“Holee crap, that was hard!”

This was my whole assessment of this race when I posted my finish on Facebook. Or at least, that was all I could mutter from the surrealism of race-recovery.

The Powder Keg 5k Trail Run was the next race up after Midsummer Night’s. It was on August 23rd, and ventured around the grounds of the Historic Kings Mansion in Deerfield Township. It’s also part of the Dirt Days series put on by the Running Spot each year. Having missed an opportunity to preview the course with some of my RWB friends, this was the first time I’d ever been there. Packet pick up was quick and easy. There was plenty of space to stretch and move, find my friends. The grounds were nice and I kept looking to the building and the barns thinking what a nice event space that would be, though it needs a little restoration in my opinion.

In 2 races, my opening observations are that (1) trail races are generally less expensive – MNT cost me $12, I think and this one was $10 w/o a tshirt and $20 with – and that (2) trail races are just way more mellow.  Starting times seem to have an ‘ish’ after them. We’ll start 9-ish. There’s a bit of courtesy extended based on how many people are still coming in to park and do packet pick up.  Distances have a “might be more” to them since you can’t measure exact finish distance on trails.  Powder Keg’s course description for distance included “Race is listed as a 5K. However, actual will probably be at least 3.5 miles.”  And mostly, which is part of the keeping the cost down I’m sure, they use gun time instead of chip timing. In a pavement race, that irritates the crud out of me, but for trails, the run really is more about how YOU FEEL about your run than what the clock says – at least for me. I’m digging it on the trails!

The run started a little bit cross-country before taking to a path that started off as asphalt, then that treacherous deep-rutted thing that asphalt does when water breaks it down, and then after that I think it turned to dirt. Compared with the narrow, single-file trail of MNT, this trail was nice and wide and winding. There were a few moments I’d pass on given the option – a right turn that drops about 4ft without much warning, a wide concrete pillar that makeshifts as a bridge except that it doesn’t have any railings, and that 12-14ft climb of a steep grass hill that is so steep you are literally climbing using hands as well as feet – but those are more due to my novice level in trail running than the obstacles themselves. Things just caught me by surprise a little, is all.

Among the other things on route were the stairs. OH MY GOD – THE STAIRS!  There is no running them. Steep, wooden and they feel like they’re going up the side of a mountain. Did I mention steep?  STEEP STEEP stairs. No passing. No running. Steep.

When the run was over I felt like I had been rode hard for sure! This 5k-ish course left me a little more exhausted than the 5-mile-ish MNT.

I also felt accomplished, hungry and ready for a nap.

Y’all, if MNT opened up the door for trail running in my lift, Powder Keg sealed the deal on a new love in my life. A trail runner is born.

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It was A Midsummer Night’s Trail Run that started it all. Like I said, I’ve been cramming an entire racing season into the past few weeks, so when I started to write about this I would have sworn to you that this event was in July. It seems so many runs ago, but NOPE, MNT was on August 12th. Just 8 weeks.

A 5-mile trail run through Mt. Airy, the run is sponsored by RCGC, which makes a point near and dear to my heart of keeping run fees CHEAP and swag minimal. I remembered having my eye on this one in 2013, mainly because I liked the name of it, but I hadn’t done any trail running at all other than the trail at my office and I didn’t know anyone else going.  Basically, I talked myself out of it.

Since I’ve been training with Team RWB though, there’s definitely been a shift in my thinking about my training – and even better for me, there’s a trail running contingent in the group. When I saw the run event for 2014, I realized I would KNOW people AND after months of listening to my knee groan, FINALLY I’d gone a few consecutive runs with no flare ups on my knee. Now mind you, those runs were paved, and only 3-4 miles max, so I wasn’t exactly ready for this one. I also know that Mt. Airy is not wimpy trailing. Eric and I spend part of every Summer hiking the trails with the dogs. There are a LOT of elevation changes in Mt. Airy, that’s why it’s MOUNT Airy and not INCREDIBLY FLAT Airy.

So knowing I wasn’t fully ready to race it, I set the intention for myself of not worrying about it. Just get it done. Monitor the knee. Enjoy myself. So long as I started the line and crossed the finish, my Eagles would be there waiting for me when I crossed. Also, Maine decided to meet me there and run along too. Since my injury, I haven’t been able to run with her as much as we did before, so having her meet up was a nice bonus. I can never pass up on a chance to connect with my BFFs.

I had no problems parking, getting there about 20-mins before the start. Packet pick-up was race day, organized, quick and easy. (Am I the only one whose heart swoons over an uncomplicated packet pickup?) My car was close enough to walk my little swag back right back to it and get back to saying hello to my RWB peeps. I saw Maine getting out of her car. The event was that uncluttered – all of this was very easy – and there was plenty of space to stretch and socialize.

Then the race began.

The first mile was the getting used to it – trail running. I set myself at the back to start, so as we streamed into the trail, there were 2 girls ahead of me, 1 almost directly behind and another a little further back. I knew we were towards the end of the line but there were still another few runners a little further back than that. The trail was a single-file trail, no running 2-or-3 wide. As soon as I spied a broader spot, I stepped off right and let the girl right behind me pass. We’d been chatting but I could tell she was itching to speed it up and I didn’t want anyone breathing down my neck.

First mile split was around the 15-min mark. I can walk faster than that. Except that I hadn’t done any walking at all.

This, my friends, is the weird voodoo of trail running. You can be running the entire time, but the pace that you have to slow to when navigating tree roots and rock beds to keep from busting your ass, makes it seem like it would be quicker if you just walked it. Except in the same breath, you know that isn’t true. If you were walking, you’d still have to slow down your walk to navigate obstacles. Slowing down your slow. But your mind does this thing where it starts to compare your WALKING ON PAVEMENT times against your trail RUNNING times, and you realize you’d PR if you were walking. But then you look around, kinda laugh, and decide you don’t care. This is trail running.

After the first mile, I was mostly by myself for the next three. In a pavement race, that would be utterly depressing to me, but watching the greenery go by – Mt. Airy is forest, so trees, shrubs, rocks are most of your view – I still felt like I was flying. Plus, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment of trail running. You get lost in your head comparing this and that, you fall down and go boom. Fact. If the first split on my Garmin at 15+ mins gave me food for thought, my next split was just about 17 minutes. There’d been a lot more rock bed to navigate and I’d taken a pause to keep from getting hit by the same mountain biker twice.  But somewhere in miles 2 and 3, I went from being cautious to feeling really happy about what I was doing. Mile 3 brought me back down into the 15-min range, and as the run opened up into the ONLY point where it broadens into meadow for a split second, there was the water stop.  The gentleman running it asked “Are you Cynthia?”  Yes.  “Your friend is a little ahead of you, she said for me to keep an eye out for you.”  Awww.

I wish I could tell you more about the trail, which trail names turned on to which and this one was this way and that cool thing about that one. I can’t. When I’m focusing, distance starts to blur into swatches of greenery. Plus, I have the sense of direction of a dryer sock. The one that never reappears when you’ve finished folding everything and are left with one unmatched sock. Yeah. I’m the lost sock.

Mile 4 the path started undulating more aggressively, but the track itself was wider and smoother, less rocks. 13+ on the mile 4 split and right about mile 3.5, one of the runners behind me came into view again. Sometimes just over a block’s length behind me. and sometimes much closer, I decided I would not be passed. I was fighting the good fight for my run, slow as it was and I wasn’t going to give up to someone behind me this late into it. I made concerted effort to keep my time up and navigate obstacles more aggressively.

Finally, the vegetation started to clear and I could hear people – UP THE HILL. Bless the hearts of up hill finishes everywhere – my, my, don’t they make us stronger.  As I crossed the line, Maine was right there with a high-five. Some of the RWBers I don’t know yet were there, but the ones I did know came back to the finish as soon as they saw me. Apparently there were snacks up at the pavilion! Seeing as how I mainly run so I can eat what I want, knowing there were snacks made me happy too. When someone tells me it’s a “no frills” run, I don’t expect snacks. Snacks are frilly. AWESOMELY frilly!

Maine & I wandered up, got some GOOD sandwiches and chips. Included in the swag was a cute pint glass, but I didn’t really want a beer. Just lots of water.  Y’all, trail running is HARD! I mean, regular running is hard for me too, but trail running is HARD!! That run really took a lot out of me! In the best way possible though – I was exhausted but I felt AMAZING. Happy. Content.  It was a completely different thing than I normally feel when I’m racing pavement.  I knew there were only a few runners left behind me to finish, but I honestly could have cared less. We stayed to listen to the awards, and I ended up winning a tote bag as a door prize.

A five-miler might have been a little aggressive for a first trail run choice, and the soreness of my hips and abs the next day let me know that was fact, but I’m glad I chose to try it.

This is on my ‘must-do’ list for next season.

LATE ADD-ON: That runner that I promised I wouldn’t let pass me – when I dug in deep and committed to really working the course, ended up checking in 4-minutes behind me. Amazing what you can do when you decide to try! (Phhhht.)

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Since I don’t usually run with my phone or camera, picture is another one from the Northern Cali tour this Summer, taken by Eric. Yup, that’s my butt.

Hello friends!  I still contend that there are few things in this life more luxuriously relaxing than a weekend morning with some quiet and a cup of coffee! It’s about 8:45 as I’m starting this and I’ve been awake about an hour, feet tucked under a blanket on the couch and coffee mug in hand. It’s a form of meditation. And then I started thinking about the day, more about the days of other people than myself really. The Queen Bee 13.1 is this morning, with a large group of my RWB crew crossing that start line.  The Bourbon Chase 200-mile relay started yesterday morning and I know 3 different crews of runners from all walks of life in that adventure – an RWB crew, a group from my old training group, and some of my Lexington friends from Run the Bluegrass – actually they’re Louisville friends but I met them in Lexington…so does that make them Louisville friends or Lexington friends? Hmmm.

Finally, there’s my friend Allison, who in just over an hour, will be challenging Kona – the Ironman World Championships. Holeeee crap!

What am I doing this morning? Um, dog walking, at some point. Ha! I had a pretty aggressive chiropractic adjustment on C1 Wednesday which demands a few days of taking it easy til the stiffness fades away. Going to try a full on run either later today with the other dog or first thing tomorrow.

It’s gotten a little dusty in here, so I’m planning to clean that up – mainly because I have a short flurry of Race Recaps to update with a few other events tossed in.  After not being able to race, or even run at all for most of the Spring and early Summer, I noticed that the knee issues were finally starting to fade and it’s almost as if I’ve been trying to cram an entire year’s worth of races into this Fall.  On top of which, I started trail running – not on well-manicured gravel trail at my office, but on actual trails – with rocks and ruts and grass spears jutting up to stab your ankles. I LOVE IT! It’s like all of the best parts of running for me without the pounding of pavement echoing through my bones. So there will be a few posts coming up in the next few days to bring things up to speed, shake the dust off.

After I finish my coffee. :)

So a friend of mine, his buddy and I were hanging out last night – actually,  I take that back,  it was the wee hours of this morning.

Seems my friend wanted to propose to his girl, but do it 1950′s style – whatever that means. So the three of us were tossing out random ’50-ish things for ideas of a theme.  Sock hops, steudebakers, Hoover Dam…

And this is how you wake up shouting “AREA 51!” at your husband when your alarm goes off in the morning.

Not recommended.

Weird dreams this week: 2
Cynthia: 0

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Apparently, it is not only great sleeping weather in the Tristate, it’s great dreaming weather. My noggin was chock full o’nuts while I slept.

Spent most of last night in the hunting section of Dick’s Sporting Goods hanging out with a guy (unknown to me) that I swear was the human version of Elmer Fudd. Complete with red checked flannel.

Not really doing anything, maybe a little shopping but not really – talking product quality – and just hanging out.  Because my dreams are *that* interesting.

My brain. I don’t even try to explain it anymore.

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If you look just past the guy at left with the…busy…shirt, that’s me. About 15ft from that rather large elk, shooting with my camera.  Another one from the Eric photo file.

It was Eric that first brought up the idea of unity being the centerpiece concept of the evening. While we were having dessert, or more aptly, not having dessert after a stop at one place seemed too rushed to be enjoyable and the server at the other forgot to put in our dessert order. It finally came and the extra wait gave us plenty of time to talk thoughts about the performance we’d just taken in – Cincinnati Ballet’s Kaplan New Works - as I mentioned yesterday. I had entertained the same thought myself here and there about unity, but something in me wanted to resist it.  I saw unity. I didn’t feel unified. It was weird. But at the same time, that’s part of what the Kaplan series is all about, shaking your tree, challenging your notions, and confusing your feelings.

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I have said this many times in conversation, and will say it again here, if you have one of those friends that got dragged to the Nutcracker once when they were eight years old and convinced themselves that they hate the ballet – it’s boring, it’s not macho enough, it puts you to sleep. Take them to Kaplan. They may revise their opinion. This ain’t your mamma’s ballet.

The performance opened with a piece by CB-staple, Heather Britt, and as it opened, I kinda sighed.  Despite the addition of vocals by the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble bringing a new aspect to the performance, the opening sequences felt like I’d seen them before in other works by Heather. I love Heather’s work and style, but I was missing the Heather of Opus 5.5 from Kaplans of years past.  However, this feeling lifted with the rise in tempo and more of the energetic Heather began to shine through the movements of the dancers.  It was also at this point I began to really take notice of the men in the ensemble.

My friends, I’ve had the privilege of watching several of the dancers in the company mature in technique and confidence over the years – and I know that the Kaplan series has taken a feminist bent over the past two seasons – but can I just say, HOLY SMOKES! The guys in our ballet company are FIERCE!!! If anyone ever tells you ballet is for girls, I wouldn’t put it past one of our male dancers to lay them out! We have some STRONG, FIERCE and TALENTED men.

*Pause to breathe.*

Okay, back to the show. Next up after Heather was a hip-hop performance by Elementz Studio Kre8tv which included spoken poetry challenging societal perception. This is the part where I could shoot myself for leaving my program, which included the spoken words, on the bar at dessert.  I LOVED this part of the performance, which had absolutely nothing to do with ballet in its technical sense, but posed the query – when we talk about ‘us’, what do we mean by that?  Us includes all the people around us, not just the ones that look like ‘us’.  Therein lies the unity. We’re in it together, but why can’t we see that? The performers were confident, and brought such high energy. Truly a BRAVE thing to throw in the line-up, Ms. Morgan.

“Fractured Glass”, by Victoria Morgan herself, I had problems connecting with. Coincidentally, this was the same piece that brought Eric to the theme of discussion unity.  To me, the women moving about the stage were ANGRY. For some reason, the He-Man Women Hater’s Club came to mind from the Little Rascals. I don’t know why. I stopped trying to explain the way my brain works long ago. But this time, instead of Spanky and Alfalfa, the women had wrestled control. The choreography seemed frustrated and angry, something about breaking a glass ceiling. The male roles in this one seemed more lyrical to me – almost like the traditional archetype choreography of aggressive men and delicate women had been gender-role reversed. And I kind of get that that was part of it, again – glass ceiling fractured, but then there was a 4th female dancer that comes out and all of a sudden everyone gets along just fine.  Like I said, and I will freely admit, I didn’t get it. Eric got it. I didn’t get it.

The second half of the series was the more enjoyable end to me.

“Yesterday, Tomorrow” by Amy Seiwert made me amused and happy. Clever from start to finishing details, it was eye candy in a most innocent way. I LOVE LOVE LOVED the music by Gillian Welch. On the iTunes list for sure! Using a simple bench prop, costumes comfortable in country church and soft slippers, our dancers looked like they were having just as much fun in the dance as the spectators were watching. I hope to see this one again in the future.

Continuing the dramatic reprieve was “Triple Play”, choreographed by William Whitener. A pas de deux in 3 parts, danced well to piano accompaniment. I liked it, but it didn’t hold my attention as much as I would’ve liked.

Finally, it was time to “SIT” with Jennifer Archibald. OH. MY. GOD.  This is where I find unity. The sultry qualities we saw in Heather’s work amplified, with the intensity of statement made by Elementz Studio Kre8v, and the clever technical work embedded in Seiwert’s piece. The struggle of Fractured Glass. All of it came together here, UNIFIED, in a way that still makes my heart jump.  First, I’ll say it was nice to see Rodrigo Almarales toeing the same line in front as Principal Dancer Cervilio Amador.  I’ve acknowledged before that Almarales has been fearless in recent performances. He is earning it. Next, can we talk about James Gilmer? How tall is that guy? WOW! (And I apologize if I’m talking about the wrong dancer, because again, program left on the bar and the ballet doesn’t put up a dancer stat page like MLB does). I point this out because it’s not common to see someone that tall in dance, that can move like that – and he could MOVE! There were a few times he could’ve kicked the moon out of the sky with his extension. Did I mention how FIERCE our guys are looking?! Anyway, Archibald’s piece just kept my heartbeat loud and passionate in my ears, pinned to my seat – for the aptly named SIT.

Kaplan will be running at the Aronoff through Sunday, September 21st. Go get your seat. :)

Ooooh my friends, doesn’t September have the most divine sleeping-in weather?

Windows open, chill in the air, bury yourself a little deeper under the covers and tangle up your feet with that fella next to you to warm up the toesies – PERFECT sleeping-in weather.

There is simply no way to untangle those toesies for a 5am workout alarm. There just isn’t.

In other words, I didn’t make it out to Caesar’s Creek for triathlon training. Again.

The discipline, it is lacking. Lost somewhere in the woods. For a couple weeks, I had legit reasons, but this morning – it was all Zzzzzzzz.

Instead, I’m getting some computer work done, sipping on a coffee, and watching the two dogs snooze – across two different rooms, two different dog beds, in exactly the same position.

The motivation is hard to come by today. Errands need to be done – and frankly, that perfect sleeping-in weather is AWESOME running weather too. I should probably get that done.  Also, I’m out of coffee. So that must be fixed.

And through some magical intervention, the husband and I scored tickets to Kaplan New Works  tonight!  Baseball season is starting to wind down with the Reds last road trip of the season, and while I continue to click my heels and chant “There’s no place like Playoffs!”, the timing also means ballet season is starting to wind up. Time to get the dance on! Kaplan is one of the most amazing local dance traditions – and when I was fortunate to get a preview of the performance over the Summer – it got added to my must-see list with the quickness! However, the timing almost slipped on by me. I have been a busy girl!  Gotta do some prettying up for date night and get us to the dance on time.

But first the run. Must. Get. Run. Done!

 

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A friend of mine posted on Facebook recently, saying someone had inquired if he was happy, and so he found himself asking “What is the meaning of happy? Is it a feeling? Is it a material thing?”  He felt he knew his own answer, but wanted to see how others felt. So I answered him:

It’s knowing you wouldn’t change your life - even the rough edges of it.

My birthday was yesterday. Launch of a new decade. Or as my runner-brain has been thinking of it, the dawn of a new age-division.

For the past few weeks, whenever my birthday has come up, I’ve heard it called “the big one”, or had people ask me if I’m having trouble with it as if it should induce some depression, or is comically old, or is catastrophic. Meanwhile, all I can think to myself is “my god! I am so grateful not to be 20 anymore.”  My thirties were pretty good to me. I have no doubt that this new decade will contain it’s own notes of adventure.

I put up my first photo show at the yoga studio last week.

I have posts I want to write floating about in my head – 2 of which are race recaps for trail runs. At 40, I have just begun trail running.

In a few hours, I debut my first guided meditation class as a teacher.  Then I need to go through my prep for my first intensive yoga series that I’m teaching which starts Monday.

And that’s after I’m taking off for a weekend to go teach yoga at The Rugged Red Trail Half-Marathon at Red River Gorge. Eric & Fred are coming along so that we can get our own hiking in between run-related activities and camping with Team RWB.

I have things to do which leave no time for lament, depression or catastrophe.

Too busy being happy.

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Another photo from Eric from the Cali collection.

In case you wanted to see the selfie I referenced in yesterday’s post, my friend has a blog too:

http://theschmidtlife.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/lets-get-real/

Maybe you could go check her out.  :)

My friends, it is the end of a Monday and my feet are propped up. It’s that time of randomness between work’s end and making dinner. Please don’t check my spelling.

It has been a LOOOONG day, not for any sad or bad reasons, but just that life brings you tiredness sometimes.

Jack is coming along fine after his surgery with the exception that he’s miserable in his crate and “cone of shame”.  He handled it like a champ for the first two days, happy to nap out in the privacy, but now – he’s OVER IT.  The most Zen dog I know is OVER IT, with the stored up OVER-IT-NESS of 11 years. The barking and whining. OH. MY. GOD. Harder on him than me, I know, but still hard for everyone in the house.  Which is what brings me to today, and the repeated barking fits throughout the night that left everyone in the place a bit groggy this morning.

On top of which, I got something in my eye last night that just would. not. give. up. for several hours and repeated eye rinsing. Swollen, puffy eyes laced with gunk. Sexy.

When you wake up after little sleep, with one eye gunked shut and your brain not even thinking of firing, you reach for your fat day clothes to wear to work.

That’s what today was – frumpy, fat pants, red-eyed, little-to-no makeup and half-asleep Monday. Somehow I still managed to smile and say hello and be nice to a lot of people today, but yuck. I was not feeling good in my skin.

Then I saw it. The most perfect thing for the day. A selfie my friend had taken and had the balls to post on Facebook. Like nothing I have ever seen.

First, let me tell you. My friend, she’s beautiful. In the “traditional sense” – blonde, blue-eyed, gorgeous.  As if that’s not enough, she also has an impeccable sense of style. When I see her, she is usually put together with precision. Then there’s the wicked sense of humor. One of those women that just strikes you as flawless, except in a completely relatable, good friend kind of way.

Today, there was this woman. With the hair going all…and the expression going all…there just aren’t words. In the land of Monday morning selfies, this one wins the internet. Just holy shit y’all. No makeup. Pajamas. If feral can be done ‘precisely’, my girl nailed it. I saw this picture, and I just laughed. A whole rest of the day later and I’m still laughing about it. Not because she looked awful, because in some weird way, she didn’t. But because in an even weirder way, even though I’d put on my fat work pants and cleaned myself up a bit, that picture summed up everything about how I still felt inside my skin. If I looked in the mirror, and saw my true self reflected back, it would have looked back at me with wild morning hair and an expression of …I still can’t articulate the expression well enough. Something like, You’re going to get my 100% today, but just so you know, this is what my 100% looks like. So on with it.

I love that she had the nerve to post that. In smiling at that and seeing that, it reminded me that we all are in this struggle together.  And we should laugh at it.

Fast forward from the morning selfie, and an errand took me to the Downtown yoga studio where I teach. Just to pass through. Being tired, I also passed through the coffee shop down the street to grab a latte. The girl behind the counter had this shockingly red hair – shocking to the point that I could guess some would have comment about it. My corporate environment for one, would not welcome this look if I showed up that way. In talking about the weather, the humidity, she mentioned something about the color running. We spent a good 5-10 minutes talking about the natural dye she used and how she got her hair that color and other colors it had been. An easy, natural conversation happening in a way that doesn’t occur all that often with a complete stranger. And I thought to myself, ya know, I bet this girl takes a lot of heat over that hair color but if you take a moment to just take in the whole, she’s really beautiful.  Clever makeup, a goth twist to her look, but so friendly and open. Our discussion got onto the topic of the perception of beauty and I said to her that what I would really like would be if the world would just get rid of the phrase -

She’d be pretty if…

If she lost 10 pounds or 30 pounds or 100 pounds. If she cut her hair different. If she waxed her lip. If she smiled more. If she dressed differently. If if if.

My god,  can we stop with the IF? Or the WOULD BE?

When your friend can laugh at her feral Monday hair enough to share it with the world, that’s beautiful. She IS beautiful, as is, no photoshop.

When your barista can smile at you and talk about how she got a shade of red that you don’t have the courage for, she IS beautiful.

We’re all beautiful, even on the rough days when we’ve had no sleep and even detest our fat pants.

Without the if’s or the would be’s, we’re beautiful.

Peeps, please take a second for yourself, wherever you be in your skin, and just let yourself feel beautiful for a moment.

Because you are. Just as your are.

We’re beautiful.