25 February 2011

Getting My Mojo Back

I'm back at the gym, cross-training, strength training. There's been long runs - a 50miler, a 50k. Core workouts. And of course, you know, the whole training your mind thing.

It's hard to decide what races to do. I think I raced too much last year, but I had a blast. Or maybe I didn't race enough? The end of the year I was burnt out. I think I'm done with marathons. I'm just not fast enough anymore. I had hoped to achieve a 3:15 marathon, but don't know if I'll ever get there.

I love fire roads. I'm a strong runner on them. Uphills, I'm okay at. Not great. Downhills, I'm working on that. I'm not the best technical runner. I'm great at eating at aid stations, enjoying shooting stars, singing while running, hallucinating, drinking coconut water, running in costume. So which races should I do?

Very tentative schedule, full of ideas and way too many/not enough races:

  • Caumsett 50k (as a training run, and to see the fab Ray K) - March 6
  • Umstead 100 Miler - April 2nd
  • Muddy Marathon (maybe...not sure if I like the idea of knowing I'll probably DNF...) - April 30
  • North Face Challenge Bear Mtn 50 Miler (though super technical, it kicks my butt hardcore, but it's oh-so-close) - May7 or 8
  • 48 Hour Race at 3 Days at the Fairgrounds (I'd like to test myself on 48 hours but at the same time, I don't want to kick my butt hardcore and make myself drained for more beautiful trail races...) - May 13-15
  • Mayapple 100k (A nice course when there's no snow/ice/super cold puddles present) - May 21st
  • Pineland Farms 50 Miler (Because Tony says it rocks, though should I get tickets to Flipside, that might conflict.) - May 29
  • Peaks 50 Miler (Hello birthday run!) - June 4 (I did it on my first day of being 31, and I can do it on my last day of being 31!)
  • Ultimate XC 50k - Quebec (Because the ultimate XC was my first ultra, and I enjoy getting my butt kicked) - June 18
  • Vermont 100 (Probably not but I ADORE this race so can we leave it on here so I can pretend?) - July 16-17
  • Burning River 100 Miler (Because Ray K wants me to do it with him) - July 30-31
  • Burning Man 50k (Because I'm the RD and this is gonna be the funnest race again!!!!) - August 31
  • Rio del Lago 100 Miler (Because Paige and Christian and many others say it rocks, and it sounds gorgeous!)
  • Vermont 50 Miler (Sept 25) or Virgil Crest 50 Miler (Sept 24)
  • What else???? I want to do another 100k or 50miler or 100 miler in October or more likely November. Thoughts?
  • Fuego y Agua 100k, Ometepe, Nicaragua (Hiking it was tough enough so you better believe I wanna run an ultra there!) - February 2012

A bit much, perhaps, but I do little in moderation...

So suggestions, tips, races to do, offers to crew/pace, anything?

Ode to @Superchunkband

I've loved Superchunk as far back as I can remember; like much music I adored/adore, I possibly learned about it from the long-defunct Plume zine, written by the fantastic, friendly and knowledgeable Shelia Burgel (who gave me hope that I would not be stuck in horrid middle-class whitebread suburbia where football players ruled, green lawns gave you cancer but looked nice, and I would always be "the freak").

I first saw them at Lollapalooza in high school. Awed by how hard Laura was rocking, how amazing Mac's voice was, I jumped along in the middle of the moshpit. (It was the nineties, okay?) I've seen them several times throughout the years, but last time I saw them at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in September, I've never felt happier at a concert. They played most of my favourite songs. I've had my heart-broken to songs of theirs, memories associated with so many songs. I've never been to Detroit, but "Detroit Has a Skyline Too" was on a mixtape made for me - so of course there's meaning. (Seriously, mixtapes had so much meaning. I do miss the zine/mixtape days.)

And best of all, a line of theirs has become one of my running mantras:
Do not pass me - just to slow down - I can move right through you.

Side note: If anyone knows how to get tickets for the sold-out Radio City Music Hall show, let me know!


I've done some rather stupid things in my life: finish an ultramarathon in a lightning storm; dance for hours on end in skinny heels on stage at a club; think flip flops were an acceptable form of shoes to wear excessively; have my friend highlight my hair in college. But I think one of the stupidest things I've done is running the Febapple 50k.

It was just a training run. I could have done a training run in Central Park (but really, yawn, how many times can I run in that crowded urban oasis? And hello, concrete, you are not my friend and not what I race on!), but this would've been more fun. I got to see friends. I met some rad new women who I ran with. I was able to discover delicious combinations, like gummy bears and potato chips (heavenly!). And then I would never have pushed my limits to get my worst 50k time ever, but you know, it was kinda fun.

But the aftermath...during the race it was ridiculously cold, and my toes still haven't warmed up. They feel numb. I've soaked, massaged them, visited my doctor who massage, did reflexology, and examined them. They're messed up. They'll be fine eventually but now...now it feels weird. Like pins and needles all the time. Like I am always kinda numb. Like I've been wearing high heels while walking all over all day - but without the pain, just the numbness. It's awful.

The problem was the snow and the cold and especially, all the wet puddles I continuously stepped in. I stepped in a puddle in the first few minutes, and didn't even take off my wet shoes right away post-race. I estimate wearing the wet sneakers for at least 11 hours.

I should've quit, but I don't know how.

My doctor warned me I'll have increase sensitivity to cold, and I have to be extra careful in the future or I'll get frostbite again. It's a fairly mild case (no toes will be lost, though we can't guarantee toenails, but of course, that's another story!). It's a journey to good health always, which would be easier if I wasn't kicking my butt all the time with these crazy runs - but then what would be the point of life if it was easy?

I'm off to soak my foot in Chinese herbs with a scent I loathe - foot stew!

24 February 2011


"When there's the apocalypse, I need someone who's going to be reloading while I'm shooting."

--Nelson, on our run this yesterday (He also mentioned being an ultrarunner was kinda necessary. Good thing G is an ultrarunner and I'm sure she'd be good at reloading)

N and I talk about everything - about love and our dreams and how to help our friends and how to help ourselves and races. Today, after I left him, I felt like I was flying, running faster and faster and faster through the streets, past sleepy-eyed hipsters and squealing buses and rushing commuters, ignoring the numbness in my toes, pushing myself past where I've been stuck, that sloggy, slow, asthmatic aura that has been oppressing me lately. It felt amazing. I ran beyond when I had time to. I ran beyond myself, and found myself. But it's always like that.

Note: an excellent drink called Apocalypse Shot I had on Little Corn Island involved 3/4 Flor de Cana rum, 1/4 Kahlua. I wouldn't mind one now.

20 February 2011

Back in the Day....

It seems like it's a good time to reflect backwards. I'm now in touch with one of my besties ever who was my partner in crime at all the raves we used to take over with our wings, glitter, running around in track flats and mini-skirts, livening things up. Then on Friday, I ran into Odi on the street, jungle DJ extraordinaire, who lives a block from me, when moving furniture into my house (and dropped the secretary due to distractions with my conversation, kinda messing it a little, oh well, it was just my great-grandma's and all...). And Cindy posting Josh Wink on my wall. I want to get a tape deck, find all my tapes at my parents (God, Paulina Taylor, Scott Henry, DJ Sy, Charles Feelgood, so many other names that probably don't even exist anymore...)

Back in the day...

Back in the day when DJs played records.

Back in the day when miniskirts with platform sneakers danced next to mouthy drag queens.

Back in the day when everyone knew who Peter Gaiten was, and that The Tunnel and The Bank referred to clubs, not a way to get to Jersey or a financial institution.

Back in the day when everyone wasn't futzing around with their stupid phones and was instead interacting.

Back in the day when there were dance-offs.

Back in the day when our whole lives were ahead of us, and anything was possible, and of course we were going to change the world.

Back in the day when hugs and candy and kisses were exchanged freely.

Back in the day when we didn't know any better.

Febapple 50k

Why do I torture myself to the point of delirium, tears, and pain? Well, it's fun...sometimes.

I've run the course of the Febapple 50k before (South Mountain Reservation 100k, Mayapple 50k), and enjoyed it. This time was a completely different animal; the course was completely covered in snow, ice, extremely cold puddles, mud. It was a miserable, tough, life-affirming place to run.

We started at 7a.m., and the trail was immediately treacherous. Lots of ice, snow. Peter and I had drilled screws in our trail sneakers the night before so we def had more traction, but it was rather slippery. I tried to avoid the ice (and at one point, was crawling on my knees after the woman in front of me fell - and later told me she thinks she broke her wrist, but was still running because, you know, you don't need your hand to run - as she pointed out, and I admit I would have done the same thing!). By avoiding the ice, I ended up discovering some lovely puddles - it looked like leaves but really was melted snow aka stream bed. Horribly cold! My feet were soaked about five minutes in.

My right hamstring had been sore all week, and I had skipped two runs to let it rest - in the beginning, it was really sore on all the uphills, so I took it easy. However, it warmed up by mile 6 and was nothing to worry about.

The ice scared me. I took it easy, ran with a few people.

A bunch of us got off course after the first aid station and did this big extra loop. We couldn't figure out what we did exactly, and ended up lost. Mishka and a bunch of others decided to run back to the aid station, while I put my trust in two girls, Melanie and Jessamyn, who I ended up running with the rest of the race.

We were all elated to have found our way back to the start, and at mile 10ish, were all feeling good. Food! Pretzels! M&Ms! Strawberries! Heavenly!

We took off again, noticing that a bunch of folks were dropping out. It was tough - so much tougher than without snow (because normally, it's not an easy course, but the snow/ice/puddles/mud made it just ridiculous!).

The second loop wasn't as bad - a lot less ice and wet puddles and a lot more runnable portions. Pretty fields, too. And the aid station - I discovered a combination of potato chips and gummy bears in your mouth at the same time was pure heaven. Mishka understands - he discovered gummy bears, goldfish crackers, and jelly belly jelly beans. Mmmm the scary running snacks we devour with pure hunger and passion!

The third loop started out good - a lot of the snow had melted, so it was heaps easier. But there was a lot more water, and it was a lot colder. And we were tired and slower, thus, feeling the cold more as our bodies weren't working as hard. I began having a meltdown I mostly hid, trying not to cry, as I couldn't feel my feet and everything, especially my lower shins. Were my feet ice blocks? I was delirious, I wasn't consuming enough calories (I was too cold to take off my gloves and initiate the fumbling, difficult process of locating, opening, and eating food.), and was also seriously dehydrated. I was becoming delirious. I couldn't see this right, my mind was cloudy and all over the place, I was tripping on my own two ice block feet. I felt like I was on drugs or drunk or something, on something that hadn't yet been discovered. It was a little scary. I knew I needed to eat, drink, but all I wanted to do was finish, and cry until then.

Melanie and Jessamyn helped me; they were struggling too. Sometimes I wanted to speed up, other times I wanted to crash. We ended up talking quite a bit, mostly about running, but also about our first kiss (the convo topic I pull out during ultras when desperately need to distract myself).

It was hard to see the bright light of why I was doing this; it was cold and my feet were numb (Still are numb, in fact.) and my shins hurt and was this increasing my mileage too much and was I going to hurt myself?

But wow, a week after running 50miles, after taking things a little too easy for a little too long, and I'm finishing a 50k in snow, ice, wet puddles, and cold (four things I loathe) - well, I impress myself. That's more than just a little hardcore!

Now if only I could get feeling back in my toes, and my shins stopped screaming with each step, I'd be ecstatic!

"Why do you do that to yourself?"

That's the question that my mom and many others often ask me after my ultras - why?

There's heaps of fun, great people you meet, and c'mon, admit it, it's kinda cool to be eating M&Ms and running through a stream at the same time. And that runner's high - it's like nothing else. If you haven't ever experienced it, it's impossible to describe, but it's kind of like that amazing free feeling you have after you have a really good orgasm. (Not the orgasm itself, but after, that ahhhhhhhhhh....) I also feel moments of absolute complete bliss, 100% happiness, incredible freedom. I do love to run. I love the trails, I love the ultras, I love the community, I love the calories burnt (and the food eaten after), I love the "war" stories, I love the joking, I love how you can be gross (Member of your attracted sex running next to you? Tell him about having GI distress at your last 100 and he's likely to be impressed you finished instead of disgusted.), I love how everyone helps each other, I love how I get to see all these cool places I never would otherwise see. It's pretty amazing. I love how I learn about so many new things, about people and life and the world. I learn about running and my heart and my spirit. I explore myself, I expand myself, I find myself.

But yesterday's race - why did I do it? I love Rick, who directs the NJ Trail Series with his friendly wife, Jennifer (and their food spreads are amazing for ultras - I told them I want them catering my wedding should I ever get married - M&Ms with salty chips for all!). South Mountain Reservation was nice and close to the city. Mishka and Peter were doing it - some more bonding with my fave ultra newbies! I've run the course before and figured it would be fun.

It wasn't. In a way, it was, but the cold, the pain. And now -my toes are still numb a day later, despite hot showers, warm socks, and dancing in my cute warm snow boots until 3a.m. There is an excruciating pain in my shins that kept me from running and cross-training today. I can't sit on the floor easily without needing help up, and my walking is laughable. I'm eating nonstop - which sounds fun, but oh, all those dishes to wash! I'm SO tired - my mind and my body.

Yesterday's race was SO difficult. It was incredibly hard to run in the snow, in the wet puddles, in the mud. Up and down, up and down, wet foot, argh. My shins were hurting, my feet were ice blocks. They still feel numb - what is wrong with me?

But I met two really rad women while running - and we had a lot of fun running together. I got to see the enjoyment on Peter's face - who heard about the race through me (and my nudging of trying to get him into ultras). It was beautiful - absolutely gorgeous snowscape. I felt alive.

And as Melanie kept saying, "We are so badass because we're finishing.''

And finish we did, and badass we are.

17 February 2011

Dances with Dirt 50 Miler (2011)

Dances with Dirt would be a fun race to test my limits, push me, see what I was capable of. After two months of backpacking (Hostelling, drinking, dancing, beaches, new friends, that sort of thing, not climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or anything, though I did do some volcano hiking!) around Central America, going through a heart-wrenching breakup that made running difficult at times, I figured I’d see what I was capable of. Ouch.
The course is a fast one; a five mile loop, a twenty mile loop, repeat that twenty mile loop, another five mile loop. This year, there was no water on the course (compared to the rivers of trails last year), and it was mainly flat. A few ups and downs, some running in sand (one step forward, half a step back), and a river crossing. (Me to the photographer: “Are you here for my Glamour Shots?” I got my feet wet, laughed, there was nothing else to do really!) I saw a snake, three armadillos (one dead, two alive), and I screamed at each sighting. I’m a New York woman, and we don’t take kindly to wildlife. It did up the adrenalin in my system, and you can bet I ran a lot faster.
I started the race feeling strong. The first fifteen miles I felt great; I suppose one always does in a 50miler. I met lots of great new people, including a federal agent who I chatted with about Central America. I ran with the guy who won the race last year. I ran with other interesting people; I ran alone. Miles 1-26 flew by.
Though that’s why so many people do marathons…
Because once you pass the marathon mark, that’s where the real pain kicks in (though I do know how marathons can hurt).
I essentially ran alone the rest of the race. A small race means a smaller field, which means less people to run with. I tried not to feel lonely; I enjoyed the scenery. My hamstrings were in excruciating pain, which is weird, something I’ve never dealt with before. My shins felt sore. My head, well, it was dizzy. I was hallucinating and not seeing things clearly the latter half of the race. Nothing was satisfying me; not gels, not Powergel Blasts (my fave), not pretzels with creamless Oreos (I couldn’t deal with the creams so I scraped it off before shoving the naked cookies in my mouth with the pretzel rods). I craved homemade cookies, real M&Ms, real food. I craved sanity. I was not taking my endurolytes, and it clearly showed.
The pain grew on. The last five miles flew by, but dragged. Relay races passed me. My asthma held me back; I had to stop and walk, puffing on my inhaler, crying, wishing for a regular breath.

I finished. 6th woman overall, 3rd woman in my age group, a slightly slower time than last year. I tried not to be too disappointed, but there were tears of frustration in my eyes. I collected my age group mug prize, and limped to the rental car to experience the arduous, painful drive of 4 hors to my grandmother’s house on the East Coast…where I went straight to a Valentine’s dance with her, in my Odwalla jacket, scrapes, mud, and sweat. The old people at my grandma’s retirement community were amused, and amazed, and perplexed. I guess I still am, but mostly, I impress myself when I push myself past my limits.
My hamstrings are still sore, and I’m realizing I need to up the miles. I will. And Umstead, you beast, I’m getting ready for you.

11 February 2011

Dancing with Dirt Tomorrow

Fifty miles. Dances with Dirt. A race with a lot of "stupid." Count me in. I'm looking forward to pushing myself beyond my limits, eating M&Ms (Honestly, during ultras is the only time I can ever eat them now.), getting covered with mud and scratches, making new amazing friends, sharing my life story with people I'm just running with for a few miles, running through muck, water, running past alligators, running from wild boars, getting lost.

I have to get some coconut water today - almost forgot. I forgot how to race. This race will be a good kick-in-the-butt reminder of how I need to prep for Umstead. I've got my pretzels in the bag. I haven't been training like I like to, so this race will be a bit of a struggle.

But I will finish. I'm going to dig deep, so deep you didn't even know I went that deep. I'm going to dig in, past the pain and all that crap, push that out, and push forward to running love and heaven and see what I can do. I can do a lot. I will do a lot.

I'm running to save my heart.

Breathe, and Smile

My first day in San Marcos de la Laguna, Guatemala, was filled with tears, but so much enlightenment. I went to a spiritual talk with Bill. "What are you talking about?" I asked when he mentioned he was doing a teaching.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Whatever I feel like. I don't like picking a topic because then I'll be stuck with it."

And we weren't stuck with a topic. We discussed love and pain and death and giving yourself and how to spread positive energy and holding onto negativity and positivity and what to do with your energy. I can't really explain it very well because it is an experience, not something you can write about.

But one thing that did happen was I found my unhappiness suffocating, oppressive. We started to do an exercise, "Breathe and smile..." I found I couldn't smile. We were told to search for something that could make us smile if we couldn't...

Though I found the exercise impossible (tears were commonplace for me then), I searched in my memory...I remembered riding my bike across the playa at Burning Man, top speed, with total joy...doing the triathlon at Burning Man...slip and slide at Burning Man...climbing that crazy slide at BM...winning the 50k at BM...so many beautiful memories in that one place. But I needed to not think of that...

And a few other memories popped into my head. Like driving to Florida, pulling my hair into pigtails, too much lipsticks, drive faster, I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee from all the corporate stiff constrants. And that birthday a few years ago, where I said, "Oh, I'll just run down the beach," and V watched me run, my promised run of ten or twenty minutes turning into an hour and a half in my teeny tiny Brazilian bikini on my birthday...

And those beautiful memories...those are what will sustain me when things suck. When a healer was trying to help me with my hand, and all I could feel was PAIN, I clung to those memories, to thinking of how amazing I felt, so free, running up the sand dunes, running past the lifeguards with my big smile and not much else -- and my true self.

Missing Papa

His pink sweater still hangs on the back of the chair in the dining room. I still miss my Papa more than ever. Last year at this time was the last time I had seen him...

Anytime I hear a variation of his name, "Charles" or "Russ," I get a lump in my throat after I look for him and realize he's not here.

I know he'd be so proud of me, interested in my last trip, asking me questions, worrying about me a little. I know he'd say, "Running fifty bloody miles? You're crazy." But I know he'd give me another sloppy kiss on the cheek and a hug.

Times makes it better, but in a way, it hurts more, because they're further from you.

09 February 2011

My Trip, In Runs

So it was impossible to keep up with my regular running schedule while backpacking across Central America...especially with a breakup that frequently brought me crying on me knees while running, crazy travel days, amazing beaches, and better things to do...but I was able to get in solid regular running...

I didn’t run as much as I should have. I ran almost daily, but my long runs were few in far between. Excuses included: getting my heart broken so running was difficult; staying in places not conducive to long runs; the beach sounded more fun than running for eight hours; not enough time.

15th: 1:15:18 (Panama City, hot along the water, decent pace)
16th: 1:00:28 (Bocas del Toro, legs felt tired, 3x speedbursts)
17th: 1:34:07 (Bocas del Toro, legs, chafing, thirsty, beach!)
                PM Run: 18:07 (with Chris)
18th: 47:22 (Bocas del Toro, with Chris, we didn’t have enough time before snorkeling to do more)
19th: 59:13 (Bocas del Toro, with Jarrett, on beach)
20th: 1:01:00 (Bocas del Toro)
21st: 1:01:08 (Bocas del Toro)      
                PM: 1:12:18 (Bocas del Toro, on beach, love it!)
22nd: 1:00:56 (Bocas del Toro)
                PM: 1:02:28 (Bocas del Toro, fartlek)
23rd: 1:01:08 (Bocas del Toro, with Rio)
24th: 1:02:09 (Bocas del Toro)
25th: 2:07:15 (Bocas del Toro, ran all the way to Bluff!)
27th: 1:44:19 (Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, on the beach!)
28th: 1:25:43 (Santa Teresa, hills)
                PM: 51:58 (Santa Teresa, beach sunset, ahhh!)
29th: 1:44:23 (Santa Teresa, beach with a Tico I met)                               
                PM: 59:55 (sunset barefoot beach running)
31st: 1:22:17 (Leon, Nicaragua, got lost)

1st:  4:28:30 (Leon, awful chafing, low 90s, sunny)
2nd: 2:32:14 (Leon)
3rd: 58:20 (Leon)
5th: 2:10:47 (Little Corn Island)
7th: 1:31:09 (Little Corn)
8th: 1:12:28 (Little Corn, ankle hurts)
9th: 31:03 (Little Corn, ankle hurts)
10th, 11th: Time off for ankle recovery and travel days
12th: 1:00:23 (Granada, ankle mostly okay)
13th: 1:01:26 (Granada, slow)
14th: 1:11:04 (Ometepe, trails, bushwhacking, yay!)
15th: 22:44 (Ometepe, had to stop because chased by wild dogs)
16th: 1:01:01 (San Juan del Sur, hills, beach inc barefoot running)
17th:  1:05:56 (San Juan del Sur, barefoot each running)
19th: 1:33:48 (Xela, Guatemala)
20th: Climbed a volcano instead of ran, so hard!
21st: 1:13:21 (Xela – with Luis, a Guatemalan I met on the street)
22nd: 1:12:52 (Xela, with Luis again)
                PM: 1:20:44 (Panajachel, hills!)
23rd: 1:14:29 (Panajachel)
24th: 1:16:42 (San Jorge, hills)
                PM: 1:05:09 (San Marcos, hills)
25th: 1:09:39 (San Marcos, hills)
                PM: 48:00 (San Marcos, hills)
26th: 1:13:43 (San Marcos, hills)
27th: 1:13:43 (San Marcos, hills)
28th: 1:22:34 (San Marcos, hills)
29th: 1:01:05 (San Marcos, chased by a weird local)
30th: Tikal
31st: 2:04:49 (Bullet Tree Falls, Belize, part with Rio)

1st: 1:06:02 (Bullet Tree Falls, Belize)
2nd: 3:25:26 (Bullet Tree Falls, Belize)
3rd: 1:53:26 (Bullet Tree Falls)
4th: 1:15:26 (Caye Caulker)
5th: 1:01:39 (Caye Caulker)
6th: 20:15 (San Pedro)

08 February 2011

Yummy Sounding Drinks

I have to blame Wanda on it. She's the one who got me into mojitos years ago. W, I need to go to PR with you so I can get the real deal...

Here are two fab mojitos I drank in San Pedro, Belize....

Tropical Mojito
Fresh pineapple
Basil leaves
White rum
Coconut Milk

Watermelon Mojito
Fresh watermelon
Mint leaves
Lime Juice

Best Job Suggestion from a Friend...

"You should travel for a living."

Hmmmm, I'd rather like that. How can we swing this?

Slap in the face


The cold, welcoming me back to NYC. This is not how I wanted to come back, but the blustery cold welcomes me in as icy crosswalks remind me high heeled boots, while sexy, are not practical. Coughing from asthma, cramps, and horrid headache. 

The music of Don Omar fills my head, and I remember dancing in a bikini in sand, new friends welcoming my smiles, my hands in the air...my mind was open, my heart was open, I felt open to everything new that was out there.

But here in NYC, I'm reminded of all. All that is lost. All that is cold, that is dead now.

Until I bake cookies for Grandma, and Nelson comes over to eat his share of the diabetic treats. Until my cough subsides. Until I arrive in sunny Florida, run 50 miles, play cards with Gram and the girls.

It will get better. Normal, settled, it's not so bad. I'm eating homemade amazing chocolate chip cookies (with Ghiradelli chips, the only way to make them).

07 February 2011

Making Out with Albuterol

Asthma is one of the scariest things. To not be able to breathe...to not be able to get the very foundation of life is awful. The times where I think I may not make it are scary...with asthma, it's all about mind control and when I lose control and panic, I can't breathe and it gets worse and worse...

I think my scariest - not my worst - email was when I was surfing on my birthday a few years. I was enjoying the waves, my birthday, the other surfers around me...it was a weekday, I was off from work and it was a perfect day.

Until I couldn't breathe...and I couldn't think. I could see my spot on the beach, tried to ride the waves in, but couldn't. I kept getting smashed back. Where is my breath? The other surfers around me appeared to not notice. And I tried to paddle and got smashed back. Why couldn't I get in? Why? Where was my breath?

And then I realized I was caught in a rip current. Silly me. I paddled parallel, got out of the rip current, and pulled myself in.

And my inhaler never tasted so good.

Because I can't dance in the midst of others who know what this song means, I must blast this while dancing naked in my living room with my flying long hair...

Because I have to dance alone right now...

Back Home...


It feels so weird to be back.

For starters, it's cold. I had to put so many more clothes on, and what a selection of clothes I had! I had to skirt ice on the ground while running. I ate cereal out of a bowl I've eaten out of for years. I slept close with my sweet, loving cat who clearly missed me. I went through a house somewhat emptier.

At work, I realized how lucky I am to have such an awesome job. All my coworkers were so happy to see me back. My desk was decorated with countdowns, welcome back signs, posters, party favours. It felt good to be back. Even when there was a bit of sadness, a coworker who happens to also be a psychologist was there with hugs, kindness, and very smart words. I feel so happy to have a job with wonderful coworkers and a supportive foundation to let me travel, let me be me. Not everyone lets you be yourself, so when you find those who let you be yourself, embrace it. I also work for an amazing cause, so it's wonderful that I can do that for a living.

It just feels strange. Walking down Wall Street, everyone in suits, obsessing with their stupid iPhones, talking English, people of all ages...it's so weird. Shouldn't everyone be talking Spanish and everyone living with me be a super interesting backpacker?

Getting back to normal, to working, to eating good food, to knowing how things are, to not struggling each day...it'll take a bit. But I'm here. I'm back to running in NYC. I'm back to long weekends at Bear Mountain with Iliana, too much running, and heaps of watermelon eaten before, during and after running. I'm back to leading runs with NBR, to eating cupcakes with the girls, to opening bottles of wine on a weekday "just because." I'm back to plotting my next long run, to reading Janet Evanovich (okay, never stopped that!), to hitting up the next Danger Party. I'm going to set up a "Sewing Centre" in my living room as prep for Burning Man costume-making. Rachelle may be leaving NYC, so I need to get as much of her in as I can. Gwendolyn's moving back, so that will be awesome.

Everything will be awesome. Each moment is a wonderful, amazing moment. If it sucks, well, it's teaching me something. Or it had to happen.

I'm going to make my favourite vegetable barley soup, my beloved chai, my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I'm going to visit my Grandma and watch The Golden Girls, and ride my bike to the beach (once it's warmer). I'm going to visit museums on Fridays, eat scones on Tuesdays, and love that I live in one of the most amazing, social communities in the world. I'm going to rock out NBR with some Jameson. I'm going to work on my novel a bit more, and start sending it around.

I won't let certain things get me down. Being back, sure, it's not as much fun as traveling, but I have an awesome, fulfilling, fun life. And each day will be an adventure, even if the only traveling I do is a subway ride from Greenpoint to Wall Street.

Reflections on a Trip

Two months in Central America.

Panama City
Bocas del Toro

Costa Rica:
San Jose
Santa Teresa/Malpais

Big Corn Island
Little Corn Island
San Juan del Sur

San Jorge
San Marcos

Cayo (Bullet Tree Falls, San Ignacio)
Caye Caulker
Ambergris Caye

Hostels. Hotels. Cabanas.

Love. Heartache. Tears. Healing. More tears. It’s a long process. It doesn’t get easier, but I’ve gotten used to the pain.

I’ve met so many incredible people from so many countries. Some of my favourite people include my Bocas del Toro crew – Brian, Merja, Rio, Lando.

My favourite places? Bocas del Toro. San Marcos. Little Corn Island. Caye Caulker.

A lot of people said, “Are you crazy to have traveled with your boyfriend after you broke up?” Well, maybe a little. But we loved each other and had one last hurrah. It was a painful hurrah, and now we’re trying to figure out the other details now.

It hurts. It still all hurts.

My main regret is that I couldn’t properly function after the breakup. Much of Guatemala and Belize (and much of Nicaragua) were clouded by tears. Clouded by wanting to be with him. Clouded by the pain. Clouded by the hurt, the impossibilities – and what once were possibilities. It was hard to enjoy the monkeys, the wildlife, the nature, the people, the things.

The worst is travel days – I always turned into a blubbering lonely mess. Today on the ferry, while crying, an Australian guy kept staring at me. I thought my shades would hide it. Later, it turns out, he just thought I was someone else and was confused as why I wasn’t saying hi back.

This is my favourite trip I’ve ever taken, despite the breakup. I saw so many wonderful places. I spent a lot of time on the beach. I missed out on the crappiest December and January and part of February that New York has ever seen in my life. I learned new skills. I got healed with cacao (and we all knew chocolate could cure a broken heart!).  I surfed. I ate too many beans. I had a love affair with Trits. My Spanish drastically improved. Skype helped connect me with my family and loved ones.

And now I type this from the Belize International Airport (one of the saddest airports, by the way; I think West Palm Beach is a better airport, or even, Melbourne Airport in Florida), I think of what a wonderful, amazing time I’ve had: full of writing, running, exploring, kissing, crying, hiking, swimming, surfing, beaches, snorkeling, exploring my true self, daydreaming.

And now it’s time to get back to reality, I suppose…but I’ll keep dreaming about where to next. I’ve always wanted to do the Inca Trail. And Chile sounds amazing. I’ve never been to Asia either – and India has always been my #1 travel destination.

It’ll happen eventually. It’s all about getting to the core of me, finding happiness, discovering myself, while discovering the world.

Happy travels…and travels are always happy...

06 February 2011

Asthma Connection

 I got to San Pedro, not knowing if all the rumours were true, but hoping to have a super fun last night. I love Caye Caulker, but it’s mellow and I wanted a wild last night. Dance without abandon and all…

I arrived on Ambegris Caye and went to my hotel – only stupid Tomas’s Hotel claimed they had no reservation for me. Luckily, I got a room at Pedros’s and bargained the price down. A shower and a backpack reorganization later, I went to the bar at Pedro’s, asked directions and got two guys offering to walk into town with me. They pointed out various hot spots, things to do, and we got dinner today, that was def pricier than Caye Caulker. We headed out for a drink.

They were right, I thought, shortly after we got to the bar. It was very touristy, full of Americans, older Americans. Maybe if I was middle aged and married with 2.3 kids living on a street with geometrically arranged shrubs, I would fit in. But I didn’t. The two older guys I was with were different, party guys, nice. But still, where are my backpackers, my peers? There was an awful cover band the crowd loved and my asthma bothered me. I coughed, I coughed, I coughed.

I took a walk on the beach and realized that if I’m at the beach, it can’t be that bad. I felt the sand in my toes, heard the water lapping up, and felt happy.

I headed back, had some English guys tell me how in England, guys aren’t friends with women and the guy bought me a drink. Then he left to flirt with some woman, and I told the guys I came with that I felt like crap – my asthma was really bothering me. There wasn’t heaps of smoke, but I was so sensitive that I just needed to get out of there.

I was walking when I suddenly wasn’t sure what to do. A guy in a golf cart (what people drive) asked if I needed help. I asked him where Pedro’s was, and he offered me a ride. I hopped in. “I was out, but I had to go home to get my inhaler. I have asthma – all the smoke bothers me,” Ulysses told me. I covered my mouth with my hand – what a bizarre coincidence! We ended up chatting, and I somehow ended up going back out with him to a much less smoky place. New friends, new possibilities - I love that about traveling. You barely know someone but put your trust in them because good things are to come, for sure!

1755 was a lot of fun. All of his friends were super nice, and welcomed the new friend to their group, and one guy was apparently a billionaire. He was the same as everyone, nice, except because of him, we got to ask the dj to play whatever songs – because apparently, he has that kind of clout.

We danced in the lounge, which had a sand floor – sand between our toes, so beautiful. I flung my arms in the air, dancing into oblivion, knowing that when I returned, I wouldn’t be able to hear the same music. Sometimes I danced alone, sometimes with new friends, sometimes with strangers. It was all the same: pure happiness.

I sang in Spanish. We danced. Drinks were bought, handed to me without even asking. Another pantyripper, sure. (That’s Belizian for pineapple and coconut rum.) And the night went on.

When 1755 closed, we headed to Jaguar. Much better now, the dance floor was packed. We danced. There were seven of us, one who was considered “heartbroken” – he and his girlfriend had broken up in November and he was still utterly depressed, even on a fun night like this. We talked a bit about our recent breakups, about the healing process. I hugged him and he seemed full of sadness, in his hug and in his eyes when I pulled away.

It got late, later. 3:30. Ulysses wanted to go swimming in the ocean or his pool, which sounded fun – but I was tired. I had to get up early for the water taxi to Belize City so I could make my flight. We hugged, I hopped out of the orange golf cart, and passed out, oversleeping.

An interesting last night. A fun one. Was it meaningful? Does everything have to be meaningful? I think it was so fun, met some cool new peeps, it was a nice way to close out my trip, dancing on the beach to music people don’t know back home – but maybe I can help make “Cuando Cuando Es” popular when I return.