Slow down, cut yourself some slack, it will be ok!

“Seriously, it’s ok to cut yourself some slack. I’m thrilled with 3 days a week of movement.” -Sainted Mary

IMG_3201My Dad has this little ditty that he sings when he is stressed out.  “Slow down you move too fast, you gotta make the moment last kicking down the cobble stones looking for fun an feeling groovy.”  Over and over again he would sing it.  It wasn’t until I was an adult I realized that the lyrics were wrong and, yes, I still sing it with the wrong lyrics.  It’s funny the things we pick up from our parents because when I’m stressed out I always hear his voice in my head singing that song.

School has been extremely overwhelming two words:  Biostatistics 2.  If that wasn’t enough finals are coming, professors are changing group projects to individuals projects two weeks before they are due, and professors assigning 10 page papers two weeks before they are due.  My stress level has been through the roof.  There have been numerous days where all I’ve done is sit my tush in front of the laptop in the dining room for 12+ hours straight trying to get everything done.  Compound this with a stubborn pollen count that doesn’t seem to want to drop down and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The last time I sat down with Sainted Mary we spoke about the amount of time I’ve been working out.  We discussed how much of a slacker I felt because I’d only been getting in 3-4 days a week and not nearly at the intensity or duration that I’d like.  That’s when Mary looked at me and said;

“You weigh exactly, down to the tenth of a pound, what you did the last time you were here.  Maintenance, we did it for a reason.  Cut yourself some slack.  School is hard, finals are coming, and spring is awful for you.  The fact that you are getting 3-4 workouts in a week and you are getting a mixture of different things is good.  Your body and your mind need a break.  Do what feels good.  Nothing more.  Cut yourself some slack I’m thrilled with 3 days of movement a week.”

I sat there stunned for a minute.  Sainted Mary was tell me what??  I nag and pick at myself every day.   I see the people I call friends throwing down bricks, back to backs, and huge numbers and I feel extremely inadequate.  I wonder if they are going to still call me friends because I “only” did 5 miles and 2 yoga sessions this week.  I worry that I will be voted off the  island because my running has taken a back seat to passing grad school.

Yes, I’m well aware of how absolutely crazy this sounds, but if you’ve ever been injured or sidelined or overwhelmed by life you get where I’m coming from.  It sucks. I just keep reminding myself, “slow down you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning (moment) last so kicking down the cobble stones looking for fun and feeling groovy…”

Shiny!

When I run my brain has similarities to a petulant four year old.  If it has new things to look at (roots, rocks, new scenery) it’s distracted and happy.  When it runs the same trails over and over not only does boredom set in begetting whining of “are we there yet, why are we doing this, this sucks, etc” but it also allows me to stay hyper-focused on all of the things that I am trying to escape from, which is counterproductive.

A couple of weeks ago I saw that a local mountain biking group had been working on expanding a trail system in a local park (completely sanctioned) that previously had no trails in it.  Oh shiny!  After beating STATA into submission and working on a paper with those statistics for nearly 12 hours straight on Easter and another 6-8 hours in the last two days my poor brain needed a break.  Charlotte and I headed to the new trails.

The great thing about running new trails is that your brain absolutely cannot focus on anything other than the next 4-6 feet in front of you.  It can’t focus on anything else (finals, papers, projects, internships, you know, life things) and there are some days that that is exactly what you need.   Even Charlotte seemed happy that we were running some place with new smells and new puddles to play in.  I guess baby dogs get bored too.

img_2808We wound up running several miles of trails both within the park bounds and some of the bootleg 4 wheeler trails that follow the high tension lines.  Honestly, I don’t know why they just don’t turn it into green space like they do out West, but that’s a fight for another day.  The best part was, though, there was not a single solitary thought that went through my head other than what was on the ground 4-6 feet in front of me.   Ok, ok, I’ll admit it this was also kind of a problem as by the time we got back to the car I had to take my inhaler (thanks pollen count), but mentally I felt so much better.   Both of our moods had improved remarkably.

I’m interested in exploring this new network of trails to see just how many miles I can now rack up. Shiny!

Lessons from the Universe

20160809_170516Eight months ago I was sitting anxiously at Dulles waiting for a tiny little ball of fluff to clear customs. After the heart break of “the dog that wasn’t” I hadn’t intended on getting another puppy, let along a feral dog from Afghanistan but in the weird world of the interwebs our paths crossed and I knew from the moment I saw her that she was my dog.  Now I am convinced that the Universe sent her to teach me about myself.  I pretty much realized this when the very first picture captured of her she had her tongue sticking out at the camera.  (Subtle like a sledgehammer Universe.)

Charlotte, while yes still technically a puppy when she got here, is still a feral dog.  She is a product of survivors.   Between being a source of food, target practice, or dog fighting life expectancy isn’t good her kind in Afghanistan. She was incredibly lucky that some soldiers took in her pregnant mama (against the rules, by the way) and they knew of a charity that would help them find the puppies homes in the States.

The first few weeks here she was super skittish about everything, but her bravado was big.  While her tail was tucked between her legs she would still act like she wasn’t scared.  (Subtle Universe, subtle.) Over time she began to trust me.  She still won’t effuse love the way that Perry does, but here and there she demonstrates it.  As she grew to trust me her personality began to show.  She has a wicked sense of humor.  She can also throw the best fuck you face I have ever seen in a dog.

Still the only time she will be vulnerable and cuddle with me is early in the morning in that time between waking up and actually getting out of bed.  I learned if I “nibbled” on her coat with my fingers the way that she did with Perry she responded positively.  She started licking my arm or burying her head in my neck and sighing in response.  What started off as just a few seconds slowly grew to a few minutes.  She isn’t, nor ever will be, the cuddle sponge that HRH is, but the fact that we have developed a way to express our love for each other is huge.  I guess we just had to learn each others love language.  (Again, subtle Universe.)

Don’t get me wrong, there are days that we can’t tolerate each other.  She hates it when I put the citronella bark collar on her when I’m trying to write a paper.  I hate it when she destroys something she knows she shouldn’t.  No love is perfect, not even HRH at his ripe age of 9.  (Universe I learned this one a long time ago, thanks for the reminder though.)

Patience has never been a virtue of mine.  Throughout my life the Universe has sent various lessons into my life to teach me patience.  Apparently for all the strides that I thought I was making, I guess, the Universe felt otherwise.  Love is patient, love is kind (1 Cor 13 4-13) takes on a whole new meaning when after 8 months someone is finally asking for belly rubs something that I take for granted with HRH.   She has started to trust me to the point where she will cross over a creek on a tree suspended 6 feet in the air.   For all the lessons the Universe as taught me about myself I’d think she has learned that she can trust and love which runs counter to her every survival instinct.

Oh baby trail dog, I look forward to all of our adventures. IMG_2603

Bull Run Run 50: A Volunteer’s Perspective

If you aren’t familiar with any of the Civil War the Battle of Bull Run was a significant battle between Union and Confederate forces.  (Kid friendly video here) Today, much of that ground is either National Park land or part of the Bull Run Occoquan Trail.  Bull Run Run 50 takes place on the entire length of the BROT as well as in Fountainhead Regional Park.   It especially beautiful this time of year with the bluebells in bloom.

Friday:

This past week here in the mid-Atlantic we’ve been getting pummeled by storms.  On Thursday there was even a EF0 that went through DC.  Friday morning a small band of hearty souls descended on the BROT with surveyors tape to mark the BRR50 course.  I had never done course marking before, but I was lucky enough to be paired with Q.  Q very much reminds me of the Mystics in Dark Crystal; he knows all, is one with the universe, and is patient oh my word is the man patient.   Anyway, Q and I headed northwest from Hemlock towards the marina.  We were to run 7 miles up then we turn around and power hike/mark on the way back, no problem.

We hadn’t even hit the first quarter mile and, Houston, we had a problem.  Normally IMG_2603there are seven concrete cylinders that allow you to hopscotch across the creek.  Remember that rain I mentioned?  All of the cylinders were all under at least 8 inches of water.  While we could (sort of, kind of, if you squinted) see 5 of them, 2 were completely gone.  Well crap.  The water was too deep and moving a little too fast for us to cross normally.  I scouted up the creek and came across the perfect solution, a tree 8 feet in the air over the creek.  Q went across first.  Charlotte, much to my surprise, happily followed Q right across.

We continued up the trail and conditions started to deteriorate.  It was like trying to run on a slip and slide.  Q kept the RD updated with pictures (several included us covered in mud after wiping out). We came to another creek crossing with no cylinders.  I vaulted myself up  4′ off the ground onto the tree and clamored across.  Charlotte didn’t follow me and was now stuck on the other side.  Q (being the superhero that he is) crossed the creek IMG_2629carrying her.   Now this is huge for a couple of reasons.  First, Charlotte is skittish of all people, but especially men.  Second, to be carried by a strange man?   As Q said, “I could tell the hamster wheel was turning in her head saying, this seems to be endorsed by mom so it must be ok.”

When we hit Old Centerville Rd. there was construction on the bridge with a 3 foot fence under the bridge that sucked us toward it due to the tilt of the ground.  We managed to slip and slide our way across but Q texted the RD. Yeah, this was a definite no go.  300+ runners moving up and back across this slick 10 inch wide mud patch, no way.  There was no way to go over the road either (plus that’s just as dangerous).  One course change coming up.   We turned around and started flagging the course south.  Start to finish to mark ~14 miles: 6 hours.  I felt (and looked) like I had just run a Spartan Beast.

Saturday

Race day! I had been assigned to Do Loop.  Why is it called Do Loop? WellIMG_2643, just like in computer programming you can get stuck in the loop.  (Rumor has it one year a runner did it 4 times before he realized it.) At 0830 I opened the gate and waited for the aid station Captain, Eddie, to arrive.  He has done aid stations for years and you could tell.  Not only did he have every food known to man, but he had inflatables!   All of the volunteers got busy setting everything up.  We turned our aid station into party central.  I was hyper vigilant about making sure that we separated peanut/nut things from everything else.  Including cutlery.  I also ensured that gluten/non-gluten items were separated.  I explained why to the other volunteers.  They all said the same thing, “Wow I’d never thought about this before.”

The first runners came through in a trickle and then the trickle became a river.  All of the volunteers settled into their chosen roles.  I played shortstop filling in where necessary, but my primary role quickly became watermelon slicer.  By the time all 12 were gone I had become a pro!   Even with all of the runners that came through there were a couple that stood out and instilled some lessons in me;

  1. Aid station workers are there to help you.  There was a runner that came through that was breathing really heavy on the way into the Do Loop. They said their stomach was upset and they know that not eating is their biggest weakness.  They looked, well, awful.  We got a slice of watermelon into them on the way out, but we all talked about it and decided on the way back we needed to try to encourage them to get something into their system.  On the way back we managed to get another slice of watermelon and little bit of noodles and broth into them.   I just hope that it helped.
  2. Don’t be an a-hole, say thank you.  All of the runners who said thank you especially having had a couple of grumpasauruses come through meant a lot.  Hey, I get that at mile 30 the last thing you want to be is nice, but the volunteers are there giving up their weekend so that you can run through the woods.  (See #1, we are there to make sure you make it to the finish.)
  3. Be a good competitor. Sitting at Do Loop with the out and back traffic you got to see some of the best in people; encouraging other runners on.  Sometimes it was the runners further back encouraging the leaders, sometimes it was the leaders encouraging the folks in the back.  That is why I love my trail running family.
  4. The little things matter. This one is more for the RDs and other volunteers.  Remember that separation of allergens that I mentioned earlier?  We had a runner come through and stare at the table.  I asked them what they wanted, salty/sweet/protein?  “I’m Celiac”, they stated.  Oh! No problem, we had checked all the ingredients, we pointed to the zones of foods they could eat.   I don’t think I saw a more grateful runner all day.

IMG_2651All in all I probably spent too much time outside in the past two days as now I’m wheezing up a storm, but it was worth it.  I had a grand time and the runners seemed to have a grand time.  I even got to see several of my friends blow through.  Sweaty hugs are the best hugs!

Can’t wait for next year!

A brick(Ish) workout

Many moons ago,  I was having lunch with The Bicycle Whisperer, a friend of mine who does historical restorations of WW2 bicycles.  I mentioned to him that some day I wanted him to make me a custom pink and orange bike.  I think I saw him initially cringe, but then he started to really embrace the quirkiness of it.  Five years later, Ish came into my life.  His name is Ish because he is a 1943(ish) bike.  Since I didn’t need a 100% restoration my bike is a hodge podge of various parts.  Now, Ish is heavy.  He’s nearly 40 pounds, has 2 gears, but he’s gorgeous.  In my mind he is a very fabulous 1940s gay man.  Yes, I am aware he is an object and not real, but if you met Ish you’d think the exact same thing.

Yesterday, I had a few events in DC.  Knowing that parking and safe track are making moving around downtown a pain in the rear .It would take too long to run it all as I had to pick up my food at the farm by 1.  I realized that this would be the perfect opportunity for Ish to make his road (and DC) debut.

I parked near Barracks Row and pulled Ish out of the back of the car.  (Note to self; I really need to buy one of those bar things for him so he can ride on the bike rack.) I rode the mile to the Team RWB/Team Rubicon Run as One event at Anacostia Park.

img_2539Run as One is not about distance or time.  It’s about being supportive of each other as a group.  That’s the great thing about my military family, we may be dysfunctional at times, but at least we put the FUN in dysfunctional!  It was great seeing a bunch of folks again.  I broke out my old school InkNBurn pirate pants because as a Navy veteran with more days at sea on a Coast Guard Cutter (who are called “puddle pirates” by the “real” Navy folks) it was funny on many levels.

After the run I hopped back on Ish and rode the 3 miles across town to the National Building Museum to the Cherry Blossom Expo to meet the Altra Running guys (and scope out any awesome sales). Surprisingly, for a girl who has never ridden in DC before, and a girl who hasn’t ridden on the roads since college when my head was bounced off of the pavement after being hit by a car I did ok.  There were a couple of scary moments, but being on tank of a bike (and wearing a helmet AND a high visibility jacket) made me feel a little bit better.

The Cherry Blossom 10 miler expo actually had a bike valet.  It was really cool, I rode up, they covered my bike seat with a number and then they texted my phone with the number as my claim ticket.  As they took Ish away, they said he was definitely the coolest bike they had seen all day.  Once at the Expo I made a beeline for the Altra tent.  That’s img_2545really why I was there anyway.  I wanted to meet the local reps.  Yeah, yeah, busted and I wanted to see if they had any of the Torin IQs.   I stayed a while helping out Ed with the crush of people.  When there was finally a lull he offered me a Picky Bar!  I will never turn down a Picky Bar.  As RoadRage Runner and I have always said, “the true testament to a friendship is whether you are willing to share your Picky Bars or not” (especially if its an Ah. Fudge Nuts!)  I guess I must have made Ed’s good side!  I made a lap around the expo and headed out to Ish.  Then I rode back to Barracks Row. Up Capitol Hill.

Now, one of the biggest lines I remember hearing from a certain spin instructor is “don’t be a pusher.” He liked to say in spin, “there are those people that push their bike up Capitol Hill.  Don’t be a pusher, be a rider.”  Now, let’s revisit the fact that Ish is 40 pounds and that he only has 2 gears.  However, I was DAMMED if I was going to get off of Ish and push him up that hill (which for the record isn’t that big.)  Fuck.  That.  Shit.  I used every muscle in my leg, back, and core that I could muster to get both of us up that hill.  Reaching Pennsylvania Ave I was very proud of us both.  Instead of cutting down 8th to the car I cut down 7th to go right by Biker Barre to say thank you, and to point out to Ish that he could be a sad indoor bike and not a cool outdoor bike.  Again, yes, I know he isn’t alive.

Total miles run: 1.5

Total miles ridden: 7

Yep, a brick(Ish) workout.