397 miles to go

Hello, new Saucony trail shoes.

Hello, Saucony trail shoes.

It’s been a rough month for my running quest. May 28 marked the halfway point for my 1,000-mile year. I celebrated the day with a cool three-miler during Boot Camp leg day, and gave myself a mental pat on the back for making it that far.

And honestly, I felt like a bit of a badass. I’d run 500 miles in 6 months, not only more than I’d ever clocked, but more than I ever imagined I was capable of completing. And it hadn’t been that bad, either.

But then summer hit. Vegas summer, like an oven perpetually set to low. Don’t tell me it’s a dry heat. When you can feel your skin slow-roasting, it’s just fucking hot.

Me and heat don’t really get along. I remember middle school soccer games when I’d get so flushed that coaches would bench me, worried I’d collapse on the pitch right in front of all the horrified Newton soccer moms with their orange slices and their Volvo station wagons. During my first Ragnar Relay, a hard 90-degree leg in full sun left me so destroyed it took me hours to recharge. The leg was only four miles.

So it’s been a rough month. Between weekend trips and 88-degree mornings, I’ve fallen behind, watching the daily mileage tick up—from 2.69 to 2.83—with every missed run. Some days I’m just not in the mood, to fry for three miles, to hit the treadmill, to go out there and get it done.

Which is not to say I’m giving up on this thing. As of today, I’ve got 397 miles to complete in the next 140 days. This far in, it doesn’t sound like much, actually, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to quit now.

But if you see me running—sweating profusely, face a somewhat alarming shade of red—don’t worry. That’s just how it’s going this month.

A five-second photo tour of spring

I suppose good bloggers publish so many photos and posts that they have no need for these kind of wrap-ups. I am not a good blogger. All that writing and editing for a living makes it sorta hard to hit the blog when I get home.

Excuses, excuses, right?

Anyway, it’s been a wonderful spring, complete with two (!) trips home to Boston, two great races, lots of good food and some quality (and sweaty) exploration. With summer breathing down my neck, here’s a selection of photos that capture a bit of the last few months.

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Ah La Jolla. Yes, it’s high-priced and a bit precious, but this doesn’t suck. Palms trees, sunset over the Pacific, moisture in the air and sunny days that don’t feel like they’re melting your skin. This photo was taken in early March, the night before I ran the San Diego Half Marathon with my friend Katie.

Continue reading

This is my most popular pin

knotchart

I have Pinterest angst. I pin amazing shit, like ballet dancers in everyday life, room-owning gowns and luscious desserts, and almost without exception I get nada in return. Nobody likes, nobody repins, nobody even notices.

I say almost without exception, because I do have one pin that has sort of taken off for reasons I won’t pretend to understand. It’s the poster above, a Columbian rope chart, full of hitches, splices and many knots. Perhaps it’s captured people because so many of us see a length of rope as a fact in and of itself, instead of a door into so many possibilities. This poster reminds me that even the simplest things can be beautiful and useful if you take the time to understand them. And it reminds me that Pinterest success does happen. Even if everyone ignores my amazing treehouse dreams.

Want to see what else I’m pinning? Look! It’s me!

The otherworldly oddness of Death Valley on film

Death Valley ... on very old film.

Death Valley … on very old film.

It happens to everyone. You wake up on the morning of a big adventure and realize you’ve forgotten to charge your camera battery. Guh. Sure, you have your iPhone, but your first trip to Death Valley National Park demands more. It demands real attention; it demands a real camera; it demands … film?

That was my hope as Tovin and I hustled out the door loaded down with water bottles and sweat-wicking layers for a visit to Death Valley. Just two hours outside of Las Vegas, it’s actually a totally manageable day-trip. Leave early, grab gas in Pahrump, BYO-sandwiches (and beers), and you can see the sites and be back in town in time for a late dinner (or in my case, in time for the debut of Snoop Dogg’s Snoopadelic Cabaret at Tao. Oh, Vegas.).

We spent our time in Death Valley taking is as much as we could. We bounded across the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, kicking up clouds of fine, enveloping sand; stopped for lunch and wildflower photos along Emigrant Pass; ducked into abandoned charcoal kilns in the Panamint Springs area; took a quick hike up Wildrose Peak; and ended the day with a sunset stroll over the salt flats of Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. And of course, I took pictures. Film pictures using Tov’s old Nikon.

The problem with busting out your old film camera after it’s spent years in a box? Well, the film’s spent years in a box, too, in who knows what conditions and temperatures. When I got the film developed, half a roll of black and white had come out fine, but our color roll was a bit the worse for wear—orange and grainy, with an odd, almost photocopied effect.

Still now that I’ve give the shots another look or two, their weirdness is growing on me. With a sort of apocalyptic glow, they make Death Valley look like a stark, strange, alien landscape. Which, I suppose, isn’t too different from the real thing.

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Wildflowers along Emigrant Pass in Death Valley National Park.

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The Death Valley landscape, climbing out of the valley.

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Strolling out onto the salt flats at Badwater Basin, more than 200 feet below sea level.

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Floating on the sand dunes at midday.

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Me, in the hot, hot heat.

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On the run.

Thinking about Boston

The women's leaders, including eventual winner Rita Jeptoo, fly past us at mile 21 of the 2014 Boston Marathon. By Tovin Lapan

The women’s leaders, including eventual winner Rita Jeptoo, fly past us at mile 21 of the 2014 Boston Marathon. By Tovin Lapan

It’s taken me a few weeks to digest my trip to Boston for this year’s marathon—an undeniably joyous, inevitably sad, wholly inspirational weekend in a city that’s usually just home.

As one of Boston’s holiest days turned to chaos and despair last year, I sat on a couch in Las Vegas, riveted and disturbed, wishing I could be there with loved ones and grateful to be far away. I promised myself (and my boyfriend) that this year we would be there. Boston strong. Home sweet home. All of that.

When we landed for a long April weekend that would culminate in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, there was a buzz of energy about the city that I didn’t recognize—a mix of nerves, enthusiasm, pride and fear. The recent tragedy and the town’s gritty resilience echoed in every BAA jacket, every Boston Strong poster, ever lean-legged runner walking the Back Bay in sneakers. Even the mundane carried the weight of meaning. It was, frankly, a bit overwhelming.

The day before the race, Tovin, our friend Tristan and I hopped the Green Line to Copley for lunch and a little sight-seeing. Instead of staring into cellphone screens or at the passing homes and tunnel walls, strangers on the train were striking up conversations, swapping marathon stories, and sharing why they’d decided to come or who they were here to watch. The ride felt nothing like a normal trip on the T. It was warm and oddly welcoming, like we were all regulars in some stuffy, chugging coffee shop on rails.

By the time I hit the course on Monday morning—mile 21, just past the crest of Heartbreak Hill near my parents’ house—I didn’t know what to feel. So I did what I’ve always done at the Boston Marathon: I cheered, and watched, and marveled, and encouraged. I hugged runner friends who arrived red-faced and beaming, laughed at the military police taking pictures for posing families and screamed my head off when Meb came streaking by on his way to being the first American to take the laurels in decades.

And when it was time to go, I finally felt calm. Boston strong. Home sweet home. All of that.

Read this now: In the bathtub with Piff the Magic Dragon

Scrub a dub dub? Erin Ryan chats with Piff (and sidekick Mr. Piffles) at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at Cosmopolitan. By Adam Shane

Scrub a dub dub? Erin Ryan chats with Piff (and sidekick Mr. Piffles) at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at Cosmopolitan. By Adam Shane

For the Weekly‘s Interview Issue last week, we set out to start conversations—with a star DJ who just moved to town, a pastry prodigy changing the game in Chinatown, a biologist studying desert creatures and random strangers in elevators who may not have known they were being interviewed. But the hands-down winner for Most Likely to Make You Literally Laugh Out Loud was Erin Ryan’s interview with Rose. Rabbit. Lie.’s Piff the Magic Dragon. Set in a bathtub with a Chihuahua and doughnuts, naturally:

Should I take my shoes off? I have dragon-colored socks. Yeah, take ’em off. It’s a socks-only bath.

So, are you technically naked right now? Technically, I am naked, yeah. But magic dragons are used to being naked. That’s how we spend our lives. It’s like Adam and Eve before the fall. It’s very Biblical. …

Click here to keep reading (you know you want to, he’s a magic dragon!).

 

Samba, beach dog

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This isn’t a new photo, but it’s the kind of moment I’m craving right now.

To celebrate my birthday a couple of years ago, Tovin and I drove to San Diego for a weekend of good food, sand and blessed moisture. We booked a hotel on Dog Beach in OB, and within minutes of our arrival, Samba was loose on the sand. We spent a good portion of the weekend watching her dash across the shore, soaring over puddles, splashing through the water and suffering the occasional epic puddle crash. It was sandy and dirty and totally joyful. I can’t wait to take her back.

Four months down, 656 miles to go

le proof

le proof

The most amazing thing happened three weeks ago. My friend Katie and I ran the San Diego Half Marathon, an absolutely amazing course that starts outside Petco Park, weaves along the bay and stays flat for eight miles before climbing into Hillcrest and finishing alongside Balboa Park with a sweet downhill sprint that almost makes you feel like you haven’t just run 13.1 miles.

With little in the way of pace expectations, we demolished our previous PRs, crossing the finish line under gorgeous SoCal sunshine in 1:52:09. To say I was psyched would be an understatement; I was honestly a little incredulous. Continue reading

Shall we take the stairs?

Walk on

I took this photo in a small village along the so-called Ruta Panoramica in central Dominican Republic last summer. We had just spent a night in a wonderful jungle ecolodge called Tubagua, and on the way back to Santo Domingo we stopped in the town of Pedro Garcia to meet with a local Peace Corp volunteer, who was helping farmers convert their land back to coffee after a failed, government-sponsored experiment in raising cattle. Stanley, the Peace Corp kid, was so passionate about his project I couldn’t help but feel inspired, and everywhere we walked with him we were greeted by neighbors inviting him to dinner, joined by teenagers who wanted to practice their English and followed by family dogs that seemed determined to adopt Stanley. Eventually, we came to these stairs, leading up to a ridge where we had a clear, lovely view of the valley below. The photos from the top where nice, of course. But I prefer this one from the bottom of the stairs—where it’s all possibility and anything might be waiting if you just start the climb.

Listen, eat, read, run: Four things I’m feeling right now

ZazIs there anything better than bright-eyed discovery? Than waking up in the morning knowing a certain number of things are true and exist, and going to sleep with one, two, three more added to the list? Pretty much the best. And since I’m a good sharer, I figured I’d spread the discovery around a little with a few favorite additions to my mental catalogue that you can listen to, eat, read, or wear running. Enjoy.

Listen: “Eblouie Par la Nuit” by Zaz

This pained, passionate tune played behind the credits of Dead Man Down, a highly skippable film about revenge and murder that at least introduced me to badass French singer-songwriter Zaz. The title translates to “Dazzled by the night,” and the lyrics are more poetic than anything I’ve heard sung in English in a while.

Eat: Soy butter

Call it an umami bomb. Call it a butter upgrade (who knew such a thing was possible?). Call it East meets West meets awesome. Honestly, just call it soy butter—a simple mixture of soy sauce and butter, perhaps rounded out with a bit of cream and olive oil, that adds a deep, flavorful jolt to just about any savory thing. The New York Times heralded this basic sauce recently, inspiring me to mix up a batch and drizzle it over some simple baked sweet potatoes. The result: sweet, earthy, salty and rich. A delicious new discovery.

Read: Out of Eden Walk

Once you start reading Paul Salopek’s chronicles of his 21,000-mile walk tracing the path of human migration, it’s  hard to stop. His dispatches read like digital postcards, glimpses into the places, people and historical clues he encounters as he treks out of Africa, through the Middle East and onward toward South America, following  in the footsteps of our ancient ancestors. With photos and blog posts—and occasional print stories in National Geographic—Salopek is documenting his journey as he goes, a project that is expected to stretch over seven years. Right now, he’s in the West Bank, a fitting place to pick up the story—though you’ll probably want to go back to the beginning once you get started.

Hello, new Saucony trail shoes.

Hello, new Saucony trail shoes.

Run: Mizuno Wave Rider 17 and Saucony Peregrine 3

As I’ve shared on this blog before, I’m putting in a little extra mileage these days, and I recently came to the sad realization that my beloved Mizuno Wave Rider 15s are no longer really up to the task. And so I found myself at Red Rock Running Company after work one evening, trying on pairs of Mizunos, Salomons and Sauconys, dropping way too much money and taking home the latest upgrade of my trusty Wave Riders and my first-ever pair of trail shoes: the Saucony Peregrine 3s. I took them for a seven-mile spin on McCullough Hills Trail today, and the quick takeaways include traction so good it’s disconcerting, a nice snug fit through the mid-foot and plenty of undersole protection from all the rocks and pebbles and occasional cactus needles that pepper this desert trail. And here I never knew I was a Saucony fan. Guess you discover something new every day.