Monday, December 26, 2011


On our run today, my kid noticed an ache in her shoulder. Turns out it is from Wii sports. Specifically, bike racing. You have to pedal with your arms, around what appears to be a volcanic island. This was a Christmas gift for the kids. When I got it from the middle aged clerk at the video game store at the mall, I asked what sports were featured on this game called Wii Sports Resort? Massage? Hot tubs? He looked at me with a half grin, half grimace. I think he half hates his job, but I might just be projecting my worst fears about my son's future prospects on this guy who is just making an honest living. Anyway, I am a total spazz at Wii basketball, not too bad at archery, but I totally enjoy the bicycle race. They even have the rider experience bonking. When it happened to me during the game, my daughter said, "Hey, it is just like you in the Tour of the Unknown Coast." Kids are so cute.

Wait just a second while I recover from the *literally* just discovered information that the Tour of the Unknown Coast now has a 200 mile ride. Which makes me wonder, when is enough enough?

I am old and I know it. But I really still want to break 3 hours in the marathon just once before I die. My goal is to do it before age 45. At one point in life I really just wanted to finish a marathon. Now, truth be told, a sub 3 hour marathon is no big deal. Probably 20 women in my own small town could do that, and maybe 5 children as well. I do live in an exceptionally fit town, but still: Ouch. Anyway, running is a sport you mainly do against yourself, and I want to beat myself to a pulp before I start my inevitable decline. Or, I should say, before I finish my inevitable decline, as that cat is already out of the bag.

Mixed metaphors aside, I realized 12 things this Christmas:
1. One can only feel so much guilt for replacing a 30 year old television.
2. California is meteorologically challenged. Where is the snow??? And why are things in bloom in December???
3. My children really do not believe in Santa anymore.
4. I sort of wish they still did.
5. I may never, ever run a sub 5 minute mile.
6. Wii puts the "we" into family life.
7. I still miss my parents, may they rest in peace.
8. The Jogg'n Shoppe has had 2 windows broken by vandals this past month. Everyone should shop there and support our local running specialist! Get off the couch!!
9. My poodle, Miles, actually can run.
10. I am so psyched about #9.
11. Life is good.
12. My best gift to me is my health.

Run, and you shall thrive. You can never run enough.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.)
-Mozart requiem, Introit

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
-Chinese proverb

Winter running, no matter the clime, makes sunshine a rare prize for the working stiff. I mean sunshine in the literal sense, no matter if it is raining. I mean sunshine as opposed to darkness. Night shift offers a chance to emerge from dark into light, but night shift involves the deep pain of a shifting circadian rhythm.

I am trying to figure out how to run in the dark. The woods beckon, and I have  a candle of sorts, but just a few days ago a mountain lion was spotted on my trails. I actually was running at dusk that day, and kept having that slightly panicky feeling that something wasn't right, that same feeling that can come over you while sitting on a surfboard with your legs dangling into the shark-ridden waters. I try to tell myself that the mountain lions are always there, whether or not they are spotted. Why does being seen make them so much scarier? The thing about a mountain lion is they will not make any noise before they eat you up. They are experts at stealth. I miss my great big fierce border collie, who used to run for hours with me but now his joints can only handle an elderly trot for about 20 minutes. He made me feel safe in the dark.

Dogs and lions aside, I need to run in the dark, or I will most certainly turn into a big, fat, grouchy puddle of insanity. I leave my work in the evening: it is dark. I arise before work in the morning: it is dark. Darkness is sad and scary and it tempts a girl to carry pepper spray or to learn kick boxing.

Once I was running in the woods on a dark morning, dogless. Suddenly, about 20 minutes into my run, my headlamp failed. I stopped. I stood there with towering redwoods all around but completely invisible, because I am not a nocturnal animal. Humans are pathetic--we can practically kill ourselves walking to the bathroom at night in our familiar but dark bedrooms. But back to that one morning: I stood there, alone, in the dark. After a minute or two, outlines of trees and ferns and the path became visible. I looked up at the moon and the stars twinkling between the tree tops. The air was so crisp and the quiet so absolute. I felt very calm, and suddenly very alive.

Then I fixed my lamp, and ran on.

Today I ran into the sunset with my eldest child. We are avoiding the woods during prime hunting hours, so we chose the marsh. Due west the sun was a massive orange fireball. The ducks didn't seem to notice. Toward the end of our run, which we had agreed was to be low key, we found ourselves flying at a fairly crisp pace. Daughter turned to me and said, in a somewhat sassy tone, "I just would like to point out that you are the one running like a bat out of hell, not me."

I somehow never pictured one of my children including me in such a simile.

Kurt Vonnegut once said he dreaded the thought that the requiem proclamation of resting in eternal light might be true. Wouldn't it be better to rest in darkness? Who doesn't enjoy that moment of sleep, curled in bed, enveloped in darkness and silence, with the stars and moon a steady night light. Like the night on our honeymoon, camping in Maine in October, when we found our way to the rocky beach at midnight, and laid head to head all bundled in down coats and mittens, staring at the most spectacular night sky I have ever seen.

I think the headlamp is calling me. But it'll be at least a week before I can muster the courage to enter mountain lion central in the dark.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In Common

If I run long enough, my brain can cease its banter, and this is the main reason I believe I prefer running what some may consider ridiculously long distances. Though these days, marathon training is common. To be running long you must be doing ultras. Preferably in a desert, on a mountain populated with dangerous wild animals, naked, or perhaps all three.

This past weekend I took some time off. Not just in the sense of "I am not scheduled to work but I plan to cram in road trips, constant emailing, and/or messed up fits of sleep in a desperate state of hurry up because work starts again soon." Nope, this was a slow weekend, like summer in Wisconsin when the locusts buzz and it is so hot out the candles melt. Not that it ever gets anything like hot here, but it was like that. Easy going. This felt essential after the image and odor of maggots and bed bugs, the despair of drug and alcohol-ruined bodies, the pressing in of grief, and disease too far gone. I am referring to work, not a bad hotel at which I recently stayed nor an overly dramatic TV show.

A run, like today, in the woods, can quiet my mind. My daughter helped as my partner. I listened to her voice, her stories of German class (cooking Kartoffeln) and culinary class (making pastry for apple pizza). Come to think of it, there is a lot of cooking going on at school. We ran without speaking much of the time. As with a good friend, we can talk. Or not.

Beethoven can also quiet my mind. It doesn't have to be Beethoven but he does come to mind as I have been playing him in recent days. It could be Bach, Poulenc, Chopin or that ancient book of Christmas Carols with lovely settings of traditional and lesser known European music of the season that I inherited from my parents. Even listening to Handel's Messiah, which I am allowed to do from Dec 1-31 only (an unwritten law in my house) quiets my mind.

Making soup ceases the brain banter as well. I got so empty in my thoughts the other day that I nearly chopped off my thumb. It took 24 hours before it stopped oozing. Thankfully I noticed, and for a moment I just stared with mindful interest at the chunk of that useful digit so silently and painlessly missing. I may be exaggerating a little, but it will definitely leave a little scar to remind me. For the record, I did not contaminate the soup, and the soup got rave reviews. And I was so calm about the whole thing that my kid sitting across from me studying when it happened never even noticed. Though the fact is you could be standing there on fire and it could go unnoticed by your children. Love them.

A quiet mind. This is what long runs, Beethoven and making soup have in common.