chords and cadence

Another runner's writ

Archive for the tag “Human spirit”

What the road has taught me

da3ab7ebadf0159a5a5b581358844d64I’m in my mid-twenties. Like college, these are formative years – just with a lot less house parties and homework and more routines and early nights. And a big girl job. And insurance payments. And #responsibilities.

Relationships, careers, health… they’re taking shape for me right now and setting me up for the rest of my life. I pay for car repairs with money I forlornly look at as a woulda-been weekend getaway vacation dollars. It’s how it should be, I suppose, as I get used to life as a grown-up person. It happens, right?

Being a contemplative, reflective person (hence, writer) has rendered me thinking about lessons and growing up and what I’ve learned lately. This proclivity guides me to lessons I’ve learned from roads, trails, and sidewalks, fields, bridges, and other places I’ve stretched my legs.

What the road has taught me (so far):

1. There are potholes, detours, fallen trees, bee hives, and crazy stroller runners. Adjust your route accordingly.

2. Calves that don’t fit into skinny jeans because of mileage are exempt from following fashion trends, and should therefore legitimize yoga pants as acceptable everyday wear. I’m sure I can get some guys to back me on up this, right, fellas?

3. I’m tough. I can fight. I’m a bad ass. And I rarely let myself believe it. I should believe it more.

4. Listening is best. Don’t waste your breath.

5. The sun can shine your entire run, or you can get caught in a rainstorm. Keep going.

6. A little mud never hurt anything. Actually, mud is best.

7. Sometimes you have to follow the rules; they’re there for your own good. (Stoplights, amirite?)

8. Pushing yourself gets you further. Every. Time.

9. Snot rockets, farts…sh!t happens. Laugh at it. Laugh at yourself.

10. Bringing people with you can make it a lot more fun than going at it alone.

11. At the same time, it’s necessary to have your alone time with the asphalt under your rubber soles, the clothes on your back, and your thoughts. It can be scary, being left alone with your brain. Go to that scary place anyway.

12. Squats, lunges, stretching…preparation for the road is important – don’t ignore the fundamentals.

13. The best views have the most brutal ascents.

14. Run the mile you’re in. Be where you are.

15. Never compare yourself to another runner. They could be having the best – or worst – running day of their life. Withhold judgement.

16. Take care of yourself. Rest days are necessary, and the road won’t disappear if your shoes aren’t on it.

Any runner can atest that the road and its lessons are akin to life; it’s ridiculous the metaphors and similarities. Maybe that’s why so many follow the road. It’s not just cardio. It gives more, and it takes more.

I still have a lot of lessons to learn from the road, from life. I’m in my mid-twenties, so that damn well better be true! I’ve got my alarm set for tomorrow morning and I’m gonna go out on sore hamstrings and see what I can learn from the road tomorrow, even though I’ve ran it a hundred times or more. It may be that I should always carry an extra hair tie (ok, I already know that) or it may show me what I’m really supposed to do with the rest of my life, or at least the next few years (crossing my fingers). Either way, the road has taught me many things so far and I’m grateful for the road.

What’s it taught you?

32 reasons I run (and I’m not getting over it)

I really don’t want to do this. But as a runner, and a writer, I simply must.

I’m going against myself to give MORE attention to an inane article (and poorly written at that) published on the Wall Street Journal titled “OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It.” Basically, the writer makes an outcry about how people who run, like to run, and like to express it via social media, their bumper stickers, or choice of clothing. (Ha!)

Instead of inciting anger or rendering me doubtful about why I do what I do, the article made me laugh and pity Couch Potato Chad Stafko. Good thing there are programs for reversing that…

Not ones to sit down and stay quiet, the running community went a little vocal when this came out. Instead of writing an argumentative piece counteracting all of Chad’s statements, however, I’d like to thank him first. His article did make me feel a little nuts for loving running so much, but you know, I’ve been looking for what sets me apart from all the other blonde 20-somethings working in the bluegrass music industry. Being nuts is a good identifier. So thanks for the exercise in self-identity, Chad.

I appreciate his article, too, because it made me contemplate the reasons why I run, and why I love it. So in our list-driven world, I’m contributing mine: 32 reasons I run (and I’m not getting over it).

1. It’s free

2. I get to shed femininity and spit and snot rocket and other non-feminine things

3. I genuinely enjoy working up a sweat

4. Post-run beers

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A nice Highlander after my first marathon in Asheville, North Carolina.

5. I have witnessed more beautiful sunrises and sunsets than I can keep track of or Instagram

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At my favorite place, Percy Warner.

6. Getting my nature fix. Because nature is neat.

7. The opportune moment when you pass another runner and give each other high fives

8. Hills

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Real live hill on a 6k trail race course. Brutal. Badass.

9. Stairs

10. Views

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Chattanooga, Tennessee

11. Heroes, and chances to meet them

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Olympian and CU Buff Alum, Kara Goucher and me at the Country Music Marathon Expo, April 2013

12. Weight loss/management (special note: Since I seriously took up running, I’ve lost 30 pounds.)

13. My Garmin

14. Free swag at races

15. Free food and drinks at races (pshhh race fees. shhh!)

16. Running friends who like to talk about running with you, and you don’t feel like you’re boring/confusing them

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These are my awesome East Nasty friends after we just finished a 5k and were looking for beer and food, but we were so fast that it was still so early and nothing was open yet.

17. An excuse to wear a headlamp

18. More showers

19. Exploring new places

20. IT’S THE MOST FUN THING TO BRAG ABOUT EVER, so deal, because I’m not gonna stop

21. Every month I get Runner’s World in the mail, which isn’t bills, bills, bills.

22. Tech t-shirts

23. New shoes every few months

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24. Empty streets early in the morning

25. Running past graduations, circuses, parades, food truck festivals (a lesson in always carrying cash!), proposals, breakups, and many very nice and vocal homeless citizens. Been there, done that

26. Jamming out to music like Foo Fighters, Neil Young, and Tom Petty, and learning all the words because you never rotate their “Greatest Hits” off your playlist

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Dave Grohl, whom I adore.

27. Playlists

28. Athletic wear, because I wish I could get away with wearing tights and Oiselle ALL the time (something of which Stafko totally doesn’t get, which must really suck for him)

29. It gives me something to write about (ahem, hence this blog)

30. I have to do something better than my boyfriend, because he’s really good at a lot of things

31. Two words: Foam. Roller.

32. I really enjoy pancakes, and I also really enjoy being a size 4

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Best ones in Nashville are at the Pancake Pantry, mark my word!

Sorry I have to stop there. I could go on. But if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta run.

New eyes

I’m on the plane going back to the only other place for which I’d leave Colorado. I wish I could say it with more eloquence and have it carry the same conviction without a hint of embellishment, but I just had one of the single best weekends of my 24 years.

Everything I anticipated happening, happened: quality family time, patio sitting among pine trees, drier skin, altitude headaches, and then some. I was appeased to no end (save the headaches and dry skin), rendering me lying in bed at night, reminding myself that I have it all.

Growing up in Evergreen, driving the same narrow and curvy roads, seeing the same trees, waking up to the same encompassing mountains, and breathing the same thin air never seemed special. It was just life. It was frustrating to always wait until your parents could drive you to your friends’ because it was too far and mountainous to walk or ride your bike (and face it, you were too lazy anyway and your parents were probably frustrated, too). It was normal to wake up to elk in the front yard, go for a walk around the lake (not the mall) and talk about life and complain about boys and confess secrets and cure hangovers (note: not discovered until this trip #toolate).

While we took a hangover-easing walk around the lake (thank you, Little Bear), I told my best friend that I felt like I was seeing everything through new eyes. She nodded and knew, which is why we’re so solid.

It’s not as relevatory as I’ve made; I’ve had an affinity for the mountains for quite some time. This time was just different. And it wasn’t just that I missed the elevation, the laid back mountain lifestyle, or the ridiculously beautiful scenery, it was something internal, too. I’m still trying to figure it out…probably something along the lines of discovering what my “spirit animal” is or whatever. I’m sure a trail run this weekend will bring some clarity and there will be a new blog post next week (so stay tuned?)

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As serendipity would have it, I came across this quote when I was bored and browsing through Pinterest on my phone, waiting for the plane that would take me back to Nashville, my other beloved home, and it solidified:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust.

Oh, indeed, Marcel. Indeed.

Race recap: Country Music Marathon (or: Crazy is as crazy does)

It has been brought to my attention that I might be crazy.6c5e08deaf2e11e2bcc022000a1fcf26_7

But crazy is as crazy does, and crazy runs 26.2 miles in pouring rain and would probably do it again.

Please don’t commit me yetI’ll explain.

The Country Music Marathon (Part of the Rock ‘n Roll series) was my second marathon in seven weeks. In between Asheville and the CMM, I had several hot dates with my foam roller, yoga-ed my heart out, had an affair with the stair master, and toyed with Hal Higdon’s prescribed in-between-marathons training regimen. As the assigned mileage on my calendar ticked away without being fulfilled, I became increasingly anxious about finishing another 26.2, and uninjured at that.

But then.

On the day most celebrated in the running world, our sport and its loyal supporters were targeted and attacked. People lost limbs and lives, and spirits sunk, to say the absolute least. But in the aftermath, a great quote started floating around:

“If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong ones to target.” 

You’re damn right.

Calf problems, a pulled butt muscle, an anxious psyche, unfavorable conditions… I became impervious to all of it. This was a race I had to run, because there was now a bigger picture.

Saturday morning, the rain made its crescendo as we filled the corrals and did own little weird pre-race rituals. I found the East Nasty group, with whom I started training at the beginning of the year. We all had a sub-4 goal, and planned to stick together. It was four other men ages 25 to 50-something, and another girl my age, and me.

Appropriately, there was a chilling moment of silence for Boston and everyone held up a peace sign. We sang the national anthem, and they played ‘Sweet Caroline’ to which everyone sang along like you would in a bar at 1am: With gusto. It was awesome and I just got goosebumps thinking about it again.

The details of the next 26.2 miles are nothing less than soggy. I stuck with my light-hearted group and caught back up when I had to tie my shoe, and again when I had to pee. I fueled up around mile 9 first with some GU blocks, around mile 15 with an orange slice and some raisins, and at mile 20 with half a GU pack. My legs started feeling heavier around mile 15, and by mile 19, my IT bands were on fire. My quads were tensing up, and I knew finishing was gonna take guts.

At mile 25 (a nice long incline), it was me, our fearless pace leader Daniel, and Ariel, the other East Nasty lady runner- a couple had gotten behind. We decided we would finish together and hold hands at the finish for Boston. We pushed each other that last 1.2 miles and when we crossed the finish, I saw the clock at 3:59:50, yelled awkwardly out of emotion, and almost cried because I was happy/so relieved to be done. But, guts. I didn’t cry.

It’s funny how hard exhaustion just slams you after you stop running for ~4 hours; I hit a wall and wanted nothing more than to be dry, off my feet, and reassured that I was indeed badass/I’d be okay/there was a hot shower waiting for me somewhere. We took some pictures, I wolfed down a PowerBar and some Gatorade and limp/walked back to my car as fast as my post-marathon legs would let me.

After all was said and done, I know I wouldn’t have gotten my goal if it hadn’t been for my group. They made me laugh, pushed me, reigned me in when I was feeling overly-ambitious, and generally kept my spirits up. Like the sense of community running richly fosters, together we were cold, determined, and hell-bent on not letting the rain, acts of terrorism, or chafing skin get in the way of our goal, for the bigger picture.

3:57:46 chip time, y’all. 

And yep, I would do it all again.  I’m owning it: I’m just crazy.

Huge shout out to my amazing city and its people. All of the spectators, volunteers, police personnel, and race organizers in Nashville blew me away with their enthusiasm and loyalty on such a yucky day. Humanity won. It will always win.

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.

Pray, run, repeat

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After yesterday’s events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, my sport changed.

After a tragedy like this, there’s so much to say.

But actions speak louder than words.

In 11 days, I will run 26.2 miles, just like I signed up to.

Just like thousands of others did yesterday, some of  whom did not finish.

I will run for those unable to finish, and who will never be able to run again.

I will pray, run, repeat.

Rewind: February

Seriously… March is tomorrow? As in, the-month-when-spring-happens March?

As in I’m-running-a-marathon-in-March March?

I just got butterflies. That could also just be coffee on an empty stomach, but optimism favors the former.

There’s been a song stuck in my head this week (unoriginal or not to a runner): Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run.’

See his passion? His utter raw energy just erupting? His rad, plaid cutoff shirt? (so awesomely ’80s…I want to go to there)

I mean, woah.

I know his proclamation is not about the actual act of, say, running a marathon, or running recreationally at all. It’s about runaway American dreams and Carpe Diem and breaking out and seizing love. It’s a bold anthem and powerful prose that unifies the most diverse of ears, exclaiming that we are all battling races of our own, and we’re all meant to win them despite brokenness and hardships that weigh us down.

Springsteen has won over 20 Grammys, sold millions of records world wide, and has been named in Rolling Stone as the 23rd Greatest Artist of all time, 96th Greatest Guitarist of all time, and 36th Greatest Singer of all time. I *think* he may know a thing or two we could learn from.

What I’m saying here isn’t anything new, but maybe it’ll at least inspire you to listen to a little bit of The Boss at work today and ponder your own Carpe Diem scheme and therefore, you’re welcome.

Courtesy of Rollingstone.com

Courtesy of Rollingstone.com

((switching gears))

Last month, I logged 204 miles. It was pretty awesome. I pretty much felt like a rockstar.

This month was shorter and my taper began right smack dab in the middle of it, so my numbers won’t be near as impressive. I didn’t feel like quite the rockstar I was in January.

(As I’m writing this, I haven’t even added them up for fear of too-low a number. I’m competitive with myself, what can I do? Okay… whipping out the calculator)

Alright, it was 152. Better than what I anticipated; I’ll cut myself some slack.

My first marathon ever is this Sunday, and I cannot believe how fast time has flown. So I guess the moral of the story is: if you want time to fly, sign up for a marathon. And, boom.

Look forward to a race review sometime next week. I’m still taming my taper temper, but looking forward to eating a little more carbs than usual, oh- and being in a new state: North Carolina!

We gotta get out while we’re young/’cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Transferable mileage

Running is a pretty selfish sport.406639_10151334848501469_159883029_n

You’re independent. There’s no teamwork. Your miles are your own. Your cadence affects no one else.

While I have been willingly captured by the independence and joy of running, I admit I have become a little lost in its naturally selfish nature.

I want to hit the trails early so I can run without too many others around.

I want the trails to myself.

Me. Me. Me.

This morning, I got up at 6:40am on 27-degree December morning for marathon training. My plan called for seven miles of hills, and like usual I was eager to tackle them. As I started my run, I felt so blissful, for the millionth time, that I actually got sick of myself.

How can I do something this often that makes me this happy? What have I done to deserve to experience happiness on this level whenever I want? Am I selfish to keep doing it?

To counteract this onslaught of guilt and mild disgust, I decided that I would pick people to whom I could dedicate my runs. I thought maybe by doing so, my sheer joy, and boundless positive energy would be transferred into their lives somehow; sick, injured, unmotivated, depressed- people who wouldn’t be able to experience the sheer joy of running as I was fortunate enough to be able to this morning, and every day.

I am on day 17 of a 40-day streak where I run at least 1 mile every day. So here’s my plan: For each run of the remaining 23 days I will choose someone for whom I dedicate my run.

It may be a group of people, it may be that stranger I saw in the parking lot who looked like they were having a bad day, or it may be a repeat if I feel like that person needs a little extra boost in their universe. Karma, Holy points, good vibes, you name it- that is what I aim to send out through my daily runs.

At the end of the day, we are individuals. But that doesn’t mean our human spirit isn’t dynamic or transferable. I hope to gain a little more connectivity to the universe as I lace up and step out, not for myself, but for those who deserve the utmost happiness I am blessed to feel with every stride.

My aunt has been in and out of the hospital recently, but she has never really been able to be an active person. Because of her condition, she will never experience the runner’s high I feel almost every day. That is tough for me to think about. So today, I dedicated my eight miles to her.

Here’s to you, Aunt Julie. Hope you don’t mind the sweat.

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