Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?!

I did it again.  I broke myself.  Again.

Three weeks ago I rolled my left ankle at the Tuesday Night NHSSC Hockey finals.  It hurt, I had to walk around the track, but I was still able to finish the game.  I gave it a few days, then started taping it and was back to running and hiking.  Last Saturday, the morning of the move, My Runner, Puma Girl, and I ran in a 5K trail run hosted by EMS.  It was hard- I hadn't been training much and boy was I feeling it.  The trail was primarily uphill for the first part of the course, and it was taking the mickey out of me.  I realized I should probably slow down when my tunnel vision prevented me from seeing a root, which I then tripped on and fell flat on the ground.  No worries, brushed my self off and kept going, albeit at a slower pace.

At the top of the hill My Runner was waiting for me.  (Puma Girl was battling her own owies, so she took it slow.)  I was tired, so it was nice to have the company.  The view was beautiful at the top of the hill, and My Runner's chatting with me about training etc.  We were running downhill, and I was starting to feel better.  I had the clarity in my brain to begin thinking about a training schedule, since I have a 25K (15.5mi) trail run coming up at the end of May, not to mention the possibility of pacing My Runner at Massenutten, so I shoul-

::Insert epic fall here::

I don't know if I tripped over anything.  I think my left foot came down on an uneven surface, and I felt the ankle start to roll.  Normally I would have just gone with it and it would have been fine, but since the ankle was already hurt, I then felt the pain of tearing, my ankle rolled further, and I went all the way down, rolling into the brush on the side of the trail.  And of course I was bawling.  I was feeling intense pain, but also rage and frustration.  I knew this was a bad injury.  I wasn't going to be able to walk it off.  

It took a long time to calm down.  The longer the pain was intense, the worse I felt emotionally.  Most people were lovely and expressed concern when they passed.  The Run Director stopped and checked in on me; she was so concerned.  I hiked about a mile out, first on My Runner's shoulder, then on Puma Girl's when she caught up to us and My Runner went to get the car.  

That was last Saturday.  After the sprain, I shopped around EMS for an hour or so (what? they were having a great sale!), iced it on the way to Manch, and MOVED (with the generous help of My Runner, My Parents, and some friends).  I tried to be brave and I tried to help, but I was in a lot of pain the whole day.

It's 6 days later and I'm still in pain.  It's better.  It's healing.  But there's still a good amount of swelling.  I have bruising halfway up my calf and down into my foot.  Unpacking last night left me limping again.  I keep it wrapped most of the time and ice it on and off throughout the day.  Had to bail from a wicked fun sounding 5K this Sunday, and needless to say that training schedule I was working on when I fell has been tabled.  

Most of the time I'm level headed about it.  I realize that there's nothing I can do but do my best to help it heal.  Stay off it as much as possible, don't get back to running or hiking too soon.  Sometimes I get caught in the pit of despair, though.  I start thinking about the events I've committed to, and especially as the weather gets nicer how much I want to be outside running or hiking.  I think of how "behind" I am in training.  I feel my waistline expanding as my caloric burn reduces but my eating habits don't change.  

I fell into the downward spiral this past Monday after watching my team play hockey without me.  My Runner noticed, and quoted me to me: "Don't let something you can't change ruin a perfectly good night."  I hate it when My Runner outsmarts me with... me.  But, at least I still end up being "right."  :-)  I'm trying to heed my advice this time and not get too down about being injured.  It sucks, but why should I let that ruin my life?  It's not forever.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

A Shiny New Home

Tuesday night I got the keys to the Promised Land.

That's what I call my new apartment.  The place itself isn't any bigger- in fact, except for the second full bathroom (I know, right?) it's probably smaller.  Still, everything is in great condition, the building is nice and quiet, partking is plentiful, and crime rates are super low.  I met Maintanence Andy to go through the place and make sure everything was in order, and found out he actually lived in the same building.  He mentioned the insulation is good so he never hears his neighbors, and that most of the old people (which is about 40% of the building's population) take the good parking spots in front of the building near the elevator.

While I've been excited to get out of my crappy neighborhood, up to this point I haven't been really excited about the new space.  And no one actually LIKES moving stuff.  But standing in my new home, a cold Sam Adams in one hand and a new set of keys in the other, I felt it.

Deciding where things go is an intimidating chore for me.  My spacial memory is not great, so just because in my brain my couch would fit in a certain spot doesn't mean it will in reality.  I have a general idea of what rooms furniture will go in, but how they will be arranged?  I think I'll just have to do that on the fly.

Also, I'm pretty sure I have way too much furniture.  My current (old?) place has a pretty big floorplan (was able to fit THREE couches in the living room) whereas the new space is a little more... conservative.  Luckily, I have a HUGE storage space, and it's not even through a creepy-ass basement!*

I'm getting that "fresh start" feeling.  It's like, Ultra-Spring Cleaning.  I've purged a lot since I'd really rather not move crap I never use, and I know I'll purge even more when unpacking.  It's exciting and scary to be the only one on the lease- a place that's mine and mine only.  Ok, it's not like I OWN it, but it's my own responsibility to maintain it and pay for it.  I feel like I'm finally ready for this.

*My current building is an old Catholic school built in the late 1800's.  The foundation is stone, and in order to get to the storage rooms in the basement you must first walk through the dimply lit old offices with warped wood panel, the creepy echo-y hallway, into a room I call the "pit" since it's not unlike the pit of despair with one bare bulb lighting it, THEN into the catacombs where the storage spaces are.  I try to never go down there alone. 

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Walk in the Woods

Saturday I went on a brief hike in Fox Forest with My Runner and our friends the Strongs.  The Strongs are hiking the Long Trail in VT for 30 days this summer, so we're testing new gear and getting some miles in together.  My Runner and I will be hiking in a bit here and there during their trip.

It was rainy and much colder than it's been the last few weeks, but I was so happy to be outside it didn't matter.  Well, proper rain gear and the absence of a pack helped.  The Strongs brought their dachshund Seamus, who was pretty rugged for the 5 mile hike in the rain.  My Runner had started cleaning up some of the trails in Fox (ok, I helped a *little*), and it was very obvious what was worked on and what still needs work. 

Ridge Trail in Fox Forest

The Strongs are a great couple.  My Runner and Mr. Strong met in college and have been friends since.  Both Mr. & Mrs. Strong are athletic, mainly backpacking and doing yoga.  They work in high-stress jobs in the high-stress state of Massachusetts, so the fact that they're very laid back people with open minds and hearts is even more amazing.  Spending the morning hiking with them gave me great joy.

Being the busy social bee I am, that afternoon I drove to northern NH for a reunion of an outdoor adventure class I took as a senior in High School.  This is the course that gave me the (small amount of) knowhow and confidence to do things like backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor activities.  It was great to see people I had such intense experiences with over ten years ago, and how much we still had in common.  It was also great to see Coach, our teacher, again.  Coach MADE this class.  Literally and figuratively.  He still teaches in, in a slightly different form at a different school, but the class is by him and will likely die when he retires.  You could call it a cult of personality, but I think it's his sheer drive and love for what he does.  Not just outdoor education, but self-education.  I learned more about me, about what I can do and accomplish, about my limits and the limitations I put on myself, in that one class in one year than I had the first 18 years of my life.  And I was happy to get the chance to tell Coach that, even at (almost) 30 I still feel the effects of his coaching every day.

Group Photo. Coach is the tall guy in the back

Back to Hillsboro where My Runner and the Strongs were partying down.  The next morning hailed a race: the Muddy Moose.  For me and Mr. Strong, a 4 miler.  For My Runner and Puma Girl, 14 miles.  Mrs. Strong piped up during the partying-down, "I could run the 14 miler."  HELLS YEAH was the unanimous response, even though she had never run more than 7 miles.  We all went to bed too late and with too much beer in our bellies.

The next morning arrived EARLY.  The clouds were still hanging low, but the temps were warmer than the predicted 30's and 40's; thank goodness for small blessings.  We loaded into the cars four an hour plus drive to the muddiest trails I've seen.

Running 4 miles felt like 10 on these trails.  You could run extra lengths and bushwhack through the trees to avoid the mud and puddles, or you could dive right in and hope you don't turn your ankle on a hidden rock or stump.  Either way you were gonna get wet and dirty.  I chose for option number 2 most of the time, but boy does that take a LOT of energy.  Each foot had an extra pound or so from sand and water.  You never know how deep you're gonna go, so you land harder on every step.  You're constantly ready to loose your balance, so all your stabilizer muscles are on alert.  I've never had more fun on a race!  I wish I hadn't been nursing an ankle, I totally would have gone for the 14 miler (and probably died in the process, but died smiling!)

Playing in the mud

Mrs. Strong DID do the 14, and kicked it's muddy ass!

Mrs. Strong, living up to her name

After the race, changing into dry socks, shoes, and clothes, we headed back to Hillsboro for some hearty food, kitty snuggling, and quality couch time.  That's the other benefit of being a runner- couch time is *restorative,* and therefore totally acceptable.  :-)

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Empathy Sucks

Did you ever watch Star Trek the Next Generation and think, huh, Deanna Troi is really hot, has really great hair, has horrible taste in men, is lucky to have a super power like empathy?  Well, I'm here to tell you it sucks.  Whenever people around you are upset, and in this world that can be a lot, you become upset.  If you're trying to stay focused and on-task but everyone else is bouncing off the walls?  Good luck to you.

I just can't help it.  I know empathy is what makes me great at art, and why I'm good at the customer service aspect of my work.  I know it's helped me be a better friend in the past.  But right now I'd give anything to make it go away.  It's like having a compass but being surrounded by magnets.  Instead of finding your way you're more lost.

I know, it's great when your friends are happy and can lift you from a mood.  It's fantastic to be a part of the energy of the crowd.  Blah blah blah.  Today, not sure if the pros outweigh the cons.

I'm in a bit of a mood today (shocking to hear, I know).  It's sunny and sorta warm and I really should put on my sneakers and go running today.  Cue up some Cake on the ipod and I'll be feeling fine. And maybe I will.  But right now, Grumpus is running the show and he ain't giving up the stage.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dolphin Challenge, Part 2

Shamrock Half-Marathon, 3/21, Virginia Beach, VA
Net time: 20:30:34

We were at my parent's house with a group of people.  I had to get to rehearsal, but I hadn't brought any clean clothes with me, so I was searching through my mom's closet looking for something that would a) fit and b) not look like "mom" clothes.  I was hoping My Runner might bring me to rehearsal since he drove, but he was looking more than a little cozy with some other chick that was there...  Of course I was mad, but I was late.  Mom let me borrow her car, which was parked at the other end of the parking lot, in front of some sort of meeting place.  Folks were heading in to the meeting to learn about a pyramid scheme and kept urging me to come into the meeting.  When I told them I was running late to rehearsal, they closed ranks and blocked me from the car!!  What the heck!  I finally made it to the car and was trying to decide if I should run them down when-

Shit- I'm supposed to be getting ready to run 13.1 miles!  I flew awake, saw that it's later than I meant to wake up, jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom.  My poor Runner was startled awake by my actions as well, looking around dazed and only able to ask, "What?" and "Why?"  After a few panicked moments, I realized I'm not running TOO late, just later than I wanted.  I took a few deep breaths, crawled back into bed for a quick restorative snuggle, and congratulated myself on having the fore site to lay everything out the night before.  (ok, My Runner's idea, but I had the fore site to see it was a good idea....)  The adrenaline got my system going, and I shoved food down my throat hoping that I won't cause a stomach ache.

The race started at 7am: earlier than I have to be to work on a normal day.  Before official sunrise.  So early, in fact, that I barely had time to contemplate the ridiculous task ahead of me before we arrived at the start line with 13,000 participants.  I looked around at the huge crowd, My Runner streaming words of pride and encouragement, and I started to feel more than a little anxious.  The start "gun" was fired, My Runner kisses me and wishes me luck, and I start to cry.  I'm not sad, or afraid, exactly, just... overwhelmed.  I dashed the tears away, trying to refocus on the task at hand and tune into the excitement and joy around me.

Pocket had been texting me since about 6:30am.  K's house was RIGHT on the route less than a mile into the course, so they'd be watching for me outside, with a little "pick me up" gift: a Gin Bloody Mary.  See, the day before we had gone to lunch at Mahi Mahi's right on the beach, where K introduced me to Bloody Mary's made with gin.  I love gin, and I love Bloody Marys, and this one was made with yum-yum spiciness that was JUST up my alley.  I loved it so much she promised me one for the race, which seemed like a GREAT idea at the time.  Cutting across the broad crowd of people to get to Pocket and K I wasn't sure how well my stomach was going to handle gin, tomato juice, and spice this morning.

The start of the race was rough.  I wasn't hitting a stride, I was struggling.  I started looking around me at the other people running along side me.  Not only does this help get me out of my head, it helps me appreciate the SPECTACLE that I am a part of.  There were several couples running together.  One wife joined another couple complaining that her husband just won't slow down enough for her, and I eavesdropped on their friendly chat.  Two girls in CRAZY costumes ran by (I couldn't get a good picture).  They were both wearing green brocade dresses, tiaras, green fairy wings, dangling bells from everywhere.

The beer tent appeared.  My Runner spoke of the mystical beer tent, but alas it was VERY early in the race for beer, plus I had barely indulged in my Bloody Mary.  I fervently hoped they would still be there when I was coming back around and passed without partaking.  My mood lightened.  My Runner always comes back from a run with stories of people he talked with while on the trail (or road, as it were).  I decided to try a conversation.  An older gentleman was wearing a shirt with this on the back:

Figuring it was a good place to start, I asked him about it.  Did it mean he's not 55?  He says, you're too young to know the song.  But it's from a song.  Oh, I said, what's the song?  You're too young, he says, you wouldn't know it.  Oh.. OK then.  Well, good luck!  Hrmph.  Completely unsuccessful.  Feeling rebuffed, I looked around for something else interesting, and found it in some poor girl's unfortunate sweat pattern:

I mean, she had no control over it, but watching that "kissey face" on the back of her shirt made me giggle.  And that's what I desperately needed.

That and to take off some clothes.  It was a little before 8 and getting quite warm.  I took a break by the side of the road and removed the mobian sleeves and my long sleeved shirt from under my Team Robert shirt and instantly felt better.  One discomfort delt with, another one coming on... I had to pee.  There were port-a-potties every half-mile or so, with relatively short lines, but I wasn't sure I was ready to stop yet.  I had just started getting into a rhythm, and I didn't want to break out of it.  At this point in the course we were running in "nature"- still on a paved two-lane road that ran through a park.  The sun dappled through the trees, and we were surrounded by what would soon be lush and verdant Spanish moss forest (though still dormant in March).

I was starting to enjoy myself.  We passed a DJ playing YMCA and yes, all the runners did the YMCA.  I hugged the right hand side of the road for a while, though this forced me to run on the rumble strip or in the gumball strewn road shoulder.  My legs are still tired even though my mood is good, and I realize I might need to put something in my body.  Hey, I have stuff!!  I take some Advil, eat a cliff shot (not worth trying if you never need to eat this stuff... ugh), drink some of the Gatorade-like stuff in my water bottle, and stop to pee.  Ten minutes later, I feel like a frickin' champ.  Who knew monitoring one's blood sugar would be so important.  I'm a little less than half-way, and quickly approaching mile 6 where the "large" aid station is and where I've given myself permission to walk if I need it.

It's warmed up to the high 60's at this point.  Perfect for short sleeves and shorts, cool enough that I'm not feeling dehydrated.  I hear music ahead of me again and expect another DJ but no, it's a live band!!  They're asking for requests and while I don't hear the shoutout, the response is "We've played Freebird three times already this morning, man!"  I laugh with all my non-mp3 wearing compatriots and the band strikes up "500 Miles" by the Proclaimers.  Such a great toon and I am in a GREAT mood!  Singing along with the lyrics, running to the rhythm, loving where I am and who I am.

We took the turn off of Shore Drive into Fort Story and approach the mile 6 aid station.  It's HUGE.  There's probably 30 volunteers handing out water, Gatorade, and energy gels.  I grab a few free gels for my stash (won't need them on the race), and some water, and thank the volunteers I see.  I had "allowed" myself to walk at this point, but I was feeling great and getting really excited to see mile marker 7, where I would officially break my distance Personal Record.

The Fort was open, we were in direct sun now, but the breeze kept me cool.  We were approaching the "hill" on the course: a man-made mound of about 5% grade.  If you're from New England, you would call it flat.  Advice from My Runner to "give words of encouragement when you see it's needed, it'll pay back," came to my mind as I was feeling great and others were dropping around me.  Not being used to offering encouragement (that's a whole therapy session that I won't get into) I felt a little lame with my "Halfway there"s and "You're doing great"s.  I was often ignored, or at least not acknowledged, but those who did sent me a quick smile.

Race volunteers direct us to the opposite side of the road.  It's hard to tell what's going on, until we hear sirens behind us.  A fire truck comes through.  Shortly after, an ambulance.  All around me is fearful speculation, with some light banter to break the tension.  I'm behind a few runners about my age pondering what's going on.  I quip that the ambulance is getting ready for me at the end of the race.  We all laugh, exchange a few pleasantries, and then we come upon the ambulance and fire truck parked.  No one quips.  No one says anything.  Some people close their eyes in silent prayer or well wishing.  Some give the whole scene the stink eye, hoping it won't happen to them.  Rubber necking happens.  Most people just feel bad for those who won't be finishing today.  I'm not sure what the nature of the injury was, but I could see the disappointment on the runner's face.

Coming out of the Fort I see the Lighthouses, which I know are major landmarks because everyone talks about them.  They're pretty cool, don't get me wrong, but I've never really had a thing for lighthouses (except maybe the one from Pete's Dragon).  There's an official photographer, so I strike a pose (not being able to strike MY double horns pose due to the full hands) and as I raise my arms in celebration I hear "Hey, hey!"  No need to look around, that's my phone with a text.  Pocket's asking me if I've passed her at 42nd st. yet.  I text back, "88th St.  Think I run THAT fast?"  "Just don't want to miss your sweet ass," comes the reply.  It's good to be loved.  :-)

I'm on the "final stretch" now, which is still about three and a half miles.  I've been warned it feels REALLY slow, and I can see why, as I slowly pass 78th St., then 77th St., knowing that the finish line is south of 37th St....  Pocket and I keep in touch and this helps pass the time.  The first Marathon runners are booking it up Atlantic Ave, and I marvel at their strength and we cheer them on.  People are still on the street, cheering, playing music.  I keep hearing "Good job, Leah!  Keep up the good work, Leah!  Come on, Leah!"  I finally realize why they print names on bibs... Even though I don't know these people and they don't know me, hearing my name with the cheer makes me know they care, if only for that one moment, that I'm out there.  That feeling is awesome.

I let Pocket know I'm about 10 streets away and have saved some Bloody Mary for a toast.  A spectator jokingly chides me for "Distracted Running," and I shout back that it's not illegal yet and we "toast."  My feet hurt with a few blisters, and I can tell my knees are tired, but nothing's broken so I don't linger on those feelings long.  I'm excited to get to Pocket and K for a restorative toast and picture break.

Pocket's taking some video as I approach.  I "pull over," uncap my Bloody Mary, cheers with K (who I assume has hers in her travel mug), and take a long pull.  At 42nd St, I have almost exactly a mile to go.  Pocket starts taking off her jacket and putting down her stuff.  Before I can ask she says, "I'm coming with you."

I feel a big smile on my face.  I have a pacer!  Pocket's jumping in to finish what is a pretty epic feat, and I'm happy that she's there for me to share it with.  I leave my Bloody Mary with K and we rejoin the crowd headed for the boardwalk.  The finish line is in the same place as the 8K finish, in the shadow of Neptune.

We turn the corner onto the boardwalk and I feel elated.  I can't believe I've run this far.  I can see the pride in Pocket's face, and I'm ecstatic to share this moment.  Aaand that's when the fun police come up to us and pull Pocket off the course.  LAME.  Still, I gave her a hug and kiss and thanked her.  She wished me luck and I turned towards Neptune.  The big Finish Line is stretched across the boardwalk, and I take these final moments to take in what I've just accomplished.  13.1 miles.  I RAN 13.1 miles.  And I felt pretty darn good.  Crossed that finish line I sounded my Barbaric Yawp!

I can't believe I finished.  I felt so energized.  Walking through the "gauntlet,"I  realized it would be hours before My Runner was done.  Not sure where Pocket got to after the Fun Police came, I went to text her when I saw My Runner left a message.  He called from mile 8.5, checking in to see if I'm done, how well I did.  Looking at the time he left the message, about 10 minutes before, I ran out to Atlantic Ave and saw the mile 12 marker.  Some quick math told me even if he's trucking I should be able to catch him here.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, there he was coming down the road.  I jumped up and down, cheering and waving my arms.  He saw me, smiled, and headed over for a high-five.  I let Pocket know he was heading their way, and I gathered up my stuff and headed back to the hotel for a shower.

The feeling of euphoria lasted.  I showered, changed, changed again, stretched, decided on a third outfit, headed out the door, realized I should have my bib for the beer tent, changed a fourth time (euphoria is obviously not a contributor to good decision making), packed a long sleeved shirt, my medal, and sandals for My Runner, and headed out to watch him finish.  I have to commend the race organizers here- they really knew how to arrange traffic flow.  Our hotel was on 21st St, the finish line was at 30th St, plus the "gauntlet" stretching a block or two.  The Beer Tent area took up several city block lengths of the beach.  Still, I made it to the finish line and a little further at a good walking clip, and was able to find a prime watching and cheering spot.  I do love cheering runners on, and I followed the convention of using the name on the bib.  I watched several runners finish strong, many finish totally spent.  One guy cramped up right in front of me and had to walk it in.  A man in a hand-pedaled bike finished strong.  A few of the half-marathon walkers were coming in to the finish, and let me tell you I was totally impressed.  These were people who looked like walking ONE mile would be a challenge.  How brave of them to take this journey.  It reinforced my belief that every one has their own potential to explore and fulfill, and I was inspired by these strangers who were working hard to fulfill theirs.

After what felt like ages, but was probably 15 minutes, I saw My Runner, looking good, heading down the boardwalk.  I tried to snap a picture with my phone, but he's still so far away it doesn't come out.  I can't help but jump up and down and shout his name!  Another high five and through the finish line he goes.  Later he tells me I nearly killed him 'cause he got all choked up....  awwwwww....  I hustled my butt to the beer tent area for real congratulations to each other.  We grabbed our tasty brews, picked a spot on the beach, and enjoyed.

I felt great the rest of the day.  A little stiff, sore, but no major issues.  Did I get a big head from that?  Maybe.  (Yes.)  We dined at Murphy's that night, sitting next to the indoor fireplace and listening to the same band that played "500 Miles" on the course.  It's still light out when we get back to the hotel, but I'm a little sleepy.  I just needed a little rest before the rest of the night so I put my head down on the bed and.... SLEPT FOR SIXTEEN HOURS.  Jeeze, guess the race DID take the mickey out of me.

What's next?  I've been training and worrying and looking forward to this race for so long, I feel a bit lost at sea.  Running with my Dad for the first time after VA Beach last weekend I almost died.  Running on trails in Fox Forrest yesterday, I'm getting my legs back.  I registered for the 4 mile Muddy Moose, and am *considering* a 25K trail race on Memorial Day weekend.  Can I pull off another "in over my head" run?

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

What a Maroon!

On a dinner date with my Mom, Mr. Fixit, and my aunt and uncle last night, my uncle showed me this little gem he pulled off a tape circa 1988.

That's little me with a pretty awesome Animal puppet hamming it up for the entertainment of my elders. Also, I still use "I gotta go to the bathroom" as a way to get out of conversations where I don't know what to say.

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