December 26, 2010

the day of rest

we had a nice christmas. as usual I was awoken by my siblings at an ungodly 6:15 am, made coffee, admired the tableau of presents under the tree, opened said presents, donned all my new clothes at once (fuzzy socks, new sweater, the all-important fancy new compression running tights), and went out to play ball with our black lab, max, who gets a few new fetch toys in his stocking each year.

Jessica's camera 010
(the backyard)

after the morning's festivities there was french toast to make, and wrapping paper to clean up; the dining room table to set; toys to momentarily play with before company arrived. (we had particular fun with the remote control sumo wrestlers). then my aunt & uncle and cousins got here. there was eating, and more presents, and some sipping of ridiculous, insanely expensive, moderately good coffee. there was some dreamy browsing online for a pair of tall riding boots, subsidized by a christmas gift card. there were kids running around yelling excitedly.

there were, as always, chickens.

Chuck, Charlotte, and Peepers
(chuck, charlotte, & peepers)

the rooster, by the way, has honed his intimidating death stare.

the prize rooster gives me the eye

Jessica's camera 015

and had not crowed much in a few weeks, but did rise to the occasion when I threatened him by wearing a puffy white coat, flapping my wings, and strutting around with my beautiful red comb:

Jessica's camera 020

we ate dinner at my grandmother's, fourteen of us at a table crammed so tightly into her small living room that in order to get up from our chairs, we had to climb over furniture. there was pie. and ice cream. pretty much I'll probably never eat again after the last four days.

today was much more of the same: a morning spent in blankets on the couch, then a trip to western maryland to see my aunt, uncle, and cousins, whom I was very close to as a child and whom I hadn't seen in a year. we watched football, ate too much lasagna, and probably scared my cousin's new girlfriend. the next generation, ages 2 to 13, ran through the house with various toys. this is the holiday for me: messy and loud, with too much eating; lots of reminiscing, teasing each other about stories from our past. we have an ever increasing number of small children in the house, and the kids' table, once ours, gets filled with other faces. there's a lot of coffee, and everyone's tired, and on lucky years, it's snowing just enough to be pretty but not enough to be meddlesome. by the end, you're overstuffed and you've laughed too hard and you probably need a nap.

yesterday -- christmas day -- was day 101. I ran a mile and a half in my new tights. today is my first day off since september 15. if I really wanted, I still have 40 minutes to get in a run, but I'm forcing myself to stop. this, then, is where the streak ends. and I am sad. tomorrow once again is day one.

merry christmas, everyone.

December 24, 2010


These journeys are quiet. They mark my days with adventure
too precious for anyone else to share, little gems
of darkness, the world going by, and my breath, and the road.

-- from run before dawn, william stafford

December 23, 2010

day 99


Our ancestors were farmers
they did their talking with their shoulder muscles
they got up at dawn and baked their brains
all day in forty-acre cornfields
they liked to listen to the singing of their bodies
blood set in motion, the hum of air
the virtues they most prized were
tenacity, endurance, raw physical energy
an unlimited capacity to absorb punishment
they could smell rain twenty miles away
they had the habit of gazing heavenward
as if what they most wanted to understand
would be coming from that direction and
what came never ceased to amaze them

-- not unlike the runner, joe david bellamy



day 97

day 99: a rough headwind, a distilled sunny sky, two dead deer on the side of the road. a stomachache. this penultimate day is bittersweet.

December 17, 2010

day 93

I am officially one week from streak completion. HOOOO BOY thank god

things on my body that hurt:

no, really, everything.

bottoms of my feet, particularly my left arch, which has a giant knot in it
left calf (giant knot)
left IT band (always troublesome)
left knee, occasionally, in that random runners-knee-inflammation kind of way
quads (giant knots)
left hip. like, every single muscle in my left hip, no joke.
my left psoas, which I separate from my hip because it's the #1 screaming pain on my body, extends into my back, and is the bane of my existence
my lower back
my mid back
my upper back, but that's probably from knitting

so, essentially everything from the ribcage down on my left side is worked. I feel like a walking anatomy book now, having looked up the names of all my ouchie parts and having committed them to memory so that I can now, for example, walk into my massage therapist and say, "ouch, my sartorius." (true: my massage therapist, hilariously, asked me if I was a doctor when I told him my trouble was my psoas. "how do you know what it's called?" he asked. "are you a doctor?" and my honest answer was, "no, I'm a runner.")

I have pretty much settled it in my brain that the streak is over after I've hit my goal. it's not an easy thing to accept, even though the past two weeks have daily found me lamenting the day's run. I have this mentality now that the streak is Everything. in fact, just last night, as I was running on the river, I thought to myself, "boy, I'm really going to miss this." "this" was running! I had the thought and then the ridiculousness of it registered and I reminded myself that actually, um, I'm going to be training for a marathon in the spring. I'm going to be running more than ever.

but there was some truth to the feeling of loss. I accept that during the streak I've developed a much different relationship to running than I've ever had before. likewise, I accept -- and this is why it's hard -- that once the streak is over, my disciplined daily-running mentality will change. training for a marathon is hard -- I'll run a higher mileage in the first week of training than I've run in any of my streak weeks -- but it's also very different. there's not the same compelling sense of "I have to" that accompanies the streak. of course, if I want to hit my secret goal, I do have to -- it's just a different sort of discipline.

then again, during the streak I've often felt as though I've lost running. I have not run truly without pain in over a month, and even then, I think I was experiencing some easy-to-ignore, low-level pain. I haven't run in a certain someone's weekly sunday run because the mileage -- a moderate 8-9 miles -- is too much for me to manage without tweaking one of my many problem areas. (though he has very sweetly accompanied me on several of my single-mile maintenance runs, particularly in the last few weeks when my motivation has been low, and I have appreciated the help). I don't get to run as far as I'd sometimes like; likewise I don't get to run as fast as I'd sometimes like.

marathon training means deriving your motivation from the future. the streak means having propulsion from the past. in the end, it turns out that having run 93 days in a row makes it a whole lot easier to run the 94th. and I will miss that.

December 9, 2010

two years, penniless

hi, I'm pretty

I bought Cookie two years ago today. Unlike last year, I can't say we've been on TV or we've improved our collection; in fact, in my lesson last night, my instructor said, "Wow, I can't believe it's been two years," and I replied, "Me neither. I kind of thought we'd be better than this?"

We had a rough ride on Saturday, which was very blustery here in Portland. Horses don't like wind, because they're prey animals who rely on their sense of hearing, which wind distorts. In the absence of that sense, they rely on each other, which on Saturday meant that every time one horse spooked, everybody spooked! Good times. And since I ride #1 Spook Master, I was often the accelerant to disaster. Every time we reached the far end of the arena (which overlooks the front field of the property), either my mare or the other mare in the arena would jump 4 feet toward the inside of the arena. The other mare was slower about it and more prone to simply balking. Cookie prefers what I like to call the "Arab teleport" method. Arabians seem singularly able to travel faster than the speed of light at times of even minor distress. Keeping the horse between you and the ground can prove ... challenging. In a fit of impatience I grew tired of shying predictably in the same place and made her stand still in that place, resolving to let her move from it only when she'd relaxed. So what did she do? She stood stock still at high alert for about 45 seconds before jumping off all four feet, scaring all four horses in the arena, and causing one seven-year-old girl to fall off her horse.


(The little girl is fine, and bravely got right back on).

Last night in my lesson Cookie had her danger ears back on, but to her credit she trusted me enough to put a lid on the spooking, and she was actually a very nice ride (although she was constantly dipping her inside shoulder, wanting to avoid the scary dark world outside the rail, and I was constantly having to hold her up/boot her back to the outside of the ring). It's exhausting to have a horse constantly on edge, but it does make for a nicer ride than she is on the days she's lazy. At least I don't have to work so hard.

Things I have taught her:
- to pick up her feet on verbal command ("foot") and likewise to hold them until I say "down"
- to stand still while mounting. finally. almost.
- peppermints = good
- how to recognize the peppermint wrapper sound
- to never ever ever be in my way while I'm cleaning her stall
- likewise to never ever ever be in my space. ever. unless invited. (pushy horses are a big pet peeve of mine)
- the verbal cue "blanket," which I say just before sticking her turnout blanket over her head. (she stops what she's doing and drops/raises her head)

Things she has taught me:
- how to sit a buck
- how it's important to have the courage to get on and stay on even on scary days
- how to ride the Arab teleport
- how to sit the world's bounciest trot
- what being a proud mama feels like. she's so pretty that I always get compliments from strangers, at home or away. just Saturday, the mom of a little girl taking lessons came over to say, "that is a very beautiful horse."

I got a big kick out of looking at her sale ad earlier today, which I saved to my computer after I bought her. Under "Activities" she's listed as "Show/Trail/Cow Horse." Cow horse! Hilarious. She probably is, but she hasn't had a Western saddle on her back since the day I bought her. Maybe some day.

what I'd like to do with her, someday:
- jump real fences
- take a dressage test
- teach her to smile (working on it)
- ride an endurance race
- hack out on more trails
- gallop
- go on a hunt (this is my lifetime bucket list goal)

so! here's to one more year of not falling off my horse.

December 8, 2010

day 84

yesterday was the opera tree trimming. we have a big artificial tree that goes in our lobby (which has a nice window to the eastbank esplanade), and everyone's invited to come down and help. it usually ends up just being 5-6 people, but that's OK. I wasn't down there this year because I'd opted to stay in my office and get some things done. then I got a phone call -- it was one of my coworkers, downstairs. "hi, we're trimming the tree," she said, "and we're trying to put your tree topper on it and we can't figure out how to make it stay. can you come down?"

I had totally forgotten! three or four years ago, while setting up one of the rehearsal studios for our annual kickass holiday party, I had made an impromptu tree star out of shiny plastic wrapping paper, leftover cloth ribbon, a wrapping paper tube and a pizza box. and tape. no joke.

so now every year it gets put on the tree. it tickles me to death. I made it! it was just temporary! it makes me feel like part of the family -- like it's one of those ornaments I made as a first-grader that my mother still hangs up. the most wonderful bit is that I manage to forget every year, so every year it's a delightful surprise to go downstairs and put the star on the tree. my star! this year the top of the tree got bent, so I had to do some finagling, but I got it up there. then I stayed and hung ornaments and let everybody listen to the insane amount of christmas music I have on my laptop.

my favorite part has always been Linus saying, "I never thought it was such a bad little tree! it's not bad at all, really. maybe it just needs a little love." maybe indeed.