Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lost In My Mind

How's That Bricklaying Coming?
How's Your Engine Running?
Is That Bridge Getting Built?
Are Your Hands Getting Filled?
Won't You Tell Me, My Brother?

'Cause There Are Stars
Up Above

We Can Start
Moving Forward

I am out of the new music loop. This "new to me" music is about five years old now.  My discovery of The Head And The Heart was in a true moment of zen. Exhausted after a long day on last summer's peach gig (feeling free, accomplished, but...utterly exhausted), I'd lay down for "just a minute" on my bed, window open. In no time at all, I found myself in a deeply relaxed, but alert state. Okay, so yeah, I was drooling on the bed, semi-catatonic, I think.

 Some lovely music started playing, and I picked up on the soaring "loooooooost" over and over, from somewhere in the neighborhood. The breeze and the music were washing over me, and I committed that "lost in my mind" to memory, and determined the next day, thanks to the googles of the interwebs, that it was "Lost In My Mind." I now associate it with being focused but content in the moment, and asking myself, how's my engine running?

 There's no race report to write here. But, the joy of running is back and here to stay. It's not fast like it used to be, but it feels good. It's my freedom. I've run roads and along rivers that are familiar, and hit trails that are brand new. The bricklaying, so to speak, and my new house-the first that has truly ever been mine and mine alone-is coming along. I'm  renting, but it's my name alone on the lease. It was freedom to travel alone to Mexico and really enjoy being lost in my own thoughts, and it's freedom to write that rent check. I think, but don't worry all the time about paying bills.

One of my kids has been really sick, and will be healthy eventually. It's been difficult to see your take-no-shit, strong, intelligent, and active child reduced to a few hours of low-level homebound activity a day, and desperate to have a normal energy level. But, it's stripped things down to a very basic, day-to-day, and moment to moment existence. How are you feeling? What would help right now?  And, this amazing kid has taken her shitty hand of getting sick, and used the time when she's felt decent to do things I never asked for or expected, but helped me tremendously around the house. And filled her hands with something that mattered to her-freedom to make our space what she visualized. I'm beyond thankful for it, and pleasantly surprised that it all came from a 15-year-old I've told to stay in bed, to rest-but wants to do things that let her get lost in her mind and feel normal when she can't go to school or dance.

 Winter has come and hit "hard" so far this year, but I know we still have it pretty good. I've run in colder weather, at the buttcrack of dawn, and am ready to take another "crack" (ha, had to go there) again. I signed up once again for the Winter Sun 10K, knowing that it is extremely unlikely that I'll top my best effort at this race in 2010. Moving forward doesn't constitute sitting scared, waiting for the perfect scenario, though. It's on a day that flows easily for me, so I'm going. And the first ultra I ever ran-The Moab RedHot 55K-is the next race up after that. Volunteering at another Grassroots Events race, Behind The Rocks, punched my ticked for this one. It's another no-brainer in moving forward. There's also the "free" monetarily, but punishing, Bangs Canyon 30K/60K. The race directors for all of the above events-Ranna, Chris, Kevin- are true stewards for our sport, and make it fun while managing events we all return to, year after year. They make it seem low-key when in fact it's a major undertaking to get it done right. It's up to me to move forward and show their kickass runs some justice.

 I want to take another swing at Leadville, but am not going to force the matter. Instead, I am keeping eyes and options open to different 100 mile races-ones that I can enter if I feel trained up, and can reach easily from Grand Junction. My current job was a slight step up from the last one. With this one comes more responsibility, more use reasoning, planning, and a combination of my head and my heart. It leaves less flexibility, though, to vacation time. This may move me forward to opportunities I can choose without needing permission-things like The Grand Mesa 100, or possibly Run Rabbit Run. Or, I may say, forget it (nah, this isn't true at all. I want to complete 100 miles on foot, and experience all that goes with that journey). And, then, a chance encounter with a good friend who doesn't live here anymore opened a great conversation about a run that would be fun, long, beautiful, and entirely about getting out there. Like Rim To Rim of the Grand Canyon, but closer, and not something I would have come up with by myself at this time. The fires have been stoked. In Zion.

 In the meantime, I am content to get lost in my mind on a run, come back with some clarity, extra energy for my family, and build bridges toward better things.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Banditos: The 2014 Rim Rock Marathon

And everybody knows 
That the world is full of stupid people 
So meet me at the mission at midnight 
We'll divvy up there

Our region has several great races and runs that started as bar bets, impromptu treks, or other circumstances. Things that seem like bad ideas, if you look at things from an entirely analytical perspective. Stop and think about things too much, and the things never happen. Action never occurs.

 Thought isn't a bad idea; I'm a great proponent for it. Some things are truly stupid and bad ideas. Sometimes, though, the mind can limit what the body can do. Or, one can convince himself or herself that doing things the same is always the way to go. That the same is good enough. And, the brilliant thing about a bad idea is that you don't have any illusions about what you're getting yourself into. If things go well the expectation has naturally been exceeded. And, there are times when you just have to try something to know to never do it again-at least not the way you attempted it the first time around.

 So, it was one day in early October when my eventual teammate for the Rim Rock Marathon relay, Tom, and I were having a beer in a Grand Junction watering hole after some run, and decided to jump into the fray at this great local run. It used to be gate-to-gate across the Colorado National Monument, or 37K. Five years ago, it became a full marathon, and starts off almost immediately with a 2000 foot climb. Runners get to enjoy spectacular views, though, and what goes up must come down. I'd run the marathon every year it had been a full, and volunteered at the final two Rim Rock Runs (37K). A month out, though, I remained uncommitted to anything racing.

 There were only four team slots left out of thirty at that point. I hadn't done any speed work in a good six months and really hadn't run much of anything since Leadville. I'd actually blanked out on running the Imogene Pass Run this year, it was such a pisstastic race on my part. This, though, sounded pretty awesome. Tom was only willing to do it if he could run the uphill. He had a bunch of other adventure races, running and ski club obligations, and, you know, work and stuff. I said screw that uphill stuff, I only want to do the downhill. And I had two jobs, one position brand new, a new place, and four kids every other week, Perfect. What could be a worse idea than signing up for a race now?

 I was energized, though. More energized than I'd been in many months about doing a race. Some people hate road running, and a bunch really hate downhill road running. This section of the Rim Rock course was one of my favorites, though. I could see in my mind that amazing, panoramic view out of the second tunnel on the downhill. The full marathon was a great race, but the Colorado Marathon in May had not been my finest effort. I didn't want to do another marathon out of habit, and turn in another subpar performance. Tom was jazzed to do the uphill. And good at uphill running. The team name came quickly: The Bad Ideas Club. We were in, and about two days later the relay was full.

 Race weekend rolled around, and I'd  not thought too deeply about Halloween being the day prior. The week had been incredibly busy. Somehow, though, everyone in my family got where they needed to go. My youngest and I trick-or-treated with our friends, the peach farmers, and their daughter (sounds very Sopranos; I really do have James in my phone as "James Peaches"), and it was great. Probably much better than sitting around and trying in vain to go to bed. My friend Carrie was willing and happy to get my kids to the finish line on Saturday. The kids were down with the plan. I didn't push or worry, but things just flowed after bouncing ideas back and forth with friends. Tom and I had some excellent "Amigo" shirts I'd gotten from INKnBURN to wear for the race for fun. We were dialed in for awesomeness.

 Getting up early on Saturday morning, I stepped outside. The temperature was perfect, but shit, that was lightning. Tom swung by early for me, and we headed out to Fruita. This was my first time catching the bus; in prior years, I'd gotten rides to the start for the full marathon. This time, we headed to Fruita in the dark, parked the car at the finish, and divvied up into buses headed for the start, and the halfway point. On my bus were two local doctors named Andy who are also strong runners, Kristin and Kathy, who are also rock solid regulars, and various folks from around the state and region. Someone got on the bus and told us there were bananas, water and snacks for us while we waited. This was great news to me; my stomach had been a little funky and I wasn't hungry early on. Now, I was hungry. A banana, water, and pretzels sounded perfect.

 The weather had really cleared up. It was brisk, but sunny. I asked Kristin if she wanted to trot up to the port-a-johns; if we'd been on the trails we would have just ducked off in the brush, and part of me wanted to do this anyway. It just would have been really uncool, bad mojo, a bad idea, when the park police, rangers, and volunteers were out there being cool and taking time to make sure things were done right. We trotted easily up the hill, did our thing, and came back. We sat on the bus for a bit, had to go again, and ran back up, deciding it was a good time to start watching for the first marathoners. Sure enough, they were on their way.

 The first dudeman in the marathon trotted along in no time. He was young, springy, shaggy and smiling. I didn't even get my phone out in time to catch him until he was past.

(too fast for my camera)

Our friend Julie, on a team with fellow meteorologist Paul, got dropped off by her fiance. It felt weird that I'd be racing soon, but with no idea when I'd go. Friends Angela and Kelly showed up to spectate. More and more runners were coming along now.

Two of our local first-timers who turned in outstanding runs, Alex and Ezzy

It was almost anti-climatic when Tom appeared, and we high-fived (the official regulation move to carry on with the second leg). I was guessing he was about the tenth relayer up the hill but wasn't sure. Perfect; we were kind of in that fun/competitive sweet spot. But first, I had to do the only little uphill stretch on the downhill.

 Ever had a decision validated immediately? I knew, heading up the hill, and passing a runner right away, that this Bad Idea to enter a race while sitting in a bar had been a great one. I hadn't run close to a half-marathon distance in the past two months but I'd run enough to feel like pushing. Relaxed and focused, relaxed and focused, I told myself. This is what worked in my best race here, and really any good race I'd done. My friend Kathy had tagged off earlier, and I couldn't see her, but the fact that I had a stretch goal to catch her was a rush. Whether or not it happened, just wanting to race, and thinking strategically, felt good. I wasn't about to let anyone pass. Tom ran a strong leg and that team obligation was a good thing; I wasn't about to give less than my best. And, MUUUUUAH. I just felt MUUUUUUAH for the first time in a long time in a race.

 It was around Artist's Point when I first noticed that strong side- to tail-wind. Tailwinds are great, but it was not consistent; kind of a random hard shove. Quite a first world problem, yes, but finding a rhythm was sort of a challenge. Since we were switching back and forth, it occasionally became a headwind. Keeping the mind in "patience and persistence" mode, I found that pace that was uncomfortable but felt like something I could maintain. Passing another runner or two, I eventually saw what looked like Kathy ahead. Running further down the Monument, through that big, favorite, stretch after the tunnel, I was confused when I looked upward and could see that Kathy was behind me now. I figured she must've made an emergency stop, an unfortunate turn I'd had to take at the Colorado Marathon. Pushing on, I passed another runner who I believed to be on one of the relay teams. This put us into first in the Masters (over 40) relay spot. Just in time for coming off the Monument and heading down the road. This has been a mediocre to average stretch for me in past years. Getting my ass handed to me several times in the past here kept me moving in manageable chunks, finding the sign or driveway a quarter mile away, not looking down the full stretch of road.

 Turning into the park, I was pretty sure I didn't have anyone close, but didn't turn back and didn't let up. This wouldn't be remotely close to my best second-half effort in previous years, but that wasn't the point. Hitting the finish, I knew this had been a fantastically bad idea. My kids, my friends, being outside, all of it. No self-imposed performance pressure. I'd wanted to be out there for every moment of the race and even told myself once or twice, hey, good choice to not run the full marathon. We wound up winning Masters and placing fifth overall in the relays.Even better-we didn't get struck by lightning at any point. It would have made for an exciting story, but any time you don't wind up in the ER is winning. The wind was pretty insane at the finish; it reminded me of the days during the summer, selling peaches, when we had to stake down our tent with as many heavy things as possible to keep it from launching. Runner after runner came in, and we cheered them on, whether a PR, or a struggle from beginning to end. I was glad the weather was pretty beautiful for my girls chilling out at the finish. I know it's not fun to spectate when it's pouring

Not banditos, we paid for our entry

The friends. The fam damily

 Today, I'm stupid sore. The day after the race brought a yoga class, my first in months. It brought balance and consistency to my lower body soreness, causing everything in my body to feel perfectly sore. The yoga was a challenge but I could tell that I'd moved beyond my fatigued and burned out state. Poses weren't perfect but I tried everything. When I couldn't hold it, oh well, but at least I gave each pose an honest effort. And that seems fair, that seems fair, to give everything, good or bad idea, an honest effort.