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It has been a long time since my last posting. A very long and painful time. It’s with an aching heart I write that Tanya, my comrade in all things fun and playful, has lost her 18-year-old son, Zephyr, in a ski accident on January 11 in Jackson Hole.

Since then I’ve composed many blog postings in my head while out on a run. This horrific tragedy requires a well-written reflection. I will be writing that post forever in my head. Instead, this is my shortened less articulate form.

Why we must play. I am not preaching why you must play. I am merely stating why I must play. Why, I think, Tanya must play. It is because with these runs, these steps—the literal movement forward step into the next step—that there is an expression of release and a moment of clarity. There is an awareness of self, of breath, of the mind that forces me to be in the present. Right here. Right now. I know that my head is clearer on a run than at any other point in my life. It’s what keeps me coming back to running. It’s what I know what to do. It’s what I’ve taught myself what to do.

I’ve had someone recently state that she’s not a runner although she’s running 7 miles 3 times a week to train for a half-marathon. Yes, Lauren, you are now a runner. She says “But it still hurts.” Yes, it’s not always easy. Running and easy are only connected when you don’t expand your limits. Once it’s easy, we push ourselves farther and challenge ourselves even more. That is playing. Playing is life.

The concept of play is one of happiness and skipping down the sidewalk or jumping one-legged through a  hopscotch game. My recent concept of play is one of much more importance. It’s not always an easy light activity. It’s weighted with love and remembrance and reflection. It’s therapy beyond what one could ever discuss while sitting in a chair in an office. Play is what it is. The definition changes with each day. I run with grief. I run for grief. I play to learn.

Right now I am training for my first marathon–May 15th, five days after I turn 40. (This forty milestone was a very big deal for me–a mid-life crisis in a way. That was until Zephyr died and perspective is now in place.)  My inspiration is Tanya (that’s another blog posting about her soon-to-be ultramarathon debut!). My inspiration while going up hills that hurt is Zephyr. My new mantra comes from graffiti at Zephyr’s school. It’s one I repeat with every beat–every step up the hills: life is beautiful. (It really says “life is beautiful, and stuff” but that’s harder to keep the beat with “and stuff” while running. In fact it’s harder to keep the beat with “and stuff” in life.)

Life really is beautiful,
and stuff.

 

Tanya & Leslie, 12k on Feb. 13, 2011. (She beat me)

 

 

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Goal: June 26 4pm 3.5 miles

download race flyer (pdf) here: summerfest

Beginners: This is for someone who hasn’t run recently or just started running about 1 mile
Intermediate: This is for someone who can run 2 to 3 miles
Advanced: This is for someone who can run 5 to 6 miles a few times a week.
Group Run: The weekend is for your  longest run of the week. It’s meant to be easy.  If you can make the group run, it’s  an out-and-back will be held on SUNDAY mornings at 9am at the Chesterfield Gorge (or suggestions on time/place welcome)
.
(Note: This is something Tanya wants to take on. I am just helping to start it since she won’t be able to organize until after her kid’s graduations.)
Also, feel free to add a comment on what you’ve done or thoughts on schedule.

week 1: May 24
Beginner: 3 runs this week: run/walk 1.5 -2 miles (run 1 min., walk 2 min.).

Intermediate:
3 to 4 runs this week: run 2-3 miles each
Advanced: I am unqualified to guide this but will try to: 4 to 5 runs. one run: intervals (3×2 min., 2min recovery), one run: hills (3x up long hill, like last one in Gorge, walk down in between)
Group Run: SUNDAY morning 9am, Chesterfield Gorge (distance would be determine individually)

week 2: May 31
(will set schedule up before May 31)

Beginner:

Intermediate:
Advanced:
Group Run: SUNDAY morning 9am, Chesterfield Gorge (distance would be determine individually)

week 3: June 7
This is the week you go longest and/or hardest.

Beginner:
Intermediate:
Advanced:
Group Run: SUNDAY morning 9am, Chesterfield Gorge (distance would be determine individually)

week 4: June 14
This is the tapering week, meaning the longest distance on Sat. morning will be about 10% less than the week before.

Beginner:

Intermediate:
Advanced:
Group Run: SUNDAY morning 9am, Chesterfield Gorge (distance would be determine individually)

week 5: June 21–race week! Take it easy this week. Drink lots of water, get good sleep end of week.
Beginner: still do 3 runs this week: run/walk 3.5 miles. Last run on Thurs or Fri, only do 2 miles at slow pace.
Intermediate: 3 to 4 runs this week: make sure your last hard run is earlier in the week. Thurs/Fri. run easy 2 miles
Group Run: Carpool to the race!

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Indra and Erin are good friends. What moved me about there story was how, at age 12 & 13, they sum up there experience of playing together so well. With Indra’s permission, I’ve copied their post from Tanya (mom) and Indra’s (daughter) blog: running like girls. Indra and Erin, along with two others began their own blog: hilltown saddle sisters.

Happy Mother’s Day-whatever you like to play, I hope today is the day to play.

Running As a Pair

Erin and Indra’s successful run

Erin
Hi, my name is Erin, and I am really good friends with Indra. We are a lot alike, physically and mentally. We do a lot of the same things, including horseback riding, skiing, and now running. After a fun sleepover last night, we both felt in the mood to run. So, this morning, we decided that we would run from my house in Plainfield to the Cummington Creamery. At about 8 a.m. we were ready to go, dressed in our running attire and equipped with money for breakfast. We started running, and after about half a mile, we both started to get a slight cramp. The funny thing was, we were almost 100% in sync, with both our running, and where we got our cramps. I think it has something to do with the fact that we both got the same amount of sleep last night, had the same amount of food in our bellies (none), and were (and are) about the same height and weight. So, we continued to push through, running with our identical cramps. We pushed and pushed ourselves, but about a quarter of a mile away from the Farm Stand, Indra felt as though she couldn’t make it. I started doing things to distract her, which also helped me to continue running with out thinking about the stitch in my side. I talked about nonsense things, and helped her to keep going at the same pace. By the time we made it to our break point, we were exhausted, but there was no pushing away the sense of pride that we felt. It was then that I realized how helpful it can be to run as a team. If either of us had been running by ourselves, I knew that we would have just given in to our discomforts, and we wouldn’t have felt so accomplished!

Indra: On October 13, 2009 I made a resolution to run a full marathon by the time I was 15. And now on May 1, 2010 I have made another resolution. To run a marathon by the time I am 15 with Erin. As a team. While on this run I realised how much motivation and a goal helps you complete what you want to complete. Erin and I decided that we were going to run to the farm stand without stopping for a break once. And Ta-da, we did it! Motivating each other the whole way.


After re-hydrating at the farm stand we walked into the road and started to walk. We had decided that we would have the same goal as the last time, to jog the whole way. After prepping ourselves we started to jog Pacing ourselves, judging by how the other was doing. After the water break we were both re-fueled and ready to run! We were talking to each other, making the time go by faster. We would talk about how when we could see a certain spot how far the Creamery was away from that spot. We turned the bend and could see a new road. A change of scenery. We thought, sighing. We tentatively pulled onto Rout 9, knowing that we would arrive at the Creamery soon. Turning the bend to the little town operated store I was wheezing and both our breath was coming in short. As soon as the Creamery came into view we saw a green truck, “That is our finish line.” We told each other. I lagged behind as Erin picked up the pace. I saw her body position change as she touched our ‘finish line’. A couple seconds later I touched the dark green truck to Erin’s ‘cheering.’ High-fiving we walked/stumbled into the Old Creamery Grocery to eat breakfast. Entering the door we knew we ha and were Running As A Pair.

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It’s two days after my 12 mile trail race and I can’t walk down stairs. In fact, I just dropped off my kid’s lunch and I couldn’t even bother to bend down and tie my shoes. The lactic acid in my legs is so great that every step is met with an internal “eech” and “ouch” and a few external “oomph”. But on the bright side, I’m not hurt nor regretful that I signed up for it; I’ll be able to walk normally in a day or two, right?

Here’s a detailed version of my experience: The beginning of the race for me was basically a light jog/fast hike up around 500 feet (or more?) in about a quarter-mile. Fortunately there were so many people and so few paths that it turned into a corral up the super steep parts, which was perfect for warming up. As a not-so-crafty-veteran-racer, a big mistake for me would be to go out too fast and use up too much energy in the first half. But one goal was to take it slow, so over the next 1.5 miles Tanya and I were deep in the thick of the crowds, which allowed us to go slow and take it easy—being able to walk up the super steep rocky faces.

We stopped for water at the 2 mile mark. Many people carried their own water through different contraptions—hydrapacks, belts, hand-held bottles—it seemed like we were the only ones to stop (note to self: try out hydration packs in the future). Someone stated, “now for the flat section.” Hah! Luckily we had run this before because it would have mentally drained me if I thought the next couple miles was flat. The only difference about this section was that it had longer stretches of just running in between hiking up and down the steep parts.

Mile 4: on the road, just before the Summit House, I had the pleasure of being greeted by my parent-in-laws. The drive up to the top parking lot  was closed so they had to hike the 1.5 miles up! Not an easy feat for anyone, but quite remarkable for them. And I don’t think I mentioned that the day was a scorcher: the high was in the high 80’s/90’s with humidity. So their effort was much appreciated.

And as Tanya and I started for the 1.5 mile drop down to the half-way point, my great husband and 7 yr. old daughter were hiking up to cheer us on. I have a great family.

While we were dropping down down down to the 6 mile mark. Exposed and steep steep steep, almost the whole field was in front of us walking up up up. A great part of this was the cheering on of each other as we passed. I was inspired to watch each and every woman running/walking out there. At the half, I was most grateful for the family who hosted the watering station—a little gatorade and a spray from the hose and we were ready for the second half of the race. I found out there were about 200 people in front of us (field of ~260?).

I feel like I did a good job conserving myself in the first half, so I knew I could complete it. I walked the hills but I was keeping a good pace throughout. From about mile 8 to 11 there was one climb to Taylor’s notch and many other smaller 30, 60, 100, 300 foot climbs and descents (I don’t think I’m exaggerating here, but since I haven’t seen the real elevation chart I really don’t know. Might be best that way.). I ran with a very nice chatty gentleman, David. He was right in front of me walking up all the up hills. When he would pass someone, I would. He was great at pushing me, because on the flats or downhills, he would start running and since I wanted to keep up with him—even though my legs didn’t want to run—I would muster all my energy to start shuffling forward. I had to remind myself, “pick up your feet so you don’t trip.” He generously offered me some gatorade to drink and more importantly the mental support I needed.

2 hours and 40 minutes in to it, I knew I had about forty more minutes to go (and many more hills to climb). At this point, many people were off on the side of the trail, sitting and eating their power gels or bars, or just recovering. I knew that if I stopped my legs might feel better, but I might not ever want to start again.

This is the first time EVER I can recall that my legs were on the verge of bonking. Walking up hills, my hamstrings felt as if there were about to give out and I didn’t want to stop (aside from thirst, the gatorade was also a mental excuse for me to stop for a second or two). My legs have felt fatigued before, but that was playing Ultimate and there are moments in between the points and games for rest. My legs were not prepared for mile eleven and twelve.

I hurt physically. Who knew that when I decided my main goal was to finish the race, that at mile 10 it really would be my main goal: just finishing.

The last half was incredibly hard for me. Next year I will work on my endurance, but I ended strong. The last downhill was challenging but I managed to pass a few people and run hard to the finish. Avita, my daughter greeted me–the most rewarding part! And Juano and his parents made it to the end. What a great support system I have.

I quickly ate the perfect protein: hard boiled egg and salt then almost as immediately I felt like throwing up—a feeling that lasted well into the evening. It was the combination of humidity, 90 degrees, and over exertion.  A nap and lots of food and water later I could get up and walk and talk…

Running for 3 hours, 22 minutes, and a few seconds gave me a lot of time to think. (I had anticipated that it would give me a lot of time to chat with Tanya, yet talking was limited to little quips here and there.) The thoughts going through my head never went negative. I engaged my words: “courage” for the pain, “Smile” to bring out the fun I truly was having, “Be present” to being in the moment. I think these are keeper words.

And I feel very satisfied for completing the hardest race I’ve ever run and already have a strategy for next year: longer training runs and bring something to drink and eat on the course.

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Sienna Wildfield writes here on her running a 5 mile race. I’m not sure if it’s her first, but I found it very inspiring. Thanks for sharing, Sienna! {next posting: the wild seven sisters}

When I heard that Leslie was training for the Seven Sisters 12 mile race I got so excited and inspired that I emailed my running buddy to see if she was interested in doing the race with me.  She emailed me back and politely told me I was insane.  A better run she suggested was the Cave Hill Classic (www.cavehillclassic.com), a five-mile run to benefit the Leverett Peace Pagoda on April 17th. Much more sensible for me.  Thank goodness for good sensible friends!

She and I “trained” just by running a few miles nearly every day.  But what I wasn’t prepared for, physically or mentally was The Hill!  The last one mile stretch of this run is straight up hill… a BIG hill!  All the way to the Peace Pagoda.  I walked/ran that last mile, panting and sweating with my running buddy encouraging me on.  I didn’t care that I was last.  Didn’t care that it was sleeting.  Didn’t care that my nose was running and that I looked like I might pass out at any minute.  All I cared about was breathing, staying in my zone, and getting to the top without toppling over, which I did in just under 1 hour and 10 minutes …  Did I mention THE HILL?

As I reached the finish line at the top of The Hill, the clapping took me out of my sweet spot as all the other runners who had finished way ahead of me, enjoyed their slices of oranges, and were coming back down to escape the sleet, clapping and cheering me on as I approached the finish line.  They all seemed so proud of those of us who obviously don’t intend to race but just wanted to complete something that we too could be proud of.

I wanted to do this run, not with any agenda of racing, but to be part of something that celebrates being alive. Running is an excellent way for me to feel alive.  The pounding of my feet, the cramp in my side, sweat stinging my eyes … then finding that sweet spot to zone into as the elements meet my face and my pulse remains steady.  And running with a good friend makes the experience even more alive!   On the way through the course to the base of the The Hill, the time passed by in a rich way; filled with friendship, sharing and caring for each other and ourselves.  The last mile of the run, I was on my own.  Pushing myself forward, taking on the challenge and completing the task … all the way to the Peace Pagoda – a great analogy of life!

Thank you Leslie for being an inspiration!

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That’s right–twelve weeks ago—in the midst of snow and the beginnings of maple syrup tapping season— I decided to sign up for the Seven Sisters 12 mile race. AND…actually train for it! I wrote it here then on Feb. 13, so I wouldn’t back down.

Tomorrow is the day!!! I did it. I followed the beginner’s coaching routine on Nikefit.com. I usually stray from one of these type of programs a week or two in to it, but this time I was true.

The main thing I worry about is the tapering this week. Thoughts such as: how can I possibly run 3,800 feet of ascents / descents when the little hills are leaving me breathless on my small run yesteday. It’s strange to go to from running double digits to just some jogging around. So, now I employ my word. It’s been:but we’ll see if I find another one along the way (I think I’ll try “smile” or “be present” as well).

On being present: One of the best things about running with a friend is that it’s time devoted to listening and sharing. I am looking forward to spending the hours (hopefully around 3 of them) with my great friend Tanya and being distracted with our chatting about our oldest sons, youngest daughters, life plans and dinner selections. Out there, there is only the breathing, the footsteps, and us. And 250 other people. It’s perfect.

I thought you all might like to see just what we might look like when running in late winter/early spring. Not your average gear girls. But effective to protect us nevertheless.

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For those of you who are keeping track, yes, I am still on course for completing the 7 sister race, a 12 miler on May 2.

Tanya and I went for a training run on Sunday. According to my half-marathon schedule, I was to run 10.5 miles. Instead we visited the sisters  (7 peaks on the Mt. Holyoke Range–see the photo above) which was going to give us a more exact measure if we can do it. We went out for an hour and six minutes and it took us 4 more minutes on the way back. I have no idea how far we actually went since there are no markers to speak of, but we probably made it about three-quarters of the way. We did it! We probably visited about 5 of the sisters and I felt great.

Tuesday’s update: my left quad was completely sore. Nothing else, just that. Tender to the touch. I was going to do some squats and lunges but my leg was telling me otherwise. Today:  I’m all good! Next long run: about 8–10 miles. Or the sisters.

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