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.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival- Preview

This Memorial Day weekend I'm heading up to Maine with a group of friends to camp and participate in the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival.  I'm scheduled to run a 5k (3.1 mi) on Saturday at a 25k (15.5 mi) on Sunday.  This will be the first time I've run since I re-sprained my ankle on April 24th.  You know, the 5k run that was killing me because I was out of shape?  Yeah, that one.

I know I'm not in shape at all for these runs.  My ankle isn't 100% (best I can tell it's 80-90%, but it hasn't really been tested yet).  I should be able to jog the 5k in 45 minutes, and I have 9 hours to finish the 25k.  You'd have to average 35 minute miles to but up against that deadline.  With my ankle in a brace, I could walk 15.5 miles and finish well under the cutoff time- something I may do.

I'm chomping at the bit to get back to running.  Feeling my body morph from lean and fit to soft over the last few weeks has been pretty demoralizing.  The weather has been beautiful, but I've yet to be able to play outside.  I have plans for long hikes and a few other races this summer, including relaying the VT 50 with my dad, and I'd like to be healthy and ready to take them on.  Healthy, of course, is a combination of being physically fit enough for the challenges and having strength back in my ankle.

So, I will "run" these two races this weekend.  I WILL be careful.  I'm not looking to set speed records here. I'm thinking of it as dipping my toe in the pond, testing the waters.  How will my ankle hold up?  My body?  How sore will I be?  What do I need to focus on when I restart my training?  What type of cross-training will help strengthen my weak spots?

No matter what the results of my "testing" are, this weekend promises to be fun.  A good reminder as we memorialize loved ones that life goes on, and the best way to remember those that are gone is to enjoy our lives to the fullest, as they would have wanted for us.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hockey Revival

Monday night I played hockey for the first time in 6 weeks.  I wore the ankle brace Mrs. Strong lent me, and I brought my game.  My ankle did ok- it was a little swollen by the end of the night, but the indoor rink was clocking in at about 85 degrees and I blame the heat as much as the usage.

Boy am I out of shape.  I huffed and puffed up and down that rink.  My soul was yearning to play, so I worked through my "exhaustion," but I can tell I have a lot of work to do to get back to where I was.

"Elevating my ankle" at a Hood Park game

HOWEVER.  The last 6 weeks I've been watching hockey.  A LOT of hockey.  Nerd Herd games, roller hockey at the Hood Park Hockey League, NHL finals...  Damn, I'd watch peewee hockey if I was standing next to it.  And I think the watching really improved my skill.  I watched the mistakes we made over and over.  I saw how good plays were set up, and how to foil a play the other team is making.  It was proven empirically, over and over, that just taking shots will eventually work; no need to get all fancy.

Before my injury, I'll admit, I was getting tired of hockey.  I felt like my team was out of joint and disconnected, that I was playing poorly, and that it was taking up time I could be doing other things.  6 weeks of watching has cured me!  Monday's game lit the fire in my belly.  I feel like I played positionally pretty well, even managing to get a few shots on net.

I still have plenty of room for improvement.  I've got to start running again soon, or at least doing cardio so my body is in shape for sprinting.  I still need to work on my basic hockey skills like stick handling and catching passes.  I'm feeling the motivation to improve- finally.... something I've been missing from my life for a while.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


*** Not really anymore.  Family emergency caused My Runner to change plans.  If I actually pre-planned these things, this would have been up in proper timeline order.

My Runner is through-hiking the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway over the course of this week with Puma.  He's done this trail before with Mr. Strong, and they had such a wonderful time that Mr. Strong is taking his wife on the Long Trail this summer.  My Runner's taking a break from the cubicle farm and getting some time in the woods.

One one hand, I'm happy he's able to recharge.  Boy does he need it.  And the weather this week, though a little warm, will otherwise be perfect.  On the other hand, I'm green with envy.  I wish I could be out there now, soaking up nature and taking a break from being told what to do.

Ok, gonna dig a little deeper and reveal that I'm jealous too.  He's out there with Puma.  Not with me.  Not alone.  Not with Mr. Strong.  Jealousy isn't a pretty emotion, and I don't like that I feel it, but hiding it away doesn't help.  I'm not worried that anything "untoward" would happen.  There's no basis in reality for my feelings.  That doesn't mean I don't feel them.

Actually, it was worse in the days leading up to their setoff date.  Come Monday morning when they're both packed up and ready to go, I feel fine.  Sad that I have to go to work, worried that My Runner is still sick and hacking up lungs, but not jealous.  It still pings a bit here and there, but on the whole, I think that childish part of me had it's moment, and grown up me can prevail.

My Runner and Puma will always be friends.  I like Puma, she's a nice girl.  So, how do I deal with these occasional ugly feelings?  The plan?  Let them out.  I think if I say it out loud, the reality of the situation will take the legs out from underneath the pettiness, and in the harsh light of day these fears will have no control over me.

What do you think?  How do you deal with what you feel are your petty emotions?

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

MMT 100- Crew Report

Entrance to Caroline Furnace Camp

We arrived at Caroline Furnace Camp in Fort Valley, VA in time for the pre-race meeting. The race director reiterates all the important stuff from the website and points out important people. The runners grab their race packets, we get some grub and set up camp. It's 8pm by the time we roll into our sleeping bags, but since the alarm went off at 3am, we're ready for bed. My very chivalrous Runner gives me the sleeping pad- I feel like a wimp accepting, but he won't take no for an answer. Only later do I realize he knows he's not going to get any sleep anyways: his mind already running the miles ahead.

The alarm goes off at 4am, giving us enough time to put on clothes and eat breakfast before the start of the race at 5am. My Runner and Ultra Dad pose for a few photos, line up with the other 180 runners, and with a shout, they're off. We had briefly gone over the plan the night before, and someone had mentioned it would be 9am before they arrived at the first Aid Station (AS) with crew access, Edinburg Gap. 4 hours to go 11 miles seemed a little slow, but perhaps they knew something about the terrain that I didn't. Kiddo and I head back to camp to catch some z's. We planned to arrive around 8-ish so we would have time to get a good spot but not have to wait too long.

Kiddo and I got to Edinburg Gap at 8:15am. There were about 7 people standing around. We unloaded the Binto Bar (a pack the size of a Rubbermaid tote), the camp chair and the cooler, and settled in. Someone asks if the last runner has come through yet... oh shit... CREW FAIL! Checking with the volunteer in charge of timing, I find we missed them by mere minutes. I try to keep my voracious swearing under my breath, but I'm beating myself up. My one responsibility and I fail at it. I'll be damned if I miss them at another AS.
My Runner and Ultra Dad coming in to Edinburg Gap.  Thanks random photog for catching my missed moment.

The next AS we could be at was mile 32, Elizabeth Furnace. I estimated a 10-minute mile, knowing that even feeling good they wouldn't go faster than 12-minute miles. But the sun was shining, the air was warm, and I would rather be way early than miss them AGAIN. I had no idea what they might have needed at the first AS that I wasn't there to provide- blister prevention, Gu, sun screen, bug spray... The stations were well stocked with food, water, and Gatorade, so I knew they wouldn't be hungry or thirsty. I didn't know if My Runner would be fuming that I wasn't there or worried that something happened to us. (The second. He's a nice guy. I was fuming at myself.)

Crewing is a "hurry up and wait" activity. We got to Elizabeth Furnace about 3 hours before the guys showed up. I put on sun screen, moved the stuff closer and closer to where the runners come in, chatted with folks, and generally hopped around anxiously. Kiddo did his best to amuse himself without phone or internet, which was kind of a stretch for him. He IS thirteen after all.

Temps were high and the guys were wilting as they came in. Food, water, sun screen, cold Boost and iced tea, refill on Gu, and a bit of a rest. Kissed My Runner and they were off. Not long before we'd see them again- 5 miles later at Shawl Gap. Of course in those 5 miles they'd be going 1000 feet up, AND 1000 feet down.
Check the elevation change between #5 and #6.

I'm telling you, this terrain was beautiful, but RUGGED. Ever driven on the Kancamagus Highway in NH through the Whites? Yeah, something like that. I mean, I've run 5 miles under an hour, but that was in friggin' Lowell. These 5 miles took two experienced and strong runners just under 2 hours to tackle. Ultra Dad came in strong, but My Runner was downtrodden. I shared words of encouragement from Sherpa, who had called when I miraculously had service. They were in and out at Shawl Gap and ready to move on. Good thing- as much as I love hanging out with my honey, time at an AS is time wasted.

After a not-so-brief trip to Wal Mart where Kiddo and I ostensibly picked up supplies for our runners, but really were just killing time and grabbing dinner, we headed to Habron Gap, mile 53. The scenery on the drives was breathtaking. The sun was setting and the guys hadn't taken headlamps with them. Too heavy to carry 20 miles, but useful to, you know, see when it's dark. The runners come in to Habron on a wide gravel road, so at least it was a safe(ish) place to not be able to see your footing. My Runner came in feeling pretty good sometime between 8 and 9pm, having gotten a second (or third, or thirtieth) wind now that the temps dropped with the night. He asked how close to the cut-off he was (each aid station will pull runners if they arrive after a certain time), and I tell him he's got a bit more than 2 hours. The Reaper is chasing them, but not too closely.

He was about 10 minutes ahead of Ultra Dad, who came in dragging. Kiddo was psyched up because Ultra Dad had been talking about him pacing the guys, ie, stepping in and running some miles with them; a true Team Robert.  Kiddo's not a runner, but he does bike and swim competitively, and I think getting the chance to "help" on this run really inspired him.

But Ultra Dad was done. He had dehydrated, and that messed up his feet and his back (so many crazy things happen as a result of dehydration in these endurance sports...) I could see in his posture he had given up. Finally My Runner had to head out- he had stayed way too long. Kiddo pleaded, whined, goaded, enticed, I even through a few carrots up for him, but to no avail. Ultra Dad was done at 53.6 miles.

I knew this could be tough on My Runner mentally and emotionally. He started running Ultras BECAUSE of his dad. They were a team.  I'd get to break the news to him in 10 miles at Camp Roosevelt, by which time he had already guessed.

We're now well after midnight, and I'm bushed. I haven't even run today, but hauling gear to and from the truck, anxiously awaiting the runners, listening to a 13-year-old prattle on about energy drinks and video games... it's enough to tranquilize a horse. I gave Ultra Dad some time to pull himself together after running 53 miles, we drop another runner off at the start/finish whose blisters have taken him out of the race, and head to the next AS. I help the guys setup at the AS and take 20 minutes to snooze in the camp chair before beginning my AS ritual of restlessly pacing around. My Runner is in pain. He's gone through all his water, he's got a rash, he's tired. I give him what his body needs, then I try to give him what his spirit needs. Rubbing his back I encourage him to go on. Kiddo is ready to pace My Runner, and I think that helps seal the deal; he's ready to keep moving. Gap Creek is only 5 miles away, but just like the other short leg, it's a CLIMB. 1450 ft up, 1000 ft down.

Gap Creek is the most festive AS I've seen. Christmas lights line the trails. Acoustic covers of well known songs are playing. The station is serving pancakes, bacon, and eggs along with other standard AS fare. There's a fire pit where folks have gathered around, dozing. Runners sleepily clamber in, for it's now just before 4am; they've been at it for almost 23 hours. The course comes through here twice: once at 68.7 miles, and again at 95.4. We see some of the leaders coming in for their second round- these folks might still make 100 miles under 24 hours. There's a cot near the tents where runners can catch a quick nap- might be all they need to regain the strength to keep coming.

Ultra Dad and I pass some time chatting, but soon we're both nervously waiting at the trail head where the 68 milers are coming in. We can watch the headlamps of the runners as they descend the incline into the AS. They're so high up they look like fireflies in the sky. As My Runner and Kiddo come in around 4:20am, I can hear Kiddo yakking away. I pity My poor Runner and hope Kiddo has been more of a help than a hindrance. As he comes in, he asks how close he is to cutoff. "One hour," I told him, and I watched him deflate. Without admitting it, without him saying a word, without him consciously making a decision, I could see he was done. He took time before admitting what his body had already decided. Doing the math over and over in his head, factoring in the pain he was in, he realized there was no way he'd make the finish before the 36 hour cutoff. He relinquished his number to the AS volunteer, signaling his official dropout. 68.7 miles in exactly 24 hours.

Some runners view a DNF (Did Not Finish) as a black mark, a scourge. Some see it as a challenge to try again next year. I think My Runner is at peace with his decision. I'm proud of him for the hard miles he ran. The man barely trained, was (unknowingly) battling a chest cold, and ran for 24 hours, 68.7 rugged-ass miles.

I've written before about my love of crewing, and this race was no different.  I wish I hadn't missed the first AS, but luckily the guys weren't in much need and if there were any to miss, it was that one.  Hopefully I made up for it by being as prepared as possible with fuel for their bodies and their hearts.  Having to focus so intensely on someone else's needs is oddly freeing, almost meditative.  I'm able to push my own issues aside and trivialize my personal traumas, leaving room for a kind of calmness. I wonder if this is how my mother feels when she's nursing...

The Finisher's Belt Buckle

My Runner and I talked about next year on the ride home.  Would he come back for another attempt?  Would Ultra Dad?  What does he want from Massanutten?  A finisher's buckle?  Time with his father?  These questions are still unanswered, but My Runner did quote, "The will to finish means nothing without the will to train."

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Massanutten Mountain Trail Race- Crew Preview

We're somewhere in upstate NY heading down to Virginia  once again- this time with My Runner's pop Ultra Dad and his half brother Kiddo.  The MMT is a 100 mile race in the mountains of VA, which My Runner attempted for the first time last year. While Ultra Dad has completed MMT before, the course has been re-routed this year keeping it fresh even for veterans.
Initially the plan was to crew with Kiddo for the first 63 miles, then if needed jump in and pace. Since my ankle has been bum, Ib obviously haven't been running, never minding training to pace.
Not being able to pace has been the biggest disappointment of this injury. It was one of my goals this year, and had I stayed innjury-free I could have acheived it.
On the bright side, I'm very much on the mend.  Mrs. Strong lent me a bracer the I canuse walking or sporting, and wearing it has helped. And because I'm stubborn, I brought my running gear.
Crewing for the two guys should be interesting. The weather is supposed to be lovely tomorrow, which is great since the majority of the drive down has been in pouring rain on crappy roads with old wind sheild wipers. I'm actually looking forward to the crewing experience again. Sorta like my Mom once desceibed working in the ER: hours of nothing interrupted by a few minutes of crazy.
Kiddo seems like a good kid, though I'm thoroughly UN-versed in the interests of thirteen-year-old boys. So far I've learned he has a love/hate relationship with his iPhone, changes the parts on his mountain bike often, and his very favoritest thing is Dunkin' Donuts White Hot Chocolate. Go figure.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010



Lately (ok, for a while now), I haven't really had any investment in my job.  While the paycheck and the hours are good, I'm not putting a lot into it because I don't feel like I get rewarded for working hard.  So I spend my time hardly working, or doing the minimal, then get frustrated when deadlines appear out of nowhere and I have a million things to do on a Friday.

This weekend I was visiting my cousins at my aunt's house and one of them (who successfully operates a local outlet of a national insurance company) asked me about my job.  I don't like to talk about my job because I don't enjoy it and I don't want to sound like a complainer.  So I said something like, "Eh, it's a job."  She's not one to be put off, however, and pressed for further information.  The more I got into it, the more she pointed to what I could do to change what I didn't like.

What?  It's not MY fault that I don't get merit-based raises.  That I do the work of 2-3 people.  They'd NEVER hire another person to take responsibilities.  Despite my negative attitude, she carried on, suggesting methods I could use to prioritize my work and prove that other functions of my job are wasteful.  Her point, which I finally came around to (god I'm stubborn about advice) was that even if nothing changed, I would learn skills necessary for position advancement here or elsewhere, and if I did decide to leave after all that, I could explain in detail the work that I did to improve the operation.  I would leave with a legitimate reason.  If I left now, the best I could say is that it's too much work- not the makings of a great candidate for anything, really.

I hate to admit when I'm wrong, especially when it means that I was ALSO lazy and irresponsible... but I'm wrong.  I've been using childish excuses to hate my job.  Spending 9 hours a day shirking responsibility isn't really the best use of my time.  I may never LOVE my job, and that's ok, but that doesn't mean I can't spend the work day growing as a person.  It's better than spending 9 hours a day surfing the internet and complaining.  That's what half the people do here, and I detest them for it.  I don't want to be that.

So, if it's all about goals and expectations, what are those for me?  My long-term goal is to make a case for this position to advance to the level of "Director" instead of "Coordinator."  This would allow for a salary increase based on pay scale and the elevation in title would translate better when looking for other jobs.  It would also make a case for having another position, even if it's part time, in the department.  My short-term goal is to accomplish my work within deadlines.  This is more of an attitude adjustment- to actually DO work rather than put it off.

My expectations are to get out of this job what I put into it.  Minimal effort will equal minimal satisfaction.  I already know I'm not motivated on a day-to-day basis by a paycheck (though I am motivated to do a minimal amount to keep GETTING a paycheck).  I know when I have a good day and accomplish a lot I do feel a sense of satisfaction and ::gasp:: fulfillment.  I can't expect a merit-based raise, a bonus, or other financial reward.  With my current management, even a pat on the back is rare.

The key to all of this is motivation.  What's going to motivate me at the end (or the beginning, or the middle) of the day to do work that I don't really find enjoyable?  Being able to cross a task off a list?  eh.  I'm not a big "list maker;"  I'll make a list and then never look at it.  A vague sense of satisfaction?  That'll last maybe a day.  Knowing that, long term, I'm doing the right thing?  Ha!  Have you MET me??  So, this is what I'm missing.  What will KEEP me motivated?  By nature I'm lazy (even though I hate that about myself, I know it to be true).  My work ethic is sub-par, and I hate feeling like someone else is telling me I have to do things.  Because, you know, I'm 10.

Trying to keep my goals and expectations in mind will help.  But other than that, I'm not sure how to stay motivated.  I know I don't want to use food or purchases as reward (since being fat and poor also won't make me happy).  How do you stay motivated at work, or doing tasks you hate?  If you're a "worker," what is it about completing the task that makes you feel so good?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 03, 2010

Personality Sponge- Soak it Up

A friend recently made a comment that when I'm seeing someone I take on their personality and do whatever that person likes to do.  And to a certain extent this is true.  But is it a bad thing?

It's true that I wasn't really "a runner" before I met My Runner.  I was, however, running as warmup for hockey. Since I've been with My Runner not only did I dive headlong into the world of running I also rediscovered my love for hiking and being in the woods.  This same friend once asked me if I actually like running, or if I just do it because My Runner is doing it.  It's a good question.  I'm a social person, so I like running MORE when I'm running with someone.  I'm also not very disciplined, so if no one else I know is running, I'm likely to not run.  Currently, almost everyone I know that runs I've met through My Runner, so it's hard to say if I'm running *because* of My Runner.  I know I do enjoy it.  I love spending time with these people, challenging myself, and having new experiences.

As you know I also play hockey.  Why?  Because of Cap'n Mop.  I NEVER would have picked up a hockey stick if it weren't for knowing him.  And if Cap'n Mop moved far far away, I'm not entirely sure I would maintain my hockey playing.  I love the game, it's fun to play in a team sport, but I'm really there because my friends are there.  It's pretty parallel to me running with My Runner.

So, when does this move from expanding my interests to abandoning my personality?  I've put all theatre on hold.  My "home improvement" project recovering a chair has been on the sidelines for months now.  Even the books I'm reading have been running books.  New items in my home and wardrobe are purchased with the idea that I can use them outside when running or hiking.

These changes have all been conscious decisions.  I don't regret them, and I thought long and hard before making my choices (ok, not THAT long and hard about the chair project, but still...)  Activities are not what defines me.  What defines me is my interactions with the world and the people in my life, and that hasn't changed.  Perhaps the amount of time I spend with people has changed as I've met new friends, but I still love my friends and family from the bottom of my heart and with incredible loyalty.  I still strive to enjoy all the moments I get to share with people in this life.  THAT'S what defines me, not what I do, but how I do it.

Have I soaked up personalities along the way?  Yes.  And I'm happy to do that.  It's part of what makes me who I am.