Friday, August 10, 2012

The Hills Are Alive or Black People Like Trees Too

Guess what?
 I'm black AND many of my "hobbies" take place in the woods or in/near bodies of water.

For some, these two concepts are mutually exclusive.


Some people think that I became an outdoor enthusiast during my time in boarding school or in college, because how could I, a little black girl from Bushwick even know that there were trees and mountains outside of the ones in the annual Thanksgiving airing of The Sound of Music? The hills are alive....

This is not the case. I blame it all on my parents.

First they sent to me to sleep-away camp Upstate New York at the tender age of eight. I was hurled  into a world of nighttime stream hikes, swimming in a LAKE, playing in grass, climbing trees, camping out under the trees next to the lake, and taking walks in the woods for the sake of taking walks in the woods.

Then in middle school they signed me up for trips to the Adirondacks. The purpose of the trips was to reward those students with good grades with a chance to get out of the city for some quality time with the teachers we loved in the sticks.  (Imagine a busload of urban kids hanging out in the mountains for a few days, living it up in lean-tos, scaring the "hard" boys of the group into believing there were black bears right outside their shelters in the middle of the night. Imagine.)

I discovered pretty quickly that I preferred to do this kind of stuff rather than worry about not being invited to popular kids' parties. I felt an immediate and reciprocated kinship with anything green and outside. As an adult trail-running, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and ZIP-LINING!!!! are among my favorite things to do for exercise and for simply being in nature. 


All of those activities bring back myriad memories from camp and those yearly trips up the Northway to the mountains.  I breathe in the scent of pine or sassafras and I'm immediately taken back to that one time we shivered in the lean-tos in the late April snow....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Year of Magical Running: Part 1

This has been an incredible running year for me, despite the ups and downs of my intertwined personal and professional lives.  I've had the opportunity to participate in many different types of races, group runs, solo runs, and runs on the treadmill (and I'm sorry to all you runners who detest the "dreadmill"--I LOVE IT!) and each one has made me a better person, mom and wife, athlete, community member, etc. For this, I am grateful to the running gods for allowing my legs to move, my lungs to breathe, and my mind to rid itself of negativity as I toil away towards good health in body, mind, and spirit.

March 28, 2012 (New Jersey Trail Series Ultra Fest-Marathon Distance)

So the year started out with my second marathon ever (or my first trail marathon). It was organized by my favorite RDs of NJ Trail Series (WOOT WOOT!) up at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in New Jersey. What a BLAST! As part of their Ultra Fest, the marathon was the shortest distance. It was a wonderful entry into trail runs of 22+ miles,  mostly flat with some interesting features that are unique to trail running: rusted and rotted out rail-bridges that were challenging to navigate, a place where the bridge had completely rotted out that was fit with wooden boards, so the runners wouldn't um, fall to our deaths (okay, okay, there was only a four-foot drop, if that),  a field full of roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing, long stretches of rugged but flat (incline-wise) trail, and a few loops on one of the Fairground's road that made up the first 10K of the race.

 I felt great until mile 22 or so but was saved by popping a few Endurolytes, and one last Clifshot gel (THEY ARE BOTH  MAGIC). Miles 24-26.2 I was joined by two guys from Queens who would be completing their 40th mile and were en route to taking a short break before tackling the next 60.  I looked at them in disbelief, not simply because they were doing 100, but because they had completed a marathon the weekend before. CRAZIES! During the last .2, I was joined by my good friend Nikki who pushed me til the very end. I ran into the barn where the RDs had set up shop, feeling a little dazed and dizzy, collected my beautiful medal, and shuffled over to my parents who had been supporting me, along with Nikki for 7 hours and 23 minutes. That's dedication, family, and friendship!

Sign up for next year's race here:

May 6, 2012 (The North Face Endurance Challenge, Half-Marathon, Bear Mountain, NY)

After last year's disastrous injury that occurred during the TNF Endurance Challenge Half Marathon in Sterling, VA I decided to make a go for it again, this time closer to home and on an even more precipitous course. Bear Mountain, is in fact a mountain. I should have probably taken note of that when I signed up. Of course I knew, having done the 10K version 2 years ago.  It wasn't so bad, I thought. But as soon as I lined up with the runners on that very fateful 4:38 day, I knew what I was getting myself into. 10K times 2 and then some, mostly uphill.

Try like, twelve miles mostly uphill with about 1.1 miles of some short, steep, and dangerous downhills. But that's the fun and challenge (pun intended) of doing races like this. I'm sure it was a bit more rolling than I imagine, but in the midst of it, it seemed like it was all uphill.

At around 3 miles into the race, the course let out onto the parking lot where my car was sitting, all lonely and inviting. I could just.....but alas, MY MOM HAD MY KEY, DAMMIT!

Unfortunately, I did not make the 4 hour cut-off. But I. WAS. NOT. LAST!

Will definitely try this one again next year. This time I'll bring my own food (they had run out already-not their fault but damn was I hungry!). I'll also do lots of hills prior so I can at least make the cut-off next time. And I'll make my son do the 5K instead of the piddly 1K kids race. 1K???? Can I do that one?

Sign up for this race here:

June 2, 2012 (NJ Trail Series Half Marathon (DNF))

Too tired for even one loop, but finished 6.25 miles. I've never been so EXHAUSTED that I simply could not even IMAGINE finishing something. Finishing wasn't a word in my running lexicon that day so, I didn't. It so happened to be two days after the end of school, after a blur of a senior-week spent in the Poconos (i.e. NO SLEEP).

Too bad I physically and mentally couldn't not take advantage of this beautiful, mostly shaded course at the Watchung Reservoir. My parents came out to support me and were prepared to wait a few hours for me to finish and were surprised when I quit after only one loop. It wasn't even the most difficult course I had ever run and it was in fact an absolutely gorgeous, perfect-for-running-in-the-woods kind of day.  But not even this could lift the weight of extreme fatigue and mental fog.  (I never knew you could fall asleep while running. I am living testament!)

After my first and final loop, I gave Rick (the RD) the signal that I was done.

"I'm done", I said, hobbling on shaky legs.
"You sure?" he asked. "Just let me know if you decide to go out again."
"Oh, don't worry. I won't be doing that."