5K Foam Fest

Buffalo Writes - Foam Fest 5K Finish Line

YOU GUYS I DID IT! I ran the Foam Fest 5K and I DIDN’T DIE! Totally achieved my goal (I’d even go so far as to say I surpassed it). Score!

Buffalo Writes - Foam Fest 5K
The starting line. Not sure what I was trying to achieve with this pose. It basically just looks like I’m trying to punch Val in the jaw.

It’s funny — day before the race? Morning of? NOT nervous at all. In fact I was almost excited. Good friends were around, we’d be running it together (it’d all be over soon) — it’d be great!

And then we arrived at the race. Got checked in. Waited around for our start time. And I started getting SUPER nervous. Byron’s sister had finished a few hours before us, and she started giving us tips — which were super helpful! I ended up remembering and using most of them during the race. But at the time? As she was telling us? HELLO, ANXIOUS LAURA!

Of course, as SOON as we crossed the starting line — I was fine. The waiting around was just killing me. True of all life’s events, I guess: waiting is the worst.

Oh, and mud. Mud filled with GRAVEL is also the worst (my scrapped-up elbows agree).

Buffalo Writes - Foam Fest 5K
Audrey and I crawling through mud, under electric wires (which DID shock — Byron can attest to this).
Buffalo Writes - Foam Fest 5K
So much mud on us that our clothes were LITERALLY being pulled down our bodies.

The actual running part was quite a bit harder than I expected. In my head, the obstacles would provide a nice break from the running — let me catch my breath. In reality? The obstacles got me so psyched up, that by the time I got past each one, I was a bit worn out from the adrenaline let-down. I still ran MOST of the time…. with a few walking breaks cut in. As Audrey continually reminded me, no one does these types of races with the goal of getting their best 5K time.

I gotta say — I killed it on the lily pad obstacle. I thought that would be a hard one, but I was like a frickin’ frog across those things. Wide-leg stance, you guys. That’s your best bet.

Buffalo Writes - Foam Fest 5K
Going up and over the cargo nets.

The hardest by far? The 8 foot wall you had to climb over. I wasn’t really psyched out about that one until we got to it… and then it was THERE. And it was TALL. And I had to go OVER it. And once you get to the top of the wall you have to figure out how to get your limbs over it without dying. SO FUN. I wanted to skip it, but Audrey gave me crap about it — so, over it was. Fortunately Byron was a very good encourager and helped talk both me and Val through it.

Buffalo Writes - Foam Fest 5K
WE DID IT!

So would I do it again? I… think so? I’m honestly not sure. I definitely want to sign up for another 5K run — we finished this one in about 48 minutes, which was to expected with all those obstacles. I’d like to do a run for time, see if I can’t get myself under 30 minutes.

But for now: we set a goal, and we killed it. We tried a new thing. All in all, a good day.

Buffalo Writes - Foam Fest 5K Finish Line
Muddy. Foamy. Happy.

(All photos courtesy of the lovely Audrey and the lovely Tori, who are both crazy enough to bring their cameras to a mud-filled race.)

Smell the Eucalytpus

“What’s that smell?”

“Mmm. Roll down the windows… it’s the eucalyptus.”

Byron and I traveled down to the Bay area for a wedding this weekend, and let me tell you guys — the eucalyptus. There’s something intoxicating about that heady scent. And I mean “intoxicating” in the literal sense of the word — one whiff of those babies and I pretty much lose my senses. “THAT’S IT WE MUST MOVE TO CALIFORNIA TO LIVE WITH THESE DRUGGIE TREES.”

Since this trip was coastal, there were more crazy wind-swept cypress trees than eucalyptus (which, not a bad thing — those cypress got it goin’ on). But on the drive out, through the hills, we’d occasionally pass through a grove of eucalyptus — and that was all it took.

In the book I wrote for my senior thesis, one of the characters moves from Seattle to Santa Monica:

The thing Marian liked best about southern California was the trees. They were tall and graceful, oak and madrona and box elder with branches that spread out like upside down umbrellas. Compared to them, the evergreens of the Northwest looked like bottom-heavy children, wrapped up in too many winter coats. Cole had been right; the air smelled different here. That, she soon discovered, was largely due to the eucalyptus trees that spread everywhere. Their leaves, ranging from small, bluish-green circles to long silvery tendrils, smelt like some sort of exotic spice carried across by the ocean breeze. She loved walking through the park near their house, breathing in the intoxicating scent and listening to the wind rustling their dry leaves. Cole said they were no better than weeds, the way they sprang up everywhere. Marian paid him no heed; they were by far her favorite.

At this section, my thesis advisor wrote in the margin: Traitor. She meant it in jest, of course, but she was right — the character (and by extension, the author) had abandoned the oppressive grey gloom of the Northwest in favor of California. 

And you know? I LOVE the Northwest. I think there’s no better place to be. But sometimes it’s hard to compare with this:

Kite surfers on Highway 1 in California

And this:

IMG_0961

Everything down there just seems scented with a kind of forgetfulness — like there is nowhere else in the world to be, nowhere else in the world you should be.

And no — I am not packing up the new house and the new couch and the old cats and moving to California. But smell is a powerful thing — our most powerful sense, really. It wakes up different parts of the brain. It’s hard to resist its siren song.

I’m sure without even really knowing it, whatever I write next will be tinged with the scent of eucalyptus.

Lessons from Hawaii

Of Isak Dinesen’s famous salt trio — “The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea” — I choose the sea. My dad grew up diving in SoCal, and I inherited his love of all things ocean: its sound, its smell, its hidden creatures. And going for a swim in the sea is one of the most therapeutic activities I know.

Unfortunately, Puget Sound isn’t conducive to saltwater dips. So I had to escape to Hawaii.

IMG_0511I’m just not sure if there’s anything more beautiful than Hawaii blue. The sea there, you guys — you look out and it’s five different shades of beautiful. Oh, and UNDER water? Just as gorgeous.

Snorkeling at the Ahihi Kinua Reserve.
Snorkeling at the Ahihi Kinua Reserve.

And then — after five days of sun and saltwater and pineapple wine (YES! PINEAPPLE WINE! IT’S A THING!) — I flew back to reality.

I took the bus downtown and walked to work and saw that everything was grey. I mean, it’s always been that color, but after drinking in brilliant blue for a week, it came as a shock. And then the list of daily items starts running through your head, everything that should get done, all the worries and preoccupations. Paradise lost, indeed.

One of our first evenings in Hawaii, we went to a luau and ended up having drinks afterwards with the dancers (you know, as one does). We were chatting with a couple of the guys, asking them about life on the islands, how they spend their days.

Said one of the gentlemen: “I swim, surf, play beach volleyball, dance at night… you know, just live my life.”

Oh yes. Why didn’t I ever think of that.

I mean, really, it’s easy to get bitter. For all the dreaming of picking up and moving to a tropical island — for most of us, it’s not feasible (or even really desirable when we take a step back and think about it). And I don’t think that’s the solution anyway. Maybe what we love about paradise — what we crave about it — is the simple idea that invades our brains while we’re there: not everything matters.

Not everything matters. Not everything is a big deal. Do what you love, do what makes you happy, and don’t get caught up in the rest.

A calm morning out at sea (also, add this to the "trying new things" category -- standup paddle boarding is awesome).
A calm morning out at sea (also, add this to the “trying new things” category — standup paddle boarding is awesome).

We saw dolphins leap with what could only be described as joy. We saw humpback whales breach. A sea turtle and I regarded one another quietly under the waves. And it all makes you feel… well, small. Remarkably unnoticed. But it’s not a bad thing. It reaffirms the fact that you’re a small piece of a big world, something more vast and complex than you could ever imagine.

You never want to board that plane. But the dream always ends and we wake up to reality. And you know what? Reality is ok, too. Last night I sat in the backyard and read a beer* and watched the evening sun play on the hawthorn tree. Find the things you love, and let the rest go.

IMG_0643*Byron caught this typo, but it was kind of too good to take out.

That Time I Was Chased by a Phantom Bear

Some adventures don’t go QUITE as planned. Take this weekend. I’ve been wanting to go snow shoeing for literally years, so finally we got a date on the calendar. And man oh man, I was excited. It would be epic! We’d tromp through a winter wonderland, nimble as deer! Experience the Great Northwest! Probably find an entrance to Narnia!

And then, we got up to Snoqualmie Pass, and it was raining.

Whomp, whomp.

Now, normally, I’d let this type of thing ruin my plans. But we’d driven to the mountain, Val had driven up from frickin’ Portland for this, snow shoeing WAS HAPPENING, dammit.

Onward!
Ah yes — rain, with a nice throw-in of wet snowflakes. 41

And you know what? It was great. Enter the power of positive thinking, I guess. I didn’t even notice that I was soaking wet until we got back to the car. It probably helped that snow shoeing is, you know, basically hiking, and I was distracted by all the huffing and puffing I had to do to get up the hill.

Byron and Audrey, forging ahead.
Byron and Audrey, forging ahead.

It’s really nice getting off the beaten track from time to time. I enjoy the outdoors, but you know, I’m also big on my creature comforts. So I tend not to venture out into the woods too often. It’s something I’m trying to push myself to do more of this year, because WOULD YOU LOOK AT THIS?? We live in a beautiful (if soggy) part of the world.

I was half convinced I'd fall into a tree well.
I was half convinced I’d fall into a tree well.
Nature, you crazy.
Nature, you crazy.

On our way back down the hill, Val and I started heading off through the trees.

“Don’t go that way,” Byron called from above us.

“Why not?”

“I saw something moving in the trees.”

“What did you see?”

“You should just come back this way.”

Nice and ominous
Nice and ominous

Let me tell you what is great motivation for moving quickly on snow shoes — thinking you are going to be eaten by a mutant, probably mama Grizzly bear. No, admittedly, Byron never said it was a bear. BUT WHAT WERE WE TO THINK? Val and I FLEW back up the hill and high-tailed it the edge of the ski slope. Audrey contemplated if you should stand your ground with a bear or run. Byron brought up the rear, saying he would stay back and sacrifice himself if anything were to attack. Um, which apparently was ok with me? Since I was a good twenty yards ahead of him.

Once we got down to the bottom of the hill, adrenaline pumping, I asked him, “What do you think it was? Do you really think it was a bear?”

Byron: “Oh no, it was definitely other snow shoers. I saw them. I just wanted to mess with you guys.”

GEE, THANKS BYRON.

At least I know I can be speedy on snow shoes, if need be.

Trying New Things: Donating Blood

Every few months Puget Sound Blood Center comes and sets up shop in our office building. I’ve never donated blood before, it kind of squicks me out. Which is dumb, because I’m FINE with needles at the doctor’s office. You want 3 vials? Have at ’em. I tried to donate blood once, in high school, but my sister had the flu at the time, and since I’d been around her gross germs they wouldn’t let me donate. I breathed a sigh of relief and patted myself on the back for trying.

So when the sign-up sheet showed up at work, I thought, “Why! This is my year of Saying Yes and Trying New Things! OF COURSE I shall become a hero and donate blood!”

This was about a month ago. And the thought of giving blood has been great! Moral smugness wrapped me in its warm embrace, and I hugged right back. I was gonna go in there, eat a cookie, joke with the friendly nurses. It’d be awesome, I was awesome. No biggie.

And then the morning of the blood-letting came. I woke up yesterday super nervous. I rolled over in bed to face my husband.

“Mmmmmmmmnervous.”

“You’re nervous? About what?”

“Mmmmotating oooood.”

“What??” (Articulation isn’t my thing in the morning.)

“Donaaating bloooooood.”

“Oh. You’ll be fine, I promise.”

YEAH. RIGHT. I went to the internetz. Iron and water, they said. Consume a lot of both and you’ll be fine.

NOT CONVINCED.

“I’m still nervous.”

“You’ll be fine.”

“Will I be able to walk?” (SHUT UP I WAS NERVOUS)

“Walk where?”

“To the bus, after work.”

“Yes. You’ll be able to walk to the bus.”

Fortunately, my appointment was in the morning, so the hamster wheel in my head didn’t have too much time to spin. They’d turned a conference room into a makeshift center, complete with four cots with physician’s assistants roaming around them. I got signed in and the show got rolling. I was told I had nice veins (compliments will get you everywhere), lay down on the cot, attempted to steady my breathing and…that was that. It had begun.

The view from the cot.
The view from the cot.

And you’ll never guess — IT WAS FINE. MORE than fine. It took no time at all to fill out that little bag. And yeah, I could definitely tell something was goin’ on over there, but mostly I just distracted myself with my phone-ternet. So, you know, totally normal.

When they were done and I was all bandaged up, I stood up from the cot. This was one of the parts I’d been nervous about. I envisioned myself passing out from the sudden elevation change and crumpling like my cat confronted by a toddler. But no! I WAS FINE. Solid as a rock!

I was so happy that I pumped BOTH my fists in the air and shouted, “I didn’t pass out!”

…yeah, I know. But the volunteers and assistants laughed, so hey, no harm done.

As I was sitting with the juice-and-cookie lady (THE BEST LADY EVER), I told her it was my first time and how nervous I’d been.

“When we go to the high schools,” she said, “I always ask the kids: ‘how did it compare to your imagination?'”

Wise words, juice-and-cookie lady. Wise words. Almost everything is scarier in your head than it ends up being in real life. And even if something DOES go wrong — say I HAD passed out when I stood up — it still would have been fine. A-ok. I would have got up and carried on.

Now, remind me of this in 3 months, when I need convincing about my NEXT new thing.

Why yes, I donated blood -- AND I GOT A COOKIE.
Why yes, I donated blood — AND I GOT A COOKIE.