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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lost in the Woods Part 2

Link to Part 1

The jolt of seeing someone from the "outside world" helps me to finally climb out of my inner emotional hole.  I grab a Gu pack for some more calories and hope it helps.  Taps is quick, so I had a feeling he'd catch me soon, and he certainly does.  He again suggests we work together, and I'm more than happy for the company at this point- anything to keep me from being the crazy crying cussing monster I'd been for the last hour plus.

While I've seen Taps attentive, calm, and thoughtful, that's about as doleful as he gets.  He's a positive person with a good amount of energy.  Just working together improves my mood.  He shares his difficulties with the directions and the map, I share mine with the terrain.  We might actually do pretty well together.  Too bad I "poo-poo'd" the idea of working as a team at the start.  Between the two of us we find book 6 with little issues.

Found in a stone wall near the boundary of Fox Forrest

The relatively easy find lifts my spirits even more.  We're headed towards Book 7, the first of the set that Puma hid.  The tone of the directions change with the new author and we're struggling a bit.  We run into Puma on the way.  While it was great to see another face, it was kind of a bummer that we came upon her while she had the book in her hand.  It was great to cross another one off the list, though.  I might have been feeling better emotionally, but I was starting to get physically tired.

Up, Down, back, forth, that's pretty much what this adventure was like.

And now we're three.  We're in the same part of the woods we ran through on Puma's birthday run, and I recognize it.  I point out to Taps where he drove his truck onto the now unused Concord End Rd to pick me up the very last time I seriously hurt my ankle.  We laugh and laugh about how I always hurt myself.  hehe... awww...

The directions have a funny little passage on the way to Book 8:
"There is a crevice in-between two of the boulders that I would take a closer look at.  It would make a good hiding spot would it not? Oh well, continue your NE climb..."  
"What is that supposed to mean?" Taps wonders.  Puma's following us, trying not to lead us where we're supposed to go.  I have an idea.... and it's Trail Magic!!

Yum- frosty beers!

My stomach is churning from crying and poor eating, and Taps is playing last-minute anorexic to win his Biggest Looser contest at work (he did, btw, for $230 prize), so we split our beer.  We get back on the trail and I'm feeling confident (it could have been the booze talking).  Not far along the trail we find Book 8.

Another Jesus book.  If you didn't know us you'd think we were religious folks.  In reality we got all these from the dump.

We miss the turn from the trail to the unmarked "Ancient" trail and Puma corrects us.  I'm glad we didn't waste time, but it's hard to go with someone who knows where they're going.  Taps suggests we hang back as she goes ahead, and I'm happy for the break.  We study the next few sections of directions.  I know we've been on parts of this trail before, but everthing looks different in the winter.  We confirm the directions on the map, spending some time ensuring we wouldn't get lost.

We follow the trail with no issues to Book 9, eventually finding it well hidden in the bridge discarded at the side of the stream.

All three of these children could represent my emotional status at some point during this adventure.

Now we came to the "Choose your own adventure" portion of the show.  No, really, it's in the directions.  We could choose one of three ways to get to Book 10, hidden at the kiosk in a large, recently logged area of the forest. One way had you continue down the trail and meet up with Ridge Trail, following established routes.  Another had you backtracking to Concord End Rd.  The third and most direct course was to follow the stream back to established trail.  We only had one book left, and we were both eager to get it and finish.  We chose to follow the stream until it met with the run-able trails/roads.  Following the stream WAS direct, but it was challenging- again post-holing through snow covered tree fall and rocks.

It was great to run again once we got to Concord End Road.  I didn't care that my feet were wet- I could smell the finish and we were covering ground faster at the end of this run then we had all day.  We were able to run all the way to the kiosk in Oak Lot, passing Puma along the way who had taken a different route, where the final book was hidden beneath a rock.

I barely looked at the title- just tore it out and stuffed it in my pack.  I was ready to be done.

I look at Taps- there's no way we're bushwhacking through the woods.  We both want to run.   We again chose a runnable path back to Puma's- about a mile of path, old road, and country dirt road.  I was huffing and puffing by the end, but I wanted to be DONE.  I was euphoric and emotionally drained.  10 minutes after finding Book 10 we were running into Puma's driveway to the sound of cheerful cowbells.

My triumphant "I'm not lost in the fucking woods anymore" finish with Taps by my side

4 Leaf had finished almost an hour before us.  Puma was maybe 10 minutes behind us.  Moose and Gazelle about 45 minutes behind her.  The usual post-adventure post-mortem occurs- everyone enjoying the warm sun, sharing when they got lost, their struggles and triumphs.  I try not to relay how crazy I was, the ultimate lows of my adventure, but I couldn't muster a  lie either.  I held it together...

Until... stubbed my toe and foot.  I went inside I cried trying to get it all out.  4-Leaf had put a lot into organizing this adventure and I was trying not to let him know how traumatized I was by all of it.  And I was ashamed that I was being childish.  I cleaned up and went back outside to gather my stuff and clean up.  Then my loving runner had to go and ask if I was ok.  I couldn't keep the crazy girl from the middle of the woods out of my voice, so my general, "Yeah, I'm just great" came out sounding the opposite.  As a loving bf would, he followed me as I tried to run away, and urged it out of me.  I broke down , told him I hated it all and asked him to never ask me to do this again.  He chuckled a bit (I mean, I was ridiculous), hugged me, rubbed my back, and told me it was all ok.

Then he said we were going back out to pick all the books up the next weekend.

My actual scanned map and directions.  If you look closely you'll even find where I bit it out of frustration.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In the Moment

Part 2 will be finished soon- still overcoming a bit of PTSD... In the meantime, take a listen to a few short podcasts from one of my favorite shows, Radiolab.

In the Running
Diane Van Deren is one of the best ultra-runners in the world, and it all started with a seizure.  In this short, Diane tells the story on how her disability gave rise to an extraordinary ability.
After listening, part of me wishes I could remove the parts of my brain that created self-doubt, pain, laziness, and followed the passage of time.  But since I'd rather not shave my head and have people pick at my brain, I guess I'll have to work to shut those parts down when they're inconvenient.

The Loneliness of the Goalkeeper
Jad and Robert present a piece from across the pond--a piece about soccer they fell in love with when they heard it at the Third Coast festival in Chicago.
I heard this when Radiolab first podcasted it in February.  Knowing so many Goalkeepers (for hockey, anyways) it was an exciting look into their perspective on the game.  Now that I'm training as one, I re listened to the piece... and I'm still digesting.  

And just for giggles- Fred:
Ferrets *love* hockey smell- one of the only scents less tolerable than ferret.  :-)

Belleh!  Toe beans!  Upsidedown Face!  It's the cute tri-fecta!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blast from the Past: Strike a Pose

"Blast from the Past" is where I share photos from my past that hopefully explain some of my odd behaviors.  Or at least illustrate how far I've come in my 30 years.

Always the performer, one can't just stand there for a picture.  One must... STRIKE A POSE!  I still catch myself doing this today, and most of the time it just comes out half-awkward.  But when one fully commits to a pose, it comes out glorious!  Perhaps gloriously goofy, but glorious is still there.  Below, four fully committed poses:

Brother Mine, Moi, and Mom at the start of my "double thumbs up" phase.  At least I come by my posing honestly.

Junior Prom.  Nothing like wearing gloves and a top hat to make you COMMIT to the pose.

The sneak attack, or self-photobomb.  No one IN the photo needs to know how committed you are... 

Or you can commit so much that everyone agrees.... she should be committed...
No drugs or alcohol were harmed in the making of this photo.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lost in the Woods Part 1

Fox Scavenger Hunt (or Mini Barkley), April 3rd, 10am

Last year My Runner completed a loop at Barkley, a crazy (even by crazy ultra running standards) race in the wilds of Tennessee.  To say it made an impression would be a gross understatement.  He didn't come back changed, exactly, but... mentally and emotionally expanded.  And inspired.

This year, in honor of this experience, My Runner organized a Mini Barkley (and I mean VERY mini) in Fox Forest.  He and Puma gathered about 15 books from the swap shop in Hboro for us to choose from.  The three of us divvied up the "hiding" of the books and writing of our directions.  Even just hiding my books I knew this was going to be a difficult adventure for me.  While I'm somewhat familiar with Fox's trails, I mostly just follow.  The whole point of this scavenger hunt was to go OFF trail... bushwack, use a map and a compass to take bearings, follow directions that use landmarks and little else to get you where you're going.
Fox Forest trail & topographical map.  The red line is our route.

This blogger challenges female ultra runners to try their hand at conquering the ACTUAL Barkley.  The way Kim writes it, I want to raise my running skirt high and give a HELL YEA!  Except that I am NOT the one to stand up for this challenge.  4-Leaf and Puma know the woods like crazy.  Hell, they've been living in Hboro for 10 years.  I was a little intimidated by my task to hide 2 of the 10 books.  Then I was a lot intimidated.  After a scouting session and a hiding session, I had to be satisfied with what I had done and the directions I wrote.  The three of us wrote up our directions, we read them as little as possible to proof-read, and drew up a map, then we put it all aside so we wouldn't have an unfair advantage.

On a sunny and relatively mild April morning we gathered at Puma's house (the forest is LITERALLY across the street) to start our adventures.  Gazelle and Moose were playing as a team, and Taps had joined us too.  We drew numbers to determine the order we'd leave in, chose our "race" numbers (ie, the page numbers we'd pull from the books to confirm we'd found them- mine was 37 of course) and we were off: 4-Leaf first, then me, then Gazelle and Moose, Taps, and Puma sweeping.
Taps, Gazelle, me, Moose, Puma, 4-Leaf

Since I'd hidden the first two books I was determined to close some of the 5 minute gap between My Runner and I.  The woods had other ideas.  (BTW- this will be a theme- Leea vs. the Woods)  There was a decent amount of snow on the ground and post-holing was not just likely but inevitable.  I trotted where the trail had a packed center, then my leg would sink up to my knee and I'd slow down.  I was out of breath by the first book, about half a mile in and not far off the trail.  I was turning off trail early so those behind me wouldn't follow my tracks in the snow.

Books 1 (Mischeif) and 2 (Titled Love Comes Softly)

Two books in, and now into the unknown- it wasn't long before a setback turned into a meltdown.  The second direction for book 3 was to take Gould Pond trail.  I've followed this trail at least half a dozen times over the last year and a half.  I'd found the trail head and the tree with three blazes.  I couldn't find any other blazes or the rest of the trail.  I'd wandered up and down the hill for 10, maybe 15 minutes- a long time when we're talking back and forth on about 150 yards of hill.  I started crying and swearing- if I can't find an effing trail, how the heck am I supposed to get past the ACTUAL challenges of the course?

I was out of control.  I couldn't stop crying.  I was panicking.  I wasn't lost because I knew where I was, but I didn't know where I was going.  The only reason I didn't give up and go home was the shame I felt when imagining others seeing my tear-stained face and only having two books.  Somehow, finally, I stumbled upon the trail.  I honestly don't remember how I did it, but I looked up and saw one white blaze after another, and wondered how I had missed it.

In hindsight, RIGHT HERE is where I should have thought about eating.  For those that know me, my mood and my blood sugar are closely linked.  While I don't NEED to have low blood sugar to go over the edge, the edge and I meet much faster if I haven't eaten well.  Unfortunately it would be another 30 minutes at least before I made this connection on the trail.

The next section was following a bearing through what My Runner (affectionately, I think) calls The Gauntlet. His trail went straight through a grove of towering red pines filled with young growth pines and pucker brush all between 4' and 6' high.  It was like going through those rotating brushes at the car wash, except the brushes were hard and you are soft.  Needless to say, my mood did not improve, though my curses had now become varied and quite colorful.  I have my theatre training and vast knowledge of Shakespeare to thank.  (It's a syphilis joke!!!)
See those trees straight ahead?  Yeah, go through those.  Not around- through.

After making it through the gauntlet, finding the stone wall (and there's like, literally a thousand stone walls in this forest), loosing it, finding it again, I came upon book 3 hidden in the rocks in the middle of a stream.  Oh, the stream?  Yeah, now I'm wet too.  Now is when I think, you know what?  I'm back on track, I'm making good time, why do I still hate everything?  Oh, I should eat!  I, quite literally, inhale a 100 calorie pack of almonds and keep going.  Yes, yes, I know that wasn't really enough, but at the time that's all I had the patience for.  As I said, I was far gone.
Book 3, Cold as Ice.  Had to tape this one back together to scan it.... was a weee bit frustrated...

I made my way up the beside river, trying to find the path with the least amount of snow and therefore the least unseen hazards.  The snow was still deep enough to hide rocks, fallen trees, and stumps, so when your leg went through it might go up to your thigh and scrape along a granite boulder on the way.  Another stone wall and a bearing West I find book 4 in the nook of a tree with no issues.  The rational part of my brain has a stronger grip now, but I'm still swearing it up whenever I post hole or run into a direction that's less than direct.  My map is balled up in my hand in frustration, and as much as I tell myself that my attitude is counter-productive, I can't wholly climb out of my downward spiral.
Book 4, The Revelation of John Vol. 2.  See how much the food helped? No rage tearing.

I come to Geary's Cemetary and I'm back to a familiar part of the forest.  Ooh, more trail, yay!  There's still some snow on the trails, but it's generally a bit more packed and the going is easier.  I follow Ridge Trail south per the directions.  After about 300 yards I see the cursed river I'd been following upstream off-trail... checking the map I see this is NOT the right direction.  True, I followed Ridge Trail south, but I'd really needed to follow Ridge Trail SSE as it ran along with Concord End Road.

A few choice curse words later (I don't *really* think those things about your heritage, baby, I swear) and I was back on the trail.  A fine section of runnable trail helped perk me up a bit before what I knew was coming- a steep climb straight up a hill- no trail, just a bearing and a prayer.  My compass chose this moment to be the shit and not give an accurate reading- it was showing just about every way was north.  Looking at the map and directions, the book was pretty much at the summit of the hill.  Eff it, I just started climbing.  I'd either find it or curse and cry more.

The climb was a bit theraputic.  The cursing was, well, cursory at best.  I wasn't teetering on the edge of tears- more strolling along the banks of the possibility of crying.  I found book 5 easier than I would have thought at the top of a Triforce of boulders.
Book 5, Touch the Horizon.  Appropriate for the climb, I would say.

I took my next bearing, only now discovering that (herp derp) my compass *couldn't* give an accurate reading that close to the magnetic clip on my water pack.  ::sigh:: Well, at least now the curses were directed at mysel- GASP!

"Hellooo!"  I heard through the woods.  Good thing I'd cried all my moisture out or I would have pee'd my pants.  After an hour plus alone in the woods with only the trees and squirrels to hear my tantrum, Taps was waving at me through the trees.  "Is the book over here?"  He was about 100 yards north of where the book was.  I pointed him in the right direction then sped down the hill.  I wasn't sure I was ready for civilized company, never mind the unending positivity of Taps.

To Be Continued.....

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Manchester Shamrock Shuffle

Sunday, March 27th
2 mi; 23m 37s

This was the inaugural year for the Shamrock Shuffle, a 2 mile out-and-back race on Elm St. in downtown Manchester set an hour before the St. Patrick's Day Parade.  Sponsored by Harpoon, the run had decent swag (hat for the first 500, pint glass for the first 750, and two free Harpoon beers for anyone that registered), and if you were a friend of Harpoon you got $5 off.  A 2 mile road race doesn't have a lot of appeal, but $17 for a pint glass and two free beers plus an easy way to hang out with folks certainly increases the appeal.

Team Robert in effect!

So much so that Team Robert had a GREAT turnout!  My Runner (aka 4-Leaf) and I, Puma, Moose & Gazelle, Taps, and Kanga, running her first race.  Our support crew/fan base was Kanga's hubby and little girl. It was sunny, windy, and cold as a witches tit.  We huddled in a sunny spot at Veteran's park waiting for the race to begin, having gotten prime parking right in front of Murphy's Taproom- a favorite tavern and home of the NHSSC.

Myself, Moose, and Gazelle sporting our team colors

As always, the race excitement builds as we crowd towards the starting line.  There's almost 1200 people running this short little race, and the crowds along Elm St are cheering fervently (probably to stay warm).  It's Kanga's first race, and I'm happy to run with her.  Sharing the excitement and trials of ANY race is part of the joy of running with a team.  Kanga did AMAZING- running the entire two miles finishing with me and 4-Leaf at 23:41, or an 11:51 minute mile.

Me and Kanga at 1.5 miles

The rest of the team did great as well, with 4-Leaf and Taps bounding back and forth between the team members, sharing their infectious and boundless energy.  Puma pushed ahead in the first mile of the run, with Moose catching up to her soon after.  Gazelle ran with her Moose, who also had an amazing run completing the entire two miles without a walk break.

Team at Murph's

We retired to Murphy's to celebrate, but with only barstools open, Kanga and her family decided to take this time to visit family in the area.  Six of us, hanging at the bar, with our Team Robert shirts on, sharing beers, food, and good times... A good way to end any run.

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