Run. Dog. Cat. Cat. Me.

Everything you need to know about running and life and any other random crap I find bouncing through my mind like a ping pong ball. And always be sure your shoes are happy.

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

I’m perfectly sane. Proof.

Munker is in a hell of a mood today, hauling her babies all over, mewling.  When she tires of that she smacks poor Mo in the head or jumps on the desk smacking my hands as I type.   When I leave the desk so she has no target she turns to chasing Mo throughout the house, up over the chair, through the dining room, under the table, until finally he hides.  Then I hear her thudding throughout the house upstairs and down, skidding around corners, chasing what?  invisible Mo?  Her brakes don’t always work well and once she went sliding to a stop on her butt, face planting the wall.  She sat there, looking at the wall in her face, her tail twitching semaphores spelling I-meant-to-do-that-and-you-can’t-see-me.  There is a reason her name is Chunk.

I wish I had some of her energy.  Last Sunday I did twelve easy miles.  Granted, I had trouble getting to sleep Saturday evening and had to get up at 4:30 to have everything at the race site by 5:45, leaving me with a net sleep of about 4-1/2 hours.  I got home, soaked in some Epsom salts, ate.  I struggled to hold out but by noon I was asleep on the couch.  I woke two hours later.

Hubs, out running errands, called the house.  “What are you doing?”

“Nothing much,” I yawned.  “I just woke up a few minutes ago.”

“You were asleep two hours ago when I left the house,” he commented, “why are you so tired?”

I thought for a minute.  “Well, I’m consistently doing more weekly mileage than I ever have, and I’m doing it while I’m currently older than I have ever been.”

“Yeah.  I guess so.”

Dude has done two full Ironmans (Ironmen?) and is now scheming to get into Panama City 2014.  140.6 miles in a day, all under his own power.

If I say to hubs, “I got in on that 50K” his eyeballs roll and he shakes his head.  Every.  Damn.  Time.

Sometimes I want to walk into the den and randomly shout FIFTY K!  just to see his Pavlovian response.  Sigh.  Eye roll.  Head shake.

Someday his eyeballs are going to get stuck that way, if my Grandma knew anything.

But 140.6 miles seems perfectly sane?  And – he won’t even buy the bumper sticker.  I did 26.2 and tattooed it on my body.  I’m telling you two, he is a machine, but he thinks I’m crazy.

The last time I felt this sleepy/tired on a regular basis was when the twins were little and the other two were active in grade school.  I’d get them to bed and go downstairs, physically ill with tiredness, my head aching, nauseous, falling into bed, asleep instantly.  A moment later hubs would ask me a question or say good night.

AH!!  WHA??  Wha??” I’d shout, throwing out my arms, heart racing.

“How the hell do you fall asleep that fast?” he’d question.

“I’m TIRED.”

Oh my god I got so tired of saying I was tired.

Tuesday I had 4×1200 (nailed it, happy face) and then worked out with Killer.  Killer, petite little thing, so sweet she wouldn’t say poop if she were standing in a pile of it, said, “Oh, you did track this morning?  Sometimes on days I run hard I do leg work afterward.”

Well then.  If it is good enough for Killer then it is definitely good enough for me.  Someday I want to be Killer and I emulate her whenever possible other than that part where she falls off her bike breaking bones and that kind of shit.  I nodded vigorously like one of those bobbing bird toys I wanted when I was a kid playing with dinosaurs, before I was currently older than I have ever been, but we were too poor to afford the toy so I just had to play with the baby triceratops.

drinking bird

“Okay!” I slavered, head bobbing, “Let’s do LEG WORK!”

Apparently – I’m just warning you, keep this in mind in case it ever happens to you – “leg workout” is French for “beat the holy shit out of yourself while paying someone money to tell you the most effective manner in which to do so.”

Killer seems to have a natural talent, efficiently helping you cause your own self to experience lasting pain and suffering even though she doesn’t speak French, other than a few French cuss words like “lunge”, “squats” and “step ups”.  Google it.  I bet you will find they mean “torture”, “pain” and “endless suffering” in French, although I’m not positive since I took Spanish in high school not French.  Plus all the Spanish I really cared about were the Spanish cuss words, which the teacher would never tell us.  Now days I could just Google them but I no longer give a f*ck.  That would be because obviously I’m good at using the English ones just fine now.

Wednesday I tried to stand and walk to the kitchen.  My legs seemed to think we’d just run Tupelo again yesterday.  I shuffled into the kitchen, leaning my head against the cupboard as I waited the excruciating minute the Keurig was taking, dry swallowing a handful of ibuprofen.  Banging my head softly against the cupboard I whimpered.  “Why?  whywhywhy?”

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

At least I can truthfully say:  I never accidentally ran a marathon.  THAT would be f*cking insane.


It’s a beautiful day

It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day

After the day-long rain yesterday we have an almost-chilly breeze this morning.  The phone just rang, a little voice chirped asking if Moggie and Papa want to go to Panera?  You bet, little buddy!  I have the windows open and put on tights and a sweatshirt, after breakfast I will go sit on the patio and think about life and goodness and try to put a little back out into the world.

I hear crickets (although it’s no longer dark) and birds chirping loudly across the cove.  Does the chill air make their squawks louder?  Or do they carry better on the cool dry breeze?  I sit with my fingers suspended over the keyboard watching the branches sway, the rustling leaves shushing, the little waves on the lake running into each other appearing to flow into and out of our cove simultaneously, trying to take it all in and hold it in my heart and mind to pull back out for the next hot humid run, the next complaining email.  But those are far away now and I don’t need to consider it.

Smelling my hot coffee and feeling the breeze through the window I am remembering the times my family spent camping with my parent’s friends and their families.  We would drive up to the Mogollon Rim (which we pronounced Mug-ee-own), all the kids piled in the back of someone’s station wagon or camper with two designated adults who’d apparently drawn the short straw, the rest of the cars driven in the caravan by adults incredibly pleased to be in a car sans children.  Most of them smoked at the time so we all sat, crammed together, windows open, hot Phoenix air slowly turning cool as we drove further north.

At Payson we turned off, east, heading upward, trying to scare each other with tails of the Mogollon Monster.  Zane Grey’s cabin was a little off the highway and we stopped there at least once, tiny little cabin up in the woods all alone.  It was destroyed later in a forest fire.  I liked to think of him alone on the side of the hill, tucked away in his snug cabin, fireplace blazing, writing the stories my dad loved to read as a child.  I felt connected to a stranger who’d made my father happy and this in turn made me happy.

We’d turn of onto a narrow dirt road and drive until it ended somewhere, piling out of the car, our parents throwing up tents and throwing down sleeping bags while we kids stampeded all over the forest, whistles around our necks, climbing, exploring, playing in streams for hours until our internal clocks returned us to camp just as lunch was being laid out.  Cramming our faces full we ran back out into the woods.  At some point the fathers would holler for us and we’d head out to the meadow where a hill rose over the other side.  The dads would line cans up against the dirt berm and teach us gun safety and how to shoot.  We learned north from south, east from west, we learned if we didn’t know where we were to immediately sit down, stay there and blow the whistle until they found us.  We learned the smell of pine forest and campfires, and the feel of cold clean streams on bare feet.

In the evening after dinner and a final hike we all settled down, kids in sleeping bags in tents or under the stars, millions of shining stars no one can see from their backyards over the glow of cities, millions and millions of stars stretching forever and I’d stare until they seemed alive and moving, thinking of all those worlds out there.  Did someone out there look up into their sky and wonder, too?

Our very sober and hardworking parents would pull out a cooler of beer while we all huddled in our sleeping bags, the oldest of us valiantly trying to stay awake because as soon as Mr. Marquardt pulled out his guitar we knew the fun was starting.  We faked sleep until we heard him start singing the Rang-dang-do song, my dad – MY DAD – loudly singing the chorus as they all laughed.  Bret and I looked at each other, no need for words:  mom and dad are … human …

And we would fall asleep in the cool night under the stars, content and safe with our very human parents.

I ran in the rain and I liked i-it

It’s a lovely dreary rainy day here in Wonderland, a steady dripping grey blur mottling the surface of the lake like heavily printed dotted swiss.  Murph T. Dog is thrilled, flopped in the dining room staring forlornly across the kitchen at the wet deck, ears drooping.  Murph knows.  Sometimes life just sucks.  Sometimes you get a bath.  Sometimes you manage to get out and eat the neighbor’s garbage.  You just never know from one minute to the next how things are going to turn, he thinks, looking at me with sad dog eyes, slightly accusingly.  It’s raining in his bathroom.  He sighs and closes his eyes, He’ll sleep away this mucky day.

Chunker, in whose bathroom it is not raining, apparently found the change in air pressure invigorating, smacking poor Mo soundly as he walked innocently past, then helping clean out closets.

chunk in bag

She quickly decided to bag that idea and instead hauled her babies around the house mewling sorrowfully for all the kittens she will never have.

chunk and baby

If that’s all the better care she can give her babies we made a good decision.

I was antsy, about as agitated and stir-crazy as Munker.  I needed to get out of the house.  I have no babies to worry about any more and I was free to head out for a run.  My Garmin finally located the mother ship, searching a bit harder than usual with the clouds moving in but I’d been checking and I knew the rain wasn’t going to hit until about noon.  It being Memphis and all you can pretty much bet whatever the weather forecasters say is going to be spot on.

I am currently without a Piece of Paper to Live By from my coach.  I’ll have it soon enough and for now I shall enjoy not knowing what track work lurks next week.  Without the POPTLB I was free to slog about wherever I desired at whatever pace I decided.  Sweet Freedom, a purposeless run!

A man was released from prison.  He’d paid his dues to society and was free to go.  He wandered down the street, dazed with joy, gazing freely about.
“I can go over there and get a milkshake”, he thought, “or I can go sit in the coffee shop and read the paper”
Delirious with joy he skipped down the street singing, “I’m FREE!  I’m FREE!!!”

 A little boy stood at the corner, watching.  As the man skipped past the little boy said, “Tho what, Misther?  I’m FOUR.”

I jogged to a road I haven’t run on much but will again soon, large houses on large lots, a curving winding hilly road with little traffic, like being out in the country.  I ran down the center of the road looking at trees and houses, flowers blooming, someone trimming hedges.  I ran across the road, back and forth, back and forth, just because I could – I’m FREE – in slow easy S’s from curb to curb.  I can go over here.  I can go over there.  I’m FREE!  Nothing hurt this morning, the hand-sized Stanky Creek black and purple bruise healing well and the heaviness having moved out of my legs.

Free to run, free from a plan, free from time, I ran.  It started to mist and I ran.  It misted heavily.  I looked down at the dampening road watching my shoes pass beneath me, and I ran.  Two miles from home a steady rain started, a solid rain, no huge downpour, just steady.  I ran, soft drops of water dripping off my hat, off my nose, running down my legs into my squishing shoes until I noticed at the edge of some trees the twin fawns I’ve been seeing around.  I stopped, standing in the rain, looking at the deer as they chewed while gradually moving into the trees and then I ran again through the rain, down the hill, around the turn toward home, looking up and down and all around at the wet world, alive, breathing deeply, running in the rain.


(With thanks to my running friend, Jody*, for her unintentional contribution to today’s blog title)
* all names may or may not be changed to protect the innocent.  You’ll both just have to guess which are real and which are fake.

I’ve always been clumsy.  In second grade I fell and skinned the same knee three times in one day.  It took years for that scar to mostly fade.  Running on the playground at school I jumped off the irrigation berm, flying, but failed to nail the landing.  I woke to see the principal hovering over me.  Broken arm.  One time I stepped on my own finger.  (I was trying to fix my shoe).  I flew through the air off the seat of my brother’s dirt bike landing on my chin and broke my jaw, had to walk a mile back to camp in shock.  Broke the same toe twice in five weeks on door jams in the house I’d lived in for twelve years.  One Sunday morning after a church carnival while cleaning up I fell climbing out the back of a semi-truck trailer and broke my finger; looking down I saw it forlornly hanging sideways.

I’m not scared to jump
I’m not scared to fall
If there was nowhere to land
I wouldn’t be scared
At all … all
Because falling’s not the problem
When I’m falling I’m in peace
It’s only when I hit the ground
It causes all the grief
(Florence + The Machine, “Falling”)

I think I’m clumsy because I most often fail to be present to the moment.  I rush and hurry and think ahead or behind, but fail to notice the moment I hold.  And, sadly, I so seldom realize that I constantly do this.  First-born, type-A Yankee (not really a Yankee, born to parents with South Dakota heritage I grew up in Arizona but when you move to Memphis, Tennessee that pretty much counts as Yankee, not that I mind.  It’s mostly true).  Hurry hurry hurry.  At one point in my life I thought I might need to quit running.  I decided to walk for exercise.  It lasted about two days.  I kept thinking, “If I were running, I’d be done by now” – I guess so I could rush to the next thing.

This is also most likely why I lose everything.  Keys, purse, wallet, glasses, shoes, clothing, cups of coffee.  Two days later I find the congealed dregs of coffee in a cup I set on a shelf in the laundry.  Keys can be pretty much anywhere in the house.  Finally found my sunglasses after a month and a half:  on my BRFF, DJ’s*, head.  I thought, “Those are nice looking sunglasses.”   She said, “Hey, like my sunglasses?  Want them?  I found them.”  I said, “Hey, are those my sunglasses?”

“Here – try them on, they’re prescription, I found them in a box of Women Run shirts.”

Nice.  Thanks.  Now I have two pair since I finally gave up and bought new.   Now I can lose two pair.

Maybe after last fall when I spent those steroid-hazed days waking at 2 and 3 a.m. exhausted, my butt falling off or trying to, frustrated and frightened that I might never get to run again, maybe that still sticks in the back of my mind now.

One:  at any given point running, just as anything in life, your brother, your job, your security, your own sense of self, whatever, can be taken away from you.  Now you see it, now you don’t.

Two:  you’d better rush to embrace it, scoop it up and hold it tight, hoard it or try to find more, just in case.  Maybe you can hold onto part of it if you just have enough.  If you have 110%, and you lose something, do you at least get to keep the extra 10%?

Eleven.  Exactly.  It’s one louder.

Of course you don’t.  And, yet … maybe next time…

After Tupelo I started to doubt myself.  I’d had the best training I’ve ever had, I had the best plan I’d ever had thanks to one of my besties, Heather*, and I felt great until mile 21.  Then I felt like road kill the rest of the day.  Barfed in the trash can.  Could hardly eat.  Exhausted, trashed, hurting.  The next morning I woke, lying perfectly still I wondered how much pain I would experience in a moment when I tried to get out of bed.


NONE.  A twinge in the quads on the stairs, that’s it.  I did a three-mile walk/jog shake out that morning and felt great.  I looked down at my legs.  Right, where were you at four hours in yesterday, eh?  Innocence.  No reply.  Legs are not taking the blame.

Last Sunday I did the Road Race Series 10K and nailed that sucker.  This is the race that put the nail in my falling off butt’s coffin last year and this year I nailed it.  Finished just under 58 minutes, not bad for a grandma coming off a POS marathon seven days earlier.  Of course the next four felt like shit but I got 10 done and headed back into taper for the Stank, still planning on the 50K because, dammit, I’d better, what if I never get to do one again?  Better rush to hoard that extra 10%.

By the way, speaking of a 50K trail run, I’ve found the perfect tone-and-lift-your-butt solution:  run a couple dozen miles on tough trails.  This morning my legs feel fine: hamstrings, quads, but my butt is not trying to fall off, it’s trying to leap off and run away, finding another, calmer quieter home.

Some other BRFF’s were also planning to do it, crazy nutjob Heather, crazy nutjob Stacy, crazy nutjob Jessica, crazy nutjob Kelly (insert asterisk to all names here as above, I’m tired of typing them).  Heather, a cougar, had never done longer than a marathon, but she does her marathons so fast I think it counts at least partially.  Stacy has done bunches, plus marathons and a couple 50 milers (I bow) and Jessica is an animal, a cheetah, running, biking, roller blading.  I just met Kelly last week at the 10K and it is obvious she is awesomely strong.  Stacy was just out for a stroll, apparently, and said she would run with me.  Man, it was great.  She set such a great pace for me, and I will be damned if I am not going to hang onto Stacy if she is going to hold back for me.  The first loop felt awesome other than falling – twice – both times hitting the same hip and rolling.  I couldn’t see what I was tripping over because I couldn’t wear my glasses.  It was so beautifully cool that they kept fogging up, useless, so I stuck them on top of my head where the nose pieces immediately got hopelessly tangled.  Useless, tangled in my hair, at least they didn’t fall off my head and break, but I couldn’t see details on the sandy beige ground flying by under my feet.

After the race Heather and Stacy both said that on the final loop they kept looking at familiar parts of the 8-mile loop thinking, thank GOD I don’t have to see that tree again, I don’t have to see that creek again, I don’t have to see that aid station again – I never had that thought because I saw nothing but sandy beige, just look at the trail and Stacy’s feet, don’t fall on your butt again … don’t fall on your butt again …

The second loop was a bit tougher but I was getting into a groove and feeling decent.  Third loop I knew I would be glad when this was over but I knew I could do it, I knew my legs were really tired and my BFOS butt was pinging like an out-of-tune guitar put up to eleven, but even if I had to slow down on the last loop I was pretty sure I could still have a very nice PR.

A few hundred yards from the end of the third loop I fell again.  I was completely astounded, I’m running I’m running I’m.  Not running.  Dammit.  Stacy was looking at me.  “That hurt.  This one hurt.”  I sat there for a minute and tried to stand up.  It took a couple tries.  I lifted my arm to brush my hair back and it wasn’t quite right.  This morning I think I’ve strained the bicep tendon although I landed on my hip (again, same spot, it’s nice and purple now) I also nailed my elbow just right, I guess, to strain my upper arm.  I walked for a minute and I knew.   Now I was limping, favoring my right side which was only going to end up torquing my left side, possibly causing more issues, not to mention probably falling again with tired legs and a lopsided stride.  I told Stacy, “I’m done.  I don’t want to quit, but I think I should.  I just don’t want to take the risk on the last loop of falling again and causing serious damage.”  Stacy agreed and we walked to the finish line.  “I’m DNF,” I told them, and I felt fine about it.  I let go of my 10% and went back to my car where I had some ibuprofen and a beer at noon on a Sunday.  Sitting in my camp chair I cheered the runners passing by while I waited on Stacy, Jessica and Heather.  It was a good day.

A little leg-jiggle.

It’s 4:42 am and I’m sitting here doing some crazy mad leg jiggling.

Wound up.

Excited.  Nervous, doubting, hopeful. is reporting in a delightful 57 degrees, I’m sipping some coffee so I’ll have even more nervous energy to leg jiggle with.

When I was younger, less cynical and questioned less I was a daily Mass goer.  That is when I learned about my leg jiggling, sitting there in the back of the chapel with a couple besties, quiet, eyes closed, centering.  SLAM Kay’s hand would come down on my knee, clenching my leg.

It is not – not – polite to snort in church, but dammit, every time I’d snort a laugh.  I was doing it again.  She would cut her eyes over at me.  It was extremely dangerous to make eye contact or we’d get the giggles like a couple of idiot teenagers instead of the idiot parents of teenagers that we were.

I have no clue what to expect today, after delusions of grandeur two weeks ago and getting my butt handed to me I have two goals:  1.  Finish.  2.  Finish strong(ish).

Amend, three goals:  3.  No barfing.

“My brains, his steel, and your strength against sixty men, and you think a little head-jiggle is supposed to make me happy?”

Legs are jiggling.  Drinking coffee, eating my bagel.

I feel like barfing.

Running Hot and Cold…and Stupid

So after the positive (albeit cold and slow) success of my first 50K I re-upped for the next year’s event as soon as it was open.

This time Hubs came along and did the 25K.  We stayed at the very swank Best Western in Mountain View along with the rest of my running buds.   That night after grilling burgers in the hotel parking lot in the back of a friend’s pickup truck we all crowded into one of the rooms to watch the Tigers play.  There could have been a bit of cheering, it was a good game and we had beer.  The phone rang and I was closest.

“um, Hello?” (who do we know in Mountain View??)

“Hi, this is the front desk?  We had a call from another room?  You’re being kinda loud?”

It’s 7pm.  Saturday.  In Mountain View.  Oops, the sidewalks got rolled up, we forgot.

“Well…it’s the TIGERS…”

“*sigh* yes, I know (Tiger fan!  YAY!) but could you maybe hold it down a bit?”

“Ma’am, we all just ran either 16 or 32 miles and about three minutes after this game is over we will all be quieter than the dead.”

“Well, OK then, but maybe you could hold it down a bit anyway?”

“Yes ma’am, we sure will.” and I hung up.

The room erupted.  SCORE!!!!

oh well.

It wasn’t quite as cold that year; if I remember correctly about 38 at the start and it warmed up a few degrees by the end.  Ralphie was back in his parka checking everyone off the list.  Rest stops featured pretty much the same of everything altho I do not remember hot Gatorade that year.  My time wasn’t any faster and I was still just as sore after the race.  In fact a couple of days later I drove around with my daughter looking at wedding reception venues.  Do you know that there’s apparently a law about those places?  Every single damn one of them had stairs.  Stairs into the building, stairs in the building, stairs to get to the stairs, all of which I had to take excruciatingly slowly, sideways, one-foot-at-a-time, desperately grasping the railing while the event director and my daughter waited patiently and a bit wonderingly.  How could you possibly pay money and do something that makes you hurt that bad?  For the first time in my life I was sorry I wasn’t a man — every time I had to visit the ladies’ room.

Still, like childbirth, you move on and forget.  You get a sweet baby you take everywhere or a sweet hoodie you wear everywhere.  After a while someone else has a new baby and you think, hmmm, I might could do that again.  I bet I could do that just one more time.  (This theory is limited by time, age, and bank account of course, or if you accidentally got twins which would be like doing a 100 miler or something similarly incredibly stupid, but the first time or two it’s a bit like that.  Only cheaper.  Also, rather than the baby you are the one crying at night, trying to turn over or get out of bed.)

That spring word was out there was a new event in town and all the cool kids were trying to get a date, so when they handed me a beer and said, HEY! watch this! and registered for the race I slammed back that beer and registered, too.

What could possibly go wrong?

This is what I said then and this is what I say now:  how in the hell (operative word) was I supposed to know in May that August would have four of the hottest days on record (105-106), and that the day of the race it would be 102?

The Bartlett Ultra at Stanky Creek is a 50k/40mile/50mile 8-mile loop course.  You want mental?  The 50 milers, after doing six loops, have to pass the finish line at 48 and go out another mile and back (and while some of them were doing that, I had just finished 32 … #crazynutjobs).  Me not being a #crazynutjob and only doing the 32, you can both see that four times around an 8 mile loop was doable.  You just think, hey, I’m almost there and then when you get out of the trail at your car you don’t get in and go home, you just get some more food and drink and dry socks or whatever you want out of the trunk or back end and then go back in to just do 8 miles.  Two or three more times.  (Don’t think about that part.  These aren’t the droids you are looking for.)

The first three rounds went fine, the aid station was great, the awesome volunteers sitting there in that oven covered in trees, “How ya doing?”  “What do you want?”  “How are you feeling?”  They’d given us all hats with a pocket on top for ice and would fill our hats for us, handing us whatever food and drink we wanted.  One guy started recognizing me and would have the cold Coke poured and the Fritos out when I got there.  I wore my camelback which held about 72 ounces and they refilled it whenever I wanted, or threw more ice in it.  I also carried e-caps, taking them on a regular basis.  Heading into the final loop, with being so slow and all that, I was pretty much in the heat of the day.  The first mile or two went in and out of the sun until you got solidly into the trees.  I felt hot, the sun was uncomfortable, I didn’t like it touching me and I wanted to dodge it, heat soaking into my skin like an oven cooking a chicken.  I couldn’t throw that heat off because even though I sweat a lot it was too humid to evaporate and cool me.

About four miles in on the last loop I was struggling to keep my heart rate down.  I’d walk until it settled, then run again until it was too high.  Walk/run/walk/run with the walks gradually getting longer and the runs shorter.  I fueled at the stop and headed back around.  The last time I hit the aid station I sat for a few minutes, ice in my hat.  “You doing OK?” they asked.

“I’m good, just ready to be done.”

I walked all or nearly all of the last couple miles.  You need to do a 32 mile trail run to truly understand how incredibly sweet dry shoes and socks are, how sitting in a chair can be one of the best experiences you have ever had.  Just to sit.  To sit, and to know that you don’t have to get back up again for any specific purpose.  I’m sitting.  My legs are not moving.  Heaven might feel a bit like that.  I’m done.  I ran the race.  I get to sit here in peace.  You feel like you’re floating, your muscles buzzing.

Hubs and one of the Traitors had been out getting tuxes lined up for the aforementioned wedding.  Shortly after I finished they stopped by to see how I was doing.  Hubs told Traitor to drive me home.

“No, I’m fine, I can drive.”

“Just let him drive you home.” (exasperated)

“OK, ok”

Stars were aligned because I got in the car and about two miles down the road my legs started cramping up like pretzels and there is no way I could have driven home.  I got out of the car and couldn’t stand up, crab-walking into the house.  While the tub filled with cold water I laid down on the floor.

Bad idea.

I knew where I was, I was cognizant and talking, but my body had enough and my legs were jerking, my head rhythmically banging the door as I tried to control my muscles.

Hubs, oddly, was not happy, eh?

Why does he keep looking at his watch?  Who cares what time it is?

“I’m fine,” I kept repeating, my head hitting the door at regular intervals, “I just can’t seem to quit jerking.”

(If you’d just move the damn door it wouldn’t be a problem now, would it?)

Eventually I was able to stand up.  I cleaned up, ate, took a nap on the couch and other than complete exhaustion and the imminent onset of pain I was doing fine.

Hubs, on the other hand, was not doing so great.  He hid it well for a while but eventually he blew.

The following year a bunch of us were sitting around eating breakfast after a run.  One of my BRFF’s, DJ, which is not her real name, said, you know, I’d really like to do that Stanky 50K this year.

Hubs, Mr. Even-tempered, Mr. Always Polite, looked at her.  He shook his finger and said, “If you do that race you are STUPID.  That race is STUPID.  Anyone who does that race is STUPID.  It’s STUPID.”

Deej and I looked at each other.  Things that make you go hmm hmm hmm.

I’m registered for the race this Saturday.

Running Hot and Cold

A few weeks ago I said something about “my” 50k’s to a fellow runner who was surprised to learn I’d done any, not that I couldn’t but they just didn’t know I had.  This in turn surprised me, only because my mouth is an open spigot and it is safe to assume that anything I have to say has already been said at least once.

The topic returned to mind Sunday after the sauna hell of Tupelo.

The 3rd 50k experience about sent poor Sir Hubs over the edge, later causing him to repeatedly use the “S” word in public conversation and I put a voluntary moratorium on the distance until now.  The first two were Sylamore Trail, Arkansas in February, 2006 and 2007 and the last was the Stanky Creek Bartlett Ultra in 2007.  That first year I got a room at a sweet B&B, comfy and cozy with no kids running in and out of the house and swarming the kitchen in the middle of 2am.  I settled down in the soft bed piled thick with quilts and read my book in peace and quiet.  I slept like a baby (not the waking, pooping crying kind of baby, the other kind that some other family got) and woke the next morning to four inches of gleaming, glistening, sparkling fresh snow.  SNOW!

My friend came crunching across the drive on the crisp snow, air so clear and sharp it seemed to crackle slightly as I walked, the porch lights sending long angled shadows darkening a strip of white where I passed.  I could taste the air, clean and slightly damp.  We drove to the race start at Angler’s Lodge featuring: Dining – Lodging – Gift, Tackle, & Food Shop – Rental Boats – Guided Trout & Bass Fishing; absolutely awesome.  Someone carrying a notebook/clipboard while bundled up like Ralphie Parker shuffled out of the Gift, Tackle & Food Shop and stood in the country road, calling names. ‘NAME!” “HERE!”  “NAME” “HERE!” “Terri Clarke” “HERE!” and I was checked off on the list.  Everyone accounted for and off we set, small flakes of snow beginning to fall again shining and swirling in the gleam of headlamps and flashlights.

A mile into the race is the Sylamore Creek crossing.  We’d had a lot of discussion in the previous weeks, take our shoes off and cross, then put the shoes back on?  Carry a dry pair in a plastic bag and stash the wet on the other side behind a rock?  Just brave it?  The best advice I’d gotten was to get a pair of Injinji and wear them under a pair of smart wool.  This would reduce friction and the wool would keep my feet warm – so I plunged in squealing like a girl, feeling my way across the stream bed in a thigh-high swirl of ice cold water.

It hurt!  Holy cow, that cold was painful and for several minutes I wondered if it was OK I couldn’t feel my feet.  It’s an odd sensation running when you don’t feel your feet connecting with the ground and you get pretty clumsy.  We scrambled up the other bank and headed out, warming up by dodging rocks, jumping rocks, tripping over rocks and cursing rocks.  The course is an out-and-back, 15-ish (I’ve learned trail runs tend to the -ish side of accuracy on distance) with the aid points at 5, 10 and 15 and then back again.  It was perfect mentally because it broke the course up.  I only have 5 miles to the aid station.  It’s just a five miler, then another five miler, then another.  I can do that.

The aid stations were awesome – the usual bananas and cookies, etc., plus roasted new potatoes with crunchy salt, Coke, Mountain Dew, M&M’s, Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup mix that comes in an envelope with the short flat noodles, the broth nearly fluorescent yellow, that soup which your mom used to give you when you were sick, reclined on the couch watching cartoons in the middle of the day, so much sodium that it would pucker a normal person’s tongue.  I lapped it up.

Another thing I discovered was about the time we hit every aid stop the terrain changed.  The first 5 miles, rocky, twisty, curvy, melded into a smoother trail which headed down and then up the side of a hill.  Or maybe it was up and then down; either way on the return trip it was the opposite and either way that hill sucked.   The second aid station was next to the creek on a gravel road and featured hot Gatorade.  Hot yellow Gatorade steaming in a huge pot on a camp stove.  I tried but no go, it’s nasty enough iced.  The third set of five featured switchbacks twisting and winding up and down the side of the hills.  At one point we climbed through a beautiful natural rock formation covered with moss, coming out on the other side overlooking the trail and evergreens.  I looked for Gandolf but he wasn’t there.

We made it to the turnaround before the cut-off (we were near to the last but not quite, I’m not fast I’m just stubborn), got checked off the list for showing up and were told to tell anyone behind us who was still heading that way to turn back.

That last five miles was tough.  My quads were screaming like a teenage girl at a Bieber concert.  I kept speeding up (as in, a faster turtle than I’d been before) trying to get it over with and when we hit the creek it was heaven to stand in that cold water, my burning legs tingling.  The problem was, once I got out of the water they stiffened up and turned into concrete.  I stumbled up the scraggy rocky dirt road to the finish line:  one of the gas pumps at the Lodge, where the poor shivering Ralphie stood, bundled, holding a stop watch and a clipboard.  “NAME?”  “Terri Clarke!”

I’d put dry shoes and socks in the car that morning, shivering uncontrollably I tried to untie my shoes and get them off my freezing feet.  The shoelaces were frozen stiff and I had to pry them apart with a knitting needle back at the B&B.    I stood under the hot shower until it ran cold, put on jeans, socks and the race sweatshirt and crawled in bed, too exhausted to celebrate the accomplishment, my muscles humming.  It was several days before I could sit and stand without holding onto a table, chair or wall and I decided immediately to register for the following year.

The Embracing of the Suck.

(please see Chris McCormack and his article: – you won’t regret it, just getting through life, it takes a lot of effort.)

Time:  3:30am.  Sound:  the irritating Marimba tone of my iPhone alarm, fortuitously interrupting the man attempting to strangle me in my dreams.  Later I came to believe I should have paid better attention to “his” intentions.

At the time I was too busy trying to be sure I’d set everything out properly and had time to fuel before target departure at 4:15.  Of course not; I got to the car with no hair rubber band and clip, which I totally had to have; after all what is more important in a marathon than good hair? I say hair that is not hanging in your face dripping sweat into your burning eyeballs, but that’s just me so I made a mad dash back to the room to get the damn things which – of course – were hiding in the very bottom of the makeup case.

The lines to the porta-johns were huge and I forgot my sunglasses in the car so I had to find Rick, find the car and find the sunglasses.  It being 4:45am you can see why I didn’t know, at first, if I had the sunglasses on making everything look dark or if it looked dark because it was, in fact, dark.  Dark is ubiquitous.  Pitch dark, o’dark thirty, don’t darken my doorway, so dark I can’t see my hand in front of my face; you can see that until I felt about on my face and head I didn’t notice they were missing.

We were all milling about when suddenly the race director whispered “go” and I heard people moving forward.  I hit the start button on my Garmin but it didn’t start because it had very considerately shut itself off to save energy.  I couldn’t see the face of the Garmin for some reason – finally explained by the sunglasses, so it took a moment to get the Garmin back on, searching desperately for the satellites it had found just 10 minutes before.  Then I had to fix my shoe – while others around me moved forward.  Not an auspicious beginning but, hey, I’ve had worse, that man dropping trou and, um, expelling in front of me and my friend, Lane, which is not her real name, was something I’ll be talking about in the Home when I don’t know my own name; it could have been worse.

I set a decent pace which was going well although I incorrectly remembered the rolling hills as more Rolling than Hilling.  I hit the turn-around and headed back out.  The knee felt twitchy and my hamstring was pinging from all the hills, but I was holding pace.

And then it gradually fell apart.  I got to the biggest climb on the back half and walked, nauseous.  At the top of the hill I sat for a moment and it passed.  I felt better for a mile or so and then, again, nauseous, hamstring pinging into my knee and up into my lower back, unable to catch my breath.  As time went by it all worsened, I’d run for a minute and get chills, spasming, nauseous, my throat tight.  I decided my Butt is going to Fall Off again.

My first child was born in the height of the all-natural, here’s-a-towel-bite-on-it movement, fear running rampant that if you had an aspirin your child would someday visit Luby’s with a gun or something.  I was young, and dumber than I was young, so I went for that.

I was also lucky, labor and delivery start-to-kid was five hours.

She wasn’t actually breathing at the end of the five hours, which wasn’t such an auspicious ending/beginning and had me concerned, but the good medical personnel took care of that in no time and she’s still here to tell the story.  She doesn’t tell the story, however, since she doesn’t remember it.  So don’t ask her.

Today’s race took, start-to-finish, five hours.  At the end I was breathing, but didn’t really care.

I thought about that as I plodded, walked, plodded, walked, counting one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two up to one-thousand-sixty, OK, walk, count, repeat; run, count, repeat; I thought of that day.

At some point in the past the decision to participate in these events was optional and I decided to pursue them.

Then I was very happy.  Euphoric, even.

I’m gonna have a BABY!  I’m gonna do a MARATHON!

In both cases I plotted and planned, training, checklists, to-do lists, target dates written on the calendar.

I consulted experts.  I paid good money.  I bought special clothing, and special food, and special shoes.  I grew full and fluffy with baby or with carbs.

The special day came and there I was, in Labor and Delivery sans medication, contractions strong enough to propel objects into space.  Contraction OUCH.  No contraction, that’s better.  Contraction OUCH.  No contraction, I still like this part better.  Contraction SUNUVABITCH.  Okay, then, this is for real.  I’m not sure I like this.  Can I go home?  Hello?  HELL-O??  No?

(Gentlemen please substitute Kidney Stone for Child.  So I’ve been told, just don’t want you to feel left out.)

What I realized this morning while Embracing the Suck is that in this race I could have quit.  I could have flopped down by the side of the road and one of the cop cars running the route would have picked me up.  I didn’t have that option in Labor and Delivery, but I had it today.

No kidding – I thought about that.  Sitting down.  That’s the part I thought about, just not moving my legs.  If I could just quit having contractions … if I could just quit moving my legs.  This could be so much more fun.

I mean, where’s the glory in finishing a race by walking?  Where’s the bragging rights? “Oh, yeah, walked the last five, threw up in the garbage can back at the hotel, too weak to stand up”?

This was the best training plan I’ve ever had, and I followed it.  I hit my paces; I hit my long runs, tempo, track work.  It should have worked.  But it didn’t – or I didn’t.  Maybe it just wasn’t the day, maybe the electrolytes were off, the carb-loading didn’t work, maybe it was just freeking hot and humid – or maybe I suck.

You can make up a very simple rhyme for sucking.  Oh F— I suck.

This can get stuck in your head.

You can start to believe it.  What the hell was I thinking?  I can’t do this.  I’m an idiot.  I’m never doing this again; obviously this is not something I’m cut out to do.

Meanwhile Brain 2 is in the background:

“WHAT the hell?  How many marathons have you done?”

“Um, seven?”

“OK, so how many did you quit?”

“Um, none?”

“And suddenly you have to quit?”

“Well this SUCKS.  It HURTS.  I’m NAUSEOUS.  My back is spasming.”

“OOoooh.  OK, then.  I understand.  People die from sucking hurting spasms.”

“Well it’s frustrating.  I should be doing so much better!  I did my training!”

“Ah,” said Brain Two, “that makes a difference.  Things must go the way you planned?”

“Well,” I pouted, looking at my feet, “they … should …”

“Ok, then, what you need to quit doing is writing blogs, you dipshit, because you don’t say what you mean.”

I remembered my dream this morning.  I was choking.  But it wasn’t anyone but me doing it; I was choking myself.

What did I really want out of this race?  A PR?  (yes, however unrealistic).  As close to my PR as possible? (yes, and not realistic today).

What did I really want last November and December when I thought it possible running was over for me?

To run a marathon.

“And,” chimed in Brain Two, “what, exactly, are you doing right now?”

“I’m embracing this f–‘ing suck, sir, and I’m doing a marathon, and I’m accepting it as it is, thank you.”

And so I walked that sucking f—er in.  Friends saw me and cheered and I have to tell you, to my chagrin, that I didn’t smile much.  Unexpected movement had a way of shooting from my right shoulder blade to my knee, and I apologize to all who did cheer me on and try to cheer me up – I was afraid to move.  I did not run across the finish line, I walked.  I tried to smile at the photographers but all I really thought about was finding some position that did not involve being upright.

And – I was.  I finished upright.  Last December I would have taken that in a box with a bow and fireworks and marching bands.  Embrace the Suck.

(Again – with many, many thanks to Chris McCormack and his article:

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