Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moving Again and Straight Thugging

One of my favorite things in the whole world is playing baseball with my dad. But I have a particularly jarring memory of this etched in my mind.

A couple of years ago, we were out in the side yard, tossing around a baseball. As the game progressed, we moved further apart, whipping the ball through low-hanging trees. We laughed and celebrated with a liberal supply of air high-fives and affirmative head nods. My dad tossed a pop fly, and I leaped into action. Before I landed, I launched the ball off again, regained my footing, and froze. I watched in terror as the baseball spun toward my father’s shin, and I heard a sickening smack as it struck bone. “Oh, my gosh. I just maimed my father,” I whispered breathlessly.

My dad shook his leg and dropped to pick up the ball. “Ow,” he acknowledged, a smile spreading across his face. “Great speed. Now let’s work on your aim.”

I stood there in disbelief. And that was the day I realized my dad’s skeletal system is probably made of iron ore.

All that to say: I have strong bones, too. (Thank you, Dad!) I do a lot of road running, but I am happily injury-free and able to enjoy higher mileage than I otherwise could.

Maylon Madness was last Saturday! It was awesome, even though I didn’t run one step. I got to help out, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cutting up bananas, and driving the monster van. The van was a veritable swag wagon. It was the biggest vehicle I have ever driven, and it made a beeping noise when I put it in reverse. Legit. The interior was lined with decorative lighting, and gangster music played lightly over the sound system all day (because I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off). I was straight thugging.

Rick and Jennifer McNulty run the NJ Trail Series and have a growing number of race events spread across the state throughout the year. MM was a trail race in northern Jersey, just past Jefferson High School in the Mahlon Reservation. There were several options: 25K, 50K, 75K, and 100K. It was a collection of great people, all out celebrating an unseasonably cool day on the trails. Congratulations to all the runners! And shout-out to Mike Lynch, my local mentor in the sport and one of the funniest people in America.

My own training has just started to pick up again after a brief running-detox period. I feel good now and am ready to get back into it. Two days ago (my first day back), I doubled—31 miles in the morning alone and 5 faster miles in the evening with friends. The past two days I have taken advantage of Vernon’s mountains and done some hill training.

Let me just say, Vernon is beautiful. If you are looking for a romantic getaway location/place for you honeymoon, do this: Hop off the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 11. Drive north through the buffer region called Morris County until you reach Sussex. (The sign says “Sussex County: People and Nature Together.” Charming and FACTUAL.) Travel north-northwest until the ratio of cows to people increases, and then look around. You are in the Switzerland of America. Vernon Township. There are lakes and mountains. It is beautiful! The Appalachian Trail runs through, and there are more wild turkeys than people. We have no sidewalks, and the closest real store is a Wal-Mart 20 minutes away, three towns over. (Vernon is also the site of Running with the Devil—the 6- or 12-hour runs up and down the ski slopes in July.)

Yesterday, I went out on the Appalachian boards. After passing into the forest, I turned right onto the dirt road, crossed a bridge, and came out on Maple Grange (next to the old horse race track). I turned right again at the emu farm and heard some kids chatting in Discovery Years Pre-School. “Idiot!” a little boy screamed. “You’re a big idiot!” Oh, man. If that kid were a Moran, he would have gotten his mouth cleaned out with soap. When I was a child, those types of verbal attacks were illicit. They were considered the gateway drugs of debasive vocabulary, and I guess we didn’t want them to become a casual part of our household lexicon. I am thankful for that. But now that I’m old, I can say whatever I want. What up, Mom?! I can call anybody an idiot these days. I just don’t want to. It seems so mean…

Tomorrow, I am moving up to Yale to get started on my Masters. I am not especially excited about running in New Haven, but I will hopefully find trails nearby. I am also not excited about being a student again. Ugh, school. Just kidding. I FREAKING LOVE SCHOOL. Learning is my favorite thing.

See you later, beautiful Vernon! You're a real babe of a town.

Next up: North Coast 24 (September 18th). I can’t wait! I am going to find some shorter local races to prep myself for speed. And that’s it. I have to go pack for moving now…

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Catherine's 50K and Season Wrap-Up

Lifeguards cannot close their eyes. It is our job to see it all, to take everything in. And this was never a problem for me until the morning the man in the maroon velvet Speedo sauntered onto my pool deck. He was a corpulent man of bulk, yet he moved confidently and began a routine of side stretches alongside the pool. I surveyed the scene with unease. It was my job. For the first time in my life, I regretted that I am a girl with clear vision.

I have clear vision, but I can never seem to find a trail. At every fork in a path I second-guess myself, and the directional options seem n-dimensional. It is negatively affecting my race times, comically so. My new favorite race maneuver is running back—retracing the trail—to find the next person coming up to ask them where to go. Extra credit miles. Better safe than sorry.

Last Saturday, I ran in the Catherine’s 50K in the beautiful Massanuttens. It was only 6 days after the Lone Ranger 24-Hour event, but I decided to run anyway because:

1.I would get to see my VHTRC friends.
2.I hadn’t put my racing gear away yet, so it was just sitting there all ready for me. Old water from the week before was still in my water bottles. Just kidding. But seriously, though. No, no. I dumped it out.
3.Running on a paved circle for a day is very different than running an out-and-back mountain trail.

Catherine’s was a casual event. Business casual. The day before, I trained a double (45 minutes of biking plus a 15-mile run), and I added some lifting. I set my alarm that night and fell asleep in the clothes I would run in the next day. Simplify, simplify.—Henry David Thoreau.
But my alarm did not go off, and when I woke up, the sun was already up. 6:28 a.m. My worst nightmare had come to fruition, and there was no way I could make it to the start in time.
I jumped into the car and drove south. When I finally got there, it was 8:20, so the run had already begun. I tucked into the forest and saw ...................................................nobody.

Well, there were some deer. I’m glad deer are not hostile animals. They always catch me when I’m alone.

I bore down and hurried through the trails, and before long, I was surrounded by a sea…a C…a vhtrC of runners. Sophie was there! About 80% of what I know about ultramarathoning, I learned from reading her blog over the past couple of years. I saw Mike and Jeff, Bobby, Bethany, the Kniplings, and so many other wonderful people. Bill Gentry—man among men—was celebrating his 100th official ultramarathon. That was AMAZING! I picked my way through and settled into a pace. My legs felt light, and the fresh air was wonderful. There were streams to cross and a profusion of slippery rocks, sweeping the spread of the course. It was wild.

I got lost a bunch of times. That was frustrating. It was entirely my fault, though, not a reflection of the course at all. Just me, spending too much time inside of my head. Story of my life. I just don’t like running backwards or waiting as the clock ticks.

Tick tock on the clock, but the party don’t stop, no. Oh oh oh ohhhh. –Ke$ha.
If I were a rapper or a mononymous, trisyllabic diva like Madonna, my name would be $abrina, in homage to Ke$ha, my social ethics role model. I like that she talks her songs, rather than actually singing, and isn’t even very good at talking. I also agree with every morally-loose sentiment she expresses.

The temperature creeped up to 107, so it was basically heaven. I wish all of life were held in a sauna. When the race finished, there was a barbecue. I stayed for a bit but had to head back to the dog I was babysitting. This dog is ruining my social life. I think he appreciates me because I sang him the complete works by Taylor Swift before bed last night, inserting his name in place of every noun. As I was sitting here writing this, he just brought me one of my shoes. He even nibbled down the back a bit so it’s softer and easier to put on. I am thankful for that.

Since April, I have raced five times (Umstead, Happy Pacers Race, Old Dominion, Lone Ranger, and Catherine’s). That’s the most I have ever done in this short a period, and I still feel strong and healthy! I have gained a lot of race experience and confidence. Now I am resting for a bit and easing into graduate school. My feet are a veritable mess following the season, but I am not concerned. My sister once tried to get me to have a pedicure, but I’m not even pedi-curious as to what non-running feet would look like.

Next up: North Coast 24 in Cleveland (September!!!) and then the Grindstone-100 in October. It will be so fun to return to the Grindstone and see my old friends. Bobby Gill: rematch? You on? I am going to work hard.