Turbo Tigger Time

“Mom, I need to get faster on my feet or Ultimate Frisbee,” Jasper (16) said, lounging on the couch and nudging me with his foot. “How do I do that?”

“Jumping and faster leg turn over,” I said, looking up from the book I was reading. He sighed.

“I hate jumping,” he said.  I made the, that sucks to be you face, and turned my attention back to my book.

“I need someone to do it with me.” He smiled and again nudged me with his foot.  Now, I made the , that sucks to be me face.

Plyometric exercises sprang out of USSR in the 1970s (figures, doesn’t it? USSR turns out some tough athletes). The idea behind plyometric exercises is that running is a series of jumps from one foot to the other. Over a mile a person takes anywhere from 1900 steps (twelve min. mile) to 1100 steps (six min. mile). Your hip, knee, and ankle essentially act like a spring as you land and propel your body up and forward.  Plyometric’s build off of this principle and work to strengthen your muscles and tendons, which allow you to become like Tigger bouncing on his tail. Continue reading

Flash Fiction Challenge: Amarathine Firestorm

This story was written in response to a 1,000 word prompt to write a story based on two sets of randomly drawn words that created a title. The challenge was to then fit the story around the title. My two words were ‘Amaranthine’ and ‘Firestorm.’  This challenge is sponsored by Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds blog.

I had a lot of fun writing this and it was a nice reprieve from the more serious topic of my current book about my bipolar son. I hope you enjoy it.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Sweat tricked down Dedrick’s spine. A few drops clung to the small of her back. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand and coughed. Her chest heaved and lungs burned. The smoke and ash were contaminating the air her body needed. She could taste the wood that lingered in the ash. The fires had been burning for three days. Dedrick knew she had to keep moving. The village was still thirty miles away.

The screams and images of the last village she passed through flared up in her mind. Her stomach convulsed. She had reached the thatched huts after the flames had begun to eat them. A woman had run from one of the huts, her face blackened by ash and smeared with tears. The woman clutched a bundle to her breast. She tripped as she ran toward Dedrick. Dedrick dashed forward reaching out her arms. She bent lower as the woman continued to fall. Dedrick’s center of gravity passed the point of no return, and she launched herself forward. Her feet left the ground, and she flopped onto the sunbaked dirt. Her four silver daggers pressed against her ribs. The woman’s bundle rolled into Dedrick’s waiting arms. The blanket unwound as the bundle came to a stop. Dedrick’s stomach lurched with smell of scorched flesh and the sticky wetness against her upturned face.

The child’s skin was a violent red, blistered, and peeling away from the underlying tissue. Dedrick fought the urge to fling the charred corpse away from her. She gently wrapped the bundle in the blanket and placed it back into its mother’s arms. Her eyes skittered across the devastation before her. Charcoal, embers, and crumpled bodies littered the streets. The roaring flames and cries of the dying blotted out all the other noise, including the voice in her head urging her on. Time froze while Dedrick had stood there, paralyzed by the destruction laid before her. She could do nothing.

The day before, Dedrick had kneeled at her king’s side. His eyes sprung open. Blood bubbled from his lips as he spoke, “Dedrick! You must reach the Queen. Warn her Dedrick.”

His commanding voice was failing him. He coughed. Flecks of blood splattered on Dedrick’s face.

“The mages.” His voice was a fading whisper as his last breath left his body.

The far off mages had seen her crouched at his side. The Black Robes’ magic fire arched between their outstretched hands, and they directed it, in a cascade, toward the fallen king. She scrambled to remove his crown, ring, and sword as drops of fire rain singed her cropped dark hair. Clinging to the items, as if they were her soul, she began to run.

A tree crashed to the ground on her right showering her with hot embers and bringing her back to the present. Dedrick shook her head to clear the smoke and began to run again. Hot ash swirled around her face. Leaves and branches fell to the ground spreading the mage fire farther than she had thought possible.

The granite-chiseled stone of the castle’s battlements came into view above the deep green of the forest’s canopy. Of course, the queen would see the fire coming, but the river would stop it from reaching the castle. It wasn’t the fire that the king had wanted the queen warned of. It was the mages. The river would not stop the Black Robes.

She dashed into the small village of Tammirack. She called out to the villagers, but her voice came as a crackling whisper. She ran from door to door pounding with her fist.

“Get out! Run!” she said. The people peered out of their doorways and saw the firestorm moving toward their homes. Their eyes became wide with fear. They looked back at Dedrick, and recognition flashed across their faces.

“You’re the king’s messenger,” they said, in quavering voices.

“The king is dead, there’s an army behind that firestorm. Get your families out. Run! Don’t look back,” Dedrick said.

It was all she could do. She set her feet in motion once again. This was the final village before the river. She hoped that at least some would escape. She didn’t know how they would manage it, but she had to believe they would survive. It’s what drove her on. Dedrick was born among the Amaranth tribe. The king’s messengers were selected from her tribe because of their unfading endurance and everlasting courage.

Her feet barely skimmed the earth’s surface as she passed trees, jumped logs, and crashed through streams. Her feet molded to the earth with each step. Branches scratched at her bare legs and arms. Only a few more miles, her lungs seared with effort, and her legs were heavy like iron. Vomit rose in her throat as she continued to push her body past what it believed it could accomplish.

The words of her dead father entered her mind, “We run until we deliver our message or we die empty of all that we are.” It was the Amaranthine way. She plunged into the shallows of the river unwilling to slow down before reaching its shore. The ferryman drew his sword and swung it, wild with surprise. His fear morphed into a clipped laugh, and he grabbed Dedrick’s collapsing form.

“Not yet Dedrick, you must reach the queen,” he said, splashing icy river water onto her face and mouth. She nodded and pushed herself onto her feet. She rested against him, as she boarded the ferry, and the six burly ferrymen began to tug the guide ropes.

The queen stood ready. She had known the mages would come for her. They’d been searching for her since she had escaped as a child. An abomination, the Black Robes had called her. All women born with magic were destroyed. She called upon her forbidden magic now. The waters of the river rose. A rolling crackling echoed as the water crystalized into glacial blue ice.

Suffer Well

rhinoToday was speed training. My miles went up this week, which means I had to throw in not just one more 800 repeat, but two. Joy of joy’s! Thankfully, my exercise induces rhinitis decided not to rear its horned head today.

I was tired when my alarm went off at 5:00 am. I stayed up late talking with my 16 year old until 11:30 last night. I knew the whole time we were talking that it would make it hard to get up and moving in the morning, but he is such an insightful kid. I enjoy hearing about what goes on inside his head. So, I listened.

The morning was crisp and cool. I ran over to the high school track and finished the first five 800’s. On the sixth one, my legs started to burn during the second loop. On the seventh one, my legs were burning on the first loop. It was well worth the burn, and it would have been worth the rhino too had it shown up.  Having taken a two-year hiatus from speed training, I have actually enjoyed getting back into it. Sure, I don’t like it when I’m headed over to the track telling myself how much it is going to suck, how my lungs and legs are going to burn. I try to bargain with myself and negotiate my way out of it.

I have a quote on my office wall that reads, “If you ran without sacrifice, congratulations you just jogged. Running hurts. It always has. Wooly mammoths didn’t just roll over onto a plate and serve themselves up to prehistoric man with fries and a shake. They had to be caught—and running down a woolly mammoth was a bitch. Guess what? Running is still a bitch. But one with purpose. It teaches us that good things do not come easy. It teaches us that we are capable of more than we think. It teaches us that hard work will be rewarded, and laziness will be punished. Don’t expect to learn those life lessons from running’s shiftless stepchild: jogging. Next time you suffer on the roads or trails, suffer proudly. It means you run like an animal.”

No one wants to suffer. No one wants to watch those we love suffer. But suffering is the greatest teacher. It is a tender teacher because things could be so much worse in every case, but it only gets bad enough to make the change happen that needs to happen. No one gets off this planet without suffering. No one. Suffering levels the inequities between us all. I don’t care how high your mountain of greatness is, suffering makes it obsolete. You find yourself staring eye to eye with those you probably looked down upon during another part of your life. Suffering bonds us all as participants in this great human race.

All life-altering decisions contain suffering on both sides. It doesn’t matter if you make the right decision or the wrong one you are likely to go through a period of emotional or physical pain. And if you don’t learn what you needed from it, you’re going to do it again and again.

I watched a video on the Barkley Marathons, which is a wicked 100-mile or so race without a defined course and 65,000 feet elevation gain. You get an incredible sixty hours to finish the race. In thirty years, only 14 people have finished the thing. On the video, the race director shakes the hand of a participate who has dropped out after finishing two of the five loops and he says, “I only regret you could not have suffered longer.” I thought it was a fitting statement (Here’s the video if you want to watch it http://vimeo.com/97270099).

Suffering is an opportunity to get stronger, to face your fears, to reach out to others, and to learn about who you truly are and what makes you tick. So suffer well.

Keeping It Up

I think the number one question I get about my running is how do you keep it up? Whether they mean the distance 100 miles or the daily commitment to training doesn’t matter the answer is the same. Motivation.  A person’s ability to achieve any long-term goal or change in lifestyle is determined by their level of sustained motivation.

Will power may get you a short-term goal, but it won’t help you much when it comes to long-term goals or long-term lifestyle changes. The bottom line is you have to find a reason to do keep going day after day. Everyone’s motivation is different. Some people are motivated by outward appearance, love, sex, money, status, power, benefit another, fear, attention, happiness, or some other internal benefit you receive from participating in an activity.

I have a close friend who encourages me to run all types of races from the extremely difficult to the insanely challenging. He will tell me how he is going to get into shape and be ready to race alongside me or at least do the fifty mile. He goes full boar into training and burns out his flame every single time.  I have racked my brain about different ways to help motivate him, but I know deep down it is up to him to find his motivation. When he does, I’ll be there to support him through his first marathon, 50 miler, and 100 miler.

I talk about motivation quite a bit because it’s what gets us through the tough days. It gets you out of bed when it is below zero or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people have to begin with an external motivation when taking on a new adventure. In the beginning, the excitement of starting something new is enough to get you going for maybe a week. After that, you may need to move to something tangible. Small tangible goals over short intervals will likely sustain you until you can reach that point where you find internal motivation.

I run because I love the way I feel when I do. I go to work because I feel like I make a difference. I parent with tenacious compassion because my children learn best that way. I write because I want to encourage and support others on their path to greatness.

If an activity or goal never becomes desirable just because of what’s inside of you, you will not be able to sustain it. This is an issue with your own perception of self. The value you place upon yourself as a person or member of society can undermine or strengthen your motivation.  If your goals never reach the point of

I’m doing (insert goal here) because I am worth it.

I’m doing (insert lifestyle change here) because I deserve to be (insert desire result here).

You should probably reflect on how you see yourself.

After all, “Person is a person, no matter how small,” Dr. Seuss Horton Hears a Who.