Last Sunday, while most of you were probably still snug in your jammies sipping coffee, the Lunar B*tches reunited in a parking lot up at Thacher. It was grey and wet and chilly, but the festive and costume-clad crowd pumped us up for our 6 mile trail run, the Squirrelly Six. I was glad that I had gone with 3 layers of varying thickness, along with gloves and a hat. The dampness was bone chilling and while the rain wasn’t constant, it was cold.
We hit the path at 9:35, due to a slight delay to accommodate those waiting in line for restroom facilities, and spent the next approximately 70 minutes dodging puddles and chainsaw wielding werewolves. The course isn’t made for breaking personal records, with bottlenecks and a couple of daunting hills, but it is made for fun. Because of the soggy conditions, caution was required when navigating the rocky, tree root-ridden paths covered in wet leaves. It was slippery and the downhill portions were the ones which I found to be most dangerous – and where I witnessed a runner go down, fortunately without injury.
This was the 10th year for this event and I definitely see myself continuing to participate in this uber fun race. Despite the weather and trail hazards, it was a beautiful run with lots of leaves still clinging to their branches. This year’s shirt may be the best one I’ve ever received – a bonus second only to hitting the trail with my favorite running girls.
Last Sunday I did what I’ve done on countless other Columbus Day weekends – I drove down to New Paltz to get out on the trails in Minnewaska. In years past, it was more a walk around the woods with the girls, but in recent years it’s been all about running trails. Let me go on record, right here, right now, and say that this will be my first half marathon, 2015.
James and I hit the trails about 2pm under bright blue skies, parking in the Awosting lot. We ambled along hitting Cardiac Hill, gaining more than 1000+ feet of elevation,* and racking up more than 12 miles. Along the way we were treated to views which rivaled the breathtaking quality of the steepest ascents. It was a spectacular afternoon and I wish I could do this run with more frequency.
James is great running partner and I thoroughly enjoy the comfort we have with one another after more than 35 years of friendship. I can’t say either of us would have predicted the joy we would each take from running in the woods. It sure is different when you’re not running from the cops! Lakers, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Can’t wait to do it again.
*which is a lot according to my friend, James, and the way my ass felt the next day.
What he said
It must have been the unfortunate choice of Pandora station – U2′s Running to Stand Still, that prompted my run to be filled with thoughts of love. Many of the songs were familiar, but I forged a new understanding of them as the lyrics relentlessly pounded me for 5 miles.
As my mind sought an escape from the music, which was a combination of cloying and consolatory, some thoughts I recently had, began to knit themselves together. There must be water. If there’s a lack of oxygen, one can’t breathe. Light encourages development. A little dirt and fire are required. Love is earth.
Love is organic. It makes me believe in science in a way that my high school biology class failed to do. In fact, nothing has convinced me that human beings consist of atoms and electricity so much as love. From the moment those individual particles attach themselves to those of another, there’s no denying the force. There is an almost pungent scent from pheromones, palpable and intensely intimate. I’ve smelled it.
I’ve come to believe that we each possess an internal well which needs to be continually replenished. What fills the well for each of us is marvelously unique and ever evolving. Sometimes it’s a shower of loving words or shared thoughts which soothe our soul. At other times salty tears. There also needs to be a balance of air and light to enable growth. Without oxygen, there is suffocation. In the dark, love withers and fails to reach its true potential. Fresh air and sunshine truly are the antidote to sorrow. I know this to be true.
Dirt and fire can bring excitement and exhilaration to a union. Getting a little messy together, in whatever fashion you mutually appreciate, can be joyful. The heat of passion can meld two into one. I’ve felt this.
If these individual elements are absent, or present yet unbalanced, instead of desirable rich and earthy soil, mud or dust may result. We become bogged down or inclined to be blown away. Equilibrium, damn it, it’s about creating a positive balance between these individual essential fundamentals. It’s true about the earth, it’s true about love.
Did you play that game when you were a kid? We usually alternated between Red Light and Mother, May I? on autumn evenings which grew more quickly dark as each day passed. They were fun games to play during times, which I recall as, much more simple than today. No batteries or cords necessary.
These days, I run for fun. Unfortunately, negotiating my way around the streets of Albany isn’t always fun. I play a different game now – Green light, red light, one-two-three. Are you familiar with it? It’s where you watch the light cycle through from green to yellow to red and then count “1, 2, 3″ before approaching the intersection. If you fail to follow the rules, like the scofflaw driver blowing through the red light, you’re likely to get run over. Really.
There isn’t a single time I’ve been out getting some miles in, when I haven’t observed drivers running red lights. It is no joke. I can appreciate the frustration with Albany’s lights which sometimes seemed timed expressly for making me late for my destination. I get it. But, seriously? Is it really going to be worth running a person or animal over? Drivers in Albany really need to drink a big old mug of slow the f*ck down.
Red light cameras are controversial and considered by some to be invasive, but I truly believe their value in potentially protecting lives exceeds their threat to privacy. Folks are concerned that the company which will be monitoring the cameras will be aggressively doling out tickets because they are a for-profit entity. So? Don’t run red lights and it will cost you nothing.
Albany is a fine place to live. We have invested in schools and libraries and crosswalks. There are cool new places to shop and eat and our mayor is committed to the arts. Wouldn’t it be great if families felt comfortable moving into our city because they knew that public safety was a genuine priority? I’m all for quality of life tickets a la Giuliani, jaywalking, bike riding in the wrong direction on the streets, drivers failing to respect pedestrians in crosswalks and red light runners. Give them a warning then give them a ticket. If the ticket comes from a camera monitored traffic light, give them the picture, too. It’ll last longer, right?
Well, I survived it sore, but generally unscathed. Actually, I finished a respectable 10th out of 46 in my age bracket, which is nothing to be ashamed of, I suppose. But…
…it was really hard! Here’s the blow-by-blow: My wave took off at 10:35 from a different starting line than last year’s spot on State Street between the ESP and Capitol. For 2014 we began (and finished) inside the Times Union Center, which meant that the first .75 of a mile were unrelentingly uphill. Did I mention it was hot out and that I much prefer to run late in the evening in the dark? Yeah, that.
I muscled my way up the hill, carefully tracking who passed me and who I went by. It wasn’t a big number in either case, but I quickly lost the ability to count anything much beyond how much further it would be until I crossed the finish line. The first obstacles were closely spaced hurdles, which, incidentally really take the wind out of a person. While plenty of folks did a slow step over them, you know me, I leaped like a semi-graceful deer over them quickly burning my lungs in the process.
After finally reaching Madison Ave, there was a bit of a reprieve from the leaps and hills and I enjoyed a little downhill action. I hit the first water station and reinvigorated myself enough for the next task – carrying a sand bag up and down a bunch of steps. The subsequent obstacles came fairly quickly and I shimmied and crawled and grunted my way through them. There was more of the same with monkey bars to swing across and huge heavy tires to move with my favorite challenges still to come within the arena. Within the arena – doesn’t that sound so gladiatoress?
See that bruise there? I earned that!
I began keeping track again of whom I was able to go around, feeling particularly gleeful when it was a man. That minor in Women’s Studies sometimes aligns beautifully with the
slightly competitive streak I normally keep in check. I loved the knotted rope climb, despite the injured dude on the ground in front of two of the possible ropes choices, and the wall clamber and net were awesome – so fun! The stairs and the stairs and the stairs were dizzying, but I prevailed and clocked in with an official time of 41:33, finishing 192nd of 517. Not too shabby. How about you? Did any of you take part in the fun and games?
Every year when it is time to drive west from wherever we happen to be on Cape Cod, I don’t want to leave. It doesn’t matter how much I miss my own home or that I already have a place booked for the following summer – I don’t want my beach time to be finished. As I approach the Sagamore Bridge I reliably feel my eyes fill with tears, which I don’t release, of course. I don’t need to further convince my kids that I’m getting soft in my middle years.
Each and every time I run through my neighborhood I witness cars running red lights. I’m not even talking about lights that are stale yellow, I mean lights that changed to red while the approaching car was at least a half block away. Red light cameras? Yes, please! People need to learn how to stop.
I am at the point in parenting when I very soon will have a household of boys who no longer indulge me by believing in any of the wonders of childhood. No tooth fairy, no Easter rabbit, no Santa Claus. All done. I’m taking a final shot later this month when my youngest and I head to a most magical place – Disney World. I’m hopeful that Quinn will be impressed by something there – the rides, the fireworks, the characters, and decide that believing is sometimes worth the suspension of reality. Dreams can still come true, right?
I was bold this evening. For a few minutes, at least. I went for a run, a short one, and sported only a skort and a modest running bra. This is not my usual attire, especially not during daylight hours, and I vacillated in a somewhat schizophrenic fashion between thinking I was fit and believing that I was fat. You see, exercising my body and brain simultaneously is yet another way I often multitask.
About 3 minutes into my run, I became self conscious and a bit uncomfortable. I felt exposed, and my skort with the stretched out elastic waistband was sliding down without a shirt to which to safety pin it. I ran past a wooded area and, as is my way, I looked to the side for my reflection, which I didn’t see. Or did I?
To my right, rather than the reflective glass of car and household windows I typically see on my city runs, I saw an undeveloped piece of land covered in trees. They were mostly scrub oaks, an unfortunate name for trees which bear such shiny green leaves from their richly textured branches. My mind took in the beauty of each individual tree and I considered how being a tree wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The strength they show in adverse conditions, the glorious splendor with which they salute the pending arrival of winter, the tiptoe and whisper of their spring greeting. There are far worse things to be in the world.
If I had interrupted my run to examine each and every tree, I know I would not have found any two to be identical. They were unique in their beauty, individual. I was struck by a thought – isn’t the source of our own beauty the same? Isn’t it our own unique spark essence fire that causes us to shine in a way that is pleasing? Aren’t the most attractive people those who radiate something special and distinctive beyond the size of their waist or the shine of their hair? Why is this simple truth so difficult to embrace?
Trees probably don’t waste time wishing they were taller, longer limbed or of a different girth. Their beauty is without question, their position within the forest unchallenged by rigid boundaries or demands to alter their appearance. The next time I seek my reflection during a run, I hope I see a tree.