Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bask. Banter. Love.

One of my students' vocabulary words this week is bask.
We talked about it today, about how you can bask in the sun, or you can bask in a positive feeling.

Tonight I have basked in positive feelings.  I came home, and my wife came home, and we were silly and happy.  We got beer, and Thai food, and we laughed, and kissed, and snuggled.  We smiled, played with the dogs, sent some risque snapchats, listened to music.  We didn't deal with serious things, partly per my request.  

The serious things don't go away, and I know that my desire to avoid them can be a problem.  But tonight, the smiles, the laughter, the carefree-ness: it gave me life. And me, I know I have to get better at dealing with the serious things.  

Another one of my students' vocabulary words this week is banter.

Yesterday, I went for a long run in the forest with some friends, and with some people I didn't know well yet.

I can't really explain how it has felt to be a part of this group this summer.  Some of them are crazy traveling bitches.  Some of them go by other names.  But altogether, these people make up a group of runners in Central Arkansas who are badass as fuck.  Nice, accepting, funny, supportive, inclusive.  Hard core.

After a somewhat grueling 25 miles (and a lot of people had already done 25+ on Saturday, but not me), we sat down under the tent.  To banter.  I listened to stories, jokes, teasing.  I promise you, I basked.  I smiled.  I felt lucky. I met new people, got to know acquaintances a little better, said thank you's to people who are becoming closer friends.  

When we have these things--lovers, spouses, partners and friends and kids who love us, communities who welcome us--everything just has to be ok.

My family, my coworkers (who are also some of my closest friends), my wife, all of the friends that I have met in all of the ways: thank you.  You give me the strength to do my part.

I'm going to be better.  Bask, banter, love.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Forward Momentum.

Last year, I was all excited to sign up for the RocknStroll 5k.  Admission to Riverfest, a race, a Travelers game??  I talked Katie into it and we signed up ourselves and the boys.  Fast forward to race morning.  We go and pick up our stuff and then my unenthusiastic sister suggests that we ditch the race for IHOP.  The boys jumped on it and I was overruled.

So this year, when I saw that volunteering ALSO involved admission to Riverfest AND added to my plan of more race volunteering, I suggested it to Jessica.  She was willing.  I didn't run it by Ty.  I knew what his answer would be.  He got roused from a nice sound sleep on race morning and was a little incredulous that I was actually serious.  We went.  It was great, though Ty wasn't into it and Jessica's main job was to pacify him.  See him getting his head rubbed over there?  We made some new friends there, too.

Time passes, however slow it seems, however much the slowness of it sometimes tears at me, and school ended.  I can't convey the way I had to drag myself through the last few weeks, the way two weeks felt like months, the way I felt surrounded by heavy water whenever I thought about getting done.  But it happened, and the last day meant time to celebrate.  I'm lucky to have a wonderful friend like Jurel to celebrate with.  As the evening went on, I realize that I could breathe again.  It took some time, some deep breaths, some letting go.  Some sitting.

The next week we were all off to the work retreat.  We went to the Win
Rockefeller Institute for the retreat.  I didn't know what to expect, really,
and I was both pleased and disappointed.  Disappointed--because I think a retreat is more about forming relationships and breaching boundaries than it is about looking at data and rehashing information that has been gone over and gone over.  We can do so much more when we understand each other.  But the relationship forming was a very small piece of the official agenda--though we tried to make up for it after hours, which was quite pleasing.  Out of respect for the guilty I'm not posting pictures of the after-party, but I got to know lots of coworkers better than I knew them before, and I got a great run in one morning.  It was a beautiful place.  Paula and I borrowed bicycles for one afternoon and rode into Petit Jean State Park and went to the overlook.  It was beautiful.  This photo, though, was taken on the Win Rockefeller grounds at a small overlook that was just a short walk from where we stayed.  It speaks to a good bit of what Arkansas is to me--my home, a patchwork of colors and memories, both growing and dormant.  It's consistently surprising to me in a strange way to picture memories so clearly in my mind and remember that I will never be going back there again.  Luckily this view of Arkansas is never farther away than the top of Pinnacle Mountain.

This last weekend I participated in the pre-run of the 3 Bridges Marathon coming up in December. It was a course I knew pretty well--the river trail--but I got to do it with friends.  We were lucky to have cloud cover and took our time--lots of opportunities for photos.  Annette took this one of me out in front of the Clinton Library.  See that tiny dot in the middle?  Yeah, that's me.  It was a tough run but a reminder of how happy I am to be part of the running community here.  I'm looking forward to the race in December.

I'm looking forward to a lot of things.  More races: the Full Moon 50k is coming up in July, and in two weeks I'm running a no-frills, 1 mile out and back by the river.  I figure I'll bring a cooler of ice and water and gatorade and I can dunk my head in it if I need to.  Why not run a mile back and forth 26 times?  I'm looking forward to changing seasons, holidays, next steps, growing friendships...to life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I got out this morning for the first of two runs today. Even though it's hard for me to wake up early, I've missed mornings. Summer mornings, actually. When it's cooler but not cool, the light is diffuse, and the air is still. 

I was listening to pandora. I felt heavy and clunky and slow. I had hoped to run 5 but decided four would be better because of my slower pace and need to get ready for work. 

On north first street, an Ani DiFranco song came on, another live version. She talked first, about being in Italy and meeting someone, (re-meeting someone), and said she was playing a song for her, one she just finished writing that night. When she started playing, I stood still and looked up in front of me. Smudges of cloud marched away from the sun on my left, and morning light shimmered, on the verge of dissipating. I opened thankfully to it. Thankfully, I remembered how to see it, how to let my soul mingle with the sun. 

When I started running again I wasn't thinking about myself or my legs or my breathing. I was picturing that re-meeting on a street in Italy, greetings and smiles and laughter. "I was no picnic, I was no prize." No, I was not. Am not. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Volunteering, running, marathoning...

I'm starting with the most recent and working back.
Sunday we volunteered at the RocknStroll 5k at Riverfest.  I had warned Ty that I would be dragging him out of bed early Sunday morning, but I don't think he took me very seriously.  When I woke him up Sunday morning, he was a bit incredulous.  I got him moving and we made it down to Heifer Village  only a few minutes late.  Before too long, I was cutting up bananas like it was a my job.  Along with two other super nice volunteers, we got the food sliced and set up and ready to go--with time left to visit.  Jessica got there in time to deal with a whiny 12 year old who was ready to go home--and that's a pretty big job!

My first race volunteer experience was over a year ago at the first Women Can Run 5k.  This was race number 3 for volunteering, but I plan for there to be plenty more.  I don't run many 5k's now, but I used to, and I've benefited from hundreds of volunteers over the years I've been running.  I'm ready to be there for more people.  So much goes into making these races happen.  Also, as I saw Sunday, volunteering can help you meet more people, and more awesome people in the running community.  I'm so into that.

Saturday was the Rock Run 8k.  This was my first year to do this one.  I was super happy that Carrie decided to do the run---it's much more fun with friends, even when your friends are faster than you!!  Carrie met me Saturday morning and we rode up together.  Greg was (as usual!!) nice enough to snap a picture of me and share it.  If you don't know Greg, you should.  He has been a friend since before my first marathon and has been nice enough to snap and share pictures going back to my first Hogeye Marathon.

The 8k was fun, but was closer to 5 miles than I realized.  I managed a decent pace--I pushed harder than I did at Toad Suck or the Capital City Classic--and I hope to get a few points in the Grand Prix.  It was great to know that some new runners turned out for the race--Carrie introduced me to a runner from the Cabot WCR clinic.  Since I haven't run this race before, I don't know what the course has been like in the past, but I like the out and back.  It's good to see friends and familiar faces and be able to cheer and be cheered.

Now for the River City Marathon in Peoria, Illinois a week ago.  We left early Saturday morning so that we could make it up to get packets at the expo and have dinner and check in to the hotel.  The drive was long and uneventful, for the most part.  It was good to share it with friends, and Jessica was surprised (was she really?) to see just how long we can talk about running.

The parts of Peoria that we got to see were really nice.  The riverfront is pretty and the expo was open and full of some good, affordable race and running stuff.  We enjoyed the weather while feeling cautious about the heat of the coming race.  The pace teams had been changed in anticipation of a hot day and we were told to be conservative in our expectations for time.  I was oblivious.

I really was.  I had thought briefly about the 4:10 pace team, even, but I settled on the 4:20 pacer.  I thought a 4:20 marathon would be a nice tough challenge but not that big of a deal.  I ran a 4:12 marathon in Little Rock not that long ago, right?  Yeah.

I started out ok.  The pacer was nice and talkative and had some plans to bring the group together as a team.  I love talking and meeting new people in a race.  I was feeling the speed, but hell, I felt it in Little Rock.  I hung in there...until The Hill.  It had been spoken of, this hill at mile 7, but until I was running up  it, I wasn't prepared.  About 3/4 of the way up it, I handed the pacer sign over and started walking--and that was it for me and a 4:20 finish.  I first attempted to run from aid station to aid station.  I was still feeling pretty crappy, though, and it was damn early in the race. Finally, I caved totally and started counting steps.  I ran 75 and walked 25 steps for a good while and finally started to feel better.

Peoria, at least the parts we saw, was genuinely wonderful.  The neighborhoods were  nice and the people were nicer.  So many people were out in their yards--more than I've seen at any race.  The cheering was great--even when they said, "You got this!"  And I thought, you don't know that!!  And I don't look strong!  I look like crap!

But yeah, I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Over and over and over and fucking over, seriously.  It was one of those races where starting again after walking was sometimes a pure act of spirit and will over body.  I wanted to cry at times.  I teared up.  It just sucked.  It was hot.  I hit up every water hose and sprinkler and dumped water on myself at every water stop.  Sometimes when I dumped water on myself, I could barely feel it.

The last mile or so I ran with a guy from the pace team that I left.  They had left it, too.  It perked me up to run and talk with some people for a while.  Finally crossing the finish was a huge relief.

I wandered aimlessly looking for Jessica.  My calves cramped up horribly and I had to sit twice before I got to a good spot to sit and borrow a phone.  I pouted.  But it was marathon number 16 with a finish in 80 + degree weather.  I got it.

And it was Ruthanne's qualifying race for the maniacs.  I would definitely do it again, and I would recommend the River City Marathon to anyone.  I'm sure that next year will be even better.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Women Can Run 2013

This morning I volunteered for the second year in a row at the Women Can Run 5k in Conway.  I was so touched last year watching people cross the finish line.  This year I worked the food instead so I didn't get to see all the victorious faces celebrating, but I still had a great time.  I have been so proud of Paula for sticking with Women Can Run and improving so much over the last few months.  Today was no different.
 The thing that is so different about this year is that I know, actually know, so many people in the running community.  Last year I barely knew anyone.  I showed up, volunteered, and went home.  This year, after helping clean up the concession stand, I went down to the field to sit with the Cruisers during the awards.  I'm continually blessed by the friends I have made through running.  Watching someone else grow stronger from running and get the amazing feelings I remember from the beginning is also a huge blessing.  My life is enriched so much through everything that has happened in the years since I became a runner.

An event is barely complete without a photo op with Carrie and Christine.  Here's the Foxy Lady and the Supermodel right here.  You know who's missing?  Ruthanne!!

I have missed the last race or two with regard to blog posts.
I kept putting it off because I wanted to transfer pictures over
to my computer and I'm lazy lazy lazy. Now it seems too long ago and to be honest I'm not in the best blogging frame of mind.  We have another marathon road trip next weekend--this time to Illinois, so I will make sure that I make that post happen soon after we get back.  I've had this blog going since 2011 now and so so much has changed since then.  I'm rolling with it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Little Rock Marathon!

The fun started Friday night with our trip to the expo.  Paula and Jennifer followed Ruthanne, Carrie, and me so they could get their 5k stuff.  The expo is always exciting and this year there were some good photo ops!  The theme of this year's race was Lucky--I figured at first that this was the 13th Little
Rock Marathon, but it was the 11th.  It's 2013, though, so I guess we needed some luck to go along with the year.  There were cowboy shirts, country music, hats--and a horse.  We had some fun with the horse.Well....the rest of us didn't have as much fun as Carrie had.  If you ask her she'll say she was coerced, but that doesn't show in the photo evidence.

Paula, we found, makes a very convincing looking farm hand/cowboy/horse wrangler.  Maybe the teaching thing is a front??

We popped into the Go! Running VIP party for a bit and then said goodbye to Paula and Jennifer and headed out for some dinner and drinks.  I was determined to eat right to prepare for this marathon, and Annette Blanton told us that the meal two nights before was where you really get your energy for the race, so I went with pasta.  We had a great time and there was much laughter and conversation that cannot be reproduced on this blog.  Let's just say it has to do with underthings--or the lack of them--and leave it at that.

I spent Saturday morning working at the AP prep
session at North Pulaski.  It was snowing!  I guess Paula and Jennifer and the other 5k-ers got to deal with wind-blown snow flurries for their race.  I griped about the weather.

I was nervous about this race because I really wanted to PR.  I set my previous PR at the Little Rock Marathon in 2012--it was marathon 2 for me.  Then I went on to run 10 more races in the next year, but I didn't beat that time of 4:22.  I came sort of close at White River (4:27, I think?) and at Mississippi River (4:25), but this time I felt like I was as ready as I would be to PR and I knew the course and what to expect.  Except I was nervous.  There was no "I'll just run it and have fun."  I wanted to PR and everyone knew that I wanted to PR.  I wanted to at least finish under 4:20.

I had thought about starting out with the 4:25 group again like last year, but they were in the C corral and I was in the Open corral.  They were definitely being strict about the wave start so I began the race on my own.  It was chilly but not uncomfortable.  I ditched my warm up pants before the start and lost the sweatshirt fairly soon after.

In North Little Rock I was happy to see Claudia, Dave, Evelyn, and Gloria waiting for me to come by.  I knew when to look for them so I made sure to be on the side of the road where they would be.  It was great to have some cheers from friends on the side of the course and even cooler to see them when I came back the other way.  High fives are a good burst of energy.  I was keeping a good pace.

Around mile 9 my legs started to feel really tired and I got worried--with my legs feeling tired then, I didn't know how I would be able to keep that pace for the rest of the race.  Plus, I was feeling the hills before we even got to the hills.

I got a boost when I caught up to the 4:25 pace team--I chatted a little with the pacers--they were the same ones who led that pace team last year and ran with them for the first half.  It was a boost to chat for a minute and also because I could feel that their pace was slower than what I had been running and that I could run faster, and I went on.

The hill up into the heights felt longer than before.  Not only that, but I felt like it never really leveled out until we started going downhill.  Finally heading down felt better.  It was actually a relief to get to the bottom and head down the river trail--plus--at mile 18 I was still on pace for a good PR and felt deep into the race.

The out and back has a reputation for being long and boring--and it is--except that there was plenty of yelling back and forth from maniac to maniac and friend to friend.  That helped break up the monotony.  A couple of maniacs were at the turnaround taking pictures and there were laughter and smiles.  I passed mile 22 and was waiting...and waiting...for mile 23, for knowing there were only 3 miles to go, and that I could walk through the water station.  When I finally looked down at my garmin and it said 23.5, I thought it might be a mistake--how could I have missed that mile marker?  But it wasn't, and soon Cantrell, mile 24, and the evil final hills were in sight.

 I knew that with the way I was feeling I would have to walk some.  I also knew I had plenty of time and didn't have to worry much about my PR at that point.  I probably would have been able to gather more energy and push harder if I had been closer to my old time--which is both good and bad.  On the last tough hill I saw Greg, who snapped this picture,

and then I caught up with Barco and got a bear hug and a few steps from him.  I was so close and so tired and just kept telling myself hell yes, oh god hell yes, go get this PR.  I kept glancing down at my garmin to make sure that I was right about the time.  I remembered to stop the timer as I crossed the finish line and felt tears and disbelief and having finished in 4:11:52.  I staggered over to get the chip cut off my shoe, get that heavy medal, and have a picture snapped.  Kristin, Shawn, and Kennedy were there at the finish and came around inside the park to spend some time with me--it was so great to see them and spend a few minutes celebrating my PR with friends.

Kristin took this picture of me with my medal to go with the somewhat hideous--but still appreciated--one that she took as I was crossing the finish.  I got my post-race beer and we walked a bit.  I felt great about my time and my legs didn't get that super heavy painful feeling that they sometimes get right after a race.  Kristin and Shawn left with Kennedy and I found a spot by the finish line to watch people.  That was an amazing thing to see, all of those people so elated with their accomplishment, huge smiles, and I loved marathoning even more then, seeing the things people can do, knowing everything that they did to get to that point, and seeing it become reality.  At one point I teared up as a much older lady crossed.  She had a half-marathon bib on and was doing a stiff walk--you could just tell that she had probably been doing that same walk through the whole 13.1 miles she had just covered, and what an amazing display of determination and refusal to do anything but achieve, put herself out there and just do it!! So many people tell me they could never do it.  What about the man who had his lower leg in a boot.  He had his leg bent at the knee and on a wheeled scooter and he was slowly pushing himself long with the other leg.  Or the guy in the wheelchair who was pushing himself up the mountain into the heights.  Or the many, many people who were older or who were still carrying the extra weight who I passed from the early start--by 11:30 when I started passing them, they had been going since 6 and had hours left.  One of the maniacs who had been taking pictures did some dancing at the finish--impromptu entertainment!  Many people grabbed hands with a running partner to cross together, looking so thrilled and triumphant.

After Carrie and Ruthanne finished, Ruthanne went to see her family and Carrie and I grabbed a spot on the grass to relax.  I had stayed on my feet since the finish and it felt good to get off of them.  We stayed there until Ruthanne was ready.  I kept my hood pulled over my face to avoid any more sun, since I forgot again to put on sunscreen.  We then staggered out, brought the swagger wagon down, and went to Sticky Fingerz for some beer and snacks.  More fun, more inappropriate laughter, and a slightly inebriated Carrie are what we had to show for that.
The server was nice enough to capture these moments for us, which Ruthanne put together and shared with me.  The medals do hide our whole faces, and there was clearly some hilarity as well.  Running friends get into your life and heart quickly and make the whole experience so much bigger and more special.  I look forward to many more races with the friends I have made and the ones who are to come.  I'm so thankful to be able to do what I do and feel great doing it.  I can never fully explain what running means to me and why I do it.  It's part of my heart and soul now.

I'll just leave you with this close-up of Carrie's friend from the expo.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My reacquaintance with poetry; Mississippi River Marathon

there is fury in running.
in the narrowed vision
and the embrace of it
breaking, and
breaking, and

there is pleasure in running
my cradle
endlessly rocking
call of soul
to self
and breathing,
and breathing.

The Mississippi River Marathon on Saturday was pretty wonderful if you discount the Friday night experience.  To say the pasta place was overwhelmed is a ridiculous understatement.  Carrie and I had a glass of wine each and then left, as people who had been waiting 2 hours finally started to get their food.  Siri sent us the wrong direction to our hotel, and we ate McDonalds at almost ten.

Still, Saturday morning we were up and boarding buses to head to the start for this point to point marathon.  It was chilly.  We learned that a good-size space blanket will keep three people comfortably warm if you aren't afraid to cuddle.  We weren't.

I learned something important to remember about my marathoning self on Saturday.  Several times now I have said, either to myself or to other people, or both, that I am going to run this marathon slow.  I don't care about time, I am just going to enjoy it and take it easy.  I did do that at Run for the Ranch, except that I was pretty miserable the whole time because of the cold.  But usually around half way through my competitive-against-myself nature comes out and I want to do better.

We did start out on the slow side.  At the bridge we were on pace to run about a 4:35 when I went on ahead without Carrie.  Alone with myself then, I picked up the pace.  I went inside myself.  I felt solid, good.  I decided to sort of go for a PR.  Why not?  Marathoning for me is about rawness at its core, achieving something up against myself.  Pushing, yanking, throwing, digging.  So I did that. 

I missed a PR by 3 minutes.  I ran a really negative split: 2:19 in the first half, and 2:05 in the second half.  I'm really happy with it because I know that if I can get that close last week with no taper and with a first half that including some messing around, I can PR in Little Rock.  (Knock on wood and such.)

Next weekend is the Run the Line Half-Marathon.  With friends--the best way to do it.