People on the Trails.

Last night, thanks to an invite from my friend Jeanie, I went to a trail running film festival. For two and a half hours, we watched short films on people who do off-road running. I’m very much a road runner because I like to know my feet will plant firmly in front of me, but a couple of years ago, I started doing some trail running in an effort to deal with a post-race slump I was experiencing. I’ve found it difficult at times but always super fun. This film festival showed me another side of trail running – a crazy and fun community of people who like to push their bodies to extremes in stunningly beautiful environments.  Dare I say I might have to try one of the races featured in one of the films? Continue reading

NYC Recap.

I made a promise to myself this weekend: no more running marathons untrained. I finished the NYC marathon for the second time, but it wasn’t pretty. With all of life’s events, including two weeks of being sick, I was trained for about ten miles and ran a solid ten miles. The last sixteen were terrible. There were people walking faster than I was running. I got passed by old people, people in costumes, and even people limping. It was brutal. I finished and that’s always good, but I committed to myself that, going forward, finishing will never be enough. It’s time to do more than finish. It’s time to perform. Continue reading

Sleeping on the Mountain.

As my world has gotten busy again, I’ve found my rhythm in training. I’ve taken on some additional work recently. At first I’d thought maybe I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but I’ve discovered that I actually get more done when I have more to do. Now that I’m buried in work, I’m making all of my workouts. I know part of that is because the reality of my half Ironman in St. George being just eight weeks away is kicking in. Part of it is that I need the workouts to help maintain my clarity in a stressful time. But it’s also just true that I do better when I’m focused. Right now, I’m super focused. All of that is great, but the problem is that I’m not sleeping well. I can’t get my mind to rest. How do I get to where I’m sleeping through the night? Continue reading

Wednesday List #26 – Things That Are Growing

I’m feeling positive as I approach my personal new year, so today’s list has an upbeat undertone to it. So much is growing in my life. Here are some things that I consider to be particularly fun.

  1. My Tree: At the finish line in Portland this weekend, I received a medal, a t-shirt, a charm, a coin and a tree. Yes, a tree. The tree came in a little paper cup like you would see by an office cooler. The tree is most certainly the most unusual finish line gift I have ever received, but I was in Portland, so perhaps I should not have been surprised. I flew the tree home with me and planted it. (Okay, Mom planted it, but whatever.) Cute, huh? Here’s to hoping that it stays with me.tree
  2. The Number of Books I Carry: I’ve always loved blank books. I carry a journal with me pretty much everywhere I go because I never know when I’ll find time to write. The same is true for my “to do” book. These are my fundamentals, but I have a number of other books I carry too. I have a book that I use for note-taking during writing workshops, Jeanne Guy gatherings, or lectures at the Seton Cove. I started a quote book a while back. I also have a book that I use for jotting down ideas for stories or articles. I have another book that I keep in my purse for thoughts, books suggestions, or notes about conversations with random people, like those I meet on the plane. I also carry a book for poems and lyric ideas. Finally, I carry what I call my Oregon book. My Oregon book is about more than Oregon. In it, I keep a list of my dreams – not the kind that come when I sleep, but the kind that come when I’m wide awake.Books
  3. The Number of Bags I Carry: I live in the country and work in town, so I often find myself “living” out of my car. This means I carry a number of bags. I carry my purse, my work bag, my lunch bag, my writing bag, my gym bag for getting ready for work after morning workouts, a running bag for my after-work trail runs, and most recently, a tennis bag. At times, I look pretty ridiculous, and my big boss calls me a bag lady, but my system of bags works for me.bags
  4. My List of Trips for 2014: I knew long ago that 2013 would be a year of travel. I thought 2014 would be a year of sitting my happy butt at home and restoring the coffers a bit, but that doesn’t seem to be where my year is headed. I’ve got Africa in December and the first half of January. I have races in St. George in May, Coeur d’Alene in June, and Portland in October.  I’d like to find one more marathon to run, so I can keep up my streak of three marathons in one year. I also want to go to British Columbia in July to see the new Ironman Canada venue. Then I have some personal trips I want to make. I want to see my Exeter roommate Karyn and her family. Jenny and I want to hit Chicago (after years of talking about it) for a Cubs game. I want to visit Gretchen in Washington in the summer so that she can take me to Mount Ranier. I want to visit Ann in New England so we can run a race together. I want to get back to DC since I missed my trip last year, so I can see Meghan and Anthony. I’d also like to plan a trip with my cousins Tina and Matt because the three of us are really liking one another in our old ages. And that’s what I know for now. So much for a planted 2014!
  5. My Hopefulness: I’m feeling really good about where I’m headed. Work is going well. My training is going well. I’m enjoying my old friends and making new ones. I’m writing more. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m getting excited about what a few people have separately described to me as the kindness that comes with turning 40. In the last few weeks, three different people have told me that turning 40 made them go easier on themselves. They became more accepting of who they are, less concerned about what other people think, and more forgiving of themselves when they either don’t want to do something or don’t do something exactly right. I’m ready, I think, to settle into myself more and do a little less “shoulding” on myself. Call me crazy, but I’m starting to feel pretty good about things, including turning 40.

It’s fun to think about the little joys – the ways things are happening in life that feel healthy and right. It’s also fun to think and write about them with a cute little critter staring at me from behind the computer screen, like this:Butter

That cute little critter is my Butter. My love for my Butter is also growing every day, but that’s a whole different story.

Happy Wednesday, y’all.

Three Months to Africa.

In three months, I’ll be getting on a flight to Tanzania for my Kilimanjaro climb and safari adventure. That feels so strange to say because Africa was never on my list of things to do. The idea just came to me one day in mid June as I was thinking about possible ways to spend new years, and I decided to follow my heart even though I thought my heart might be crazy.

The first thing I did was mention the idea to my friend Matt who has done the climb. This was Sunday, June 16, days before I was leaving to race Ironman Coeur d’Alene. My thought was to set up a lunch for when I got back, but Matt was so excited that he responded to my e-mail on Monday with, “You have lunch plans today?” I didn’t, so we had lunch, and his enthusiasm was so complete that I walked away from that lunch committed in my own mind about the effort. I got back to my office and immediately requested information from the outfitter that Matt had used. When I got back from Coeur d’Alene, I reviewed the information they sent me and, on June 29, I put down my deposit. Acting in 13 days is record time for me, as I am perhaps the slowest decision-maker on the planet. I suppose I could have walked away from the deposit, but on August 7, I bought my ticket. Then I was in for sure. On September 3, the outfitter charged my credit card for the balance of what I owed. Then I was in for damn sure.

Now I’m buying travel insurance, rescue insurance, and health insurance for the trip. I’m looking at immunization lists and gear lists. I’m trying to figure out what I have and what I need and what I want for this trip. How will I charge my phone and camera on the climb? What will I carry in my day pack? Will I take paper books or an e-reader? How much can I pack in the duffel bag that porters will carry for me? What do I need to buy and what can I borrow from friends?

My Grand Canyon trip has helped because I now have a day pack, sleeping bag, hat and gloves. Hood to Coast helped me because I now have a compact pillow and small travel towels. Matt has helped by loaning me his trekking poles, which have been up the mountain before. He assures me that they know the way! But I need to figure out the clothes, especially because most of what I own no longer fits me. I’ve lost almost 19 pounds since January, so I’m having to buy new pants all around. Even the pants I bought in July with Rey are getting loose. At some point, I’ll do a big REI trip to buy a bunch of clothes and gear. That will be a fun effort.

But logistics aside, it’s hitting me that I’m going to Africa, and I’m going alone. My first international trip (to Italy and Greece) was with a girlfriend and her family. My second (to Spain) was to meet my friend Erin, who was studying there for a semester. My third (England and Germany) was for an extended family reunion on my dad’s side. This will be only my fourth big trip, and I’m flying for over 24 hours alone to climb a mountain in Africa with five other people I’ve never met. The me of two years ago before I’d done any international travel would never have done this.

Who have I become?

I’m someone who is turning forty in less than three months and doesn’t want being forty and alone to feel like…well, the way I expect forty and alone to feel. I want to appreciate that I have a wonderful job that allows me travel. I want to take advantage of not having kids and not being responsible for anyone but myself. I want to enjoy being able to book a trip on a whim – or as close to a whim as I’ve ever come – and seeing it through. I love people and want someone by my side, but I also want to be completely okay with being just me.

Africa is about me doing something I never thought I would do. It’s about proving to myself that I can adapt to a different and challenging environment, that I can enter a foreign territory with no one holding my hand, and that I can battle my way up to any finish line I choose to face. It’s about me trying something new and having fun. Africa is about me enjoying being forty and being forty the best way I know how.

I’m excited. And a little scared. But mostly, I’m excited. I can’t wait to get on the plane. This experience will be all my own, and I have a feeling I will come back changed somehow. I don’t know how, but I suspect it’ll be for the better.

Africa, I have high hopes for you and for me. I can’t wait for us to meet.