Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome 2015!

Here's hoping that 2015 will be a better year, running-wise, than 2014!

I was really off my game in a big way in 2014. I only did two marathons, both squeezed in at the end of the year, and I had big chunks of the year where I didn't work out at all for a week or two weeks at a time. I also ate like a Midwesterner pretty much all year long. Surprisingly, that didn't make me obese (not quite), not even the fattest I've ever been (though close). But it does make me feel lumpy and not myself. Although, this time of year, who can tell underneath all the layers? All Michiganders are fat in winter, whether they really are or not. Anyway, starting at Thanksgiving and continuing steadily all the way through Christmas, I ate so much garbage -- so many empty carbs, sugar by the pound -- that I actually don't even want to eat garbage anymore. During my trip home from California, I got a salad in the L.A. airport. It was one of the best salads I've ever had, all green and fresh. I fell on that thing like I hadn't eaten a week, and gorged myself on lettuce and didn't even want anything else. My body was like, THANK YOU!! (And I paused to think how sad it was that an airport salad in L.A. was better than any salad I've had in Michigan the whole time I've been here, not counting the amazing ones the kitchen at Leader serves. Salads in Michigan seem to be an afterthought; it's like wilted iceberg lettuce is nothing for a restaurant to be ashamed of.)

I am already registered for two marathons, Nashville and Deadwood, so that is an improvement over last year when I didn't sign up for anything but the Corktown 5k all year long. I'm still planning on the back-to-back Connecticut/Rhode Island in October, but that's a little too far out to sign up for now. I really should squeeze in a fifth marathon somewhere. If I want to finish my 50 states goal doing four marathons a year, I won't be done until 2020. I think five a year is doable both financially and training-wise, but we'll see.

I miss Tucson more and more all the time. I have always thought about Tucson every day, but often it feels like I think about it all day every day. The way I miss Tucson is like waves on the beach -- the feeling of missing Tucson rolls in, and then rolls out briefly, and then comes right back in again. I miss things I thought I would never miss, like running up the 36th Street hill by my house (a quarter-mile long, always a headwind) and running at Reid Park (which I thought I was thoroughly sick of a few years ago), and even that feeling in July and August and September like I was running through a blast furnace. I remember when I lived in Tucson I had random moments all the time when I would be stopped at a traffic light and look up at the mountains and feel certain that I would never leave and nothing that would require me to leave was ever even a possibility to be considered. I remember how I always felt just a little not-quite-right leaving the city limits for any reason, and the profound feeling of relief when I got back home afterwards. Tucson was the place I recognized as home the first time I saw it (in my headlights at 3 a.m. in January of 1997) and spent much of my adult life trying to get to. Without the running group in Tucson, I would never have tried trail running, let alone done the Pikes Peak Marathon twice or any ultras at all. And I certainly never would have qualified for Boston. I can't tell you how much I think about WOG and ComeRun and wish I was able to go on the runs I hear about on Facebook and on the list.

Okay, but even as much as I miss Tucson, I don't hate Michigan. Michigan is... all right. I don't dislike it as much as I disliked New York and New Jersey. People are nice here and it's cheap to live and I have everything I need. And the other big thing is that, the way I miss Tucson now? I missed this job -- being a guide dog instructor -- when I was living in Tucson EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. It was exactly the same feeling of waves coming in on a beach -- I thought about it constantly and it never let up. Eventually it was strong enough to pull me out of Tucson. I wonder if some day the missing-Tucson will be strong enough to pull me back? The feeling of rightness I had in Tucson every time I walked in the cactus forest or looked up at a sunset or looked down at the city from up in the Catalinas is the same feeling I get almost every day in the middle of some random thing like correcting a work error a dog made or explaining to a client how to fix a situation or talking to a puppy raiser about how their dog is doing in training. I just don't think that feeling is going to let up soon, or ever. I don't think life is going to let me leave Michigan for a while, possibly not ever. Anyway, there is nothing in Tucson that I can do that wouldn't leave me with that soul-sucking feeling I had at the V.A., like I was wasting my life and not doing what I was supposed to be doing. (And the V.A. was a job that I LIKED; I mean, helping blind veterans? What's not to like about that? I liked my coworkers and the government treated me well. It just wasn't the right thing for me to do, because training guide dogs is the right thing for me to do.)

Anyway, I don't even know what the point of all this is. Maybe that in a roundabout way I was trying to blame my lack of commitment to running on missing Tucson? Who knows. I am going to do better this year and get back on track. I am lucky that I have a super-gym right across the road from work that I love going to, even after a year and a half (the eucalyptus steam room; the hot tub; the beautiful people; the unlimited towels!), and as much as I miss the running community in Tucson, I know that the one out here is top-notch, too. I know this from the limited number of times I've run with those people -- both the Rochester running group and the triathlon group -- they are great and I fit in with them fine. I think I just need to make more of an effort to adjust my schedule so that I can run with them more often. Maybe I just need to stop bitching about how I miss mountains and focus on enjoying running by rivers and lakes, and make myself as proud of being tough in the cold as I was proud of being tough in the heat. (Side note: I know the weather was probably the biggest thing I dreaded when I came to Michigan, but surprisingly it is not that much of a factor in missing Tucson as I thought it would be, and not just because we've had a mild December. I have come to love Michigan Grey, which is perfect writing weather -- I even found myself wishing it wasn't quite so relentlessly sunny when I was in California for Christmas -- and I even enjoy the crisp bite of cold winter air when I step outside, and for some reason it makes me happy to see snow falling. I would still choose heat over cold if I had the choice, but the cold has its own severe beauty that I never really got the chance to appreciate before coming here. And I work outside; this is not a theoretical appreciation of cold but an actual appreciation based on experience.)

So, here's to a 2015 with a little bit more focus on running and a little bit more appreciation of the running resources Michigan has to offer. Happy New Year, everyone!