I entered my first half marathon in the fall of 2008.  I had never run over five miles at one time, let alone be officially timed while running.  I had only started running as a way to tire out my Golden Retrievers, then I realized it was good, cheap exercise, and it was stoking some creative energy that I thought I had long since snuffed out.  The only reason I entered that half marathon was at the nudge from a friend who is without a doubt the most authentically warm, genuine and positive person I have the pleasure to know and I had not one good argument to tell her I couldn’t do it.  Plus, I was getting addicted to that runner’s high.  I know, gag me, but it’s real.

Since that race in 2008, I have run six half marathons, two of which where off-road trail halfs, and as of tonight, three Tough Mudders.  As my team, the mighty Mudtallica walked around Truckee this morning, we were chatting about how we became Mudders, and it all goes back to me and an email I wrote on April 30, 2010 to several good friends who were each experiencing some of life’s hardest and darkest times.  The email was a rallying cry, an effort to inspire my friends to join me in showing life that we were not going to take its worst days without showing it how we live our best days.

As I sit here, sore as hell and chuckling about our adventure on the course yesterday (yet also feeling a bit of the post Mudder blues), I realized that my next organized event is not a run, but a much needed nudge to honor my writing and creativity, Camp Mighty.  I am seriously WAY MORE terrified of that than any eight foot Berlin Wall will ever be.  But, since I used my writing to inspire the friends that have now helped me complete three Tough Mudders, I wanted to share that email, and a picture of me, with my actual face showing, however covered in glorious mud.

Hope this inspires you too.  I imagine it can.

30 April 2010

So there I was last night, on my walk with the pooches, not really running this week as my body needed the rest after the half on Sunday, and my mind started doing its thing where it lets go and settles into my “write” brain.  My feet would not not run, so I let myself settle into short bursts of jogging as gentle as possible since my feet still ache from the race, I had not taken my inhaler, and most of all, was without proper boob support.  I started thinking about the next physical challenge I wanted to pose for myself since that seems to be the way I have kept sane the past two years.  The ideas and images of half marathons and trying out Cross Fit and getting back to yoga all meandered by.  Then I remembered an article I read in the NY Times the night before about a challenge called Tough Mudder.

Apparently the Tough Mudder is a not-race, meaning it is untimed, but it is a 7 mile course with intensely crazy-fun obstacles, like a mud run on steroids.  I f’ing love it.

Now comes the imagining part…

As I walked along last night, I started going all GI Jane and thinking about climbing hills, and rope walls, and slogging through mud and doing it with glee and shouts and laughs and yawps and promise of beer at the end.  And then I thought, who would be the best people to have on a team for this insanity?  Please see list above :-)

Each one of us, for all our blessings has had their share of shitstorms, stresses, dramas, depressions, worries, and hells on Earth the past year or so.  Between us I tallied up three divorces, one nearing divorce, two strained marriages, two kids with life threatening surgeries, two pending bankruptcies, one mom on chemo and radiation, one dad in a coma, two sick dogs, two dogs who passed away, cats given up to others, family members dying, friends dying… just amongst the 10 of us.  Each one of us has found strength in the others and damn it all to hell, our tough asses are still here facing these seeming disasters.  And each one of us has used physical strength, movement and activity to heal ourselves, or at the very least, expend some of the nervous energy that builds up in our battered hearts and minds.  We have a triathlete, two marathoners, several collegiate athletes, skiers, both amateur and pro, and some who just like to run and all who like to move their bodies.

I started to imagine each of us, standing together as a team at the top of some crazy-ass hill in the Northern California mountains in October getting ready to hurl ourselves down it Braveheart-style, scramble across logs and rocks and mud and water all the while helping each other along the course.  We would be our own Race for the Cure: the Cure for Fear, the Cure for Worry, the Cure for Stress, the Cure for Hating Your Job, the Cure for Anger, the Cure for Sadness, the Cure for Others Who Cannot Hurl Themselves Down a Hill…  Us.  We together could do that.

And I would write about it.  Oh boy would I.

So, dear friends, I just ask you to IMAGINE.  Just spend a little time this weekend imagining this.  It is five months away and the same weekend as the Nike Half and Full, which two of you I know were considering anyway.  We would be an AWESOME team.  We already have a coach on the list.  And I am really good with logistics.


Love you,

Dear Sports, I Love You

From NYTimes "Kathy Martin (9) competing in the 3,000 meters in January at the Armory in Manhattan."

I am a sports fan.  Sure there are games too complicated even for me to devote the time to understanding (cricket? huh?), but for the most part, I love the very simple metaphor of the heroic journey every athlete and team member takes every time they put on their uniform, cross it to the center, stick the landing, return the volley, get barreled, sack the QB, cross the finish first, throw a strike, slam the dunk, dive no splash, deliver the knockout, dig that spike, dig down deeper when defeated and practice, practice, practice, practice and most of all believe.  Sport at its most basic forces a situation where the rules are set, the clocks are ticking, skill counts and winning is at stake.  These are of course symbolic wins and losses; it is not meant to be a life or death situation, but instead mimic the intensity of one by competition with others and the self.  (I cannot get lost in the topic of business or celebrity of sports today.  Go read a story about the entire NBA if you want that.)

The most compelling sports stories are those in which the athlete or team has overcome the incredible odds against them to achieve a personal best or an outright win.  The current story I am inspired by is Kathy Martin, a 60 year old masters runner, competing in track and field events and holding world records for her age bracket that are completely astonishing.  For a convalescing runner like me, there could not be a more delightful true athlete story than Kathy Martin’s.

Read it.  Then tell me sports don’t have heart.

(PS, if you don’t have a subscription to the NYTimes and you have used up your free articles on this the 3rd day of the month, email me.  I might still have a discount coupon code for you.  Get the Times people.  It’s good for your brain.)

Life-Giving Lemons

Ahhhh a New Year.  I am an ardent fan of the calendar’s move from Decembers to Januarys, even if people much smarter than I am would start discussing relativity or some such astrophysics to explain time and space.  For me, the New Year is not only a symbol of change, but a tangible shift in perception, from old to new, from tired to refreshed, from stuck to motivated.  Although I am not a believer in the making of resolutions if only to be discussed around the water cooler, I am very inspired by reflection, acknowledgement and adjusting my patterns to reach new goals.  The good news about all the resolution chatter is that it’s on everyone’s minds at the same time and that is an excellent place to be to take advantage of the collective great energy.

I have also decided that I need a few more days to get my reflections done and my 2012 action plan into place.  Slowing down to MY pace instead of trying to match the hyperspeed of the 24-hour news cycle is my first order of business.  I want my attention to be focused on the important details, not the din of everyone talking at once.  One of my favorite documentaries of 2011 was “Bill Cunningham New York” which follows New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham over a year’s time as he pedals his Schwinn all over New York City snapping photos (on film no less!) of Gotham’s citizens and socialites and what they wear as they go about their days and nights.  No other movie brought me as much joy as this one, even in the distinct irony that Bill is an ascetic who could not be more delighted by people and what they wear.  The moment that stuck with me the most and will forever is when he says, “He who seeks beauty will find it.”  He focuses on the details.

Here is a slice of beauty in my wild tangle of a yard right now, the Meyer lemon tree.  These lemons are so fragrant and delicious I am ruined for other lemons for the rest of time.  People who used to live here actually stop by to pick lemons from the tree and other former residents won a lemonade contest with these gems.  I snapped this on New Year’s Day morning: life giving me some luscious lemons.  I accept.