Posts Tagged With: maine

Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago, I said this:
Not since high school have I run side by side with someone. I have wanted to. I invited someone who was supposedly training for the Leukemia Society’s half marathon and he turned me down. I challenged someone who wants to WALK a 13.1 miler, she chickened out. I’ve strode next to lots of someones at the Gerbil Cage, but side by side on treadmills are nowhere near the real thing of running side by side outside.
Thursday my sister and I ran. She’s trying to lose pregnancy belly fat and I’m trying to lose my fear of everything that strangles my psyche. Despite the fact I barely got any sleep the night before I got up at 5:30am to chase the early morning light around my sister’s island. If there was an emotion that permeated my brain that a.m. it was envy. She runs in the most beautiful place. How do I explain this? She runs on a dirt road that turns paved. She runs in the woods, through a still-sleepy town, along the shore line, past beautiful, sea-weathered cottages. She smells pines, fresh bread baking, island roses and the sharp ocean. She sees gulls and finches, butterflies and curled up cats, tiger lilies and seaweed covered shorelines. She hears fog horns, waves lapping and whispering trees. In the distance a horse calls and a dog answers. Birds sing continuously. She stops for water, plucks blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and even late blooming strawberries before moving on.
We promised no chatting but I couldn’t help commenting on cottages for sale, sleeping dogs on porches and classic lobster boats offshore. A bell buoy clanged in the distance and I could almost picture myself living here. I got so caught up in the fantasy that I forgot I was running.
4.5 miles later my sister announced, “I walk at the bricks” and true to her word she slowed to a walk where the sidewalk ended. As the sweat cooled on my back I marveled at how easy it had been to run on her island. How easy it had been to run with her. In high school she ran cross country. I ran away from physical activity. She has always been Miss Athlete, despite having two kids. I have always been Miss Bookwormslug. I never in a million years thought I would run with her…much less actually keep up.

Knee conversation – not a peep. Must be the huge shoes!

Categories: Confessional, Old Blogs, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Closing In

I am still not confident I will complete this 1000k challenge. Everyday I mentally play with the numbers and wonder for how long I can keep this up. My targeted average is still 2.8 miles a day from now until December 31st. If I can keep that up I will succeed. Notice I said IF i can keep that up. There is the thought fear that I can’t. Last night I ran 3.23 at a ridiculously slow pace. Through the night my body grew progressively achy and by 2am my hips were on fire. Lying there in the predawn hours listening to my hips sing I couldn’t imagine running the same distance later that same day. My body has since stopped bitching but that doesn’t make it easier to picture even two little miles with New Guinea.

But! But. But, I am closing in on my goal. I have epic arguments with myself over methods to the madness. Do I run six every other day in order to give myself rest? Do I need that rest? Or! Do I run three every single day and hope that half the time means half the damage?

Silver lining: thanksgiving on Peaks. I love, love, love running Peaks. Maybe I can put in a solid nine and close the gap a little more? Wouldn’t that be cool?

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Women on the Run

I’ll be the first to admit it. I was scared to run Monhegan. People have broken legs just letting their dogs out for a pee. One wrong step on rocky ground and it’s way downhill from there. I’m not kidding. Three years ago, a friend of mine was airlifted off the island when she suffered a compound fracture in her yard. She was, you guessed it, letting the dog out. We have no street lights. We have no smooth pavement. Most importantly, we do not have emergency services. None to speak of. A friend of mine won’t bring her diabetic husband for a visit in case he has an episode. A simple fall-on-your-ass during a run could turn into an off-your-feet-for-a-very-long-time scenario nightmare. Imagine my embarrassment if I, an island girl (practically a native to boot) hurt myself like that.

It took forever for me to just to simply run on Monhegan. The common act of being seen doing something physical was something to overcome.
It took me just as long to brave the end of every road, to take each one to the very end. Finding twelve miles in a 4.5 square mile area is tough, especially when two thirds of that same area is wilderness.
As time went on I became a better me. Confidence conquered. It was time for me to consider the trails. Take that initial fear and mushroom it into something monumental. I have this playlist of nothing but female artists so with Sia, Christina, Natalie, Alicia, Kelly, Sara, P!nk, Carrie, Adel, Alessia, Katy, Gaga, Tori, Elle, Rachel & ZZ I put on my big girl pants and we became women on the run.

This last trip to the island was 16 miles of gingerly jumping previous boundaries. The time before I ran the wide, flat trails to completion but didn’t feel safe on the more technical trails. This time I wanted more than half way. For those of you who don’t know the geography of 04852 this won’t make a lot of sense, but on this trip I completed

  • an unmarked Lobster Cove to Josh Mostel (via Jamie Wyeth) trail.
  • the Burnt Head (#4) to Underhill (#3) loop
  • Whitehead (#7)
  • Red Ribbon (#9) – my favorite
  • Evergreen (#15)
  • Pebble Beach (the new #14)
  • Alder (#6) sort of…

So. An explanation of Alder. I was coming back from a #9 to #7 loop when I spotted #6. I knew from an earlier hike this would take me to the base of the hill to the cemetery and since I always stopped at dad’s grave on every run I thought I would shortcut through #6 instead of going the usual lighthouse route. Like most of the other trails, #6 was brand new to me and I had no idea how the trail went. I was cruising along, enjoying this last run of vacation. As I said, cruising, but carefully watching my feet as well. The weather had turned damp so pine needles and naked roots were especially slippery and I needed to really watch where I was going; to plan my footfalls carefully. I was watching too well because before I knew it I was on a collision course with another runner. Completely unexpected. In the entire time I have been running on Monhegan I have only encountered one other runner (back in July) and we were both on a very wide and safe path. No danger there. This time this guy was watching his feet, like moi. We were both coming fast. He and I looked up at the last possible second and barely swerved to avoid one another. I found myself jetting down an unmarked? offshoot path. Embarrassingly, I had no idea where I was going at all. Blindly I just continued to run down this unmarked path. Was I still on #6? I had no clue. For once I was lost in my hometown.

I ended up in the backyard of my rental cottage, ironically enough. And even though I wanted to put in another solid mile, I called it quits. The near accident with another runner shook me a little and when I took that serve off the path I knew I came down too hard on my left foot. Something hasn’t felt right since.

But, what has felt right was the desire to go back and tackle more trails. Odd though, trails 2, 8, and 13 don’t exist. Maybe I should make my own?

Categories: Confessional, music, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Touching Twenty and Other Stories

How do you know when your worlds are colliding? You can’t remember who you said what to nor when. Or…if you even said anything at all. That’s the worst.

It’s been over two weeks since my last confession. In that space of time I have traveled to Peaks (ran 11.73), sailed to Monhegan (ran 5.22), went to NoHo (ran 19.73), and ended up in Holyoke (ran 5.38). Every location was punctuated with a run but the lasting memory was that of a connection.

Peaks. Peaks was a chance to reconnect to my sister. Have I mentioned how much I love this island? And yet, for this visit it was a place of worry (El Faro – need I say more?) and indecision (would the boat run to Monhegan? What would Joaquin do?). I wanted to stay in the cradle of Casco Bay for one more night, if only to clear the questions and keep close to my sister.

Monhegan. What can I say about 04852 that hasn’t already been said? A twilight run without biting dogs and bird watchers. That was great but honestly, it wasn’t the best part. Heaven came when Kisa and I got to spend every afternoon down by the ocean. Sifting through sea glass and watching the setting sun; lulled by the insistence of the rising tide. Heaven was made perfect when my mother was able to get away from tourist obligations and join us just in time for the sunset.

Northampton. This is when I almost touched twenty. But, the story is not about running 19.73 miles. The story is in what happened next. After the 19+ the Nike running belt I was wearing, the one that weighs next to nothing, was killing my lower back. Don’t ask me how. It just was. I don’t remember taking it off but somewhere between here and there I lost it. Dropped it. Whatever. Despite dead of night searching it was gone, gone, gone. Outwardly, I thanked my lucky stars the only thing in it was a tube of Burts and my butt ugly drivers license (good riddance although I ordered a replacement immediately). Inside, I was quietly dying. That belt had seen me through countless miles of walking and running. I was going to miss it. Fast forward a day. I get a message from a colleague. Her friend found the belt about 15 miles away while he was on an extra long bike ride. After looking me up on FB he discovered our mutual friend and had her get in touch with me. So, here’s this guy, riding his bike in an area he usually doesn’t frequent, finding my belt. He does some social media stalking and discovers he knows my colleague and the only reason why I know her is because she went to school with Kisa. That’s the crazy thing – this mutual friend was originally my husband’s friend from high school. As a colleague, she’s an adjunct; barely on campus. Our paths don’t cross ever. Ever. Now I have reconnected with my belt and soon (oh joy) I’ll have two (two!) butt ugly licenses. Ah! The power of social media.

Holyoke. Ashley Reservoir. I love this place, oddly enough, almost as much as Florence and Monhegan. It’s a different kind of place – one that I can’t really explain. The run itself was a nondescript 5.38 miles. The devil is in the details: my pace was a steady 9:17. For those of you who don’t know this turtle, sub-10 is my race pace. Not my gentle recovery run pace. But, But. But! Not once did I tell moi or myself we were running too fast for my heart to keep up. Not once did my lungs ask for a break. If anything my legs connected with my madness and we raced against the clouds in the darkening sky. In the end we felt joy in the raindrops that seemed to wait until the end of the run to fall.

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Dog Days of Summer

I’ve never really understood the expression “dog days” but the 29th of August will go down in history as my own personal dog day because I finally got bit. By a dog. My first attack on Monhegan. Here it is three days later and I’m still trying to process everything.

It all began innocently enough. I was home & The Plan called for a 12 mile run. From a previous run I knew of a 4.6 mile loop so I had options – run that loop three times and get in a little extra mileage or…wing it. It was just before 6am; a beautiful, sun-just-rising red, crisp morning. The surf sang and the air was heavy with salt. I felt like I could run forever so I opted for the wing. It started off great. The island was fog soaked and silent. Even the birds were mute as I startled them out of their roosts. As I ran I felt like I was trying to touch every piece of the island. My home. My joy. I forgot bug juice so I avoided Cathedral woods but managed to get almost everywhere else: the length of the board walk behind the Ice Pond twice, Mostel’s turn-around three times, Burnt Head twice, almost to White Head once, Horns Hill, Wharf Hill, Lighthouse Hill all three times,the grave yard (yes, I left wild flowers picked on a whim), Lobster Cove, Dead Man’s Cove, even across the bridge by the Court House. On my third run through town I noticed the community was starting to wake up. Store signs were flipped to ‘open’ and tourists were out walking their dogs. As I came up from Fish Beach I noticed a couple tangled in greyhounds. Three beasts at least. The humans were negotiating leashes and looking confused. I ran by them all without a thought. All I remember was this: I was on mile ten and worrying I was running out of time. I can’t run with the tourists.

When I ran by the greyhounds and their masters a second time 30 minutes later one hound broke free from the pack. He/she was not tethered. Not even dragging a leash. I was shocked to see it so free. What followed all happened so fast – the snapping of jaws, the jumping in my face, the paws pushing me back. The dog never growled. Instead there was a whining and a snapping of teeth; I felt the constant nipping at my arms and legs. By the time I broke free blood was running down my leg and I was aware of a pain in my arm but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get away. I mean, I couldn’t run away fast enough. More bruises and scratches would emerge hours later.

I never did get in 12 miles. Instead I ended 11.2 miles later confused and shaken. Somehow I couldn’t continue despite being a mere 0.8 mile short. I know I’m not scarred for life. The bruises will fade and the cuts will scab over eventually. What I am most upset about is a good run spoiled by teeth, especially on Monhegan.

Categories: Confessional, life, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Give to Get

I have this friend, this amazing friend, who says what she means, does what she says and always, always means what she does. She will never ever hand you an empty promise or promise an empty hand. If she says she is going to do something (anything) there is no doubting her. Ever.  Ever. Ever. I love her for this and I want to be just like her when I grow up. In my mind she is exemplary and rare. Almost extinct.

It is this friend I thought of when Kisa handed over the keys to his car, wanting nothing in return. Maybe a boys baseball game and a handful of peanuts. He had made a promise so long ago and the time had finally come to keep that promise. Or give it. as the case would be. He thought nothing of transferring the title or traveling the three and a half hours to deliver the promise. Just like that. He thought of everything, even a screwdriver to take off the plates. He cleaned out the back seat and made sure the manual was in the glove department before relinquishing the keys. Generosity in a promise kept.

That day my Knight In Shining Armor gave me something as well. A chance for an island run. Don’t gasp when I say this…but. But! But,  me, myself and moi have decided Peaks is our favorite place to run. Seriously. Better than Monhegan. Better than Florence. How can I explain? My sister lives in the woods. A run from her house affords me tall pines, soft dirt roads and a silence like no other. Yet, she is on an island. Sooner or later you will meet the salt, salt sea, the rocky shore, and the sound of the ever-insistent surf. The gentle scents of island roses, beach sweet pea, lilacs, honeysuckle and sand permeate. Continue on and you’ll reach town. Bustling with tourists, the ice cream shop and knickknacky places will be in full chatter. The smell of fried seafood has the power to tickle the appetite. Suddenly you’ll want a beer. It’s the strangest thing.

On this bright blue day I was supposed to run for an easy 25 minutes. Kisa was content to watch his nephews play a double header. I had an hour before the boat. I expected plenty of time. I expected another “2.35 in 25” report. I expected a lot except I didn’t expect to lose myself. No music to block my ears. No numbers to distract my mind. I just ran with the ocean beside me. Me and myself got caught up in the beauty of everything around moi. To say we lost track of time is an understatement. Time got so lost I made us miss the boat back. That was my gift to Kisa. On the next boat out he was able to sit with his nephews and talk Call of Duty. A little more time for the boys to be boys. All because of a beautiful run and a boat missed.

You have to give to get: 3.65 in 35.

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Holophrase: Run.

Today my holophrase is run because last night that’s exactly what I did. Nothing special. Certainly nothing spectacular. 2.35 miles in 25 min. It started off ridiculously slow – like a 12 minute mile. That’s how worried I was about the ankle and the knee and the hip and the psyche. Fear had not settled in but I could tell it was circling to make a visit. I willed it not to stay. For there is something poisonous about pain. Honestly though, if I want to push me & myself any further we need to move through it. Welcome it. Dare I say, embrace it? I just don’t want to collapse in an utterly defeated mess, my courage spilled all over the floor and I had just come off a 60 mile, three day walk. So. I started slowly. Every five minutes I upped the speed and had a small conversation with each potentially offending body part. No one was crying except my brain. Crying out to go faster. I found the groove at 10 minute miles and stayed there until the short(!) 25 minutes were up. I promised the Kisa I would start slow. I promised myself progressive. I stayed true to both of us. When my husband got home the very first thing he asked about was the run. I knew he wanted a pain report from me, myself and moi. Like a brat I gave him numbers, “Two thirty five in twenty five.” He smiled knowing what I didn’t say spoke volumes. The run and I were going to be okay. Later I confessed I lost a little mojo. I can’t run with my eyes closed.

The menu for tomorrow: Somehow I need to fit in 25 minutes of a run. I have no idea how that is going to work because Kisa and I are giving my sister a car. I’m definitely skipping the appetizer (strength training) and dessert (yoga) because we need to drive said vehicle to her three hours away; and on a an island, I might add. In addition we are planning to watch our nephews play in a baseball game (they’re on the same team – how cool is that?). The topper is we’re not staying overnight which means another three hour drive home. The big question is can I make this work?

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Bully Hills

Day two on Monhegan.
Despite the stressful travel the day before; despite the wine and sweet sound of the early morning ocean, my legs woke me up at 6am ready to run. Somewhere in my psyche I had planned on this. There is nowhere else on earth I love to run. Having said that, I must admit this: there is nowhere else on earth I DON’T want to be seen running. It’s like this: I grew up here. Everyone knows me. I’m not a runner in their eyes. Seeing me jog my way through town raises eyebrows. Real or not, I imagine this. I see the smirk on every face.
Getting out the door for this run took me forever. I need to find my favorite socks (Wrights, lime green). I need to find my iPod (a defense against tourists and people wanting to say hello). I need to wear the right clothes to be seen in town since I must. This is no small decision. I’m sure seeing me run through town is like watching a lifelong vegetarian gnaw on a gristly rib bone. It’s a strange and unsettling sight.
Finally, Finally! I headed out and one song later I was gliding past the church, the post office, the rope shed. Then I could breathe a sigh of relief. I saw no one I knew.
By the time I got to Dead Man’s Cove I was in my element. Myself & moi could relax. This is my favorite part of the run. The hard packed dirt road is mottled in dark shade while shafts of silvery sunlight beam through the canopy of green trees. Everything is silent. You can almost forget you are on an island less than two miles long. There is a stillness in the air. Even the surf sounds distant.
Dead Man's I turned up the trail to Blackhead. It starts off wide and easy to navigate. The roots aren’t as tricky or trippy. What I didn’t count on was the heavy rainfall the island has had in the last three weeks. The trails turned muddy and completely mosquito infested. I ran a quarter of a mile sucking my shoes out of the muck and swatting my legs, face and arms to no avail. I’m sure I looked pathetic. The sweat that ran down my neck was like sweet nectar to the blood suckers.
Admitting Blackhead defeat (no cliff reward for me) I turned around and headed back into dreaded town. My pace slowed. I’m sure I dragged my feet. I didn’t want to come back through so soon. I knew the community was waking up. Dog walkers. Bird gawkers. Lawn mowers. Shop keepers. Truck drivers. Artists. I knew they would all be out and about. I had one last trick up my sleeve. Hills.

Wharf. Horn’s. Trailing Yew. A quick stab at each and then I ran home. Wharf was easy. Horn’s kicked my ass. Trailing Yew was an all-out bastard because I confronted smiley people  coming down while I was struggling up.

In the end I ran for 45 minutes. Don’t care about distance. Don’t care about speed. Don’t care about much except to say I didn’t embarrass myself and I conquered the bully hills.

Categories: Confessional, life, Monhegan, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Brigadoon

I have retreated to the one place I can be myself. Back to the island. During the crossing I sat alone on the bow and let the sea-spray drench me. In the distance the island lay hidden in eerie thick fog, completely socked in. How far away was a mystery; my Brigadoon. At one point it was impossible to see where we were going, never mind where we had been. When the island finally emerged from the mist I was instantly calmed and exhilarated. Home again.

I haven’t done much this first day home. First things first, I let the love know I had arrived safely. Unpacked. Savored cherries while finishing a heartbreaking book, one leg slung over the back of the sun porch couch; the afternoon sun hot on my thighs. Later, took a short walk to the Cove to pick through shells, sand and seaweed. A mother mallard and her brood of four eyed me with wary curiosity. I did everything to assure mama I was friend, not foe. As they watched me steal shells from the shore I knew my secret was safe with mama. We had an unspoken understanding. The sun sparkled on the rising tide. Later, crawled over rocks to visit the shipwreck that has been in my life for as long as I can remember. She’s rusting into the ground and you can see more sky through her hull than ever before but she remains the queen of the cove. Photographed her and imagined a day when her rust would subside to dust and she would be no more. I couldn’t completely picture it but then again, I could. Nothing lasts forever. Came home to a silent house. A glass of wine to toast the setting sun and my solitude.

I don’t think it was barely 10pm when I decided to make my way to bed. No television. No spoken word. No hum of electronics. As darkness settled about the house I contemplated a candle or two. After careful consideration I decided against it. Too tired to watch the flame. The adult me climbed into my childhood bed, choosing the narrow, short single over the bigger double of the guest room. Why, I do not know. With my phone by my side I fell asleep to the sound of the surf just outside my door.

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Before I Kill Myself

I have always prided myself on knowing Monhegan Island’s rocky roads inside and out. I’d like to think I know every protruding rock up and down “Main Street.” That may be the case but I can’t say the same for the trails.

There are 17 miles of hiking trails on this one and a half mile island. They range from huff-puff hilly to pancake flat, high-wire narrow to truck-width wide. Some trails take you deep into the mossy, root laden woods, others take you to the rocky, lichen and sea gulll crap covered cliffs. Some wind around occupied cottages while others are seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. You could traverse over fresh water to go look at salt water. You could pass fairy houses or just fairies depending on where you go. There’s a lot to look at but my advice is always look down. At your feet.

For the first time ever I nearly broke my ankle not paying attention to where my feet were taking me. Never before (on Monhegan) have I twisted my ankle to the point of puking or passing out but when I did I was unsure which would happen first (luckily, neither). Pride won’t let me blame the fall on me or myself so moi argues it was the shoes. I was wearing trail shoes that are stiff. My husband has the same problem with his (same brand) and he recommended wearing them loose as not to rub so much on the tops of my feet. I practically untied mine to ease the pressure. The problem? These trail shoes are a size too big already (the company doesn’t make them any smaller but I had to have them). I normally wear them for short periods of time and with two pairs of socks. This time the shoes were so loose I could have jumped right out of them if scared properly.

We were coming down a rather grassy, muddy trail that was rutted and uneven. Momentum had me practically running down the slope. Before I knew it my ankle was rolling and I was falling. I never was actually off my feet. Somehow I righted myself at the last second but my ankle had done some crazy gymnastics in the process. The pain made me faint but the idea of injuring an already weak ankle made me sick to my stomach. This was my good ankle but it’s been sprained before to the point of recovery in a cast. I could feel the panic spreading from my pain to my brain.

In the end my ankle is fine. But, I need to get new trail shoes before I kill myself. I got lucky this time. Much to my chagrin I have recovered my pride and I can still say I’ve never hurt me, myself or moi on the trails on Monhegan. But, I don’t want there to be a next time. I don’t need to die from embarrassment.

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