Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fargo Rock City (50 days to go)

Day 7 of training, 50 days left.

So far so good. Not great, but good. I have run five of the last seven days, but I'm not where I want to be right now. It is just so easy to sit down and have coffee with an old friend instead of running in bad weather. And let me tell you, we've had bad weather. So far I've been stuck in a horrendous blizzard, rain showers, and 40 mile an hour gusting wind. What am I putting myself through? The good thing is that I'm training at between 4500 and 5000 feet above sea level. That has to count for something, right? The marathon, which is in Fargo, ND, is at 900 feet.

Speaking of which, I can't believe I forgot to mention that the marathon is in Fargo Rock City! Some of you may laugh at the mention of Fargo, but you are truly missing out. With winters colder than Antarctica, summers hotter than Georgia, and bugs the size of dinosaurs - it's a gem! No, but seriously, the marathon's website boasts that the best thing about the race is the people, and it's right. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Last summer Newsweek ran a double spread on how Fargo is on the up-and-up, and becoming a mini-metropolis.

Unemployment is low, the state's budget is steady and healthy, and Fargo's cultural scene is growing at a rate similar to Minneapolis. But the people are what it's all about. Sure, if you go into Fargo looking for close-minded conservatives, you're going to find them. But if that's what you're looking for in any city, you will find them everywhere. With the race motto, "Rock fast, rock friendly, run Fargo," you just have to laugh at the kindness that is embedded into the city.

A few years ago I was home for some time in the spring and got to watch the race. The entire city was out with lawn chairs, decorated signs, and fog horns. I'm sure that many people didn't know a single person in the race; they were simply there to support their neighbors and give Fargo a good name. I'm told that local gymnastics teams, string quartets, and bands at every mile will be there to encourage the runners on. How can you scoff at a city that brings out the local marching band to cheer you on?

If you need another reason to appreciate Fargo, turn on the local news this time of year and watch the Red River flood updates. Neighbors watch out for one another, making sure no one is in harms way. School is canceled and stores forced to close so everyone is involved in sandbagging and volunteering to save the city. It has become a way of life, a sort of return to the days when homesteaders took on the burdens and workloads of their neighbors, not because they had to, but just because. I will bet you that, when asked why they help out in the city, many people of Fargo would say "just because it's what you do."

So everyday I run I imagine myself running down the familiar streets of Fargo, watching people cheer, dance, sing, or whatever they'll be doing that day. When I will struggle, (and I will struggle,) I know that I'll have the people of Fargo Rock City to carry me to the finish line.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A World of Pain

It all began in tenth grade creative writing class. It was the "slacker class," where we ate breakfast, talked about the weekend, wandered the halls, and started arm wrestling matches in the back corner. We had sporadic assignments where we had to journal about our family, fears, dreams, or whatever was going on in a 15 year old brain on a Tuesday. I didn't think much of the assignments at the time. They were simply another thing to check off the to do list. Except for one, which has stuck with me all these years.

September 10th, 2001 "50 Things To Accomplish In My Life." #37: Run in a marathon (or walk)

At least I was reasonable with myself. It was definitely a goal and not a dream. I hated running, despised it in fact. It made me sore, tired, angry, and I thought it was just pointless. But for some reason I felt that it should go on the bucket list between #36: Climb a really big tree, and #38: Go whitewater rafting. My hatred for running lessened as I got older and realized I might have to put in a little effort to be able to fit into those skinny jeans. But it was still a love/hate relationship. Last summer it started again, with the goal of running my first 5k and working up to a 10k and maybe one day a marathon. That dream was abandoned once ski season started and the PBR flowed like water.

But something changed. I woke up last Thursday with new snow at the ski resort and for a reason unbeknownst to me, I decided I was going to run a full marathon. Not only was I going to run the whole thing, but I was going to train in seven weeks. I know what you're thinking; I'm thinking the same thing only four days into this mess. But I registered ($80) and bought new shoes ($90) and now I can't give up (priceless.) Ok, gag me. This is not some inspirational commercial or a "you can do it too!" sort of ad. This is me struggling. To the extreme. I may cry or even throw up a few times, and you can follow me the whole way. Join me!

The marathon is May 21st, which gives me 52 days to train. Who am I kidding? I don't know how to train. Run, I guess. A lot. Probably stretch, maybe do jumping jacks? The first night I decided I was going to run this thing I got overwhelmed with my "training schedule" and had to sit down and have a beer while I thought things over. Not off to a great start. But today I did run 6.43 miles (according to,) which is huge for me. I was so proud when I looked at the Google map and could say, "I ran that far!" But let me tell you, my spirits sank when I looked at a map and saw how far 26.2 miles is. Oh boy, it's not just far, it's depressingly far. I mean, like "there's-no-effing-way" far.

So here I sit at 6.43 miles, with only twenty more to go. 52 days left!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Solitude: Moab, Utah

We passed through snowstorms, icy roads, and speeding semis, when the dry desert seemed to emerge out of nothing, suddenly evolving from the horizon. We stood on a cliff overlooking the valley with the warm wind whipping at our chest and felt content. Tent, food, books, mountain bikes. No worries except to sleep in the sand, rise with the sun.

The warm air added to the desert high we were feeling after months of a cold, snowy winter. Every breath  of air felt like a new birth, a new appreciation for something our bodies ached for, unknowingly. We set up camp in a red dusty circle surrounded by stacked cliffs and prickly bushes. And then we sat. Waiting for nothing, expecting nothing, but believing in everything. We contemplated the color of sand, the sound of birds, the prints of animals. We even explored alone, off on our own adventures. Cliffs, caves, natural springs, whatever we could find.

Sitting alone in the desert is the definition of euphoric isolation. No animals or people are wandering into your campsite, no rain to ruin a good morning. Just you, the sun, the dirt, and a light breeze to remind you that these rock formations have been around a lot longer than any of the cars or people that move beyond the valley. Nothing to worry about except the unexpected thought shaking up the unplanned meditation. Every shade of orange, brown, red, with spots of green and yellow dotting the dusty fields. A bird glides the lazy stream of wind high in the sky. With nothing to do More than enough time presents itself to recognize what you missed the last 25 years of your life. The beauty of the desert, and the time it took to create the desolate nothing that is everything all at once.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lamb Chop Hurdles

Even though I spent the last blog talking about nostalgia, to tell you the truth, I have the worst memory. Really. I can't remember when I took trips abroad, anniversaries, friends, faces, what I did yesterday. I used to think it was a good trait, that I was "living in the moment," but now it's just starting to freak me out. My boyfriend gets frustrated, "really! You can't remember where we were least weekend?" I glance around and look at the curtains, my finger nails, notice the dog outside the window. Nope, I'm not thinking about last weekend. So what's up there in that brain of mine? Where does memory store itself? I feel like I'm missing the filing cabinet that everyone else was wired with at birth. Or maybe I had it to begin with, but slowly dumped the folders as I grew older, like tossing pieces of clothing one by one out of a moving vehicle. I also feel like it comes in waves, the extreme absent-mindedness. For the past couple months I feel like I wake up and get thrown into the day like Bambi walking for the first time. I have a paper due? Make coffee? Monday meetings? Thumper, where are you?

I have 52 days until I complete graduate school and, knowing me, will quickly forget it ever happened. Trying to complete my thesis is like I wrapping saran wrap around packing peanuts. I can see the task at hand but just can't seem to get it all into one tight package. There is laundry all over the floor, last night's dishes are still in the sink, and I'm pretty sure it's been a few days since I've showered. Who am I turning into? I can see the icons on my desktop of deadlines, papers, and projects, but instead I choose to watch food travel shows and read my Joy of Cooking like a nun browses the bible. "And Irma said: on the first day, the dough shall rise." 

I've never been one to procrastinate horribly. I mean, sure, I left many a college paper to the 4am rush hour, but only because I was so busy. I can hardly call my lifestyle "busy" any longer. But this feeling of slowness and apathy seems to come from a lack of knowing where I've come from and where I'm going. I have no memory and I have no plan. But somehow I don't feel lost or confused, as many people tell me I should feel. "Aren't you nervous to move to a big city?" "What are you doing when you graduate?" "You should be worried about making money." "Do you have a plan?" Nope, but thanks for caring.

All I really want to do is travel and write, write and travel. Oh, and eat. Ohh how I love to eat almost more than anything in the world. I seek out the meals and plates that are dipped in passion and grilled with family history. It can be the most simple, or most pretentious and chances are you'll hear me sigh with pleasure. So do I have a plan? Sure, I'm going to travel, write, and eat. It can't be that hard, right? Except for the fact that, (from what I'm told,) everyone has this plan. Hmm...ok, so I have reached a hurdle but I will simply imagine the hurdle as a leg of rosemary seasoned lamb, and eat my way through. Problem solved. 

I have certainly lived an alternative lifestyle up to this point in the game, (several colleges, working in national parks, living as a ski bum, backpacking solo, choosing a career in food advocacy,) so why stop now? Bring on the luggage, bring on the deadlines, bring on the hollandaise sauce. So I leave this quiet ski town for a booming metropolis in 52 days, but it's just another chapter and something to look forward to. I simply need to do what I love, live where I'm happy, and eat what is in front of me and I will have no fear; after all, I probably won't remember any of this anyway.