“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” – Roy T. Bennet

Have you ever been out on an arid day, working hard or walking too far and then, suddenly, it hits you. The thirst. So unquenchable you are near gasping for breath; the rattle in your chest reaching audibility. It sends dense. thick heaviness through your muscles and bones and you feel incredibly weak to the point of falling until…

…you drink a glass of cold, refreshing water.

Some of the best things in life are so trivial, and yet so important. And, yes, it is stifling out today.

 


It’s a pretty cool thing to find your face in the morning paper. When I started the morning l was tired to the bone from keeping a baby happy all night long. I was having trouble getting my head “in the game”, so to speak. My loving husband made me pancakes while I tried to get everything ready. The race was a 40-minute drive away and started at 7 o’clock, sharp. We had fifteen minutes to get ready and go, and Ezekiel was still fast asleep.

The night before, I had filled the bladder for the hydration vest with water and had frozen it. In the morning, I let it thaw just enough to yank it open and fill it up to near-overflowing with water. I had two bison bars in Ziplocs stuffed into my vest, as well as dried cranberries and some homemade peanut butter Rice Krispie treats. I also had two more water bottles in the front. I was set, but nervous.

We arrived with 20 minutes to spare, but every runner knows that the line for the bathrooms will take all the time. There were about ten people in front of me, I still hadn’t picked up my bib, and Ezekiel still needed to nurse. Cue the rising panic.

I had to hurry back to the car to quickly sunscreen up after getting my bib. I remembered that two years ago I had fried in the beating sun and I had no intention of experiencing that again. The five minute call rang out, and Ezekiel still needed to eat.

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(He doesn’t realize I’m about to leave him for several hours.)

While I walked to the starting line, I covered up (barely!) with a blanket and let my baby finally eat. I was in the very back of the crowd, wrestling with a squirmy, thirsty child. I had to hand him over to my husband, Nate, when the gun went off the crowd began surging forward. I quickly buckled my vest together and set off, trying to get past the bulk of the people. I wish I had started in the front.

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(The sea of fluorescent runners.)

The first mile was spent passing a lot of runners. I always feel awkward passing someone. Do I tell them “good job” or “keep it up” even though I’m running in front of them? Personally, I might find that condescending, but I know that oftentimes others enjoy encouragement more than I do. Sometimes I say sorry, but I honestly don’t know what the etiquette is. I’m still a newbie to this whole racing thing.

When we reached the first climb I knew I was in for a long few hours. I stopped and shook my legs out a couple of times. I regretted training in high altitude. I regretted signing up for the race. Gosh, I was actually pretty grumpy for the first half.

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(Nate, my unofficial photographer, caught me in a bad mood. I told him to leave me alone here.)

I tried to eat my bison bars but they suddenly tasted like rabbit food. The cranberries weren’t much better. I ended up spitting out some of my food on the trail as it was turning my stomach. While my nutrition was sub-par during the race, I stopped at most of the aid stations and took in plenty of electrolytes and fluids. Without those, I never would have made it.

After hitting up the halfway aid station, Jackson Gap, I ran alongside a guy from Portland for a couple miles. He pulled ahead of me on the hills, but I kept my pace steady and would occasionally catch him on the flat ground. Unfortunately, I rolled my right ankle on a sharp turn and lost him completely. The next two miles after that were spent wondering if I would be able to finish. I knew that little roll had done something to my ankle and I was hobbling. Because I had slammed my right knee in a training run, that whole leg was somewhat compromised. When I made it to the next aid station, however, I just drank more electrolytes and my husband and baby were there to cheer (or cry) me on. I kept going.

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(Grimacing.)

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(Everybody at the race loved him.)

The next section had several miles of climb to it, and I admit, I was pretty low during this point. I walked often, sometimes completely stopping and doubling over, hands on my shaking legs and staring at the ground. The lack of food was really catching up to me, but I knew I had to continue. I arrived at the last aid station and took in more electrolytes. My contacts were clouded over and my eyes were itchy from the dry, grassy spots. Allergies are my bane. Someone gave me a sponge for my eyes. I tried to find something to eat that appealed, but someone told me that if nothing looked good, I might as well keep going since there were only five miles left.

The last five miles weren’t too terrible. I caught up with Strava Socks (his name is actually Kyle, but at the beginning I had been behind him staring at his labeled socks) and I followed him out of the trail and onto the road that led to the finish. There were campers and onlookers all along the road, yelling and cheering us on. I heard people yelling “first woman” and “here she comes” as I neared the end. Strava Socks pulled ahead for a sprint finish, but I didn’t feel like sprinting at that point. My husband was running alongside me, trying to get me to sprint. I said no.

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(My official time was 4:27:31 because I started in the back.)

It was such a relief to cross that line. Several runner friends that had done the 15K were there and congratulated me as I tried to find food. They all looked so fresh, wearing colourful leis and holding beers. In some ways, I was jealous that they didn’t run as far, but at the same time I felt pretty accomplished. Maybe next year I’ll do it again. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll be brave and do 50 miles instead. Runners have short-term memory loss, after all.

 

Domino Effect

I didn’t live in the Dominican Republic for long. It wasn’t even three years in the end. But, despite all my efforts to not assimilate to the culture, I left with several quirks because of it.

Every afternoon, someone would either invite us to have coffee at their house or someone would simply put a percolator on the stove. You would think that hot coffee in high heat and humidity would be overkill, but I found that after the initial sweating, the outside humectation would seemingly lessen. Now, I enjoy a pot of (decaf) coffee when the day begins to lull and I’m already preparing for dinner. It may be summer, but I feel as though I am better acclimatized than my husband and can stand the heat of midday enough to run in it.

The beaches of Sosua were always interesting. That side of the island is the more tourist-y side, with bars and high-priced trinket markets lining the beach entryways. The worst thing about them was the appalling amount of lecherous creeps that preyed the shoreline. These were the Speedo-wearing, beer-bellied predators blocked from their own countries. The average age was about fifty, but that didn’t (doesn’t) stop them from picking up sixteen-year-old Haitian and Dominican girls to use and abuse with the promise of a future outside the island. Unfortunately, because I grew so used to seeing this sick trend, I now assume that large, white, fifty-year-old men are all predatory and dangerous. I know this isn’t a fact of all men that look that way, but perhaps I am racist and sexist in small ways because of it. I don’t trust anyone’s grandpa until I really know them.

Lastly, the poverty in the Dominican Republic made me appreciate the abundance of America. Appreciate, and also abhor. We live in such luxury here and complain about the things we do not have. We have so much. I do not go hungry. My family does not go hungry. We have a one-bedroom apartment and I could have another child and it would still be sufficient. We have jobs. We have savings. We have clean water. I cannot complain.

After all is said and done, I do wish to go back someday.

Fast Girl (Book Review)

Things I’ve learned from Suzy Favor Hamilton’s story:

1. Nothing is ever completely anonymous. (Of course, she thought she could get away with being a high-priced call girl after having competed in the Olympics three times. That is the complete opposite of anonymity.)

2. When you’re used to winning, it can be devastating to know you’re losing. (Hence her faking her fall at the 2000 Summer Olympics.)

3. Once your name is out there, everything you do is under intense scrutiny. You have to remain the person that was first introduced to the public. If you start changing, their opinion of you changes, and oftentimes for the worse.

Look her up if you’re interested in her story. I found it extremely fascinating, especially since I had no idea what was in the book that I had found at the library.

 

Music

i feel limited by the

instruments i try to play

their sounds are not what i wish to hear

my hands do not itch for frets or keys

they wish to be empty, with ease

so that i can dance

i only want to dance

and sing and not worry about

finger placements

musicians, brothers and friends, make me feel

less

as though my singing alone accounts for

nothing

always making comments about

female musicians – as though it is rare

for a woman to be talented

and so i feel less of a woman for not

desiring to be so

i just want to dance with words

be free in movement, in voice

experiment with falsetto and harmony

explore the reaches of the human instrument

-for this makes me live-

but i do not feel alive

when i am obligated to strive

with wood and metal

such pretty objects

but they hold no fire for me.

Every week, I am met at some point in time with the question/statement, “You’re eating enough, right?”

My answer? I can never eat enough. I am a breastfeeding, ultra-running, metabolism-of-a-teenager mom and I am ALWAYS HUNGRY. I wake up and eat right away and I go to sleep dreaming of what I will eat tomorrow. When I run, I think of food. When I relax, I think of food. When I eat, I think of food. I get seconds, thirds, sometimes fourths. Free samples are the first thing I beeline to when I walk into Costco or Trader Joe’s. Yes, I barely weigh 100 pounds at times but I am trying my best and, man, you don’t even know how hard it is for me to gain weight.

But that doesn’t mean I am going to give up running or even decrease my mileage. Just please, please, please stop questioning my health because I hear it all the time from everyone I know and your overwhelming concern is becoming overbearing. Did you know that I can eat half a bag of Costco trail mix in one setting? Can you? Stop talking to me about my weight because if I said anything about yours, the world would be in an uproar.

Please.

And thank you.

Awkward Moment #199

Pushing a stroller around town nearly every day is not something most people do. I run with it, walk with it, get groceries with it. My child rides front seat and I have to stop and go on his whims.

Anyway, today after an eight-mile run we had to get some bread. I stopped at my old place of work, Great Harvest Bread Co., to retrieve some sourdough. Now, pushing around a stroller has made me creative at opening doors. When heading out, I use my behind to push the door open and hold it open as I swing the stroller around to face it forward again. Sometimes a person jumps to hold to hold it open for me, but, honestly, I’m normally fine on my own.

So this little old man thought he would help me out today. I was already halfway through the door and he was on the other side of it. He asked which direction I was headed – left or right. I told him left and went to continue out. Then, for some odd reason, he went behind the door and because I was holding it open to get out, he ended up squishing his head between the open door and the wall behind it! I immediately removed pressure off the door and apologized, albeit a little confused. He stood there looking a little befuddled, and didn’t say anything, so I said sorry again and walked away quickly. I nearly laughed. but felt that would be rude since he was only trying to help. I honestly have no idea what he was trying accomplish by going behind the door that I was opening, though.

Sometimes pushing a stroller around town has its awkward moments.

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