Saturday, May 28, 2011

Maybe I should just call it a day....

And yet,  "Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, despair, not feast on thee."  Gerard Manly Hopkins' "Carrion Comfort."  In some of my lowest times, this poem pops into my head.  I won't post the entire thing here, but it is a Petrarchan sonnet about a world-weary man, downtrodden and questioning the reason behind his misfortunes.  It begins with his adamant refusal to give in, to "not choose not to be," but it isn't exactly a positive poem.  There is no happy, shiny ending where he allows that life is kick-ass and wonderful and all is well.  He ends wondering why he has so long refused to give in to despair.  Is it because of or in spite of his "God?"

Anyway, even if I don't understand the whole thing, and every time I read it I get something new from it, I still find this poem can offer me solace when my life is all kinds of crazy.  I have officially been living in Denver for four weeks.  I have run three times; I have biked about as much; and I have been some degree of ill these entire four weeks.  My job is bringing me down, although I have already found some pretty cool people in my coworkers.  And I only have one shaky job prospect I'm waiting to hear about.  Hey life, you aren't what I was expecting right now...

Of course, though, there is a huge BUT.  But I'm pretty sure I'm mostly acclimated to the altitude: my RHR is back down to about 50.  I have some color (and new freckles) on my face and a sock tan on my ankles because it is Sunny!! here.  A new friend invited me to a concert last night, a group called The Future Jazz Project, and they were awesome.  Music can and will and does make everything better.  Who knew Denver has a pretty awesome underground eclectic jazz scene?  Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I will start volunteering with a very cool non-profit based in Boulder, Outdoor Mindset.  I met with one of the group's founders last week, and it was really inspiring: I am looking forward to being able to give back something after having experienced my own crazy life-dramas.  Finally, I am At Last going to get the immuno-therapy I desperately need.  This whole "lack of infection-fighting cells" thing is getting too ridiculous, so this Tuesday I'll be sitting in some outpatient clinic, heavily Benadryl'd and receiving a six-hour infusion of someone else's immunoglobulins.  Hopefully this will be the start of reclaiming some internal equilibrium. 

Once I'm no longer coughing all the time, I'll be able to get serious about running again.  Life may be
all scattered and uncertain right now, but I am still here, still kicking and screaming and wishing I was running and biking and mountain climbing carelessly.  All things in time, and so I'm not giving in to despair.  There are too many good things just ahead of me; it's just a matter of straightening everything out and reaching for all the possibilities.  Right.  So, four weeks in, and here I am.  It's crazy, and I still can't believe I just up and moved, but I have no regrets.  I am loving it - loving living.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Today was brought to you by the letter "F!"

as in, "fail."  I swear I never meant for it to happen.  I swear, when I ventured into the REI flagship store in downtown Denver, I was merely curious about the behemoth as a whole.  No funny business.  Maybe, perhaps, I would have been interested had someone wanted to talk to me about climbing harnesses, but that was It, and no one did anyway.  Before I even walked through the massive double doors with ice axes for handles, my mind exploded: they have a bouldering boulder out front.  For actual bouldering!  I walked in and right in front of me, there was a climbing wall!  I'm sure I looked like a total idiot, standing behind the guardrail staring open-mouthed at the hulking mass of fake rock looming in the middle of the store.  Then I looked right, and there was all the climbing gear.  That's when the drool started.  So many different sticky shoes; So many harnesses; So much dynamic rope; So, so many pieces of shiny, metal gear!  Carabineers; ATCs; grigris; spring-loaded camming devices from very small to larger than my hand.  Honestly, I'm not a gear head.  I own a mediocre pair of climbing shoes, and that is all, but seeing all this stuff just reminded me of the possibilities, the potential.  I have a whole, huge life ahead of me, and I intend to spend at least some of it climbing rocks.

Not knowing anything about what to buy, though, I tore myself away from the climbing department and wandered through the rest of the store.  I happened into the daypack/hydration department, where my brain went, oh hey Caroline, you should totally get some sort of hydrating apparatus for when you're running long distances and you start to get thirsty!  And it is so hard to tell your brain "no."  Sigh.  That was, perhaps, my first mistake.  After too much deliberation, I opted for a 22 oz. hand-held bottle with a little pocket that my cell phone and a gel could fit in.  Surely this was a good investment...  A girl's gotta stay hydrated out on the trails, and not all of my running shorts have pockets for running-related miscellany.  I should have left it at that.  Should have taken my water bottle and gotten out of that den of lust and athleticism.

Too bad I kept walking around; too bad I ended up in the footwear department.  Too bad a store associate started talking to me while I was gazing longingly at the running shoes, but again, not knowing where to start, I honestly wasn't thinking about getting anything.  Yet here comes "Chris," 25-year running veteran, apparently a formerly competitive runner, and he tells me, oh yeah, sure, I'd recommend this trail running shoe for you.  Here, just try it on....  That was it; game over.

I walked out of REI with a brand new pair of trail running shoes and a water bottle.  Never mind my apprehension about being able to pay my rent.  Never mind needing to eat.  And certainly never mind getting a lamp for my bedroom.  I've got new, bright lime green trail running shoes!!  At least I didn't buy an $800 road bike...?  I also used whatever will power was left and stayed out of the sock department.  Socks being my Achilles heel, for serious.  I guess I am already embracing a certain Coloradan tenet: spend any money you have on awesome gear for your crazy outdoor lifestyle.  Anything left over goes to the rest of that "stuff" people supposedly need to pay for (rent, insurance, electric bills, clif bars).  I might say their priorities are a little skewed, but, no, I don't think so.

So I made it back to my apartment and promptly took my new kicks out for a little run.  Again, key word being Little.  I wish so much I could just pick up where I left off running, six weeks ago, but life and fitness don't quite work like that.  It is going to take time to acclimate to Denver, and it is going to take time for me to get back in good running shape.  But hey, at least I've started.  And now, if someone asks me to go for a run up a mountain, I have the right shoes for it.  So that's something.  Now, too, I know not to just wander into the REI store on a whim.  Nothing good will come of it...  well, nothing good to my bank account.  I personally am pretty freaking excited about these shoes. 

Running more.  In lime green shoes!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Guess I'll just skip April altogether and call it a day then.  Here's the takeaway from the past five (plus) weeks: somehow and against all expectations, I ran and actually Finished the Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton, Ontario, on March 27.  It was a blistering 18 degrees at the start, but it was also completely sunny.  Surrounded by nearly 7000 other runners, I barely felt the cold once I got moving.  All told, I finished very near the end of the pack, but considering I (really) hadn't adequately trained, I did a lot better than I could have hoped.  So, hooray!  18 miles, done and done.

Unfortunately, the following week, I developed an epic cold and have only run once since March 27th, a measly 2.5 miles.  Even that was a struggle.  One of the things I realized is that I can be sick and work, or I can be sick and run, but I cannot be sick and do both things.  Income trumped cardio.

Raging sinus infection or no, life goes on, and I find myself, five weeks following my crazy Canadian race, living in Denver, Colorado.  Wait, what??  Yes, yes, I moved to Denver.  Four Days Ago.  No car, which means I have been walking all over the place these past few days trying to find groceries, toilet paper, a lamp for my bedroom (still looking for that last one...).  Two things are worth noting for context's sake: One is that I walked Everywhere when I went to school in Boston.  I was a walking machine because it was easy and necessary to walk around Boston.  The second thing is that once I moved back to Chicago following my graduation, I no longer had to walk, much less walk miles and miles at a time.  Sure, I ran lots, but walking is definitely different.  Living in the suburbs with nowhere to walk to, I became complacent and comfortable driving my parents' car if I needed to get somewhere.  Four days ago, all of that changed.  I was once more thrown into a situation where I don't have a car, and there are limited means of getting myself around.  Some weird leg muscles are currently crazy sore, but walking it is!

Now, this blog is sort of supposedly about running.  I haven't run much lately, hence the lack of writing about my running.  What was I supposed to say, "Yep, another day where I couldn't really breathe, just sat around feeling guilty and eating."?  No, because that's lame.  Also, while the sinus infection was my main deterrent, I think I was also kind of burnt out after all the pressure I had been putting on myself about the 30K and not training enough for it.  I just needed to chill out and not feel like I had to go outside in the rain/snow/greyness and train for some race.

But now I live in Denver...  Now I live within sight of the Rocky Mountains and right beside one of the major trail systems that runs through and around the city.  Now there is actual sunshine - already, my schnoz is sunburned.  Now I am Finally on antibiotics and I can actually breathe through my nose again; my sinuses aren't out of control painful!  It is very exciting.  So today, after spending the past three days just walking around, today I laced up my sneakers (sort of new Nikes that I don't really like) and headed to the Cherry Creek Trail directly behind my apartment.  I jacked up the volume on my ipod and took off.  And I ran for a whole entire 15 minutes (gee whiz.) before doubling over gasping for air and desperately needing a walk break.  All told, I ran about 3 miles, with a few intermittent walks.

My God, am I out of shape.  Actually, it's more my lungs that are weak, I think.  Between being sick and now living 5,280 miles about sea level, I was struggling for sure.  It is too late for me to turn back now, and actually, I am already registered for another race, the Colorado Relay.  Terrifying, I know, but hey, why not.  Anyway, I have over three months to train for it, so I should be good...  I hope.

There's only one way to find out, I suppose.  I ran today; I am going to run tomorrow.  I will probably be walking much more as the weeks progress, and I am fairly sure that my mountain bike (!!) is on its way as well.  Ugh, there is so much to look forward to out here.  Life is pretty damn exciting right now, even if I am also scared out of my mind that I am going to run out of money and not be able to pay my rent and my bills and then I guess I'll end up one of the friendly homeless people scattered throughout downtown Denver.  But not tomorrow, anyway.

This life of mine is all about having crazy and absurdly amazing goals (the Colorado Relay!?) while still living day to day and not letting my anxiety overwhelm me.  I am not sure I had ever really thought about moving to Denver before maybe three months ago, but here I am, alive and breathing and starting to run again.  Who knows what this life will bring?  I pray that the bad will occasionally be tempered by some good, and I pray I will be able to conquer the bad that occurs anyway.  Running helps.  Friends help a lot.  Looking at the Rocky Mountains is pretty awesome as well.  And one day (soon, I hope), I will be running with friends up and through those mountains.  Crazy stuff, but hey, it's life, and it is all mine.

Running more.  At altitude!