Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Triumph of Tender and Moist Proportions

I have a very exciting announcement to make:

You are talking to (well... errr... you are reading the blog of) the proud and distinguished winner of the First Annual Cedar Butte Turkey Trot Trophy, awarded last Thanksgiving morning after a highly competitive six-mile run around the neighborhood.

While I'm typically a very humble being and not one to boast, I have to say this accomplishment is quite worthy of shameless and unabashed gloating. There were a few miles (about six of them, to be exact) I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull it off, but I dug in deep and harnessed all my inner willpower and determination to overcome the debilitating discomfort in order to best my many fellow turkey trotters.

To be politically and technically correct (*eyeroll), I didn't win the trophy because I was the first trotter to cross the finish line. I might have won it in a completely random drawing as a "participator". But I encourage you not to let yourself get distracted by insignificant details! It was very touch-and-go there for a few seconds while the winner's name was being drawn out of the plastic mixing bowl. Yet, despite the intense and intimidating competition by which I was surrounded, I never lost faith. That trophy was meant to be mine.

And while we're at it... what do you mean you've never heard of the First Annual Cedar Butte Turkey Trot? There was a whole 23 of us there; this was a huge community event! I'm sure you just missed the two-page spread and accompanying photographs in the newspaper as you greedily whipped past it to get your hands on the Black Friday sales ads. But I assure you, it's there. In color.

My First Annual CBTT trophy is nothing short of a work of art. I am certain it was painstakingly hand-carved from a very rare and exotic tree that grows only in monkey-infested jungles in the Orient, then meticulously bronzed and re-bronzed in the finest and most precious of metals. Already, I've had to turn away dozens of bearded nomads who have traveled from afar to admire my trophy as it adorns my lamp table in the living room. When I'm in a really good mood, I'll allow some of them inside the house but they have to leave their cameras and video recording devices on the porch. I'm pretty sure the flash of cameras would damage the delicate and intricate finishing and I certainly don't want to risk that. Television and newspaper reporters from around the world have been clamoring for interviews but I'm too humble for all that nonsense. I just tell them I'm a simple Idaho girl who happened to stumble upon greatness one Thanksgiving morn. It's an inspiring story, really, and the movie offers are very flattering, but I don't think I'll sell the rights. Unless it's the Hallmark channel, because they do touching and heart-warming so well.

As proud as I am of my well-earned trophy, it unfortunately will only be mine to claim until the next annual CBTT. At that point, I'll have to relinquish it to the next winner. But in the meantime, it will sit atop my lamp table in all its regal, avian perfection the entire year long. Come July, I may have to explain more than once what-the heck's-up-with-the-turkey??, but once my story is told, it will all make sense and people will nod with reverent respect and a touch of envy.

It's just a good thing my turkey trophy isn't of the plucked and frozen variety. With my appetite of a linebacker, it'd be so roasted and smothered in cranberry sauce by now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Reason for the Season

As we are all well aware, it's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! No... I'm not talking about the Christmas season with all its twinkly lights and festive charms. And although it comes in as a very close second, I'm not even talking about the back-to-school season, when, after three long months, we can finally shoo the kids back to the classroom to once again become the problem of their respective school teachers. No, folks, I'm talking about Thanksgiving. Or, as I like to call it, The Day of Pure and Unadulterated Happiness.

As a child, the arrival of Thanksgiving wasn't as greatly anticipated as Christmas morning... until the moment I awoke on Thanksgiving morning one year and was hit by the aroma of my mother's homemade stuffing. She always began by sautéing the mushrooms, celery and onion in real butter and the smell of it hit my nose like a freshly opened can of tuna fish hits a hungry stray cat. I'd take in a deep breath, close my eyes and say to my young self, "THIS is happiness."

And the day only got better from there.

From Mom's stuffing and cheesey carrots (friendly parental tip: you can add cheese to any vegetable and a kid will think it's the best invention in the world) to Dad's homemade rolls and pumpkin pies, Thanksgiving soon and easily became my favorite holiday. Even above Arbor Day, if you can believe that.

We weren't the kind of family that played football on Thanksgiving or even watched it on TV. We were the kind of family that helped prepare the meal together, ate until we were ill, took a nap by the fireplace then rinsed and repeated. And, at Mom's encouragement, we were the kind of family that expressed gratitude. As in go-around-the-table-one-at-a-time-to-say-what-you're-thankful-for kind of gratitude. It was always a little embarrassing and despite Mom's intent to keep things serious, it usually turned into a bout of riotous and irreverent laughter. But the lesson was learned. We were thankful and we made sure that at least on Thanksgiving Day, we explained why.

It's been a very long time since I've blogged and it's taken a few weeks to convince myself that formulating a post after all this time has passed wouldn't be worth anything more than the few minutes it takes to tap it out. Life has thrown my family a few curve balls the last couple of years and priorities have had to shift. But as another Thanksgiving Day approaches, I'm compelled to stop a moment and really ponder on those things for which I'm grateful. Mom would be so proud.

Lest you think I'm going to divert from the focus of this blog, however, think again! People never read my blog to gain insightful wisdom or learn the meaning of the universe, after all. People read my blog for the ridiculous running stories. And so, not to disappoint those who've come to know me for such fodder, I offer another running story to you. But in an attempt to perhaps interject just a little bit of meaningful insight this time of year, this running story is somewhat serious... although I'm sure Mother will be highly suspicious.

One of the most profound lessons on gratitude I've learned was a couple of years ago at about mile 24 of a marathon course. One by one, I'd knocked off all the previous miles and my physical and mental state was severely showing the brunt of them. Yet, I had two more miles to go and in the state I was in, I might as well have had 100. I was tired. I was in pain. I was done. I cursed myself for ever thinking it was a good idea to run a marathon (yet, this was my fourth one; I'm a very slow learner). I wanted to quit in the worst of ways and had convinced myself by covertly ducking off into the crowd of spectators, nobody would ever know I gave up.

With an escape plan in place, my feet agonizingly shuffling forward and my brain matter dissolving into melted jello, my eyes caught focus of a woman about twenty yards ahead of me on the side of the road. She was a spectator and on her face was the brightest smile I had ever seen. Clapping her hands loudly, she called out words of encouragement to every runner that passed. "You can do it! You're so close!" Time felt as if it was moving in slow-motion as I more closely approached this woman. She turned her attention solely to me, the smile on her face bright as day and clapped her hands for me. It wasn't until that moment, in my foggy mental state of misery, that I saw this woman was sitting in a wheelchair. As I tried to compute from my eyes to my brain the image in front of me, I realized she had no legs. For whatever reason and how ever it came to be, this woman was crippled. For all I knew, she may have never known in her life what it felt like to walk or to run. Yet, here she was, a spectator at a marathon of all places, cheering enthusiastically for people who run for sport. As the weight of this realization hit me, I became very emotional and choked back a few tears. My head lifted and my step quickened as the lesson so humbly taught to me in just a moment's time hit my soul like a ton of bricks.

Gratitude isn't just being thankful for what we have. It's celebrating all the miracles of life in the ways we're most capable of demonstrating, in spite of our own personal challenges. I finished that marathon with a renewed sense of vigor and honor for my own life and for the blessings I've been granted. And when I feel a little down and out, I remember the woman on the side of the road, her bright smile and a few perspective and life changing footsteps.

Now, enough of the soft stuff. I have a Thanksgiving to celebrate and a turkey-related coma to induce. And if I'm really lucky, a little riotous and irreverent laughter for dessert.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jolly Holiday

I went out this morning for my first sunrise run of the year.

I'm no stranger to early-morning workouts, mind you. Summer training finds me on the road as early as 4:30 in the morning and winter training finds me in the gym at an equally ungodly hour. It's taken until the first week of May this year, however, to find the gumption to hit the pavement at the break of dawn.

I'd forgotten how perfect early morning running really is. Surreal, I'd even go so far to say. I wasn't more than a mile down the road when I was struck with the impression I was in the middle of the movie Mary Poppins when it goes from real-life to animation. You remember that part, right? When I was a kid, I wished over every birthday cake I ever ate that I could play in an animated world like that, even just for one day. And then I blew out the candles and opened packages of socks and underwear instead.

As I headed out that morning, the sun was barely peeking over the eastern horizon, illuminating the sky in subdued watercolor hues. The clouds were wispy, gently floating in the cool, crisp morning air. For just another hour or so, the atmosphere would be absolutely silent except for the sound of the chirping bluebirds and the red tulips opening their delicate petals to greet the azure sky. I think the birds could have been singing a Rob Zombie tune and it would have been the loveliest melody ever heard.

As I climbed the butte behind my neighborhood to run the farm hills above it, I saw six bunny rabbits casually sunning on the side of the road. (They weren't just regular rabbits... they were bunnies.) They eyed me cautiously then scampered quickly away before I could get too close to them. I startled a mallard duck out of the stream I was running alongside, fascinated by its brilliant colors as it flapped its wings in retreat. Even the farm horses grazing in their pastures seemed extraordinarily regal.

As I ran, lighter on my feet than I'd been in a very long time, I marveled at the sheer resplendence of it all. It may have taken thirty years, but I finally got my chance to play in an animated world. As the song goes, happiness was blooming all around me.

I'm just glad Dick Van Dyke didn't show up doing a tap dance in those creepy penguin pants.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


My treadmill died last night.

His name was Wes (short for Weslo Cadence, 340 CS the Third). He was a good treadmill.

I bought Wes eight years ago when I first entertained the notion running might be a fun thing to do. I didn't spend a lot of money on him since I wasn't sure how much time we'd be spending together. In fact, I think I even bought him on clearance, knowing I'd feel less guilty about wasting the money on him when he turned into a storage shelf within three months.

Wes never did become a storage shelf, nor even a clothes hanger. Wes lived out the days of his life being precisely what he was meant to be.

At first, I didn't put many demands on Wes. We were just getting to know each other, after all, and I didn't want to scare him off prematurely. I'd go for a trot a few times a week and call it good. But as time went on, Wes and I became much more intimately connected. Soon we found ourselves spending hours upon hours together. We were like Bonnie and Clyde, except there weren't any bank robberies involved. Wes never complained and he never failed. He just kept churning away as slow or as fast as my legs demanded.

Wes's demise came on suddenly. In retrospect, I believe it was an act of mercy as I think he knew I wouldn't be able to handle watching him suffer for very long. We were halfway into an hour-long tempo run when he started coughing and sputtering. I was surprised and confused but after a few minutes, I knew what was happening. The sorrowful gravity of the moment I had long dreaded gripped ahold of me. I was going to have to put Wes down and I was going to have to do it within the next 27 minutes.

Those final moments were painful and heartrending. Ever the allegiant companion, Wes courageously writhed forward in agony. I willingly followed at his own pace, whispering words of comfort and urging him to go towards the light.

I spent the final minute of Wes' existence gripping the handrails, dripping sweat on the console and breathlessly expressing my gratitude for all he had done for me. When I mercifully turned him off and unplugged him for the last time, my heart runneth over as I imagined a host of little naked, winged angels carrying him away to a happier place.

Thank you, Wes. I am a better runner because of you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

It's been a very long time since I last blogged. Let's just say I've been in a bad mood for six months and leave it at that. And while I can't promise this post won't be just a lead-in to another extended hiatus, I at least thought I could de-hibernate enough to poke my head out of my cave for a few moments and update my readers. All seven of you.

Truthfully, I think I've hit a wall with blogging. Over the course of a few years, I've covered every slightly interesting or entertaining subject there could possibly be on the subject of running. I've discussed in gory detail bodily functions and fluids. I've talked numbers and stats down to the seconds and tenths. I've recounted harrowing stories and wild adventures. I've whined over what hurts; I've rejoiced over what doesn't. I've spewed then regurgitated onto the pages of my blog everything that seemed even remotely readable.

And now... well... I got nothin'.

If this is to be my last post, I want to thank those of you who have stuck with me. I don't have a sidebar filled with hundreds of followers. My comment sections aren't packed with folks clamoring to respond with their own two cents. But despite the fact I haven't done a single giveaway for a fabulous free piece of running gear, I've had some terrific readers who have become trusted friends. Thank you for that. To every thing there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and I'll remember my blogging season quite fondly.

In the event I actually buck up and pull my head out of wherever it's stuck in order to keep writing... I am still running! I spent another winter season kicking my own ass, leaving puddles of sweaty determination on the asphalt around my town and on the floor of my gym. I just ran a very strong half-marathon over the weekend and races are lining up for the rest of the year. I am, if I may be so bold to toot my own horn, in prime shape right now. I lost nearly ten pounds over the holidays and have subsequently watched my paces dip lower and lower. I may be staring 40 square in the face, but I've got a bright future ahead of me with many an adventure (and a PR) still to be had. Turn, turn, turn!

If you'll excuse me now, all this turning has made me nauseous.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beware: Stupidity Ahead

It's been awhile since I've blogged. Finishing another grueling round of marathon training then topping it off with a successful race apparently puts me in automatic vacation mode. Not the lounging-on-a-sandy-white-beach-listening-to-the-waves-and-sipping-piña-coladas kind of vacation mode. More like the shutting-off-the-alarm-clock-instead-of-getting-up-to-run-in-the-cold-dark-because-I'm-not-training-and-don't-have-to-run-anyway kind of vacation mode. It's no fruity drink with a miniature umbrella, but it's a pretty good place to be nonetheless.

Truth be told, I've never been much for recovery. Three days after my marathon, when I was finally able to move forward more than three steps at a time, I naturally felt like I was due for a run. That weekend, I ran eight miles of rolling hills. The next weekend, I ran 12 miles of flat country roads. And the next weekend, I was nursing an injury.

Well, surprise, surprise.

Sustaining a post-marathon injury is as inevitable for me as Kanye West making a fool of himself in public. It's just bound to happen.

Of course, I'm no stranger to injury. In my relatively short running career, I've injured everything there is to injure. More than once. I've been there, done that. And because I've been there, done that, I know exactly how to treat an injury. Forget resting and taking time off in order to heal, blah blah blah. Nooo... the way to treat an injury is with ice. Lots and lots of ice. There's just no such thing as too much ice.

Except... apparently, there is.

I'm the kind of person who scoffs at printed warnings because they obviously only pertain to stupid people. Don't put ice pack directly on skin? Pfftt... that's for stupid people. Don't leave ice pack on skin for more than 15-20 minutes at a time? Whatever. Only a moron would need to be told that.

Anyway, I'm done blogging now. Show's over. You folks go back to what you were doing.

The frostbite on my thigh needs another antibiotic treatment.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Top of Utah: Take Two

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Seems to me that's one good reason why marathon runners are considered insane (besides the obvious ones, of course).

Saturday morning, I ran my fourth marathon and for the first time, I ran a marathon I'd already run before. A marathon that'd already kicked my butt before. And yet, there I was again... begging for more.

Insanity at its finest.

To be fair, the technical results this time actually were different... 14 minutes and 35 seconds different, to be exact (which was the improvement I made on the same course from two years ago). Even better, I set a new marathon PR on Saturday as well by clocking in at 4:19:22, more than seven minutes faster than my previous personal record.

I should be ecstatic, right? Well... I am. Sort of. But here's where the insanity comes into play.

At mile 20, I was on course to shatter my PR, not just clip it. The first 18 miles of the course were downhill and despite my efforts to keep my legs in check, they were on fire. Even the weather was working against me with a strong 15mph tailwind pushing me even faster down the canyon. Over and over again, I checked my GPS for my pace and over and over again, I had to force myself to SLOW DOWN. It was all an effort in vain, however, and although I managed to keep things from going wildly out of control, I failed miserably at disciplining myself enough to stick to the negative split strategy in order to finish strong.

It all felt sickeningly familiar.

Two years ago, I did the exact same thing. I built up a full head of steam the first 18 miles running downhill only to crash and burn and lose a PR in the final six miles. For all intents and purposes, it should have been a lesson learned... if I were sane, that is.

In the end, I still got the PR I was coveting on Saturday morning, one that has eluded me since I ran my first marathon more than three years ago. And while I'm annoyed with myself that I can't seem to find the necessary discipline to avoid the Crash and Burn that would've resulted in a much bigger PR, I'm still supremely pleased with my accomplishment. Perhaps I'm the kind of runner that will only make PR's in small chunks at a time... and that's okay. At least the numbers are going in the right direction and that's reason enough to keep trying.

I don't know if I'll be back to Top of Utah. Although I love the event, I just don't get along with the course. I'll be researching marathons in the coming months that will be much more forgiving of my insistence to start out too fast. If it has to be an uphill marathon, so be it, as long as there's enough flat or downhill at the end of it to finally turn my legs loose.

It's the least I can do to repay them for all the hard work they do at the hands of a lunatic.

Warm orange Powerade never tasted so good. If my tank top seems a little... errr... off kilter, it's because my last energy gel (out of four total) is still stuffed in the right side. I've never felt so voluptuous.

An impromptu "ice bath" after the race (hopefully the last time I'll be pictured lying in a gutter). My Garmin registered a total of 26.5 miles, no doubt a result of my inefficiency in running the tangents down the winding canyon road. No wonder I'm still so sore today... stinkin' extra three tenths of a mile!