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My Coach is a Rockstar

God help me, I’m going for accountability. And writing practice.

2017 has been a less than stellar running year, save for the first race, which saw almost 30 minutes coming off my marathon PR. Big Sur Relay was…probably better than I recall, at least the part that was mine. The latter 9 miles, which I ran for the sheer hell of it, was challenging. Probably because my section began on Hurricane Point, a 2 mile, 500+ foot climb, which looks much less horrifying when I write it than it feels doing it.

A 5K locally was awesome and saw a PR at a 8:06 pace. A 10K in Chicago managed to be both a high- and lowlight. I placed third in my age group. I also injured my foot.

The injury took me out for months (2). I was (am) a desperately unpleasant person to be around, save for in the immediate aftermath of concerts (of which there were blessedly many). I finally ran another two races this weekend, because why not go for broke, and promptly found myself unhappy with my performance. The 5K on Saturday was fine, about 40 second slower pace than the one in June. The half-marathon, by contrast, pissed me off. Or, more correctly, I pissed myself off. It was a 9:50 pace, which is fine for what it is, but waaaay slower than my PR for half (like 14 minutes off).

I have a dozen excuses (I was down with the flu last week, I ran a strong 5K the day before, the course apparently gives me fits–this was, in fact, my course PR, in spite of being comparatively unhealthy, etc.) and find them all to be wanting. I can do better. I have done better, significant concrete surfaces (which is what I suspect the problem with the course for me) notwithstanding.

The course for the Pacific Grove 5K is a good one–primarily on asphalt and entirely along Ocean Ave., and, thus, the bay. At 1500 runners, the field is small enough to be easily accommodated on the out-and-back. Fortunately, it was a sunny day, and, I’m told, the dolphins were hamming it up (I cannot verify this as I look forward when running so that I don’t follow where I am looking and dump myself into the bay, though I would see the dolphins that way).

The course for the half takes runners through old Monterey, Cannery Row, downtown Pacific Grove, and out-and-back on Ocean Avenue. It is a heck of a tour of the area, but the surfaces, as I mentioned before, are mixed. Mostly asphalt, but a considerable amount of concrete (partly because that is a common road surface in some areas here). And concrete, at least for me, sucks as a running surface. It saps my running strength and speed (unfortunately, much of mile 12 is concrete). The field is relatively large, which also creates difficulty on the narrow out-and-back. This makes not following the basic tenets of runner etiquette (I’m looking at you, three abreast runners) a big deal. So, for runners with short fuses, or runners with concrete difficulties, beware. But, the Monterey Bay half is gorgeous, and I otherwise recommend it.

2017 also handed me the world’s best joke on my running when Matt from A7X once again asked about my running. I told him about the marathon–told him (because he was kindly foolish enough to ask) that I ran it because I couldn’t bear to have to tell him that I didn’t after having told him I was running it last fall. In short: I told him he was my motivation. I would be embarrassed, except that he responded with “I can be your motivation coach!” Thus, I can gleefully and (mostly) truthfully declare that my coach is a rockstar.

2018 will, I sincerely hope, be a vast improvement over 2017. My plan is to run the Beach Cities Challenge’s three marathons (Surf City, Orange County, Long Beach) to get the VERY AWESOME shark medal. And Big Sur, which I actually managed to get into (OC and Big Sur are a week apart, if I recall correctly, so…that should be interesting. Thank the gods the hill is in the first one). And then my first ultra, since apparently I cannot resist getting in over my head. The trick, of course, will be actually remembering to write about progress and whatnot.

And then actually clicking “Publish.”

 

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2016 Memories, Item the First: Walking Absurdity

2016, as everyone is already perfectly aware, has done its level best to suck. And, more often than not, it has succeeded. With style–2016, I’ll give you that. You certainly kicked ass. Just not the awesome way (usually). The really sucky way (mostly).

While wandering around spending far too much on gifts in the vague hope of bringing smiles and joy to people I care about (consumerism FTW!), I suddenly and for no reason I’ve been able to discern remembered the absurd beginning to my year. I decided in the 5.40839 seconds that followed that what I really needed to do was to write about all the ways in which 2016 dabbled in the brilliantly weird.

img_4072My year began, though this is not the story that came to mind, at a Motley Crue show. Their “last.” I believe they ended right at or very nearly at midnight, so I began the year covered in a shit ton of red, white and black confetti. It was fun. I had assumed that it would take until, roughly, dawn to get back to Huntington from downtown LA, and I was more than a bit surprised to find myself alone on the 405.

The entire way.

img_4096I slept for a spell and then my year really started: on my pier, coffee in hand, watching the surfers take on early morning flat waters.

With a pelican.

So, 2016 started with a fair amount of absurd, probably the most stunning of which was the 405.

But nothing about January 1 indicated–though the close proximity of the bird and the 35 minute drive from LA to Huntington Beach should have been clues–suggested the absurdity of what I would find myself doing a few weeks later, when I was in far different weather, far from CA, and in a city with no open coffee shops.

It was hell. Or DC, whichever you prefer.

Some of you may recall the Snowmaggendon of 2016 shutting Washington DC down for several days. I certainly do, since I was stuck there until the airports reopened. I think that amounted to an additional 3 days, but I can’t remember at the moment. In any event, it was actually at least a month.

Because, no coffee. Well, that’s not strictly true, the baristas in my hotel couldn’t leave any more than the rest of us, so the hotel put them up for the nights and they kept us in coffee so long as they could. I thanked them profusely every time they forked over a cup.img_4166

Now, me in blizzard conditions–or snow of any sort, for that matter–is absurd. I’ll go to great lengths to avoid it. Like moving to coastal CA. Worked like a charm. But, blizzard conditions and snow it was last January. The snow began shortly after we arrived–I believe on Wednesday–I got to watch the blizzard conditions out my hotel window, but I quickly started to go stir crazy and went for a walk.

I had no idea what this “whiteout condition” thing of which some of you people speak was, but I do now. I find the choice to live somewhere that does that to be suspect. Those who live out there likely find my choice to go for a walk in blizzard conditions to be even more suspect. And you would be right. Can we all just be thankful for a moment that I had appropriate (mostly) outerwear with me?

And this, my friends, is not the absurd part.

img_4239No, the absurd part came one fine morning after the worst of the weather was gone but before the snow started to melt. Everything was still quite closed (including Arlington National Cemetery, as I would find out when a nice soldier informed me at the top of her lungs).  It was a lovely day with a bright blue sky, and I had nothing to do. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run the 13 miles I’d scheduled for that day, since I didn’t trust myself to stay upright on the snow-ice-stuff while running.

img_4213Instead, I went for what would turn out to be a 14 mile walk. In the snow. I was, for some reason, hell-bent on getting my 13 miles that day. Only, while I know DC fairly well and can navigate on foot, there were two pressing problems. One, the snow obscured enough stuff to make navigation a tad less simple. And, two, the snow was pretty freaking deep.

It started very well. That would be my knee below the snow line, if anyone is wondering. This is pretty indicative of the whole 5 or so hours I spent trekking through the snow in denim and leather boots. I fell several times and had to backtrack or outright change my intended route  because of snow making places impassable. Or, you know, not–and plowing right on through the snow that was up to my hips. Because, why the hell not.

At no point in this adventure that wrapped around the White House (twice), the Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and King monuments, hopped down to the nearly hidden Vietnam Memorial Wall, wandered out to Arlington and back (rather more quickly), and walked up to the Capitol Building, did it occur to me that I didn’t really have to do this. On the one hand, it was fun–I never get to do anything of this sort. On the other, it was miserable. I was cold, wet, covered in ice and snow, and, well, cold.

You know, when I started thinking this through, I was thinking about it as an absurdity that 2016 thrust upon me. But, in writing this out, it’s an absurdity I thrust myself into that happened to be in the year we should consider never speaking of again. And, indeed, every other example probably fits that description.

I’m beginning to suspect that wandering with the absurd was a coping mechanism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reclaiming 18

The last time I tried to run 18 miles was January 2016. I came up with some horrible back and forth route, and when I got out of the car that morning I realized I didn’t want to run. At all. And if I did run, I would hate every step.

Hating every step of 18 miles would almost certainly lead to hating running. Inexorably. And I can’t afford to hate running.

So, I didn’t. I went home and drank coffee, after emailing the marathon I was training for and asking to drop back to the half. In fact, I emailed them before I even left the parking lot. I felt great that day, like I was recognizing what I needed to do to take care of myself in the long run (yeah, avoid the long run in support of the long run…whatever).

I haven’t attempted 18 since then. In fact, I’d not gone beyond 13.1 until a few weeks ago when I ran 14. And the 16 last week. And then 18 today. It felt a little magical. Reclaiming something I had to give up in order to…survive is really over-the-top here, but it’s all I can think to say.

I ran 3 marathons last year (2015), along with 5 or 6 half marathons. I ate horribly, cross-trained worse, so by the time that 18-miler came, I had absolutely nothing left.

A year (almost) later, I found it again. Not that this was the greatest long run ever. It wasn’t. Decidedly wasn’t, as it happens. I had to walk (way more than I wanted to) because my legs were so stiff from sitting on the floor all day yesterday in front of what passes as my desk at home. I had to more or less trick myself into completing 18 by forcing myself to run 6 miles out (so that I had to run 12 at the very least) and then running a 1 mile out and back from there 3 times. Because I could pack it in at any point and still have more than 12.

I can’t begin to say how much today’s run is reflective of my life in general, particularly the having to effectively lie to myself to get something done (like the laundry I am presently ignoring…). That need to engage in cognitive dissonance (because, you know, I do know that I am lying. I do have that much together). That’s why the last 18–the one that didn’t happen–was so remarkable. I got honest for a moment. I didn’t just run (sorry) headlong into whatever. And, in fact, I didn’t run more races that I planned to run than ones I actually ran this year.

I’d call it recovery, but I did 18 today, so that seems a touch off.

So, next week is 20. The last time I did 20 was during the Long Beach Marathon in 90+ degree weather. It was wretched. I listened to “So Far Away” on repeat for miles, practically sobbing (except I was too dehydrated for tears) in both exhaustion and something in the lyrics that just kept beating me up (and keeping me moving):

Sleep tight I’m not afraid (not afraid)
The ones that we love are here with me
Lay away a place for me (place for me)
‘Cause as soon as I’m done I’ll be on my way
To live eternally–Avenged Sevenfold, “So Far Away”

It was the penultimate line, in particular. Possibly because I was just not sure I’d make it to the end (I did. couldn’t cry then either).

Today, I listened to The Stage on repeat, and “Angels” in particular (well, “Sunny Disposition” got several repeats as well. It’s the horns. Love the horns. Okay, and the voice.). They’ve gotten me through every race since 2010. Really grateful that they are still creating. Really grateful for each and every step I took today, even the ones I needed to lie to myself to take. And especially the ones that only happened because I got lost in their music.

 

The Darkness Seems to Know Just Where I am

The title comes from (no surprise here) a song–“Angels” by Avenged Sevenfold.  The song is–for me–hypnotic.

TL;DR: Imposter syndrome in a depression sauce and served with sides of well-turned guilt and seasoned need to make it all better for you.

The title might just be a little too on the nose for this year. I’ve not experienced depression of this magnitude in a long time (4 years, to be specific), and while I can point to some situations (DD*’s sickness and death, yes, SEK’s sickness and death, the fucking  election, etc.) that either precipitated the onset or would have shin-kicked me anyway, the fact is that it’s not just situational. The darkness found me–I’m not sure it had to look all that hard–and it is so very, very dark.

It’s not December 2012 bad (ohpleaseno), but bad. People are noticing. People who should not be noticing, are. They are even starting to ask. They are concerned that I’ve lost my sparkle.

I, personally, am surprised to hear I had one.

We’ll say little of the complete strangers who stop me to tell me it will be ok. I seem to be wearing the darkness, rather than just stewing over it. And man does that ever make me feel guilty.

I got honest about it over the summer. I said out loud that the weather was crushing my spirit. I thought being honest about it would be the right thing to do, but I was perhaps not honest enough. Or honest to the right people. I’m not even sure at this point. During the summer (or lack thereof–the fog, oh the fog is killing me<–drama queen), when I realized things were dark again, I tried to do what I am supposed to do. Sort of.

"Supposed to do" turned into taking an online course about classical music. I admit that it is possible I missed the details on this self care thing.

I’ve so much I want to write, but I don’t know how to get the words on the page. They are rattling about my head in their muddled masses and just not dropping.

There are words that never found my lips/There are words I’d soon forget/Thought the trick was never to look back/But it seems I’ve lost my grip, I slip/The faster we run now, the closer the gun now/And somehow all the bullets bear my name.

 
I should be happy. It’s the job I wanted. It’s the place I have been trying to return to for 37 years. It’s where, I think, I am supposed to be. Good things have happened since summer. Really good, awe-inspiring things. A hand, a smile, a work of art I never expected.

And yet.

The weight of the darkness keeps coming back each time I think I’ve shaken it off. Even when I don’t look back. I have it better than most. Way better. I have people dear to me who have been cut much closer to the bone this year than I have a right to pretend to. I’m used to feeling like an imposter in my professional life (and boy howdy do I ever right now), but I can’t recall feeling it so clearly in my personal life before.

Took the road but should have chased the stars/ Now I’ve lost my own way home/Had a photo of the time we shared/But I burned it long ago…

I even, this is fun, feel an imposter in writing about depression. Other people have it worse. Suck it up. But I feel so lost right now. And forget chasing stars. Those words right above speak so loudly to me (earworm loud, but if I use DD’s recommended song, I’ll just be on the floor for the following hour), but I have absolutely no idea why, and I don’t think it is a matter of #thatvoice alone. I’m sure my head will reveal all at some point (it always does and often quite rudely), but I’m just living with the words in my head for right now.

I realizing in typing this out that the darkness is both metaphor and reality. This year has been a bastard of a year weather-wise here. Cold and dark were the hallmarks of summer, and fall hasn’t exactly decided to act much different, though recently it has brought rain in to shake things up a bit. So, literally dark (and, yes, I know what SAD is and that I am fairly strongly affected by it. Like, pretty sure Seattle would kill me strongly affected, and this place is certainly trying to make sure I don’t imagine otherwise), or at least darker than my brain/body want.

And then there is that other darkness.

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No, no. Not her.

The metaphorical one that creates real, physical pain. And real, visible darkness, which is apparently even visible to others right now.  In the end, at least tonight, I think that is what is bothering me most. Not only visible, but troubling to them. I hate that. I hate that I can’t fix me so that I can fix it, and I hate that this is my first impulse: make them feel better! Everything is okay!

So, now what?


*I think I remember why I called her “DD” in these pages, but it was well before I knew some of her story that I know now, and, yeah, it makes me smile. And, no, I’m not telling, but, damn.