Sunday, May 17, 2015

You're a winner!

There's a scene at the beginning of Little Miss Sunshine, when Olive's Dad asks her about competing in the beauty pageant. He says, "Listen, there's no reason in entering a contest unless you think you're gonna win."  Obviously, the dad in this movie is a complete ass-wad. Everyone knows this. It's hollywood.

I'm not that sold on the idea of "winning." Some of us will never be heroes. We'll never win a race. Fuck, I just ran a half marathon trying to keep up with a bunch of much faster, fitter people and it almost killed me. I'll never make the racing team, and I probably won't be famous (still holding out on that one). I guess there's just something that the majority still...lacks.

I mean. Our priorities are definitely out of whack.

We'll never be able or willing to devote 100% of our efforts to what really matters.

We just aren't willing to sacrifice the right things.

And, we just don't work hard enough.

Obviously we don't put in enough effort.

And, it's just a shame that we'll never achieve greatness. We'll never be adequately happy.

Right? Or...maybe some of us just don't give that much of a fuck about impressing everyone. Maybe some of us are OK with having a 2 hour half-marathon be a "win"...even if it's not as impressive as everyone else.

Maybe it's just running and not worth giving your whole life up for.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


I really like zeFrank. I listen to his youtube videos over and over when I'm feeling down. He refers to something called FILDI in one video, and I'm embarrassed to say I had to google it.

For those of you pretending to know what it means right now, and those who genuinely don't, it means, "Fuck it. Let's do it." 

I love that sentiment. Fuck it. What's the worst that could happen? It's the kind of pseudo-optimism I can really get on board with. I've never been comfortable with being hopeful. Optimism does not come naturally to a cynic. Sometimes I worry though. The chorus in one of my favorite songs states, "It's hard to take risks with a pessimist."

I think I still take risks. It's just that usually I take them when I no longer care. Fuck it, let's see what happens. Classic Tyler Durden mentality: it's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything. Maybe that's negative. I can see that. But, it's always felt more natural than gleeful, happy optimism. I've never trusted that. I probably never will. I feel like, when times are tough, and the shit hits the fan, I'll be the one with the advantage. Happy people rarely see it coming. Cynics not only see it coming, but they're already one step ahead and making gains. I guess it's just human nature; everyone is different. I just wish there wasn't this constant push for everyone to embrace 'happiness.'

Not everyone is looking for an easy job, a life full of bliss, or an unchallenged experience.

No good reason to include this picture other than it's awesome.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kicking and Screaming: 6 things I learned at the Zion 50K

Here you are. Running in the desert.
You haven't trained and you don't want to be here. But, somehow, you've found yourself running an ultra-marathon in the middle of nowhere. It'd be funny if it didn't keep playing out this way.
This happened.

Ryan and I signed up for the Zion 50K back when it sounded like a good idea. But, I ran a race last month and haven't had the ambition or desire to get out again since. Before we knew it, the race weekend was upon us. We had a big fight before we left town and didn't speak for most of the 5 hour drive down. Once we checked into our hotel, we had another big fight.

"Fuck it, let's just go home."
"I'm not driving back another 5 hours now, don't be ridiculous."
"Grrrr...I hate EVERYTHING!"

We went out for dinner with friends who were at a loss for how to interact with such terrible, grumpy people. Then we went to bed. Getting up at 4 am has got to be the stupidest part of this entire sport. We got pulled over on the way to the starting line—which was absolute bullshit—but didn't get a ticket. I was so freaked out by the small town cop in Hurricane, Utah who, if I can believe anything John Krakauer has written, was most likely an elder in his local FLDS ward. We got to the start, checked in and, before I knew it, started racing. I'm not sure how, or why, but I finished. I actually did OK. It was a tremendously difficult course and my heart was not in it. Regardless, I survived. I knew that the experience would be both painful and punishing. But, I felt like I deserved it. Without letting all my hopes and dreams ride on the outcome of one race, I still couldn't help thinking it might be the thing that saved me from myself.
This is the longest hill.

Here are six epiphanies I had during my most recent ultra-marathon, Zion 50K.

1. Yes, this is really fucking happening.
I did not want to be at this race. At the start, I had the worst attitude. I expected to get lost, to drop, to suck; basically, I was expecting the absolute worst. Just before we began I said, "I hate EVERYTHING!!!" to my friends who tried their best to cheer me up. We started in the dark and ran a few miles on the road through town. A gradual ascent took us on a dirt track towards an 1800 foot climb to the top of Gooseberry Mesa. I stopped a few times before the climb and tried to pull my hair out. What am I doing out here? I haven't trained. I hate EVERYTHING. I suck at life. I'm a bad person. Is this really happening? The Answer: Yes. This is really happening. You are running a race in the desert. You're 4 miles in! And like it or not, your feet will carry you—kicking and screaming—for 32 miles. Suck it up.

Burn in Hell, headlamp.

2. My headlamp can eat a dick.
I got this Nathan headlamp 5 years ago from my work. It was a gift and it has always sucked. New batteries be damned; this thing isn't half as bright as my little iPod nano screen, and the batteries only last 5 minutes. I got to the top of the climb, the sun came out, and I smashed it to bits under a rock. Then I threw it away. This was a zero waste event, so I'm sure it's being recycled right now. I hope it gets reincarnated as a toilet seat.

Starting to feel better.
3. OK, maybe this isn't so bad.
Somewhere between mile 3 and mile 7, I started to let go. I know part of the reason I was running so angry had to do with my constant search for validation. I realized, in a way, that the people who cared about me were here. The ones who didn't would continue to blow me off and flake out. But, it would be OK. My recent, self-destructive behavior aside, I was still out here running in the dirt. I know a lot of people who think that running must be pretty easy for me. I do it so often and I do these insanely long events. But, they're wrong. I did really well in school too and got good grades. Because I wasn't struggling, my family assumed it all came easy to me. It didn't. It was still a lot of work. It's probably this reason that I flew under the radar growing up. I was always killing myself to exceed my parents' expectations, but they probably just assumed I was barely trying. Running a big race like this, I hoped it was obvious that I was still trying. But I guess not. It made me want to keep going instead of dropping out.
Do you see it too?!

4. Even though you don't want to eat. You gotta eat. 
I ran the first 10 miles without eating or drinking. I didn't want to be here, remember? I figured I could drop at any time. Well, after I realized I wasn't going to drop, a strange thing happened. I kept seeing this large plume of black smoke just out of sight. As I got closer, I realized it was a windmill. I've been on this mesa before and didn't know there was a windmill out here. Was it real? Probably. But, was it supposed to be dancing along to my music? No. No it is not. You are hallucinating. Start getting some calories in.

5. Life is short. Get in the tub.
The RD's eco-commodes were present this year with the addition of a large water tub. Yes, I got into cold bath water connected to a wood-framed outhouse trailer. With strangers. I haven't contracted Typhoid yet, but I hear that disease takes a while to show up.
Is racist? Is racist.
6. Utah hasn't changed as much as the locals want you to believe. 
I saw several sister wives and polygamist kids during my two days in southern Utah. The LDS community will tell you that Polygamy is so over and that the FLDS have *absolutely* nothing to do with them until they're blue in the face, but it doesn't change the facts. There's still an entire community of women subjugated to the damning effects of misogyny. It's 2015 and these women are brainwashed taught to believe that total submission and obedience is the only way to get into heaven. I saw little children in Virgin, Utah who will no doubt be bartered and passed into the sex-trade industry that is the FLDS church within the next 5 years. It's not a joke. Keep in mind that the more tolerant we try to be by protecting religious freedoms, the more little girls will end up raped by their elderly uncles under the guise of 'culture'.
Mmmm...celebratory donut.

After the race, I felt better. Ryan and I were OK. (Hey, as long as we both run an ultra-marathon each month, we're gonna be fine. It's totally sustainable, right?) We stopped to get a post-race donut and headed back home. We were doing better and could begin being nice to each other again. I guess we needed that. I haven't been running and its really gotten to my head. This is my therapy right now, and I guess I was overdue.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

9 signs I might have lost my mind running Buffalo Run 25K

I might be crazy. Not "certifiable," per say. I even had a doctor tell me so. I couldn't get her to put it in writing though. Still, when I ran the Buffalo Run 25K in March...I might have crossed the line. The very thin, fine line.

I signed up for this race because it's always a blast. I run it every year. It's a safe bet that the scenery will be spectacular, the volunteers amazing and the finish line festivities mildly debaucherous. I volunteered a few days earlier with the HUMRs for packet stuffing. We always find a way to put junk into our friends goodie bags when we come across them in the line, and this year was no different.

Sorry about the glitter folks. #notsorry

So, I showed up early to run, beginning with the 50K starters, so I'd have time after the race to join Corey's band. Before I left my car, I emptied my race pack of all the crap I'd brought: food, phone, gels. It was cool at the start but I didn't notice. I didn't notice a whole lot. But I'm fairly sure the following list will back up my theory of insanity.

1. About 4 or 5 miles into the race I realized I had been running a race. It was like I'd suddenly woken up. "What the fuck am I doing out here?"

2. After an hour or so, I realized I probably should drink some water...maybe eat. I'd left a few starbursts in my pack and had one. I wasn't hungry.

3. I gave people who were running the opposite direction hugs. I said "good job" to anyone I saw. It's the one thing that gives more energy than it takes.

4. I think I fell asleep on the steep switchbacks in the back of the island.

5. When I ran into Sami, she said I was doing well. I had no idea. I knew I had 5 miles to go, and if I ran them in 50 minutes, I might beat 3 hours on the course...but, I wasn't sure that I cared.

6. I kept hopscotching this woman running with her dog. Everytime she'd get the lead I would say, "Good job." She said nothing to me. She didn't even have head phones. I wanted to beat her. I did.

7. When I finished, I started drinking. Running 16.5 miles on a starburst and then drinking in the hot sun is not a good thing. I missed a lot of details later...

8. I got to sing with Corey's band. I wanted to do it so bad. But, by the time I did, I felt stupid. I'd probably had two beers too many. I wish I hadn't had those beers...

9. I no longer believe in the happiness concept. I've heard people say, "happiness a choice." Is it really? Why is there an entire campaign and propaganda machine behind the idea? Why do we have to remind people to choose happiness? If it really is a choice, are we implying that people who are unhappy are defective? That they are responsible for being that way? Why should it matter?

I think about this a lot, because I see people chasing it. We spend tons of money, time, and effort in hopes of finally mastering it. But, I've never run into someone and said, "Oh, they've got it. They found it. They won." If I did, I probably wouldn't trust that person; walking around with a big dumb smile on their face all day, mind full of butterflies and unicorn shit.

Isn't it more important to have something to look forward to? Or, to set yourself up for a challenge that might break you? Isn't that better? Who wants to be content?


I ran the race in second slower than last year. It felt a lot easier. I sang in a band. I saw friends. These are the things I look forward to. These are things that keep me going. I'll never master happiness. But then again, I'm not sure I want to.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rise Above: Moab's Red Hot 33K Race Report

We were sitting on top of a high mesa—near the end of Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park— and I wasn't ready to go home yet. 12 months and few days of anticipation had lead me to this point and I was finally... just there. At last, a weight that felt like a stack of bricks on my chest dissipated. A few minutes earlier, Ryan and I, along with our friends, paused mid-hike to sit and listen to the wind blowing through the grass. Afterwards, aside from the sound of my labored breathing, it was mostly quiet as we hiked out of the canyon back to the top. We said our goodbyes, and as Ryan and I began to change into comfy clothes for the long drive back, we located some beers in the back seat and stopped to watch the clouds drift by. "This is it, " I thought "This is what I've been waiting for all weekend. All year. Just this moment." ...

Ryan and I run the Red Hot 55k/33k each year in February. This year's race fell on Valentine's day, which made it extra cute (I guess, if you're into that sorta thing). Ryan's had an injured hip, so he suggested dropping from the 55K to the 33K and running with me.
eeewwwww, gross!

Well, this was an interesting proposition. Normally I am completely against couples running together. I look forward to this race all year—would this sour my experience? Would we fight? Would I hold him back? True, there were a lot of things I was worried about. Then again, Ryan knew I was going for a 4 hour finish. He could probably really push me to a new PR. As long as he was OK with us playing it cool and splitting up if we needed to, then I was in. Besides, the idea of him doing the 55K and getting injured sounded like a bad idea.

We drove down to Moab on Friday and realized it was super hot. The morning of the race, it was already warm. By the time we started running, I  had to take off my long sleeve after 3 whole minutes.

Did I mention how much I love this race? The course is exceptionally beautiful: red rock cliffs, high mesas, dramatic overlooks. It has a ton of uphill and Ryan kept telling me to slow down and hold back. I was breathing really hard and couldn't seem to catch my breath. This never changed and, looking back, I think my asthma must have been looking forward to the race too.

Couples who run
I won't give you a play-by-play, but suffice it to say that I did pretty well—but it was really hard. The last two miles kind of sucked for me, which is sad because last year they were super fast. I had this fantasy running through my head of coming in at 3:50, well below my 4:32 time last year. Alas, it didn't happen. We rolled in at 4:19. Still a PR and I credit my amazing husband for pushing me. At one point, I was really hitting the wall. I was dreaming about one of those one-gallon, milk-jug containers of water:

Oh water, I've taken you for granted my whole life!

At the finish, my chest hurt so bad I was sure I was having a heart attack. I coughed up sand for a few hours as we watched our friends finish strong. On the way back to our hotel, I stopped and got my traditional celebratory donut.

A lot of things go through my head when I'm racing. I think about my friends and family. I time travel. This time last year, I had a long road ahead of me. Looking back over the past 12 months, I'm saddened at how much hate I've carried around in my heart. It's been a strange year. A lot of things have changed. Friends have come and gone, I've switched careers, and people I know have been through a lot. I think I take on a lot of pain and sadness that isn't mine. I have a hard time with change. I'm working on it. I guess I also thought this race was going to ... I don't know, save me?

Like, I'd show up, do really well, and be absolved of all my sins in 2014. After the race, it was pretty clear that wasn't the case. I had overwhelming anxiety and my heart felt like I was falling down an elevator shaft. I put on a brave face and went out with friends. Sunday morning, I thought I had enough energy to go for a 10 mile run in the park. But, when I tried, I couldn't breathe. I had a good enough excuse, sure; I'd pushed really hard the day before and one of my toenails was falling off. But in reality? I was scared.

Jackie in the Alcove 
There was this funny crow flying around the trailhead where we started our run (that turned into a hike). I tried to get closer to it and it kept leading me off the path. I'm sure there's a great metaphor there, but I'll leave it to the English Majors. I'd been telling myself over and over all weekend to "rise above." Basically: stop being so angry. Stop taking things personally. Don't carry all this hate around inside of you. But, it's really hard to let go.

It wasn't until later when we met up with friends and explored a new trail that it happened. Things got quiet and no one had to say anything. It was so nice. Ryan and I sat on a log next to our car and watched the clouds drift by. Those clouds were the most important business of the day.

..."This is it, " I thought "This is what I've been waiting for all weekend. All year. Just this moment." I was suddenly sad that the race was over. I'd been building it up for so long. I was so worried about the whole weekend—the ghosts from last year lingering just outside the lines. And now? Now, it was over.

I panicked for a second and asked Ryan, "How am I going to remember this moment next time I need it??!! I wish I could bottle this!" The sun was extremely warm, the breeze just right. It was quiet. My heart rate slowed down and my chest didn't hurt anymore.

When we started driving back home, I could feel it creeping back in. I'm trying to remember how it felt, sitting on top of that mesa with Ryan. If I close my eyes, I can almost—almost!—remember it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

We're here to F--- Shit Up

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th and I'm feeling lucky. Moab's Red Hot 33k/55k is on Valentine's Day this year. So, Ryan and I are on our way to run the race and get our fill of the desert.

OK, so maybe we're not going to fuck shit up, but we're still going. It is tradition, after all. Besides, it's my favorite race of the year and I have a plan. Well, "plan" is a strong word. I'm hoping the race goes well. I'll be starting the race around 20 lbs lighter than last year. Will that translate into 20 minutes faster? I have no idea.

Ah, Valentine's Day. Romance, severe pain, love, muscle cramps. I can't wait. I wouldn't have it any other way, either. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The worst thing I've ever done...

This is a story about the worst thing I have ever done in my life.

When I was very young, as in before puberty-young, my parents bought a Guinea Pig. It was my fault. In 3rd grade, my science/algebra teacher had a long-haired guinea pig as a class pet—Clyde. Clyde lived in a tiny glass aquarium; cedar chip base, newspaper lining the bottom. As a student, if you were lucky, you could take Clyde home for the weekend.

Once, I got pretty lucky and got to take him home over a long holiday break. I don't remember which one. His aquarium sat on the floor in our kitchen. At one point, my Calico cat, Cali, climbed into the aquarium with him. No one was hurt.

A few weeks later, at parent-teacher night, my Mom spent extra time talking to my teacher. I don't remember her name. She was pregnant and wore a ton of dark makeup. The next week we took a family trip to the mall - like you did in the late 80's - and I visited my favorite shop: the Pet Store.

You see, in the 80's and 90's, shopping malls always had Pet Stores. As a child, going to the mall was so much fun. I got to visit my favorite stores: the pet store and the candy store. I also got to buy a giant slice of pizza. Now a days, we all know Pet Stores are a terrible idea. Back then, they were amazing for kids. I know, it's sad. All those poor pets...

Anyways, my Mom went in with us and had the store attendant take out a tiny, calico guinea pig from behind a glass cage. She held it in her hand and looked at my dad, "Oh, Jim!". I can still see the look on my dad's face: utter defeat. We did not need a guinea pig.

We got the guinea pig.

We also bought a giant aquarium, a bag of cedar chips, a food bowl with pellets and a hanging water bottle that fit on the edge of the cage.

"Piglet" was introduced to our other family pets by running around the kitchen floor. It was linoleum and we could block off any escape to the other rooms. She left little pellet-poops behind when she ran. You could feed her an entire stick of celery and watch it slowly disappear. She was pretty cute, but we were never really able to bond with her. It seemed that her rodent brain was only capable of tolerating us. She didn't love us the way y cat Cali did; she never ran into my room to see me if I was crying.

Piglet would make little noises when you came home, though, "Weed! Weed! Weed!" It was almost like a whistle. Her nickname became "Weeder."

I don't know how long guinea pigs live, but they live longer than their initial appeal seemed to last in our house. Piglet's cage became a rancid fuming kennel of ammonia odors. As part of our chores, we'd have to scoop out the cedar chips and replace them with new ones. The newspaper below the chips became soaked with urine and would also need to be changed. When Weeder got bored or restless, she would bang her water bottle against the side of the cage. We'd take her out to clean her cage and she would bite us. Her two top incisors cut into our fingers quickly leaving behind a globule of blood.

After a few years, I went to middle school and began the long journey through puberty; years of discomfort, anxiety, self-consciousness, pain. I dealt with extreme depression and stuttered my way through class after class with no friends. I'd come home after school and hear Weeder begin to bang her water bottle against the glass wall of her cage. Bang! Bang! Bang! Weed! Weed! Weed! I'd clean out her cage; glass aquarium, cedar chip base, newspaper at the bottom.

I'd walk into my room and sulk. At dinner, my parents would talk over the noise, "Cathy has play practice tomorrow - Bang! Bang! Bang! -  and Jimmy has football practice until 7 pm. I can't do everything around here - Bang! Bang! Bang! -  Lindsay, are you going to be nice today, or what? I can't deal with your moods, why can't you cheer up? I work too hard for this shit - Bang! Bang!"

I'd casually refill Weeder's water bottle to try and get her to stop banging. Yet, every once in a while, I'd find that it was completely full. She must have just been really bored. Maybe she didn't have any friends and the banal suburban existence she'd been brought into had left her unfulfilled. I don't know.

Well, one day (I must have been in 8th grade?), I came home from school and walked past her cage on my way to my room. I looked to my left and saw her. She was lying on her side. Her mouth, open in a horrific, frozen expression; large incisors agape. She was dead.

I panicked.

I kept walking and went into my room without saying anything. I sat on my bed and cried. Not for sadness. For fear. I didn't know how my parents would react when they found out. They would probably blame it on me, wouldn't they? They'd say it was my fault, I had neglected her. I had, hadn't I? What if her water was empty? Oh god.

I went back out and casually walked past, barely glancing in: her bottle was full.

I went back to my room and went to bed early. The next day, I got up and got ready for school. I left for the day. Nothing happened. No one noticed that I was acting weird. They were probably glad that I was silent. My parents picked me up after school. Waiting to get in the car, I held my breath. Surely they had seen Weeder by now. And yet? Nothing.

Two more days went by. I'd get into the car after school and wait to see if they had bad news for me. I was terrified. I pray that I never know the level of anxiety and panic that I lived through for those three days.

On the fourth day, I climbed into the car. I can't even remember if it was my Dad or my Mom. But they waited for me to close the door and said, "I'm so sorry, I have some bad news..." I had to act like I was surprised. I think I said nothing. It worked. They assumed I was just sad. And, I was. I was really very sad. Poor little Weeder, she had laid in the bottom of that cage for 4 days (that I know of) waiting to be discovered. No one had noticed the silence, the absence of her banging the water bottle.

At home, my Mom and Dad had the whole thing planned out. Her empty cage was sitting a few feet away from me. I could finally look at it. My dad had dug a grave in the garden beside our house. He'd taken a plank of wood and written an epitaph to Piglet "Weeder" Johnston on it. I didn't know he had it in him. My mom stood at the back door holding a box that contained the body of our friend. She was crying. She handed me the box and nodded. It was a lavender, cloth covered square box. I think it held hold jewelry or something once. I carried the box to the grave and watched my Dad put it in. It was over.

That was one of the worst weeks of my life. It still stands. I still think about it a lot as an adult. It's been over 20 years. I find myself feeling horribly ashamed of how neglected Weeder was. I think about all those times I ignored her. Bang! Bang! Bang! I think about how odd my reaction was. I replay that night when I noticed she had died, and I imagine that I had said something to my mom. I did that a million times that week in my head and I do it still today. I was silent then and I am now too.

I think about her stinky cage: the way the ammonia soaked newspapers peeled away when I cleaned out her cage. The way we tried to clean half her cage at a time so that she wouldn't bite us. I think about the times she would run around and eat vegetables when we'd play with her. But mostly, mostly, I think about that box. Holding it in my hands, standing in front of my mom.

It was so heavy.