Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Staring at Youth in the Rearview

Yesterday was my 40th birthday, and while I am not as freaked out about this major milestone as I thought I would be, there is no denying that “youth” is officially a thing of my past. Oh, there are times when 40 can be seen in relative terms as being young, like if you are visiting an Old Folks Home or in the setting of terminal disease, but true youth has evaporated. This is particularly highlighted in US running where turning 40 allows admission into the master’s category, essentially an acknowledgement by the powers-that-be that quadragenarians lack the vim and vitality to compete head to head with younger athletes. At least Americans can take heart knowing they won’t be put out to the master’s pasture until age 40; World Masters Athletics start at age 35.

“But you are only as old as you feel,” the optimists sing, and indeed there is even some evidence that this is true (Yes, I just referenced a Web MD link; don’t revoke my medical license!). Most days, I still feel pretty young- I can run 100 miles in a day, goshdarnit! - but there are starting to be some telltale signs of my age.

Reasons I Know I am Old:

Wow! These new jeans look so stylishly used
1) I want my new jeans to look like new jeans. Today's jeans are supposed to look like you have worn them everyday for the last ten years. Only nobody actually does that, so you buy new jeans that look like old jeans. But I do not want jeans that are pre-creased, pre-faded, or hems that are pre-shredded. And I sure as hell don't want the jeans to come with symmetric little shreds all up and down the quads. I mean, nobody rips their jeans in a square hole in the middle of the thigh! These manufactured attempts to make denim look well-loved are about as fake as a set of double D's on a 100 pound lady! Now, I am not looking for Mom jeans (yet), but if I spend money on a new pair of jeans, I want them to look new. Besides, as a 40 year old mom, I want you to know that I am still putting a little effort into myself. If I wanted used jeans, I'd go to Goodwill!

2) I don't need alcohol to be hungover. Like many, I got out of bed with extreme reluctance on January 1st. Man, was I tired! Plus, I had a headache, a dry mouth and I really needed some greasy food. It was all the classic hangover symptoms. Only I didn't drink at all on New Year's Eve! Staying up till 12:30 is just really hard on my old body!

3) Nighttime is for sleeping. Remember in college when you didn't even leave your dorm before ten pm because no party really got going before that? You could party and dance till 3 am and it still felt early. And how about when you were first madly in love and you certainly weren't going to bed to get a little shut-eye? Nowadays, 10 pm means it's a half hour past my bedtime, and you are only getting sex if it doesn't cut into my sleep!

4) I experience sticker shock regularly. A few years ago we bought a roll of "forever stamps" and I have been using them to send off the rare snail mail item, blissfully unaware of what I was paying in postage. And then I had to go to the post office to mail a package and sheets of 49 cent stamps were plastered everywhere. Holy hell! 49 cents to send a stinking letter! You should be able to mail your Christmas packages for that price! I mean I remember when postage went from 18 cents to 20 cents and that was a BIG DEAL! And then last week we stopped at a convenience store to pick up a treat for a long drive and candy bars were a dollar - each!! And that was just the regular size, not the king size or anything. Well, obviously convenience stores jack up their prices and charge you extra for the 'convenience.' Except candy bars were a dollar at our local supermarket, too! When I was a kid we picked up candy bars with a Washington, too - a Washington quarter that is!

5) Public establishments are too loud. When I go out, I just want to have a nice conversation with a few close friends, maybe sip a nice mixed drink. But all the bars are just too fucking loud! You've got to yell just to talk to the person across the table and even then you can only pick up half the words. And now all the restaurants are playing loud music, too. And then there are live bands and those are just extra loud!

6) I no longer celebrate my birthday in a bar. It used to be so important to celebrate my birthday in a bar that I would use a fake ID just to get in! (Mom, that's a lie). Back then nothing said "happy birthday" better than pounding shots called "snake bite" out of a test tube. But bars don't allow kids and I don't really want to pay a babysitter just to go to a bar. Did I mention how loud those places are? This past Saturday we had several friends and their kids to our house for a potluck dinner with cheesecake and s'mores around our fire pit. I sipped one nice mixed drink and had lots of good conversation. We partied till the wee hours of the morning; I don't think the last person left till almost 11:00! Then I went straight to bed (to sleep only). And in the morning I woke up with a hangover.

7) I spent my actual birthday dropping off the glass recycling and attending a parent teacher conference. I am a party animal! But I also had a nice lunch with my husband and this happened to my hair:
I'd like to think I did this because I am so sassy and young at heart, but I am pretty sure it is just the first inklings of my midlife crisis and a desperate attempt to reconnect to Youth even though we all know that bridge has burned! Hello 40's!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Road to Recovery is 48 Miles Long

I haven't really made it a secret that I have had a hard time recovering from AC. I was very patient the first three weeks (mostly). But at week 4 when I stopped a 10 min mile park jog smack in the middle of the park because it felt like torture, the frustration started to mount. And I admit I had a few doom and gloom thoughts about hormone imbalances, adrenal fatigue and never being able to run again. But when I was being rational, I was pretty sure it was just my legs, and specifically my quads, that were the problem - they were just healing slowly. Needing to know for sure, I did a workout on a hand bike (or upper body ergometer to get technical). No doubt I am a T-rex and very weak in the arms, but I was able to get in a good workout with a high heart rate and not feel like I was going to die afterwards. Unfortunately, before I got this all figured out I had to make a really tough decision.

Earlier this year I was invited to run at Les Templiers in France. Holy Cow - talk about mind blowing: someone was going to pay for *me* to go run around in France!! I was flabbergasted and overwhelmed by the invitation. What a dream come true! But the race organizers gave me an ultimatum while I was still struggling to run. I asked if I could delay my decision and even offered to pay any differences in airfare, but they needed a firm answer because they wanted to be able to replace me if I couldn't come. Even though this was an incredible opportunity, I felt like if they were paying my way, I had an obligation to uphold my end of the bargain and that was to race to the best of my ability and to contribute to the competitiveness of the race. I was optimistic that things would turn around quickly for me, but I wasn't training at all and essentially not even running, I didn't feel like I could accept the trip in good conscience. So unfortunately, running in France will have to wait for another year. I was bummed to withdraw but it did provide a sense of relief and caused me to stress out a lot less about the way my legs were feeling.

Scratching Les Templiers opened up my schedule for other adventures and after the hand bike trial, I felt like I was free to run easy, so why not go run 48 miles??

This past weekend a friend of mine organized a run around the Three Sisters volcanoes to celebrate her birthday. The loop is somewhere around 45 miles (Garmin miles, at least) with a couple extra miles tacked on to access the loop from a trailhead. I was actually really nervous for the distance, but I was promised an easy pace and I didn't want to miss out. Plus it was for my friend's birthday, so how could I say no?! Ironically, she got sick and ended up bailing, but I still had the good company of Ken, Dennis, and Cary.

The loop only has about 6,000' of gain (plus a couple hundred more from the trailhead), but there are a lot of sandy and gravel sections, plus lots of volcanic rock and the entire thing is between 5200 and 7020 feet (that's high for us flatlanders!), so not entirely easy either. But we were only out for adventure and good times, not fast paces. It is amazing run and I am glad I can check another one of Oregon's iconic trails off of my list.
Sunrise near Pole Creek and the old burn area
The boys are ready to run

Dennis gives us a geography lesson
Lots of beautiful springs

Our lunch site
Obsidian Falls

You know I am excited when I start taking selfies!
Admittedly, this run wasn't great for my popliteal tendinitis, but for the first time in weeks I remembered why I love running. The run was great for my spirit and if I am not enjoying running then my spirit probably needs healing more than anything. Who needs France to have a great running adventure??

Monday, September 1, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Well, Sports fans, today is not your day, because this post has nothing to do with running, but instead focuses on my other hobby: gardening! Yep, no mountain vistas, race reports, or running advice in this one. But this month, not one, but TWO people actually told me they like my gardening pictures on Facebook and since I have been doing a lot more gardening that running this month (I still don't seem to have a single quadricep muscle fiber that is functioning properly!), it seemed like the time was 'ripe' to write a blog about plants!

Mac and I both grew up in the suburbs of L.A. but we both have Iowa farm blood in our heritage and I guess that came out when we were looking for houses. We ended up buying a home on 3.8 acres nine miles from downtown Salem, OR. The house was "top of the line" for 1979 standards, but it hadn't had anything done to it for 25 years and it was a real blast to the past (think orange linoleum, fuzzy and foil wall paper, and mint green toilets!) and needed A LOT of work. Not to mention the yard was totally overgrown. Mac wanted to run away screaming, but I had a vision. That wasn't enough to convince Mac, but the view was.
Kitchen and deck view
In the first year (2005) we tackled the house. Oh my god was there a lot of wall paper stripping that year! But by the following summer we had a deer fence and we started tilling up parts of the upper pasture.
We have a garden...sort of
We had chickens in Portland, but when we moved to the country, we got more!
 Eventually, the ginormous junipers were removed and we did some landscaping.

The pond and steps actually came with the house, we just put in a retaining wall for more grass and added plants.

And the garden got a massive expansion and some raised beds. 

The garden 2012. The cows are on our property but they are not our cows. We just let the neighbor use the pasture. Our beef is truly local!

Which brings us to this year. The garden is a now vegetable breeding monster! I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my garden. I love to see it and I love being out there, but the To Do List often gets overwhelming and ultra training doesn't leave a lot of spare energy. Mac scolds me to have a smaller garden every year so I don't get stressed about it, but it is like telling me 100 milers are too long and I should stick with marathons and 50k's! I mean, look at me; I was gardening before I could even walk! 
11 months old. My Dad was obviously a little excessive in his gardening, too.

Our Garden 2014
Cabbages, kale, tomatoes, peppers eggplants, and two pear trees and amazing (finally!) asparagus
The vine trellis is a monster! That's a rogue squash growing at the front of the cabbage and tomato bed in the bottom right. I have a soft spot for the gourds and squashes- something about the big smooth round fruit starting from just a little seed- so I let a lot of the volunteers live. For some reason, the volunteers always do better than the planted squash. This one has over 20 spaghetti squash on it. I have been giving them to everyone I know! The corn is just above the squash.

The jungle! The corn is all on the right. The sunflower forest and the planed squashes are on the left. These are all volunteer sunflowers! The trellises had a huge climbing rose on them, but it literally stretched the entire 20 feet of the walkway and involved all three arches. It was collapsing them and making it hard to walk down the aisle. I tried to whack it back the last couple of years, but this year it finally came out. There are a couple of new roses planted and then some beans just to fill in.

The bean teepee. Liam asked for a bean teepee this spring. I ignored him because I thought a bean teepee sounded lame. But he kept asking me and my ignoring him didn't make him stop, so he got his bean teepee. His verdict, "It's not very good. It's kind of small." In other words, it's lame. But I have plans for a bean cabin next year!

 The chicken coop. Seriously, this is the most manly thing Mac has ever done. Nine chickens currently call this home.
Some of the girls
"Cukes and Zukes" - I think this one is self-explanatory. My zukes are always out of control. My cukes kind of suck this year. Not sure why, but we aren't hurting for produce! That is a pathetic rose garden behind that. My plan is to raise it up next year and put them in some good soil. Even with amendment, the roses do not do well in our clay soil. Along the fence there are 17 blueberries and 4 grapes (with room for at least two more - the grapes are new this year). The upper left has a bed of strawberries but they also need to be replanted got ripped out this weekend (it is "Labor" Day!) and the strawberries are now thinned and replanted. See what I mean about an overwhelming To Do list. (Notice how there is a wheelbarrow, a pot, a trashcan lid, a stool, etc. in practically every picture - pretty much everything is a work in progress!).

One thing I did get around to this year was further elevating some of the raised beds and fixing up the soil. Ok, mostly Mac did the work, but I supervised! (thanks, Sweetie!) Of course, every gardener knows you are supposed to plant in compost for the best results, but composting is insanely frustrating. Mine pretty much looks like a pile of grass and leaves no matter how long I leave it. But I have had good results with what I call "in situ composting". Just put all the partially composted grass and leaves where you want them to be and cover with some good dirt. You have to plant seeds (not starts) for a season or two, but then you have a bed full of super awesome dirt.
Bed with pathetic compost and the start of the cover dirt layer. That's another rogue spaghetti squash in the upper right!

I just got my winter planting in this bed (and one other) last week. And, yes, I totally planted that broccoli just because it looks so weird! Some of the seeds are already coming up, so hopefully we'll be eating home grown veggies late into the fall.

My garden easily has as many failures as it does successes. Some are out of my control - like the past super cold winter killing the artichokes. Some are mysteries, like the dearth of cucumbers this year. Some like the roses, I know why, but I lack the energy to fix. And sometimes I am just plain stupid! Actually, gardening is kind of like ultra-running in regards to problems! This year's brainfart was my annual flower bed. Why would anyone plant the cosmos in front?? When you are actually looking at the front of this bed (instead of from the side like this photo) you can't even see the nasturtiums and calendulas. I have been growing these plants for at least a decade, so it's not like I didn't know. Even my seven year old son could've told you which of those seeds would get the tallest and which the shortest! But the beauty is that it all starts over next year!

And then just because I don't have enough to do, I have an herb garden behind the garage. All of the woody herbs died (or looked sickly) after our cold winter, so it's got a lot of holes this year. New rosemary, lavender and sage should cover all the bare spots by next year. Besides, even Martha says you should replace your woody herbs every 4-5 years!

The garden is definitely a labor of love. In fact, Liam has said to me,"You love your plants more than your kids!" 

"Yes," I explained to him, "that's because the plants never whine and they only need to be fed once a month." ;)

So I am pretty sure no one will ever ask about my garden again! This past month I have kind of felt like Kyle Skaggs: like I have given up running for farming! But I am way too addicted to running to give it up for good!