THE ROAD IS NOT CALLING

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100_0443I am at work, standing on aching feet (they only ache at work… weird), smiling at a customer as she tells me about her weekend. I am interested in what she is telling me – I really am. But suddenly I’m on a familiar trail, on a steep incline that leads to a peak with a view of three counties. A pair of hawks fly over. I smell sagebrush, juniper and soil. A butterfly, blue as the sky, circles my head until its course is altered by the wind. The wind is strong. The wind is always strong here and clouds race across the sky. A storm might be brewing to the south, the clouds ominous over… Oh crap. I pull myself back, finish the conversation with a twinge of guilt and hope I didn’t miss anything critical.

Lone Peak from a distance

Lone Peak from a distance

I am lucky to have an interesting and active job, a job that provides all the coffee I need and more pastries than I should have. I meet hundreds of people a day, and over an eight year period I transformed from an introvert to an extrovert. But can such a transformation be real? I know that whenever possible my mind and body escape to the lonely serenity of the hills and forests, to the mountains ringing the valley where I live and work.

If you opened my skull and took a look inside my brain it would probably look like a topographical map covered with a mess of trails that wind and cross and intersect. Sometimes the trails end abruptly (because I’m lost!) and double back. Some trails are dark lines from hundreds of treks, others faint from one memorable trip. This map on my brain is encompassed in just one state, all the trails confined within a political boundary. But the state is big, and the possibilities are endless. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of discovery and adventure.

All my life I loved the forests and mountains, but running there brought an unexpected richness to my life.

Road races. It was a good run.

All running is good, I believe that. I started as a road runner and will soon complete my twelfth marathon. But for the past few years, when I run on the road, I struggle to get myself out the door. I struggle to put on my shoes and just go, knowing I’ll feel good afterwards.

When I run on the road I think about finishing, of getting in the miles, of having a good pace. I try to get lost in music, a song at a time.

I never listen to music on the trail.

On the road I try to stay alert. I watch for distracted drivers and traffic lights. I count street lights and keep a close eye on my watch.

On the trail I keep an eye on the trail. I get distracted by deer and squirrels. Sometimes I fall. Now and then, I remember to look at my watch. If I see something interesting, I stop and look. If I hear something interesting I stop and try to figure out what it is (and will it eat me?).

On the road… I just run. Get it over with, feel good about it later.

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A glimpse of my favorite place

On the trail, sometimes I push myself, work on my speed. Sometimes I do hill repeats. Sometimes I have a destination, a mountaintop or a new trail to explore. Sometimes I have no destination and I go where the trail takes me. Sometimes I sit down in a grove of trees and eat real food. Most of the time, I have a dog with me. I take a lot of pictures.

I would never take my dog on a road run.

I have a road marathon that I love. I’ll do it every year that I can run, and I’ll do the training required. But I’m pretty burned out on the whole road thing.

I love running, but the road no longer calls to me. It’s the trail that is etched onto my brain.

So I leave work and hit the road, to drive to the trail.

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I DON’T WANT TO F$%KING RUN!

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It was a nice day for February. Really. The temperature was cold, the air was wet and the wind came at us horizontally from the West. When we ran North it froze the left side of our faces and made our left ears hurt. When we turned South, it froze the right side. It really wouldn’t have been too bad except my non-running, run-hating daughter had a cold. Her head and ears hurt before we even started, and the cold wind made it a lot worse.IMG_20130224_124505_086

Why, it is fair to ask, was my non-running, run-hating daughter running at all, and particularly running in such conditions?

She had been coerced into taking a leg of a relay we were doing in March. As I’m sure most of you are aware, family pressure can be much worse than peer pressure.

We had half a mile to go when she stopped.

“I hate being in you guyses family!!”

Yes, that is proper grammar under the circumstances.

NRD- note the six-pack abs

NRD- note the six-pack abs

My non-running, run-hating daughter (ok I’m shortening that to NRD) is a terrifying creature when she is angry. She’s pretty terrifying even when she’s not angry. You should never laugh when she has an outburst such as this one.

But I did.

Surprisingly, I didn’t die at the hand of my NRD that day, but I did learn something.

NOT EVERYBODY WANTS TO RUN!

It’s easy when you find something that brings you joy to assume it will do the same for others. But running is hard. It takes time. It takes work. Sometimes it’s discouraging. Sometimes it’s painful. You need the joy to make it worthwhile.

As newlyweds, my husband and I had a friend shove his baby into our arms so we could feel the way he felt when he held his baby. This was his effort to make us want children right away. It didn’t work. The joy you feel when you hold your baby is your own joy. I felt it with my own babies, but his baby just cried and slobbered on me and reminded me I was in no hurry to start a family.

RD- note the excellent running form, particularly the hands

My RD (running daughter) started running at the same time I did. She was a sixteen-year-old dancer with a lot of performances coming up and she needed stamina. Somewhere she had inherited crappy lungs and weak legs (I don’t know where these weaknesses came from, said TheTrailSnail). It took quite a few runs before we could run without walking to a stop sign about half a mile away. Within a few years we were running half marathons and marathons. Now we run ultras.

My NRD is 11 years younger than my RD, so she came into this whole running thing after we had already gone through the gradual buildup. It’s easy to forget that part. Instead of trying to run to the stop sign, she gets talked into a five mile relay leg.

She completed her leg. She enjoyed it. She doesn’t want to do it again.

NRD drives an old Bronco. She listens to country music, wears cowboy boots and has a soft spot for every living thing (except stupid people). She has a dog, two cats, two ferrets, one snake and two tarantulas. She has a pair of brown eyes that she got from her father. She uses these against me (as do her brown-eyed father and sister) to make me give in to outrageous requests. You know, like too many pets. She has an attitude approximately four times larger than her small frame. She’s not easily influenced, so she must really love us to have run with us at all.

Above NRDs head in the relay vehicle

Above NRDs head in the relay vehicle

Sometimes, when she’s asleep, I stand outside her door. I say, “Join us! Run with us! Come to the dark side!”

So far, this hasn’t worked.

So I’m leaving her alone about running. One thing I learned about her during the relay is that she is the perfect driver and planner. She made sure we ate. She made sure we were ready to run when our leg was coming up. She made sure we had whatever equipment we needed and she made it to the relay points on time.

I’m thinking she’ll be the perfect crew when I do my first 50 miler.

But I WILL NOT ask her to pace.

Me. I know, I'm an amazing artist.

Me. I know, I’m an amazing artist.

B- father of RD and NRD, founder of the Brown Eye Look.