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!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Small thoughts.. Big Projects..

I have so many wonderful thoughts in my head. A poem. A shortstory. A thank you. I just don't have the time to organize them right now. Much of this writing comes to me as I run. With 64 tough, purposeful miles under my feet this week, I'm loaded. Itching to write. Desparate to express. But it must wait. I read an email from my brother and realized I needed to write up a grant application, spruce up his bio, and write a cover letter (in his voice) OVERNIGHT.

So I'm off to my contemplation room, where I'll put his passion and thoughts onto paper. I hope this will get him a residency with an orchestra. But mostly I hope it will bring his beautiful and intricate music to children and adults everywhere.

Still here are some pics from another, fun insightful week in the world of Mud, we know as Sophie's World.