4/4/16

Trust.

It has taken me a whole lot of doing to figure out that nothing is quite as it seems… I used to think that ultras were just... run-untill- you-are-dead-don't-stop-running-no-matter-what. Not quite. But one never knows really what it is like until one tries.

Really.

I had read about it, watched videos, documentaries on it… but words and images don't smell, don't feel cold and heat, and pain. It's just an idea, a dream in my head, a picture. A pretty picture…

I had trained twice before for marathons, and gotten badly injured both times. And had to quit and do the "half," 13.1, when really what I wanted so much to do was a full 26.2. I was scared and frustrated. Scared that I would get injured again. And frustrated at my inability to figure out what was getting to me, messing me up. 

Frustrated and scared. A wall to get through. But how...

I had to change my attitude about running. So I started with… well… I love running. So I'll do it.  And keep doing it. "Do what you love, and your body will adapt." One of many phrases I've heard from friends that have stuck with me.

Running helped me so much during nursing school, and the bad times in the past. It kept me steady, and helped me get through sadness, frustration, and hurt and recovery from an injured wrist… so first of all, I refused to listen to the people that told me how bad running is for my knees, and how I should not run because of my legs being slightly different. Fuck all that. It helped my well being, so that was enough for me. No one is perfect, and I have an imperfect body just like everyone else.

So while I lived in Florida and running on pavement, the way I found to compensate for my leg difference was by running always on the right side of the road, where it gave me a slightly longer right, shorter left… and then when I would get tired… I'd walk. Or stop and take a picture. Or find a bush to hide behind to pee. Or text… or call someone… just whatever the hell I felt like doing. My time to myself, to do as I pleased. Sofia time. No work, no kids, no marriage, no house, no dishes, no cooking, no studying, no practicing... no nothing. Just running. Getting my groove back.

But getting centered, my groove, meant at the end… that there was no way I could ever follow a training schedule. I had tried to follow them before. They stressed me out. I would get locked into them, and feel pressured by them. Yet another thing to do… the weight training, speed workouts, long runs and all. I simply just could not do or follow them. And now I think that both of my marathon-training injuries resulted from my trying to follow schedules… and not listening to my own body. Because the workout schedules never ever matched my body schedule. It did not account for school exams, or orchestra performances, or my periods, or my kids, or work, or anything that had to do with my own life. It was someone else's schedule. 

So I just started running on my own… running slow, fast... or walking when I felt like it. And then, moving to Lander… discovered trail running. And that was bliss. Because the trails are totally "imperfect." No more talk of leg difference. Because it's all uneven anyway. And I started going farther… just to see… what I could do.

Nature. Alone. Quiet. Peaceful. 

And then one day, talking with a friend… we decided to try a race together. This race. An ultra. 32 miles. Why not? We had enough time to train… and it would keep us motivated and moving through the winter cold and snow. 

So we started out to train. Steph in CO, me in WY. We kept each other updated. But we each went about our training our own way, just sort of keeping track of a general mileage we wanted to accomplish by a certain time frame so we would keep each other going in the months ahead. 

Since I knew this race would have elevation gain and loss... I practiced hiking uphills with weights... carrying water in my pack… carrying the rope and draws when going climbing… or hiking and post holing through thick snow on purpose for strength training… running hilly dirt roads…racing up short uphills… running with friends who run faster to push me…  

I also knew there would be a lot of slick rock… so I practiced running on pavement as well. And also running after hospital shifts, when I was really tired, to get used to the feeling of pushing through mental exhaustion, low energy, wanting to quit. "Treat it as training…" a friend said. And that is how training went… creating it as I went along. Keeping flexible with changing weather, body, and mind.

And race day came close… and with it…

Self doubt. My worst enemy. Created and tailored especially by and for me.

My last long run was too long ago. I haven't run more than 6 miles in a month. I worked 4 straight days on my feet. It snowed this week and I couldn't run. I only hiked this week. Did I hike enough?? Did I hike too much?? My knee is bothering me from running flat pavement in Florida. I am tired. I didn't sleep enough. I didn't eat enough. I drove all day to get here. I am stiff. I run slow. Can I make it to the midway aid-station cut out time?? What if I don't?? Do I carry a pack with water and food just in case?? But it adds weight… What if the pack rubs and chafes my neck as it did before?? Is a bottle enough water for the desert?? And what about food?? Cheese sandwich?? Ham and cheese?? What if the ham goes bad... and I get sick from it during the race?? Salami?? Is salami too heavy for the heat?? And just where can I pee when running with so many people around me???? 

Those were my thoughts… they drove me crazy. And I tried as best as I could to methodically take care of each question, and make a decision on each one. And I realized there were only so many decisions I could make, questions I could answer. I was dealing with the unpredictable. I could only decide and control so many things. The rest, I just had to wing it. Because I had never done a run as long as this before, and in this kind of terrain and weather. I had heard from others what they did and how they felt. But really, I didn't know how or what I would do and feel other than my own past experiences. I could't even tell my friends in what time I expected to finish this thing by. I felt embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and experience.

Mr. Lesser used to tell me in our cello lessons… if you tell yourself… "don't think of chocolate..." you will pretty much think of… "chocolate." So as my nerves tried to get the best of me and my sleep the night before... I remembered that little simple truth when I was quietly reminded... "visualize yourself at the finish line." I fell asleep visualizing it over and over, all the details I could imagine. But the main one, the most important one I kept seeing, was: Smiling at the end. Big time smiling.

So the race started.

I felt like crap. Really beating on myself. I was slow. I just could not take off with the pack. At all. I could not run at the beginning. My stomach was cramping. I was stiff, cold, tired. So I had no other option but walk. And walk. And walk. I really was beating on myself. How can I be so slow? Why am I so slow? Why can't I run faster? Sounds stupid now, as I write it. But it felt very real then. I had to really fight in my head to just keep focusing on seeing myself at the finish line, and keep going. 

And then I realized. I was by myself. Which I liked. Because at least that totally took care of the worry about being able to pee whenever I felt like. That was the first good surprise of the day. 

But I was still worried. I had to make it to the midway aid-station cut off time… so I started shuffling, then jogging, then running… still sore, crappy stomach, cold. But I made it to the first aid station. Six miles. I knew from other runs that the first 2, 6… and really even the first 10 in long runs, for me were always, always the worst. Everything hurt. Different pieces and parts of the body. But what I always found, as I went along, is that the hurt came and went. Strange how that happens, but it really does. And it did in this case as well. It is like different parts of the body waking up and saying "Hi!" until everything starts to function together… and I get in a groove… just going, going… and the thoughts evaporate.

After mile 6, a lot of steep rocky downhills started. And those always remind me of racing downhill with my son Miles in the Tetons. We love running and jumping them as fast as we can without falling, so I went for it. It was fun. Whenever I encountered those, that is where I sped. The flat parts… just went slow… with music… and the uphills… walked and ate and drank, applied and reapplied sunscreen. Whatever I needed to do, I did it as I walked. "Be efficient, and just keep going." 

As I went, I realized I was actually making good time, no more worries about not making it to the cut off times… and I started to relax and enjoy myself a bit more. The big steep down climb came, and I made it to 16. Aid station. Half way. 

Half way!!!! 

And that is where I told myself "Look. Even if you fucking walk this whole thing, you have enough time to finish it, and you are fine. So do whatever you want to do." So I sat in the dirt, and ate 2 honey sandwiches, a bunch of Oreos, potato chips, pickles, M&M's... in no specific order. Taped my toe blisters, and reapplied sun screen and Glide on my feet and neck for the annoying chafing backpack. At that point, I was so happy to just sit, eat, and be able to say in my head that I was half way… that I didn't care anymore about beating myself up. It was time for the steep uphill climb. It was not too hard. It felt just like the scrambling I had done in the Tetons before, so I just did it. Then, mentally, came the hardest part. A slow, steady, mild climb. My legs were fine, and felt fine. But I was hot. And tired. And just over it. So every time I would start feeling over it… I would start talking out loud to myself. Call it another unexpected surprise benefit of not being in a pack. "So, Sofia, how are you doing?" "I am fine and just dandy, how are you?" "Oh, I am good." "Are you having a good day?" "Oh, yea! and you?" And so it went… the two parts of the brain talking to each other. I must admit, they never got in a fight, which was quite nice. That definitely helped me keep a sense of humor as I went… and for sure a better and more entertaining state of mind than the pity party I had at the beginning of the run. That, and music. It helped keep me in a steady, good pace. 

So I kept going. Tracking mile by mile with MapMyRun… to help me mentally. The nice thing about it was that I could use it even though I had no reception. It helped me mentally to know where I was, mileage-wise, so I could keep doing constant math calculations… a fifth… a fourth… a third… half… and so on. All kinds of math calculations to reduce the mileage. Six is just 3 plus 3… you did 2… now you only have to run 30! Another nice surprise was that because there was no reception… I just told myself: "Listen to me! No falls, no getting injured, no snakes behind the bushes, no getting dehydrated and passing out, no nothing. Just keep going!"

And so it went. But I was tired. Very tired. And hot. And run… and walk… and water… and eat… and pee. Repeat. Again and again. Just keep going. A little bit… another little bit... "One mile at a time..."  

And finally, reception… and a message. "Talk to me." So I started… 24… 26… 28… 

And as I am telling myself: "Look, you've run 3 miles before, feeling exhausted just like now… you can do this, keep running…'' I see this person coming towards me. Biking. 

It's Ray.

Now. There is no way I am going to look tired in front of him. No way. I was just so happy to see him, I just started running faster, lighter. Funny how I forgot my tired. Just running and happy, so happy, what an incredible surprise. 

And then we see the finish line. Uphill. And Steph waiting near it. Ready to sprint to the end. So cool. Give it all I can. It was hard. But it felt amazing. It's funny how, feeling so incredibly tired, the body hears your friends going "come on, come on!" and it just listens and goes. It was great. Truly great. 

I never thought I could do this. Not after getting fractures and tendon injures training for marathons. Not after doctors telling me I could not run. But the attitude, instead, of… I will tell myself what I can and cannot do. And a true friend who quietly tells you... "you can do this."

Ignore the naysayers. Listen to good people.

Trust.



3/12/16

Quinoa and Work.


It has now been a year and a half that I have been working as a nurse. I absolutely love my job. The work that I do, the energy involved, the patients, my coworkers. It feels incredible to be part of a team, and at the same time have the autonomy to make decisions on how I go about my day, how I help each patient, how I meet their needs, how to get them better.

Sometimes patients are wonderful and very grateful. Other times they treat us nurses like we are not people, a live human being. And how do we deal with it? I am grateful for my fellow nurses who I can talk to.

But ultimately, it rests on me. My own mind. How I decide to take words and energy. Because, really, they are just words. It takes time to learn to keep my own center no matter what. Because I owe that to other patients. But really, I owe it to myself. To take good care of myself. To stay with myself, centered, positive, even energy. Mind, heart... and body.

Which leads to…food.

Because taking care of myself is not only about mind, emotions, and movement. What I eat, what I put in my body, is my fuel. Fuel for the brain, fuel for the body. For thought… and for movement.

I have been taking my own lunches to the hospital since I started doing clinicals as a student. The funny thing is, people made fun of them. I don't know why. But they did. They did in school… and they do at work. And I shrug... and show what I have...

Scones, granola, sandwiches, tofu, salads, grains, soups, roasted vegetables…

And what always makes me smile is… the moment when someone asks me what that food is… and then days, or weeks, or months later… to taste the food… and then…some more time past... the recipe.

The latest recipe I was asked to share was quinoa. So here it goes:

1 cup quinoa, any color
3 cups of boiling water
1 tbsp extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Place the quinoa on a steel pot and heat up on medium heat to roast the quinoa until fragrant. This is the secret to quinoa, toasting it until fragrant. It makes all the difference in how it tastes, from bland and tasteless to fragrant, delicious. So… be very careful to do it slowly so the quinoa does not burn.

When you can smell the fragrance, put the boiling water in the pot, and immediately cover it so the water does not splatter all over the place making a mess or, worse yet, burn you.

Immediately lower the heat to simmer, add the olive oil and salt, and cook for about 20 minutes. Do not stir the quinoa, or it will make it mushy. Check after 20 minutes to make sure all the water has evaporated. Cook a few more minutes if there is still water on the pot.

When all the water is gone, turn the heat off and let it cool. Once cooled, then mix in the ingredients to make it a salad. Those are the best ingredients I found for quinoa:

  • cranberries
  • cashews
  • almonds, slivered 
  • cilantro
  • green onions
  • frozen corn
  • red onions, finally chopped 
  • shredded carrots
  • feta cheese
  • chick peas
Mix it all in, gently, with a bit of olive oil and salt… and serve with roasted... chicken, tofu, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, Brussel sprouts… sautéed kale or other dark leafy greens… or raw arugula, spinach…and eat. It will sustain you, without making you feel heavy.

Just energy.




10/15/15

Selfie.

I always post pictures of nature, places I go climb, run, hike, walk, experience.

This time I am posting a picture of myself. Post-run. Sweaty, dirty, stinky, scraped up, tired. Nothing to hide. Instead, wrinkles to show my 44 years of life. And smiling.

Smiling because I just ran.

And here the post starts...

I was so euphoric and excited, I just ran 14 miles of trails!!!! Finished, finished!!!!

And then… just like that… as I descended the canyon road into Lander… I descended into self criticism. Well, it did take you 6 hours to do it. That is super slow Sofia. And why were you so tired? Why could't you run faster???

I am writing this post- because I am not letting this happen this time.

No.

This is what I did.

I set out to do a 14 mile loop. Starting at 9,000 feet, and going to 10, 500. Slowly descending to 8,500, and then back up to 9,000. This was the first time for me running at that altitude. Normally I run at around 6,000 feet here in Lander, so I figured it would just be cooler and a nicer weather to run in.

The initial climb was steep, so I decided I would walk/hike it as fast as I could, and then start running once the terrain leveled.

So I started. I climbed up to 10,500, about 4 miles. My left foot kept hurting through it, some kind of strange nerve pain shooting from my fourth toe up to the ball of my foot. I kept trying to rearrange it in the shoe, tighten it, loosen it… nothing. So I finally stopped, cracked all my toes, gulped some Advil, and told the pain to go to hell. Continued.

Once I got to the top, I started running. And then the fear set in. I was terrified that I would get lost in the wilderness. Miss a turn, a trail, a river crossing. This was all new terrain to me, so I had no idea what the trails and intersections would be like, look like; and I had missed turns before and gotten lost enough to know that it does happen, map and all.

I had a topo map, so I had a good idea of the elevation, tree areas, creeks. But what got to me was that whatever mileage the map told me never seemed to match the reality and the time it took me to cover it. It was unnerving, especially as the time seemed to stretch longer and longer beyond the time I had allotted myself to accomplish the run. That kept me on edge. Do I need to run faster to keep on track and risk bonking, or do I keep slow to save my legs... and risk being here until dark, also risking getting cold and running out of water and food?

And then starts the talk back. No Sofia you are not gonna run out of food. And if you do, you are fine, you are not gonna die of starvation or thirst in a few hours. You can always walk. Your legs are fine. Keep going. God damn it I am so fucking tired. Keep going. Keep going. Where is the god damn intersection???? Why is it taking so long to do 3 miles??? I should be there. Am I lost??? Stop. Look around. Ok pee. Ok keep going, keep going. Trip on rocks. You are not gonna fall!!! Don't you fucking fall Sofia, you hear me???? Do not fall!!! God it's about time this intersection shows up, I'm fucking tired!!!!

And so it went, and I went. I felt a couple times, getting up from peeing, a little oozy. Not sure if it was altitude, or not eating enough the previous night, or just simple tired from working a long shift the previous day. Those were all the thoughts that crossed my mind. And more.

Whatever it was, I started to get discouraged by this trail that only seemed to get longer and longer the faster I tried to run it. Damn it I kept thinking.

And that is where it hit me. Something started to shine next to me, pretty bright. What is this??? I turned around, and it was a lake. Shining in the sun. So beautiful. Really, so beautiful it made me just start crying as I ran. And it is amazing how just seeing that, feeling that, was enough to give me new energy.

All it did was make me forget my thoughts.

It is amazing how many self-destructive thoughts we have. Or… I have. And amazing how a simple distraction like sheer beauty can rejuvenate us… me. Get me out of my thoughts, put myself back in touch, inside, core, spirit.

I finished the run. My first time running 14 miles on a trail, alone. To find the most beautiful sunset over the lake at the trailhead.

I did it.

That is what matters. The beauty that I saw and experienced. The challenge and inspiration that came with and from it. And more than that.

Because now I know I can run that. And if I can run that, I can run 20. If I can run 20, I can run 24… and 26, 30…

That is how it goes. Build on a base. I couldn't do 14 if I had not done 13. And 12. And 10. And 9. And 8. And 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. It all starts with 1. Just one. And yet... we are so much of the time so embarrassed by that mere "one" that we end up not even getting out at all, just staying at 0. Nothing.

And yet when I get out… what I get in that one… and another one… is the fresh scent of pine trees, the incredible sound of the breeze in the aspens, the crisp fall air… deer, grouse, picas, birds, sun, creeks, shiny lakes… and by virtue of being slow enough… incredible sunsets.

What I get is what I earn. By work. Strong legs to take me to those places. Not how many miles in the end. But the work I put in. The work that stays with me, and that nothing can take away from me.

Because I earned it.

9/6/15

Fuck it.

It has a been a year since I moved to Wyoming.

I love this place.

I always dreamed of living here.

I love the expanse. The sage. The sun. The mountains. The uphills. Downhills. Dirt. Rock. Snow. Wind. Winters. Summers. Stars… endless skies… everything.

A year.

The interesting thing that has happened… or has happened to me… is that, all of a sudden…

I started doubting myself.

What if… what if…. is this the right place?… should I be in Florida?… maybe I could do it in Florida, make it work there?… why don't I go back? Shouldn't I go back?… what am I doing here?… should I be here? why not somewhere else?… shouldn't I go to  a bigger city? really, just a city?... really???? why… Lander???

A year.

Are you fucking out of your mind???!!!

That is a familiar feeling.

That is how I felt after a year of divorce.

Why did I do it?… wait, why did I do it??? I forgot. Was it that bad?… Maybe it was all ok? Maybe really it was fine, good? Should I go back? Shouldn't I go back??? Maybe it wasn't so bad. Maybe it's doable… and I just exaggerated… maybe... am I out of my mind???...  Wait… wait…

Fucking hell. I don't remember...

My life was.

Perfect.

In the past of course.

Never in the present.

The irony.

There is nothing worse than self doubt. It's like this fear that creeps in… into my mind, my body, my soul… and takes over.

Paralyzed.

Because in that state of mind, anything I want to do... is worthless, really.

And nothing makes sense.

Cause the past is always better, isn't it?

Just perfect.

So then why live?  Really why live???? Just to suffer???...  cause wasn't the past better?… like in all the pictures??? Wasn't it?… Isn't t?

Fuck that.

What you mean fuck that?...

Fuck all that.

Wait, what???...

No, not the cursing part. The past-is-so-great part.

Huh?

That's right.

I lived through the past. Through it all. Just lived. The pictures… and the real shit behind the pictures. And did I collapse and kill myself, or die in a dramatic burning fire, like in the operas?

No.

Shit happens. And we get through it. Just life.

Beautiful.

So a reminder to myself:

Fuck it.

Go for it. Don't half-ass go for it. Go for it. For what you love. For what ticks you. Be true to your self. Fuck it. And be fucked by it.

Live.

The End.






5/29/15

I am a failure

I read a post today that inspired me to write about something that had been in my mind for a long time now.

I had not really talked about it much, or written about it. I did not feel I could. Now I do.

A few years ago, I had this great, neat plan. I was going to take a year-long orchestra sabbatical to enroll into accelerated nursing school. And then gloriously return to the stage as a classical musician with a BSN. Pick and choose my concerts, work as a nurse on days off… what great life.

Well that all went down the drain.

I was fired in December 2012. I lost my symphony job that I had held for 15 years. It happened a few months after the end of my marriage, of also 15 years.

I also had an injury. My right wrist, pronator tendon, was torn. I could not do anything that involved turning my right hand in. Or out. I could not play. I could not climb. I could not work. Essentially, I could do nothing.

Disaster.

I was scared. Embarrassed. I felt fear and shame that were beyond my ability to cope. I had failed my marriage. I had failed my job. I cried almost everyday, for months. I felt completely lost, in the dark. I had such bouts of panic that the only thing I could do was get out in the street and run. I started running at night, in the middle of the night, just to quiet my mind, get away from it.

I was grieving. Only I did not know it. Because I was in the middle of it.

I had been a musician my whole life. I had played cello since I was 9 years old, and worked in an orchestra since I was eleven. I was a musician more than a mother or even a person. That was my identity.

I had a job which was tenured for life. To lose that job, an orchestral job, for which competition is so fierce, to me was the end of my life.

What bullshit.

So I placed a bottle of whiskey in the kitchen. And mounted my road bike in front of my bed. I had to get up and go to the kitchen for that morning shot of whiskey. Numb the mind. Then get on the bike and start the day. Finish prereq. classes for school. Study, wrist therapy, run, cook, clean, take care of my kids, study more, cry, sleep. Get up. Repeat.

I was miserable. What if I didn't get into nursing school? What if nursing school didn't work? What if I didn't like it?

I guess I just had to have blind faith. Trust. Trust my gut. Trust that there would be light at the end of the tunnel. Or something.

I no longer had income. I was bleeding financially, going further and further into debt. Palpating in the dark. Trusting that something would come out. And the total fear of failure in the back of my mind.

I almost flunk one of my very first classes, pathophysiology and pharmacology. I passed it by a few points, really, it was such a clusterfuck of a disaster. I felt I had no idea what I was doing. Keep going, keep going. My God what am I doing??? Why am I doing this??? What the hell am I doing with my life???? Where the hell am I going???

In the middle of that whole mess, nothing made sense to me anymore. I want to do this. I want to do this. I will do this.

And so I graduated. A year ago now. I was totally broke. What a failure. How on earth could I ever earn a job in a field that was so foreign to me? And where?

My refuge. My peace. Wyoming. The mountains. I studied non-stop before my summer job, and took the boards. I studied in the climb gym in Jackson. They had a space upstairs. And wifi. I studied upstairs. Then went downstairs and did laps. Jason Sloan, then an Enclosure employee, helped me with the routes.

Another friend, Mitch, helped me pay for travel for the boards. Took the boards. Started to send applications everywhere, and rejections came from everywhere. It was a shower of rejections. Loser. Keep going. Less crying, more clicking. Keep clicking. Until I got one call. And another. and I am getting calls for interviews in the middle of orchestra rehearsals. All of a sudden failure is looking pretty sweet.

Lander.

Here I am, a year after graduating.

"Failure"

It made me rethink my life. Appreciate my life. It made me take unknown roads, and realize through these past years that it is actually possible to love my work, where I live, and the people around me who accept me for who I am.

My own truth.