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How to Have a Happy Trail Run

Without warning, it hit me: I really, really needed a good nature fix. I was starting to twitch. I needed more than a weekly, leisurely nature walk that didn’t get my heart rate up enough. I need to be out there longer. Sweat. Climb a damn hill with dirt on it. Burn my quads. Do a snot rocket.

The fiance came out with me for a 4.5-mile hike on the Mossy Ridge Trail at Percy Warner park on Sunday after church. Not more than 50 yards on the trail, it gnawed at me: Where have you been? Why not here? for I am nothing if not a girl in her happiest place on Earth on the trails surrounded by tall trees.

Hill Bench in its glory

I like how they put this bench at the top of one hill and the bottom of another. #foresight

As previously posted, running and I recently re-kindled our relationship and that has included small appetizers of trail running on the safe 2.5-mile Warner Woods Trail. I was secretly ashamed of myself that a short run like that would wipe me out like it did, but only because I know how much I used to tear it up. I wanted to run more and get back to what I used to do, but fear and self-doubt was successful at talking me down. You can’t do what you used to do three times a week anymore like it’s nothing! You’re almost 27. That’s considered your late 20s… Remember the creaking you hear in your knees? Better do some downward dogs instead.

I decided I’d had enough of the negative self-talk; it was time to stick it to the man/myself. I decided to pick up where I left off with trail running and allowing myself grace, I went for a long trail run and bucked any comparisons to my previous altitude-trained, 23-year-old self. And while I had an undeniably awesome, transcendent time (per usual) I did forget some crazy essential tips that could’ve made the beforeduring, and after a little more enjoyable.

Here are my tips for a happy trail run.

Before

  1. Load your car with a fresh towel or two, and a bandanna to bring with you as a sweat rag. Sweat pouring into your eyes and stinging them as you try to dominate a hill is just salt on a wound. Preventable!
  2. Drink up well before the run! Seriously, hydration is and will be your best friend. I’m no scientific expert, but drink enough so that your pee is clear. K? I’d like to make note that this is the first time I’ve talked about pee on a running blog. If you’re a runner, you are so impressed with me right now. Bring along water for after your run, an electrolyte drink (I love Nuun when I have it, or zero-calorie Powerade), and snacks in your car for when runger takes over on the drive home.
  3. Wear an article of clothing with a pocket for your car key. Yesterday, in full rookie mode, I wore no-pocket yoga pants and I improvised. MacGyver skills, while impressive, shouldn’t be necessary when we have been blessed by the existence of pocketed active wear.
  4. Naïveté isn’t cute or safe. Map out where you’re going and check the weather so you know what you’re dealing with. Unless you’re adventurous and have your phone with you, are fully prepared for the elements and have a load of time on your hands, knowing where you’re going and in what conditions are a must.  And since this is trail running, if you can check the elevation gain on the trail, DO. IT. unless you like to learn the hard way that a 4-mile route gains 225 ft. in a quarter mile. Hey, depending on your level of masochism, that may be a picnic! It would be for me on a good day!
  5. Sunscreen and bug spray yourself. I totally remembered this yesterday… totally.
  6. Tell someone who loves you that you’re bad ass and going for a trail run. And/or bring your phone. The good and bad of it is: the world is unpredictable and anything can happen. Turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” if you really wanna feel like you’re unplugging, but still have a safety net.

    There's no place like a trail that smells like Jasmine

    Right here I had to stop and take a picture because I was breathing really hard but also because it smelled overwhelmingly like jasmine and I felt like I was not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

During

  1. Taylor’s Heaven on Earth = trail running with an eclectic mix that puts her back in Colorado. This includes, but is not limited to: Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, YMSB, String Cheese Incident, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Grateful Dead. If you want my playlist, I’m happy to oblige. NOW: The important part of this that I MUST stress is keep the volume low enough to communicate with others on the trail. Guys, I was coming up behind this girl yesterday with her Beats By Dre turned up and although I was kindly alerting her that I was coming up on her left in plenty of time, she had NO CLUE I was around until I had to slow down and squeeze by her (and give her the stink  eye, because REALLY?). Not only for your own safety (hi, random attacker!) but also for the courtesy of others – keep your volume down so you can still hear what’s going on around you. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. Be kind and let people know you’re coming up behind them. Call out a little ways out with a friendly “Hey there! On your left!” Don’t whiz past them like they’re in your way – trails are for everyone to enjoy responsibly. Practice the Golden Rule here. Make friends. Be good.
  3. Pick up your feet! Trail running is not without things you will be challenged to negotiate quickly! Get into a zone and pay attention to what’s ahead of you. You will be amazed at how your brain works to anticipate what’s to come and how your body responds. If you find yourself timid to go too fast down a hill littered with roots and rocks, take it slow but prepare yourself for next time by doing some drills: running stairs, high knees, and butt kicks, or lateral exercises like shuffling and grapevine. Strength training helps, too. Now, give me 10 squats!
  4. HILLS – try not to look at what you have ahead of you too much for too long – it will mess with you mentally. Just take one step at a time as you ascend. Yesterday, I was halfway up a hill before I realized I was running up a HUGE one, and guess what? I had enough (mental?) energy to take me to the top! Then, at another hill, I sized it up as I approached it and didn’t make it up without psyching myself out. Trail running is a mental game, like anything else, and there are ways to hack it.
  5. Stop and smell the flowers. Don’t hold yourself to a strict time limit. Allow yourself to stop and soak in the nature and beauty around you. That’s what trail running is about! Recognize you’re blessed enough to be where you are, feel the burn in your lungs and the pulsing of blood in your legs. THIS IS LIFE! THIS IS WHAT IT IS ABOUT! And then keep going.

After

  1. That towel you packed? Sit on it and save your car seats. Wipe the sweat and dirt and mud off ya, if you got so lucky.
  2. Luxuriate with these. Especially if you want anyone to actually come close to you when you get home. Or, any baby wipe will do.
  3. Drink water, eat something. Avoid headaches, literally, and thank your muscles with carbs and protein.
  4. Check for ticks. Lyme disease ain’t no joke.
  5. Foam roll within a couple hours of your run so you’re not out of commission for the next three days with Icy Hot as your main squeeze. Foam rolling can really ruin a DOMS party in your muscles.

I won’t admit to how many of the above I had to re-learn yesterday, which was the real impetus behind this post. But that’s what I get for staying away so long!

Returning to the trails to run them made me feel more than ordinary; I was no longer a boring person with a desk job. I sank into my zone, listened to each and every note in my hippie music and didn’t do a whole lot of thinking otherwise. It was simple: I had a happy trail run, and after reading this if you go out and try it, I really hope you do too.8926bb1859448aa8bd7cdcc00995a5c6

 

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Down by the Heart of Gold on this Harvest Moon

My memories of first hearing Neil Young were so long ago, boy bands did not exist in my life. Hanson hadn’t mmm bopped and N*SYNC didn’t want you back (yet). But Neil was there, and my naive little ears really liked the guy.neil young

Growing up, when the Colorado summer weather was decent enough for it, we would eat dinner outside in the summer. Mom and Dad always keep a rotation of five or six CDs in the stereo – some of Dad’s favorites, some of Mom’s, and some mutual – and it seemed like Neil was always a mainstay. Heck, even if we didn’t eat outside, we’d still play music during dinner. Neil Neil Neil, always in the rotation. He was one they never disputed.

Music adheres to your memory. Music makes for moments in time you take with you and hold on to and go back to. And for me, I can remember so many instances where I heard Neil Young and I just felt at home.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Throughout my life there have been different, sometimes very random times when I have heard Neil Young or listened to him that at the time were so inconsequential, but now have stuck to my memory. And I’m glad they have; they’re like old pictures I would choose to keep.

June 2010. I was in Berlin, Germany starting my summer semester abroad. I had three months in Europe ahead of me and was making new friends left and right – all of us zealous and optimistic and blissfully ignorant American student tourists. A group of us went to a bar one night in Kreuzberg where they had an open mic night. A German was singing and playing Neil’s “Heart of Gold” in the small, dimly lit bar and at the moment it sounded so pure that it made me miss home for the first time in weeks. Although Neil is very much Canadian, and I knew this, I missed America just a little bit, just by hearing his song.

I want to live,
I want to give
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.
It’s these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching for a heart of gold.

When I came back that summer from Berlin, my parents weren’t able to pick me up from the airport. They left a car for me at the airport to drive back to Boulder. I hadn’t driven in over three months and I distinctly remember missing the act of driving – just being on an open road with the windows down, music blaring. The freedom that comes with operating your own transportation! In the CD player of the Chrysler Pacifica? Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. I knew they hadn’t planned that, but it couldn’t have been better for my homecoming. You bet your ass when “Unknown Legend” kicked off that I rolled all four windows down and cranked it up.

Somewhere on a desert highway
She rides a Harley-Davidson
Her long blonde hair
flyin’ in the wind
She’s been runnin’ half her life
The chrome and steel she rides
Collidin’ with
the very air she breathes
The air she breathes.

I have wanted to be that woman, that unknown legend, so many times. On a desert highway, and yes, on a Harley Davidson. In another life…

Fast forward a couple years. I started running a lot. I listened to a lot of music – Black Keys, Tom Petty… But I wanted to dig a little deeper and downloaded Neil’s Greatest Hits. It took me to a whole new side of Neil – the gritty rock, electric-heavy “Cowgirl in the Sand,” “Southern Man,” and “Ohio” were good motivators to grind a little more on the road.

You take my hand,
I’ll take your hand
Together we may get away
This much madness
is too much sorrow
It’s impossible
to make it today.

Deep as sin of a song, I’ll tell you what. The darker stuff spoke to me in a different way than the lighter, folkier Harvest and Prairie Wind. I hardly ever seek out “dark music,” but when I came across it, it cemented Neil as a virtuoso in my mind. The man has reach.

A young Neil Young.

A young Neil Young.

Then, in the summer of 2012, I got a job pouring beer at Red Rocks concerts. To this day, one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Making people happy by serving them beer at one of the greatest concert venues on the planet and catching free shows…take me back please? I digress.

Of course I signed up to work when Neil came on tour with Crazy Horse. Luckily that night I was able to get off early enough to catch a good part of his show. He was wearing a white button down shirt that flowed with the reverb and riffs that he played. He was an enigma. I was mesmerized. He had this aura around him. And I really have only ever used “aura” in my writing maybe three times in my life. I don’t use “aura” flippantly.

I can’t speak much for what he has put out recently i.e. The Monsanto Years, but man I am thankful for what he has produced. His craft has given me so many memories; places in my mind to go back to and automatically feel at ease.

Neil’s not the only musician who makes me feel at home when I listen to him. So I hope to start a series and write more about my other favorites. And for most of them, I have to give credit where credit is due: My parents have heavily influenced my taste in music and therefore have made me out to be an old soul. I think I should have grown up in the ’70s because damn. Music was SO. GOOD. in the ’70s. Notice how I went this whole blarticle without once mentioning CSN/Y? It’s because that’s another blarticle for another time.

I just discovered Neil Young’s documentary Heart of Gold on Netflix, so I’m off to watch it and go, well, home.

What’s “off season”?

After finishing Chattanooga 4 Bridges, my go-to reaction has been to find the next race. Whether it’s been another marathon, or another half, my fiendish impulse since I’ve bursted into a serious runner has been to search for, nail down, and train for my next race, and write a blog about it. I mean, that’s what addicts do, right? Search for their next fix? (I mean, I guess some of them could write blogs…)

But. I’ve had a nagging feeling of “what’s next?” Instead of relishing in the ubiquitous thirst to nab another goal, the nagging feeling has been just that: NAGGING. I have been reluctant to it. I don’t want that feeling. I don’t want “what’s next?” yet. I want it to leave me alone.

Because of this reluctance, I’ve been wondering what’s wrong with me. Since January 2012, I have been training for something; it has become a huge part of my identity, and one of which I am very proud. For 21 months, I’ve trained for half marathon after half marathon, then trail half marathon, marathon number one, marathon number two, marathon number three (turned half marathon) with even more races in between.

Luckily the impending identity crisis was avoided today when I happily found my answer to “what’s next.” It’s what they call “off season” and I hear it’s pretty common, even for elite superstar runners like my hero Kara Goucher.

Yeah! Off season! You know, a time where you cross train, go to Disneyland, race for fun in a tutu, move down to your villa in Miami (unless you’re LeBron James and you already live there. Which makes me wonder: where does LeBron go in the off season? I digress.), stay out late at smoky karaoke bars and not worry about feeling good for a 12-miler at 7am, eat pancakes because you want to, not because you have a massive hunger after running 20 miles.

So that’s what’s what, guys. I’m in the “off season.” I wish I could say I’m going to Disneyland or moving down to Miami, but I haven’t convinced my boss that bluegrass is prevalent down in Miami. I mean, let me know if I’m wrong, and you’ll be my favorite person in the world. I’ll call up LeBron and we can all chill, my treat.

To keep up with my fitness (because I can’t sit still, even if it is the off season), I’m enjoying the gym rat status and getting lost in new beatz I’ve loaded on my Shuffle: Lady GaGa’s “Venus” makes me giggle like a school girl; Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” is my jam; I pretend Drake is serenading me in “Make Me Proud.”

I’ve been modeling my workouts after the Tabata method, going hard on one exercise for a certain amount of time, resting a short amount of time, and jumping back in for another set. This has made my overall gym time shorter,  but I’ve walked away feeling like I’ve worked harder and I have rendered myself quite sore as a result.

I’ve relied on treadmill and Stairmaster intervals for cardio, as well as short sprints around the indoor track, which give me a lot of confidence when I pass by all the walkers and “joggers.” Yoga has been practiced a lot more, making me wonder why in the world I wasn’t a yoga practicer in Boulder. I’ll never know.photo

I fully believe there is a season for everything, so this concept of an off season shouldn’t come as a surprise to me. But I’ll be the first to admit: I have been swept up in the race craze. It’s not hard to want more, to dig deeper, and to put another tech tee in your drawer. While this is also the season for being thankful (which should be an exception to the whole “season” thing altogether) I am thankful to say that I’ve discovered that the time is right for an off season.

Race recap: 4 Bridges Half Marathon, Chattanooga, TN

I went to a show at the famed Bluebird Cafe here in Nashville last Friday. The show was in-the-round style, where four or five songwriters sit in a circle in the middle of the venue, with tables and chairs scattered all around for the audience. You can even read the lyrics on the sheet music in front of the songwriter, you’re so close. That intimate.

The songwriters all had hits you’ve probably heard on the radio before, if you listen to country radio (sung by someone much more glamorous, but probably less talented – at least, in terms of actual musicianship, but I digress). What made the two hours that much more intimate and valuable was that the songwriters had so much respect and admiration for each other. At one point in the evening, each songwriter took their turn to brag on another songwriter, and it was all one happy love fest. And so it goes in Nashville…

I share that anecdote because 1.) I wanted to brag about the fact that I ACTUALLY got into a show at the Bluebird (thanks a lot, Hayden Panettiere) and 2.) because it’s my turn to brag on something and I wanted to cleverly tie in an anecdote. BOOM.

So let me brag on this, the 4 Bridges Half Marathon in Chattanooga. Let me paint a picture for you. And by paint, I mean show you a picture via the Internet.

photo (1)That’s a bridge in Chattanooga, stretching across the Tennessee River. There are four bridges that do this to connect the city, hence the name of the half marathon. Chattanooga is nicknamed The Scenic City, and I’ve bragged about it before, so start getting jealous of me right now.

So imagine my anticipation in running a race here. I know, RIGHT? And it was also a little complicated given the fact that I had to defer to half status instead of full, but I’ve beaten that horse enough. What’s with that saying anyway? I don’t like beating anything except for other runners up hills. And maybe eggs.

OKAY, OKAY: RACE DAY!

For once in my life, I was going to run a race that wasn’t wrought with unappealing weather (note: totally embellishing, but still wringing out my jacket from CMM) I was thrilled. Forecast was in the mid-40s for the duration of the race, so I was good to go in my sleeves, racerback, and quarter length pants.

The start of the race was packed with people, and it was dark as the sun didn’t really rise until 7:50am, 50 minutes into the race.

I ran with music (it had been a while since I’ve raced with music), starting off with “Little Black Submarines” by The Black Keys. I felt good, having eaten some trail mix and a banana for breakfast, and water. I consistently moved up, keeping an eye on my Garmin. Smiling. Feeling awesome and all kick-ass like.

One criticism about the race: I am pretty sure the mile markers on the course were off. I know distances vary a little bit depending on how much you zig-zag, but I’m talking about .20 off at some points. Still, I was in great shape time-wise, so it didn’t bother me as much.

My first “AW HECK YEAH LIFE IS SO GOOD” moment came when we crossed the first bridge, heading north. The sun was just starting to come up to our right, over the three other bridges. “Loving Cup” by The Rolling Stones came through the headphones, and I felt so happy I could have hugged the sweaty stranger running next to me. (I didn’t, though. I passed him instead.) It could have been the endorphins, but I thought to myself that this feeling of happiness is only so strong when I am running. Races, running, sunrises, perfect songs… they are the bread and butter of my life. They keep me excited, feeling fresh, and determined to make the rest of my life just as kick ass as I feel in that moment. I hope to goodness you have found the equivalent of that in your own life, or are currently on a quest to do so.

The course was relatively flat, with steady, short inclines here and there. I only fueled up with a gulp of Powerade around mile 10, and even then didn’t feel the need for it.

I started kicking it in at mile 11, and killed the last hill, happy that I was familiar with the area so I wasn’t psyched out with how long the hill was.

I crossed the finish line at 1:46:47, according to my Garmin (my official results are still being processed I guess) which is a PR! With numb digits, I hugged Dorothy, who saw me finish and was so cool for waking up early to see me. She also took this awesome photo below.

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What makes it so awesome is the photobombers. Like, kudos. Bravo. I’m not even annoyed. I hope this shows up in a Buzzfeed post about photobombers at races someday, because it’s perfect.

The first order of business was finding coffee, and then pancakes. In that order. My fingers were freezing, after all.

Coffee was eagerly gulped, pancakes hastily eaten. A perfect race day, on all accounts.

POST RACE THOUGHTS

I love the distance of a half marathon, and I want to try to run more and really make them my go-to race. My time was good, but it could get better. It’s an approachable enough distance for me to tackle with speedwork, long runs, and my general attention span and level of patience. Not to say I’m swearing off marathons, but. I think halfs are where it’s at.

My splits were as follows:

Mile 1: 8:44
Mile 2: 8:17
Mile 3: 8:16
Mile 4: 8:21
Mile 5: 8:02
Mile 6: 7:59
Mile 7: 8:15
Mile 8: 7:58
Mile 9: 8:07
Mile 10: 8:03
Mile 11: 7:59
Mile 12: 8:06
Mile 13.1: 7:43

I’m not sore today thanks to my foam roller and some yoga, and feel like I am good to run.

This race really gave me a lot more confidence than I went in expecting to gain. I am inspired to run and train again without the marathon schedule so dauntingly bold on my calendar. I know, I did it to myself. 

Not sure what my next race is, but in the mean time, I’ve got this on the wall with the others. Half marathon number 5 in the books!

photo (8)

 

Running on bluegrass, survivng a mid-run bee sting, and R&R: Colorado style

Right now I am sitting in my parents’ living room in Evergreen, Colorado with my feet up and football on tv (Broncos on soon!). The sun is shining the prettiest light on the golden aspen leaves outside, and any hints that it snowed two days ago are long gone.

One week ago I was eating huevos rancheros with extra hot sauce in a sleepy, bluegrass-hungover Raleigh, NC, jonesing to come home to Nashville.

Life has been a bit of a blur lately. I’ll catch you up as to why.

World of Bluegrass Week

Remember that metaphorical marathon which was the subject in my last blog?

Well, I didn’t get a picture with Steve Martin. Nor did I technically meet him, but that’s okay. We sat by each other offstage during Punch Brothers’ set and I’ll take that memory to the bank. I also sat backstage while Tony Rice accepted his Hall of Fame induction, and miraculously got his 20-years-gone voice back. I met Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, Noam Pikelny, Fiddle Player of the Year Jason Carter, and THE Del McCoury. I heard amazing music, and got paid for it. THAT was my metaphorical medal that I took back to Nashville. It looks good in my apartment, trust me.1276333_10151733233498759_2074428410_o

SO – World of Bluegrass went as well as we hoped, and then some. We blew away everyone’s expectations of the week, even our own. It was a 100% success.

As for the literal marathon training, I got up at 5:45am five out of seven days to run on the hotel’s fitness center’s treadmill, totaling 26 miles the whole week. I was thankful for the clean and open facilities, but would have loved to run outside. It was just too dark to do that. At the end of each day, I was rendered completely spent after running a business conference, award show, seminars, and putting out fires everywhere in between. Even being so social all the time was draining! By the end of the week, I felt increasingly in need of alone time, and for a good long run outdoors.

Back in Nashville

My first full day back in Nashville, I had the opportunity to seize my nature fix. So I did. For the first time in too long, I started off on the Cane Connector trail at Percy Warner. The weather was perfect; a crisp 72 degrees, with no doubt that fall was starting to make itself comfortable. I listened to the Eddie Vedder Pandora Station (highly recommended) and was feeling refreshed, fast, and blissful with every hill. During a Led Zeppelin song (“Back to California” to be exact) I felt an odd, sharp pain on my left index finger. Still running, I looked down and saw a determined little bee, the source of the sting. At first I didn’t know what to do; I was kind of stunned. I was at least three miles from my car and was worried about the effect the bee sting would have on me since I probably wasn’t hydrated well, and was prone to feeling woozy anyway. I put on my Big Girl Pants and kept running, figuring the adrenaline would ease the pain of the sting. It did, mostly, and I survived the run while still meeting my projected pace. Still waiting on my “I’m Brave!” sticker… should be coming in the mail soon, right guys?

I thoroughly enjoyed back-to-back nights of yoga (inversions, ftw!), and a great 6.5 miler with my East Nasties. Being without World of Bluegrass work responsibilities, I felt like a kid on Summer Vacation with extra time and less stress on my hands, filling it with yoga, running, Girls on the Run, and friends. It was spectacular.

Colorado: Surprise!

If you don’t have a best friend with Buddy Pass privileges, I’d suggest you finding one. Thanks to my best friend with Buddy Pass privileges, I was able to make an impromptu trip back to Colorado just four days after getting back from Raleigh. My parents had plans to go to Vail, invited me to join, and suggested I surprise my sister. Surprising my sister made her cry (in a good way), and I also surprised a good friend from college.

Surprises spice things up for the people you care about in life. Pro tip: Do it as much for you as you do for them. It’s awesome.

Whenever I’ve come home, my version of R&R consists of being even more active and playing outside, and this time was no different.

My mom proved that even though I’m a marathon runner, she can still kick my butt. “Let’s go to Tabata class and stay after for Butts and Guts!” she said. “It’ll be fun!” she said.

My hamstrings, butt, quads, calves, toes and eyelashes can attest that it was very fun. They’re still shaking from having so much fun.

We decided to forego a rest day for a hike in the high country, taking in the awe-inspiring fall colors and taking advantage of the crisp autumnal weather. I’d like to believe I’m much more eloquent through the written word than I am through the spoken one, but even those colors leave me searching for words. It is impossible not to believe, or even entertain the idea, that the leaves changing colors is proof that God exists. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by a forest of golden aspen trees with the sun shining through, and snow on the ground, you’re lucky enough.

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Today, I took a shake-out run around our neighborhood in the hopes that the lactic acid would get to moving around in my sore lower-half a little more. It felt good, but I noticed the thinner air.

Looking ahead

I head back to Nashville in a few hours and tomorrow resume a normal work week with a normal routine. But I forget what ‘normal’ is.

With less than three weeks to go until 7 Bridges, I’ll start getting into the tapering phase of training, even though ‘training’ has been a relative term this go-around. But I’m not looking behind me in my lost mileage, lost long runs, lost speed workouts. I’m only looking ahead.

Rewind: July

“And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.”

-Joni Mitchell, “The Circle Game”

Mercy, it’s August and there are NFL pre-season games kicking off. Speaking of, let’s pause before going head-first into this blog by watching my quarterback in a new, fantastically awful commercial.

So catchy, right? I hope to goodness there’s a game where Pey Pey takes off his helmet after connecting with Decker for an amazing play and reveals that head of hair. I can see it now…

Back to running.

I didn’t run any races in July (but kicked back into Marathon Training Mode with running 85 miles total), therefore breaking my streak of running at least one race each month since March. I have rectified this, however, and have signed up for the Tomato 5k this Saturday in East Nashville. It’s like East Nasty’s homecoming, and although I am stingy and would rather not pay dollar dollar bills to run for (hopefully) less than 25 minutes, I have a fear of missing out on fun things like that. My goal is to PR, which would be under 23:30. Always one to be competitive, I’m racing a buddy and there are beers on the line, so, you know: IT’S ON LIKE DONKY KONG.

In other news from July: I have a new accessory. It’s better than any purse, necklace or scarf I could possibly find, and I’m sure to show it off way more anyway. Yes ineed, I own a Garmin now.

Forerunner10_HR_0035.5

Dang, it would be awesome to run that fast!

It’s pink, not green, because I like to feel a little feminine when I’m beating boys up hills in a sweat-soaked shirt.

In the short time I’ve had it, my Garmin has proved that I can run better than I think, and that I’m faster than I thought. It validates all my time spent at the gym, on the roads, and around the trails – through sweat and sore muscles and nights saying “no” to staying out and partying so I can get up early and get my long run in before it gets too hot.

It makes me feel good about me.

Don’t we all need something like that in our lives?

Getting the Garmin came at a really pertinent time when I needed running as an escape more than usual. Like “The Circle Game” things in life were going up and down, and my only surefire way to deal was through running. When I ran with my watch and saw how fast I was going, and felt the burn in my chest, and the soreness in my legs, I was a little more accepting of The Circle Game than before I started.

So: Don’t we all need something like that in our lives, to help us deal with The Circle Game?

Thankful to have mine.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Or even realized you were doing something for the first time?419601_10151632395851469_280030731_n

When was the last time you ran like a kid? Swung on the swings during your lunch break? High-fived another runner out on a run? Drank mimosas with your friends at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday while it stormed outside?

I’m not currently following a training schedule (when you’re on one from November-April a break is necessary), and it’s changing how I run. Now instead of aiming for mileage, time, or speed, I am aiming to just feel joy. To run happy. To do things for the first time, or at least be present in the moment and being attentive while I’m there.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t find joy in my training runs, I did very much. But this joy is different; it’s unpredictable what will trigger it and when. Spontaneity at its finest.

Some running-related examples of pure joy/first time happenings lately:

-Listening to Springsteen’s “Glory Days” while running over a bridge across the Cumberland River in the warm Tennessee sun. If that doesn’t invigorate you deep down, shoot son. (Okay, that video is from 1985 and fantastic. Click on it.)

-Dodging fallen tree branches (but totally splashing through the puddles) on the sidewalk after a storm from the night before. Ten points if you don’t step on the cracks!

-Sprinting up a hill just for the hell of it. (Okay, Busta Rhymes helped).

-Stopping to take a picture of  that white church steeple poking through the trees in the distance on a trail run. Love them Tennessee hills!

-Not hitting a single stoplight on an urban run. Seriously, when does that EVER happen? But, it did.

-Realizing that bipedalism is totally awesome (And other “____ is totally awesome” realizations that seem pretty obvious, but are enlightening all the same).

-Getting into a zone with new Daft Punk, and letting the legs do the work. (Next time I might actually dance AND run, thus hopefully starting a rad and vibrant movement).

-Listening to Kings of Leon (“Ragoo” if you must know) while running by their star on the Music City Walk of Fame. Mentally giving them a high five and saying out loud, “Good on ya, boys!” (screw the on-looking tourists!) and turning it up.

See, the little things are the big things. When the little things happen for the first time, they’ll never be recreated the same way; they will remain those joyful moments you can write blogs about, that you’ll remember as the first time this happened.

So, when’s the next time you’re gonna do something for the first time?

Ten songs I hope I never get tired of hearing

1. James Taylor: “Fire & Rain”

2. Paul Simon: “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”

3. Debussy (as played by David Oistrakh): “Clair de Lune”


4. Neil Young: “Heart of Gold”

5. Ray LaMontagne: “Jolene”

6. Laura Marling: “Sophia”

7. The Black Keys: “Little Black Submarines”

8. Punch Brothers: “Rye Whiskey”

9. The Avett Brothers: “Laundry Room”

10. Bruce Springsteen: “Born to Run”

 

What taper temper?

Marathon number two is in five days, and let me tell you:

This taper ain’t got nothin’ on me.

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See?

Happy as ever.

No soreness, no fatigue. Ready to tackle hills, spills, and anything else that may come up.

Looking forward to crossing the finish line for so many who can’t.

Looking forward to going for a little run with 30,000 other runners.

Country Music Marathon: I’m ready for you!

((in the headphones: Chris Thile: ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’)

 

Shower the people

I wanted to take a long walk on Monday after hearing about the events in Boston just to think and be. So I parked at a trail head, left my phone in the car, and didn’t even predict when I’d be back. Okay, I know this sounds a little ‘Into the Wild’ but c’mon, I would at least take snacks. 

Usually when I’m here, I am running. I’m usually trying to crush the hills, cruise the downhills, pass the slow people, and sweat. I often don’t pay attention to the detail on the sides because I’m looking straight ahead.

Percy Warner is gorgeous right now, and I will shout it from the rooftops until everyone in the 615 goes there (preferably one at a time so it doesn’t get crowded) and agrees with me and smiles and says ‘thank you’ to whomever deity they believe.

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I MEAN LOOK AT IT.

But instead of going fast like usual in this place, I knew slowing down and smelling the roses was probably the best thing to do because it would center me in the most needed way, and hopefully help me to realize how I could just be better. Because couldn’t we all just be a little bit better?

When I tried thinking about what I could do better in life (a topic all too often occupying my brain), these things kept popping into my mind incessantly:

Be compassionate. 

Listen.

Forgive.

Be patient.

Slow down.

Smile.

Tell people whom you value that you value them. 

Say thank you.

Give.

And then this song popped into my head after, and I knew my lesson from slowing down, thinking, and being had been realized.

Things are gonna be much better if we only will.

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