November 5, 2017

*To What Comes Next*

I want to reflect on this while it's fresh. Charlie is in bed. There's an ice pack on his leg with a sock over it. I'm here on the floor next to him devouring delicately nibbling away at a smoothie bowl. We had a day. Just a normal day. Another long run in the woods. Except it wasn't just another day.

My running "career" has been interesting. Or maybe not that interesting. But it's my life, so to me it is titillating. At some point I crossed the line from running for fun into running far. Some would argue they are one and the same, and while at times I agree, for me there is also a definite line. Running for fun means my husband doesn't notice I'm gone, doesn't require extra groceries, and rarely results in major bio mechanical problems. Running far takes unreasonable amounts of time, requires eating every 3 hours (at the most.  I do not recommend such long stretches between nosh sessions), and often sends me rolling around on a lacrosse ball wincing in pain. It also sends me into a state of pure euphoria I'm not sure I want to live without.

Last year I embarked on a new adventure - Grad school. I have died and come back to life 8 times since. In 6 weeks I will be done with classes, and a final project will stand between me and a Masters degree. I never imagined I could do it, but I'm doing it. And while it's not always very pretty, I'm doing it well.

There's something about the things I'm not sure I can do. Things that require preparation to do them well and enjoy them.

And there's something about the paths I've never seen. My favorite runs are the ones when I don't know what to expect. The ones that require a little bit of preparation, a little bit of brains, and a little bit of chance; the ones I don't sleep before because I can't wait to wake up the next morning and run.  I had two such runs this summer, two weeks apart - one an organized event, the other an endeavor planned on the drive to the trail head with a friend. The best part? Poodle was part of both.

*Note: I'm finishing this post 5 months later, but it deserves finishing because 1) it's been years since I've actually finished a blog post, 2) I want to remember, and 3) I want to call out just how special this part of my life has been.

Before I move on with my life (and I will, because despite how difficult transitions are for me, moving on is something I always do), I want to pause to say this:

Running has seeped into me and become a part of me I can't separate myself from. When I say running I smell the air as I enter the forest, feel the temperature change as I descend into a ravine, sense my legs moving beneath me- sometimes strong, sometimes heavy, but always always always grateful to be out. It's not just something I do. It's not "exercise". I don't care how far I run anymore or how long it takes me to get from one park to another. I care about being out, moving freely through beautiful spaces. It's my deep breath, my sigh, my life-is-beautiful-no-matter-what, my sacred space, my center. I am so grateful to have this, and to have had it to this extreme, and to have a body that has allowed it.

Charlie ran 38 miles with me in the Adirondacks, then ran the final 20 miles of Many on the Genny with me two weeks later.

At a time when I thought running couldn't get any better, three weeks before the longest, most challenging race of my life, I decided to add this ridiculous creature to my life. I doubted myself and my need for him every day until he turned 1 and started joining me for short runs. He'd run 3 miles with me and then sleep all day. Then 4, then 5.. I don't remember when, but eventually he was as fit as me. Running was no longer mine, it was ours. Anyone who's ever run with him knows - he comes alive in the woods. His whole being shudders with joy. The things I feel when I run - the indescribable exuberance, he can somehow show it to the world.

I have run three times without Charlie in the last year and a half. Two were races - 0 Degree Winter Trail Festival and Cayuga Trails marathon. I was miserable for both. The other was two days after Many on the Genny. He was so tired and sore and I thought I had broken him, so I forced him to rest. I'm quite sure he yelped the full 30 minutes I was gone. Never again, sweet poodle. You're the best forest friend I could ever ask for. We go together.

Mile 34, Northville-Placid Trail, ADK.
Filtering/refilling water before crossing the river before dusk.

Hey life - I can't predict what you'll bring, but everything up until this point has been pretty damn incredible. A lot of it hasn't been easy, but that's how it goes when something inside of you keeps pushing you to do more, go farther, be better. Becoming. That's what we're doing. Always.

May you never forget the moments that have made you who you are. Most of them aren't photographed. Many of them were solo. And many were when you stopped mid-stride to soak in a stunning sight, crouch beside a stream, absorb your surroundings quietly.

May you never fully arrive. To do so would be to stop moving forward. And I hope you're never okay with that.

*to what comes next*


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