Monthly Archives: June 2014

Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay!

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Back row left to right: Zoila, Robert, Melissa, Bebe, Jillian, and Mark

Front row left to right: Justin, me, Mike, Jeff, and Erin.

Rain? Who doesn’t love a little rain? I love the rain from the light sprinkles kissing my cheeks to the torrential downpour rinsing away all of my negativities. Thursday evening my van met and packed all of our gear into the trailblazer. It was a little snug with five runners, but we like one another. We went to Chili’s restaurant (team favorite) for dinner to avoid traffic and then drove the one and a half hours to Logan, Utah to camp for the night. One of our friends, Sherpa-Ben, set up a large tent for us at the campground where we were staying. As we pulled in and began unloading sleeping bags, the sprinkling ran began to fall.

Ben busted out his guitar and began strumming the songs Dust in the Wind by Kansas and Take Me Home Country Roads by Billy Vaughn . Justin had printed off the lyrics for everyone, so we all sang along. Just like our running skills vary so did the singing. Some who were better at running not so good in the vocal department and those who are not so great in the athletic neighborhood were amazing in their ability to serenade. The rain continued to pitter-pat on the outside of the tent as we quieted down knowing we would be getting up at 3:30 in the morning.

The alarm went off. Continue reading

Nut Up or Shut Up!

Van one of my relay team, Nut up or Shut up, begins our adventure at the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay at 5:00 am Friday. Van two will begin at noon. The whole team will finish around 4:00 pm on Saturday. I have eleven team members to go 193 miles. My runner’s pace ranges from 16-minute miles to 8-minute miles. Needless to say, we are not the first team across the finish line, but we are also not the last.
Relays are one of my favorite types of races. It is a great way to suck non-runners into running because there are distances for all levels, and you have your personal cheerleading squad every step of the way. We have two vans, and each van has six people (okay well my van has five because I’m running six legs rather than three).
I will be stuck in a van for about 36 hours with four of my favorite people in the world. Six more of my favorite people will be in van two for my team. I have been the captain of my relay team since 2010, and we have run approximately 10 relays together.
Each one of my runners will run three legs of the race. We run all night long and get very little to no sleep. We eat total crap food the entire time. We will be sweaty, smelly, and cramped in a minivan with all of our gear. What is worse, is that we each pay approximately $200 to participate in these events. But what we get out of it is well worth the money; a t-shirt, sticker, and medal.
All right, we also get some of the best memories one could wish to have. I have five new team members this year, which means five new nicknames we have to create. A nickname on the team is like an honor badge. You have to earn it, you probably won’t like it, and we will paint it on the side of the van for the world to see.
I earned my nickname during our first relay when one of my runners ended up injured and unable to finish her last two legs. I took over her runs and finished with 31 total miles. I was christened the Dark Voodoo Princess because I pulled from my reserve of black magic to finish the miles.
My team is amazing. There has never been any arguing or fighting despite the lack of sleep, bad food, and total exhaustion from running. Even the one time when we had a person in the van who did not fit well, everyone held their tongues until that person was gone, and she was never invited back. She has been referred to as the Princess ever since.
Everyone pitches in and supplies the vans with junk food, water, and Gatorade. When it is time to run, we toss the runner out and drive ahead to dance and sing on the side of the road. Some of us are better than others at these extracurricular activities.
Wasatch Back Ragnar began eleven years ago. It was the first of the Ragnar relays (Hood to Coast in California was the original relay), and now there are about twelve different relays scattered across the United States. The Ragnar Corporation does an excellent job supporting the runners and organizing its events. There are approximately 1200 teams out on the 200-mile race route, which translates to 14,000 runners and 3600 volunteers (each team is required to supply three volunteers for the race).
I know it’s not as big as say the Chicago or New York Marathons, which turn out something like 45,000 runners each year over 26.2 miles, but it is still an epic feat to organize this event. Each of the teams goes through a safety training at the beginning of the event, and the course is well marked and there are volunteers everywhere to help runners. Over the years that my team has run, there have only been a few runners (less than five) each year which end up with heatstroke.
I spent Wednesday night packing everything up and making sure that my kids, dogs, and cats would not starve to death while I am away. I watered the garden, and hopefully, it will not die while I am gone either. I’ve also packed by bike in my car so I could drop it off with a friend to be tuned up since I will be unlikely to ride it this weekend. It felt a little rough when I rode it Saturday, which will not be good for the triathlon next month.

Life Changing Moment in 1000 words

I don’t have a fiction post this week (it’s been a little busy). I decided this morning I wanted to post about a life changing moment. This is actually a snippet from my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream. That I am editing again before I self publish. This was spurred on by a book that I began this morning called Supersurvivors: the surprising link between suffering and success.

 

In November 1996, I accepted I was pregnant. I knew before then, somewhere in my mind. I just didn’t want to acknowledge it. I had turned seventeen two months earlier. I took a pregnancy test, which I bought at Walgreen’s. It was positive. I hadn’t used LSD for five months, so I knew that the baby hadn’t been directly exposed. I had no idea whether my prior use would hurt the baby or not. I decided not to tell the baby’s father for another month.

I was afraid. I was afraid I’d lose the baby. I was afraid his father would leave us. I was afraid my mom would hate me. I was afraid my dad would hate me more than he already did. I was afraid I would be a bad mom. I was afraid my drug use would hurt the baby. I was afraid my lifestyle would hurt the baby. Nevertheless, I never question whether I would keep the baby. I knew I would.

In July 1997, my doctor laid the bundle that was Jasper Freedom Orion into my arms for the first time. He was seven pounds, four ounces, and nineteen inches long. He had on a pink and blue striped newborn beanie, a huge diaper, and a blanket wrapped around his tiny little body. He was so small. I ran my finger down the bridge of his button nose and my thumb across his chubby cheek. His skin was so soft. I pushed the beanie back off his little head revealing soft fine black hair. I brushed my hand softly over his head. He was so fragile. I reached into the blanket to find his hand. His fingers wrapped around mine. The thunder clattered outside, lightening streaked across the sky, and I pulled my bundle a little closer.

The first time his name passed over my lips after he was born, it carried a new meaning. There was an image and emotions tied to his name, which were not there before. There were memories and a smell tied to his name. There were sounds, which echoed in my mind each time his name was said. So much is contained in a name, a past, a present, and a future. In a single word lies the power to change lives.

One of my great joys was experiencing the world through Jasper. Everything was new. Each sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, all new and exciting or terrifying. Someone gave me a squeaky rubber bear at the baby shower. It was about four inches high and was a sand yellow with white paws and belly. I showed it to Jasper, and he didn’t take much notice of it. I squeaked the bear to get his attention, and he let out a blood-curdling wail.  The bear went in a box for later use. I felt awful that he was so scared of the stupid bear.

The day after Christmas 1997, Jas and I moved out of the home his father and I shared. Jasper was five months old. His father came to me two weeks earlier and said that he had been seeing someone else. I had known in my heart that he was at least emotionally involved with someone.

“We haven’t done anything together, I promise,” he said, but didn’t look at me. “I love you and I love Jas. I will always be here for you.” He stopped to breathe. “No matter what.”

The rest just tumbled from his lips. “I can’t do this. I’m not ready to give it all up. I’m not ready to be a dad.” He looked up at the stars, his breath visible in the night air. “I don’t want to leave you. I don’t want to break up,” he said softly, looking at the glistening snow covering the ground.

“But you are no longer only mine,” I whispered into the freezing air.

He took a drag off his cigarette letting the smoke entwine with his words. “I know.”

Through the tears rolling down my face, I said, “I have kept my promises. I have never flirted with other guys while you are around. I have not worn makeup. I haven’t drank alcohol. I have not married someone I don’t love. I will never forget you… But I know I have gotten tied down.”

We cried in each other’s arms. How could I fault him? We were so young. Our whole lives had changed. All of our plans to travel, to change the world, and get married at Stonehenge had gone awry.

Of course, I was hurt, but I wasn’t angry. How could I be angry with the person who had given me so much, who had been by my side for so long, who I loved and would always love with my whole being.

I decided that if I was going to be all that my son had, I was going to be the best I could be for him and eventually for myself. I began doing packets through Hunter High School.  Each packet was a quarter credit toward my diploma. I had zero credits when I started. The packets were not difficult to understand or complete. One after another, I finished them, English, history, math, science. Everything I missed. My education and caring for my son became my only two goals.

As I found that I could be successful, I picked up the little girl who still lived inside of me. The one I had drug through homelessness, drug addiction, and hitchhiking the western coast. I dusted her off, brush out her matted tangled hair, and got her some new shoes. It was going to be a long walk after all. I began to believe in myself again. I began to dream about a better life for Jasper and me. I began to fight to be heard, to dream, and to realize my dreams. Our dreams.

 

Falling into Place

Sometimes things just fall into place. At these times, I am thankful for whatever angels or supernatural beings are out there making my life just a little bit easier.

I started reading Outlining Your Novel, mapping your way to success by K.M. Weiland. I hit that 25,000 word wall in my fantasy fiction book, and it was very similar to hitting the wall in a marathon. I was stuck.  My mind was screaming stop, but my heart was saying go. I began reading the book and had a breakthrough and things are flowing nicely again. Yes, I’ve had to restructure things and rewrite major portions and characters, but honestly, this is good. Forward progress is good, and I’ve learned a ton.

Here’s my plug for K.M. Weiland for any of my writing friends out there as well. Her website is helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com she has a bunch of podcasts and youtube videos on the craft of writing, and they are wonderful and helpful. Each one is only 2-20 minutes long. She also has two books out on the craft, her outlining one and one on structuring your novel. Okay, I’m done now. Let’s move on.

This last Sunday I looked over my running schedule to see how far off I will be for my miles this coming weekend. Whenever I run a relay, I know I run less than my plan calls for (because my plan is set up for a 100 mile race not relays) but not this time. I will be right on schedule since I am taking two spots for the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay this Friday and Saturday.

Another one of my runners has dropped from my relay team (two days before the race) due to illness, which has given me the opportunity to payback/giveback my friend who gave me her spot in the Utah Valley Marathon on June 14. I’ve offered her the spot on my team and with any luck she will be able to run it with us. Just has to get clearance from husband Jared.

Every sixty days I have to take my bipolar thirteen-year-old son in for a medication evaluation to make sure that his moods are stable and get newly written prescriptions. His moods have been stable if you call a total lack of wanting to do anything other than play his video games, play with friends, and watch Dr. Who stable. I took yesterday off work to take him in. His appointment was  for 11:00 am and at 10:15 he decided he didn’t want to go and that I would have to drag his 120 lbs out to the car if I wanted him to go (I weigh 115, and he knows I cannot do this). This situation would have been exceedingly frustrating if his doctor’s office had not called ten minutes before and cancelled because his doctor was sick. Major knock down drag out fight was avoided.

I smiled at him and said that’s fine I didn’t want to go either. I’ll just work on my book today.  He stared at me like I had grown tulips from my ears and sprouted asparagus for eyebrows. I sauntered into the kitchen poured another steaming cup of coffee and plopped down in front of my computer. He stood there for a while before stomping off to his room and slamming the door. Can’t pick a fight with when the enemy has decided to go for coffee and a brownie instead.

I have figured out how to add swimming and cycling to my training schedule without cutting my running back so that I won’t die during the triathlon on July 26. I haven’t been at the swimming pool since early March, but I went on Friday and Monday. It was awesome to be back in the water. From October 2013 through March 2014 I taught myself the Total Immersion swimming method and was pleasantly surprised that the new technique had stuck with me over my three month hiatus.

This morning I was listening to a podcast from the Creativepenn.com about branding and building a platform as a writer, and I may have figured out the one blog or two conundrum that has been rolling around in my head for a week or so.

Thus, the clothing dryer of my head has been cleaned out. Coincidentally, I also scrubbed the inside of my dryer that is not inside my head this weekend. Some innocent person, who will not be named, left a pack of  blue gum in his pants pocket

Thanks to all the powers that be who are looking out for me.

Ideas in the Dryer

On good days, the internal status of my head is similar to a rolodex. My attention flips through the roles and responsibilities of my life: Mom, Attorney, Runner, Writer…

Today it is more like a clothing dryer. I reach in, randomly pull things out to attend to, and then restart it.

A few things have been rolling around in my mind over the last few days. First, I signed up for my first triathlon. It is on July 25, 2014, the Spudman in Burley, Idaho. It’s an Olympic distance tri, so the swim is 0.93 miles (1.5k), the bike is 24.8 miles (40k), and the run is 6.2 miles (10k). I’ve been blabbing about breaking into the triathlon world for about a year, and I am finally doing it. Granted this is a little concerning, knowing my personality and personal mantra of Go big or go home. I don’t do things in a small way.  What does that mean? An Ironman is likely to pop up on the horizon is what that means.  Short term this means my butt needs to get back to the swimming pool and soon. My strength training is going to have to be sidelined for the next month until the race so I can work in swimming on Monday and Friday and cycling on Wednesday and then sometime on Saturday.

The second thing rolling around in my head is that one more of my runners has dropped from my relay team. The race is in less than a week. The chance of finding a runner who fits well with my team, has $130 laying around, and can run one of the hardest legs of the race is zilch, nada, zero. Even if it was possible, do I truly want another runner? We have a trailblazer, which is going to be a tight fit with six runners. It would be more comfortable with five runners. The opportunity to run Wasatch Back as an ultrarunner is too hard for me to pass up. I can pick up the extra miles. In fact, I would love to. It would make my total miles for the relay race jump from 20.8 to 36.3 miles.

The third thing is whether I start a second or even a third blog. I go back and forth on this. This blog is dedicated to life as a single mom and ultrarunner. But as you can see, if you follow it or flip through some of my prior posts, my writing life has snuck in through the back door. Other aspects of my life are clinging to the windowsills trying to claw their way in as well. The second blog could be dedicated to my writing life, but then I also like to post about being a mom of a bipolar child. Do I start a blog about that as well? That would take a lot of time. It would be easier for me to post everything on one blog, but then people who follow this blog for the running would be turned off by the writing and bipolar child posts, or would they? Then I get on my soapbox and tell myself, “It’s my freaking blog I can post what I want!”

It gets more complicated when I throw my day job into the mix and want to post something about advocating for child abuse and neglect victims and teens who are charged as adults and sent to prison (another issue I’m passionate about).

What it will ultimately come down to, is what my readers think so, please comment.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this issue? Does anyone know of a theme I could set up my blog to post on different threads and my readers could just click on whatever they are interested in? Or should I just keep it all in one stream?

Flash Fiction Friday: Tuxedo No. 2

The day started out like any other day. The sun rose in the east, and Rupert’s clammy nose snuffled in my ear.

“I’m up, I’m up,” I told him, pushing him away and pulling the blanket over my head.

He took this as an invitation to pounce on my head as if he were a ninja Labradoodle.

“For Christ’s sake!”  I sprang out of bed and glared at his goofy grin and lolling tongue.

Adjusting the boys in the basement, I set out for breakfast in the kitchen. Ice crystals were growing on the tile floor of my backwoods cabin. I thought my skin would adhere to the surface if I took one more step. So, I took off my shirt, dropped it, and used it to scoot my feet across the floor.

Royal Blue must have left the backdoor open when she snuck out this morning. No way I was that drunk last night, was I? I recalled the royal blue dress, obsidian hair, and limber legs. See not that drunk.

It had to be fifteen degrees below zero out there. I glanced around. Ninja dog was smart. He circled and arranged the blanket on the bed with his paw. I reached out and pushed the door closed. As I placed a kettle on the stove, bent to light it, a knock at the backdoor startled me.

“Who in their right mind…”

I shimmied over to the door again and pulled it open. A manila envelope lay on the step. I let out a long sigh.

“You see Rupert. This is what happens when you take a vacation and try to have a little fun.”

Assassins never get a day off.

I slipped the pages from inside the envelope. The kettle whistled. I glanced at the name as I poured the boiling water into the French press. Abigail Mitchel. The rich fullness of the Columbian beans cleared my head. A personalized invitation to a wedding reception was enclosed. Henrik Jackson, my new name, was emblazed in gold lettering.

I set the pages on the table and stared out the window. One set of tire tracks and one pair of footprints marred the surface of the morning’s snow. I knew they were Royal Blue’s prints and tire marks. The Shadow never left prints, just an envelope with a name or cash.

I sipped the black coffee. This should be quick and easy. I dressed in my black tuxedo and jumped into my SUV. Four hours later, I arrived at the reception, invitation in hand.

“Welcome Mr. Jackson. We are pleased you could join us,” said a wrinkled narrow eyed woman at the entrance.

“Wouldn’t miss this for the world,” I said giving her my most dashing smile, which she promptly forgot. I’m plain as far as appearances: five foot eight inches tall, medium build, mouse brown hair, and hazel eyes. Being unremarkable is an asset in my business.

Now, just to find Ms. Mitchell.

Weddings are wonderful. All the tables had name cards. I wove my way through the tables. The bride wouldn’t want clashing personalities next to one another, could lead to hours of vexing conversations.

“Abigail!” shrieked a young blond woman in a pink cotton candy bridesmaid dress as she dashed across the room. Bingo. She collided with the bride and embraced her.

“Abby, I’m so happy for you,” she said in a slurred southern drawl stumbling into the grooms arms.

Perfect, just freaking perfect. 

I tossed back a gin and tonic and sauntered up to the bride and groom.

“You’re a lucky man, I wish you and Abby nothing but happiness,” I said shaking the groom’s hand.  Reaching into my pocket, I took out five one hundred dollar bills, and handed them to him.

As I embraced the stunning blonde haired, emerald-eyed bride, I opened a small pocket in my gloves containing strychnine powder. I grabbed two glasses of champagne from a passing tray handed one to each of them.

Laughing and patting the groom on the back, I took my own glass of champagne, held it up and said, “Forever and always,” and tossed it back. They looked at each other and followed by lead. How could you not drink to that!

Now, I had fifteen minutes to get the hell out of there before the strychnine convulsions began to wreak havoc in the bride.  I ducked into a bedroom on the second floor.

“Who’s is its,” slurred a man. I could see him in the firelight trying to get up from the floor next to the bed. I looked him up and down, cocked my arm back, and let it rip. My fist connected with the side of his head, and he crumbled to the floor.

Who in their right mind chooses cotton candy pink and lime green as their wedding colors? I pulled his tuxedo off and chucked mine into the flames.

Once I was dressed in his tux, I went out on the balcony and peered over the edge.  Gripping the handrail and swinging my leg over, I dropped to the ground. Glancing both ways, I scuttled into the nearby woods. Once I was in the shadows, I began to run.

The dress shoes slipped in the mud. I clung to a tree to catch my breath and balance. Bounding from one foot to the other, I avoided puddles reflecting the moon’s glow. A rock rolled under my foot as I skipped across a creek. I fell to my knees and elbows.

O the main road where I had left SUV, three cars raced passed me. The wind whipped my hair and made my eyes water. I blinked. The world spun. Then I saw only darkness.

The world inched back into focus and my body flopped around on the side of the road like a fish out of water. Slimy mud was smeared on the knees and elbows of Tuxedo No. 2. How in the hell did the poison get into my champagne?

Run to Write, Write to Run

As novel is composed of individual words, running is composed of individual steps.

Writing and running are a beautiful young couple strolling along the beach as the moon glistens in the rolling waves. I’m a honey colored Labrador who comes romping up flipping briny water and sand in every direction.

Persistence and dedication are essential to both endeavors. They are long-term love relationships who don’t care so much if you’re cheating on one with the other. In fact, a threesome is not out of the question.

You cannot give up when you have a bad day, and you will have bad days, it is something you have to accept. Continuous learning is critical. Writers must be readers, and they must study the craft of writing. Creating better works means our words more accurately represent our ideas and imaginings. As runners, we strive to improve our speed, strength, and distance by learning the latest training technique, reading research as it comes out, and continuing to run.

Running and writing open doors, allowing us to explore new worlds and experience new adventures. We don’t always know where our trip will end or what type of obstacles we may encounter, but who cares that is part of the fascination and wonder.

There are beauty and freedom in the structure of a novel and the structure of a training program. When you know the basics, you are free to run, soar, or bob along with the waves. Knowing your goals, where to place plot points or speed work, building character arc and building your miles allows you the freedom to let loose on the journey.

Interesting characters abound in both worlds. You want an unfathomable backstory for a character? Ask an ultrarunner what fuels them at mile eighty. What inspires them to climb 2000 feet in one mile only to tromp through two feet of snow in an alpine meadow? What makes them crawl when they can no longer run or even walk? Why they joyfully subject themselves to the good possibility of dehydration, hallucinations, and trailside vomiting?

Characters are the reason we write. Without them screaming in our heads to get out and have their story told, would any of us sit down for hours and happily pressing buttons on a keyboard while staring at a screen when we could be socializing, enjoying the warmth of the sun on our skin, or chasing our kids, dogs, or turtles.

Both writers and runners love a good challenge. They enjoy pushing themselves to their limit, finding the boundary of their comfort zone and then dashing across to the dark side. It becomes a personal project to figuring out what makes us and others tick. We want to know what is worth living for? And what is worth dying for?

Running is the best time to think and come up with new ideas and workout problems. Running provides extra oxygen and energy, which floods your system while running and increases brain performance. I do my best thinking while I am running. I’ve been struggling with a plot issue in a fantasy book I’m writing and this morning around mile four, it hit me. I’m going to have to restructure, but now I know where my characters were going in the first place. Running is a tool in my writer’s tool chest.

Frankly, you see some strange things when you are out running, which can lead to story ideas.

And if your are going to sit around for hours at a time, worrying about your story, eating chocolate and ice cream, you should probably lace up your running shoes and let the sun melt some of the cushioning off.