Wild Thoughts

Yesterday I had plans to go to an Owl Prowl event at Holliday Park. It promised meeting an owl up close and personal with park handlers, dissecting owl pellets, learning the call of the Eastern Screech Owl, and a night hike.

Owl seeking. I’ve done this before, and it is transporting. Like there’s some wisdom transfer. I have seen you, and I now know things.

My first Barred Owl sighting, at Eagle Creek.
My first Barred Owl sighting, at Eagle Creek.

The unexpected death of a friend of our family brought my parents in town for a funeral, so I canceled my Owl Prowl plans. This morning over coffee, my mom and I watched woodpeckers go after the suet I had just filled in our backyard feeder. We talked about my great aunt, who has just been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. A mash up of birds, loss, and legacy.

My parent’s friend was the principal who has been all over the news, the one who was killed by a bus. Thousands of guests at her visitation and funeral were a testament to her impact. A life dedicated to educating and inspiring others.

I wondered, if I were to go today, what would my legacy be? Even having been the architect of my own path, it’s hard to see clear lines. I haven’t gone all in on much. I’ve dabbled lightly, drinking life up. Trying this and trying that.

It occurred to me that if I had any capital built up in a legacy, it has been purely accidental. A rush of questions caused some panic. Shouldn’t legacy be more intentional? But what should I strive to be known for? What am I waiting for? Do I really need a legacy?

Maybe I should be one of those who makes a quiet impact on just a few, and that is enough. I started this blog post, then decided to wait and think about legacy during a five-mile run.

I procrastinated. Instead of heading straight out for my run, I opened the window and sat back down in my kitchen to read. It felt freeing to have the window flung open in January, the sun beaming in and the chatter of the chickadees calling back and forth. Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.

I stumbled onto an article about a teenage eagle huntress in Mongolia. This is not a thing I knew existed. She is the first female to train for this type of hunting, bucking 2,000 years of tradition.

A still image from the documentary The Eagle Huntress.
A still image from the documentary The Eagle Huntress. Asher Svidensky/Kissaki Films

I took this story with me to the trail for my first run since a chest cold side-lined me Tuesday night. My probing and anxious questions fell away. I just ran with visions of Mongolia and soaring eagles.

My thoughts turned wild. Like this was some sign. To be more brave. To take some grand adventure. Just keep living and trying and giving and being. It will be enough. I never landed on a legacy.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Legacy. What do you want to be known for? Maybe you want to change the world. Maybe you just want to make the best cupcakes known to man. Go all in and give us the deep life-long goal, or share a smaller mission.”

Golden Gate Bridge Run

Since we would be in San Francisco for our last training run before the Eugene Marathon, we decided we should do it in grand fashion and run the Golden Gate Bridge. An article had pointed us to start in Crissy Field. To the bridge and back made for a seven-mile run.

Our SF run path.
Our SF run path.

I’m not often in the habit of stopping during runs, especially just a seven-miler – but this one was as much about exploration as getting in the miles.

boats-w
Boats in San Francisco Marina.

This route included a nice steep hill (607 feet of elevation gain), which meant a breathtaking view of the sundrenched landscape, the city outlined in the distance.

Eye level with the sunshine.
Eye level with the sunshine.

Inching closer in run step increments, the world seemed wide and open, and we were on top of it. From this vantage, anything is possible.

Not to scale
Not to scale.

Running toward the bridge was a test of my sense of scale and time. From a distance, it was hard to guess at how far away we were from the abutment.

A stranger took our photo for us.
A stranger took our photo for us.

Running over the bridge is a whole other matter – the panoramic views are divided by suspensions, concrete, structural steel. 1.7 miles traversing 894,500 tons of bridge. Traffic zips by, high speed and in close quarters. Here the world tightened back up. We picked up our pace until we put the bridge behind us.

On the way back, we wandered from our path. Alcatraz gazing, run-ins with blue heron, a detour to explore the Palace of Fine Arts.

A palatial diversion in our activewear.
A palatial diversion in our activewear.

In those last two miles we “ran” 17:32 and 25:12 respectively, ending with an overall 11:09 pace over the seven miles. Not exactly a sprint, but enough to work up an appetite. Still in our running gear, we stopped at the donut place we’d been eyeing around the corner from our hotel.

Awesomefacing at Bakehouse.
Awesomefacing at Bakehouse.
Before, during and after our gluttonous donut frenzy.
Before, during and after our gluttonous donut frenzy.

We don’t normally devour a box of donuts after a run, but, hey, we were on vacation. No regrets. Those pastries were amazing. And we had a marathon looming in our future…


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “It’s All About the Journey. Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?”

Rush Registration

On December 1st, Louie and I synchronized our watches. We had a phone date at 8:55 a.m., five minutes before registration opened for the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City.

bayshoremarathonOur friends Jason and Robyn had run this race before and sang the praises of the course. Flat and fast, and all along the lake front. Their praise came with a warning. Part of the awesomeness of the race is it’s not too big or too crowded. You have to register quickly, or they might sell out. They’d book up in the first day, for sure.

Their website confirmed the situation. Registration would open at 9 a.m. on the dot. Spots in the race were first come, first serve. Each person may only register one runner.

That Tuesday morning, we dialed in as planned. With each other on the line, we logged in to the registration site. The registration page had a giant timer, ticking down the minutes and second. As we tick-tocked closer to the opening, I got nervous. What if he gets in and I don’t? Or vice versa?

I felt like Ralphie decoding his Little Orphan Annie message, as we entered our credit card information and updated our process along the way. And then, sweet confirmation. We both got in! Our first race of the year, booked.

Later I found out the big rush is for the half marathon, and we’re doing the full. But it was sort of fun to have the rush of registering under that pretext.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Tickets, Tickets! What (or who) did you shell out or stand-in-line for this year? Was it worth it? What made you wait in line, log-on early, or form a lifetime attachment?”

Train, Race, Streak: My Year in Running

Running has done a funny thing to how I approach goals. Meeting them is nice… but surpassing them is even better. At the beginning of the year, I set two goals: 1,000 miles and two marathons.

In 2014, I ran about 700 miles – so 1,000 seemed like a good challenge. A stretch, but very doable. I generally aim for about 100 miles per month, with some lighter recovery months just after running a race. I can’t remember when I passed the goal, exactly, but it never occurred to me to stop. I just kept going. There were two months where I surpassed 150 miles. I logged the most miles I’ve ever run in a month in August at 156.61. My tally for the year: 1,311 miles.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 9.11.24 AM

 

Back to December 30th, 2014, when I was in the middle of my running planning. I wrote in my 5-year memory book: Thinking I might want to be a 50-stater.

Thinking. Ha. As soon as I learned about the 50 States Marathon Club I knew I’d be going for it. By chance, my first two marathons were in different states. That left me with 48 more to go. I figured if I wanted to finish this thing by the time I’m in my sixties, I’d need to run two marathons per year.

Finished! Brüski is not overly impressed. #nooga #7bridgesmarathon

A photo posted by Sara McGuyer (@sara_mc) on

I picked my spring race, The Eugene Marathon in Oregon, to coincide with vacation and visiting friends out west. In the fall, I ran the 7 Bridges in Chattanooga. By October, I could have called my running goals done for the year. Then I heard about The Runner’s World Run Streak.

The most consecutive days I’d ever run was eight. The #RWRunStreak challenges you to run at least a mile a day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. 37 straight days.

I liked this for a couple of reasons. I’d blown through my goals and felt sort of like a drifter without them. The streak would keep me motivated as the weather shifted colder. And I’d never really worked on pace before, always distance. I decided I’d go for the streak, and see if I could run an 8:30 mile while I was at it.

I am not a fast runner. My average pace on the year, including the good, the bad and the ugly, was 11:14 minutes per mile. Some days of this streak I’d get going and know right off the bat I didn’t have 8:30 in me. Other days I’d feel strong and fast, like I had a chance, and run my heart out until I felt it pounding outside of my chest. Then I’d still register something in the 8:40-:50 range.

On the second to last day of the challenge, I really went for it. As I finished I thought, I hope I made it. This is the best I can do. I looked at my watch, devastated. I’d run 8:34. I’d had to stop at an intersection for a car, and I kept thinking, What if? What if? What if? That left me with one more day to meet my goal.

For whatever reason my New Year’s Day run felt lighter and easier. There was pounding in my chest, and heaving lungs, of course, but not quite as desperate. I ran an 8:25. Made it, just in the nick of time.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 1.30.52 PM

I am ready to get back to more distance again, though I think I’ll keep a fast one-miler in my regular rotation. For 2016 goals, I set the bar at 1,500 miles – meaning my 100 mile months won’t cut it. I’ve already registered for my first race of 2016 – the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan, and I’ll plan to choose another for the fall.

1 mile down, 1,499 to go.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: Your 2015, Reviewed. Give us the 30,000 foot view. Or, hone in on a few highlights. Let’s bring last year to life before moving on to what’s ahead.

Running Scenes

Some of my favorites scenes from 2014 came when I laced up and hit the trail. My top running snapshots from the year:

firstrun
My very first run of 2014.

 

White River
Mile 10 of a 12 mile run on the Monon Trail, accidentally timed perfectly to see the setting sun.

 

snow
The day I discovered I can run in snow boots.

 

steps
Running stairs and hills on Butler’s campus. Also, rainbows.
us
After surviving the Flying Pig Marathon.

 

lake
A 10-miler along Lake Michigan in Chicago.

 

trail
A sunny autumn run on the Monon.
hustle
Ho ho ho. Just before running the Santa Hustle Half Marathon.

 

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “Goin’ Places. What place stood out for you this year? Outdoors or indoors; a huge gathering or a tête-à-tête? Where were you? Who were you with? What feeling did you have when leaving? Were you inspired? Refreshed? Or…confused and glad to be gone? Whether it was exciting…or awkward: give us a hall pass out of our own room for a few minutes.”

Last Chance

Today I am on the fence about what to write. Daily posting combined with holiday prep has pushed my brain into a strange tightness. It isn’t often I’m faced with such blankness.

Tomorrow I wake up early. It will be cold and dark as we head to White River State Park for the Santa Hustle Half Marathon. It was the last chance for me to meet my goal to run one full and one half marathon every year, so long as my body is able.

I originally planned to run the Monumental Half in November, the second of my two planned races for 2014. I was just about to register when a really exciting client project came up that required facilitating a board retreat that same Saturday. It was such a great opportunity – it was a no-brainer for me to skip the race and search for a new one to run by year’s end.

The facilitation took place in The Ralston Room at the Alexander, which just so happens to have three walls of floor to ceiling windows, and a great view of the Monumental course. I felt a small pang as I watched those runners go by, knowing my husband and many friends were part of that throng.

But tomorrow will be my turn. I will meet a goal I wasn’t sure I’d be able to tackle. I’ll run long and hard and breathe in the cold air. If there’s any one thing that will open my brain back up, it’s a good long run.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “Wishy-Washy. It’s true, we like you a lot – but let’s be noncommittal for now. It’s okay to be unsure! What are you on the fence about? Dig into the meat of both sides. Is it a big deal? A minor quibble? Are you leaning one way…or is the extended forecast just one big gray area? Yes – we’re telling you not to make up your mind!”

Finishing

The polar vortex really got in the way of my marathon training this winter. The skipped training runs mounted. I failed at my first attempt at twenty miles, then my second. I’d managed a grueling 18.9-miler, but I knew it in my heart. I wouldn’t have been prepared for a flat marathon, much less the Flying Pig in Cincinnati with its steep and plentiful hills. I wasn’t ready.

In the days before the race, I waffled back and forth. I’d think, Maybe I should just try, one minute. No way in hell, the next. Some of my runner friends said a lot of people only train up to 18 miles, so I was basically already there. A very stubborn part of me just couldn’t let go – I don’t like giving in once I’ve set a goal.

The deciding factor came as a surprise. Louie offered to run with me. We don’t run together much. His pace when he’s pushing hard is a good three minutes faster per mile. I never expected him to throw a marathon to take it at my pace.

While I had resolved to attempt the whole thing, I also knew there’d be a fork in the road. The turn off where the half-marathoners go one way, and the full folks go another. I’d have this one out, if I felt like I needed it.

On race day, when we hit that point in the course, I was still feeling good. I made eye contact with a spectator, a woman who was cheering her heart out, encouraging me, this random stranger. As I took the path toward the full marathon, I welled up with emotion, feeling proud that I hadn’t taken the easy way.

Then there was a brutal series of hills. Somewhere around mile 16, a steep hill completely shredded my legs. The reality of ten more miles to go punched me in the gut. My pace started dropping off. Louie moved into cheerleader mode, trying to keep me moving and motivated.

I was slow and achy between 16 and 22 miles, and stopped at every chance for water or Gatorade. The next four miles were a bit of a blur. I noticed my eyes felt heavy, the lids near closed. As I shuffled along (because you can’t really call what I was doing running by that point), I was biting at a fingernail. I remember thinking:

Is my mind drifting? Am I losing it a little bit? Why am I biting my nails now, of all times?

I don’t think I was really losing it, but I do think my body was in the early phase of shutting down.

As we got closer to the end, Louie grabbed my hand, squeezed it. It woke me up a bit. He said the finish line was near. I argued with him, No, I don’t see it! During that last leg of the race, he didn’t let go of my hand while we sort-of ran. I remember hearing a woman say, They’re holding hands. I love it.

losing-it

Crossing the finish line is always emotional, but this time it felt bigger. I felt carried, not by my own two feet, but by Louie’s energy and love. His hand holding mine lifted me up. I know this is why I was able to finish.

After the race, we had a mile walk back to the car. I felt good. I can’t explain how I went from on the brink, to being okay, just like that. I had to fly to California for business the next day. Despite a car trip back to Indy, a very early flight, all of the travel – I was fine. My muscles weren’t even the slightest bit sore.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “+ / – Have no fear – no numbers needed here. Who (or what) made a difference for you this year? Were they cognizant of their effect? Did it add to your life…or detract? Was it a momentary encounter? A year-long helping hand? Someone who took a chance on you, or vice versa? What would’ve changed if you’d had to go without, or go it alone? Imagine the alternative scenario.”

Namaste, C’est la vie

namaste-cestlavie
During today’s run along the Central Canal Towpath, I saw two ducks wildly splashing in a tail spin. One duck was clearly dominating, but both violently stabbed at one another with their beaks. It was gut instinct to break it up, and not knowing what else to do, I started clapping loudly in hopes it would spook them.

I learned about how clapping scattered birds when I was a kid. My grandmother has a great tree in her front yard. I remember how it would fill up with black birds. I never knew what drove her so crazy about them—their cacophony of twitters and caws, or the blueberry-stained droppings they left all over. She’d go after them, “CLAP, CLAP, CLAP” and they’d take fright-flight, startled up into the sky, the sound of hundreds of flapping wings.

So I stood on the banks of the Canal, “CLAP, CLAP, CLAP.”

The ducks just kept circling after each other, thrashing their wings in the water. A female duck tried to intervene, with slight beak nudges to the two fighters. There was biting of tails and wings, then the stronger of the two started taking the other down, plunging its head under water.

Horrified, I thought, I’m going to stand here and watch this duck murder happen. Is there something I can throw toward them? Should I jump in?

I cracked my hands together harder and faster, until my hands hurt from clapping.

Finally, the submerged duck managed to get his head back up for air. They nipped and splashed a bit more before the weaker bird broke free.

And this is why I can’t watch nature programs. Universe, sometimes I can’t handle your cruelty. One day you make my heart swell with beauty and goodness, then you crush me with your harsh realities.

Namaste, C’est la vie.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “Put Down Your Blog… And pick up a pen! Or pencil. Heck – we’d settle for a crayon. You don’t have to stay in-between ruled lines, but we do want you to write something by hand. Sure, a letter comes to mind. But so does a recipe you discovered this year. A poem. A series of tweets that is a poem. A contract with yourself – or someone else. Whatever you get on paper – write it, then photograph & blog it. Cursive or manuscript, we promise not to grade on penmanship.”

These Three Things

When I thought of the top three things I’m looking forward to in 2015, my list shaped up like so:

1) A real vacation.
We were so focused on house hunting and buying, that we never took a proper vacation. We visited family out of town, took a weekend trip to Chicago, and I traveled for work a couple of times. So while I got to travel a bit, it wasn’t enough to sate my wanderlust. I took a brief stay-cation, and my only extended vacation was dedicated to moving. You know, the thing where you pack and clean and haul stuff around? It’s a lot of work, and not remotely vacation-like. We haven’t decided what trips we’ll take, but I’m being called westward. Any recommendations?

2) Redeeming myself in the marathon department.
I finished the Flying Pig in May, but it wasn’t pretty. This experience merits its own post at some point. I’m still surprised I made it, truth be told. Given my running plans between now and the end of the year (I am registered for the Santa Hustle Half Marathon), I estimate I’ll have run 700 miles or so this year. It sounds like a lot, but I thought I’d be more on pace to run 100 miles most months, or at least 1,000 miles total. In 2015, I’m upping the number of miles, but I mostly want to enjoy the marathon I run in 2015 as much I enjoyed the one I ran in 2013, and decidedly unlike the not-so-enjoyable outing of 2014.

One of my favorite running pics from 2014:

Accidentally timed that out perfectly. Mile 10 of 12.

A photo posted by Sara McGuyer (@sara_mc) on

3) Destination racing.
For the last couple of years, since I started running, I’ve been talking with friends from college about meeting up for a race and reunion. While we’re all scattered across the country, many of us have came to running on our own. I know that sounds weird that marathoning is part of my ideal vacation plan, but I’ve become the sort of person who travels with running shoes. This year I managed to get in 15 lakefront miles in a weekend to Chicago. I ran in my hometown over Thanksgiving, a lovely turkey and pie-fueled 5-miler. Packing running gear has become my default.

After I wrote these three things out, I realized how much they coincide. It’s my brain telling me it’s time for a break. Vacation is critical for head space, and running long distance is the best meditation I know. To another year of pounding the pavement!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “Just Can’t Wait. The calendar still says 2014, but let’s push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you’re counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it’s the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you.”

#heartmyhood: a Monon ode

I moved this summer, after a good, long house-hunting. Our exhaustive and detailed list of musts included proximity to the Monon Trail. The Monon is my city artery – it gets me to work, to home. It’s my frequent path for long runs.

The trail connected me to the city in a way I never expected. I remember thinking how Carmel seemed like a distant land, such a far drive away. Things look a little bit different after running the trail across city lines. The Monon made the city smaller, closer – like all of Indy is my neighborhood.

These runs along the trail during autumn are a sight to behold. Some of the trees are all spent, others have just gotten into their fall groove. Seeing these changes unfold never gets old.

monon


#heartmyhood is a collaboration between SmallBox and Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center to spread neighborhood love in Indy