Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cohen's June anxiety

Along with training for a 100 miler, taking two summer courses and working 25-30 hours a week this summer, I've been taking dog classes with Cohen in hopes to get him CGC certified through the American Kennel Club so he (we) can be part of the pet therapy program at the local hospital(s) in Kalamazoo (no, I don't really sleep).  We started in January with 'Beginner' level, and we are now almost done with 'Advanced'.  He's doing very well, except he has major separation anxiety.  This isn't news to me.  In fact, it's painfully obvious.  However, in part of the CGC test, the dog and owner must be separated and the dog must remain calm.  In class, we work on this by switching dogs with each other and walking them around the store.  Unfortunately, Cohen can't be a part of this, because he won't budge unless I am right by his side.  Because of this, we do our own separate exercise, which is where I leave the room and the trainer (Holly) stays with Cohen inside the room and tries to distract him from my absence.  To paint the picture for you, our classes are in PetSmart, in a room that has half-walls and windows all of the way around it.  I'm not sure if you've ever been in a PetSmart at 1pm on a Saturday, but everyone and their annoying child is there.  They have pet adoptions going on in the back, which makes it even more popular.  This past Saturday was one for the books.

Our trainer Holly had a trainee named Kelly, so our class was three dogs, three owners, and two trainers.  While doing the separation exercise, Kelly thought she could handle walking Cohen around the store while I stayed in the training room - a bold move, even for an experienced trainer, let alone a rookie.  When she took his leash and started to walk, he wouldn't budge.  To get him going, Kelly and I both started jogging towards the door, and Cohen followed us.  When we got to the threshold, I stopped running and Cohen continued on with Kelly.  My heart swelled a bit with pride as I saw that long, boney tail and tall haunches trotting off without me; without a care in the world.  I scooted myself behind the door so if he were to turn he couldn't see me, and Holly and I started talking.  Not one half of one minute later, there was a ruckus.  And I mean a ruckus.  I heard people shout things like "Oh my God!", "Look out!" and "Someone, catch him!"  My proud heart deflated and sank into my stomach.  I stepped into the doorway just in time to see Cohen come barreling around a corner and down the aisle towards the training room.  Cohen is, for the most part, quite graceful, but he was not "light on this feet" on this Saturday afternoon.  That, combined with a tile floor and slippery paws was a recipe for disaster.  In his fleeting, frantic moments to find me, he knocked over a display of toys.  Squeaky toys.  He kept trying to get up but failed, as his paws kept slipping on the soft cloth toys that were slipping on the tile, and squeaking noises ranging from 3 to 4 different octaves.  After this went on for what seemed like minutes, he got his shit together and trotted into the training room and pushed his entire head into my hip ("Oh my God, mom!  I found you!  Finally!").  I picked my jaw up from the floor and looked up to see Kelly, the trainee, standing down the aisle with Cohen's collar and leash in hand.

From this:

To this:

monday off
tuesday 9 at al sabo
wednesday Lower body workout, plus 7 with steve at Al Sabo, 3 with cohen, 4 at Urban Herd with Becka.  My legs should have been seriously trashed, but at the end of this day they felt pretty damn nice.  The 7 at Al Sabo with Steve was pretty speedy for me, coming in at 50/51 minutes, but it felt good.  The 3 with Cohen were nice and easy, as was the 4 at Urban Herd.
thursday 3 with Cohen at the IM fields.  I spent 30 minutes chasing him around non-stop, which turned into a bit of a speed workout in some weird way.  It kept getting harder and harder to do more pick-ups, and to keep up with him.  It was definitely over 3, but who knows for sure.
friday 10 at Custer with Joe and Erin.  This run totally sucked for my body but the company was, of course, the most enjoyable I could ask for.  Afterwards, I said to Erin I was disappointed because I don't want to feel that shitty at this point, two weeks out from a race.  She said "You have to have the shitty runs to have the good runs.  You know that."  I do know that.  I was thankful for the reminder.
saturday 10 at the arbs alone.  Contrary to the day before, this run was amazing.  I felt perfect, and it was fast.  My feet were absolutely flying and everything else fell into place.
sunday 4 in the morning before work on the roads.  Just a little loop from the apartment to get the day going.  Debated doubling at dirty herd after work, but came home for the evening instead.
Which is where I'm blogging from now.  Which is here:


Monday, June 10, 2013

#yolo in june

I tried hot yoga two weeks ago, which I believe I snuck into a blog post. I took a yoga class when I was a freshman in college, so some of the moves were familiar and I was not as lost as I thought I would be. I enjoyed hot yoga because of the temperature. Everyone that knows me (in the human flesh, not just virtually) knows that I love the heat. On a humid, 97 degree day under the beating Michigan sun I'm not going to be complaining - in fact, I'd love to be outside. I think this stems from growing up on a lake and being able to enjoy the heat rather than have to hide from it. This has helped me a lot in running, and if race day is hot and terrible, it works greatly to my advantage. But that's not what this is about.

What I didn't like about yoga was the central 'theme' behind it, which is (to my experience and extent of knowledge which, yes, is minimal) to listen to your body and find your center. I tried to do this, I really did. I closed my eyes, focused on my breathing and relaxed my mind.  ...And then I fell asleep.  When I opened my eyes, only 5 minutes had passed. I was still surrounded by at least 21 people, all who were dripping in sweat and doing a variation of the same movement - some fluid, some stuck in static poses. I wondered how anyone could 'find their center' in a room full of other people, surrounded my three ugly wooden walls and one of mirrors.

I went for a steamy run this past Monday, and for the last 4 miles or so I thought about this yoga experience again. I was already 13 in, and hitting the 'sweet spot', the comfortable groove that you finally find. I thought about how good I felt, and was completely embracing it. My mind was blank and tranquil, and the world made sense. I realized my center wasn't in an 80 minute yoga class, but somewhere in-between lush foliage, a quick cadence and a soft breath on a single track.

Last weekend, at Yankee, one of Mike's friends reiterated his own words to him, and they were something along the lines of "trail running is just play time", and I think this is true for most. Behind the hard pick-ups, the inevitable lows, and the peace of it all, it is play time. There is something bigger and better than life that is found in extensive time in nature, which is exactly what ultra runners experience.

I am surely not the first to think this, as Wordsworth proved it in his writing many times over.  He wrote that "The Child is father of the Man". As we get older we are ruled by the child within, and the more we please the child within, the happier we are. And isn't that such a childish thing to do? To play in the woods. To live only for yourself, to make yourself happy, to do what pleases you. In my acting class we had a group discussion on this as well. The work is called a 'play' because that is exactly what you are doing - you are playing on stage. You are feeding into (one of) the greatest child pleasures in pretending to be someone else, doing something else, letting your imagination rule your body completely. Going hand-in-hand with the imagination is the want, the need, to play outside. Of course you must add in others that drive people to run 50 or 100 miles at one time, but those can be quite individualistic and various. I do think that the Wordsworthian part is a kernel of part of the truth to ultra running.

There is one defining moment in my life where I have felt completely centered, and deeply moved by something inside myself, and that is when I was in San Francisco (over a year ago now) at Muir Beach. The picture above my blog is from there, and it's also my cover photo on Facebook, and it's also my lock screen on my phone. I think it's impossible to stare at that picture and not feel anything.  Something happened out there on those cliffs and it was the best thing that's happened to me, and I still feel it sometimes. After spending some time staring at it and remembering that day, I remembered the run that Sarah and I went on when we were out there, and how truly amazing that was. Running a single track with that kind of view is like equating the feeling if you were to drink shooting stars. I then remembered that TNF's Endurance Challenge runs along that trail. It's in December, and it's still open. I registered, bought a plane ticket, and snagged a free place to stay for the weekend (thanks Carley and Mike!). The race has been on my list for some time, and now I'll be able to cross it off. Who doesn't love 50 miles of San Francisco?

monday 17 at fort custer, steamy solo run in the late afternoon.
tuesday 11 - ran to meet Katie, ran with Katie, ran home.
wednesday upper body workout, 6 at al sabo with Joe and Steve, 4 at urban herd (painful)
thursday 5 solo on a small loop from my apartment.  got caught in an early morning rain.
friday 10 with erin and joe at custer.  had a blasty blast. 3 with cohen at the arbs.
saturday 8 with some Safari group people.  I think this was just a run to get people interested in Summer Safari.  I obviously am not, but I conned Joe into going and Katie went too, and also there were free bagels afterwards.  So.. how could I not. 4 solo at the arbs immediately after.  After road running with your typical marathon training people I had to get some kind of mental peace, so I went to the trails.
sunday 10 michelle at Custer, starting at 6:15.  I love running with Michelle.  I love running with everyone I run with regularly (which, let's admit, is about 5 people).  7 at dirty herd, I stuck with Shawn and we had a blast.  I was holding on to him for dear life by the end, but I kept up.
total mileage 85.  Not too bad.  Calves were real sore the last couple of days, but other than that, felt great.

other note:  got my hands on some of the S-Lab hands-free water bottles (I have no idea what their real name is) (thanks Steve).  They're kinda fun, something different, but I'd never pay full price for them.  They're ridiculously overpriced, as most things are, but holy shit.  They're fun but they're not that cool.  I found myself holding the little bottles just like a handheld anyway, and wtf do I need my fingers for when running?  I can get a gu out just fine.  The people at the Safari run were all about it though, which I can't help but laugh about.  Because, you know, of course they are.  Anything 'new and impressive and expensive' is something that they must have.  ANYTHING that might help them be faster.  "Water bottles that don't swish?  They're collapsable but don't hold that much water?  My fingers will be free to fuck with my iPod for my marathon?  Sold!  It must make me faster!"

The only way to run faster, is to run fucking faster.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Gettin' down with royalty in June

This weekend was one of the most fun weekends I've ever had in my life.

This weekend was the Yankee Springs Trail Run Series, which consisted of a 10k on Friday, a marathon and double marathon on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday.  Montrail got down with some sponsorship and threw us Max King for the weekend which was super fun.  My only previous experience with an elite athlete has been Scott Jurek and the only thing that came of that is the running Jerker jokes that Joe and I sneak into our conversations whenever possible.  I expected something of the same from this weekend, but what I got was completely the opposite.  I talked shit to Max King and he gave it right back to me, and there were many fits of laughter along the way.  Max King is a real person, and he's a fucking awesome real person.  If you're wondering who he is, go spend some time with Google.

I drove up Saturday morning to pace Mike for his last loop of his double marathon.  Joe was also pacing someone for their last loop, so we drove up together.  We got there around 730 and had some major hours to kill.  I met Derrin (I probably murdered that spelling) from Grand Rapids Gazelle and we stood around and talked to Byron (a Montrail rep from California) for a few hours.  Max cruised in winning the marathon at something like 3:05, and he joined our little group.  Also Kate and Zach from Grand Rapids were there.  I had just met them, and they're both super cool.  I hope I get to spend more time with them at some point in life.  I asked Max if he really pierced a bib through his skin in college, and after questioning how I knew that, he confirmed the story.  Someone (good God I can't remember their name, but he's from Kalamazoo) came up and asked Max how to train for Pike's Peak, as he's doing the marathon this summer.  I exchanged half a smirk with Joe and walked away from the circle.  We went to the Deep Lake aid station to hang out with Michelle, who was volunteering there.  We stayed for about 20 minutes, and I had to hold my abdomen because I felt like it was going to explode from laughter.  After eating somewhere between 8 and 12 Oreos, I decided we should get back to the start/finish so I didn't miss Mike coming through.  We did so, and when Mike came through he looked pretty good.  Better than I would look after loops on that goddamn course.  I'll never do that shit out there.  Anyway, he was in first and we were off for our lap.  Thank god he was in first, because I told him I was pacing whoever was in first place, no matter who it was.  We walked a little so whatever the fuck he just ate could digest, and then we were off and doing ridiculous speed work in the first 4 miles.  I was cursing the 8 to 12 Oreos that weren't sitting well.  Goddammit, it's always the Oreos.  I just can't say no.  Seeing Michelle a second time was super awesome and she confirmed the first place position.  I also ate another Oreo.  The rest of the loop was a bit rough, but still kept a decent pace for vomiting and feeling like hell (him, not me) (Oreos had digested by then).  I was thrilled with some of the sections we ran, it was a nice steady pace and comfortable downhills, and a very forward hike up the uphills.  I wasn't really sure how to act as a pacer, so I tried to act like maybe someone I would want to pace me.  I almost started to spit some Kanye, because that's how I get through the tough times, but I wasn't sure if Mike even liked Kanye (but who doesn't like Kanye?  Lyrical genius).  Anyway, we jogged in and Mike took the win for the double marathon, which is really fucking cool.  I let him sit in my winner chair and he tried to drink a beer and threw up.  I laughed and took pictures.  The second place finisher, Drew, joined us shortly after and we had a real good time.  I really hope I see Drew again, he was a blast.  They were trying to award him with second place and age group winner, and he just looked around confused and replied with "Right, cool, but where's the beer?"  I sat on the ground and drank a few beers.  Joe finished with the girl he was pacing and he joined in the beer drinking, and soon the race was over, but we stayed sitting there, drinking and talking about sheep sex.  Mr. King soon rose from his cabin and joined us again.  We eventually moved the party into the lodge and had some pizza.  We talked real talk with the King and I told him to feel free to tell Dakota Jones that there's a girl in Michigan that would be open to the idea of dating him.  And also that if he needs to get a 50 mile jog in at the end of the month, I'd be open to the idea of him pacing me for the last half of my 100.  At some point, between PBRs and oatmeal cookies, I asked Kim, the race director, to give me a free entry to the half marathon in the morning.  I told her it'd be for the benefit of the race, and that I'd bring competition as I took 2nd in it last year.  She gladly handed me a bib as I filled out an entry form.  About an hour before this my phone had died, and I was in no condition to drive home, so I crashed on a free bunk in Kim's cabin.  I used a seat cushion that I found in the lodge as a pillow and a beach towel that I found in the cabin as a blanket.

I woke up with my contacts glued to my eyes and a tainted vision, due to still being quite drunk.  I rolled over and saw my bib and recollected that I was racing this morning.  I groaned for about 8 whole seconds (which is actually a really long time) and then looked at my watch.  7:52 and the race started at 8.  Awesome.  I already had on my shorts and sports bra from the day before, so I suppose I was good to go.  I snagged my bib and jogged to my car to brush my teeth.  I cannot stand not brushing my teeth, so thank god I have a toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash in my car at all times for scenarios like this.  I jogged back to the start, put my number on, took my shirt and pants off and filled my handheld.  Fuck I am so drunk I cannot even race right now.  I had nothing to eat and knew I would be quite  dehydrated, but whatthefuckever.  It's only 13 miles, I've felt worse for longer I'm sure.  Gun went off and people let loose.  As we were going up the first climb all I could hear was everyone around me breathing so ridiculously hard.  I kind of laughed a little.  How could I not?  Why were people going out so hard right now?  Didn't they know this was just the first hill?  Maybe I just suck at racing, but panting at mile 1.5 is just not my style.  I was behind this lady who had blonde hair and she looked back at me and said "You're my Kalamazoo girl, aren't you?"  This question is very confusing.  Yankee is about 45 minutes north of Kalamazoo, so I think there were a lot of girls from Kalamazoo there, but maybe not.  And, 'your girl'?  What?  I said "Uh, yeah, I am from Kalamazoo."  She said "Yeah, I see you around at races a lot, you've cut your hair a lot shorter though."  What the fuck?  Of course, I have recently chopped off several inches of my hair, but.. what? I continued with "Haha, yeah, I did.  I'm Kelsey."  She didn't reply to this, but took off.  I cocked my head to the side and scrunched up my eyebrows.  I believe I actually said "huh" out loud.  I passed her at the first aid station, and never saw her again until post-race.  A group of guys were behind me and didn't want to pass, so I started chatting with them.  They all wanted to finish in under 2, and asked me if that's what I was going for.  I told them I really wasn't going for a time, and that I was still pretty drunk, but I'd probably come in somewhere around 2.  "Great, we'll stick with you then!"  Shortly after, one of them turned on their iPhone music.  Without headphones.  Not only is this the most terrible thing but IT WAS THE WORST MUSIC EVER.  He also had some app that announced his pace and distance every like 8 minutes or some fucking shit like that.  There is nothing worse.  I laid down some speedy miles in hopes to break them.  While doing so I had a goddamn blast, and as a smile crept over my face I realized I could really race this thing.  Unfortunately the people behind me kept up, and the horrible music was almost drown out by their ungodly heavy breathing.  We came up on the next aid station and Michelle and Zach were both working it, so I stopped here and talked to them for a few minutes and told those guys to go on ahead.  I'd rather jog it out alone than go for a respectable time with that shit blaring behind me - which is exactly what I ended up doing.  After I left Michelle and Zach I felt pretty terrible.  I was finally starting to sweat out the booze and feeling my dehydration, so I just slowed down and enjoyed the morning run for the rest of the time.  As I crossed the finish I checked the trusty Timex at a 2:12.  Ouch.  That is a damn slow half marathon, but whatevs. I still managed to pull 4th or 5th or 6th or something like that and win my age group.  Not bad for a free drunk race.  I saw that lady from the beginning again, and she said "I thought you were still behind me the whole time, chasing me down, so I ran so fast!  But I guess you had passed me at some point!"  She still didn't tell me her name.  To be fair, I didn't ask.  I said bye to Max and gently reminded him of the message of importance to his fellow Montrail athlete.  I drove home with a sleepy smile and finally charged my phone.

I can't stress how fun this weekend was.  Meeting Max King and being able to hang out with him with about 6 other really awesome people was so fun.  When training was starting to get rough, it was a welcomed reminder of why I have let this life take over.  There's nowhere I'd rather be than in the ultra-running world.  That sounds weird, but it's where the best people are, and it's where the best things happen.

Max King also set new course records for the 10k, marathon, and half.  Obviously.

What a dick, right?  I told Max I wanted an autograph and I didn't want anything generic and inspirational.  I told him he was old and washed up, and this is what he wrote me.  I collapse into giggles whenever I read it.  He used the wrong version of "you're" and that will probably bother me for the rest of my life.

This is Mike throwing up after he won.

This is Joe looking really drunk but really he wasn't that drunk.  But really I was.  Eventually.

some of the most memorable quotes of the weekend:
"you are going to blog so hard about this."
"is it Chelsea or Kelly?"
"All you need is some velcro gloves!"

monday  5 with Michelle at Yankee on Memorial Day.  I was at home for the day, so it was close and fun.
tuesday  off.  Really tried to kick the nasty cold I had going on.
wednesday  leg workout at the gym haaaaard, and 6 miles at night with Urban Herd.
thursday 11 at the arbs solo.  Went out for about 4, but felt great so kept going.  Eventually ran out of water, though, so called it.
friday  upper body workout, no miles due to working all damn day.
saturday 13.1
sunday 13.1 race and then an easy 5 at dirty herd group run.  so, 18
total  53 (.2).  meeehhhh.

Goal for this week is to be somewhere between 70 and 80, we'll see how that goes.  Also looking forward to using the new Salomon handhelds.  Er.. not handhelds.  Water bottles.  Whatever.