Sunday, February 8, 2009

making of a mudbabe


"when are you going to run with the nerds again?"

It was an email from "Bad Ben," who runs the KC Trail Nerds .
What? Run on trails again? He obviously didn’t remember our last conversation where I told him I’d broken down crying, lost on the Wyco trail during the Alternate Chili run-- I eventually jumped back on the pavement. At best it was 6 miles on the trail. Sobbing, weeping, cursing Mizuno Kelley for making me get up early for this torture.
After the run, I plopped down by Ben with my bowl of Chili.
"i think trails are cool--At heart, I feel like a trail runner, but I just don’t run them well-- I keep hoping I’ll get better, but this was terrible. I can’t get a rhythm."

"maybe trails just aren’t for you." Mizuno Kelley. "it’s ok."

I went for a second bowl of chili and added extra cheese.

When the invitation to run came again I chose the most convenient trail for me-- without even looking at the schedule, secretly hoping it would conflict with something else.

"Saturday at Clinton lake." I wrote. I’d never even been on a picnic there.

Turns out they were doing weekly runs there to prepare for Free State. I’m stuck.

I had several conversations with my co-anchor about this pending run. (watch me on my podcast here :
"Ugh- I can’t believe I agreed to this- I’m not as fast as these dudes on pavement and I’m even worse on the trails. The only reason I can think that they invited me, was because they’re hurting for material to talk about on a long ass run." So I started studying up on interesting news stories, hoping I could keep up. Although I was "training" for Boston, I was barely getting in 25 miles a week, and my longest run was the Topeka to Auburn half a month prior. If I was going to get the long runs in, I needed to overcome my problem with trails. Still, I went into the first group run, in real fear of being left in the dust and lost in the woods.

3 runs, 2 pairs of muddy shoes and about 50 trail miles later, I’m hooked.

Right now I’m what’s called the binge trail runner. Doing the long weekend runs on the trails, I am prone to embarrassing myself in restaurants. Nothing like frozen mud melting off your shoes in the middle of an omelette and 5 cups of coffee. Kind of resembles what my dog Puccini leaves after getting too many snacks for Thanksgiving. Oh well...

So what’s the hook? The people or the path? Both.
Trail runners are nicer... Seriously-- I think it has something to do with needing to be self sufficient, but never having everything you need (whether emotionally or physically) No matter how well you prepare-- you may need a gu, or a baby wipe, camera (for that unexpected moment when you run into another pack of runners) extra water, a hand or just an encouraging word. Your fellow trail nerds will always be there to lend it. On pavement, there’s a never ending supply of non-runners and convenience stores for help and I think it makes those runners a little more introverted. Just a theory-- open to other interpretations.

So far I find you learn something about yourself, something about running, and with this group, some great one liners to get you through the week. Conversations that can go like this.

Sophia: "my text messaging predictive text doesn’t seem to like certain words . I’m tired of trying to fix it-- so my friends just accept that ducking means something other than what we’re doing right now to get under this tree."
Ben:" I’m convinced the moral majority controls cell phones."

There are others--but we’ll leave them on the trail. Smile. Colleen-- you are hilarious, and you know I never forget anything.

As for the running... It’s getting better-- I’m jumping over roots and slopping through the mud. Still have fear of water and needed a hand over some that troubled me. When I’m hard core-- I’ll just splash through-- but so far, still binging. And the running is getting faster-- what needs work however is the walking. When the group starts walking up hills or though the serious slop-- I become like a satellite planet struggling to stay in orbit. So during miles 14-16, I got some pointers on walking (once I ran and caught up). Turnover, turnover, turnover. Balance, flex hips and keep it moving, seriously think about pushing off with the toes. Walk on a treadmill at a 15 grade. Good advice. I’ll take it. Unlike pavement, being able to walk well and fast on the trails is crucial. Ah yes-- the trail part I struggle with-- the nerd comes naturally.

Ironically when I got the invitation to run with the Nerds, I was in a slump and looking for inspiration. I tried to find new running buddies, join groups or work out at the gym, but it just wasn’t happening. I suppose you can’t look for inspiration-- it needs to find you. So thanks guys and Colleen for finding me. What I found out is that you didn’t need new material (although I was complimented on my left slanted politics) it’s just that you’re nice people, committed to having fun and pushing it to the limit, while welcoming new comers on the journey.

Later I decided to do Brew to Brew. I asked fellow trail nerd Colleen if she’d run half-- when faced with what to call the team, it was obvious. Bad Ben’s Mud Babes.

And that my friends is how I became the Mud Babe. __________________________________________________