanied by an approved Navajo guide, so it is an honor and privilege to be able to experience it. You don't want to waste that.

The race starts off with a bonfire and Navajo prayer. So after that, they count to three and yell GO, and you yell out your intentions to the gods as you head out.

Sunrise.

Second, it is sandy. The mouth of the canyon, where the race begins and ends, is where any and all waters work their way out. It is soft, deep sand covered on this day with fine mud, and to call it slippery would not do it justice. The first three to four miles were in this environment as you run into the canyon and make the first two or three stream crossings.

Eventually, you are alone, or I was. At the pre-race meeting one of the racers asked Shaun, the RD, about what happens if you have to, you know, GO. He shrugged, hey man, it's ultra running. I was relieved. I'm willing to forgo peeing for a long time if I'm told that this is sacred ground. I have that much respect. I was grateful for the green light.

Arizona and New Mexico have a rainy season referred to as the. Monsoons in late summer to early fall. This year's monsoons were unusually heavy. Which leads me to my next point.

Third, there are many water crossings. Not some. Many. I counted thirty five on the way out, Dreadpirate counted thirty-nine. I defer to the engineer. But what that means is that since it's an out-and-back, there are between seventy and seventy-eight crossings total. The water ranges from just over the top of your foot to perhaps your lower calf in some spots, but you won't be able to jump them. Wear shoes that shed water. If you have feet that can't tolerate this, then this isn't your race. Each crossing involves descending into a small ravine and then climbing back out again, often on very slippery mud. I wore Altra trail shoes, which shed the water nicely.

Other than the crossings, the trail is dry after the first 3 to 4 miles, but will still have some patches of soft, deep sand here and there. I learned to run off the side, where the sand looked deep and soft, but in fact was solidified and settled by the recent rains, and allowed for firm footing. We were told about this by one of the race organizers. Most "faster" people ignored this and ran in tire tracks, which had broken throughout the crust and churned up the sand so it was soft, and deep. Too bad for them. I pride myself on taking time to make things as easy as possible.

What can I say. It's a gift.
Sunrise.

Fourth, it is an out and back. Some people don't like those, but I promise you, the canyon is very different inbound than it is outbound. There's no repetition, no redundancy. You're barely aware that you've been here, or there, before. It's 34 miles of never-ending beauty.

At mile eight, I came upon the eleven mile aid station. They explained that the truck couldn't get back up out of the next water crossing to get to the 11th mile. I looked into the small refine and saw the deep ruts made by four-wheel-drive truck as it tried to extricate itself. I thought, fleetingly, if the truck can't make it out...how can I? But I managed okay.

Fifth, to get to the turnaround, you will climb. You will climb up a rock trail on the edge of a cliff that rises a thousand feet over a little over a mile. On the way up, I started feeling queasy. I chalked it up to unusual exertion. When I was about ath the top, I heard some yelling and whooping from people at the top,

but...it wasn't coming from where I thought the top was.

I looked around, and then straight up, and way, way up the cliff. I saw people, very small and far away, far above what I thought was the top. Oh, areyoufuckingkiddingme, I muttered. And continued onward. Eventually, I reached the top and sat down to rest and admire the view. It took me nearly five hours to get seventeen miles.

I drank some Ensure Clear, did not refill my water pack for reasons I do not understand, whooped loudly into the canyon, and headed back in. The steep, rocky decent was not rewarding.

Lastly, the trip back was not easy. Not at all. My Achilles started barking. My left ankle was a little whiney. I wound up power hiking. I became increasingly queasy, which I decided first was because of the ensure, and later from lack of water.

I ran out if water before I got to the mile 23 aid station, which was actually around mile 26. But, the cool water crossings felt good on my Achilles and ankle. On the way back, I saw an important site that I realized I had missed outbound.

Not my picture. But I saw this, and it was totally worth ever painful step.

I started looking around more, really taking in the canyon. About mile 27, I came around a bend and happened on a small group of deer. I did not get a picture.

Around mile thirty, I heard a loud snap, and turned to be face-to-face with a huge and somewhat disgruntled, or so I imagined, bull. He was about five feet away, starring at me, a cow slightly behind him. As I do not know bull-diversion tactics I quietly slunk away, hoping he didn't take my bright pink shirt as a challenge.

Sixth, and I'm not lying about this: the last two miles are possibly the hardest. Remember I said that the first few miles were deep! soft, wet sand? Much of that is packed down by jeeps and trucks running in and out of the canyon, but increasingly the sand is soft and deep and slippery.
Not my picture, but shows the scale of the surroundings.
As I rounded the corner I could see the finish line, about 1/2 mile ahead. Maybe less. The announcer boomed my name, and there was an outbreak of applause. Then, as I slipped slowly in the mud and sand, oh, so slowly, the clapping petered out and there was some silence. After a few minutes the announcer announced my name again. Another applause, which dwindled. This was repeated until I finally crossed the finish line, just past the ten hour mark, at mile 34+. The RD hung a Torquoise choker around my neck. I had some Indian fry bread and vegetable stew.
Not my picture, but shows the scale of the surroundings.
You will see a point at which it appears that I leapt up 600 feet around mile 27. That was an anomaly caused by my Garmin pinging off the canyon walls.
Not my picture, but shows the scale of the surroundings.

This is an awesome run. It plays to your weaknesses and rewards you with an experience that is one-of-kind.

For a deeper, more thoughtful race report, chcpeck out Sweet Baboo's race report.

...

 

Friday, October 18, 2013

My fiftieth marathon commeth.

Dear Diary,

I have, I shit you not, forgotten to post this three weeks in a row. Thus I present:Friday fifteen.

15. This past weekend went with Sweet Baboo to Canyon de Chelly, to stand at the mouth of the Canyon, and shout my intentions to the gods. Then, run/walk/hike 17 miles out and back for the Canyon de Chelly Ultra. More on that later. Spoiler alert: over seventy-five stream crossings.

14. In sharp contrast, I'm doing the Marine Corps marathon at the end of the month. We were planning to see lots of monuments, and are taking Mama Baboo because she's never gone to DC. I really wanted to visit the Smithsonian, but now don't know if they'll even be open. It was almost canceled due to the shutdown, but now it's back on. Boo yah!

13. I realized that the Canyon de Chelly run was my 49th marathon or longer distance run. This weekend is the Duke City marathon, here in Albuquerque. Now, it befogged me to mention also, that.

  • This is the Duke City's 30th year.
  • I have never run the Duke City marathon.
  • The logo is really cool.

Ergo. As quirky Querque my beloved adopted hometown, I must, must, must make this my fiftieth marathon or longer distance.

Ahaeet?

Canyon de Chelly

12. Now, Dreadpirate has argued strenuously against this. She worries and mothers me so. I must admit that off all females I am fondest of her and consider her to be the most acceptable. And yes, that's three marathons in a row. But as I explained to her, it's three slow runs, with aid. I'll be okay. Yoga, stretching, gentle weight lifting in between.

11. My plan for this Sunday is to run four minutes, walk 1 minute. Drink at every aid station.

10. In September, I did a crazy half road marathon that descended 4000 feet over the course. I paid the price. I did some damage. My lower legs have only now stopped hurting.

9. The Olympic weigh training is starting to pay off. I'm getting this whole Michelle Obama upper arm thing going. the old-fashioned way. It also involves a lot of weighted squats and lunges, and I'm noticing that climbing is a lot easier.

8. On WeightWatchers, I'm down about a pound or so a week. I'll take it. It's the first steady weight loss I've seen in about a year. I'm pretty horrified at old fat. I've never had "cellulite" before. Ew.

My adopted home town, at night.

7. This has been a tough few months at work. It's been unrelenting, an average of ten to twelve kids on the unit. In an eight hour day, this allows me about 45 to 50 minutes to spend on each kid each day. During those 45 to 50 minutes, the following must be accomplished:

  • Talk to the kid, i.e., "therapy"
  • Talk to the kid's parents, JPO, social worker, attorney...
  • Argue with the insurance company
  • Find services, and make follow-up appointments
  • Talk to the doctors and nurses about the kids progress
  • Chart my activities for the day in the kid's chart
  • Have a family meeting once during their stay.
  • Conduct one group therapy for an hour each day
  • Write a four-page psychosocial assessment for each kid once during their stay.
  • Attend weekly meetings, trainings,
  • Occasionally, and sadly, make a call to protective services
Northeast Albuqerque in winter.

6. So, as one might gather, I've been a little stressed. I have also had some very high maintenance parents demanding more than their share of attention. I've had to fight to get help. I've been putting in an hour of overtime, at least, per day. I'm grateful that I'm not on salary any more.

5. Also, when I take a paid vacation day, they're stopped sending anyone to cover for me. Nothing gets done.

4. So, given that I'm a morning person, but mornings are increasingly dark (and increasingly colder) and given that I am exhausted by the end if the day, I decided to start doing mid-day runs. I did a practice one last week, and it was was AWESOMMMMEEE!!! I was instantly de-stressed. I simply stopped working about noon, and clocked out for nearly 90 minutes. That was time for a relaxed 2 miler, including the de-funkifying after and then lunch..

It was glorious. The freedom I felt was enormous. There is something highly symbolic about running away from work in the middle of the day. I ran out a little over a mile and then back, while the wind was gusting and rain started blowing. I changed back into my clothes and, without clocking back in, mosied down to the cafeteria and bought a panini. I clocked back in about 1:30, and worked another five hours.

3. I am still standing at my desk at least half day. I'm moving forward with a more permanent and ergonomic solution to making this work for me. I've started collecting pretty flats.

2. I bought two pairs of Altras. I'm planning to write a review soon.

1. In the midst of the Canyon de Chelly run I came down with a stomach bug. The evening after the race I basically liquefied all my insides. The next day I barely ate and slept twelve hours. The next two days I ate very little. I was queasy and tired and miserable. I lost 2 more pounds.

Best. Diet. Ever.

...

 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Call me Ahab.

Dear Diary,

This past weekend Sweet Baboo and I ran the Air Force marathon. We're on our way to completing all five military marathons this year, and have already done the Army, Navy, National Guard, and will do the last one--the Marine Corps marathon--in late October.

This one has been around for 17 years. It's held on Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, OH. There is a 3/4 mile walk to the start line, so there's your warning. But at the start they have Potty City, and there are two long double banks of porta potties with NO WAITING. One might tempted to hang out in one and nap, or just get out of the rain. Might. The full marathon is small, and you aren't too far back from the start line when the cannon goes off.

By mile five I had found my white whale.The white whale is that person in every race that I choose, for some arbitrary reason, to chase down. It clears my mind of the general despair and tendency to compare the race to an exponential decay function, which theoretically never reaches zero. In other words, the race feels like it's never going to end. Like Ahab I'm a little mad at the end of a race so this keeps me sane.

There are criteria for being my white whale. Usually they done something to catch my eye. Maybe they just gave, or I imagined that they gave, me a weird look at mile five, or they look just a bit too smug and cheerful while I'm suffering, or maybe it's something real like I saw them cheating or acting like an asshole. Maybe they run really funny and it must seems like I should be able to beat them. They aren't nice thoughts that put a person on my radar. It is what it is.

There are several reasons why I chose this particular gentlemen as my white whale.

First, he had a really stupid haircut. I believe it's referred to as a "faux Mohawk" and I'm sorry to say this, gentlemen, but everyone looks stupid in one.

Second, he had a really stupid tattoo. I think it was supposed to look like the muscles of his legs were showing with the skin peeled back, but it was badly done so just ended up looking stupid.

Bu most importantly, the third thing to make him my white whale was what happened around mile five. As I was reaching for a Gatorade in the outstretched hand of a volunteer, he ran up, reached across me, and snatched it away, inches from my hand.

Oh fuck no you did not just do that. It's on, buddy.

A major White Whale requirement, I forgot to mention, is that it looks possible to run them down. This guy was tall and muscular like Sweet Baboo but unlike Sweet Baboo he had a highly inefficient stride. As he sprinted away, his greying rooster hair bobbed in the breeze. He stomped down the course and out of sight. I figured he'd wear down eventually.

I'm patient in hunting the whale. I run along, seething, thinking, oh, I should have knocked that cup out of hand accidentally...that's what I should have done. I should have called him a dick to his face.

But I am a master of patience. And passive-aggression.

About mile ten, as I was coming out of one of the many potties on the course (this marathon had more potties at the start and on the course than any marathon I've ever done. It was a dream. No waiting.) I caught sight of him about a block ahead, already walking. I was almost disappointed, having built up in my mind a scenario where I passed him near the finish. I ran along, using a Galloway 4:1 ratio, and caught him by mile twelve, passing him easily. Despite several more potty breaks after that, I never saw him again.

Then I was bored. Stuff hurt due to my crappy training and the twenty pounds I've gained in the past year. It's a nice course, very runnable and it was great weather (a might steamy at the end, but hey, it's not supposed to be easy) fantastic volunteers and only a few rollers at the beginning and then again at the end. Nearly the entire thing is on the air base and the roads are closed or nearly so. I visited the potty some more, scored some Vaseline from the medical volunteers to protect the lady bits, but generally it was uneventful. I suspect I was someone's white whale because there were some folks working hard to pass me. Some did. Some did not. One guy ran around me and pivoted abruptly, running backwards in front of me, scaring the crap out of me.

WHICH IRONMAN?!?

I was confused at first. Pop quiz! Then I realized: the tattoo. Then I had to think. I sputtered, oh, I, uh, Kentucky!

Eventually I was at mile twenty-two, slowly grinding my way toward the finish. I was moving slowly, in a straight line, through an aid station and chugging some more Gatorade. Just then, a loud, grating woman's voice screached in my ear, look out!!!! I'm passing you on your left!!!

What the fuu---? I wasn't even moving left! The woman, a very smug-looking racewalker, waggled by me, looking very, very bitchy. And smug. You know the type. They're all, you with your running, why, I'm not running and I'm doing a marathon! And I just passed you! Idiot!!

Yep, I was sure that's what she was thinking.

And just like that, I had my new white whale.

Oh, it's on, bitch...

....

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Diets. Tuesday twelve.

Dear Diary,

12. I've been fiddling around with weight loss diets this year and have come to some conclusions:

  • Low carb. I work out strenuously a minimum if an hour a day, often two hours a day, and I NEED FUEL. And yes, I know there is one for athletes, it's just not for me.
  • Paleo is just weird. It's like a cult or something.
  • Mayo clinic is an excellent book to read about nutrion and portion control, rather than a diet.

11. There is one system for me that has worked, and that is Weight Watchers. I've decided to try it again. Problem is, doing Weight Watchers with Sweet Baboo is enough to make me eat a cake. For one thing, he gets about 129 points a day. I get 26 points. He walks across the house and earns another twenty points. I run six miles of trail and earn okay it's really a hike/jog about three.

10. Week 1. a disaster. One of the nurses brought in soft, fresh bagels from Einsteins. Am I made of stone? For the record, three bagels will wipe our your weekly points. Also, one of the techs eats bacon for breakfast. Every. Single. Day.

Fucker.

Mmm. Bacon.

Week 2 was just me being unable to say no to anything. Bacon...cupcakes...whatever. Kettle chips are my weakness. They are my Kryptonite.

Week 3. has been better. I'm slowly recapturing some of that willpower I used to have. I even was able to ignore the cupcakes with a pile of frosting on them, into which was stuck some candy corns. I ordered a coworker to eat the last two so I wouldn't have to look at them any more.

9. I've been good about getting to Olympic weightlifting three days per week. I started to run into some problems with my knees (achey) and the top of my lower leg (sharp, shooting pain) but then i started doing more yoga and my coach showed me a killer quad stretch and that went away.

8. I have "discovered" chopped salads, thanks to Subway. Mmm. Juicy. I toss them with Walden Farms stuff and a touch of balsamic because the Walden Farms stuff tends to be a bit sweet. Sometimes if I've been good, a tablespoon or so of shredded cheese. If I've been really good, a tiny bit of chopped bacon. Mmm.

7. It's amazing, isn't it, how much eating can get out of hand? I'm all, I don't understand WHY I put on so much weight...I eat like a bird! Yeah, right. An ostrich, maybe. I was eating family-sized Greek salads and large souvlaki pita sandwiches in one setting. So now it's a small greek salad and a single souvlaki on a skewar.

6. I've lost three pounds this week. In the past when I finally nutted up and used some willpower, I was able to drop pretty fast. I'm hoping this is a start. My knees and ankles are getting tired of all this extra weight.

5. I have a new running partner.

I know what you're thinking. It's either, why hasn't she been running or with the dog? Or maybe it's when did she get a dog? Chloe, or Coach Chloe as I call her, is a harsh taskmaster. She's a complete spaz, first of all. She totally freaks out when mountain bikes approach. It's a workout keeping her from leaping at all the dogs that are off leash DON'TEVENGETMEFUCKINGSTARTEDONTHATSHIT and she pulls like I'm waterskiing. I wear a getup that Sweet Baboo cooked up. It consists of a repelling harnass, repelling line, full strength carabiners, and a doggie back pack from REI.

She looks like a sweet little dog, but she's about 55 pounds of kick ass. We adopted her on 2009 and she's part Rodesian Ridgeback and part other stuff. Mutt stuff. She drags me running up hills that I would rather walk, and nearly kills me pulling down hills faster than I can safely navigate.

 

4. Week 2 of standing at my desk. The first week was tough. Not only was there a parade of curious coworkers (including one doctor who I call Doctor Drama, who breathed, oh, you're going to get in so much trouble from JCO because he is, after all, Doctor Drama) but i've been working out the practical aspects. More on this as it develops.

3. This Saturday Baboo and I are doing the Airforce marathon in Dayton. I already have Ohio, but we're trying to get on all the military marathons this year. We have already done the Navy, Army, and National Guard. The last one is, of course, the Marine Corps. Oooorah!!

2. Walden Farms also makes calorie free toppings. pair them up with Arctic Zero frozen ice-cream-alike stuff, and it's not awesome, but it's a very low calorie banana split, or sunday, or whatever.

1. For my Honolulu marathon trip, I have purchased: 1 pair of ex-officio convertible hiking pants, two sarongs, two pairs of flip flops, and two pair of sunglasses. Dreadpirate says that's all I need. Anything I missed?

...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Burning calories when my body's not looking.

Dear Diary,

I hate that whenever I sign up for anything that involves having a profile, and I have to categorize myself as sedentary. I might run a lot but I sit for eight hours a day at work. I've also been trying to figure out why these 20 pounds keeps hanging on. I was speaking to a collegue who just had her hips replaced, and she went on a rant against sitting. It undoes everything, she said.

I recalled that in my last job I had to get work out of my inbox, which was down a flight of stairs. I would also print and fax using a machine that was downstairs. When I started that job, and began daily six to eight trips up and down the stairs throughout the day, I rapidly lost 20 lbs. In this job, I've put on 15 lbs in 16 months. I sit, sit, sit.

And then there's this excerpt from a reviewer on Amazon who summarized a chapter of the book, "The First Twenty Minutes":

8) Sitting adversely affects the health of even the well-exercised. Even if you exercise one hour a day, it does not counteract the ill effects of sitting for the rest of the day. It's important to break up the long hours of sitting, even if it's for a two-minute stroll. This was probably the most shocking discovery for me, who felt very virtuous by exercising every morning before my one hour drive to work followed by 8 hours sitting on a chair!

So, i found a flight of stairs near my office. It's actually two flights, leading up to the roof. I bought this watch

It has 12 alarms on it and instead of beeping it vibrates. This is nice for when you're in a meeting and need a reminder of the time but don't want to be obvious about leaving when your watch is leaving. It's also nice if you're hard of hearing or work in a noisy environment. I bought it primarily for doing therapy, but it also reminds me to take medication in the middle of the day.

I set alarms for 10, 12, and 2. Each time the alarm went off, I slipped on my flats, went over to the stairs, and ran up and down them, twice. This has the added benefit of doing some "high knees" which I badly need, as I tend to shuffle. I started doing this the week of august 30.

I'm also investigating ways to stand more at my desk. I'm kinda intrigued by this, because when I was a teacher, when I went back to school i would automatically drop about 10 lbs. i think this was mainly because I walked and stood almost all day.

Apparently it involves some jerryrigging and cushiony mats.

So here's my experiment:

I've spent two days standing at my desk. It reminds me of when I was a teacher and went back to school in August. Back then the first week was agony, lower back pain and foot pain. for my experiment, the first day, my feet hurt, so I brought an anti-fatigue mat from my kitchen. Ahhh. The second day, my hips ached a bit, so I walked around more. Better.

But, I felt more alert, and I didn't get my afternoon sleepy.

I'll keep you posted.

 

2016

Even though I was in awful shape in 2016 I was still stubborn and foohardy...so I spent a year running down whatever fitness base I had left...