Monday, August 26, 2013

an ode to code in august

After I finished a night run two weeks ago I got back to my car and clicked my phone on and had a message from my dear friend Lauren Rothwell. Lauren remains one of my best friends and, undoubtedly one of the most important people I have ever met in my life for various reasons, and we met because we rode together (competitively against) each other for years. She sent me a picture of Code, with the caption "Look who I found!"

A lot of people that know me today have no idea that I rode horses for upwards of 15 years. I started because I wanted to be like my older sister, and to this day she is still an equestrian. When I got Code I was 15 years old and about to go through the normal teenage angst stage, and he did everything a horse at that age is supposed to do. He gave me confidence, he made me proud, he challenged me, he let me vent to him as I picked out his hooves, he let me cry into his mane, and he gave me an excuse to buy an abundance of white Lifesaver mints. He also did one more thing: He was a complete asshole.

We spent the first two years trying to not bomb through hunter lines, trying to perfect lead changes, trying to get him to go around in something close to a frame, trying to figure out why he thought it was acceptable to take off bucking during what was supposed to be a beautiful equitation rollback. I learned how to fight back when he cornered me in his stall and to instinctually stick my left elbow out while tightening the girth, because he was bound to reach around and try to bite me. At our wits' ends, we decided to try our hand at the 'Jumpers', and this was where we both thrived. Lead changes started to come without asking for them and soon we were floating over 4' courses instead of worrying about fitting in the appropriate amount of strides on a diagonal line. We took championships in the jumper divisions left and right, and often he would reach his head out of his stall and lap up the rest of my granola and yogurt mixture. His show name ('Remedy') was no longer an ironic laugh, but  soulful understanding. I gave up on trying to convince him that clippers weren't terrifying, and took scissors to his mane and muzzle instead. I no longer had to beg him to stand while I was braiding his mane, and he rocked something close to a mohawk when we entered the ring.  

I stopped riding when I was 21 and Code has been out to pasture ever since. Recently a family who we know through the horse world asked to use him for their foreign exchange student to ride on the high school equestrian team. When my mom first pitched this idea to me I felt very weird. A part of me wanted to say "no, he's still mine." but I'm more realistic than that. Another part of me was happy that he would be doing something, and another part of me was slightly worried because I know how he can be. He can be an asshole. He can be scary. He can be terrifying. But he can also be rewarding.  And a teacher. And a forgiver. And a learner. And, I still believe (deep down) that Code has a good heart.  

Lauren spotted him at a high school equestrian meet (what was she doing there? I have no idea, it's a bit out of her element). I sat in my car at the trailhead and asked her for more details. She said he was being really good and taking care of the Spanish boy that was atop him. She said he was being docile and doing everything that he was asked to do. She said he looked good, and that made me happy. I was glad and surprised that he seemed to be mellowing with age. However, on my way home, on the corner of Oakland and Milham, I kind of lost it. I cried a lot, and I wasn't sure why. I was struggling to let go of the fact that someone else was enjoying my horse. The horse that I had worked on for so long, the horse that I had had to figure out and bring to the level that he was once at. And I was thinking, by the time I got home, isn't this what annoys me about people? The inability to let go easily, to walk away and accept what once was, to move on and not let it be a big deal. Don't I lecture people about this when they cry about breakups? Or when they get back together with a shitty boyfriend? Isn't this my lecture? "Get over it, move on, it's not the end of the world, you're wasting your time being sad about something when there's the rest of your life to live." Pot/kettle/black.

It reminds me of my favorite quote of all time, which comes from Chuck Klosterman.  If you haven't read his book Killing Yourself To Live, you need to.  

"When you start thinking about what your life was like years ago - and not in general terms, but in highly specific detail - it's disturbing to realize how certain elements of your being are completely dead.  They die long before you do.  It's astonishing to consider all the things from your past that used to happen all of the time but (a) never happen anymore and (b) never even cross your mind.  It's almost like those things didn't happen.  Or maybe it seems like they just happened to someone else." 

There are certain times when I'm reminded of the equestrian life that I (we) so fully lived. Race mornings feel like horse show mornings. The other day when Cheryl was putting on my swim cap it felt like my mother was helping me get all of my hair under my helmet. It hurts, but it's necessary. I look at my shoes that are caked in mud and blood and think of how we used to have to diligently clean and polish our boots, not to mention the tack. Packing a drop bag reminds me of packing a tack trunk for a show.  

One year, at an awards banquet for our overall champion, I received a brown leather bracelet with a beautiful buckle and the small nameplate "Remedy" on it.  I wore it when we showed and after I stopped riding I put it on my keys. It's still there, and sometimes I wonder how long it will be.

I wouldn't change the equestrian chunk of my life for anything. It taught me a lot about myself, who I was, who I wanted to be and who I didn't want to be, and most of that was due to Code. I raced a 10k this weekend and afterwards went to the equestrian meet (it was in the same town) and saw him. I stood in my sandals and running clothes and I thought how funny it was that in that moment my present life and past life were meeting. I scratched under his mane (which is hilariously long) and he stretched his neck out in gratitude. He then pinned his ears and barred his teeth and I instinctually slapped his neck and forcefully muttered through clenched teeth "Don't you fucking bite me." Some things never will change.

So this is my ode to Code. I feel as though I can never express enough on this subject and what he has meant to me and still means to me. I can only hope that he does a fraction of what he has done for me for someone else. I think that people who have had a horse for a best friend share a certain kind of connection. Horses are of the most therapeutic animals - mentally, physically, and most of all, emotionally.

Tuesday: 20 with Lauren
Wednesday:10 at Custer, 3 with Cohen, 6 at urban herd. 19  on the day
Thursday: swam at the aqua herd!  swimming is hard, swim caps hurt, and Cheryl Pickett is the sweetest person ever.
Friday: 8 with Joe at Custer
Saturday: 6.2 I raced a 10k for the first time this weekend and finished in 46 minutes. It was faster than I was expecting, and I actually kind of enjoyed it! Kim Barnes (a friend from the horse world, how fitting that this made it into this post) was in 3rd and we ran it in together. I don't have the heart to outkick people, I suppose that's the trail runner in me. We both finished hard and strong, and I fought nausea as soon as we stopped. I was delighted with how it went, considering I already had almost 50 on the week and the legs were tired from the bigger back-to-backs early in the week. I was surprisingly sore from this on Sunday, and it amazes me how the roads can really beat you up. I'd still rather run an ultra. But I managed to take 2nd in my AG and 4th OA. Not bad.
Sunday:  nothing. This is mostly because I am lazy and I just didn't feel like running. I also got down on some Two Hearted on Saturday, so I was feeling a bit.. under the weather.
total: 53. For some reason I was thinking I had more than this on this week.  Hopefully I forgot to log a run, but realistically I just found a reason to slack.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

fashionably late in august

I stood in line at the bank to deposit a wad of money and a couple of measly paychecks four days ago and I became incredibly aware of how incredibly aware I am of most things on a daily basis and how that may make me a bit more weird than I let on. The line was quite long - 8 people in front of me to be exact. I didn't mind, because I wasn't in a hurry. I had attempted the drive-thru minutes before, but the plastic shutter on the thing was down and I had no idea how to get it back up, so I walked inside.  I looked out the glass doors to my left and saw Cohen staring straight at me in-between my two front seats. It was hot out, so I had left the car running with the AC on, and I imagined for a moment what Cohen would do if anyone tried to steal my car. I shifted my weight onto my left foot and flexed my right because it felt a little tight. A few days before I had thrown on my 110s and, for whatever reason, they had chewed up the top of my right foot. The wounds weren't completely healed yet, and I clenched my jaw as I felt the top layer or two of my skin was stuck to the inside of the upper of my shoe. It felt wet, and I knew that was likely blood and pus that had partially dried and meshed everything together. To avoid my eyes tearing I shifted them slightly to the right and looked into the room in the corner of the building which revealed a girl who is likely not much older than me staring at a computer screen. I wondered what the fuck she did at the bank. I wondered if her back hurt because she was hunched over a keyboard. I wondered what she was staring at on the screen. I wondered if she was even staring at anything relevant on the screen and I wondered if she felt as trapped as she looked. I wondered if her job was to tell people that if they would be approved for loans or not, and then I wondered if she had ever had anyone cry in her office before. I decided she probably had, because people cry over money. I took a few steps forward. I rested my right hand on the strap that goes across my body for my bag and tilted my head a little to the right. I wondered if she could feel me staring at her, and I wondered if she had ever driven through the mountains and thought about how insignificant her life might be. I picked up on the chatter regarding bank accounts and scanned the people conversing with the tellers. Though there weren't many of them, most of them seemed to be upset and disputing something. I thought it to be a bit funny that all of the conversations were probably relatively the same, yet I couldn't necessarily make out particular words. I thought it to be even a bit more funny that you can often tell what people are talking about without even hearing them. It's possible to listen without really listening. I wondered if that girl had a picture of a beach as her background on her computer. I wondered if she had been to an ocean and taken it for what it really is, instead of a nice tan and a weak pina colada. I took a few more steps forward and shifted my eyes ahead. I blinked and felt the salt crusted on my eyelids. It was hot that day, and I wondered if that girl even liked Kalamazoo.

The past two weeks:
tuesday - 11 at night with Jesse, Joe, Erin, Lauren and Shawn
wed - 6 with Michelle, 2 with Cohen
thursday - 5 with Katie at Al Sabo
friday - 18 at Custer.  First 8 with Joe, last 10 solo.
saturday - 17 with Jesse At Cannonsburg.  This was really fun, even though I felt like hell due to a strong cold coming on.
sunday - 11.  5 in the morning at the Arbs with Joe and Michelle.  Felt even worse due to the cold. 6 at dirty herd, and I was feeling better by the afternoon.
total:  69

tuesday - 10 at night.  4 solo at Al Sabo before Joe and Lauren got there.  Got two out and realized I had minimal minutes before I said I'd be back, and tempo'd in.  I have not ran that hard in a LONG TIME, and it hurt.  But it felt good.  I had forgotten what it feels like to push like that.  We did 6 together after.
wednesday - 5 at urban herd.  This was the new route through East Campus which I was dreading but it was SO FUN.  The worst ex-boyfriend in the history of ever showed up (what the fuck?), but the Truppster and I still had a blast.  It was up and down the stairs on each side of the East Hall field, and on the way down Joe and I would race - him on the stairs, me on the dirt next to them.  This downhill is actually kind of terrifying and I thought for sure I would lose my teeth if I fell and smashed my face.  But, as usual, it was a fit of laughter each time.  If there's one thing I cannot control, it's my laughter when I'm having a lot of fun on runs.  Especially downhills.
thursday - 3 with Cohen at the arbs
friday - 3 Cohen again at the arbs
saturday - 22 with Zach and Jesse at Yankee, despite going out for 30.  Went exploring and had a lot of fun.  Felt pretty shitty the entire time, and was relieved to call it at 22 and go to the bar down the road.
sunday - 8 in the morning with Michelle at Custer.  7 at dirty herd.  The dirty herd run was comical to me.  My legs felt completely dead, and I could do nothing past about a 9:30/mile which is fine with me.  Joe hung back and dragged me in.  Debated not going, and glad I did.  Ended up being a nice little shakeout.
total:  58

I'm attempting to get back to focusing on longer back-to-backs and it's going pretty well. I feel like TNF 50 in December will be here before I know it, and even more-so on the forefront is pacing Kendrick for The Bear 100 at the end of September. I am incredibly excited for that trip, but more on that later. Maybe. As far as mileage goes, I'm content sitting between 50 and 70. I have almost completely blown out my 1010s, which really makes me kind of sad. It is debatable whether they're in worse shape than the 110s, but perhaps that's a topic for another post. In other, more important fields of my life, I can finally get all of my hair into one ponytail, kind of, and it resembles the top of a pineapple. Things are looking up.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

(at)tempting in august

I've been toying with the idea of committing to being a vegan for a few months.  I went anywhere from 0-6 days starting sometime in March, and have dedicated the month of August to be my true trial.  I didn't want to do it when I was actually training for something, and after BH100 and Devil's Lake 50 I was in no shape to think about my diet, I was far too busy eating whatever the hell I wanted.  Now that I've done enough sulking, eating and drinking, I thought now would be a good time to give this a go with no races on the forefront.  Turns out Kendrick was also thinking about trying this, so I'm not completely in it alone.

It's going pretty okay, despite the fact that I work in a restaurant that serves amazing Italian food which only approximately 4% of is vegan, and the 4% including drink garnishes of olives and cherries.  But, you know, I'm trying. ...And it sucks.  I hate telling people what I'm doing this because I hate their responses.  Almost everyone gives me shit about it and asks why, and when I say "potential health benefits" they get all offended.  I certainly don't think veganism is for everyone, but I do think that it might be for me.  It's most definitely trending in the ultra world right now and I want to see if I can get any benefits out of it, and people (for whatever reason) tend to not like this.  My best reply, though, came from Susie.  Our conversation went something (read: exactly) like this:
"So, what is vegan again?"
"No animal product.  So, no meat, dairy, etc."
"But you can have, like, fish, right?"
"...That is an animal.  So... no."
(Sorry I outed you Sus, but at least I didn't make it my Facebook status) ;)

I went to the store on Tuesday and when I got home I realized I may or may not have bought food strictly pertaining to a 'fruitarian' diet.  Everything seems to be incredibly tempting until I get home.  Out of sight, out of mind I suppose.

After Devil's Lake I did exactly what I said I was going to do.  I did a lot and I did nothing, and sometimes I did a lot of nothing.  I didn't come back to my apartment until near the end of July.  I stayed at the lake instead and swam every day (my lame attempt to keep some sort of aerobic capacity), biked a bit more than my normal commute to class miles, and climbed a few times.  At first I hated this. I felt lazy, out of shape, and like a general failure.  After about 6 days I started to love it, and that's when I realized I actually did need a break.  My body needed it and my mind needed it even more.  I can't remember how many days I took completely off from running, but I think it was 12.  After those 12 though, it was time.  I was literally going to lose my mind if my legs didn't start moving.  The first week back was pretty measly.  I didn't log anything, so I have no idea what I did as I cannot remember that far back, nor do I really care.  I'd guess somewhere between 20-30.  This week I decided to go for somewhere between 60 and 70, which I got.

It's a huge pain in the ass coming back, but I'm shuffling through it.  My best run this week was an impromptu 3 mile run with Cohen around the intramural fields.  Because it's so close to my apartment I like to take him there and let him run, and there's also a small pond behind the trees where he can cool off.  Anyway, I had already ran with Erin that morning and walked him down there barefoot to throw the ball around.  I ended up jogging around the field for 26 minutes and had an absolute blast.  Cohen loves it too because he gets to chase me, and it felt good on the muscles to do some fast pick-ups with him, and it felt really good to get that many minutes in barefoot.  It's a lot of fun to do this with Cohen because I think he's a very funny dog, and he gets super excited when I start skipping or running backwards.  I met a few other people that had brought their dogs there, and after I was done one guy came up and told me he had been watching me for at least 20 minutes from the top of the hill with a small group of other people, and that he had thought, at first, a girl had a pony on the field.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  I looked up and sure enough there were 6 people still watching.  I wasn't sure if my cheeks were hot from running in an open field for almost 30 minutes or the idea that people had just been watching me play with my dog like a complete idiot.  We swiftly jogged back home after that.

monday - nothing
tuesday - 3 with Cohen at the arbs, 7 night run (Lauren's first night run)
wednesday - 10 at the arbs solo
thursday - 6 with Erin, 3 at IM fields
friday - 10 custer with Joe and Erin
saturday - 9 at custer, 6 at al sabo
sunday - 10 at al sabo.  Made Joe go out with me before dirty herd because I was bored, and we saw Matt out there so the three of us got somewhere between 5-6 in, then the rest with everyone else.

total of 64

I also read my running log from last summer yesterday.  At this time I was training for the Detroit marathon, and my entries were something like "Today was pretty slow.  Felt okay, just kinda blah."  I scrolled down and my average paces would be 7:20s.  I probably won't ever be that fast again.  I was also doubling almost every day with speed workouts, hill workouts and tempo runs.  I obviously never ran Detroit because I got distracted with running my first 50 in September.  And I'm more than okay with that.  BUT on some other entries I would ramble on about injury pain.  I've never actually been injured, but I do wish I knew what pains I was talking about.  So, for this week, I'm specifically logging:
My knees hurt.  It's definitely not a kind of hurt where I can't run, and I don't notice it when I run at all. It mainly just kind of feels like stiffness, but I can really feel it in the bone, I think.  Anyway, it's not serious, but I thought it was worth logging, in case next time I run myself into the ground and my knees start to hurt when I jump my mileage back up, I'll know it's not the first time.

ALSO, if you're still reading this ridiculous ramble, I have good news.  The Limousines are back to making music, and this single off of their new album is kind of my anthem right now.  Because I said 'what should we do?' and you said 'We can do anything we want to.'