SHAMROCK HALF MARATHON

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

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As a rule, I never listen to music while I run.  I prefer to hear my breath, the sound of my feet turning over, to be aware of my surroundings.  But, at a (not so) recent half marathon I broke my own rule.  Listening to music was a mind game really – a last ditch effort to inject a little something extra into my race plan to make up for un-run training miles.

My training dropped off almost entirely the six weeks before the race.  There are reasons, always reasons – travel and then jet lag, a rolled ankle, this and that.  None of the excuses were particularly compelling and so I spent the first mile of the half marathon feeling little other than sheer frustration with myself.  I knew I could put together 13.1 miles, but I had hoped to PR.  I had begun the training season with such consistency.

Running with music was an entirely new experience.  Running felt slightly more insular, as if I were a degree removed from the other runners.  The experience was more introspective; I couldn’t hear the heavy breathers or the loud talkers.  I listened to music and I ran and I watched:  two young girls running together in matching neon green tank tops, one girl more experienced than the other coaching her friend through water stops; a fellow in his mid-sixties plodding serenely along sporting a well-worn Paris Marathon t-shirt; volunteers picking up discarded water cups; the back of a woman’s shirt that read “I run in honor of:  Dad!”; my family cheering like crazy at mile 12.

And slowly my grip on my own frustration started to loosen and my perspective shifted as I watched the people around me.  Really, in the end, running is such a gift.  The gift of being outside and watching the sunrise, the gift of choosing to race, the gift of having the ability to run, the gift of being alongside other runners as you share a few miles together, the gift of being cheered for and rallied around.

As the miles ticked by, I waited for things to fall apart, but they never did.  I still felt great at mile nine, so I picked up the pace and really started to run.  I ended with a negative split, a strong finish and a race I was proud of.   The PR I wanted?  No, just the gift of a really, really great run.

THE 4th

Monday, July 7, 2014

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After being gone for the month of June, an extended holiday weekend at home was such a gift.   We watched dolphins on stand up paddleboards, grilled out, sipped rosé and ate fish tacos.  We enjoyed a family beach day with one very happy, very sandy puppy and even managed to work in an inaugural marathon training season long run.

We met friends for orange crushes on Thursday night and got stranded on beach cruisers in a torrential downpour and hurricane force winds as Hurricane Arthur rolled onshore.  We arrived home sopping wet, shivering, pointing at one another and belly laughing.  Fortunately, this was the extent of Arthur’s effect on the weekend.  Happy birthday America!

THE BEACH HOUSE

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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We spent the winter in the greatest beach house and were so sad to see our lease come to an end.  Watching Parks and Recreation by the fire, nights sitting in the crow’s nest, brewing coffee and watching the sun rise over the ocean — it was a good run.

BEACH WALK

Monday, June 23, 2014

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Savoring spring evenings on the beach.

RHINO SPOTTING

Thursday, June 19, 2014

 

 

[ It’s time to play catch up on travel from the past six months — first up, India!

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Here’s the thing about the chaos of India:  you can never really plan exactly how things will go.  Despite one’s best effort to plan and iron out every last detail, there are absolutely no guarantees.  And while the chaos will often chew you up and spit you out, sometimes it will deliver an experience to you that is more beautiful than you could have ever planned or imagined.

This exact thing happened one Thursday morning in November.

I heard that there was a wilderness preserve nearby where you could ride elephants to see Assam’s famed one-horned rhinos.  Details were scant – there were only a few elephants, reservations were necessary, we should go early in the morning.  When we piled in a car at 5:30 a.m. I had very low expectations for the day.  I assumed there would be a problem with our car or our reservations or that there wouldn’t be enough elephants.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had showed up to a glorified farm with an elephant on it.

We arrived and were served tea, and then we walked across a hanging bridge to a grouping of small homes on stilts.  Each home belonged to an elephant keeper and an elephant.  We walked up and met the elephants.  It was surreal – where else can you just walk up and pet an elephant (or five)?

From there we walked over to the Elephant Riding Station (such a thing exists!) and boarded our respective elephants.  There were plenty of elephants to go around.  We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The elephants carried us along a dirt road, through a forest and then out into a grassy clearing.  I said to my fellow elephant passenger that I really didn’t even care if I saw any rhinos, riding an elephant on a misty morning in northeast India was quite enough.

Just a few moments later we saw the first rhino.  Then another and another.  The elephants walked up to the rhinos and we sat and watched from just a few feet away as the rhinos munched on their breakfast.  Eventually the rhinos would tire of our gawking and trot off.

As we turned to head back, I laughed out loud at how dreamlike the whole thing was.  Riding elephants in the foothills of Himalayas.  Rhino spotting in the early morning mist.  The morning air was cool and clarifying.  All was calm and quiet, save for the inhale and exhale of the elephants and their big, plodding footsteps.

I have a new favorite sound:  padding elephant feet walking through tall grass.

The entire experience was beyond expectation, otherworldly.  I left feeling restored, decompressed and ready to dive back into the chaos on the other side of the hanging bridge.

Navigating the chaos tends to be an all-consuming task, so one’s mind never has time to contemplate the possibility that maybe, just maybe, things will all work out better than planned.   When these better than expected experiences do pop up, one finds herself in absolute awe and a state of utter gratitude.

I left feeling a little less irritated, a little more hopeful.  Maybe expectant is a better word – expectant, subconsciously eager for the next time the craziness would unfold into an entirely unexpected, once in a lifetime experience.

LONG WALK: REMEMBERING NELSON MANDELA

Thursday, December 5, 2013

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One reason I am grateful for my liberal arts education is that someone made me read A Long Walk to Freedom.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I would’ve ever picked up Nelson Mandela’s 600 page autobiography if it hadn’t been on my History of Southern Africa course syllabus.

After I learned of Nelson Mandela’s death I drove home and found my copy of the book.  My name is written on the inside cover and I notice my handwriting looks a bit different now.  I start paging through it.

Terrible news came out of the Central African Republic today.  A colleague called to ask if I’d heard.  One hundred people are dead.  He tells me the story of a three-year-old boy whose legs are cut off right in front of his father.  The child bled to death.

I have a global career that every so often touches pieces of stories not altogether unlike this one.  And while I often find myself optimistic about the trajectory of our world, sometimes it all becomes just a bit too heavy.

We have covered much ground, but there is still a great deal of room for healing, for reconciliation, for hope.  There is a certain sadness knowing that Nelson Mandela’s presence, guidance and insight would be so exceptionally helpful as we collectively, as a world, navigate the way forward.

But, for tonight, what I have is a very heavy book and the hope that his memory might lead us, each in our own way, to involvement.  Maybe it’s taking an extra moment to understand a point-of-view that is different to ours or purchasing a Christmas gift that will make a difference for someone else far, far away or maybe it’s simply holding our nearest and dearest extra close this holiday season.

I’m hopeful that Nelson Mandela’s life will continue to remind us that in the face of really, really heavy times, we can choose involvement – trusting that in some small way our action matters.

 

 

[ In case you're looking for gifts that do good, here are a few from UNICEF, Oxfam, World Wildlife Fund, St. Jude's, Heifer International, Every Mother Counts and World Bicycle Relief. ]

LANDED: INDIA

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It’s time to catch up on this fall’s travel.  First up:  India.

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I’ve just landed in Newark after a last minute trip to India.

I haven’t been to India since 2010, but that year I travelled to the subcontinent several times.  My final trip in 2010 marked the end of my time with the organization I was working for.  I remember driving to a tiny airport to start the journey home and thinking that I may very well never come back to that corner of northeast India.  Never say never, I suppose.

There is no quick way to get home to the east coast from India.  My route of choice was on Continental flight  #83 (now United flight #83), a direct fifteen-hour hop from Delhi to Newark. On each trip, a dear friend and I would touch down at 4:30 a.m. in Newark and then race to the Terminal C Dunkin Donuts.  After a couple of weeks of eating hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, a sugary treat was so thoroughly enjoyable.  I miss my sidekick this morning.

I was unsure of what to expect during this trip.  Should I anticipate progress and change and development in the community where we work?  Should I brace myself for sameness?

I’m still sorting through the trip, what I saw and where I fit into all of it.  India is overwhelming – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the masses – and, quite frankly, sometimes I just don’t know what to do with it.  But, this morning, I am feeling so grateful for the people I’ve traveled with and come to know in India – people who I’ve shared terrible Indian beer with and fought malaria-carrying mosquitos with, people who I have seen world wonders and witnessed heartbreaking poverty with, people who have (rightfully) put a cap on my pashmina spending, people who have introduced me to the delicacy that is garlic naan, but most importantly, people who have been courageous enough to believe that in the midst of very dark circumstances, change is possible.  In the center of a chaotic city, there are a group of men and women working quietly day in and day out extending hope in a profoundly tangible way to a group of very poor, very marginalized people.  And I am profoundly grateful to know them.

THANKSGIVING

Thursday, November 28, 2013

old vine zin“I am thankful for what I am and what I have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.”

- Henry David Thoreau

My aunt shared these words with me over a glass of wine before Thanksgiving dinner.  Words to carry as we transition into the Christmas season.  As retailers open, Black Friday sales beckon and our posture shifts from thanksgiving for what we have to writing lists of what we want, this statement is a gentle reminder to self –a reorientation to gratitude, if you will.

Happy Thanksgiving.

LONG RUN: CALM

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

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A friend of mine had to drive over a bridge each morning on the way to high school.  He said that the conditions of the bay in the morning foreshadowed the type of day he would go on to have.  Rough water, rough day.  Calm water, calm day.

The weather has turned and we are getting our first glimpse of winter.  The thermometer hasn’t risen out of the 30s in the past couple of days.   After spending the better part of the last month traveling, this feels rather abrupt.

Last night I layered up and set out for my favorite running trail.  Cold weather is a great motivator to pick up the pace.  The first mile I could feel myself trying to outrun the chill.  I was warm enough on my way back in to stop and watched the sunset.  The water was as calm as I’ve ever seen it – so still it looked like glass.

With the holidays fast approaching, I took this to be a good omen.  Perhaps a calm holiday season is ahead?

While that seems an almost laughable possibility, the water’s stillness was a much needed reminder that it is possible to create my own “all is calm” moments in the midst of holiday (or any manner of) craziness.  So here’s to bundling up, lacing up and getting out the door.

LANDED: SAN FRANCISCO

Friday, October 18, 2013

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We’ve spent the past few days in California wine country and just arrived in San Francisco for the Nike Women’s Marathon.  I couldn’t be more excited to cheer on the nearly 3,000 Team In Training runners that will be taking to the streets of this city on Sunday.

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