Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bitterness?... Just Bag it!

Something in my life has come full circle. In the past, I really felt lost and often abandoned. At the conservatory I went to, I was always let down by pianists. Abandoned. As a child, my mother always managed to sit quietly while other parents bragged about their kids and say nothing. Even though my accomplishments were on a much higher level. Lost.
"Mom why don't you tell them about the competition I just won?"
I was 16 and had set winning this competition as a goal, the prior year.
"We'll let them read about it in the paper. I don't like to toot my own horn."
Ok. I felt crushed. Hidden. Like she wasn't proud of me. Almost disowned.

The paper never printed an article.

It made me bitter. Mostly it made me hurt. I love and admire my mom a lot. She's done many incredible things, and saved lives. But when it comes to her children's success, she kind of drops off. However, she is great when we're down.

So I've sought a cheering squad for most of my life. And I have it. But often, when I've needed friends for concrete tasks, I've felt let down. They are there for me emotionally, but for a helping hand (or two when it comes to pianists) somehow the stars just don't line up. I used to think it was because they didn't love me enough, but that is most definitely not the case.

More bitterness. I would lob zingers.
"Well mom, you've had dad paying the mortgage (actually not quite true.. he retired 13 years ago and she's been paying it) and you have help with everything."

Why don't I have some fucking help? Replacing lightbulbs. Painting the bathroom. Repairing broken appliances. Mowing the grass. Yardwork. Maybe I am traditional, because I'll cook a gourmet meal in a flash, and scour down the kitchen, fold underwear, and decorate with Andy Warhol flair. I just didn't want to do the "guy stuff," like yardwork.

I hate yardwork. My neighbors know it.
"Look at raking leaves as exercise. You're active."
Bite me. It's not a trail.

Over the summer, I did have some help. At the end of the summer, my brother showed up and completed a landscaping project in front of the house, and continued around the house. Everything was neat and tidy. I was tempted to just pay for a plane ticket for him, and have him come deal with the leaves.

I thought the fall leaves were a little lackluster this season. I'd mentioned it to one of my friends, who agreed. And it sort of went along with my mood. All the components were there, and I'd see an occasional vibrant tree, but things just weren't quite lining up.

I live in a beautiful historic neighborhood in Topeka. A man named Tinkam Veal designed it. Who names their kid Tinkam? That's beside the point, though. He used to work for J.C. Nichols and the neighborhood is reminiscent of Mission Hills in Kansas City.

"Wow, I've never been in this part of Topeka before. Impressive."
My friend Tim, a photographer at Action News in KC, was in town. We'd both run the Topeka to Auburn half marathon, and he stopped by afterwards for some warm, homemade soup.

The streets of Westboro are lined with giant, old oak trees. Lackluster or not on the color, the leaves look the same on the ground. Dry, dead, brown, and a real pain in the butt. They trigger my allergies too. Something I didn't mention in my Rock Creek race report, was that my lungs felt like snot.

"Sophia, what are we going to do about those leaves?"
My real estate agent was gently telling me to bag my shit.
"Curb appeal is important, Sophia."
It was unavoidable. I had to come to terms with doing something, I very much don't enjoy. Two weeks ago, I tried to put myself on a schedule. 3 bags a day. It never happened.
Why don't I have any help? Where are my friends?

I had to make a funny bargain with myself to get this done. When the alarm rang to get up and run with the MudBabes in Lawrence, I turned it off and slept a little longer. The deal? Get the yardwork finished.

"You know Sophia, you can hire this done. I've got a yard guy."
My friend John and his friend Tim were over, and offering their version of "help".
"I am unemployed. I have time. I am not going to spend money on getting this done."
"He's cheap."
"NO! I can figure this out."
"Yeah, sounds good. He's kind of a douche bag anyway."
"Ooo yikes. I hate douche bags. I like assholes."

The guys were over to help me start my lawn mower. Earlier, I filled a bag using a rake
The leaf per bag ratio was way low. It was as if I had done nothing. Not a dent, not a pimple. I cried. Seriously. Went inside, poured a cup of Sumatran Velvet coffee, sat under the skylight and wept.

I was going to have to figure out the lawn mower. A neighbor passing by had suggested it, as had Jay, my real estate agent.

“Pick up the sticks, and put your mower on the higher level.”

Fear. All the stereotypes were plaugeing my brain. Women are not mechanical. They can't fix things. Fortunately, my life coach had me take a test a year ago, that showed I had some decent concrete skills. I also remembered a portion of Scott Peck's book "The Road Less Travelled." He wrote about how he always deemed himself “unmechanical,” until he was forced to fix of all things, a lawnmower. Instead of throwing his arms up and saying bah- humbug, he took the time to see what was broken and fixed it. It took him much more time than someone with a natural propensity for mechanics, but he could do it. Let’s face it, unemployed—I have a lot of time, so I took the journey out to the garage.

I tapped into my concrete skills and committed to spending the time to figure this out.
“I am concrete. I have a tool box that’s marveled men.” Seriously.
“I love your toolbox, Sophia. It has everything you need in it.” It's true. Wrenches, phillip's screwdrivers, flatheads, spackle, spackle knives, exacto-knives, hammers. Even a drill and drill bits. You get the picture.

Back to the mower.

Hello mower. I start encouraging myself internally. I breathe evenly. I’m scared. Unbelievable. Scared of a mower. No shit, I’ll take the cougars out at Wyco any day. At least I can run from them on a trail. Something I’m wildly familiar with.

Unfamiliarity is terrifying—even if it’s a mower.
Gotta get the bag off. I observe. Oh by the way, if I had the owners instruction book, this would be much easier. But the mower was assembled by someone with far greater concrete skills, and the little book is nowhere to be found. No big deal. I’m patiently, calmly looking.

I get the bag off. Now I need to raise the mower setting. Hmm. Yes a gift! Words! My world. Familiarity. My little suck and blow Cub Cadet had written on the front:
“Single lever adjustment.” Great, just find the lever. Back to concrete, but I’ve got it.

Here’s where I had the guys come over. Didn’t quite have the physical strength to get the cold mower started, so they fired it up. I did have the mental strength though to get the job done.

During the process, my neighbor Alisha drove into her driveway.
“Hey Alisha, I’ll sweep those leaves off your driveway later. I can’t believe how I put this off.”
“That’s why I got married, so I wouldn’t have to do leaves.”
“I’ll be ok. I’ve got the system down now.”

I now have 35 bags of leaves on my curb. I did this job well. Swept the walkway and even bagged up the leaves in the street gutter.

Bitterness, turned to success. Abandonement to accomplishment. Alone to self respect.

I’m going to sidestep into a conversation I had with Brad Bishop during the Friday Hookie run.
“Sophia, which are the more regularly attended runs?”
“Well it’s tough to say, it kind of goes in waves.”
Brad is just out of college, and entering a world where he doesn’t have a “team,” to rely on for support. Feeling a little lost and abandoned himself he’s finding his place within a new group.

“I always had the cross country team before.”

I started running late in life so never had a group, really until now. Something I’ve learned about running, is that if you’re vigilant yourself it creates an energy that people want to be around. All of a sudden you have people to run with, because they know they can count on you. But first you must be able to rely on yourself for inspiration and help. It worked with the leaves.

The phone rang on Saturday. It was John and Tim, the lawnmower starters.
“Hey Soph, why don’t I just come over tomorrow with my Honda and help you with the leaves.”

Interesting, an offer of help.

“Thanks, but I’m on this now. I’m itching for the sense of accomplishment.”

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Take care of yourself, help yourself and others will follow. And if you're feeling bitter... just bag it.

Muddy Hugs.

To my green friends: please forgive me for the gas and extra bags I used doing this project. I will carpool to my next race to make up for it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dude, You don't play the violin with your feet...

My fingers were so frozen after "Dude where's the Trail," I couldn't even unsnap my camel-back. I just pulled it overhead. Unzipping my jacket proved torturous. Even turning the key to start the car was a challenge.

I was worried I'd caused permanent damage to my fingers. Fingers that play the violin well enough to pair up with my brother who has a doctorate in music from Juilliard.

My fingers have been this numb before. In July of 2007, I was sitting by a waterfall. Suddenly I was slumped over, my fingers numb. I heard rocks tumbling down below and knew I'd been hit.
"I'd rather be dead than paralyzed."

5 marathons and hundreds of performances on the violin went through my head. I saw my life flash before me. A very good life, full of laughs, friends, art, running and music.

Then my fingers began to move. They weren't numb. It took 15 firefighters and a pulley system to get me off the big hill, or little mountain (300 ft).

An x-ray showed three upper ribs on my left side had been severly broken. Dislodged really. The break was only an inch from my spine.

"I still have some work to do."
My mom had rushed to the ER and was standing there with tears in her eyes. She just nodded.
My childhood friend Heidi's dad was working the ER that day.
"It takes an incredible velocity to break ribs in that spot. An inch over, you would have been breathing through a tube for the rest of your life."

I feel lucky, and blessed every day.

I got laid off from my job, recently. The subject was brought up by Jim M. during the run. Kind of a downer. So I told that story of my near death/paralysis experience.

"I guess you're putting it in perspective." Jim M.

" And you didn't worry that you'd never talk on the TV when you got hit by the rock." Bad Ben.

Nope. And I don't care if I never work in news again. Having a job on television can open you up for a lot of mud slinging . Superficial Bimbo. Self centered. Arrogant. Ego-maniac. I've heard them all. Fortunately, I know what to do with mud. Look inside for the truth. The truth is, I used that job to help a lot of people. And while it's kind of fun to have a few giant billboards around town, I can let it go.

I was feeling really strong running at Dude. At mile 18, I considered jumping ahead with John and Gabe. But I let that go too, and dropped back and ran with Ben, who has been fighting a cold off and on for about a month. My fingers warmed up.
The scenery was stunning. Frosted Neverland. Magic everywhere.

"My feet are still frozen."
"Well Sophia, you don't play the violin with your feet."

Good point, Ben.

Gabe and John were headed towards us, after grabbing a page from a book at the silo.
"It's the snow angel portion of the run!," I shouted.
Ben chimed in.."Drop and give us 5 angels!"

Gabe smiled and laughed. John slapped me with his map when he passed. No one hit the snow for an angel. It was just too darn cold.

I like angels. I know I have one watching over me. The warrior kind. And the protector. Feeling strong that day, I shared my angel energy.

My fingers were numb again, and we were on the nasty unforgiving, hard pavement.

"read any good books lately?"
"Well, I've got the page I ripped out at the silo.. except my fingers are so cold I can't unzip my pocket."

Why is it, that while running in the woods I can come up with a bevy of topics, yet once I get on the pavement, I can't think of shit?

Hangin' with the ex. Pound, pound, pound. Pounds of asphalt. Heavy, flabby asphalt.

"My PF hurts. So does my heel." Ben

"My left hip flexor hurts, but my feet are frozen. The ex is awful today. Awful." Sophia

"This is why Pat Perry didn't finish Leadville." Ben

"Can't blame him. Next time, I'll save a better story for this part."

The conversation turned to Christmas and how external most people make it. Closets or attics (just bigger closets really) overstuffed with ornaments, extra holiday dishes (please?!!) do dads and other things that take up space and need to be dusted.

I've just spent two weeks cleaning out closets. Throwing out clothes that just take up space, that I don't need. It is so liberating to open a dresser drawer easily and see neatly folded clothes. Or an empty closet. Even a basement with very few tubs. There is one small tub with my entire Christmas assortment. But it's going to stay packed.

My fingers are warm again.

This Christmas, I'll give the gift of music. Internal from my soul. I'll play songs of joy, peace and love for my friends on my violin.

Muddy Hugs and blessings.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I love Dick

During one of the worst times in my life, you captured one of the happiest moments. I was running my second marathon with my friend Kent Sanders. Before my first marathon, the organization sent out an email about where the photographers would be placed. They encouraged the runners to smile and cheer for the photogs. When I saw you at mile 19, I raised my arms in a mighty cheer, and you said.. "That made my day!" That picture is still in the upper left corner on the favorites page at SeeKC run .com. But really Dick, you made my day, and continue to everytime I click on that page.

I'm not sure any other city has someone like you who provides such an incredible service. You have become part of our running family and races just don't seem complete without you. And it's not just the pictures.

It was 10 degrees this year for the Topeka to Auburn half marathon. I was running up a hill that seemed endless. Just before the top, I thought "hmm, I bet Dick Ross is going to be up there. I better put on a happy face." There you were! Snapping pictures, but also giving us all a reason to push harder up the hill. Did I mention it was 10 degrees? But it didn't seem to bother you! Or was that smile frozen on your face?!

You caught a picture of the first Mud tattoos at Psycho Psummer, and the joy and happiness shared by two friends.

And you cheer us on. During the Fall Fell, not only were you snapping pictures at a rate so fast it would make an angry turtle look happy. You even yelled out.
"Catch him.. catch him." The sole "crowd support," for me in a 7 mile race. Afterwards we laughted about it. "That was so funny, I saw you two, and thought you'd get him." "Thanks Dick, but he beat me by 2 secondds." Your genuine excitement for our sport is so touching and appreciated. You share in the moment, you catch it on your camera, and have fun. I love people who know how to have fun! True fun, and loving life... an art form.

At first I didn't want to go to Mud and Muck. Then I thought about the pictures. I knew I didn't want to miss that. There were 37 pictures of Debbie and me from that race. Plus you let us give you your own mud tattoo. While other onlookers were too uptight to get a little dirty, you didn't even care that I got your camera muddy taking the picture!

Dick your are our friend.

In the summer of 2006, I went to a race and realized I didn't have my checkbook, or any money. I was new in town and didn't know anybody-- except you. You lent me money for the race.
15 bucks-- but it's the friendship and memories you help us share that's priceless.


We all Mud you!

Classic Mud Babe

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Get ready everyone.. This is just the beginning

Today, I listened to my saved messages on my phone. I needed friendly supportive voices. 2 were very old. The first week in July, in fact. Others pretty recent. All of them made me cry-- even one from my physician.

"Hey Sophia, I'm putting in the prescription for that inhaler for you, because you're probably training for some ridiculous distance."

Yup. The Rock Creek 50k at Lake Perry. And life.

Superhero Mudbabe Debbie Webster spent the night. She had fun with my balloon pump, and we had a great dinner. Salmon, whole wheat pasta, and lightly sautéed red peppers.

She’s adventurous and even sucked down the raw vegan smoothie for breakfast.

I was a little disappointed because I hadn’t gotten my lucky number 49. I work for 49 news and like that number. Instead Jim M, had it. Offered to sell it to me for 50 bucks, but considering the economy, I figured it would be best to save the cash.

I won the women's division. But I feel sad.

For the second week, I was the female frontrunner. That can mean running with the back of the male frontrunners. But not always.

I started out with them. Then I got a rock in my shoe at mile two. I caught up with them by mile 3, but felt cruddy for running fast at the beginning of the race. My head was spinning. All the while I was trying to catch up, I kept worrying I was getting lost. I had to find them. Once I got back with the group of 3, another guy popped up.

"Hey did anyone lose their gloves?"
ugh. I'd purposefully tossed them because I was tired of carrying them.

Then there seemed to be some sort of guy testosterone, push the pace thing going on. I don't know, it could have been my imagination. I have a beautiful imagination, but sometimes it misfires. This was one of those times.

More anxiety. My thoughts were going to all these crazy places, and I needed to regroup.

I took a step back. And went to my happy place. Zen running. A seed in a pot, that gows into a flower, and gives off oxygen.

I ran alone.

Steady, strong, calm and at peace. Me and the woods... no music, just the rustling sounds of leaves, and the water. I love to run by the water. Mile 21 I was bubbling with happiness . I thought, "ten more.. no problem. This is fun."

The path seem warm and enveloping. And out of the corner of my eye-- I saw a sparkle. Could it be fairy dust? I thought so, but in this race I had enough power on my own.

I ate dates... lots of dates, when I needed to eat. I took salt when I needed to take salt. I drank a lot of Mountain Dew at the aid stations, my only human contact. Not once for the rest of the race did I feel like I just wanted it to be over. I seemed to be firmly in first place for the women, and I thought about the new shoes I'd get.

While running, I didn't feel abandoned. I've talked to others who ran or stopped running this same race. Some feel they were left by their friends. All who ended up with a running buddy were elated and inspired by the company. I, was neither of these. However, I did appreciate the encouragement and understanding from Rick Mayo at the half. There is just something different and unbeatable about the help you get from someone who knows the sport. Thank you Rick.

But out in the woods, I was a self sufficient, ultra machine. In the end, I came in just a minute behind Jim M who had ultra-company and support most of the way.

So somehow with only 2 other ultras under my belt, I managed to chop an hour and a half off my psycho psummer time. All alone. I didn't get lost. Not even a little.

Caleb ran such an incredibly fast time of 4:14, that my 5:48 winning time for the females didn't get much notice. During the awards ceremony, I was sitting by Pat Perry and told him how excited I was about the big trophy I was getting. Later I realized it wasn't mine, instead was for the series winner, so I gave it back. There wasn't even a picture of me with it. Maybe that's why I'm sad.

Maybe it's because I ended up running alone the same pace as the little group ahead of me. They were probably only a minute ahead for most of the second half of the race. But you can't tell in the woods.

Afterwards Jim M, kind of smugly said I couldn't have caught up the 4 minutes where they had gotten ahead, and that they were probably 10 ahead of me at one point. Nope. You weren't. I was just 2 or 3 behind at the half. And I was strong the last 5, just didn't plow through them because I thought your group was running a lot faster than you were. And let's face it Jim, you were wearing my lucky number, 49.

But I was at peace.. even stopped at mile 28 to paint a muddy heart on my arm. I call it mudsterbation. Usually my friends and I paint each other-- but this time, as in my life currently, I was taking care of myself emotionally and physically, and superficially.

I had sent an email to Pat Perry, letting him know I’d given back the trophy. By that time, I’d come to peace with it. Explaining, accomplishment is internal—and that that is something no one can take away. He sent me an email back saying I should have fought Them for it.

While I am sad, I don't care what anybody thinks-- I'm in this race-- and whether anyone notices or not... I'm winning. Selfish? Self centered? How about survivor. Courageous. Sure it would be nice to have a pacer. But it's even nicer to know you can do it alone, like the seasoned warriors.

While many are scared to death, judgemental and hostile about my strength and attitude, the people who matter most to me are proud.

A funny thing happened... I stopped in at work on Friday. That Sophie-trophy was on my desk plus a new special message on my phone. Plus Willie called.. he says I can always be number 49 in his races.

Monday, October 20, 2008

58 minutes 49 seconds

My road is tough. It's full of rocks and roots, hills and water crossings. Sometimes I'm on it alone-- other times I'm not. Still as I forage an unconventional path, I don't feel lonely. I feel energized. The scenery, stunning. The deer are my friends and my dog Puccini bounds up and down the hills, teasing. Catch me. Catch me.

I thought about bringing Puccini to the Fall Fell 7 miler, but decided against it. I'm tapering for Rock Creek, but was still hoping to run a decent pace. I didn't think the dog was the right companion, this time. I was hoping for 9:30 a mile pace. 9's would be super. Sometimes we surprise ourselves.

I caught up with Bad Ben about a mile into the race. A small relief since he was carrying a water bottle and I wasn't. I call it "Bendaid." A travelling aid station.
"We lost the young guy. He's usually one of the frontrunners." We were about at mile 5.
"Are we frontrunners?"
"Yes, Sophia we are."

It was a new trail for me, with some real challenges.
"This section is like the red trail."
The rocks were looser though, and kind of steep like at Wyco. But I was ok.

As I ran, I felt in perfect rhythm with the universe.
"It's like Neverland."
Emotionally naked, the rocks and roots were my jewelry. More profound than any band of metal.
I felt like I was flying as I went down the hills. I tap danced around the rocks in the water. Taking pleasure in the Element.
"Branch. Stump. Log."
Ben was shouting out warnings, and leading the way. We kept running into people who got lost and did an extra loop, so I was grateful . It was like running after Magellan, a human GPS! Was Ben having a bad day-- or was I having another breakthrough?
"Good job Ben!"
The surprise in Kyle's voice let me know, we were both having a very good race.
But it didn't feel that fast. It just felt good.

Honestly, I don't even remember the hills.
I do remember the water. On the first attempt, I nearly fell in. I guess I'm supposed to stand staight and look forward. But I got better.
On take two.. It was sheer, unadulterated JOY!

"Come on-- you're gonna catch him."
Dick Ross was adding some commentary.
"Yes, I am."
But not that day. A flourish of a finish, but Ben had me by 2 seconds. I figure he deserves to finish ahead for carrying the aid station, and for keeping me from getting lost.

Pace per mile? 8:23. I came in first female, and got a Trail Nerds hoodie for a prize. A 10th over all finish. Perfect 10!

Most of all, I had an endorphine rush that would be illegal if the Republicans had any idea how good it feels.

58 minutes 49 seconds. It was the best time I've had in my entire life.

I wanted to share it. I had our weather guy, Alex throw a couple pics in the weathercast that night. Got some funny emails from Topeka Nerds on that one.

Oh and the dog. He is always so sad when I come home, covered in mud and smelling like fun. The next morning I woke up an hour and a half before the alarm. Puccini looked at me with longing eyes.
"Please, please- can we run?"
It was off to Clinton, where he bounded up hills, splashed in the water and flew down the hills. Happy, happy, happy. Just like his mommie.

Muddy Hugs

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hangin' with the EX

On September 7th, five weeks ago, I posted a blog about divorcing pavement. I had decided I needed to take the plunge. Make a choice about which surface was for me. It has been oddly difficult.

Like all divorces, you end up spending some time with the ex. In the past 2 weeks, ( over 3 weekends) I've been asked to emcee or run paved races, because of my job as a newscaster. The first was just a 5k, my least favorite distance. I ran with my friend Stefanie and wasn't shooting for any great time. The weather was absolutely beautiful. In the middle weekend, I had a trail running breakthrough. The next paved race weekend proved more interesting, and difficult emotionally. It was a half marathon. It would be a lot of time on pavement, and a distance, of which I'm much more fond.

Again, the weather was perfect. My ex was looking great. I met some folks during the race who were pretty nice. I'd met up with some new Trail Nerds before the race. I was running fast. I started to wonder if my ex was trying to get me back. 7 miles/ 55 minutes. 9 miles 1:10. 13.1 in 1:43. My previous half marathon PR was 1:48:30. Yup, the ex wants me, and wants me bad.

But for this MudBabe, it was lipstick on a pig . Remember that swollen toe problem I had after 21 MILES the week before. It started around mile 5 and my left hip started to ache around mile 7. I hit mile 10.
"Oh she's got a second wind."
There was a fellow about 59 running behind me. Not a typical running type, but he was keeping up.
Little did he know it wasn't a second wind. Just desparation to get OFF THE PAVEMENT.

Every time I looked down it looked the same. Asphalt, concrete. For a paved race though, it was a nice course. Through neighborhoods, and a loop instead of out and back. "Come back to me trail runner-- I'm so smooth!!" Still, despite the fall season, I didn't even cross a leaf. Or a twig. Did someone sweep them off before the race? I was BORED. And no amount of running fast was going to help.

I didn't have a moment of confusion, or regret for my decision to choose the trails. Several factors played into this. My week of breakthrough running-- but also the following week of runs that directly preceded the race. One breakthrough just wasn't enough for this MudBabe.

Covered in fairy dust, I've been tackling the Red Trail. 300 million year old limestone and shale blocks. In the past it's been my favorite spot at Clinton for beauty, but I shied away from it on solo training runs because technically it's so difficult. Running with the groups, we always just walk it. But lately, I've noticed Bad Ben just flying over the rocks. I wanted to be able to do it too. Amazing what running that portion twice a day, 2 days in a row can do. I'm running it. Not as fast as Ben yet-- but definitely improved. And I'm addicted. I couldn't stop thinking about it while I was on that pavement.

Dead tired, the alarm blares. 6:30am. Don't have to go to work until 2pm. Sure, I could sleep in and run on pavement at 10 or 11. Nope. I bound out of bed.. twitching for another attack on the Red Trail.

Or I'm returning from an appointment in KC. Do I meet up with a friend for lunch? Nope. Red Trail again.

Another bonus. I'm mentoring some new Trail Nerds I'd met the previous Sunday at Sandrat.
"You are our trail running guru!" I had just taken Topekan's Hunter and John on a tour of the Governor's Mansion, and their first experience on single track.
"Wow-- this is amazing. I'm so bored with pavement. We need a Topeka Trail Nerds Chapter."
Well guys.. you've got it.
"ew. Look at all the snot on your tights!"
I have a mucus problem, and keep forgetting a hankie.
"You're the snotty hottie!"
It just doens't take long to bond with new runners. We'd already run across a gaveyard. I made a joke about shallow unmarked graves. But there was no whining.
"How do you deal with the runner's high Sophia?"
John had just flown down a hill like a kid at recess at Clinton.
"You were so up when we met you at Sandrat."
"I try to never come down! And fortunately running on the trails is easier on your body so you can run more-- faster and faster-- higher and higher --although I do use ample amounts of fairy dust. Flying."

Here's the scary part though.

What if this paved half marathon had been September 6th, instead of October 11th? On the cusp of my decision to go with the trails. I would have missed the Northshore trail run, where I had progress. Not a breakthrough, but progress. With just the fun of a few weeks on the trails, but no true rhythm, I'm not sure I would have been strong enough to stick with my decision. (by the way, I ended up passing that lady in front of me in the pic--that was the one paved blip in the trail race)

It's really hard to make a decision to go with something new and unconventional if you don't immerse yourself in it. Or if you aren't in it long enough to really have a breakthrough. What strikes me most about my path on the trails, is that each day, week and now a month, piece after piece falls in place and the confusion goes away. This time, I made the right choice. But that hasn't always been the case for me.

A big goal for me was to get a job as a reporter in Kansas City. It was the right, conventional choice for a young woman advancing her career. Day after day. Year after year, I got more and more confused. Finally, I broke my contract and quit. It was a rocky time.
"Sophia, do you want me to get your job back."
My lawyer was trying to help.
"No, I don't want to go back there."
As I struggled along this path though, things fell into place. The confusion dispelled.
I got a job I like a lot better. Even though Topeka is a much less glamorous city.
Many reporters work here, hoping to get to KC. Not the other way around.
Topeka, an unconventional choice. But I like it.
I have fun at work.. Like at this recent fire.

Most important, I fell in mud with trail running and met a wonderful, supportive group of friends.

So I have a new theory. Perhaps it's too simple for most people to follow.
If you make a big choice in life and are riddled with chronic confusion, it's the wrong one.
If you make a big choice in life and the little pieces fall into place it's the right one--even though you may hurt at times for what you lost.
Most people make the wrong choices because of duty, or convention.

Now if you still don't beleive me. ask yourself.. was the confusing choice somehow the easier, status quo choice? Because, staying in KC reporting, would sure have been easier, and more dutiful than what I chose. But I would have been confused. And honestly, even though the Nerds are out of KC, I'm not sure I would have had the energy to try something new.

I was talking about the "ex" factor with John and Hunter after the race.
"Well, Sophia there is the comfort factor in hainging with the ex."
"Yeah, but I was bored."
"Me too. I'm ready to run the trails, Original MudBabe."
"Hills on Thursday, guys!"
"Hills on Thursday!"

Muddy Hugs, everyone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The nicest answers I ever got to life's questions.

Julia Wharton:

Summarize me in one sentence:
A smart, passionate and stunningly beautiful woman who is so strong and sure of herself that she goes after what she deserves.
Take a stab at my middle name: Mudbabe
How long have you known me?
Two teasing years, with a nice month tacked-on the end of that.
When is the last time that we saw each other?
Do I drink?
Do I smoke?
Only in bed.
Do I do Drugs?
Not since the Madcap Miami Days
Am I happy?
Intrinsically happy, but happier in the right company, with a good dog, or out on a run.
Am I a good person?
Good and good-hearted.
What was your first impression of upon meeting me/seeing me?
A gorgeous, self-assured woman who doesn't care what "haters" think about her.
What's one of my favorite things to do?
Sitting and snuggling in the right lap.
Who do i love more than my life?
My dear Phillip
Am I funny?
Witty, smartly funny and "punny."
Have you ever made me smile?
Many times, sometimes in shades of yellow.
What's my favorite type of music?
Open to most genres of music. Music can set my mood and my moods can set the music. I'm passionate about classical music, especially passionate about 20th century composers such as Prokofiev, and modern composers such as P. Wharton. Open to any type of music but gansta rap.
Have you ever seen me cry?
I saw a "Hillary tear" moment, once.
Can I sing?
Yes, and well.
What is the best feature about me?
Personality and infectious energy, and capacity for love.
Am I shy or outgoing?
Outgoing, definitely.
Am I a rebel or do I follow the rules?
A Rebel at heart, but keeps the rules in mind.
Do I have any special talents?
I play the violin, I have great stage presence, and am a very loving person.
Would you call me preppy, average, sporty, punk, hippie, glam, nerdy, snobby, or something else (what)?
All of the above, but I pull off everything with class.
Have you ever hugged me?
Kissed me?
What is my favorite food?
Am I a good cook?
A natural chef.
Am I dating anyone?
Yes, yes, yes.
If there was one good nickname for me, what would it be?
Beautiful Mudbabe
What's your favorite memory of me?
You opening your door for me on a certain Tuesday.
What is my worst habit?
Dating the wrong men...but have learned recently.
Do I like corn dogs?
A resounding NO
Have you ever had a dream about me?
Every night.
If you and I were stranded on a desert island, what is the one thing I would bring?
A $2 million dollar violin.
Are we friends?
Whats my religion?
A profound belief in God and Humanity's capacity for love.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I believe in Fairies!!

This amazing thing has happened. I've found rhythm running on the trails. Not pretend rhythm-- real live I count to 4 and feel my little feet pushing the dirt, rocks, and roots around rhythm. Power.
"Your stride is longer, Sophia."
It is and I can feel it. I pummel down the hills.
Wee hee!! I yell. It's pure unadulterated freedom. At last.
"Wow, she's speeding up on us."
Yes I am gentlemen. Follow me.
It's Saturday and 12 miles later, I'm tired. For good reason. 10 miles Monday at Perry with new Mudbabe Vanessa, mega-tron hill repeats at the Gov's on Wednesday. 16 miles on the hookie run at Clinton on Friday at a fast pace. Now it's Saturday and we're at mile 18.
"I think it would help a little to speed up." And it does, until at 21 my toe starts to swell. Still when I finish my heart is beating strong-- and I have lots of energy.
I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before and was seriously worried I'd be dead weight on the 20 mile (I thought ) run.
"Was that more than 20?" We'd just finished and my watch showed over 4 hours.
"Hell yes. Try 23 or 23.7."
Phew... I can forgive myself for getting tired at 21 after a tough day prior. Had it happened at 18, I would have felt like a loser.

I've gotten kind of addicted to these back to back long runs. It's true ultra training and there's something kind of exhilarating and crazy about it.
But my week wasn't over.
The cherry on the Sundae was Sunday's Sandrat 9.7 mile river run.
Despite a flexibilty workout after the 23 mile run on Saturday, my legs were as sore and stiff. I didn't know what to expect on Sunday. But I didn't expect much.
"I may be trotting in the back helping out a slower runner."
"How are those sticks after 23 miles yesterday Sophia?"
Gary Henry was headed past me. He'd been saving himself since Wednesday for the Sandrat.
Oddly, my legs felt pretty good at the start-- but would they last?
Mile after mile, I look at my watch and realize we're running 8:10- 8:20 a mile. RTB RTB.
I ran with Superhero Mudbabe Debbie. Took her steady on- the whole race.
6 minutes faster than she ran the year before.
"I wish I could bottle up what was making you run so fast."
I'd told Debbie it might be the Sumatran Velvet coffee I had that morning--but I think it was something more powerful than that.
"FAIRY DUST! Peter Pan gave it to me."
Rounding the final patch of pavement at the end Kelley and Matthew were chearing me on.
"Your running looks incredible, Sophia. You didn't even look tired. Matthew said the same thing."

Age group winners got rats. Here's the Mudbabe "Ratpack."

If anyone had told me on Monday I would run 16 fast miles on Friday. 23 good paced miles on Saturday-- and top it off with nearly 10 at an 8:18 pace on Sunday-- I would have said.. I wish you were talking about me, because that's amazing. But I would not have beleived it could be me.

Could I possibly have worked hard enough to acheive this? Do I deserve it? Tonight I look in the mirror at the fit woman staring back. She's smiling with a twinkle in her eye. I like her. I like her a lot. Actually, I adore her. She does deserve this. And it is me.

How did I do it? Not easy. Train hard. Lots of purposeful miles. Fast miles, hill miles, back to back long runs and planned recovery. I lost 18 pounds.
"Sophia, are you size 4?" Yes I am.

Still that was all easy compared with the mental weight I shed.
External changes are good, but much easier than taking care of yourself emotionally, and making changes from the inside out. But I was ready, and I started cleaning. Tossing out a lot of unnecessary baggage. Mostly guilt with a dash of confusion and some judgement.

I've been carrying a lot of guilt all of my life. Early in September, I said goodbye to guilt for good. Things became clear. I wasn't confused anymore.
"When did you stop going to church, Sophia?" My brother's friend Summer and I were talking about the Christian guilt factor.
"Oh a long time ago-- but I just stopped feeling guilty about not going 2 weeks ago." Still, I don't judge people who love going to church, if it makes them feel good.

Running in the woods makes me feel good. So I'll stick to that.
64 miles this week.
4 different Kansas trails.

When I was a child, my parents and grandfather's mantra was "if it's fun don't do it." So I always felt a twinge of guilt when I'd have fun. Now, not only do I feel no guilt, I make a concerted effort to allign as much fun in every part of my life, inclulding work--or even cleaning the bathroom, that I can. So much laughter. So much joy. So many spontaneous unexpected options. Because I have no guilt.

A funny thing happens when you expell a powerful ( negative) emotion like guilt and confusion. There is a beautiful gorge left in your soul. All of a sudden, people you used to think couldn't give you what you needed seem to give you enough. My whole life I've asked for so much emotionally from others. Unfortunately guilt, confusion and judgement were filling up the place the love was supposed to go-- and the love bounced off. Now the love goes in.
Inside I'm warm, loved and happy. A healthy glow-- with a sprinkle of Fairy Dust.

Muddy Hugs!