Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's Good....It's All Good

My lovely trails were waiting..

"Better you than me"

"Is something chasing her?"

"How do you not turn an ankle?"

"Wow...I could never do that"

Those are just a few of the comments I heard from people on the trails today. It was a beautiful day and while my run was slowed due to foot was wonderful to see so many people out and enjoying nature together. I loved the "is something chasing her?" comment. I thought that was just hysterical as I was making really good time on the downhill portion and the rocks were just like perfect little launching pads. I am sure it did look like someone was chasing me! What I did not love was witnessing first hand the doubt people have in themselves when it comes to trail running. I almost wanted to stop and say "YES...YOU CAN DO THIS....FOLLOW ME!". Hearing "I could never do that" left me disappointed because anyone can trail run if they want to! There is so much more to it then just the running. It is the feeling of freedom that comes from it. It is the beauty of nature flying by you as you make you way up and down the trails. It is the sensation in the feet and the legs. The primal knowledge that you are an animal and that years ago this is WHAT YOU DID. It is the amazement you will feel once you notice your instincts taking over as you make you way thru tough your vision adapts to the trail in front of you and guides you over rocks and tree roots. It is the beauty all around you when you reach your stopping point or just have to rest. The human body was meant to navigate the world in this manner and to allow ones self to experience it is just magical!

Can you tell today was my first day back on the trails here in Kentucky? While I loved every minute of being home...I will admit that I missed my wonderful trails down at Raven Run. I was so excited to get down there and run....and to make things even better....some friends were coming along for the journey!  Upon my return I learned that a few of the guys from the West Sixth running group were coming to experience trail running first hand. They ended up really liking it I think (except for the one that ran 16 miles yesterday...he is a little sore) and they appreciated how challenging it can be. It was the first time anyone has come along and I was both nervous and excited to see how they took to it. One loved the downhill and not the loved the uphill and not the downhill. It was so interesting to see how it was different to each person. What was even better was that everyone agreed that it was a beautiful thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. Ok are next!

How did so much change in a week?!

Oh yeah! I am back in Kentucky after a week in my home state of New York! The Yankee has returned to the Bluegrass!!

Now, as you all know...I had such hope for my trip to New York. I had it all planned out....all the places I was going to go run and explore....all the adventures I was going to have. it is:  I got none of it done. 

My butt was pretty much planted here the whole week...

It is not that I didn't want to...I really did. It was just that I did not need to. I spent 11 hours driving thru the amazing mountains of Pennsylvania and New York to get home and once I got there I was able to see them everywhere I went. Whether I was sitting on the Southern style front porch at home or driving to Woodbury Commons to go shopping...I could always see the Catskills and Bear Mountain. Words cannot describe how relaxing it was. I literally did not have a care in the world. Nothing seemed to phase me while I was up there and I felt no need to get out and run. My body did not tell me to. It really did not want to and I listened. I spent my time enjoying and exploring the beautiful world right outside my front door and I do not regret it one was what I needed at that moment and the peace I feel from it will stay with me for quite a while. last paragraph is not 100% correct. Something did phase me during my stay in NY and you all know what it is. Everyone knows what it have to unless you are living in a cave here it comes (as I really have not said much about it up to this point...)

I heard about Boston on my drive up. I was picking up little pieces here and there but really did not know the real impact until I sat down that night and watched the news. Like everyone...I could not believe it. I mean...I could believe it because look at the world we all live in....but I could not believe it at the same time  (if that makes sense.) As I sat there watching the news coverage I felt an anger similar to if someone was picking on your brother or sister. New York and Boston have a wonderful friendship....we love one another...but we are competitive as hell and we love to tease one another. It is all fun and games and very much like sibling rivalry. And like that is all good until one of your brothers or sisters gets hurt. At that point the gloves come off and all hell may break loose. To say I was angry would be an understatement. It was such a cold and cowardly act. It killed killed a fucking 8 year old child. WTF?! As I watched the video of those bombs going off I could not completely comprehend how it happened. And the fact that it happened at a marathon made if even more happened to people who love to participate in the sport I love. It was literally a "that could have been anyone of my friends or even me" moment. It had an impact to say the least. I was left wondering what this world was really coming to. I really didn't think anything positive could come out of it at all....not the slightest little thing. I was wrong...

Later on I went to get coffee and happened to be wearing a t-shirt from that project I told you all about back in December (Summits of My Life It is a simple t-shirt but it states in big white letters "We Are People." As I was standing in line a gentleman noticed it and questioned me on its meaning. It was what he said next that really caught my attention. There I am standing there staring at him...wondering why he is so talkative (funny coming from me right?) and finally he said something like "Shit says it all right there...We Are People....everybody should wear this fucking shirt."

All I could do was smile and agree. Here I was standing in a simple t-shirt from a project that I am pretty sure NO ONE in Goshen, NY knows about besides me. I normally never wear it out. Quite frankly...I sleep in it because it is super soft and the size medium I ordered is too big. I just happened to be wearing it because I was quite frankly too lazy to really get dressed and "hung over" from all the driving I had done. But at that moment none of that mattered. What mattered was that FINALLY someone said what needed to be said: "We Are People". This individual told me he had no clue what a mountaineer was...and that he did not ski or run.....but that the shirt made sense to him. It really drove home the power of simple words. It was not rocket science. The shirt did not say anything amazing...but at the same time it did. I have been wearing it a little more because now the shirt is not about the project to me. It is about where we need to be as a society. It is about the simple things that can make a big impact. Now I just need to find a way to shrink it down a size...
Speaking of "where we need to be (and nature)"....the whole shirt thing led to something else that has been on my mind. Shortly after the above mentioned incident I remembered that my father and brother had never seen the movie that the shirt was from. They had no idea how lucky there were that I could plug my MacBook into the big screen and let them experience first hand "A Fine Line". Now, don't get me wrong. They had no interest but it was quite enjoyable to watch it with them, only because we forgot to put the English subtitles on and they insisted on translating what was being said. At one point they decided it was filmed in Cleveland and the only food consumed was ice. About half way thru I had no hope in them seeing what I saw in the movie. There was no "oooohhhh and ahhhh" of the mountain scenes. No amazement over the small trail running section. No giddy smiling and wide eyed stares at all the beautiful fly overs. No one asked me to pause or rewind at the amazing mountain scenes. No one said "yeah...I see why you would want to go run and explore there". I really did not think they understood ANYTHING about the movie until the part came up where Stephane dies...

" that the guy that dies?"

"No...that is Spaniard....he is the other guy"

"That is such a shame that someone died"

When I started to hear that conversation I had hope for them after all. I never should have underestimated them. Yeah...they were having fun with it. That is what we do in my family. I am teased all the time about my running and the passion and curiosity I have for it...but I could not ask for anymore support from them. They were having fun but at the same time they were "getting it". They saw what I saw in the movie...they saw me watching those mountain scenes (especially the trail running) and new my hearts desire to experience that. They knew my connection to the movie based on the love of nature. It had nothing to do with the subject himself (although don't get me wrong..he is friggin awesome) but the background of the whole movie. I could now relax. At that moment I knew that my passion and wild dreams were not totally ridiculous to them. It was comforting...because there are times when I feel that my dreams of actually experiencing places like that are ridiculous and that I should just push them aside.

Then the surprising thing happened. Someone out of nowhere said "that never should have happened". The room was quiet for a moment and then my dad responded with:

"You know....death is not unfair. Death is fair. You cannot hide from it or fight it. What is not fair is that too many of us cannot die where we love the most. I bet if you asked him where he would want to die it would be there...because that is what he loved doing. I'm sure he didn't want to die right then but if he had to it would be there. We should all be so lucky when our time comes."

Never underestimate my father. He is a wise man. He knows what he is talking about and his simple statement during the movie really made me think. He is right. Death is fair....what is not is that we often don't get to die where we want to. I don't think any of those people in Boston would have choose to die where they did. No car accident or homicide victim is going to say that is where they wanted to die. Many times the universe does not give us that option and my hope is for those who do happen to pass where they love most...that those left behind to go on can really take comfort in that. It was such a peaceful conversation to have with my father. My mother did not have that chance and I know that bothers him very much. It was a reminder of how lucky I am to have the parents I have...and the love for nature and the environment they have. My father said he hopes to "go" in the wetlands somewhere and I would have no problem with that if he did when the time comes. Nature provides everything we need and we are the only species on this planet who often do not die in its loving and guiding arms.

I thought about that today as I ran on the trails. I love trail running. I love the feeling and if I had the choice I would have no problem having my time come to a peaceful end on the trails. Nothing horrific or violent or anytime soon...just to be where I love most when it is all over.

I hope today the friends that came along to trail run could see that love. I hope they could see that love that I have for it. The enjoyment I get out of it....and the peace it brings to me. I think I am finally ready to have more people come with. I think I am ready for people to see where it is I would want to go if I had to go.

 Like a woman said to a group of us this morning "It's all's all good."

How awesome would it be to "go" looking up at this?!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Nature...She Will Always Surprise You...

Spring time in Bluegrass is a magical time for so many. For some it starts with March and March Madness. For others it is April and the opening of Keeneland...followed by the Kentucky Derby. For me it signals trail of the happiest times of the year! Not only is the cold gone but the trails are bloom and begging to be explored. It is the perfect time to get out in nature. It is a "not to hot...not to cold....go as fast as you can" time of year!

Turns out this weekend the weather was perfect...which meant only one thing: time to get out and check the trails at Raven Run!!

So with ankle brace...trail socks...trail shoes...trail clothing...a happy heart and a raging sinus infection... I took to the trails. I was not disappointed....they were in perfect condition. They almost looked like nature herself ran along with a broom and cleaned them off just for me. Spring is a little late so the trees were bare but it is only a matter of time before they are all full and bustling with life! I cannot express how happy my heart was to be there!

The weather today was wonderful. It was in the high 60's and the wind was so loud it sounded like the ocean. If you closed your eyes I swear you would not know the difference. It provided the most incredible breezes and they always came just when you were starting to get a little too warm. It was mainly overcast but that did not prevent this "ginger" from getting sunburned. Nothing too bad...just a gentle reminder that I spent a good amount of time with Mother Nature...which is a very good thing. Due to the fact that I am hacking like someone who smokes about 20 packs a day...I could not get much running in but that did not matter. Today was about making my way up and down the trails. It was a time to let my eyes and feet get acquainted with the changes that winter had brought. It was perfect even if I was going at a slower pace....

Those trails are crazy clear!

Trees are still bare :(

I did not see much wildlife but I did find a magical spot I have never seen before. While making my way to Overlook I noticed a rock "stairway" leading down to what looked like a giant pool off to the right of the trail. On my way back I took a few minutes and climbed down those rocks and over a few broken tree branches. I could not believe what I found! It was amazing! Beautiful rock ledges produced a waterfall to the most amazing pool I have ever seen there. The huge rocks leading out went all the way up along side the main trail. It took all I had not to jump in. The sound was breathtaking. It was such a "Secret Garden". It was not "tropical island" big but it really had an impact on me. I'm still trying to figure out how I have never noticed it before. That is the amazing thing about nature...she will always provide something special if you just take the time to visit with her.  I cannot wait to head back and visit again....especially after a few good rains when it will be full and flowing louder than today.

Hello Secret Garden!!

Other than that you are going to see me start traveling a little more over the next few months. I am very excited and hope to take you all along for some great adventures! The first stop is home. My heart has been calling on me to return for a while and I am finally going to go back to my roots and recharge :)

Now, as you all know...I am from New York. What you may not know is that New York is not all NYC. I am from a town called Goshen...which lies in between NYC and West Point Military Academy. It is a "Norman Rockwell" kind of town where till this day people know who I am when I come home. I still know everyone there and many of my high school classmates have returned to raise families of their own. Very little has changed since I left and to me it is perfect. Come to think of it...the NY Times thinks it is pretty close to perfect too...they wrote an article about it referring to it as a "utopia".  Google it. It is pretty neat.

I cannot wait to recharge on the big southern style front porch overlooking my front yard. You cannot see the road from the yard due to all the mature trees that block it. Directly across is a cow field. Behind the house are mowed paths leading to another cow field. In the mornings you wake up to the sound of a woodpecker sounding on the gutters outside the windows. In the afternoon may see a deer or two walking past...or the really chubby groundhog that lives in the stone wall climbing a peach tree to grab a snack. At night you can sit and stare at the bright stars and hear the owls hoot and crickets chirp. It is a place where nature is always around and even if you cannot see it you know it is there.

It is the home where as a child my mom would hurry us out the front door with our dog and tell us to play until lunch time. We would explore the trails and all the wildlife they were home to. Even as a child I thought I could save anything and would often greet my father with a young bird who fell out of a nest or some other small injured animal. We knew everything around us and what was good to play in and what was not. In the summer my mother would tie coffee cans around our neck with twine and have us go pick blackberries for hours. Most times she did not even get a can full as we had spent our whole afternoons eating everything we picked. The summer evenings were spent sitting on the large back porch grilling out or entertaining my father's firm with the annual pig roast. Nature was constantly around us growing up. We would literally see the full circle of life...from the young rabbits being born in the tool shed to the old possums who would die up in the path. It was a magical place and it is often hard to describe to those who have never been it is only 80 miles outside of NYC. It is also a great place to run. I cannot wait to explore those trails and possibly a few farms (that is if the bulls are not in with the is spring time you know!)

My front yard...with Jackson the family Golden Ret.

It is also close to a place very close to my heart...Lake Minnewaska. As a teenager I spent many weekends there and can still remember every trip. Back then it was a simple and romantic place to go...just far enough away from Goshen for a full day trip. It was a drive with the windows down and Sublime or Drop Kick Murphy's blaring on the radio. It was a place of first loves and everything that came with it.

Now it is a place of unbelievable beauty. The lake itself is actually a "dead lake"...meaning it is too acidic to support life. It is crystal clear  and surrounded by rock cliffs and trails. It is kind of ironic. A "dead" lake that makes someone like me feel so "alive". It cannot support life but its beauty supports me in a way that words cannot describe. I cannot wait to return and explore it again. To see it with new eyes and discover all those things I missed as a carefree teen is very exciting. I can remember the numerous trails surrounding the lake but never really had the opportunity to run them until now. There are so many it is going to be hard to choose which ones to visit.

Courtsey: MWanner : Lake Minnewaska

For now that is it...sorry if I got a little off track but being in nature often returns me to my childhood. I think it is a large part of why I love to trail run. I get to see things that remind me of being a kid and I get to live those memories with each step I take. It is something important to me and I love that you all let me pass it on to you. To me this is such an exciting time of year. I love winter and the snow but to get out in nature and just "be" part of all the life waking up after months of sweet slumber is just so humbling.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Woah! .... Is that horse dead?!

So this weekend was the annual running of the Run The Bluegrass.

Fog over the Bluegrass...magical!

All set!

To those readers who are not familiar, it is a half marathon here in central Kentucky that focuses on the beautiful horse farms we have right in our own back yard. It was an amazing race and I am so glad I did it. To my 3000+ "friends" who ran it..thank you for the experience. For a runner like me who does not like to run with others...let alone a few all made it a wonderful race and I will without a doubt be with you next year.

As someone who prefers to run on trails and in the woods, I was not looking forward to a 13.1 mile road race but I can honestly say it did not disappoint. This year it was supposed to be a Rock N' Roll series run but in the end it was taken over locally and I really think that was for the best. I have lived around here for over a decade and attend the meets at Keeneland every year but never really "stopped and smelled the roses" when it came to the horse industry. The land and the farms are just breath taking and I wish you call could have been there with me to see it!

The morning of the race was beautiful. I was a little worried about my "level of dress" as I scrapped ice off the windshield in 30 degree weather but by start time I knew I would be OK. The thick fog had not entirely burned off by race time so we were delayed about 30 minutes but that did not put a damper on the excitement at the starting line. Each wave had pace setters and my wave had both the LexRunLadies and the Party Pacers (also LRL's). I had never been given a noise maker before a run but I now think they should be mandatory at every race. I think it is fair to say that all 3000+ were beyond excited to get running and it really showed the entire time.

Wave S start line (photo: Jamie France) I am in the red visor...very serious about my noise maker!

Just a few friends....

Now, I had studied the course a few days before the race and felt fairly prepared. The only thing I worried about were the hills and all the "stories" that came from them. Each time I spoke to someone about the course they reminded me of the "hills"...especially the "s-curve". Being someone who ran over natures rolling hills all the time, I was pretty confident I could take on a few man made ones. I really thought my legs and awesome calf muscles were ready!

Calf muscle :)

Yeah, that is what I thought. Now, I was not surprised...I was told the hills were brutal and numerous...and I was pretty sure I was ready for them. And there were hills...followed by hills...followed by more hills...and hills that ended with hills instead of downhills. At one point people just started flat out cursing the ground they ran on. I have never felt a burn in my legs like I did around mile 9 or so when the hill ended in a curve and another hill. It seems like there were hills as far as the eyes could see...but that was only if you were looking straight ahead. If you were like me and spent most of your time looking left or right you saw nothing but amazing horse farms or the houses that most likely owned those amazing horse farms.  I will one point I was certain that if I saw the RD I was going to deck them for thinking this course was a fun idea. The only thing that kept me going was thinking back and laughing at how a friend said she would rather "be stung by bees" then run the course. In times of exhaustion or doubt it really helps to have a little humor.  In the end I will admit it was the most beautiful road race I have ever been on...even though it was touch as shit!

Not only were the views amazing but the people were as well. I saw a number of people getting picked up by police or medics due to injury or exhaustion. Each time it happened all the runners called out words of encouragement or stopped to make sure that person was OK. I even saw one guy stop and massage his girlfriends injured knee repeatedly even though she was telling him to go on without her. It really made me appreciate what running in such a large group is like. It was a very nice thing to witness and something I will remember for a while.

Besides the amazing people, the horses also provided miles and miles of entertainment. At one point a horse was sticking his head over the fence for people to stop and take pictures with him. This horse had a true love for the camera and so far on Facebook I have seen at least 20 pictures of runners "selfing" it with him. Around mile 8-9 there were a few mares with their young. As the runners ran along the fence line the mares led their young on a run with them. To see and hear those amazing animals run was just so inspiring! The bond each mare had with their young was so strong and they seemed to be learning from and enjoying us as much as we were them. It was moments like this that provided much needed motivation. It made you realize that you were an animal...just like the horses...and running with them was nothing strange. It was natural. It was nature calling to each runner...almost telling them to pick it run to their potential. Nature was telling us to ignore the doubts and pain we were feeling and just be free like the horses. Such amazing animals...they have it figured out :)

I will say there was only one point of major concern during the run...and it had nothing to do with me. At the later part of the race I met a new friend and we ran a few miles together talking about the race and how awesome we were for doing it. Conversation was going great until we came up on a horse a little before mile 11. We stopped and watched his rib cage for a while and it did not move. He was almost pressed against the fence and multiple people had the same fear we did...he was dead. I am not 100% sure if he was or I have not met anyone who saw him get up after me. Either way it made me feel sad. It was such a beautiful animal. I really hope I am wrong...

In the end the race ended like it began...with loud cheering and smiling faces. I will not lie, I was in pain when I finished. My hips and knees hurt so bad. I was introduced to a few new people (who even read this blog!!!) and I was in so much pain I could hardly interact like I would have liked. those peeps...I wish I had been feeling better. Perhaps if I had been allowed to sit down ;)  Either was wonderful to meet you and I apologize if I look like I just ran thru the time my body felt like it!

It is true what they say...each time you take on a new race distance you should sign up for the second race before you run the first. Even though I am still sore one day later...and my feet still are covered with blisters...I loved the experience and am looking at a few in the next couple months to mix with trail running. After all, while in my local run shop I was told that I had just run one of the "toughest in the country...and if you can run that one you can pick any other one and it will be much easier." I am a proud lady. I am proud of my mind and my body. Each day I am more and more amazed at how much they can go thru!

Wish me luck...back "on the run" tomorrow with the West Sixth club. Life is just too short to stop :)

Much Love!