Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Go West, Young (Wo)Man (or, that time I ran a marathon and almost died in the desert)

Once upon a time I made the somewhat whacky decision to train for a marathon. 
I thought, eh, I've run a bunch of half marathons and really, if you put four half marathons together that's really two full marathons and so it's because of math that I did this to myself. 

Driving from Phoenix to Holbrook, AZ. la di da. 

Six months of 6 day-a-week training will really fill up a girl's calendar. 

And the thing was, I didn't really want to spend all that time and money preparing and finish it off with a drive to some New England town I've probably already driven through. 

I mean really, there's marathons all over the world, so why limit myself? Why not travel somewhere I've never been and see something interesting while I'm at it? 

Not the vehicle we drove around in. 

My travel bucket list is enormous so essentially I could've closed my eyes and pointed blindly at a globe and been satisfied (do people still have globes?
I narrowed it down with various important criteria: warm weather, short plane ride, not-too-expensive, place I've never-ever-been, National landmark of some sort.  

Clearly, Arizona was the winner. Hello, Grand Canyon! 
(Yes, it really took this long for me to see the Grand Canyon)

Unfortunately, the cities in Arizona that had marathons were not really that close to the Grand Canyon. I had to do a little digging before I found one that was less than three hours away, and not too long of a drive from Phoenix. 

Quoth the Raven, "nice view though"

And that is how I found myself signing me and J up for the Petrified Forest Marathon in Holbrook, Arizona. (I would later go on to have this conversation with almost all of the 40-ish other people who actually signed up for this race, who couldn't quite understand how someone from New England found their way to Holbrook for their first marathon)

In case the photos so far hadn't tipped you off, the Petrified Forest is actually a desert, part of the Painted Desert. Don't let the name confuse you. 

J was of course, super mega thrilled to be running another marathon less than two years after his first, where he had explicitly said that he never wanted to run another one again, and then as an afterthought added "unless you were going to run one with me". Cue devious laughter. 

Despite evidence to the contrary, we did not adopt this bird.

If you've been spending all this time wondering what a Petrified Forest looks like here you go, you're welcome. 

One year of strength training, track workouts, and sports massages with the team at A Healthy Balance (and yes, massages totally count towards training :-P) and one long, hot summer with 5am runs all over Quincy with new and old running friends who helped keep us motivated, hydrated, and enthusiastic passed. And then, suddenly, it was October, and before I knew it I was on a plane, running sneakers in my carry-on, watching Massachusetts grow smaller.

Yes, we really did stay in a wigwam.
No, it's not nearly as interesting on the inside as it is on the outside.
No, I'm not going to show you pictures, I'll let you use your imagination. 

My in-laws had traveled along route 66 the year before and in an interesting turn of events, Holbrook and part of the Petrified Forest is on Route 66. Most importantly, the Wigwam Motel is on Route 66 and was the location of bib pickups. I don't believe in fate, but obviously the stars had aligned and we absolutely had to stay there. 

When in doubt, hold your camera at an angle
and then celebrate the fact you made your photo ever-so-slightly more interesting. 

Day one was a drive up from Phoenix and a trip along the Petrified Forest and marathon route, where Michelle got hangry before we even got into the Park and J was forced to find her tacos. 

Day 2 was a visit to the Grand Canyon. 

You seriously cannot capture its essence on camera, especially considering that it's far larger than even the panoramic feature of my camera can take in. 

We live dangerously. 

Yes, I wore cowboy boots the day before my Marathon. 

I left my hood on crooked accidentally and voila, weird blackness. I like it. 

We also visited a crater from a meteor (and for a brief moment, I learned the difference between a meteor and a meteorite but it's left my head now so look it up yourself). You couldn't go inside the meteor crater but they'd placed a human-sized poster in there that you could view through a telescope if you wanted to feel really insignificant with your place in the universe. 

Day 3 was...marathon time. 

Driving to the race pickup location
You may be wondering how the marathon itself went. Well, just as you would expect, running in the desert was maybe not the best choice for my first marathon (or maybe any marathon, for that matter). 
There were more than a few tears when I reached mile 24 (surprising I even had any liquid in me left for tears) and I honestly felt like I would not be able to finish. 
The sand, heat, sun, and poor hydration had really gotten to me. 
But, after almost calling it quits, I pulled myself together and made it to the finish line. 
It wasn't really the time or finish I was hoping for but hey, running 26.2 in the desert is pretty freaking awesome anyways. 

There was a brief, delirious moment afterwards of me wandering around the empty parking lot looking for our car (which was actually parking 2 miles from the finish line) so I could drive back to the really dehydrated J and bring him water, before I saw him coming from afar. 

Here's some of the professional shots they captured of us (conveniently timed to be just after the largest  hill, so we had to buck up and pretend to not be miserable for a few minutes): 

**These two photos were taken by Spangler Pics**
"Kill me now, that hill was miserable"

"Just kidding, we're really super happy about this"

Aaaaand some shots (taken with my phone) of us post-race: 

taken by a girl we befriended on the bus.
notice my crazy-face and J's "I'm barely standing" grin-grimace.

I swear I'm not picking a wedgie. 

What else did we do in Arizona? Besides running, napping, and taking pictures of pretty rock formations, there was really only time for one other activity - eating ALL the Mexican food. Tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, nachos, and of course, margaritas... there was even some delicious fried-dough and cheese appetizer that I would've committed felonies to have again. 

On the way back to Phoenix

And a few from the film camera (using the 50mm lens):

Where to get your kicks...
J's got talent

No cacti were harmed in the making of this photo.

And so we said goodbye to beautiful, majestic Arizona. We did not, however, say goodbye to my marathon dreams - although luckily for J, he's off the hook on the next one. 
Let's just hope that Providence has some delicious Mexican food for my post-run meal... 

**All photos taken by me except the ones I was in...duh.**

Monday, January 23, 2017

Driving Out the Darkness

On Friday, January 20th, Donald Trump was inaugurated as our 45th President. 
On that same day, I had decided I was not going to the Women's March taking place the next day in Boston. 
I can't actually  remember when I had heard about it, but I remember where - like all things these days, it was an event I had seen posted on Facebook and dismissed as something I was not interested in. Just call me the least political politics & government major ever. 
By 6am on January 21st, however, I had firmly and unequivocally decided that I absolutely had to be there no matter what. I shifted around my schedule, emailed friends, and made my plans to get there before the march started. 
I spent 30 minutes fighting my way through the crowds, trying not to let my claustrophobic brain panic, without cell service or a real plan, so that I could stand with my friends. 


Just me and some sassy, strong women I know and love.

My friend Emily (pictured far left, above), wrote this amazing piece about why she was there:

My own thoughts echo many of her sentiments. 

To the people who say: if you live in this country, he IS your President, I say:
You are being literal. We are being figurative. I am well aware that Trump is now the President of the United States.
And I am not happy.

Standing tall for their rights.
Here is what went through my head over Friday night:

On August 28th, 1963, 200,000 Americans gathered in Washington D.C. for a rally to shed light on social and political injustices against African Americans. Source (because no, I didn't know that date exactly off the top of my head like I should have)

Today, that March, Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and the political discourse that followed, are looked on (mostly?? almost unanimously?) favorably and as a major historical event in our history.

If you were alive in August of 1963, where were you?


Did everyone look favorably on the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" in 1963? 
Hell No. 

Did everyone understand the historical significance? 
Did they understand where the March would lead? 
Did they know that in the future, we would look at that March in a positive light? 

Of course not. 

But the people who marched on Washington in 1963 left behind their worries 
about how they would be viewed and perceived. 

                                      They knew they were fighting for something bigger. 

And yes, the peaceful protestors would be grouped in with the rioters and the looters and the violent. 
Different, perhaps even conflicting, messages would drown each other out. 
But still they went. 

                                    I don't know what impact the Women's March will have. 

I have no idea if, 50 years from now, people will look back on those who participated favorably...

or not. 

Gimme dem fundamental rights yo


But one thing I did know was that I needed to be there. 

50 years from now (I'll hopefully be alive, sitting in a comfy chair, covered in fluffy cats and sipping on bourbon), if someone asks me where I was on January 21, 2017

             I'm glad I'll be able to say that while I couldn't make it all the way to Washington

I had at least made it to the Boston Commons with some good friends so that I could participate in a March* that nearly rivaled the attendance of the historic 1963 March on Washington. 

*There were so many more people than expected who came to the Boston March that we mostly did not actually march anywhere, so I use the term loosely, although I know that some Bostonians 
were able to get out of the Commons to march. 

So why did I go? 

I went because I am unhappy with the tone he has set as President in even his first few days, and in the months that led up to his inauguration.

I went because I find issue with many of his Cabinet picks

I went because I do not believe the Affordable Care Act should be repealed without a replacement

I went because I believe in equal pay for equal work

I went because I believe in the facts, and not "alternative facts", and I know that the ridiculous memes and fake news sites I see are just that - alternative facts, alternatives to the truth, lies.

Special Snowflake Status = Accepted
I went because Trump claimed that the Mexican immigrants who come to America are criminals and rapists
I went because Trump thinks it's okay to joke about sexual assault
I went because Trump once mocked a disabled reporter

And lest we all forget, here is where America actually stood economically when Trump took office.

I am privileged. I have a good job, with good pay, own my own home, have friends, family, and health insurance. 
But I also know that I am lucky too, that not everything I have earned I received merely from my hard work (although I have worked hard) but also from advantages I've had in my life that others will never see. 
And so I also went for those people, the ones who work hard and see none of the rewards that I do.

America looks sad but at least she has her cell phone.
Because yes, those people exist. 

And I'd like to think I am not a selfish person, not lacking in empathy for my fellow Americans and my fellow humans all over the world.

Despite being a Millennial

A sea of pink as far as the eye can see
If you didn't participate on Saturday, I won't judge you. 
We all walk our own paths in life. 
I only ask for the same respect back from you. 

After all, protesting IS American, down to our very core.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. 
- Martin Luther King Jr.