Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Travel

Traveling comes easy to some people. These travel savants seamlessly make all their flights, pack their suitcases perfectly, and are generally ready to go the night before their scheduled travel. I, on the other hand, have yet to master the art of traveling. Take a look at my track record:

A summer long long ago:
I became overly attached to a stick (yes, a wooden stick I found on the ground. It was cool looking, okay?!) I would not leave the campground until we packed the stick in the car. My dad ended up sawing part of it off for me to keep, as the stick was nearly 5 feet in length.

August 2000- Greece
My parents foolishly left me to my own devices to pack. I packed a wolf shirt, mesh Umbro shorts, an umbrella hat and Groucho Marx mustache glasses. 

December 2001- Italy
Bought a massive mask, complete with feathers, in Venice. On the way home, I got some odd questions from customs. I also remember that I was violently ill on the return trip. Someone on British Airlines thought serving salmon in an enclosed area would be a good idea. Fail.

Summer 2004- Maine
My friend Sarah and I got lost in the Maine wilderness for 6 hours, causing my family to totally freak out and form a mini search party for us. They found us wandering aimlessly down the road around 9:00 PM, after we bushwhacked our way out of the woods.

May 2006- DC-Jamaica
Missed flight due to US Airways not having people at their check in counter. Waited in DC for hours, made a flight to NC where we managed to persuade the people at the ticket counter to feel bad for us. Got on a flight to Florida. And did the same thing to get on to a flight to Jamaica.

June 2007- Georgia
I missed my flight by an entire day. Didn't realize this until I arrived at the airport and a TSA agent sarcastically told me I wasn't going to make my flight. I spent $400 on another ticket, which didn't leave for 12 hours. So I spent 12 hours walking around the ATL airport and later spent the night on the floor in the Vegas airport, being serenaded by slot machines.

December 2012- Denver
I checked into my flight the night before I was supposed to leave. Woke up the next morning, thinking I had the whole day to relax. I was casually sipping my tea when it occurred to me that I might want to recheck my flight time. Turns out that my 8:50pm flight was actually an 8:50am flight. I found this out at 7:50am. I hadn't packed, was still in my pajamas and was completely panicked. With the help of Dakota, I managed to get to the airport at 8:20, run to my gate and arrive at 8:40. Like a boss, I made my flight. And narrowly dodged having a massive panic attack. (I managed to pack Christmas presents, running shoes and a flannel shirt.)

My inability to master flawless travel. What does it mean? I have no idea. How does this relate to running? I'm not entirely sure it does. Maybe this is telling me that humans aren't meant to travel further than their bodies will physically take them. Perhaps we should all travel by foot. We would all certainly reduce our impact on the environment and the size of our waist lines. But that's a huge stretch and while I completely fail at traveling, I love it. I enjoy experiencing new places and cultures. Sometimes it is nice to travel so that I can simply miss home.

I think the moral of the story is, well, that there is no moral. It is simply a great affair to travel. Be it by foot over vast distances, by plane, boat or car. We travel to not only see new places, but to tell stories, to rehash what has just happened. Half of the story is where you went, the other half is how you got there.

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
 -Robert Stevenson

Saturday, October 20, 2012


This past summer was just one amazing landscape and adventure after another. I kept waiting for a disappointing weekend- where I saw nothing interesting, nothing beautiful. In fact, I was so concerned with keeping up my streak of going to these breathtaking places, that I actually became fearful to stay in Denver on the weekend. Mid August, I remember trying to think of when I last spent a full weekend at my apartment in the city. After stalking through my own photo albums on Facebook, I guesstimated it was sometime in November 2011.

This realization almost paralyzed me with a fear of normalcy. What would happen if I actually stayed home on the weekend? Do other Denver-ites actually stay in one place..for extended periods of time? It can't be true. Surely one would die from lack of...lack of...amazingness? Of Excitement? Boredom?

Towards the end of the summer, panic set it. Work would be starting and surely my week long trips would cease. I was cramming in trips like a college student crams in a whole semesters worth of notes the day (night...) before the final. My last hoorah was a camping trip to Lake City. I tired with all my might to draw out the days. I wanted to notice everything. I wanted to take time to observe the few Aspen leaves that were already beginning to change colors. I hiked slowly, thinking that the slower I went, the more I could see and the longer I would postpone "reality." I sat on the summit of Wetterhorn for a good 20 minutes. Turning myself, like a rotisserie, to take a mental panorama snapshot that I would be able to take with me, to keep in a safe place to pull out on a dull weekend in Denver.
Wetterhorn summit register.

Eventually, I had to leave Lake City and subsequently, my adventurous trips behind. My work week came and went and for once, I had no plans for the weekend, except for staying at home. Most of my Saturday mornings were spent rising before the sun did, only to greet it mid way up a mountain. But in Denver, I woke up later and eased into my morning with several piping hot cups of black tea. I piddled around my house in my pajamas for an awful long time. Watered my brownish pathetic looking "plants" which I severely neglected. I was a stranger in my own house and had no idea how to occupy myself. I needed a distraction and a plan. A friend and a run.

The run wasn't anything to write home about. No one comes to Colorado to run on the Highline Canal. Casual conversation, talking about past trips and future plans. But as we turned west off of the trail to head back to my apartment, I saw the Rockies far off in the distance. The sight took me by surprise. Their substantial size seemed to put the smallness of human life into perspective. Even from afar, I could feel their magnitude and see their beauty. The Denver skyline, illuminated by the sun, occupied the foreground, but it didn't disturb the mountains. Without even thinking, I turned to my friend and essentially proclaimed how amazingly lucky we were to live in such a beautiful place. 
Kelly and I in Grand Lake
Tally hos after Pikes summit
An uneventful run on the flat gravel paths of lowly East, East...Denver managed to bring me more enlightenment than all time spent in the mountains over the summer. That single run opened my eyes and allowed me to see that there is beauty in all places, you just have to notice it. For me, the beauty of Denver isn't as prominent as the obvious beauty of a sunrise on an alpine lake, but it is there. I realized that sometimes beauty isn't a landscape or a particular place at all. It's a run with a friend or making dinner with someone. It's catching up over tea or listening to someone else's adventure stories. It is appreciating the people in your life and your surroundings. It comes in small packages or in packages the size of a mountain range. You just have to know where to look.

Tally Hos in Crested Butte
"But there is much beauty here, because there is much beauty everywhere." - Rilke
The Fam in WA. Not on a mountain.
"If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life; it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth."- Mitsugi Saotome

Tessa and I, Longs Peak

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Art of Pacing: Timing is Everything

I have been staring at this screen each night for the past few nights trying to express in words what I'm thinking. And each night I write a few sentences, delete them and continue staring at a blank screen. Most of my time is spent refilling my mug with tea and staring..staring a blank screen. A constant and glaring reminder that I have writers block. I thought a run would inspire me. It has worked in the past, but no matter how long I run, I come back and no gems of wisdom pour from my fingertips. Tea is the only thing being poured here.

Today, day four of this, I somewhat snapped. Which is ironic, considering that I am hoping to write about timing, pacing and patience. Something that at the present eludes me. I want nothing more than to get how I am feeling down in words and I want to do it now. Actually, I wanted to do it four days ago.

It all started at the last cross country meet. I was attempting (more like stumbling over my words) to explain to my team the idea behind pacing yourself during a race. I feel as though I did a horrible job of explaining it. It is a bit of an obscure subject due to it's intangible nature. So, I want a do over. Maybe I can do a little better the second time around:

The Art of Pacing: Timing is Everything

ME: Many of you have just started racing this year, so I'm going to share some wisdom. I am the coach which means I'm always right and extremely insightful, so put the phones away, stop tweeting and listen up. It has come to my attention that some of you take off like a rocket for the first few minutes only to suffer gravely for it shortly thereafter. Others kick like a twelve gauge shotgun in the last 200 meters. Yes, at the start it is fine to start out fast to ensure that you get ahead of the pack. But the key is to not get swept up in the moment and the crowd. You need to find you own pace and rhythm. Don't run someone else's race. Have patience. The race is not won in the first 400 meters. There are still more miles to go and hills to climb. Too much too soon is the plight of any runner. Find your pace. Don't be intimidated by the reputations of the people in front of or behind you.

ME: Now, I can't forget to talk about the next few miles. The middle is where the drama is. It's where reality sets in. Or rather, fatigue. Here, it is easy to become complacent and settle into a slower pace. Keep your wits about you. Indeed, your legs might feel a twinge lethargic, but thats normal. Accept that it is going to happen and move on. If you are feeling good, roll with it, its likely to change. If you are feeling bad, again- just roll with it, that feeling, too, will pass. Don't look back, ever. You cannot control whats going on back there. Keep your eyes ahead of you, but don't fret about how much further you have to go. Take each moment as it comes. Plan for the future, but don't flip out when your plans change. And they will.

Athlete 1: Hey, Coach? Are you still talking about racing?
Me: Of course I am [Athlete 1's name]. What else would I possibly be eluding to? And how dare you interrupt my fictitious monolog. Now, don't ask anymore stupid questions. Back to what I was saying..

[Athletes grumble, make comments that no questions are stupid...]

Me: Where were we? See what I did there? I said 'we' rather than 'I' so I sound mildly selfless and more like a team player. Oh yes yes.. The middle. So far you have gone through the excitement of the start. Flawlessly settled into your pace where you have kept your head on straight, stayed true to course and if you have timed it right, you've scored some negative splits. Now let's pretend you are through the second mile. Here, don't get bored or dismayed by what you are feeling. Timing is key at this point. Some people will start to pick up their pace greatly, others wait till the last hundred meters. Go with what feels natural to you. If you think you can pick up your pace and sustain it, go with it. If you want to wait a bit longer, do that. Just have patience- you'll know when the time is right. The end of a race- that's where you lay it all on the line. If you finish and are so exhausted that someone with more upper body strength than me has to scrape you up off of the ground, thats fine. Just leave the race with no regrets, knowing that you tried your hardest. If you do that, you ran the race well.

And actually, the whole concept of pacing is something that you acquire through experience. You find out through trial and error how to run a race. Maybe the first time you ran this course, you totally blew the hell up after you split a 5:04 the first mile and a 8:57 second mile. Learn from that. Next time, curb your enthusiasm. Or maybe you got to mile 2.98, realized that you had been lollygagging and suddenly took off at mach speed. It's a learning process. You can't have a good race without having some really..confusing.. races. Just learn from your mistakes, give it your all, have fun and above all- love what you do.. Because you'd never race again if you didn't love doing it. Or if I didn't force you..

Athlete 2: Love... racing?
Me: Of course...and Jesus, are you taking pictures of your food on Instagram again? THISISMYLIFE!!

Yes, that is how all of my cross country discussions my head.

"It is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case." Rilke

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cross Country

August 2002: I walked into the guidance office of Williamsport High School to register for classes. I was new to the high school. In fact I was new to just about everything there. My family had just moved from Pennsylvania to a small, podunk-esque, town in Western Maryland- Williamsport. (Which later it became known as Wheemsport) I was less than pleased with the move and was in no mood to be social. But  I didn't have a choice when I crossed the threshold of the school doors. Mrs. Mayhugh, the secretary, was the first person I encountered. I received a warm and loud "Hello!!" which was quickly followed by, "You look like a runner. Do you run? Because you should. My husband is a coach on the cross country team. Here, whats your phone number." I gave her my newly memorized number, but quickly informed my mom that I was "NOT RUNNING." I wanted nothing to do with that. I was miserable in this new place and made it known I was set on being that way for the duration of my stay in this town.
Top two for both men and women! Froshmeat!

That Afternoon 2002: That wasn't exactly an option. Randy Buchman called me and didn't ask me to come to the first, he told me I was coming to the first practice. His booming voice didn't leave much of an option for me. The next day I showed up to practice in my sister's old yellow Nike Shocks, Soffee shorts and a stern look on my face that shouted, "I don't want to be here, but my mom forced me. And besides, what else am I going to do?" I remember running to the tennis courts and back in the wet grass. I talked to some of the other people on the team. It was fun..I think? I don't remember what the run was like. I do know I had blisters on my feet by the end of practice. I told my mom that I wasn't going to be able to run in the old Nike's and that we should probably look into getting better ones. Apparently I had forgotten my vendetta for all things cross country or Williamsport related. Something had clicked..was it the people? The strange sense of immediately being adopted into a running family? Was it simply just the running? Or the willingness of my mom to buy me new shoes? Whatever it was, I went with it and decided I "guess" it would be ok to run.

State Meet! La and I
Fast forward 2006: I graduated from high school. I don't remember much about my actual education. (Sorry teachers, you were great, but...)I do remember my coaches. I remember and still talk with friends I made when I ran XC, Indoor and Outdoor track. I remember volunteering at the JFK50 mile with the cross country team- and being SO impressed by the will and courage of the runners. I remember saying that I wanted to be one of those runners one day. And I remember when I became one of those runners after completing the JFK50 in 2007, the day after my 20th birthday. I remember thinking that running was THE thing that made me happy. It was my source of joy, something that would make me feel at home wherever I was.

The fab 5 in the back with our 2 senior leaders
August 2012: Its been ten years (TEN YEARS!) since I ran my first cross country race. And today was the first race for my cross country team. Ten years after I said I would never run cross country, here I am coaching it. I am now the one who calls, emails and badgers/cons students to "come out to the first practice." I dedicate a majority of my free time and mental energy to something I swore I was not going to do. Which is insane for me to think about. Today I looked back on my experiences of running in high school and can see the progression. I am so thankful for the coaches in my life. Thankful for the support of my parents. And while I am thankful, I'm also hopeful (and slightly nervous) that I can influence some of my runners the way my coaches and teammates influenced my life. Perhaps one day, some of the kids on my team will look back on the day when they were voluntold into running and be happy it happened.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Recently I've been feeling pretty sluggish. This season my race schedule has been obviously conservative- like a tea party in Boulder. Running has migrated to second on my list of hobbies and hiking has slowly moved to the number one spot. Well this week it finally came to a head. All of my runs felt horrible. I could barely shuffle through a 5 mile run without wanting to stop. My brain wanted to run, but my legs just couldn't hack it. I took a day off, which I thought would help, but it just made me want to run more the following day. So naturally I thought a run in the mountains would solve the problem. 

My motto for today's run.
>I began my run and noticed that the same problem as before kept occurring. My mind wanted to go, but my legs just couldn't. (Or wouldn't) When I couldnt stand listening to my brain and legs bicker back and fourth anymore, I found a nice high vantage point on top of the hill I just lumbered up and perched on top of a rock. I felt like I needed to reflect on my life choices. Or at least look like I was in deep thought if anyone passed by. (as opposed to just sitting down on a rock, giving up on running.) WHY on earth was I feeling so bad? It couldn't be my severe anemia...thats not real. And besides that would mean that I am responsible for my own problem. No, no, thats just not acceptable I thought.  But then it hit me. I need new friends. THEY are the real problem here. I've clearly surrounded myself with far too many talented people who make me look and feel awful (somehow even when I'm not running with them..I've not figured the logistics out on that yet...) It all made sense now! 
Perhaps I can blame my outfit for making me run slower.

Oh sure, go to the summit and come back down to go back up with me. 
See- There's Brandon S- who on his first 100 broke 20 hours and placed 7th. And also did the inclination. Which is disgusting. Eric Lee- who, if I ever kept track of my vertical gain, would surely complete what I do in one month in one week. Brendan Trimboli- who never seems to get tired, got 3rd at SJS, paced over Hope Pass in fairy wings..Aaron Marks- (Slow Aaron Marks..which lets be honest, the name is from his inability to get up early in the morning.) who the last time I ran 'with' him, I saw his back for 10 minutes on the Incline and didn't see him again until he was coming down Pikes Peak. There's Dakota, who I run with for a few steps and casually say, "I won't get lost if you leave and go ahead." Oh and I guess he did well in some races this year too. There is Chris Gerber who has more Degrees in distance than I can even comprehend. Krissy M- well 3 100s in 3 months. Get real! How am I supposed to top that? Gavin McKenzie who smoked it up Mt. Massive. And Elbert. And La Plata.-- the last time I  'ran' 'with' him. THIS is the problem. I need to surround myself with very unspecial friends to make myself look and feel better. That or I'll only run with hurt people. Either way, its not me, its them. 

Soon I'll get this friend thing sorted out and I'm sure my energy levels will skyrocket. Until that happens, you all may see a little less of me.***

LT100 Pacers and Pacee. They are ok I guess. 

I like scapegoats. 

***I hope none of you take this seriously. As I'll go nuts without all of you in my life. 

“Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.'
“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.” 
-E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trail Gnomes

The Pacific Northwest is known for some pretty strange things- BigFoot, Ted Bundy, a surplus of rain and Starbucks to name a few.. But I feel that it is essential to draw attention to a nuisance that I personally have experienced. The infamous trail gnome. It is crutial to make trail goers aware of their presence because they have been migrating all around the country, tampering with our trail systems.

I first encountered the trail gnomes back in 2007 on a hike to Lena Lake. A simple out and back day hike with my sister and good friend, Bob. Yet on the way back I couldn't help but feel that the trail seemed strangely longer. I suppressed the odd thought, but was relieved when Stacy said, "Yup! They've been here. Trail gnomes. They make the trail longer when you are headed out." I was shocked! Where did these gnomes originate? Did they work alone or in teams? Have odd blurry pictures of them walking through fields ever surfaced? Well turns out not much is known about theses pests. Because of this I have made several lists to help you deduce if you have been duped or toyed with by a trail gnome. (Note, trail gnomes shouldn't be confused with leprechauns. )

My first encounter with the gnomes in 2007
"Fun" or Frustrating facts about trail gnomes:

  • They work while you are at or on your way to your turn around point
  • They despise loops or point to point- as it makes their job nearly impossible
  • Trail can be made 40-60% longer on the way out- depending on hiker's level of exhaustion, if the hike in was done in the dark and if blisters are present on feet.
  • Gnomes tend to work in teams
  • GPS devices are also prone to alterations
  • They work in canyons, jeep roads, single track, and climber's trails.

A really good sketch of a gnome. By me. Wow.

The trail wasn't what I had remembered.

Signs you've encountered a trail gnome:

  • You keep thinking/saying "The TH is just around the next bend." And it never is.
  • You also "swear you've seen that rock/tree/stump" before and you know its close to the end.
  • The tree portion of the hike seems to have more uphill than you recall
  • You think you hear the sound of cars on a road. (Its all in your head.)
  • You've used the phrase "I think the GPS must be wrong.

BLAST! They stuck again.
Ways to combat the trail gnomes:

  • Accept defeat.
  • Make loops
  • Cry uncontrollably
  • Drown sorrows in gels
It is odd that when trail gnomes strike, most of us get a bit angry that they have made our trail back to the car or home longer. On the way out, our hopes and spirits were elevated to an obnoxious level!! Excitement was at an all time high. Yet, when we want to be done, dammit, we want to be done. Unfortunately the best way to fend off the gnomes is to accept that you are going to be away from your phone, twitter, Starbucks, and facebook and out on a nice trail for a bit longer.

I didn't actually hike that trail on the way up...

Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm totally blogging about this.

The Fun Scale breaks levels of fun into three categories. Type I: True fun and enjoyable during the activity. Type II: Fun in retrospect, painful while it's happening. Type III: Not fun. At all..even in retrospect.

Among my friends the Fun Scale is commonly referenced during long runs and hikes. Since leaving my job, my fun levels have been all over the place. And also since I've left my job, writing blog entries, drinking tea at cafes while wearing flannel and listening to Indy music has become my way of life. (, not exactly..but still.)  Hence the increase in entries over the past month. But I digress.. I decided to loosely track my fun levels on the last road trip so that I could compare their levels to the elevation level I was at and the level of effort that was being exerted during that time. I've laid out a graph below so that my calculations and results gain credibility. And using a graph makes me feel like I'm actually working, not just passing time and flaunting photos from one of my awesome trips.

Analysis: Notice the how well laid out and easy to read this graph is. If you think thats a cluster, just imagine how it feels during one road trip. Also check out the minimal Type 3 fun. Summits appear to be high points, not just in elevation, but also Type I fun. In my professional opinion, It would appear that the reason for this is the mild to mid levels of Type 2 and 3 fun that is incurred on the way to the summit. Though, the mid mtn of Elbert sharp increase in Type 3 fun throws a bit of a wrench in that theory. Who cares, its a terrible graph that consists of completely biased estimates of fun levels. Pictures do a better job of tracking fun:
Sean and Brandon headed up Mt Massive

Atop Mt Massive

Leaving Massive's summit..on our way to Elbert.
This wasn't fun.

This was fun! Mt. Elbert

La Plata..Rock represents Sean. Who O.D.ayed and was ill that day.

That person is experiencing Type 3

I guess vacations are ok.

A bit of shade, sunshine and a nice breeze.


Whether you are blogging in a cafe, swimming in the Colorado River, barely making your way up a mountain side, sleeping in the back of your car, or making up terrible graphs- Have fun, be safe, take risks. In that order.

Monday, July 2, 2012

9:27 pm: Home.

My last road trip I kept a trip journal. When the car crested the hill near my house and I could see my abode, I wrote, "Home. Home is where the heart is. So weren't we home all along?" Now- when I wrote this, I was tired, sick of being in the car and most likely in a thick emotional fog of travel. It sounded sooo prophetic at the time. Yes, I think that Aristotle himself would have nodded in agreement with that gem of wisdom. When in fact I had no idea what I meant. I just wanted to write a witty closing statement for the log. I wrote it, closed the log and forgot about it until just recently- when I got back from my most recent road trip. Finally it stuck a chord.

Upper Ice Lake, Silverton, CO. Not a bad place to call home.

Brandon and I at Hope Pass- Photo: Charlie B.
During the last week or so I have traveled all around Colorado. Running, making new friends, seeing beautiful landscapes and learning how to relax a bit. I was fortunate enough to have many generous people open up their houses to me. Everywhere I traveled, I always felt welcome. Whether I was sleeping in my Jeep or at the house of a good friend, a vague sense of "home" was always present. 

Iris, Perry and I
Home is a funny word. Webster defines it as one's place of residence, the social unit formed by a family living together, the focus of ones domestic attention. Well..yes..true it can be defined as that. But like everyone eventually finds out, it can be (should be?) much more. I still call my parents house in Maryland home. Not because of the structure, but because that's where they live. That's where I still go to visit them and my high school friends. It's in the town where I learned how to drive, where I ran my first Ultramarathon, where huge bonfires were made and where I can still go to spot mullets at the local gas station. In Durango, I felt like I was adopted into a large family of runners, coffee shop go-ers, bikers, and hikers. When I visit my sisters in WA, home is either of their houses. But it's also a shared tent by an alpine lake. It is sitting around a Jetboil at 4am making tea before a hike. I'm sure that when my sister's husband left for Afghanistan, her beautifully decorated and comfortable house suddenly felt a little less comfy, a little less like home. When my mom returns to MD after her tour de WA, I can only guess that the house will again feel like a home for my dad. 

Kelly and I pointing towards our next adventure.

Home at 14,000+ ft on Mt Columbia
I've been home for a whopping day and in a matter of hours, I'll be gone again. I'm here just long enough to do laundry, drink excessive amounts of loose leaf tea, pay my rent and get the oil changed in my trusty Jeep. Another adventure awaits. But more than that, more places to call home are ready to be discovered. Four walls shouldn't define your home. As long as you are surrounded by people you love and are doing what you enjoy, the location shouldn't matter, because you'll be home all along. 

Up to Hope Pass. Photo: Brandon Stapanowich

Reese St? Coincidence? I think not.

"Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels  not like going, but like going back. All my life the god of the Mountain has been wooing me. Oh, look up once at least before the end and wish me joy. I am going to my lover. Do you not see now?" - C S Lewis.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Laws of Motion

I took a physics class in high school. It was horrible. I did NOT take physics in college. In fact, if I recall correctly, physics class is the only time I earned (use earned in a loose sense here) a 'C' in high school. Maybe that 8% test score wasn't such a helpful thing. At least I got my name right on the exam. Although the class was sheer misery for me- I did enjoy the thought of it or more specifically the laws involved in all that babble-for I feel like they tend to explain a lot about the world around us. So after I did some extensive Wikipedia and Google researching, I am going to explain how good ol' Newton's laws of motions relate to me. Because I'm fairly egotistical and I don't enjoy math equations this early in the morning...especially before I've had my second goblet of tea. 

Newton's Laws of Motion are--in so many words:

Newton's First Law of Motion: An object in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force. An object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an outside force.

Newtons's Second Law of Motion: The acceleration (a) of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the new force (F) and inversely proportional to the mass (m). Meaning: F=ma

Newton's Third Law of Motion: The mutual forces of an action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear. Aka- To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.

Why would I reference Newton, who is clearly speaking in mathematical terms, you ask? Well, at work the other day, I overheard a familiar conversation happening at the hub of the office- the copy machine. It went something like this:

Coworker 1: ::lets out exasperated sigh: "Ughhhhh"

Coworker 2: "Ohh I know. Me too. At least it's Wednesday"

This conversation stopped me mid bounce on my fitness orb. Gasp! I could somewhat relate. I thought, "What does that even mean? Are we just 'getting by' during the week, schlepping along 40+ hours of each week (2,080 hours a YEAR!) just to do what we want on the weekends??" If that's the case, something has got to change. 

Que First Law of Motion
I could see where it would be easy to get into the habit of thinking like that and living for the weekend because the past few months I had a lingering feeling that I was in some sort of rut aka an object at rest. It was a comfortable rut, nothing was really going wrong, I had no big stressors or catastrophes. Things were ok and I had mastered the art of getting by. But on the other hand, nothing really great was occurring either.
Que Second Law i.e. motivation.
Upon realizing that I didn't want to remain in said rut motivation was the force that moved me to make some changes in my life. I didn't know entirely how quick these unknown changes would happen, but as long as I kept moving forward in the direction of change, I would get there eventually. (Which, by the way, is the first law of ultra running.)
Que Third Law of Motion:
Change did happen and with it more change. I scored two new jobs which meant I had to leave my job at AHA. And now- well in the future- will have ample time on my hands. Which I romantically assume I will spend much of it in the mountains frolicking about with friends- though I'm sure it won't be exactly like that. No matter what the future looks like, it will surely be different than what I was doing. 

Pointing at my future 
Change, moving on, growing- these are not things meant to be avoided or feared. They are all natural things in life. Laws even. Whether or not we want something to change, it is going to happen at some rate. Though if you do desire change, sometimes a little extra applied force helps to accelerate things. 

Our only security is our ability to change. ~John Lilly

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." -Maya Angelou

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Never Never Land

As the end of May approaches, I can almost feel the excitement and anticipation for summer in the air when I pass a school. You can literally see the joy flood out of the school bus doors when they open at a stop. The end of the school year approaches for thousands of kids and with it the end of a tight schedule. The hours of solving math equations, dissecting frogs, studying US history and gossiping are now replaced with playing capture the flag, eating freeze pops, having sleep overs- MID WEEK, and running around barefoot, chasing fireflies.
Top of Pikes- Boulder Hopping

Cooling off after a 20 mile jaunt

Driving down to Mantiou Springs this past Memorial Day weekend, passing numerous schools and buses, I found it impossible to not reflect on my own end of school year experiences and how exciting the time right before summer used to be. I could remember everyone getting their yearbooks signed (“Keep in touch!”  “TTYL” “Have a fun summer!”) and talking about how awesome and relaxing life will be without the toils of school. Talk of vacations, camps and pool parties. All pleasant thoughts to keep my mind busy, especially in holiday weekend traffic. Though at some point during the weekend, a thought hit me like a slammer hitting a stack of pogs. Maybe it was the thought of my mom saying, “You’ll ruin your dinner!” as I ate spoonfuls of peanut butter at 5:34 (Typically a Ruland Family dinner hour). Or maybe it was when Brandon and I were playing leap frog, from boulder to boulder, on top of Pikes Peak. Or perhaps it was when I was singing along to Britney Spears and Back Street Boys. I’m not sure what it was, but I realized that not much has changed since grade school. I’m just a kid with a bank account now.

After a Pikes Peak run
Lost Creek Jig

I probably don’t look much older than I did 10 years ago, but I have in fact graduated college, gotten a ‘real’ job, have rent and bills to pay, but my sense of wonder and excitement has yet to dissipate. My pogs and slammers have been replaced with money. I trade gels as if they were playing cards. The slap bracelets (which I’m told have been banned due to the severe lacerations they caused) have morphed into GPS watches. My races have grown in distance- before it was from mailbox to the tree. Now it’s expanded to 50 mile out and back/lollipop/loops… I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that work is just another term for school- as soon as that bell rings, or the clock hits quitting time, its time to go home, hit the trails or play in the mountains- Done sitting inside, starring out the window waiting for recess to begin.

Growing up is inevitable. At least getting older is. My co workers tell me that all the time- especially when they hear about the 60 miles I ran in the mountains. They tell me that their knees just can’t do that kind of stuff anymore. When I hear this, I can’t help but think (hope!) I’ll still be this way 32 years from now, still plotting my next escape or adventure. Who knows, maybe I’m just some kind of Tinkerbell, lost in Peter Pan’s Never Never Land, avoiding reality, because the alternative is a bigger and better adventure. I don’t rightly know why I’ve managed to hold on to my sense of wonder while others have lost theirs. I try not to think too hard about it, perhaps so I don’t tarnish it. But I do know that I still get excited every May for the approaching summertime. Because I still run around outside with my friends- only now my playground is just a bit bigger.
So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Detached Parenting

The recent TIME magazine cover and article got me thinking about my childhood and how vastly different it was from the ones that were written about. The article described the trend of "attachment parenting." Meaning- the child is literally connected/touching/attached to the parent for-in my opinion- far too long. Some children were breast fed until the age of 7. Yikes. This method is supposed to build a strong bond between parent and child. I'm sure the article talked about several other benefits, but I got hung up on that one, mainly because my rearing was so incredibly polar, yet yielded similar, perhaps better, results. (Note: I'm completely biased here. Mom, dad- feel free to shower me with presents after I publicly applaud your parenting style.)

Very fashion forward

Growing up, my parents encouraged independence and exploration. I'm going to say that the reason for this was not because we weren't perfect angels, but rather, they wanted us to cultivate self-confidence by allowing us to learn from our mistakes and experiences. For instance, when I was 4, my family took a most epic road trip from Pennsylvania to Montana. We spent a majority of the time hiking and exploring in some of the most beautiful landscapes our country has to offer. Our parents didn’t have us on leashes, in strange marsupial looking pouches or anything of that nature. No- we were encouraged to hike up ahead. (Maybe they thought if a bear came along, we would serve as a nice appetizer before it got to them…) When our vacation drew to an end, my sisters and I had become quite good at the business of hiking, camping and avoiding dangerous wilderness shenanigans. Soon after the trip concluded it became quite apparent that we all wanted to continue exploring. We started rafting-sans parents, orienteering, hiking and camping on a regular basis. And when we couldn’t go somewhere new to camp- we just set up the tent in the backyard. A little away time from the parental units was never a bad thing, though I can’t help but think they missed us dearly and hated the peace and quite that soon took over the house upon our departure.

Our enthusiasm for exploration and consequently, independence, continued on far past our youth and has become something that is part of our character. My sisters and I have all moved away from our parents’ home in Maryland to different parts of the country. Yet, despite the physical distance it didn’t foster a sense of emotional distance. Just because we weren’t attached at the hip (or other body parts..) of our mom, we didn’t develop a rift or separation among one another. Our “detached” upbringing was something of a blessing. We grew to appreciate our time together, but didn’t feel lost when we were off on our own. Today when we visit each one another its comforting to know that a 40 mile backpacking trip is likely to be on the agenda- where I’m sure we will recount the time when I was 4 and totally smoked everyone on that hike in Glacier. We can look back on our pictures of our youth and fondly rehash our own accounts of what happened, the struggles of the particular hike, and our outfit choices (unfortunately, my parents let us pick our own clothing out). We have successfully mastered the art of doing things together, yet separately.

The point is-if there is one- that during my reading of the article, I realized that sometimes being detached or separated from the ones you love can get you to appreciate the time you spend together. I’m sure this isn’t always the case and somehow my family just managed to turn out freakishly perfect despite the odds being against us.  But, had it turned out any other way- I can at the very least be thankful we can look back on these pictures and captured moments in time with kind eyes, because I can’t say I’d do the same about some of the photos in the TIME article.

Also- Mom: can this count as a Mother's Day present?