Posts Tagged ‘Run the Bluegrass’

Wow! People – I would love to sit here and say OMG – how is it already the end of March and RTB has passed again – EXCEPT that it’s already the middle of April. Time is moving FAST FAST FAST these days – and I say that AFTER I just finished up a week of vacation! Isn’t vacation supposed to be a slow-down time?  Nevertheless, it IS mid-April and two weeks have passed by since RTB was logged into the recordbooks. Some races, you write about right away. Others, you need to let soak in. RTB is a soak-in for me. Even with being a race ambassador (or Race AmBADASSador, as we call ourselves) again this year, there are so many details which Eric Marr (RD) and Rachel Crabtree (ARD), as well as their bevy of volunteers, invest themselves in, that I think they warrant a few moments of just absorbing the big picture of the event.

The Race:  Billed as America’s Prettiest Half Marathon, Run The Bluegrass starts and finishes at Keeneland Racecourse. Options available are 13.1 & 7-mile distances, run simultaneously. The 7-mile race splits off of the half-marathon course via a cross road and joins back up with it again before the finish. Race date is usually the last Saturday in March, which was 3/28 this year. The date has moved to the first Saturday in April – 4/2 – for 2016.

The Swag:  Swag has it’s own special personality at RTB, which is one of the things I LOVE about it most. Included in the race fee is a t-shirt, an option for a personalized bib, and your medal. I’ll admit, on the surface, this doesn’t sound like much – until you also add in the meet-up tents & INDOOR areas pre-race, the post-race PARTY, then the post-post-race party later that evening. There’s also the fact that this race is NOT a crowded melee like many others are these days – worth a premium to me. Other race organizers please note – capping race attendance is NOT a sin!

This year, there was a problem in shipping with the Nike shirts which would have delayed receiving them until after the race. For Eric & Rachel, this wasn’t an option – they knew runners would be disappointed and no one wants to see a sad runner. They sprang into action and got in some super soft hoodies! A lighter-weight version than the winter hoodies, I think I like it better than a shirt! (Especially since I’m trying to thin out the herd of shirts in my running wardrobe right now.) It’s unique and an awesome option to have available to throw over running or yoga clothes for post-workout beers. All of the runners I spoke with LOVED the hoodie and several were already sporting it at yoga the next morning.

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Also, they don’t skimp on the medal for this run. The medal is GORGEOUS!!! Beautiful detail and it weighs a ton! If you are into race bling, this should be one you seek to collect.

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The rest of the swag available is at your discretion – you have a menu to pick and choose what means the most to you in the form of one-of-a-kind experiences that you buy tickets for – thoroughbred farm tours, distillery tours, race course tours, excellent pre-&-post race dinners. I’ve done many of these experiences myself and this is swag you don’t forget. Last year, I got to pet a foal that in another year, I’m likely to see competing at Keeneland, making its name as a champion. I also learned all about making my own hooch distilling bourbon and found a new love in bourbon cream (who knew that existed?!). Um, I hear there’s also a yoga class the next day at the race hotel…I think I might know the teacher. 🙂  (And yes, I customized my bib to promo the yoga class.) You can EASILY make an entire weekend of the race, scheduled with events at a pace to suit you.

The Tag: Registration cost is on a sliding scale, depending on when you register. Registration for 2016 was already available at the 2015 Expo for $50 – RIDICULOUSLY LOW – for this run. Discount codes were emailed out to race alumni. Current 2016 registration is $70 for 13.1 and $60 for 7-mile distances. It pays to register early, though I don’t recall fees going over $85 for 2015 – which is still a decent price compared to the experience you get up against a higher fee for RnR races which are way too crowded to enjoy half as much.

The Course: As it says when you open the webpage, RTB is “One of America’s 20 standout, must-do half-marathons” per Runners’ World – and you know RW don’t lie! The course on this race is AMAZING – 13 miles of rolling green hills – pastures – farms. Million dollar horses watch you pass by. At one point in mile 11 – we saw SIX PAIRS of mothers & foals standing side-by-side in a pasture. On a blue-skied, Spring day with all the greenery beginning to emerge, this course is Americana at it’s finest.

It is also HILLY AS F-…hills can be. I have to be honest about the fact that this is NOT an easy course – you will be challenged by it. But that’s also what makes it majestic and completely worth the effort. It’s like running through a postcard. A very pretty, but also sweat-inducing, postcard. There’s a gopro of the course on youtube here. I’ll admit, I didn’t watch all of it because – 90 minutes, but next Winter when I’m training, this will be nice to throw on the iPad and watch from my view on the treadmill as an inspirational tool.

Of Course: Guys, I teared up at the start line. Normally, that’s a finish line thing – but honestly, I was doing my best not to take a minute just to sob it out at the start of my 13.1. Not for any awful reason, but because being able to do this race for the 13.1 distance was a hugely emotional thing for me. This was my 3rd attempt. In year 1, I dropped to the 7-miler at the expo because I was undertrained for the race. Year 2 – the knee injury had me hobbling around taking pictures. I had to admit that there was no way in hell I could run it, not even the 7-miler, a week before the race. After having an entire year to prepare, that sucked. So at year 3, and a year after that injury sidelined me, to just be standing at the start line was a victory in and of itself. Whatever happened on the course was gravy.

My Day:  Eric & I opted against getting a hotel this year. We’ve done a hotel the past 2 years, to varying degree, but Lexington is only 80-90 minutes from my house and an EASY drive, so we decided to try handling the experience without one. This would let me rest & recover in my own bed, and keep us from having to book a dogsitter. We drove up for packet pickup on Thursday – the first opportunity. The expo was not crowded and was set up with a walk-through flow that kept you moving. I was able to pick up packets for myself & several RWB friends who were running. Eric & Rachel were both there, greeting runners and helping out. There were a LOT of other local races there and part of what was nice was that you actually had time to stop and chat with the booth people about the runs – as opposed to being hurried due crowds. We stayed for dinner, grabbing a great burger and beer at the Shamrock, then back home.

Race Day started by being out the door at 6:45 with RWB Rebecca joining us for the drive down. We made a pretty seamless drive, got through Gate 2 to park and made it to our RWB tent at 8:35. In that venue, 25 minutes to a race start is PLENTY of time to get where you need to be – except that the porta potty lines looked LONG, but we’d already taken care of that on the way.

Wave starts kept the running crowd from being overwhelming, although I think RTB has done a great job choosing a 5000 runner cap on this race. Then we were off! I had strategized to do a 3:1 interval for this race and not worry about the clock. As I said before, I planned an aggressive Spring racing season – and I wanted to be able to race the whole season, not off myself in the first one. It was perfect running weather for me – I set my dial to HAPPY and got moving. The first 1.5 went by nicely and I was setting up for a great run. Around that point, I came across my friend Jenn. Jenn & I swim together twice a week and she’s on my short list of great training buddies. She was walking and I decided to walk with her – not really sure how or when both of us decided that was the thing to do – we’re pretty good at pushing each other – but we ran a little and walked most of the rest. Keep in mind, other than driving it – I’d never seen the 13.1 course the way it needed to be viewed. And Jenn ran in 2014, in that HORRIBLE weather – head down, don’t look up, kind of freezing cold rain – so she hadn’t really seen the course the way it should be viewed either. Seriously folks – YOU DON’T RUSH YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THAT KIND OF GORGEOUS. For the next 3-hours, we took the time to soak in how beautiful the route was – stopping to take some pictures, chatting, talking training plans for triathlon season. Both of us have our competitive, PR-driven sides, but there was this mutual agreement that happened which threw that out the window for a minute to really see this run. We were enjoying the day, and that was AWESOME!

On meeting Eric at finish, he commented that this was the first half-mar he’d seen me look genuinely happy crossing the finish line.

We took advantage of drinks and food, and the massage table lines were short by that time, so I took advantage of that too.  I hugged a few friends and then it was time to ride back. RWB Rebecca had PR’d significantly on that hard course, so it was fun to swap our race stories on the way home. I declined going to the post-post-race party that night as I had to prep to teach 2 yoga classes at the race hotel the next day.

The Ending Line: As I move more into trail running, it’s getting harder to hear the call of pavement, so I’m not sure what will happen in terms of my choosing to run this race next year. It’s likely that I will, but weather made training this past Winter a miserable endeavor. It was tough to get the mileage in that I needed to really make a go of this race. So lots to mull over there. Trying to decide whether the 7-mile option might be better for me, though missing some of that scenery in the upper miles of the 13.1 is a heartbreaking thought too… There’s also the camaraderie I’d miss from the RTB friends I’ve made through being a race ambassador and yoga teacher, as well as the RWB Chapters that showed up from Chicago, Cincy & Lexington.

The Next Race: Um, the next race was this past Saturday – so I’m behind a full race recap on Forget the PR Mohican 25k.  Trust me when I say, I need to write that one up! Lots to say about that. Two weeks into the future, I’ll be doing a girls’ weekend at Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville.

Subtitle: The View from the Sidelines

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Run the Bluegrass weekend is over.

I’m back at home, with a cup of coffee and buried in photos to go through. My suitcase still isn’t unpacked, there is laundry that needs doing, and the dogs are acting a little squirrelly after 4-days at boarding.  *sigh*

This one is hard. The weekend was AMAZING. But also hard.

It’s hard to watch most of your running buddies cross a start line that you can’t cross. It’s hard to pick up your bib and know you’re not pinning it on. It’s hard to answer ‘you’re not running?’ a few dozen times wishing your answer was different. Nope. I’m not running. I think my heart actually groaned out loud when I saw everyone I know getting finisher medals – knowing mine was supposed to be one of the really big ones – and I wasn’t going to have one. Friends, those medals are GORGEOUS! I may be regretting not getting one of those for awhile. As I was hiking up and down the front slopes of Keeneland with my camera, my knee confirmed I made the right decision not to run. Pain and the specter of making the injury worse made that decision easy – I can’t tell people to respect their bodies in my classes if I won’t walk that same walk. It was a GREAT weekend, but still hard.

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It’s hard to be in the bleachers when your heart is on the field, in the game.

Or that’s the pity party on my mental sidelines that I was throwing for myself before I learned a little bit about what HARD really means.

Rachel was the first person I saw when I arrived at the expo on Thursday. Not as in, the first person I knew that I saw, but  THE. FIRST. PERSON. She was tucked into a table right inside the door, an earpiece for expo communications in one ear and a bluetooth in the other. At 3pm, she was still grabbing bites of lunch between tasks – a last minute parking change, and ironing out even more last minute changes in the farm tours – but she still made time to smile at me, give me a hug and chat for a moment. Rachel was also the last person I saw on Sunday morning. Despite being exhausted – and probably having been awake for 4 days straight – she still made time to come to my 9am yoga class – to be there to support me.

After my second class, she was out in the hotel lobby, saying goodbye to some runners leaving just past checkout time.  As we’re walking out to the cars, it’s hard to imagine that I didn’t know her at all before my random suggestion to offer yoga at the run via twitter last Summer. It seems like I’ve known her forever. You know what’s hard? – still caring about a friend’s yoga class after days of exhausting effort, on the first morning that you might get to sleep in a little.

Marr (Eric) was right on her heels on Thursday. I saw him first about 10 minutes after I got to the expo, and then I saw him again and again and again. With the exception of the 8am Keeneland tour, I swear he appeared at every single event – tour – dinner that I was at, making sure the details were right and people were having a good time. The Keeneland tour – he probably only missed because he was busy setting up buses for the Distillery & Farm tours. The cold and sideways rain could not have been any more miserable on race morning, but as my own Eric pointed out, “I think [Marr] high-fived every single runner as they came up on the finish line!”.

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Marr was the last person I saw at the close of the post-race party at the hotel – he had no voice left at all from cheering people on but was still inviting everyone to his room since the hotel shut the party down early. You know what’s hard? – taking care of everyone. Really – Everyone. Still giving as much of a damn on day 4 as you do on day 1.  That’s hard.

When I said last year that this race was personal, I felt that through the media and the tours and the run. When I tell you this year that this race is intensely personal, it’s from watching on the sidelines how much of themselves that Marr & Rachel invest in this race. If it feels personal to me, it’s because they’ve made it PERSONAL to them. Of course there are the Ambassador friends I’ve made, the  300 volunteers and coordinators and expo vendors – and to them/us, it’s important too – but the heart, the soul of it – the personal of it – comes shining through Eric Marr & Rachel Crabtree. They both make HARD look so damn easy.

My own hard got drowned out in the Keeneland Behind-the-Scenes Tour, mainly by the gravy on the biscuits in the Track Kitchen (That was some good breakfast!), and the bourbon balls on the way to tour Buffalo Trace Distillery and Lane’s End Farm.  I couldn’t hear my self pity over the fun I was having meeting another couple from Iowa at the Farm-to-Table Dinner hosted by Wild Thyme on Friday night – the husband telling me that all the social media made him feel like he & Marr are good friends. I know that feeling! I think they may have talked us into doing a run in “Quad cities”. (Need to Google that.)

While my eyes teared up for a minute watching the last corral pull out, I can not replace the experience of volunteering at putting medals on runners necks until my fingers were too cold to move. Doing that with Laura, a fellow ambassador who designed the medal. Seeing her eyes tear up as she got to put *her* medal around the neck of the first finishers. Or my getting to put the medal around Nash’s neck. Or getting some of the volunteers to sing Happy Birthday to Maine as I put her medal around her neck and give her a big hug. Despite the cold and the wet, I can’t hear my own hard over the race stories of my friends who braved that awful weather to cross the finish line and who are already talking about registering for 2015. Yes, my knee was hurting as I was dancing at the after-party, but sometimes when there’s good music and your friends are shaking it on the floor, you just have to dance anyway. Making that couple from Iowa get up there with you.

Laura (left) & I getting in our bicep curls.

Laura (left) & I getting in our bicep curls.

Then there was my yoga class. That – not so hard. Deliberately not hard. Easy to smile at the yogis who got up early to spend an hour on the mat – honored that I got to lead them. Ecstatic to have 2 classes of them! Seeing my suggestion come into being. I will never forget hearing the laughter of our group as we shouted ‘PEACE OUT LEXINGTON!’ to close our practice instead of ‘Namaste’.

When you’re having a really good time at a run that you didn’t even get to run, it’s hard to wallow. Especially once you know what hard really looks like.

PEACE OUT LEXINGTON!

 

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IT’S RUN THE BLUEGRASS WEEKEND!!!! and of course, I’m procrastinating with the packing. Does anyone really like to pack?

I’ve already gotten 2 huge and heavy boxes of yoga mats out to the car. Thank you Miss Passerby who pointed out the irony that I was getting my workout struggling to get a box of yoga mats in the car – and didn’t offer to help.  *insert blank stare here*

The race isn’t until Saturday morning, but I’m heading out today to see if I can put in some volunteer time at the expo and generally contribute. Especially since I can’t run the race after all. So, if you’re there and you see me, SAY HI!!!

BUT – if you’re not going down to horse country with me…

Friends, let me tell you – this is a *HARD* weekend to be away from home. There are some AWESOME things going on about town. One of those weekends where all the events seem to converge into a whirlwind of too many places to be at once. First – there’s this!

I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview rehearsal of Bolero last week and I don’t think I’ve been more sad to miss a performance all season.  Remember when I said Victoria Morgan doesn’t *do* boring with her choreography? In the preview, there were several moments where I sat forward in my seat and said “HOLY CRAP” under my breath. (Holy Crap! being a compliment and my favorite exclamation of surprise.) My peeps – this is easily a “4-Holy Crap” rated show.  If you go, make sure you watch the corners on the exits – if you don’t you are missing some cool stuff. A few jumps and spins and lifts that I’d need to see in slo-mo to even begin to sort them out.  I’ll also add that after seeing Rodrigo Almarales as Mordred in Camelot, and noticing him again in this rehearsal – this dancer is having one heckuva season! Certainly someone to watch as a shining star in the coming performances.

Also – um, there’s this baseball thing – if you like baseball – BWAHAHAHA.  OPENING DAY is MONDAY!!!! BUT – if you can’t wait until then, there’s a Reds pre-season exhibition game in Louisville w/ the Louisville Bats on Saturday night.  You have no idea how I racked my brain trying to figure out how I could be at the run on Saturday morning, sneak over to Louisville to catch this game, and make it back to Lexington for the post-race party at the Griffin Gate Marriott on Saturday night.  Unfortunately, there’s only one of me. And that girl needs to be in Lexington – so if you make it down to Louisville for the Bats game, have a big ole popcorn for me and scream nice things for JJ & Sam if they get called to the mound. ‘K? (But keep it clean, I’m a nice girl.)

FINALLY, if none of that floats your boat, it’s Final Friday downtown again. Which means the Acro Yoga Jam at You Do Yoga is ON! If you’ve ever been curious about Acro Yoga, this is a GREAT environment to give it a try – lots of talented, experienced people that are happy as larks to show newbies how to fly. At the very least, it’s pretty to watch – so stop in, look around, chat up the studio peeps, then head down the lane to grab a bite at MOTR and listen to some tunes. It’s an excellent use of your time, trust me.

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It’s one of those runner things, at least it’s one of *my* running things, and particularly for half-marathons, that all through training my focus tends towards finish lines. I think of times and goals and crossing the blue timing mats and if I’ll need to kick in the last mile and the beer afterward and what it’s going to feel like when I’m done and how bad I’m going to hurt afterward and and and.  I think of hard parts on the course and get myself in mental check to work through them, coach myself well. I consider any struggle points I might encounter. Then race week arrives and like someone clunked me on the head, my thoughts shift.  To the starting line. From the end to the beginning.

I have been up since 3:38AM, with the house quiet and no coffee, in a form of meditation. (Yes, I’m still on meditation as a topic – for another post.) It’s made me a bit stoic. It’s now approaching 9AM – which has left a lot of time for thinking and shifts in thinking – which is when I realized I was thinking of this photograph. I didn’t take it, though I did clean it up a bit. It’s one of Eric’s pics and I am somewhere in that line of people.  Almost a year ago I was gathering in that early morning mist with all those other people, in the shadow of Keeneland about to take off for 7-miles. I’d had the great fortune to run into some friends who I didn’t know were going to be there and we were chatting it up, trying not to squander the energy that excitement brings before the starting gun goes off. It was PERFECT race weather.

I have lost track of the number of starting lines at which I have stood.  And to be perfectly honest, when I think of starting lines – in general – I do not think of this one.

I think of concrete, and long lines for porta-potties. 25-30,000 people jostling to find the right spot to launch their run. The last time I did the Flying Pig, the crowds were so thick – even on the sidelines – that you had to move through them single file. SO. MANY. PEOPLE. It’s hard to stay with your friends. It’s exciting and fun, too – don’t get me wrong – but also claustrophobic and tedious and it can feel like it takes days to get the race started as the waves creep forward, pause, creep forward, pause. For me, all I can think about is how to simultaneously get the heck away from all of these people – find a pocket of air, room to move – and not get swept up by the crowd pace as I try to find my race lost in all these other races.

I do not think of green space – wide, well-manicured lawns. Or room to stretch while in the corral chatting it up with my buds. I do not think of having  all the air I can breathe and that there will be plenty of time to take care of all the things I need to do before start. I don’t think of the after-party, where it will only take me moments to get a beer and the line to get stretched out by a physical therapist is short. I do not think of how Eric is able to be chatting it up right there with me and taking pictures until he steps out of bounds just before race start. There are 5000 people here and it never feels crowded or uncomfortable.

The start feels like an awesome parade and the end feels like the best lawn party ever thrown at my neighbor’s house.

It strikes me again how different this run is.

Run the Bluegrass is in ONE WEEK. The forecast is about identical to the day that happened in the photo above.

I am so completely excited that so many of my running friends are coming this year – it is going to be an AMAZING WEEKEND!

An interesting part is that I can say that, even having found out that I won’t be able to run it this year. The knee thing.  Doc says it’s a no-go – not even to walk it. Yoga is helping, so I can still do all of that, but trying this race would not be a good idea. The paradigm shifts again, from end to start, to how to not start. DNS. Grrrr. But it’s the right thing.  This is another thing that speaks to this run and these good people – I cannot think of any other race that, knowing I was DNS, I would still go spend an entire weekend on the race.  And it’s not about the yoga class. And it’s not about the friends I have going – they would understand. It’s that this race is bigger than a race – it’s an experience. I don’t want to miss it. Even if I can’t run it, I can still be there close to the start line and finish line with my friends, I can do the tours, I can take pictures, I can party at the Griffin Gate. I CAN CHEERLEAD MY MF-ing ASS OFF FOR ALL THESE RUNNERS!!

I will not be lost there in a sea of people and concrete. I will be around 5000 people that I consider friends. This race is so very different.

Marr & Rachel tell me that my first yoga class on Sunday has sold out, and so we added a second. I have been writing, rewriting and tweaking again this yoga class in my mind for weeks – months – now.

It boggles me that this is actually happening.

 

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Another pic from the Run the Bluegrass course. If I remember correctly this sign is harbinger of a nice downhill slope that continues for just a bit. The sign is just before or at the crest, and far enough after the rolling part of the run has started that you realize you’ve started really working. Though not nearly the first downhill on the course, it’s the first one for which you feel truly grateful. The sense of charging the course like a bull starts to temper back and listen to that little voice that says maybe you oughtta pay a little more attention to your pace, you aren’t even at the hardest parts yet, you need to slow down a little and breathe more. Always breathe more.

I have a *thing* about birds and so I like this sign, and I like the birds on the mailbox, and I like that the birds are yellow. I have a *thing* about yellow too.

It feels balmy outside this morning at 60-degrees. And it is raining. Dark.  It smells like Spring rain outside and the picture above comes to mind. It was taken in October, but sometimes rain does a funny thing where it can make an October day smell like March. Being a human barometer, storm systems coming in often give me a headache and I went to bed last night with a doozy of one. Once the rain starts, the headache usually fades, so I am glad that it started raining overnight, and I am glad that my headache is gone though I am still very drowsy and fighting a case of the crankypants. No reason for it. Just woke up that way.

Eric tells me that it will be 30-degrees & snowing before I leave work today.

This has been the most confusing set of seasons I can ever recall.

Last night, I tried doing laps at the track with no jacket or sleeves – some bare skin showing to the sunshine. Today, I put on wool socks and was wishing I hadn’t left my gloves in my car – no time to get them before carpool shows up. The clothing feels too warm right now and I am trying not to sweat before I spend the day in my cube. A girl can’t stink up the joint like that.

The internet connection at the house is moving PAINFULLY slow. A relatively recent development, and I am lucky that Eric already knows what the problem is and it doesn’t seem difficult to fix – or he doesn’t make it sound difficult. I was hoping to get this post up & another thing or two done before my ride shows up, but nothing on my computer is cooperating.

The dogs are still tussling too – when I need them to settle down before Fred goes into her crate for the day. I hate to crate her when she’s in a high-energy phase. It just seems mean. I don’t think I would like that very much if I were in her place.  Between the computer and the dogs and the need for gloves and wool socks, I can feel myself getting irked. Also, I need a haircut.

Wednesday is not. being. cooperative.

It would be a good time to stop and remember to breathe, but there’s no time for that.  Nor will there be any and within another 30 minutes I find myself telling myself to stop looking at an email that has simultaneously irritated me and creeped me the hell out. Impressive. Crankypants doesn’t get creeped out easily. I have a list of tasks – and I tell myself to dive right on in – get the first thing done and I’ll feel better.

Except that those yellow little songbirds are still tugging at me – they have no tolerance for Crankypants. And they were the first thing on my list of things that aren’t on my list which I still want to get done. I want to look at the unwritten list first. The written one will make far more sense after I take care of the unwritten one.

It’s a good time to remember to breathe.

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Another shot from the Run the Bluegrass route. On my drive around the course last Fall, somewhere between Blackstone Farm and the turn onto Redd, it started raining *HARD* and as my wipers struggled to keep up, there was this tobacco barn that caught my attention. The water sheeting over my windshield with that in the view reminded me of an impressionist painting, though I don’t think Monet spent much time painting tobacco barns.

Once again, I’m waking up to the world covered in ice – which is what brought this photo to mind – even though it is rain in the picture, the ice sheets outside look just the same over everything. They are cold and vicious, but somehow still so beautiful.

I have a white-knuckle grip on the idea that at some time today, I WILL get 6 miles done. I NEED to get 6 miles in however they happen, walking, hiking, running – however. This is my mantra. But it’s a side point –

I was in yoga teacher training over the weekend (for the 500-hour program). These weekends we spend 20+ hours in the studio from Friday-Sunday, usually with some new, some review and one specialized topic. LOTS of movement practice and LOTS of meditation. As part of our weekend, our Saturdays start at 8:00am – IN SILENCE. It’s an unspoken agreement that even if you see each other in the parking lot coming in, you don’t speak – we do 25 minutes of Yin practice which is self-guided – and then for the next 50 minutes we “sit Zazen”. The interpretation of this is that we sit as still as we can, in a seated position – facing a wall – for 50 minutes with the idea of achieving a stillness, as much mentally as physically. It’s a discipline. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners.  On Sundays, we explore different other methods of meditation & breathing, but our Saturdays are dedicated to Zazen. My yogi brain understands the discipline of Zazen and does find a benefit from it most days – but to my runner’s brain –

THIS IS INSANE.

And is as wont to happen in a weekend where you spend 20 hours with the same group of people, a lively discussion about meditation broke out between myself, my Buddhist friend & colleague (who leads the meditation) and another trainee/teacher who struggles with the meditation but is giving it her best shot (as am I, though I don’t really struggle with it beyond the discomfort in my legs that I have to ignore).

First off, I’m going to tell you – and I say this with full love in my heart for their beliefs – if you’ve ever debated a well-versed Buddhist on anything, I feel like I should just give you a hug right now and we should call this post done. Seriously –

THERE NEEDS TO BE A SUPPORT GROUP FOR THAT.

It’s very frustrating to debate with someone who ends with “all these things we do aren’t really meaningful anyway because we’re all dying and that’s okay because we never really existed anyway”. I paraphrase. But you see my point? HOW CAN YOU ARGUE WITH THAT?  So anyway –

There was this discussion which left me with two big ponderances which I’d like to pose to you. I’m posting them on FB & Twitter also in the spirit of gathering a variety of thoughts on the topic –

First – WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MEDITATION? One of the things that has become apparent to me is that there is a gap in understanding about what practitioners of meditation experience or expect to experience from their discipline (a function of expectation) and what others perceive as the purpose of meditation (a function of perception).

Second – DO YOU HAVE TO SIT STILL TO MEDITATE? I’m sure you can guess that this is the bigger hotbed topic.

So, I’m interested in your thoughts. There is no right or wrong answer since meditation is unique to the individual. And I’m still interested in your thoughts even if you don’t meditate – what do you think it’s about? what do you think people who meditate are trying to achieve? I’d love to hear you comments.

I woke up this morning – at 4:35am, which happens to be a full 40 minutes before my alarm, to the sound of Fred stirring around in her crate.

And as my blurry mind came slowly into focus, waiting for the signal that puppy needed to go out, the first crystal clear thought that came to mind was

“half butterfly – I need to be sure I put half butterfly into Yin class tonight”.

Half butterfly is a yoga pose for the lower back or hamstring (or both), depending on your need. I tend to sleep in a twist, so on occasion I wake up needing a little forward bending or squatting to offset the twisting I’ve been doing most of the night.

Then almost immediately my thoughts linked through to my Yoga for Runners class (on Sundays), then further to Run the Bluegrass. I was thinking about Run the Bluegrass – it is indelibly linked to my yoga and running thinking now – before my feet hit the floor this morning. And more specifically, my thoughts went to this group of people –

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I didn’t know any of them 7 months ago. Now, through the power of social media, I interact with at least one of them every. single. day. We share encouragment, ideas – we tease the crap out of each other! We touch base on plans.

In the bright blue at right, that’s Eric Marr – the RD for Run the Bluegrass. The cowgirl with the fierce stance – that’s Rachel Crabtree – the ARD & Race Experience Coordinator. Her birthday just passed.  Susannah in the light green at right, I introduced you to her before. Mark is standing next to Rachel and Dawn is in the light blue with the braids – Friends, those two are mad-crazy with all the runs and races they do! Levi has his back to you and right now, he does not want to talk about skunks. Tracey is falling off the picture at right – he’s in my local running group and I’m lucky I caught him in the picture as we were both on the fringe taking our own shots during the tour. I could go on…

This group right here is the 2014 Ambassador group for RTB. If you’d asked me 7 months ago if I could miss a group of people this much having only met them for a weekend – I would’ve told you no. But it’s true – I miss them. I woke up with them on my mind this morning because they’re AWESOME!

I think one of the best parts of RTB, for me – is going to be getting to see this group of people again – and get to mix & mingle them in with all the friends that are coming down to Lexington with me or meeting me there. It’s not just a race – it’s like a reunion of all the coolest running people I know.

One month until the expo starts, my friends.

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Friends, am I the only one starting to think Mother Nature has it in for my Saturday long runs?

Geez Louise! Another big snow kiss got dumped on all our sidewalks for Valentine’s Day. Makes the motivation a bit hard to come by in the early morning hours. Except for one thing –

Run the Bluegrass is 6 WEEKS OUT!

Six weeks, my friends.  According to the Florea training plans – long runs should be hitting @7-8 miles in the beginner program or 11-12 miles in the intermediate training plan. In either plan – you’re more than halfway to the finish line. I’ll be honest in saying that all this snow (& still the knee thing) has me a little bit behind. I’m in the 6-mile category, but that’s okay. It’s not my first rodeo on the half-mar and I know my body can do this if I train smart moving forward. For a run this hilly, training smart to me means cutting back on the speedwork in favor of steady-paced hill runs which alternate in intensity between treadmill hill programs (easy) and making a very hilly local cemetary my go-to running route outdoors (hard). Long runs are for getting it done wherever at whatever pace, just getting the bones and muscles used to the wear & tear of the distance.

Then recovering smart in between.

Ahhh, recovery. I love me some recovery movement. It’s part of what makes us yogis tick. I haven’t written about progress on the yoga front lately, but trust me – there’s lots going on in my teaching and training spectrum. Including – in case you missed it – one pretty BIG announcement for me.  Y’all –

I’M GOING TO BE TEACHING YOGA FOR RUN THE BLUEGRASS!!!!

I’d say the cat’s outta the bag – but we’re talking about Kentucky here. The cork’s finally out the bottle!

It’s something that has been in the works since last Summer when Eric Marr, the RD, reached out via Twitter for new ideas to make the race weekend *more* special. Having already made a connection via last year’s race recap, I said ‘what about yoga the morning after the race?’. It’s something my friends & I do the day after anyway. Eric, being the brilliant man he is, ran it past Rachel, (because second opinions are good) and the answer came back ‘HECK YEAH! LET’S DO IT!’.  They busted tail talking to Griffin Gate Marriott – getting me a great space in the race hotel to offer class – and part of my trip to Lexington last October was checking it out, so I could consider details. Done deal!

Since a huge part of my passion for yoga comes from its benefits for recovery from the rigors of other activities, offering a class as part of the race weekend experience made perfect sense to me. A way of saying one more time and in one more way – this race cares about runners. Not just about the race or the money – but about all these humans that come to the starting line for the 1000’s of reasons they bring with them.

Does RTB want you to come run hard? Yes. But they want you to play hard too (just check out all the other offerings for the ‘Experience’ weekend) – and when you’re done soaking up as much of Lexington’s awesomeness as you can, they want you to leave feeling great about all you’ve done.

Friends, it will be my privilege to host the closing event for the weekend – a yoga class which speaks to us distance runners through the language we understand best – our bodies. We’ll be stretching out the rigors of mile 9, leaving behind the after-party hangover, and acknowledging our race accomplishments before heading back to those things we do when we aren’t running our assanas off.

I want you to leave feeling great before we close the barn doors on Run the Bluegrass 2014. So – as I say in my regular yoga class offerings –

COME GET YOUR STRETCH ON!

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*Photo taken on the Buffalo Trace Distillery tour.

First off, I just like this photo. I don’t know why, because it’s not particularly likeable. It’s not nearly one of the good shots in the entire lot of photos.

One of my trips to Lexington to meet up with the Run the Bluegrass crew, I spent some time driving around taking shots of the route. Here and there I took pictures of street markers, more to use as reference points for when I pulled up the pics later. A divider. A marker between one batch of useful photos and another batch.  Sometimes I use street signs. Occasionally I jot something down on a post-it note and take a picture of the post-it. That’s what this is – a reference shot. Not really meant to be seen by anyone but me. But here it is.

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Because I like it. I look at it and wish I’d done a few things 1000 ways different, but still. I like it.

Rosalie & Bosworth is almost right at mile 1.5 on the route. That beautiful strip of road in the mirror is what you’ve already put behind you. Keene Ridge Farm is what you’re about to pass on your left. In about another mile, you’ll make a right on Elkchester and the real rollercoaster begins.

And a ridiculous little reference shot reminds me that even the reference shots – the throw away images not good enough for print – for this race, are beautiful.

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Foal of Heartbroken Hill, Donamire Farm – Lexington, March 2013

Have you ever wondered what *that* is, when people say ‘just like that’? I mean, if that’s a sloth or a snail, as opposed to…say, a gazelle… well then, you understand how my week went. Peeps, it is HARD to get back into the swing of things.  BUT! While it didn’t go as well as I would have liked, it did go better than I thought it would.

Since I wasn’t able to run much in December with the hip & knee thing – and by much, I mean I did more this past week than I did all last month (SLACKER!), I decided to start off on the simpler side of the plans and try to find a good middle ground between JFT Training’s half-marathon schedule and Run The Bluegrass’ Beginner schedule –

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Not a great start by any means, but not awful either. Didn’t earn the high-five, but did qualify for the pat on the head. Knee’s hollerin’ a little, but not enough to stop. First time I’ve had a 3-run week since before Thanksgiving. Feels good.

On to the next week.

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*Gotta credit Eric with the pic above since he took that one – which is evident by the fact that those are my hands petting that month-old foal. It’s from the tour of Donamire farm that was organized by Run The Bluegrass last year.  One of the handlers opened up the stall and let our group get up close. Seriously, y’all – foals are soft – and moments like that – when you live in the city – they don’t come along all that often. Gotta grab onto ’em when you can.