Running is always a good idea.

And to think I almost didn’t run today, I thought as I sat among the leaves, stretching my hips and feeling the rare warmth of October sun on my bare arms.

Also, as I stretched my calves on the steps, Damn, my legs look good.

I had my mineralogy midterm this morning. It’s over until next time, thank god. So when I got home around 1, I was feeling pretty mentally drained, like I’d been in a mind-sprint for the last three and a half days. I just wanted to lay in bed with chocolate and my cats and go to sleep. Which I did (minus the chocolate) for an hour or so… but when I woke up, all my energy came rushing in at once and I was out the door in a matter of minutes.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, blue sky and unseasonably warm (probably about 60), which was a pleasant change of pace. I kicked the first mile down relatively fast and just kept feeling good, even once I got on the main trail loop and had to powerhike the one big hill. I’m so glad I’ve learned how to work hard during a run. Don’t get me wrong, easy runs are great, especially for taking in the fall scenery, but cranking out 11 decently-paced miles is much more satisfying and fulfilling. There were more people than I usually see out there (including one of my professors), but the trails loop around enough that I was on my own for most of the time. I did have one encounter with a deer, though. I crested a hill and saw it standing a few meters in front of me, frozen in the middle of the trail. I jogged, then stopped. The deer peered at me. I peered at it. It bobbed its head. I bobbed mine. We had a moment. After maybe two minutes, it snorted and bounded off to the side, breaking the spell. I ran on.

It was the middle of the afternoon – you could read that from the sun’s rays slanting through rows of tall, dark, bare trunks topped by golden canopies far above. Running quietly, efficiently, and alone, I felt insignificant in that special freeing way that comes from spending time reflecting in nature. A few resistant clouds of gnats hug in the still air, haloed in contrast to the dark trees behind them. I use “golden” far too often to describe fall – especially the past few weeks – but it’s the most accurate word I’ve come across for this time of fall, late October when the reds and oranges have mostly quit their branches and only the stalwart yellows still cling on. With the three o’clock sun serving as a backlight and more yellow leaves littering the trail and forest floor, the scene becomes dreamlike, ethereal, as you float through it. The only sign of your presence is the trail of fluttering leaves in your wake. It is the golden hour.

It was probably around this time of the year when I first ran on those trails, because I very clearly remember telling my friend, “It’s like a magical golden forest in here. I expect to see a unicorn around the next corner.” Just surrounded by glowing golden autumn. That’s something I feel I really missed out on last year because I wasn’t running. Not running every day, you miss the little changes in the season. Today, for example, the forest looked different than it did this time last week – you guessed it, more golden. And it looked differently two weeks ago. Running keeps you outside, in tune with nature and the seasons. When I was just lifting in a gym last fall, I felt totally disconnected, like fall had slipped by me without me noticing. Winter was upon me very suddenly. So it’s good to be back in the thick of things this year.

A little over two miles out, I saw a guy enter the main trail a little ways behind me. Once again, my cross country gut reaction kicked in and I held him off for the rest of the way home – which is saying something for the end of an almost 11 mile run. It felt good. I averaged around 8:30s, which is pretty decent for me. I usually fall into the LSD trap even for the not-so-long runs. I’m going to try to run about 10 miles at a decent clip a few days during the week, then do my long run on the weekend. All as long as the shins allow it, of course.

Righto. I’m off to rustle up some grub. I think I have frozen peas, applesauce, and a three-pound bag of raw potatoes. This should be fun.

peace love and gorgeous fall running,

Two miles to midnight

Studying… right. 

I am, after all, a student. Senioritis is knocking. Actually, I take that back. It’s far past knocking. It’s barged in, uninvited and unwelcome, and has been crashing on my floor for the last month or so. It kills motivation. “Nah man, you don’t need to go to class! You don’t need to study! Hang out with me and watch Netflix instead! I have tea and mac and cheese…” Luckily, most of my midterms are behind me, with just one looming on the rapidly approaching horizon of tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. I’ve been relatively studious the past couple days because it’s my mineralogy exam, a class as infamous as calc in terms of difficulty and the curve needed so that everyone doesn’t fail. (I didn’t know that when I registered last spring, needless to say.) I was understandably feeling stressed last night after studying for hours and still feeling overwhelmed and confused by the material. It was 11:30 and I was bouncing around my tiny apartment with the nervous energy of a highly caffeinated chihuahua – which is not a particularly productive state to be in. What else could I do but head out for a quick little run?

Weirdly enough, I tend to get a lot of running energy late at night, which I would love to indulge in but usually don’t because I’m worried about my safety. Last night, though, I just needed to get out and get moving, get my heart beating and get some good cold October night air in my lungs. I stuck to well-lit streets and bolted a quick two miles around campus before stretching silently in my driveway, unnoticed by the few passes-by.

Seeing the city at night, especially when there’s cloud cover to reflect the light pollution, is always a little surreal. Sometimes I forget that the world at night is the same world we see during the day. Nothing changes but the light shed on it. And before midnight during midterms, there are still plenty of students out and about, shuffling from Starbucks to library (to bar) to home. The fact that it’s dark out changes nothing. Yet running through the dark night always feels faster, lighter – like the world is slipping by in a blur, as though seen from a train speeding by a city. Your feet barely touch the cement. The sound of your steady breathing is the loudest thing you can hear. Your senses are more limited, so you turn inward. You become aware of how fast your legs swish by each other, how each part of the foot feels on landing, your breathing, your form. Shoulders square above the hips, short, efficient stride, arms pumping smoothly, shoulders back and still, back straight, eyes peering ahead, not quite straining to see what’s next.

I run out a mile. It’s mostly downhill, so my stride lengthens and I feel fast and smooth. A ghost runner – here, then gone. At the bottom of the hill, I go one block right and head right back up, working harder now, all thoughts of crystallographic axes and crystal systems temporarily banished as I force myself to do a negative split uphill. A few blocks from home, I hear someone strumming on an acoustic, mellow chords echoing around the street. As I pass the massively graffiti’d alley, I glance in and see a couple guys sitting along one wall. One of them has the guitar; the others, drug-rug clad, are just listening. Reminds me of nights at crags all across the country. I run on and the strains are distorted until they fade away entirely. I’m in my neighborhood; the streetlights thin out and I race invisible to my driveway. I jog to a stop after my sprint finish, stretch, and go back inside, where my studies await me.

Studying. Right.

peace love and the end of midterms,

Pain and ecstasy (22 golden miles)

I had 23 scheduled for this weekend, out at Pinckney Rec Area. I think I did a little less than that because (a) 3:35 seems pretty speedy for 23 trail miles for me, and (b) I think I cut off about a mile at the beginning, based on what I remember from races there. So I’m guessing it was closer to 22, which is still the farthest I’ve run since (pulls up years-long training log) WOW. December 2012 – the Bigfoot 50k. Wait, really? That can’t be right. But maybe it is. Sheesh. Wowzers.

Anyway. When I checked the weather last night and saw that it would be in the low 30s this morning, I thought, Screw it, I’m not sacrificing a sleep-in to shiver through the first half of my run. Having skipped setting the alarm, I woke up a little after 10 a.m. and was at the trailhead about half an hour shy of noon. Early bird gets the frostbite, I always say. I was chilly for the first couple miles in just a tee and capris, but warmed up quickly enough and was soon comfortable. A little too comfortable, in fact. About 40 minutes in, as I was sailing along a little ridge between two golden leaf-filled valleys, my mind drifting to who else but Tony Krupicka and one of his interviews (maybe in In The High Country?) in which he talks about the need to be outside pushing yourself, making yourself at least a little uncomfortable every day. Literally – literally – as I thought, “Hmm, I’m pretty comfortable right now,” my right foot rammed into some rock or root hidden by leaves and BAM. I ate it. Comfort gone, replaced with some scrapes, a little blood, and a hole in the knee of my favorite capris.

What’s fall without a little fall?

Other than that minor spill (which mainly reminded me to pick up my feet), the run was relatively pain-free, although my left hip was once again giving me shit on the uphills until about two hours in. I hit 18 miles around 2:40 into my run; I wasn’t speeding along, but I felt good. I almost always hit an anti-wall about two hours in. I’ve never had a problem with a “wall” at 18 miles because, up until a certain point (50-miler, I’m looking at you!), I just kind of hover at the same level of pain and weariness. Before that, my hip might bother me on hills or my foot might threaten to cramp, but after I pass that point it all kind of evens out and I just push on. Hip feels weak? Go up the hill anyway, hands on thighs and keep up the pace. Knee’s bleeding? As long as you’re not bleeding out, no worries. Tired? Well, yeah, you’ve covered 20 miles. You’re tired and sore now. This is your existence. No use feeling worse about it, it just is. And so you keep going until you’re done, because bailing is failing and failing is DNFing and DNFing is the runner’s nightmare. That’s the mentality that takes over and allows me, and all you other distance fiends, to keep moving – it’s that not moving forward isn’t an option. It doesn’t cross your mind. Because if it does – if the couch and its giant heavy fuzzy blanket pop into your head, if you imagine what it would feel like to lie down in the warm crunchy leaves and watch the sun fall and slowly freeze to death overnight (if it’s one of Those runs) – then it’s awfully difficult for the distance mentality to prevail. The spell is broken.

That’s one of the things I love about running, especially distance and trail running. It requires a strong mind in addition to a strong body. Training miles will only get you so far; you have to train your mind too, otherwise your dedicated hours will have been for naught. It’s a strength that comes entirely from within, and is then translated to the external physical form of you, and only you, pushing yourself (mind and body) to greater feats and beyond greater boundaries – reaping greater rewards.

Pain and ecstasy. These are two things which running offers us, and though neither is guaranteed, we sign up for both every time we step onto the trail, having mentally committed to spending three, four, six-plus hours out there. Pain is expected, assumed, sometimes sought. Ecstasy – an endorphin high – is bestowed upon those who are dedicated enough to put in the time and lucky enough to have one of those perfect, or maybe imperfect, runs with just the right combination of… I don’t know what. Mood, chemicals, mud, music, anything. But not every long run ends in a rush of happiness and satisfaction and contentment and positivity. Sometimes we trudge to the car, cold, damp, and broken, and huddle miserably by the heaters and are just thankful that we aren’t running anymore. Pain rules those days and takes its mental toll. Ecstasy seems worlds away, a physical impossibility. But as the aches subside and we warm back up, it seems less impossible. The next run holds not the promise of ecstasy, but the possibility. A chance at reaching that perfect state again, and not through drugs or booze or anything else external. The utter bliss felt from an endorphin high, like the distance mentality and tenacity required to cover that distance, is produced entirely by you. Self-produced high. Now that’s satisfying.

And when you do have one of those excellent runs where you reach the parking lot tired but revitalized, weary but satisfied and proud and content, and stretch in the sun, and climb exhaustedly into your car and blast your favorite post-long run songs, you’re hit with an overwhelming surge of pure ecstasy. It’s not just about how great the last 22 miles were. It’s a culmination of all the miles you’ve run, the places you’ve run, the people with whom you’ve run. And where you’ll run in the future, and with whom, and all the miles you’ll cover. It’s where running has taken you and where it will take you. It’s… inexplicable. Many have tried and many have failed, myself included, to fully describe the near-religious experience that is the ecstasy of completing a long run. It is impossible to be sad or negative. It’s almost impossible to think, it’s so overwhelming. It’s a tidal wave of emotion and memories and thoughts all so near and dear and happy – flashbacks to standing atop mountains, running along bare ridges as storms brew, crossing finish lines… every run you’ve ever been on is suddenly there with you again, and all the time you spent and struggles you got through to get you to where you are now.

Which is tearing up in a parking lot full of mountain bikers as Alpha Rev’s Highways comes on.

No shame. ALL THE FEELS. *mic drop*

So yes, today’s run was phenomenal. Depending on whether or not I was running uphill at the time, I toyed with the idea of doing the 13-mile loop after the 18 and just going for 50k today. Wisely, though, I stuck with my plan and found that 22 was quite enough, thank you (say my knees). But I suspect that in a few weeks, I’ll be out there loping around by myself for 31 miles, because races are far away and cost money and I’m just running for myself anyway. Although they are fun. I drove home to an awesome playlist, took a hot shower (heaven), and ate many an oven-roasted potato. And completely neglected studying, which I should probably do at some point.

I hope you all reach ecstasy after your next long run.

An excellent fall run (10.5 miles of gorgeous golden foliage)

I had good motivation for my run this morning – a new short running video featuring who else but Tony? And, of course, the perfect running weather: mostly overcast but with a few sunny patches, high 50s, and no rain. Mmmmm. Fall running.

I set off, planning to be out for about 90 easy minutes. It was such a good run, though, that I added on just a smidge more. I was on trails for almost all of my run and was dwarfed by towering golden maples forming magnificent autumnal arches, soft red pine needles and loamy fallen leaves underfoot. It was quiet and still and mostly devoid of human life, save myself and a few others (including one lovely older gentleman with his corgi, who I ran into several times since I was doing loops around the park), and as I breezed along the solitary trails, I found myself in that sweet spot where your mind is blissfully blank and your legs keep themselves smoothly in motion and your arms swing close but loose of their own volition, leaving you to melt into your surroundings and move with it rather than through it, as a separate entity might.

I looped around three, maybe four times (so it might be more like 13 miles) and kept feeling good but, having learned my lesson on Saturday, headed back around 90 minutes in because I hadn’t eaten much yet and was starting to feel my performance decrease. On the last mile stretch of trail, I saw a woman running some distance ahead of me. Naturally I had to catch her, this being cross country season and all, so I had a decently quick finish and followed it up with a luxurious stretching session afterwards (my poor hips – I need to do some yoga!).

I don’t have pictures for you because I don’t take my phone with me unless I have my Nathan pack, but you know what fall looks like. I hope. I’m feeling good about a 50k in the near-ish future. Now I’m going to go eat some things and then climb.

peace love and fall running,

PS. A while ago (June, maybe? July?), I submitted a question to the Ask the Coach section of Trail Runner and what do you know, they picked it. Which means I get free running sunglasses. Which makes the magazine even cooler. Man I’d love to work for them someday… *nudge nudge wink wink* If you aren’t already reading it, start ASAP. This is not an advertisement, it’s life advice.

On hubris and ego (Subtitle: It is inadvisable to run over two hours without food or water. It is outright stupid to run over three without those things.)

I was having one of those mornings. We all know the ones. They leech away our motivation, our willpower to leave the tea and sweatpants and lace up and head out. Which was odd because I came home this weekend primarily to run on the trails just two miles from my parents’ house, surrounded by trees. (I just realized it’s technically a Recreation Area. Yay maps.) But as always, once I put on the sports bra, my brain perked up – “Are we going for a run? ARE WE RUNNING? LET’S GO!” My brain is like a dog when it comes to running. Once the idea is in there, it blocks out everything else – including lack of motivation – pretty quickly. I think we all hit a point in avoiding our run where we just kind of go, “This is silly. I’ll just run. It’s time.” And we go and do it. Quite simple and not at all worth the wishywashiness beforehand.

So I head out into the late morning, blue sky totally clear above me, golds and reds and greens around me, dirt beneath my shoes. Less than half a mile from my porch, I break into a huge smile and all my motivation rushes back. I love running. Now, I’ve started lifting again, so my quads, glutes, and hips have all been rather stiff and sore for the past few days. It took quite a while for that soreness to work its way out (to be replaced by running soreness, of course), so my left hip was giving me issues on almost all the hills, which got old pretty damn fast… as did my right foot cramping yet again. But as I said, my motivation was back and the weather was perfect, the trails (though loose, sandy, and rocky) were nearly empty, I wasn’t hearing gunshots (always good), and the surroundings were sublime. So a little niggle in my hip and an annoying minor cramp weren’t going to ruin my run. I kept going.

And kept going.

And kept going.

Kept is a weird word.

When I’d left, I didn’t really have a specific distance or route in mind. I just knew I wanted to run the horse trails and up around there since it’s so pretty. I thought maybe 90 minutes (about 10 miles). But as I neared 90 minutes, I was feeling really good and enjoying the run. I wasn’t ready to turn back and head for home. So I set my sights on two hours, maybe two and a half – I’d see how I was feeling. And my hip and foot problems were fading, as was the residual stiffness from lifting. I let my mind wander to running 18 miles – how good it would feel, how I could make my Facebook status something like “Just got back from a spontaneous 18-miler, gorgeous!”… how if I could do that today, now, I’d be “back.” So after two hours I decided I’d go for three, since that’s about how long it usually takes me for 18 on trails.

As I mentioned in the title, running much longer than two hours without food or water gets uncomfortable. Had it been warmer than low 50s, I almost definitely would have run into some trouble with dehydration. And calories are always good. But at two hours, I was feeling great, so I thought I was somehow exempt from these stipulations and would be totally fine. As you may infer, I was not. I bonked so hard, I barely jogged the last three miles. The last hour was pretty rough. I was really thirsty and, because I hadn’t eaten much, I was getting way more fatigued than I should have been. I was walking on non-uphill sections. I sat down for a quick rest on a boulder (which I was okay with, because enjoying nature is half the reason I’m out in the first place. There was some red chert in the boulder that I was looking at.*) But I made it home safe, which is the important thing. I gulped about six glasses of water and drank two Capri Suns which (a) I haven’t had since probably middle school and (b) I have no idea why they were in this house. I stretched (while sitting down, of course) and took a long, hot shower – the best reward after a long run next to laying down.

On my tumblr, I posted a picture of my very muddy feet and shoes and said (much more briefly) that I ran over three hours without food or water. Someone responded with: “You’re spectacular.” I replied “thanks” but wanted to say something more along the lines of:

1. 3 hours for 18 miles is not especially fast.
2. Running that long/far without food or water isn’t impressive, it’s being daft and setting a bad example.
3. …although yes, I am spectacular, thank you.

In conclusion: The hubris of today’s run was thinking that I was exempt from the laws of physics, biology, anatomy, and the like. Your body needs water and calories to function, and ignoring that will only decrease your performance and possibly do harm. The ego was thinking I was cool or tough or something for doing that, and that “I could totally run 13 more miles!” after 18 (when I had only run about 13). But really, it was an enjoyable run and I can’t say I regret doing it – just that I’ve learned from my mistake and won’t repeat it. I think it would have gone much better had I brought supplies, and I think I might be able to do a 50k soonish. Fingers crossed.

So now I am tired and sore and have been sitting up for far too long typing this. Time to get under my favorite snuggly post-long-run blanket with a book.

peace love and not being dumb about running,

Mud, blood, and scratches: signs of a good run.

So much dirt. When I took off my shoes and socks, I made a nice little pile of it. I’m amazed I didn’t blister.

*Now that I’ve taken sediments and mineralogy (well, I’m in them now), rocks are super distracting. I’ll see one with a pattern or a colorful thing and just stop in the middle of my run to check it out. Related: I picked up a big loose chert chunk and put it in the key pocket of my capris, literally thinking as I did so, “I’m going to forget this is in here and it will clank around in the dryer.” Guess what I hear clanking around right now? Yup.

PS. The trails I was running on were equestrian trails – no wheeled things allowed (including bikes). I came up to a staging area and saw there were a couple horses there, so I slowed to a walk (which is what you’re supposed to do – horses look great but don’t have much going on between their dark, watchful eyes). There was a mountain biker there getting into something of an argument with the horse people about whether or not bikes were allowed on the trails. As I came into view, he pointed at me and said, “She doesn’t have a horse!” The other guy pointed out that I also didn’t have wheels. I politely told him that they were right and carried on my way, only running once I was decently far from the horses. I guess my point is make sure you’re using the right trails so as not to upset people.

Sprints and shin splints(?)

Hopefully not, but it rhymed, so I couldn’t pass it up.

I ran down to meet a friend at the gym to lift (at long last), but the weather was perfect for running and I hadn’t run at night for such a long time, so I jogged over to the track for a quick 4×200 with 200 rest and a 400 cooldown. I want to make a nighttime track workout a weekly thing – at least until winter settles in. The track is only lit by two stadium lights in the parking lot behind the back straightaway, so most of it is in that perfect half-light that lets you feel fast and light and everything is a little out of focus. Surreal. I didn’t wear a watch; I just ran on feel. Pushing it the second half, running through the finish. It felt good.

On the shins: they’re sore, but (other than today) I’m giving them a break, which works out well because I want to spend a while getting used to the idea of lifting almost every day again. (Not obsessively, per my last post, just a good amount to help lean out and restore my hips.) Dig out the calf compression sleeves! Refreeze the ice packs! The time for shin recovery is upon us.

- bec

PS. Here is a vegan cupcake from The Lunch Room in Ann Arbor. It’s our go-to spot for vegan eats. And it is damn tasty. (By “it” I mean “every item on the menu.”) After this cupcake (and the last of my vanilla almond milk), I’m going to try to eliminate as much non-natural sugar as possible. I think it should be pretty easy. I might keep putting some maple syrup in my oatmeal, though, Because and For Reasons. And I’m diversifying my protein more this time around. All-soy (soy protein powder, tofu, etc.) worked well last time but I’ve been reading about how it can mimic estrogen and do strange things – and just because balance is good. So I’m getting hemp hearts and hemp protein powder and eating more beans and quinoa and things (peas!). Beans are delicious anyway. This should help get me back into cooking, too, which is another thing that helps balance out my mind. :)

PPS. I should start yoga again… it does wonders…

PPPS. Here is a good picture of Audrey looking photogenic and fluffy.


Thoughts on thoughts (Subtitle: A long personal post about my experience with running addiction and associated issues)

No, I’m not stoned. By “thoughts” I mean thoughts related to running and running mentality in general. Any runner knows that running is addictive, and that stopping suddenly and especially for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your life both physically and mentally. When I first stopped running (well, kind of) in 2013, it was pretty rough for a few weeks, although I didn’t truly stop running (or hiking a lot) until that July after I got back from Colorado. After that, I took over a year off of running, during which I swam, biked, did yoga, and – primarily – started lifting. If I hadn’t started lifting, I think things would have gotten worse. But I did, and they didn’t.

Lifting actually did me a lot of good, especially since I started eating very well during that time too. I began to build muscle and lean out. I’d be at the gym for two to three hours every day. I felt healthy and happy, and my body image was pretty good. I peaked towards the end of last semester, back in April. And then summer happened.

This past summer was rough for a number of reasons. I was taking three classes at a community college – physics, chem, and calc. I’ve been doing communication studies for the last two years, so making the switch to science and math was challenging and time-consuming. I was out of Ann Arbor for most of the day and often got back long after the gyms here closed (the gym there cost too much), so my lifting decreased dramatically. I was starting to run a little, but still not much compared to how much I thought I should be doing. I wasn’t lifting nearly as much as I thought I should be lifting. The quality of my eating habits started to drop. My motivation waned. On top of that, both my relationship and my grandfather’s health were very rocky.

All of this had its toll on me. Simply said, I didn’t feel like myself at all – low motivation, low level of caring about things, dissatisfaction at life… generally not the happy-go-lucky gal that I tend to think of myself as being. Once classes ended, things started to look back up, although my body image and mood were still not nearly what they were in the spring. I thought I was exaggerating my memories of my own feelings from the summer, especially June. But while reading back through my journal a few nights ago, I noticed a pattern starting even in April. So many entries ended in an assessment of my mood that day being “sad” or “depressed” or “bleh.” Bleh, in my mind, encompasses poor body image, sadness, and typically vague anxiety that just won’t quit. There were some good days – days when I bothered to run or eat something healthy or see people. By and large, however, it was a dump. J’avais le cafard, as the French would say. Literally, it means “I had the cockroach,” but the essence is “I had the blues.”

So I started thinking about how everything over the past two years was connected. 2012 was my high – starting ultras and being in great shape. I had high hopes for running. I spent most of 2013 injured, but still running and hiking and road tripping until the end of July (though I distinctly recall laying on a crash pad in the California sun, just having thankfully, barely, Not Broken Down in Death Valley, and feeling utterly disgusted with myself – so things were not 100 percent hunky-dory). Then lifting did a great job of keeping me active, fit, and generally happy. And over the summer, I lost it.

I’m the first to admit that I have used running as a crutch – relied on it too much to maintain happiness and physical and mental satisfaction. The same goes for many, many runners and other high-volume athletes. Addiction. So in a way, my time off of running provided me with an opportunity to ease myself off of that crutch that I probably would not have sought out otherwise. It was primarily lifting, but I’ve also adjusted my mentality rather significantly. In the past, I have relied heavily – too heavily – on running to both provide and gauge my life happiness and satisfaction. Now that I can’t run or don’t lift for two or three hours every day, I have made myself mentally adjust to the fact that it is okay to derive happiness from things other than physical exertion. Gasp. Things like spending an afternoon hanging out with friends and cooking instead of running then eating soy chicken stuff alone and binge-watching Netflix to ignore feelings and quell rising anxiety. Things like running just a few miles with friends instead of feeling the need – the compulsion – to run ten miles because it’s social and fun and good for your soul. 

On the flip side (there’s always a flip side, isn’t there?), I also worry that I’m leaning too far in the “for your soul” direction – not pushing myself enough, allowing myself too much lenience in what I’m eating. I question my own thoughts and motives and feelings. I doubt myself. And that’s not okay. It makes it nearly impossible to tell the difference between working hard and working hard for the wrong reasons – body image, obsessive exercise, that sort of thing. In a weird way, though, being injured and worrying about getting re-injured has almost forced me to maintain a balance and therefore I don’t have the option of worrying about whether I’m working hard for the wrong reasons. Instead, I question whether I actually need rest or if I’m just being lazy. There it is, the L word. It all comes back to that mentality. And I’m working on it.

To wrap all this up, a personal update (as though all that weren’t personal, HA): I’ve been running, slowly and safely building up distance. The farthest I’ve run recently is about 15, and 8 to 10 is more typical. I’m hoping to do a 50k by the end of the year, but if I don’t, then I don’t. I’m working really hard to not pressure myself too much (while also pressuring myself enough to word and not be lazy – that blurry line again!), because if I do that then I might get injured again, and I’d be back to square one. But fall is nigh, and with it is that crisp, damp, chilly October air that sparks the trail runner’s imagination and brings back memories of cross country races years ago, of specific fall runs and of just how the trees look as they wax maroon and gold and burnt orange over the still lake and under the ever-clouded grey October sky. On a short tempo run a few days ago, I heard someone coming up fast behind me and, without thinking, sped up. She wasn’t going to pass me. And she didn’t. For the next 1200 or so, I kept up what felt like a sub-7 pace, until I hit my turnaround point. I gave her a nod as she continued past me. The runner can leave cross country, but the cross country never leaves the runner.

peace love and foggy fall runs through quiet trails in the early hours of morning before the world stirs,

PS. I had to rewrite the end of this since WordPress failed to post my first one, so it’s a little lackluster.  :(  I think I got the gist of it.