Chasing Little Red Riding Hood

Plan on 4 or 4 and half, okay? This is the text I got Friday before my Saturday long run. She meant 4 or 4 and half HOURS, not miles.

Someone at some point told me that distance running is more of a mental game than physical one. When it gets down to the wire and you are injury free little sayings are what get your through the big days and even the small days (we know those can be hard too sometimes); it’s just a long morning playing in the woods. I’ve said this to myself about a million times, Friday afternoon a friend said it to me, reminded me, and it stuck in my brain all morning on Saturday. I’m just playing in the woods.

The morning was cold, cold enough for knickers, gloves and long sleeved shirt. It only got colder and as climbed up the trail, me chasing Little Red Riding Hood (my running partner) all the way. My running partner wore red, which was good because most of the time she was more than a few steps ahead of me and it was a comfort to see her red shirt through the green trees up the switch back or down the hill a bit. Her red shirt shining like a beacon I had to follow to get to shore safely, only in this case it shone bright to keep me on the trail.

I’ve said it before, but running with someone is the best and cheapest therapy the wilderness has to offer. LRRH and I chat about everything. Then sometimes we run or hike in silence, the silence is understood as working hard, concentrating, processing and thinking on our own. At the top of a climb we call Ostrich Peak I was reminded to take in some calories, pee in the woods, drink some water and keep moving. If she wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have remembered, but I probably wouldn’t have made it that far in the run either. I needed the support; this run was about finding my confidence and practicing being in the woods.

Our conversation waxed and waned as we climbed and descended. We lost the dog right about when we came across a group of Mexican loggers, LRRH not worried about him, knowing that he knows the trails and will find his way back to town eventually—probably before us. LRRH reminded me again to take in food and fluids, as much as I didn’t want to I squeezed the Pomegranate/blueberry flavored Gu into my mouth. Ignoring the crystallized sugar from an expired packet my body absorbed the calories and pushed on.

 

20 miles is a long way. 20 miles in the woods is even longer. As I chased LRRH I was forced to push harder than I really had pushed before. Watching her blonde pig tails from behind helped me keep going, but ultimately the mantra I had started out with is what kept me from really wanting to give up: it’s just a long day playing in the woods.

We don’t play enough as adults. Or maybe we do, we just play differently than we did when we were 5 or 6 years old. As LRRH and I descended the final mile to the car we were both sore, tired, feeling all those miles. But we both agreed that the feeling we had right in that moment was why we do this.

There were moments on the trail I hated, I was yelling in my head, all I wanted to do was throw-up, poop, and eat (weird, I know.) I wanted the taste of Espresso Love Gu to stop lingering in my mouth every time I burped. I wanted soft cozy shoes and to not feel every rock poking at the soles of my feet. I wanted to lay down in the sun and relax on a Saturday morning, just like everyone else. Sip coffee, peruse the Farmer’s Market and wear a sundress.

As we sat in the grass in our sweaty sports bras and shorts we massaged our feet, stretched our hips and talked about where the hell her dog might have ended up we decided we felt good. I can put on a sundress later and make coffee when I get home. We talked about when we’ll be running long again and what we can do better (not eating expired Gu? Different shoes?) We found the dog, had a meal, and I relaxed and was proud of myself the rest of the day—ready to conquer more miles, more hills and more trails all over again.

 

Nope, not the time--it's how long we were out in the woods.

Nope, not the time–it’s how long we were out in the woods.

If I Were A Tree

If I were a tree.

 

If I were a tree in the woods I would listen.

Stories are being told every day, every hour, every moment deep in the mountains.

If I were a tree I would know the secrets

of trail runners, trail hikers, trail bikers everywhere.

I would listen and not offer my opinion.

I’d let the humans use their feet to answer the questions they ask so often.

So many questions over the years

so many different answers offered,

sometimes solved,

sometimes just discussed,

sometimes serious often goofy

and self involved.

 

 

If I were a tree in the woods I’d laugh at the silly humans.

The questions, the problems they have—they are mobile and moving,

I am here in the woods listening.

My roots growing deeper every year.

I am here to listen, knotty ears and leafy hands

reaching out to help you running fools to solve the worlds problems,

or maybe just your own problems,

or maybe just a sweaty hour bouncing off rocks and hoping to feel refreshed.

I’m here.

Dogs, bears, mountains, OH MY

Yesterday’s long run was more or less supposed to be a gauge on how my body is feeling. A gauge to see how my body is functioning, if I can continue to train hard, up my mileage and attempt to keep up with some of the big boys. Well, I know that I’m just too slow to actually keep up with them, but being able to talk about the trails, knowing them, having higher mileage to show off—to me that’s keeping up.

Notice that I didn’t write about running in NYC. I was there for a week and sadly I guess I have to admit that I only went for one 35-minute run. Embarrassing, I know! I KNOW! I did walk a lot! Like, a lot a lot! So that counts as exercise, right? I think so! Anyway, I went from running roughly three miles the week before last, so you’ll be as surprised as I was when I counted up my miles this past week—I ran a total (roughly, trail miles are hard to calculate) 35 miles! I’ve never run that many in my life! Pretty sweet. Sweet, just like my long run with my friend Darcy and her herd of doggies yesterday.

Abby after here mud bath at Four Corners

Abby after here mud bath at Four Corners

Ember

Ember

There was one other doggie, but he wouldn’t stay still enough for me to get a picture. These girls are like speedy bullets and probably ran twice as far as we did! Ember ran super far ahead of us and then was a speedy bullet on her way back towards us and just about knocked my legs from under me! Pretty sweet dogs if you ask me!

There were a couple really awesome reasons my run was so awesome yesterday morning. First: we started at like 7:30 and the temperature was PERFECT. And we basically had the entire mountain to ourselves. There were a couple mountain bikers but they were cool so that was okay. Sometimes mountain bikers are kinda rude and think they own the trail, but these guys were really nice.

Next awesome thing: we saw a Mama and baby BEAR. Maybe they were hanging out for an early Mother’s day, I don’t know. But they were HUGE and pretty close and it was amazing to see them!! I was sorta worried about the dogs, but they were fine and the bears just ignored us and walked along on their way.

The bears. Okay, there were a little more ferocious than these

The bears. Okay, there were a little more ferocious than these

Conversation. That’s the next awesome thing. There’s something about running with a good friend that can be more helpful than paying a therapist to listen to you talk. Have you ever had that experience? I feel like some of my best friendships have been formed over long runs.

So, perfect temperatures, bears, good friends and lots of miles. You really can’t beat that. Later in the day I tried elevating my legs to recover, I read that somewhere that works and I’m not so into ice baths. So I decided not to bathe and read my book with my legs in the air. But quickly got bored and went to lounge in the sun with some friends and go for a bike ride to the Goodwill. I’m a bigger proponent for ‘active recovery’.

My favorite socks: legs up!

My favorite socks: legs up!

I think the bike ride and sun bathing were the best ideas. So far I feel pretty good today. We’ll see how I feel after 6 hours working retail. But over all a great running week, pretty stoked on it!!!