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*

July 22, 2016

Unpublished Posts

I found this post from 2012 in draft form and thought it might be time to publish it as a reminder to myself of just how good life is:

For feet that run so far my toenails turn black For cats that sit on the kitchen table to be closer to my typing fingers For the beautiful girl sleeping on my couch (please, stay near...) For the tonic in my fridge, the muffins in my oven For a job that makes a difference, allows me the freedom I crave, and taught me there just might be a "career" for me For a love who is always always always happy to see me, is consistent in every way, makes me want to be better, and catches delicious fishes! For growing relationships with family For 6 jars of honey, all different For the air that intoxicates and the sun that tickles my soul For the friends who have not only stayed, but have worked with me to allow ourselves to grow, together For the ability to put fresh fruits and vegetables together to create something delicious

And then these few unpublished lines from June 2013, just two months after the Boston marathon:

Clean and beautiful. This summer the lake will take the dust that is settling upon me far from me so that I can carry on and be better without being stained. I see smoke but the smoke cannot keep me, and I have an ache that can't have me.

And then almost 2 years later, April 2015:
Friday morning, after a week of post-race fatigue following a 20k trail race and a 77.7 mile bike/run around Seneca Lake, I wiggled out of bed, made myself tea and oats, wandered around my tiny kitchen marveling at our renovation progress, filled my bladder half way, spent a little more time than usual chatting with the chickens, grabbed warmer gloves, made a mental note that my car could use a wash, and made my way to the trail. I was quiet, and my stomach flitted with excitement. I needed more sleep. And I couldn't wait to run. Welcome to my world. I don't write about this much, as it's a part of my life that is so integral to the core of who I am that I don't feel the need to share it or explain it. It's not the run, per se, but rather the way my body, my mind, my entire being is released from the grip of every other part of its self. It's the stepping away from all the things that define me, the allowing me to just be me, in whatever mental and physical state I find myself in a given moment. It is freedom.

And now, in July 2016, I am reminded just how good life has been to me. And I am grateful.

March 1, 2016

Background Music

I can't quite settle with the fact that 2015 will not be summed up concisely in ink to be stored in one place forever for all the world to read and understand. I feel I've broken a promise to myself by not doing so, but mostly I feel cheated; I both want and need to remember the year, and really, it's not so complicated.

The 100K.

Why do I feel the need to hold on to and remember this process? Not the race, because that came and went in a day, but the training.

Because it consumed me. For 6 months Twisted Branch was me. I was Twisted Branch. I can think of only one other thing that ever pushed me to this state of being. When I think back I am filled with awe and disgust, appreciation and frustration. I put this one thing above all other things in my life. For 6 months. And I cannot explain why. You can listen to my attempt at doing so here (my portion starts about 34 minutes in), or read about it here, but still I believe there was more to it. I found something out there on the trails, with nothing but my pack and a Timex watch, for hours. I found more than just miles, hills, and wilderness. I was becoming something, and even in the hours that hurt, I loved who I was. I was focused and free. I was intentional and frivolous. Playful and determined. Reverent and wild. I was all the things I want to be on a daily basis but am not. The woods, the trails, the air, the sun, the rush and the struggle, they stripped me down and let me be me. And there I was, raw... and so deeply contented.

That's a hard thing to explain to someone when what they saw was the choice I made to spend 15-20 hours a week running. They saw intense fatigue, ailments from over and misuse, debilitating hunger and plummeting glucose levels, unnecessary focus and stress to stay on schedule.
They saw the time I wasn't spending with them.

When I crossed the finish line, almost to-the-minute of the time I had hoped for and predicted, I had to take a moment to swallow hard and let the realization that it was over flood through me. 6 months of relentlessly pushing my body, my mind, and the boundaries of each day so that I might find myself in this exact moment - in one piece on the other side of the finish line, happy. What I felt: relief. And sadness. Because despite how much I loved it and that I can't think of anything I'd rather do for 13 hours, I knew I wouldn't be doing it again.

I want to see this world by foot. I need to bare my soul in the forest with endless trail in front of me and the rest of my life waiting patiently for my return. I need to separate from the world so I can see and feel and hear my self... or nothing at all.


August 7, 2015

Twisted Branch - The Why*

I’ve been needing to write about this for a while now. I say I need to have a reason. It’s always on my mind. I avoid it because I am already convinced no reason will suffice.

What drives me, or rather, what draws me…

Truth-be-told, I don’t feel much drive. What I feel is a tangible pull on that place inside me, the one responsible for so many of the major decisions I’ve made in my life. The pull lifts me out of bed, draws me toward the woods. It dissipates into a light airiness mixed with a bright warmth when I roll through the hills, blinded by glimpses of new sun. The forest is speckled with shadows, and I swear the dirt giggles, the rocks shake off the night, the river breathes a sigh of relief. I gasp when I look a certain way, catch a particular view. It is morning – the precious hour after time stands still and before it flits away. I see no one. I hear every sound – the toads are antelope, the chipmunks are gorillas. The birds prepare their song for the day ahead. I am a captive audience.

It’s something about the smell – the transition from one stage to the next. Able legs turning corners, skipping over roots, dancing around rocks, letting go and flying recklessly down hills, trusting they will catch me, knowing they will respond, knowing that each time they get stronger. Occasionally I glance at my watch, counting the minutes I have left, not the minutes I still have to go. Because I don’t have to go. I don’t have to do this at all.

Twisted Branch training pushed me to a point I’ve never been. Multiple points, actually. For the first time I woke in the middle of the night and cringed at the thought of waking up a few hours later to run. I went from just moving to make it through the winter, to speed workouts, hill workouts, and back-to-back long runs practically overnight. I asked my body to do more, to go farther, to push harder, to climb higher, and it did. It said okay. It balked at points – taking it out on my foot, my calf, my knee, and at times, the most painful, my psyche, but for the most part it agreed. So why have I done it? Perhaps because whether I was “training” or not, I would have wanted to be out. Being unattached, disconnected, with no one and nothing save myself and, when the occasion called, my pack, puts me at the base-line of who I am; it is from this point that I can approach the remainder of the day with a sound mind, a full soul, and something to give.

But then, why Twisted Branch? Why 100k? It wasn’t the next natural step. I don’t feel I have anything to prove. Now that I’m here and I’m going to make it to the starting line the reality is setting in that I’ve done all I can. The hardest work is done. I can’t go back and change any of it now. All I can do is keep myself sharp while slowly easing back, hopefully resulting in more energy and excitement come August 29th. The reality is that this “race” could take upwards of 16 hours. In fact, it probably will. That’s terrifying. How can anyone move across rugged terrain for that long, much less run? I might not finish. It could happen. But what if I do? What if I cross the finish line, bruised and cut and beat-up and depleted… and then, what if I’m happy?

I can’t keep thinking about why, and so I have to conclude that there is no good reason. This is something intrinsically driven, entirely for me. It does not make sense. It defies logic. It is far more than a love for the run. I cannot explain it, and even if I could, it would be understood by no one other than the minority who do the same thing. Amongst one another there is no need to explain why. Our reasons are different and the same; something connects. But amongst the rest of the world, if I must explain, it will never make sense.

And so, for the sake of my own sanity, I’m choosing not to explain. If you get it you don’t need it, and if you don’t, you won’t. And that’s okay. The part of me that understands the natural world can get over the fact that this will never make sense, and the part of me that understands nothing of the natural world will sigh with relief as I accept this part of me, inexplicable, beautiful, tragic, and for some reason, necessary.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman

September 8, 2014


I don't remember how it happened. I only remember loving her deeply. No transition, no process. They are friends of my soul - these few people scattered around the world who know me absolutely and love me for no reason at all. I've all but turned my back on the world I spent years building for myself. Once upon a time I spent hours listening to the problems of the people around me, offering advice, a shoulder, apologetic murmurers, prayers. Five years ago I spent three months driving around the country with a soul friend. Yosemite changed me as I saw myself in this world, the Pacific accepted my tumultuous soul, but the moment that sticks out to me the most was climbing through sand dunes in Western Texas. After a hundred miles of driving with no sign of another car, we parked and crawled around the dunes, soaking our sore feet in the raw white sand, blue sky and sun casting glitter all around. I snapped my fingers, it seemed, and the sky turned black, the wind slapped the once tame sand into our legs, our eyes, our hair. It burned and I felt my insides collapse. I sank into the sandy world, wrapping myself into a ball, and wept. No one needed me anymore. No one knew where I was. I barely knew where I was. No one could access me. I was alone. I could not help anyone. My soul friend held my head and rubbed my hair, singing softly in Portuguese, and the weight of every tear I'd held that wasn't my own, every burden I'd carried that wasn't mine to care for, drained out of me like bad blood leaving the body, never to return. It was then that I began to slowly allow the ties that drained me to come undone. It was my freedom journey, the first time I'd done something entirely for myself. And I was hooked. Seven years ago I put my paint brush down and held her hand in the bathroom. I saw her in front of me and from the side through the brightly lit mirror spanning the multiple dorm sinks. Her bony shoulders caved into her body and her narrow wrists went limp. Oh, how she loved him, but he couldn't stay away from that witch. They would never be the same, and neither would we. Seven years later we would hold each other shaking, sobbing for the lost time and the magic of a reunion that mattered, of once again touching the skin of someone I don't remember falling in love with, only loving. I say this to remind myself that I am the luckiest of girls, to have people in my life who will love me deeply on a level I will never understand but trust I will always know. It's the very thing that makes average relationships difficult to care for and large formal gatherings tasteless. On the desert floor with nothing but my car and a hand to hold... this is what matters, this is what I need... the assurance of their souls existing beside mine. I can't explain it any more than that.

March 16, 2014

I Told You

First, I must join the masses in a deafening chorus, begging please, please... I can't be cold another day. I can't slip every time I raise my eyes from the pavement beneath my salt-stiffened winter running shoes. But look, Spring is coming! No, that's a blizzard. You will shovel for two hours - 15 degrees, 30 mph winds. You will give up and use your neighbors driveway to plow your spent Subaru the rest of the way to the road that looks more like a trail. God bless the humans who walk their happy dogs daily. I'm ready to pay to live in California - where the avocados are 5 for $1, the pumellos quench your thirst, the artichokes run rampant The waves have no sense of self-preservation - crashing, repeatedly. No mercy. You never stop. You never give up. It's maddening. You're maddening. And brilliant. And I can't stop thinking about you, the way you whistle, you sing, and always have something to say. I want to hear it all. Let's have a cup of joe and chat awhile. I'll just sit here quietly. Come a little closer, please. I'll stay right here. You make me still... not many things do. Las Trampas, San Francisco, Dungeness Crab, Berkeley, Big Sur Highway 1. Three years ago my master plan was thwarted. I'm glad it was. But the dream is alive again. I've caught the scent of the ocean, the taste of the sea. I know again The best part is, I'm not alone this time.

October 23, 2013


Some time in the last few months I stopped trying to convince myself of everything, and that has made all the difference. 2013 was supposed to be my year. Looking at the here and now, it certainly is. I feel blessed beyond anything I could have earned and excited about life in a most real way. I can't say exactly when it changed. On April 15th I walked away from Boston with weights around my ankles. I pulled a black cap over my head, tied my running shoes on for a trail marathon 6 weeks later, and then let myself forget that I love to run. The months between April and now were not a blur. I was very aware of my state of being.. of my lack of interest in people and ideas. Nothing made me calm except walking with E. I toyed with the idea of seeing a therapist, even made a phone call once, but work got busy and I got tired, and really, I didn't much feel like talking anyway. I walked 50 miles on Cape Cod in September. How amazing it felt to walk all day... to participate in an event rather than plan it, to be far from home among people with a purpose. I saw the ocean, got buzzed on limitless beer, called my dear Dandylion, and felt the fresh air saturating my lungs, washing my skin. I didn't notice that anything in particular happened, or that at a certain time something changed, but when I think back, the time between Boston and Cape Cod was one segment and the time after Cape Cod has been another. After Cape Cod we bought a house. We moved in. I planted garlic in my own garden, mowed my own lawn, felt myself sinking deeply into this thing called love, and loving it. I spent $70 on a pair of boots I have yet to wear and got my hair cut so I could sit and do nothing while someone else worked for me. I planned an executed a brand new event brilliantly. I looked at myself in the mirror and liked what I saw. Every now and again a piece of the past pops up, reminding me of who I was and where I was going. My heart stirs a bit and I'm confused and sad for the briefest moment. Not because I wish my life had taken another form, but because I still can't piece together exactly what happened, and because I know how confusing my life looks to the people who knew me then but don't know me anymore. I am happy now. I couldn't say that then. I am living instead of believing that one day my dreams would come true, the fairy tale would come to fruition. This is my fairy tale, and I'm not one bit disappointed. I need to read more, to work harder, to step back and look at my surroundings, see through people but also see them as they are. That's how I want people to see me - as a potent poof of the inexplicable, but also as a fact... as something solid and sure, because for the first time in my life, that's how I feel.

July 28, 2013


Days morph together and the never ending Spring threatens to spur forth Autumn whilst I rest in the whispers of Summer. There are thanks to be given, apologies to deliver, excuses to settle. I have yet to express my gratitude to the many people who supported my trip down Boylston St. I regret not doing so sooner, but I couldn't. I still don't think I can. I sat with my feet in front of me analyzing the paint wearing off the porch floor, the red ring forming in the bottom of my wine glass, the tiny leaves growing in the pots descending the stairs. My mind slowed as rain drops tickled the ground, clearing the air. Alone with my Cohiba, I settled, closed my eyes, realized the state of my soul now. I was overwhelmed with love, hurt, anger, excitement, thinking thoughts I just might vocalize if provoked, wishing very much for the external push to bring them forth, as though letting them out would satisfy me in some sickening way. I need to grow. Loving my job is not enough. I need to meet more people, teach myself and learn on my own time, push my physical, emotional, and mental limits and see what happens. Running is not enough anymore. Slowly I become more in control, more aware of my choices, of the passing minutes, the calendar pages turning. I feel capable and able - to succeed at another job, to take on a second job, to learn something I've always wanted to, like bar tending or real estate. But feeling able doesn't make anything happen. And oh, how I've enjoyed settling in to this life, getting to a place where I am calm, quiet, confident. Dissatisfaction produces change, and I'm so satisfied, so happy. This time the change needs to come from a need to not change my life or make something better out of what is already really great, but to continue to add to this life that is already beautiful beyond belief...

May 20, 2013

Chair Day - Post Boston Musings

This morning I stood for 10 minutes, turned to consider my stability ball in the corner, and have been sitting in this office chair ever since. I wrote the following two months ago: "I love that I have a job that I care about, a job that I lose sleep over, a job that, come May 6th, will have made me a new girl". The months between January and May changed me. I knew that's what they were doing while living them. I knew that when they were over I would sit down in a quiet, dark office to write this post and say that these months proved how hard I was capable of working, that I had never cared so much about a job, that I was tired and invigorated and grateful and overwhelmed and calm all at the same time, and that that combination is intoxicating. I also knew that when it was over, I would crash. Monday, April 15th changed me- The 117th Annual Boston Marathon. I was tired going in to the race, preoccupied with thoughts (and nightmares) of Walk MS, which would take place 3 weeks later. I failed at carbo loading, many thanks to my sometimes dysfunctional digestive system. And I was ready to go home before I even left for Boston. That being said, every marathoner who has a chance to run Boston, should. I am so glad I did. I am so glad I trained (and complained) my way through the cold, dark, miserable (get the point?) Upstate New York winter in order to run decently on race-day. If I run Boston again I will absolutely run for Boston Children's Hospital. I am amazed at the quality of the Miles for Miracles fundraising program and was so proud to be wearing their jersey on Marathon Monday. I re-qualified, should I desire to run in 2014, but honestly, I'm not so sure. It's not because of the explosions an hour after I finished and the chaos that followed, nor does it have anything to do with the challenges the course itself presents. Or... maybe it is. Maybe I'm tired of pounding my body into the pavement day after day, logging 65+ mile weeks, being famished all the time. Maybe I'd rather go for a walk and drink coffee in the morning with my most wonderful man than head out solo for an hour and a half run before work. Maybe watching the smoke and masses of people running in each direction from the 7th floor of the Westin and being left to find my way out of a city I did not know and was not safe in marred me in a way I have yet to come to terms with. What I do know is that I wanted to collapse into E's arms and be carried home to my bed the minute I crossed the finish line. I was done. The 20 minute walk to the family meeting area was more agonizing than the race itself. And when the event went from physically exhausting to emotionally and psychologically debilitating, the pain of realization and even understanding were at times too much for this one mind to hold. I crumbled in the most unexpected ways. I will not forget the feeling in the week that followed of being unable to wrap my brain around simple concepts, being brought to tears by too many people speaking at once, being distraught by fear and flashbacks.. and I was three blocks away. My heart goes to those who were en route to the finish line.. to those waiting there for their loved ones to run by. I cannot, nor do I want to, imagine. This wasn't going to be a post about Boston. It was going to be mostly about Walk MS and striving to meet goals and taking pride in what I do. It was going to be about things larger than myself that have shaped mere me. I still smell Boston. I feel the quiet and simplicity of the starting line, see the endless, encouraging people lining the streets, sense my brother suddenly by my side at mile 20. I was blinded by the sun as I turned the corner onto Boylston Street, knowing my parents were there somewhere in the crowd but unable to pick them out of the thousands of shouting, cheering voices. I crossed the finish line and wobbled to my right, bumping into a blonde haired girl and muttering something about it hurting more to stop. She agreed. I took a sip of water and my stomach tightened into a painful mess of "that's enough, get me out of here, please, no more". It felt like there were hundreds of people closing in on me, pushing me slowly through the chute: foil blanket, medal, photo, follow the signs to your parents and lover, just follow the signs, keep moving, if you curl up and cry now you'll never get there." And that was before it got intense. Dear Boston, I respect you. I appreciate what you do for people like me. But I've seen enough of you for awhile, and I can't say with certainty when I'll be back. This one is going to take some time to recover from. You are brilliantly vibrant, and you will bounce back and be better than ever, I am certain of it.. in fact, we will all bounce back, eventually. Some things just take longer than 3 hours and 26 minutes.

January 18, 2013

Year of the Snake

A bed familiar but not mine; Nostalgic. (Shh, don't tell!) His snoring keeps me on the outskirts of sleep as the sun reveals the promised new year. He cracks the window, letting the cold scrub us- between my toes, behind my ears, around my eyes, massaging my neck and back, Ah! All is sepia- the tree, the sky, the small flakes floating to the ground. It's 2013. It's my year. It's my year to rid myself of anger, jealousy, and bitterness, to enjoy the sun and the couch, to read books and absorb films, to nurture relationships and acknowledge my own needs. It's my year to run the Boston Marathon, to raise money for someone else, to see this new job through, to turn 26 (oh my!), to run an Ultra Marathon. I'll go to Europe. Perhaps reconnect with my Bulgarian love, Maria. Maria! I'll fight this anxiety caused by extreme changes over a few short years by realizing what I love and what I lack. I'll push myself to the core of my insecurity by asking who I am and who I wish I was, and "why"? And when I am forced to act in inexplicable ways, I will in turn force myself to be a part of real conversations with real words and concrete explanations for why I feel the way I do. I will speak. And perhaps I will stop being ashamed. I am proud to be a part of things that even some of the closest people to me don't understand, because these things are a part of me, and though I admit to my sometimes insane insecurity, I love being me. I run far because I love to. I believe in God because I've felt Him, and because I want to. I am with this marvelous man because I love him and he makes life better. I don't paint enough, or make enough music, or climb to a high place and watch the world below enough. But 2013 is my year: A rabbit in the year of the snake. Mine.

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