I went for a run on the trails this morning and, as is my routine, wore a bandana around my neck. Whenever I see someone coming my direction, I stop to pull it over my nose and mouth. I do this because running makes me breathe more heavily and I want to minimize the possibility of me infecting someone if I somehow have Covid (and am asymptomatic). Because this was a Sunday, I encountered a greater number of people on the trails (walkers, runners, and one mountain biker). I was the only one masked, but that was fine, and each encounter was friendly. (Okay, the mountain biker reactivated my animus by being an entitled trail-hog.)
Near the end of the run, I saw a person coming toward me. I stopped, masked, moved over to the right, and started running again. When I got closer I realized it was a woman who lives on my street, and I waved hello. Her reply?
She scoffed and yelled, “I’m triple vaccinated!”
As I continued running, I said some bad things out loud to myself. Mostly WTF and what kind of monster shames mask-wearers during a freaking global pandemic and then some stuff about that woman’s intelligence level plus a few choice words about our useless government and how this pandemic is only going to get worse. Whew. Then I reminded myself I was running on narrow, uneven trails with lots of rocks sticking up and that it would truly suck to trip, fall, and add to my collection of scars. So I began chanting my trail-running mantra:
Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground.
It worked. I let go of the emotions and made it home without injury. And in writing this out, I just realized that mantra is probably a good all-around reminder to help me stay in the moment during these difficult days.
Feet on the ground.
Emma and I ran on the trails this morning. It was my first outdoor exercise in over a week because of the horrific air quality. While the morning’s AQI wasn’t Great, I just couldn’t take another treadmill session. Running outside felt like a reasonable trade-off between lung health and mental health. I brought water for us and we did a mellow 3-miles with me urging her on most of the way. Halfway through the run, she pooped. I scooped it into a rice cake bag, knotted it off, and tied the bag to her collar. It’s tricky enough holding her leash while trail-running (sudden stops and detours really increase the likelihood of wipe-outs) and adding a poop sack was more than I could handle. The good news is Emma didn’t really seem to notice. (I did feel like a bad human-friend once we got back on the streets and ran past people from the neighborhood, Emma’s poop sack swinging for all to see.)
When we returned home, I saw a missed call from Wildebeest. I called back and we ended up conversing for nearly two hours about all sorts of things. While talking, I took my camera outside and continued our conversation on speaker phone as I photographed the zillions of bees on the fern bush.
I eventually told Wildebeest what I was doing, knowing he might freak out or, at the least, get really twitchy and itchy. (When he was a teenager, he got stung by a bee while at outdoor camp and was taken to the nearest hospital where he was jabbed with an epi pen. As bee sting reactions go, his wasn’t uber-serious. Yes, his throat did close a bit but, in his words, he had plenty of time to get to the hospital.) Turned out, my announcement didn’t send him spiraling. However, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have waded into the fern bush with me to get close-up shots.
And I know for a fact he would’ve steered clear of this specimen:
Yikes. A quick online search for “red wasp” tells me this species isn’t even supposed to be in Colorado?? And I saw several of them on the bush??
I got up this morning and went for a run on the trails.
Hayden Green Mountain Park. June 24, 2021
While this photo was taken a week ago, I enjoyed the same view today (these three dragonflies may or may not have been present this time around as I tend to watch the trail more than the sky due to tripping hazards) and grinned pretty much throughout the entire run. My body felt sluggish, but my soul overfloweth with gratitude as I drank in the natural beauty.
Emma and I just returned from a sunny and warm excursion in the open space. We hiked up the mountain as fast as we could and then ran down. Well, we did some running. My short-legged companion doesn’t like the heat and slowed to a walk multiple times. At one point, she even did her signature “goin’ on strike” move. She stopped and dug in to pull the leash taut, then flopped on her belly with pink tongue hanging out.
I’d already offered her water from my cupped hand when we were at the top of the mountain, which she refused. So when she was on her belly, I tried another approach: pouring water in front of her. Instead of lapping it with her tongue, she ignored it. Silly dog, refusing libation when hot and thirsty. Well, I wasn’t willing to take no for an answer and pried her jaws open to pour water in her mouth.
Worked like a charm! Emma got up and ran almost the entire way back to the street. Such a good doggo.
(Note: Zippy took the photo with the camera still set for shooting the Brown Creeper in low light even though Emma and I were in bright, bright light. I salvaged the photo via a filter. Artsy, no?)
Flowers plus a note
yellow roses mean friendship
Image via Zippy’s phone. January 22, 2021
eta 1.25.21…flowers and note still there
eta 2.2.21…flowers and note still there
eta 2.9.21…flowers and note no longer there
I’m making a concerted effort to focus my gaze on activities and topics that bring joy rather than churning anxiety. Today, along with Zippy and Emma, I went out in the BLOWY sunshine to hike/run on the trails. I felt so much better as a result, even if I did have to carry my running hat that would NOT stay on my head.
Yesterday’s act of self-care was to photograph lovely shadows on the patio. Here are two of my favorites (the one on the right also contains sunflower stalk shadows):
So much going on in the world demands our push-back, but sometimes I need to lower my gaze and focus on the small stuff. Sunshine, wrought-iron patio furniture, and shadows. Who knew?
Zippy accepted my invitation to run on the trails with me this afternoon. It turned out, lots of people had the same idea so we ran our regular route in reverse to avoid the hiking couple we saw as soon as we got on the trail. I’m so glad we did because as we ran along the ravine, we were gifted a wildlife sighting.
Photo by Jim Kennedy. Metzger Farm Open Space, CO. January 19, 2019.
Four coyotes on the opposite slope. Two loped off to our left and the others sat next to the trail where we planned to run. We debated turning around so as to not further stress the remaining two and then decided it was a stress for them either way. So on we went, and the coyotes melted into the brush at our uphill, huffing approach.
I’d thought my coyote-sighting days were behind me as I’ve mostly seen them early in the mornings and I’m no longer an early-in-the-morning runner. But this here Monday played against type and started the week with a wonderful surprise. Definitely a good omen.
Black-billed Magpie in open space. March 31, 2020.
This morning, for the second day in a row, I got up and ran on the trails.
Black-billed Magpies perched on yucca alongside the trail and flew ahead of me as I chugged along, bringing smiles and lifting my spirits.
I’m excited to regain the strength and endurance I’ll need for the many fights ahead on behalf of the people and planet.
Day by day, I’m inching closer to FINALLY understanding my protagonist in my new novel project. That’s the good news. The bad is there’s a very good chance the 4k words I’ve written thus far will end up in the trash and I’ll be back to 0 words. However, I’m feeling more solid and at peace with this newer understanding.
While knotty writing problems sometimes amp up my frustration, they also take my focus and provide a refuge from our current (and future) reality. Hooray for an inner creative life!
I’ve had to revisit Dr. John Sarno’s mind-body connection lately due to ongoing vertigo. After three weeks of living at a tilt, I had an epiphany and realized it was my brain trying to distract me from the many emotions I’m experiencing during these difficult times. My brain thinks I’ll be better served if I’m focused on bogus sensations rather than doing the helpful things that help me manage my anger/anxiety/fear, helpful activities such as trail-running. Since the onset of this dizzy bullshit on June 9, I haven’t run on the trails. Because what’s scarier than rocks and roots sticking up on narrow , uneven trails, hoping to trip an already-tippy me?
I’ll tell you. A three-foot snake across the trail.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
How do I know? This morning I finally went out in the open space. (note: the vertigo has greatly subsided since I caught on to my brain, but things are still off.) I’d only run about 20 feet from the trail head when my right foot came down close to an enormous snake. I let loose with my customary profanity as I jumped left. The snake didn’t acknowledge my presence, but my heart still pounded as I watched it slither along. No rattling. I now think it was a bull snake, but I didn’t lean in to verify whether it had slit-like pupils (rattlesnake) as opposed to a bull snake’s circular pupils. I will say that I had a whole new pep in my step when I started running again. Adrenaline can be a beautiful thing.
During my three-mile run, I also saw rabbits on the part of the trail we call the “bunny run” and later on kicked up a flock of magpies. The Spotted Towhees were also out in force, singing their “sweet-sweet-teeeeaaaa” songs. It was wonderful being there again. My pace was slow but my spirits were high.
Take that, brain!
I woke with anxiety (in large part exacerbated by the reality of the corporate, political, and media establishment rallying around the candidate who’s campaigning against Medicare for All during a pandemic) and knew I had to do something. Pull the covers over my head and remain in bed all day? Or get up and get moving?
I wisely chose movement and for the first time in weeks, went for a run. Well, a walk/run. For once, I was kind to myself and didn’t berate myself whenever I slowed to a walk. I went out on the trails in the open space and within minutes, I saw a bunny under a bush. I greeted it as I chugged on by and then a few minutes later, I spotted a talkative magpie perched on the water tank.
Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.
I’ve become accumstomed to being the only human out on the trails, but today I encountered a total of ten people and three dogs. I hope that if they also woke with anxiety, that their time in the open space soothed their souls. I know it did me a world of good.
Marcel ruling the roost. January 25, 2020
Zippy and I just returned from a run on the trails with Emma, and as I sat in recovery mode (basically, waiting for my ears to thaw), I noticed the floor was in serious need of vacuuming. But on my way to retrieve the vacuum from the closet, I noticed Marcel’s regal bearing. So, I adroitly abandoned the vacuum for the camera. And now here I am at the laptop, posting on my site.
I’ll take a nice cat photo over clean floors, any day.
This morning I went out for a run on the trails. Even though it’s Sunday, which would mean more people out in the open space. And sure enough, I saw a fair number of folks. One male runner in bright, multi-colored shorts and no shirt. Two women hiking off in the distance. A man and woman walking a big ol’ black dog. Plus, quite a few of my least favorite trail users: mountain bikers.
I’ve been anti-mountain biker for years because (1) they carve up wet trails, creating grooves that harden into ankle-twisting ruts and (2) they’re rude, rarely acknowledging when I stop my run to let them pass.
My motto has long been F*CK MOUNTAIN BIKERS!
Well, today I’m rethinking my stance. Within two minutes of getting on the trail, a mountain biker rode toward me. He was on the uphill and I was on the down, so I stepped aside. The man said, “Thanks, but I can get by.” I recovered from the shock and started running again. A while later, three men on bikes rode toward me on the wide gravel portion of my route. They all smiled and called out Hello. I was barely out of their sight as I started down the narrow part of trail where another man rode up the incline. When I stepped off the trail he called out, “That’s okay. There’s room.” I replied that I didn’t want to slow him down on the uphill and he said, “We can make it work.” He was right. We easily passed each other and off I ran again. A few minutes later three guys on mountain bikes came toward me and I stepped off the trail just as they pulled off to the other side.
“Go ahead!” one called out.
I said, “Thanks, guys!”
“Anytime!” one replied.
“Enjoy!” said another.
“Have a good one!” called the third.
I grinned as I continued along, wondering if the pod people had taken over the mountain biking community. I was filled with love for mountain bikers! But because I am in the confessional right now, I must also admit I’d still prefer to have the trails to myself. However, this morning’s interactions went a looong way toward cancelling my mountain biker bias.
Pod people or not, those men were good ambassadors.
This morning Zippy and I ran on the trails in the open space. It’s hot here so I carried a full bottle of water in a waist pack. I drank it all as we went along (sharing a few swallows with Zippy) which lightened my load. When we got home I removed my shoes and sweaty socks. This is what I plucked from them:
Look at all that extra weight I unknowingly carried. What clever little hitchhiking seeds!
Ten days ago I took a bad fall while running on the trails. I’m healing and this morning decided it was time to get out there again. I’ll admit to being nervous, but once I was out there amidst the wildflowers, butterflies, grasshoppers, meadowlarks, magpies, and robins, I was so happy.
A taste of what I saw this morning. Image from AllTrails site.
However, happy doesn’t equal not-nervous. As I got closer to where I’d fallen, images of that fall popped in my head and I tightened up. So I chanted, “Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground. You are connected to this trail. Feet on the ground. This is your happy place. Feet on the ground.” My body relaxed.
I intended to run past the scene of the fall, but decided it was important to stop and examine the site. I immediately spotted the rock I believe was the culprit. It was dark and partially submerged, hard to see. Damned rock. But now I know it’s there and will forevermore lift my feet high as I run past it. I also know there will be many more joyous runs on that trail because today I got back on the horse that threw me. Yeehaw!
This morning I went out on the trails to run. I haven’t been out there in two weeks, in part because of the snow and rain-and-more-rain we’ve received. Muddy trails are no fun. But the last two days have been sunny and warm, and sure enough, once I got out there the trails were dry. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that as I neared the end of my run and was on a slight downhill, I hooked a toe on a rock. The next thing I knew my arms were outstretched and I was soaring. Through the air and then on the ground where I slid across the dirt and rocks.
It all happened very quickly and my best guess is that I hit first with my left knee and then slid onto my right side. I lost a chunk of skin from the heel of my right hand. My right elbow is a mass of bloody scrapes. My right hip bone is scraped. My right thigh is scraped, but not bloody. Same for my stomach. I got dirt in my navel and my mouth.
My immediate reaction was to scream profanities. It all hurt SO MUCH. But when I stopped screaming, I realized I didn’t feel pain anywhere that wasn’t bleeding. In other words, I hadn’t jammed a shoulder or wrist. Even though it was the worst fall I’ve taken out there in a few years, it wasn’t too bad. I think adopting the Superman pose was key. That allowed me to slide along the ground in a bumpy imitation of a batter sliding into second base.
Still, I’m thinking that next time I run out in the open space I should wear a cape. Might stay afloat that way.
Zippy and I ran on the trails this morning, and when we reached the top of one uphill slog we paused to stretch. I noticed a colorful cactus off the trail in the approximate spot where we’d seen a beautiful blooming cactus last April and so stepped closer to see whether that cactus was in flower again.
Wrong and wrong again.
The cactus that caught my eye this morning was nothing like the one from last spring. Instead, it was a prickly pear that looked something like this:
But even worse was that as I went off-trail I didn’t look where I was stepping and by the time I returned to the trail my shoes were loaded with yet another kind of cactus. These were like tiny footballs with two-inch-long spines.** And as I pulled them from my shoes I learned that one spine had embedded itself in my ankle. Yeah, so that was cool. But I got it and all the rest of them out and started running back down the trail. Stinging pain be damned.
Alas, those little football cacti were a gift that kept on giving. About a mile later I stuck my hand in my pocket and experienced a whole other kind of ouch. Turns out I’d gotten a bunch of tiny spines in my fingers when removing the footballs from my shoes.
But you know what? It was still a good run.
** I just realized that the post I linked to above contains a photo of my shoe with a, wait for it . . .tiny spiny football cactus. So apparently I’m bound and determined not to learn from my mistakes.
Flowers just like you
kissed my legs this morning as
I ran on the trails.
Yesterday as I ran on the open space trails and flax tickled my legs, I wished Zippy was with me. Blue flax flowers are his favorite and they’re at the peak of their bloom right now. Good news for him, our flax is also blooming at home in one of our beds.
Here’s a domesticated memento of yesterday’s trail run.
This morning Zippy and I went for a run on the trails. Trailrunning is great fun because it usually keeps my thoughts focused on the rocky, uneven terrain. My mantra is “Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground.” That helps keep me in the moment so I don’t hook a toe and fall on my face. However, today I struggled with the nasty voice in my head, telling me I was slow and tired and really-Tracy-you-should-just-walk-because-you’re-not-a-real-runner.
So I fought back with two new mantras.
The sky was blue, the temperature was a perfect 58 degrees, and the Western Meadowlarks were out in force, warbling their beautiful songs. There was no reason to feel anything other than pure joy and gratitude for my time out in the open space. Today’s mantras became “Beautiful day, beautiful day. Birds are singing. Birds are singing. Beautiful day, beautiful day. Birds are singing. Birds are singing.”
Once those went on repeat in my head, the nasty voice was nowhere to be heard.
Yesterday I went for a run on the trails. While stopping to stretch at the top of what Zippy and I refer to as “the slog,” I spotted a splash of bright pink off to the side of the trail. At first I thought it was a candy wrapper and as I moved closer, decided it was a painted rock. It was neither. Sitting there all by itself was a perfectly round, perfectly lovely little cactus. **
Later, as I continued running, I noticed something sticking out of my shoe. I figured it was grass that’d gotten stuck in some mud in my tread, and promptly forgot about it. However, when I was home and taking off my shoes, I nearly impaled myself. Not on a wad of grass, but on the spiny cactus that had hitched a ride on my shoe.
Now I remember why it’s much more fun to run on the trails than the streets.
(** I didn’t have a camera with me, but when Zippy went out to do an errand, he drove to the nearest trailhead and photographed the beauteous cactus for me.)
This morning I pulled some manuscript/project boxes out of the closet to see if there’s anything in there worth salvaging for my next writing endeavor. (My little writer brain has to have something to noodle on, so while I await my critique group’s feedback on my work-in-progress, I’ve started thinking about what comes next). Well, those boxes proved irresistible to the cats.
Marcel claiming his literary territory
Later this afternoon, Emma and I went out on the trails. Although it was warm enough for me to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, there were still a few patches of snow along the way. We stopped running so that Emma could do her thing.
I laughed as she scooped snow with her snout and dug holes with her paws and slid down the slope on her tummy.
Emma + snow = happiness
Today I’m thankful for these awesome shoes that carried me over the rocky and uneven trails this afternoon:
I’m also thankful I had the trails 100% to myself as I ran, never seeing another human during those 35 minutes, not once, not even off in the distance.
I am thankful for the company of the 80 million grasshoppers, the occasional butterfly, the what-I-hope-was-a-hummingbird-and-not-an-enormous-insect buzzing in my ear, the one bunny that allowed me a glimpse before disappearing into the rabbit brush, the sunshine, and the unidentified bird with the black tail.
I’m thankful for the strength in my legs, the power in my lungs, and the lack of ego that allowed me to walk when I felt like it.
Finally, I’m thankful that the rain didn’t fall until I was already home.
One of the very best things about running on the trails in June is the Western Meadowlark companionship. They’re all over the open space, perched on yucca or rabbit brush. The colors shown in these public domain photos might lead you to believe that meadowlarks are easy to spot. Not so.
I almost always hear a Western Meadowlark before I see it. These birds have the most beautiful song. It’s liquid and lyrical, warm and smile-inducing. A pure shot of joy.
And lucky for me, these birds love to sing.
“Why, yes. I did just lick sweaty post-run salt off you while you napped.
Is that a problem?”
I’m working on a synopsis for my work-in-progress and, as anyone who has ever written one can attest, it’s not a pretty process. This time around I’m writing a synopsis before writing the novel which means I’m not locked into anything.
NOT LOCKED INTO ANYTHING = EVERYTHING IS A POSSIBILITY
Or another way to describe it: SQUIRREL BRAIN FREE-FOR-ALL
My ADD tendencies are having a blast-y as I try to reconcile my rough outline with all the brand new shiny ideas firing in my brain.
ZIP ZAP ZOOP.
However, I did make progress today. And when I’d had enough of ye olde synopsis, I put Emma on her leash and we went for a run on the trails.
Nothing clears the squirrel from one’s brain like a run over uneven terrain.