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Posts Tagged ‘beautiful’

What an amazingly beautiful day!  33 degrees and sunny.  Amazing running weather and perfect to get the endorphins flowing.

Here’s the best photo I found of what this day looks and feels like.  Wish I had taken it.  But my run felt just like this, even though it was on the city street.

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Even though my eyes were more ambitious than my legs (2 runs in less than 15 hours, ouch!), I’m glad I got a chance to get out there and breathe in the beauty of that cold, sunny mile.

Hope you get the chance to get out there and enjoy some of this gorgeous winter weather too.

Last of all, my Big Thought on today’s run:  We’re not promised a tomorrow.  Love and appreciate every minute of today!  (Trite, but true.)  Enjoy!

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No snow today in our area.  In fact it was warmer than usual, but still just perfect temp-wise for this cold-weather running junkie.

No slush or mess (darn), but cool enough to make the run fun and slightly crazy.

If felt like this:

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And no, this isn’t me.  (Not hardly.)

My route was through my neighborhood with enough crumbly curbs that I just decided to run in the asphalt bike path to avoid injury.  I’m not in quite as great shape as this chickie.  (Ha!)  But I can tell you, my shoes sure did look better than hers!

In any case, I decided early on in my running adventures that I wasn’t going to let how I looked determine how I felt when I ran, or whether I had the nerve to get out there and run at all.  Several years ago, a local chiropractor had encouraged me to get active and gave me some tips on running, since I’d tried that a few times in my life.

The biggest obstacle for me at the time was getting out there at all.  I had let myself get so out of shape that I was completely humiliated.  I wondered how hard it would be to run under cover of darkness or in the very early morning so that I wouldn’t horrify innocent bystanders.  I couldn’t look in the mirror and deal with myself, let alone imagine the awful spectacle I was sure to become if I began running where people could see me.

The other option, of course, was trail running.  But since at the time I was terrified of encountering the axe murderer if I was alone on some trail, I opted out of the alone-in-the-wilderness opportunity.  (FYI:  Still terrified of the axe murderer.  I do trails now, but not by myself.  Call me paranoid, but I’m still here!)

Eventually, I made the hard decision to care more about my health and well-being than about how I looked and whether I would become the daily entertainment for potential rude pea-brains who probably never ran a half-block, much less a half-marathon.  I decided that what mattered to me was my plan for my life and health, and what that meant to me as a mother, daughter, wife and friend.  I decided that rather than focus on how things might appear to be at the moment (bad and blubbery), that I would focus on my vision for my health and my future (bright and vital).

And what happened was amazing.  I was able to go from walking to short runs and then long runs.  I never became a fast runner, but I was cool with that as an adult-onset athlete.  I became determined to get those runs done.  The more challenging the weather and terrain, the better runner I became.  I grew stronger physically, mentally and emotionally.  And years later, even after breaks from running, I know that lacing up my shoes and heading out onto the road holds the promise of that strength.

And I came to realize that even though my route may not be as beautiful as Chickie’s route in the photo above, and even though my bod may not be as fit as her 20-ish little self, I have something better for myself day by day.  Because I keep on going and keep focusing on my vision, every run becomes a championship run for me.  Every run really holds the possibility of feeling like this photo on the inside, regardless of my circumstances.  And on days like today, where the weather and the circumstances and the emotions of the day and the endorphin cocktail combine just right, the Strong is even Stronger.  And the experience is something absolutely Beautiful.

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So this is the shirt I SHOULDA bought during my last VA Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  And it’s also the shirt I SHOULDA worn at my race this last Sunday. 

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The company is One More Mile Running and I get absolutely NOTHING if you buy something from them.  (Come to think of it, I should talk to those guys about some kind of finders’ fee–but I digress.)

I love the hilarious shirts this company makes.  Going to an expo for me is like going to Vegas is for some people.  I give myself a certain (small) amount of money that I know I will throw away on super-fun running gear on the (likely) chance that I will have a great time while wearing said gear in the future.  Actually, in this light, the odds are far better than Vegas, but again…I digress.

So I did NOT buy the shirt but I did INDEED have the experience the shirt indicates at a race this past Sunday at one of my local running club’s signature events. 

Explanation:

Each year our awesome local running club, the Kennekuk Road and Trail Runners, hosts an event called the Wild Wild Wilderness Run.  Runners from all over the midwest descend upon our lovely little hamlet to challenge themselves on the Wilderness Trail. 

See, the thing is, the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run includes at least one portion of trail that is not really a trail for human beings.  True, some deer and squirrel may have ventured up the side of that beast, but humans…not so much.

And the OTHER thing is, THIS year I knew that beast was coming.  I ran the stinking trail last year.  And I heard from my friend–let’s just call her Ami (because that’s her name)–that the run was SO much easier when you knew what to expect.  Just so you know: she totally lied.  (A different experience, but NOT easier!  Still love you though, Ami.)

So now in the interest of Truth, Justice and the American Trail-Running Way,  if you’re EVER considering the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run, you should know THIS is TRULY what to expect: 

7.55 miles (or 7.45 miles, depending on the race year) of some of the most beautiful trail in the region.  Including: 

3.5 initial miles of relatively bumpy, grassy trail, in and out of the woods.  Wear your deet during tick season.  Basically an enjoyable but moderately challenging run.  Followed by…

4 miles of hell on earth.  A mountain fit for certain animals, but definitely not people.  Creeks to leap over.  A slippery bridge to run across.  Hills, hills and more hills.  A “stairway” built into the side of a nearly-vertical hillside just before mile seven–that conveniently had its STEPS removed this year–where you are basically sliding up a rooted-mud-hill.

Essential Aside Advice:  Try to strategically select the people who are running in front of you and behind you as you face these natural obstacles.  Sliding down a mud-hill onto the head of the helpful, but completely unsuspecting, gentleman behind beneath you as you lose your footing on one of these obstacles is not the most polite way to make new friends.  Even if he does promise that he won’t let you fall down the hill.  As you are practically sitting on his head.  *sigh*  Well, after hitting solid ground, at least there’s plenty of motivation to pick up the pace and get outta there as fast as you can after that little getting-to-know-you adventure. 

And back to the shirt.  See, while the front-half of the shirt would have been me on Sunday, the back-half of the shirt would be me TODAY.  After my rugged adventure.  While trying to walk or move quickly.  Thank goodness for my friend, Ibuprofen. 

And regarding the WWW Run.  Would I do it again next year, even after all of the muddy drama?  OF COURSE!  Maybe even several times next year.  Because, come to think of it, it wasn’t really that tough after all.  Yeah, in fact, it was more like awesome.  Kinda like childbirth is awesome the farther you get away from it. 

I’ll be there.  Probably with a cool new shirt.  And definitely with a strategy that calls for me making new friends in more lady-like ways than sitting on some poor stranger’s head.

 P.S.  As proof that I should have known better and for the entertainment of the historians among you:  Here’s the post about a couple of last year’s trail runs:  Trail Runs Before I Knew Better 

 

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Running Shoes: BEFORE

So here’s the thing. 

I had this whole post planned with the title:  You Don’t Expect Me to Run Up THAT, Do You?  And the post was about the Wild Wild Wilderness Run hosted by the Kennekuk Road (and must.not.forget.the.TRAIL) Runners a couple months ago. 

That trail featured 7.55 miles of pure running torture.  (So terrible that I plan on running it again in the arctic weather we surely can expect during the Sibearn Express on January 2, 2010.)  Seriously, though.  It was terrible.  There was a nearly vertical hill that only mountain goats or really nimble deer should ever be expected to climb, one that hugged an earth wall and where a single step to the left would leave a person pummeling hundreds of yards to their demise in a thornbush-infested ravine.  There were three or four miles of challenging, but bearable terrain that initiated the uninitiated WWW trail runner.  Then (surprise, newbie!) the turn-off to the hill-from-hell.  Only to be followed by three or four miles more  of Really. Hard. Trail Running. 

Now, I love running hills.  But these weren’t people-hills.  They were animal-only hills.  And those super-runners who could just prance up them with ease–well, I’m astounded by those people.  They need a special category of fitness just for them.

As for me, I was so proud of Finishing Without Dying that I floated along on that experience for quite some time.  It mattered very little to me that I was near the Very End of the pack.  I was thrilled beyond words to have finished on my feet instead of a stretcher.

So that was the essence of the post I was going to write.  Because that was the craziest trail I’d run so far.  Until today.

Today I was introduced, quite accidentally, to the Backpack Trail at Forest Glen.  I personally believe they call this the Backpack Trail because most normal humans would need to bring camping supplies (or at least a meal!) in order to traverse the sucker, because it takes SO LONG and is SO HARD to finish this monster of a trail.

Now the introduction to the trail was only partially accidental, I confess.  Because I planned to do the 4.5 mile trail.  You know, the “this-11-mile-trail-intimidates-me-so-I-want-a-shorter-version-of-the-Backpack-Trail” trail.  What I did NOT plan to do was the 11 mile version of the Backpack Trail. 

Had I completed the 4.5 mile version, I’d still have had plenty of material to share with you, believe-you-me.  But the fact that just one teensy-weensy turn to the left rather than the right had us move our bodies over 11 miles of terrain instead of 4.5 miles is just plain wicked.  Indeed, we made the left vs. right decision because some Very Helpful (sadistic) Campers advised us that everyone had headed toward the left.  Thank you campers. 

What followed was an adventure that my two running buddies and I certainly had not anticipated.  We were told that we’d be heading over a creek.  Indeed, we headed over multiple creeks.  “Creek” is a highly subjective term, apparently.  I’m thinking, it’s a little thing you can hop over.  Nope.  It’s several big things that, even if you don’t fall off the slippery rocks that pose as steps across the current, you’re going to be wading in the water at least up to your ankles.  (Before you Florida readers think me a wimp, now, please remember that it was 33 degress when I got in the car to drive to this adventure!). 

And there were hills.  So many hills.  This trail wasn’t playing.  And let’s not forget that it’s been raining for, like, 952 days straight here in Central Illinois, so it was Mud City everywhere we went.  Read that:  No Traction.  Slip-N-Slides are fun when you’re eight and in your front yard with your neighbor buddies.  When you’re 43 years-old and trying to find footing climbing up a Monster Mud Hill, there are few humans that would call the exercise fun. 

Indeed, as we got to the bottom of our 382nd hill (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) we stopped thinking, “surely this is the last big hill we have to deal with” and started thinking, “surely this stinking trail has to end at some point.” 

Who knew that any trail, anywhere in the known universe could have So Many Gigantic Up’s and Gigantic Downs?  One after the other.  (Of course, happily interspersed with flowing creeks throughout.)

And the downhills.  I believe they were even worse than the uphills.  I’d always had the strategy of running on the downhills whenever possible.  It’s just that it was Very Rarely possible on this Sadist Trail.  The first bad boy that we faced, I remember clearly thinking that we’d taken a wrong turn.  People aren’t supposed to go straight down hills that steep with NO earth on either side.  Just a little mountain goat path straight down with an occasional tree mercifully situated for holding-on-for-dear-life on the downward descent.  I remember thinking after that first hill that the worst was behind us.  HA HA HA HA HA.  No.

All three of us in our brave little what-in-the-blazes-are-we-doing-out-here-without-a-GPS-or-a-cell-phone party fell nicely on our touckases at least once during the adventure.  We kept a good eye-out for each other and never got too far apart while out there.   We learned the difference between a shriek of  “Woo Hoo!” (“We’re awesome!  Look what we’re doing!”) and a shriek of “Woo Hoo!” (“Heaven help me, I’ve just fallen into the biggest mud pit in a five state region!”).  We learned the difference between this-hurts and this-sucks-but-let’s-keep-going-because-we-still-have-daylight.  And we most certainly learned to love the signs with the little red arrows and how to look for the red splotches on lots of trees. 

Most of all, we learned that there was more within us than any of us bargained for when we set out to Forest Glen for a little run one cold Saturday morning in November.  We learned we could do it.  At least for me, I surprised myself that I could do it.  And any one of us could have gone the 13.1 half marathon distance–so we learned that we were able to do that too!  I had another chance to give one something that had intimidated me a beat-down.  And we were blessed with the commraderie, the friendship, that comes from battling those stinking hills and creeks and elements together. 

Overall, it certainly was a day worth having.  Maybe even a day worth repeating.  A great adventure by some unlikely adventurerers.  And a great achievement by some tough-as-nails women who, though total newbies, were ready and willing to give it our all.  And we did. 

Three other Very Important Points: 

1.  Hats off to the Kennekuk Road (and Trail) Runners who gave every one of us a round of applause as we staggered off the trail.  These Super Runners had been done for well over an hour, but were still glad to cheer on the lost-little-newbies that somehow finished that 11 mile beast without dying! 

2.  My trail shoes are now officially trail shoes.  Here’s the after picture: 

Shoes: AFTER

3.  WW Activity Points mean I can EAT after today.  Yes!

4.  I’m certain I’ve forgot to mention much more than what’s been said here already.  I’m sure you’ll get more tidbits as the days and weeks move on…

For now, here’s proof of the mud: 

Muddy!

And proof of the buds:

We Made It!

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Yesterday was a wonderful family day.

Yesterday was a 10-mile run day. 

Today is a Rest Day. 

Who knew after you’re 40 your body does most of its hard work when you’re actually resting

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Ahhhh.  Life is good.

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seasons[1]

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In years past, I looked up from my mad racing about pace (not running, just racing around) and noticed that the gorgeous splash of fall color was gone and the trees were bare. 

What happened?  How had I missed it? 

I also missed much of the beauty of the heavy snow covering the tree branches, not to mention the big, huge, sloppy snowflakes that looked like a kindergartener could have painted them with white paint and a big, wide paintbrush.  The magnolia trees lost their pink buds before I could really appreciate them.  Summers flew by. 

This year has been different.  And in the past few weeks, I actually realized that I was seeing what I’d been missing for many years.

A runner sees the splash of sunshine that travels across the red and orange-trimmed trees and bounces of the lake in a sliver on an otherwise cloudy day.  A runner has the chance to run on a blanket of golden leaves and under trees still heavy-laden with their yellow fall bounty, like running through an autumn cloud.  A runner appreciates the difference in the landscape and how far you can actually see through the trees when their summer garments have fallen. 

I hadn’t even noticed what I’d been missing. 

It’s only been in the past few weeks, when my runs have finally become more than avoiding collapsing, that I’ve been able to relax enough to take in the beauty of the world around me.  I find myself each day looking forward to seeing, hearing and even smelling the adventures in store for me that day. 

And I’ve found myself grateful, so grateful, for the privilege of putting one foot in front of the other, in a body that can move itself forward, with a mind and will that can choose to continue to get out there each day, and with a spirit that can offer up a prayer of faith and appreciation and celebration for the blessings that God has given me, with a whispered, “Wow.  Look at God.”

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