A Runner.

by terra on September 2, 2014 · 6 comments

in Deep Thoughts

race-face
When people ask me how I got into running, how I became a runner, I tell them that I always wanted to be a runner, because really, that’s where it all started. It was a thing I wanted to be, before I ever signed up for a race, before I ever dropped $100 on a pair of running shoes, before I ever embarked on any non-Army mandated running adventure, before I ever set off down some random road in California, Texas or Oregon, running was just simply something I wanted.

And you’d think it would be easy, to know this about yourself, to know that you want to be this thing and then to set out and become that thing. It’s not like I wanted to be an astronaut or a natural blonde or a unicorn, I just wanted to be a runner and really, by definition, a runner is a person who runs, so it would seem logical that me, a person who wanted to be a runner, would just simply go and run and therefore become a runner, but no. That is not how it worked at all.

Instead, I spent years – actual fucking years – wishing I was a runner, but not actually running, mostly because I did not like running. It was hard. I was slow. It made me sweaty and gross and I did not look like the glorious lady warrior I wanted to when I ran, but rather a floppy faced basset hound. And running hurt. It hurt my knees and my shins and all my parts, really. Running was miserable.

I had this idea that if I was meant to be a runner, I simply would be, that running would one day not be this terrible experience, that I would go for a run – somewhere, somehow, someday – and would actually enjoy the running process. And I operated under this logic for a very long time, determined that maybe one day things would just change. I’d try running every now and then, mostly in the weeks leading up to an Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT, but it always sucked. I always hated it. I was always slow. It was always miserable.

Until suddenly it wasn’t.

There was a build-up to it becoming a non-traumatic event, this running stuff – it involved several muddy obstacle races, a lot of miles logged on a treadmill and a commitment to stop  being a lazy shit.

It was a slow shift. Running went from this thing I had to do in order to accomplish these fun things I wanted to do be doing on my weekends, to this thing I needed and wanted to do at 6am on a Tuesday morning.

And then I found myself at a glamp site in California on a perfect October morning, awake before 6am, with the Pacific Ocean less than a mile away, so I did the only logical thing I could think of in that moment and I went for a run. And for the first time ever, it felt like magic. It felt like I’d always wanted it to feel. It felt good, and better than that, I felt good.

That’s all it took, really, was that one good run. After that, things changed. I started setting goals related to running. I wanted to improve my 5k time. I started running regularly, outside and away from my treadmill, increasing my mileage just because I could. December came and I hit my 5k goal, came home and signed up for my first half marathon.

On Sunday, I ran my fourth half and just a few days before that I made a vague sort of commitment to run my first full marathon in the spring. On my white board at work, I’ve got a quote from Runner’s World, about mental toughness, and below it a list of my upcoming races. My most expensive shoes are my running shoes and I’ve got different pairs for different sorts of running. I don’t run to burn calories or to stay in shape. I run because I have to. Because it grounds me, because it keeps me sane, because when I’m running things matter less, the pain and the rage subsides and I can just be.

I’m a runner. Finally.

And the thing I’ve finally realized about running, is that it isn’t always pretty. Running isn’t always fun. In fact, sometimes running fucking sucks. This past half was the hardest I’ve ever run – it was hot and humid and everything hurt. I wanted to quit. I wanted to walk, to curl up in some air conditioned space and there were multiple miles where I wanted to be doing absolutely anything other than running. But I kept running. My feet went numb and my shoes got soaked from all the water hoses I ran under to cool my body down, but I kept running. One foot in front of the other, for 13.1 miles, because that’s what you do, that’s what you fucking do when you’re a runner.

So the truth about running, that I didn’t know before I became a runner, is that sometimes, even when you’re a runner, it still sucks. Sometimes you can’t find that perfect pace. Sometimes it’s just hard. Sometimes your slowest usual pace feels like an impossibility. Sometimes running just fucking sucks.

But sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s why I keep going, that’s why I’m still a runner, and that’s why I keep lacing up my shoes. You can’t judge a run on the first mile, or even the second and more times than not I don’t know what kind of run I’m going to have until I’m in the middle of it, hating or loving every minute. But the good moments, the moments when I exceed the pace I wanted to hit, when I set a personal record, when I run my heart out, when I walk through my front door post-run smiling so hard it hurts – that, all of that, is why I run.

runtwo

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They sent me to Oklahoma for work last week. It was no Guatemala, but I’ve found that I can turn just about anything into an adventure, even a three-day solo trip to danger-chart-topping Oklahoma towns. Plus? I’m my own most favorite travel companion, because traveling alone means I get to do whatever the shit I want to do and I don’t have to confer with anyone about what to get for dinner and I can take my happy, critter-loving, Snow White ass to the zoo and spend as much or as little time as I want staring at grizzly bears and meerkats.

And speaking of meerkats, I think they know something we don’t and I’m 85% sure it’s about an alien invasion that might be imminent. I spent a solid five minutes looking at the meerkats at the Tulsa Zoo and those little dudes spend a lot of time staring into the sky with a slightly terrified look on their little meerkat faces looking at absolutely nothing. I kept trying to figure out what they were looking at, getting down on my knees to see things from meerkat level, to see what the shit they were seeing in the sky, but there was nothing. NOTHING. No birds of prey coming to eat their little meerkat faces off, no planes, no trees, not even a fucking cloud, and yet there they were, a whole meerkat grouping staring at the sky in mild terror, glancing at me every now and then in what was either reverence to my Snow White status or a warning glance.

I even asked those little fuckers what the hell they were staring at and they didn’t tell me, but just kept staring at the space behind my head, into the blue, cloudless sky, and so the only logical thing I can determine is that meerkats don’t speak English and also, aliens are preparing to invade and the meerkats might be the only ones who can see them hanging out up there and no one is taking them seriously because they’re meerkats and so, when the aliens come, it’s gonna be me and the meerkats telling you that we fucking told you so.

Anyway.

I like zoos.

A lot.

Chances are, if I’m traveling to a new city and they have a zoo, I will find time to visit the zoo. That’s just how I work. If Megan and I had more time driving across the country, I probably would have dragged her with me to each and every zoo between here and Oregon.

Really, I just like critters and zoos are great places to hang out and stare at critters even though I do always have this slight nagging in the back of my mind telling me to release them all so we can go live happily ever after in some fairy tale land. How I haven’t managed to go on a liberation spree at the zoo is something I pride myself on because it shows I do have some impulse control, although the older I get, the more it seems to fade so my future probably involves critter liberation and also maybe prison.

Anyway.

The zoo. I like it. A lot.

At the Tulsa Zoo, you can ride a camel. So I did. Of course. The camel I rode was named Ella. She had beautiful eyelashes and was a very nice camel. I like it when I get to touch and pet and meet any sort of critter at the zoo, even (ESPECIALLY) goats, and I’ve never gotten to ride a camel before,  so I was pretty beside myself with Snow White glee at the chance to spend some time riding Ella.

ella

Along with Ella and the alien-invasion warning meerkats, I also spent a decent amount of time staring at a grizzly bear, a sand cat, the elephants and some arctic foxes.

bear

I was also nearly killed by a roving goose colony  at the zoo because geese fucking hate me. One tried to eat me on my 30th birthday, so it’s a whole thing, this goose versus me thing. And no shit, we spotted each other, these geese and me across from the snack shop, and I stopped and stared at them and they all stopped and stared at me and I realized I was going to have to pass them to get to the sea lions and the meerkats and so I did, but it was a very tense few minutes and all I could think about was how good the fat one in the middle one would taste for Christmas dinner.

geese1

geese2

I know it looks like the three trail geese in that last photo aren’t paying any attention to me, but I assure you they’re just acting distracted for the camera and the minute before I snapped that picture they were glaring at me with their menacing goose eyes. That one in the front is clearly their leader and he wasn’t going to play any games and wanted his intentions for my blood to be perfectly clear.

The rest of my time in Oklahoma outside of the zoo was spent working some solidly long days, but I did also get a pedicure and have a whole conversation in the parking lot of this strip mall with a nifty sort of bird I’d never encountered before. I got some weird looks from the locals as I was kneeling in the parking lot talking to a bird, but they live in Muskogee, Oklahoma and I do not give one single fuck what they think.

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In the aftermath.

by terra on August 5, 2014 · 13 comments

in Deep Thoughts

No one will be surprised if you go a little crazy in the aftermath of a failed marriage.

Maybe you’re even supposed to.

It’s like a wilderness reintroduction program, this post-divorce life. You were kept safe for so long, locked in this cage of togetherness and commitment and fidelity and all the other bits that come with a marriage and then, just like that, suddenly the door on your cage is opened and you’re staring down an entirely different life, an entirely different landscape, from the one you were used to, from the one you planning on inhabiting for the rest of your days.

Turns out, the wild is a scary place. There’s love lurking in places where you don’t even hope to find it, but it’s there, waiting for you, rattlesnake style, sending some slight sort of warning and then latching itself to you, venom and all. And really, how the fuck are you supposed to navigate that when sometimes you still have to check to make sure your heart is still beating, to make sure it didn’t just up and fucking quit?

It’s a lot, facing the world alone, as a person not attached to another person anymore. The world is big. There’s all these options, like you’re standing at this trailhead with 15 different starts and you’ve got to pick the path you want, you’ve got to pick the you that you want to be and you’ve made all these other mistakes, all these catastrophic turns and so you really, really want it get it right this time.

You stagger at the start. You’re dumbed from the cage, shocked by the brilliance of another’s kindness or the vastness of what’s still left for you to discover, by the adventures you thought you’d never have again, some terrifying, some perfect. There’s so much to figure out – how to flirt with someone, how to kiss someone who isn’t your husband after how ever many years of marriage, how to handle your shit on your own, how to pay the bills, how to clean the whole fucking house. You don’t need a fucking chore chart anymore. It’s just you, baby. Just you.

I used to put on this mean face when out at the bar sans husband because that seemed like the safest option. I’d push my hair behind my ear with my left hand, always, in the midst of conversations with men, just so they’d see the ring, know that this girl right here was fucking taken.

But I’m not anymore. I’m not married anymore, not really. The papers aren’t quite signed, but it’s coming and I’ll end this year divorced. Again.

I wondered what to do for a long time, how to move forward, how to do any of it, how to proceed, and the only thing I’ve figured out is that I just need to live. That’s it. It was hard to do at first. Really hard, but it got easier.

I feel pretty confident that love still exists, not just in general, but for me specifically. I spent a few months determined that love was an illusion and that I wanted nothing to do with it ever again, but that’s not fair. It’s not love that broke my heart.

Divorce is shit. I’m not gonna lie. It’s a fucking shitshow of heartbreak and awful and terrible things, but there’s this you somewhere in the midst of the us that you used to be a part of and rediscovering that person is a weird and sad and amazing sort of adventure.

I’ll be honest: I don’t know who I am. I have some idea. I know I laugh too loud and eat too much popcorn and that I’m a runner. I know I take my coffee iced with just a splash of soy milk and I’ve got four pets and a great big house and a job I really fucking like. I can tell you my favorite color and food and song and animal and season, but I don’t know who I am just yet, or even who I want to be.

I’m still just leaning my face out the front of the cage, trying to figure out which way I want to go.

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Reclaiming me.

by terra July 17, 2014

A marriage is, by definition, this partnership sort of situation where you join with this other person, keep your fingers crossed real tight, merge your shit and share a life. You become a unit. You’re an “us” and a “we” and a “they” and while you’re still you, you’re also still much more than that. […]

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I’m writing about love and stuff.

by terra June 27, 2014

I’m over at the Hooray Collective today, writing about love. Here’s a snippet: You don’t get a choice in love. It happens or it doesn’t. That’s it. You can’t raise your hand and expect to get it like a hall pass and you can’t avoid it either. It shows up unexpectedly, stomping and kicking its way […]

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