28 November 2013

Counting My Blessings

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 
- A.A. Milne 
This year I decided to do something that friends of mine have been doing for years -- taking note of at least one thing to be thankful for every day in November. This year with the lack of a stressful job, the time and energy to enjoy my family, a church we love with new friends to get to know and an incredible inaugural year of ultrarunning I've had, it hasn't been too difficult to tick off one blessing after another. Some were daily realities; some were specific to the day's circumstances. I started posting them up on my facebook page and I'll repost them here:

Day 1:  With a day-long headache and girl with stuff coming out both ends, "Thanksvember" didn't start off well. More like "Mama's Extra Grumpy November". Blerg. However, my parents restocked us with fresh Alaskan moose meat, so we'll get to enjoy our favorite burgers this winter. Thankful!

Day 2: After Funk Friday, I was thankful for a new day full of delights. Getting out and enjoying the gorgeous weather, I got a run in, spent time with Grammy & Poppa, found an awesome playground and if that wasn't enough, I got a date night with my favorite dude. 

Day 3: Thankful to see Grammy & Poppa from Alaska every fall now that we live in CO and they snowbird in AZ!

Day 4: Thankful for afternoon tea with my baby girl. 

Day 5: Despite a very rough morning with the kids, thankful for friends like Sheila, who enable me to do speedwork on their dreadmill when I'm without childcare.

Day 6: Thankful that my dear huz has a job that he truly loves that also pays him a steady paycheck. (He's the chiropractor for the Air Force Academy.) He loves his work, his patients, his colleagues BIG and they love him right back. What a gift to do what you love & get paid for it too.

Day 7: I'm thankful for the gift of a sweet, goofy, smart boy that God blessed me with 6 years ago. He loves me something fierce even as I learn how to understand him (he's mildly autistic) and strive to be a better mom to him.

Day 8: I am thankful for legs that work and joy when I run. The ability to run up, down and around mountains has been a delightful gift to me here in Colorado, countering the sadness of leaving New England and my peeps almost three years ago.

Day 9: I am thankful for our new house. It came as an unexpected opportunity to own a place of our own again & I certainly feel more settled here in CO now.

Day 10: I'm thankful for our community at Westside Church, a bunch of big sinners who believe in an even bigger Savior. I look forward to corporate worship with them each Sunday. 

Day 11: For all those who serve(d) our country in the armed forces, my deepest thanks.

Day 12: I'm thankful for the opportunity to take piano lessons as a child, the joy I receive from playing/singing and being able to use it in corporate worship for three decades and counting.

Day 13: I'm thankful for my sweet, lovable 3YO baby girl and the opportunity to enjoy more time with her these days.

Day 14: With a child sick again (7x in 10 weeks!) and only 3 hrs of sleep, I am thankful that our bodies can recharge on a 1 hour power nap. New mercies...I felt like a new woman!

Day 15: I'm thankful that my runs into bear & cougar country have been uneventful to date. The Mt. Herman kitty that gave Sheila a good scare two days ago was no where to be seen today, as well as the honey-feasting bear that a hiker saw this morning.

Day 16: I'm thankful for long term friendships that though they become long distance ones, remain close thanks to commitment & Google Hangouts.

Day 17: While my kids are dealing with persistent stomach/GI issues for the past 10 weeks (on average, one or both every week) I'm so thankful that I don't have a day job (to do or ditch) compounding the day's stress. This week they both had it twice, just days apart!

Day 18: I'm thankful that my son enjoys reading to us. Our new routine is for him to read at the dinner table and it makes my heart happy.

Day 19: I'm thankful for all the awesome ultrarunners that I have met this year. They have encouraged me and made my freshman season such a blast. I look forward to racing and hanging out with them more in 2014!

Day 20: Thankful for Jesus, who saw my heart to the bottom and still loved me to the skies. His saving grace undergirds the hope I have in this life and in the life to come. The most amazing adventure in the wilds can't top that. Hallelujah.

Day 21On cold, snowy days, I'm thankful for a garage and more importantly, safety to & from school on icy roads.

Day 22I am thankful for excellent road conditions from the Springs to Moab and the beauty of the frosted trees, mountaintops and canyons to enjoy along the way.

Day 23Thankful for the beauty of the seasons that at times, counteracts the discomfort that I feel as I'm out running. My brumous, snowy, muddy run in Moab was tough and made tougher with GI issues, but one look up and around at the desert beauty provided an immediate balm. No regrets getting out of bed and heading out there for the afternoon and I'll take those beautiful memories with me to my grave.

Day 24Thankful for a reliable vehicle that has safely taken me & my family on long distance trips with no breakdowns.

Day 25On this, my grocery shopping day, I'm thankful for the daily provision of food and the ability to help those who are in need this season.

Day 26I am thankful for my husband, who loves me & the kids real BIG, supports me in my crazy ultrarunning adventures, keeps the household stuff operating properly and cooks really good food for us. And he loves Jesus to boot! God knew that if it were up to me to feed the family, we'd subsist on Eggo waffles, pizza, cheese & crackers and Hungry Man dinners.

Day 27Nov 2003 was a hard month in a hard year. I'm thankful for the reminder that out of death, comes life. Beauty can rise out the ashes. It never always gets worse.

Day 28: I'm thankful for my extended family and though we must celebrate apart from one another, if we could be together, it would a no-drama time of feasting and enjoying each other. I love my family and miss them all.

I know it won't be hard to come up with two more prior to month end. I'm thankful for eyes that can behold the beauty of art -- both man-made and God-made in nature, for ears that enjoy beautiful music or the sound of rushing water as I run, a nose to enjoy the smell of and a tongue to taste so many culinary delights, and the ability to feel kisses, hands held, snuggles and hugs from my family. I hope you are able to count your many blessings today, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. If we are alive and have people to love who love us in return, we can give thanks.

Seek to cultivate a buoyant, joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life. - Alexander MacLaren

In closing, the song that I hope will be sung at my funeral, covered by the amazing Buddy Miller:

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!


27 November 2013

iRun(kinda)Far Behind the Rocks

“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.” 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hunter Canyon
The massive winter storm that moved from CA across the desert southwest last week should have clued me in that my run in Moab might be even more adventurous than I had planned. Here in the Springs, we had sub-freezing temps, icy roads and strong winds to give me added incentive to get out of town asap. 

Meghan had put me on notice that it may be a snowy run so I came prepared. The drive through CO and UT was uneventful with the roads being in great shape and the snow-frosted landscape incredibly beautiful. I captured some of the scenes on my phone and posted on Instagram here, in case anyone's interested.

About 10 miles outside of Moab, the clouds and spitting snow told me that "weather" had arrived. The huge flakes that greeted me in town began to accumulate that night and by the morning I had over 6 inches sitting on top of my car.

Let me pause and mention that we met for dinner Friday night at a fantastic sushi place called Sabaku where I had the Sunshine Roll with the pineapple habanero sauce that's usually put on the Devil's Garden roll. Oh my, was that tasty. If you like sushi, go there. 

Meghan lives at 6,000 feet (Moab is at 4,000) and was pretty much snowed in that morning. She ended up running 4 miles down the road from her cabin where I picked her up and we headed in town for breakfast at the Love Muffin. Since the temps were supposed to warm up into the 40s and the snow was already melting, we decided to head out to the Canyonlands to see if the roads were passable and perhaps stick to our original plan of a 28-ish mile loop in the Island in the Sky district. We found at least a foot of snow near the park entrance and with snow accumulating and the roads not yet plowed, we turned around and headed back to town.

Meghan then suggested that we run a loop in the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area, which is conveniently located near town. We headed out Kane Creek Blvd and parked near Jacksons Trail. The plan was to do around 12-13 miles, much of which was part of the Moab Trail Marathon course which would take us through Pritchett and Hunter Canyons. With the late start to the day, we thought we could get it done by dark. We did... barely.

I had woken up with GI issues (thanks to my kids) but despite the periodic pit stops, difficulty eating, the ankle-deep snow, it really was a glorious afternoon in the canyons. I always find that the visual beauty will be a balm when I'm physically feeling lousy. I have nothing but beautiful memories of the day, so I guess there was enough awesome for me to forget the rough patches.

Some of the photo-worthy moments:  
Meghan, happy to be running finally!
Birthing Scene Petroglyph
Kane Springs Creek

Looking for the hard-to-spot cairns 
Sometimes, you scramble up bum-first

Happy Canyon Runner (Photo: Meghan)
Meghan gapping me after a pit stop

One of several waterfalls along the route
Pritchett Canyon
Sadly, had to pass on this little detour (Photo: Meghan)
Miles made harder by snow!
Tough travels but still smiling!
Descending into Hunter Canyon
The "Vermont" Keyhole
Where the mud began

Mud & slickrock don't mix well

Making nice with the mud
Thanks again to Meghan for showing me more of the canyon beauty around Moab. I feel lucky to have gotten to run there four times in the past year, two of those times with her (see Feb post). Wishing her happy training days as she prepares to defend her title at Marathon de Sables next April.

As for me, I'm counting my Thanksgiving blessings (my list will be posted tomorrow) and tapering for TNF 50 next week. With the onset of training fatigue and some hip pain I've been tending to, it's been a more challenging training cycle. More on that next week.

Lastly, I'll share my new favorite running tune, thanks to my pal Sam. You're welcome.
Happy Thanksgiving!


15 November 2013

B2Bs, Brains and Blessings

“I often lose motivation, but it's something I accept as normal.” - Bill Rodgers
Palmer Park
I’m recovering from my first 5 hour training run in over three months. The plan to run with my friend Samantha yesterday fell through when my eldest got sick, so I was on my own today. As with most of my runs here at the end of the season, I didn't have the desire to run solo, especially for that long. I went to Mt. Herman and got it done and I'm resting up for tomorrow's B2B.

Sheila saw a cougar at Mt Herman two days ago. I've never seen kitties or bears there, but they are known to roam around. I put some bells on my pack just in case. Some snaps from today's run:
Climbing up the southern slope
Dropping in to the Limbaugh Canyon
In the Canyon
Sweet single track on the eastern slope
Red is my favorite color
I'm glad that my next two long runs will be with other people. I'll have the fine company of Meghan Hicks in the Canyonlands next week and the first Boulder Fat Ass Run of the season the week after. Hallelujah.

I really miss having a coach. I liked being told what to do each week for training and now I have to go back to figuring it out myself. It gets trickier when I have a 5 week training cycle.  I find myself doubting my training plans for the first time all year. With such a short time to prepare for TNF 50 after tapering, recovering or resting for the past two months between races, I’m not as decisive as I’d like to be. 
Pikes Peak from Barr Trail
Case in point: Last weekend, I did my first B2B long runs of this brief training cycle. I stupidly did my hilly run/hike on day 1 and on day 2 did a more runnable course. Experienced ultrarunners would put their palm to forehead, knowing that I had it backwards. By running up the Barr Trail (3,600 ft of vert in 6 miles) and then back down, I basically trashed my legs. My run the following day over the beautiful, rolling 13 mile Rampart Reservoir course was pretty much a sufferfest after mile 5. It took 2 days to recover. Sheesh.
Rampart Reservoir
My fitness is not where it should be and I don’t have much time to bring it up to snuff. I fear that TNF 50 will be another sufferfest to ensure I clear the cutoffs in time. I can't wait to be fast enough to not to have to worry about those anymore.

In addition to building mileage on my B2B runs, I’m focusing on speed work. With kids sick two weeks in a row on my medium long run day, I ended up with an additional track session to squeeze something in at night. I can’t remember the last time I was on a track, but with my tunes blaring in my ears, I’ve enjoyed every lap. In the past, I’ve primarily done 4-6 mile tempo runs, but will be mixing in some short intervals & progression runs for something different.

You can see what I'm dreaming up for 2014 over on the right sidebar. I've got my goal race of the Bryce 100 and all the training runs/races lined up to get me there. Did you see that I'm going to run an ultra in Kansas? I like running in new and different places, so why not? Sheila's in as well so should be a fun trip.

So while I'm dreaming up my 2014 race schedule, job hunting and spending time with family & friends, I’m also trying to get back in to reading again. During the training season, I was reading a bit of non-fiction that related to running/training/nutrition each night before bed. When the season wound down, I wanted to get back to some good fiction and I set my sights on ingesting The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When I pulled out my copy and started reading Fellowship of the Ring, I discovered that I’m not able to sit still and read for longer than a few minutes anymore. This was very troubling to me. As an ISTJ (albeit a lazy, spontaneous, goofy one), my brain and personality are designed for sitting still and focusing for hours on a task. Somehow, my media usage over the past few years has rewired my brain in such a way that I can’t do this anymore.

After listening to a very enlightening podcast by The White Horse Inn and picking up a book by Nicholas Carr on how our internet usage can reroute neural pathways, I decided to make some changes. First, I’m going to retrain myself to read for more than 15 min at a time. The encouraging word from neuroscientists is that even the adult brain has plasticity, it just takes training (hmmm… to an athlete, that sounds familiar!). Second, I’m going to set aside certain times (morning & evening) for checking email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs rather than availing myself to it all day long via my computer, tablet or smartphone. This will be challenging as I find myself constantly looking for the distraction and wanting to interact with others through these means. However, I want to be more mature and responsible with how I manage my time and attention so as I train my body physically, I’m training my mind as well.

The other thing I'm doing this month is writing down one thing that I'm thankful for every day. I'm posting them daily on Facebook and will repost all of them here after Thankgiving. It has been a good exercise in remembering how blessed I am each day.

In tribute to composer John Tavener, who passed away earlier this week, I'll share his most famous piece -- Song for Athene -- played at the funeral of Princess Di. Hauntingly beautiful. You're welcome.

Happy Trails,