Endurance and Pleasure

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Things go easy, things go hard.


When I worked on a fishing tender (The Ermine), I wrote this:


“Life is endurance, or pleasure.

That is all.

Only endurance,

Or pleasure.”


That was strangely comforting to me.


My sensei long ago told us,


“Every problem is a gift.”


And somewhere along the way, I remember learning, and learning to believe, that each challenge we face is meant to teach us something. Obstacles allow us to become better. Somehow.


Maybe that rings hollow for some, for folks dealing with true– or at least more exterior– hardship. I don’t know. What I know is that when my brain is not going well, remembering that gives me some comfort and fortitude.


Some of the problem-gifts I’m receiving these days challenge me to take deeper breaths. To find coping mechanisms that are moderately healthy.


The comforting thing about endurance/pleasure is the sense that “this too shall pass.” I honestly believe that things will be okay. But I also honestly believe that things will not be okay. It’s the way of the world. Back in the day, there was a belief that fortune was a wheel, always spinning. It was actualy considered bad luck to be at the top of your game, top of the wheel, everything going well– It meant the bottom of the wheel was coming soon. Fortune was also a lady I think. Or maybe the lady spun the wheel. I forget.


But accepting that that’s all there is– just endurance and pleasure– let me let go of wishing things were better. I’ve heard that too. That wishing is the thing that causes trouble. Be content where you are! Right? …Right? So they say.


Anyway, to look bad brain in the face and go elsewhere, this evening, I ran. It was all I could do. Honestly has been a bit since that’s felt like my last resort. In some ways that’s good. It gets me out. Gets my shoes on.


My personfriend has pointed out to me that a lot of what I struggle with is anxiety. I forget that sometimes. I’m too busy panicking that nothing will turn out, that I’m failing in every way, that there’s no way out. That feels a lot like depression, but it’s faster. More immediate and claustrophobic. Depression settles in next. Good friends those guys are, depression and anxiety. They always seem to call the other one to the party.


Anyway, I’m remembering, being back here in Alaska, where I longed to be, and where anxiety comes full-throated back to the fore, that it’s something I have to face down. That accomplishing dreams won’t feel simple and easy. I think they might feel profoundly horrible.


I climbed a hill the other day with another friend. It was a good hill-climb, a great reconnection. Good for my brain. Like always, anxiety, depression climbed too, but they were willing to be kind of quiet while the rest of me lived a little.


This friend relayed to me what another friend had told them– that there are three types of fun. (And maybe, climbing friend, you can tag your friend for some credit, as I don’t want to plagerise their wisdom!) Type 1 fun is the kind of fun you enjoy while you’re having it. That’s city fun, to be sure. Type 2 fun is the kind of fun you enjoy after you’re having it. Climbing the Butte (especially the climbing part) was a prime example. The reward was great, the memory was strong. I’m enjoying that fun as we speak. Definitely good Alaska fun, type 2 is. Type 3 fun is fun you don’t really ever enjoy. I’m not sure what an example of this is, but somehow I relate. Maybe you know some examples. I kind of think of hard chores, like moving dog houses in mud season, or something. I don’t really ENJOY the memory later, but there’s pride in having done something…? Maybe. Maybe it’s something else.*


Accomplishing this dream will be type 2 fun all the way. Partially because of my good ole friends anxiety and depression.


My personfriend asked me if I’ll be happier while mushing. I’m afraid that the answer may not be encouraging. I can’t say for sure, but I think I’ll be pretty anxious mostly. Especially as I get my feet under me. Worrying about every dog, making sure I’m doing right by every dog. Making sure I have the means, making sure I’m living up to my own moral compass. Making sure I’m having fun. Have fun damnit!!! I’m pretty sure for me it’s all just type 2 fun.


But that’s a gift, too. That’s that problem-gift. It’s a gift to practice accepting that anxiety within me, to accept that my body feels the need to tell me something, and then to move on. To cope with it. To move through it.


Tonight, the only thing I could do for that was to run, on my own two feet. Longer than I expected.


One more thing I have been trying. In my moments of panic I’ve practiced going over three things I’m grateful for. They can’t be repeats, ever. It’s pretty incredible the endorphin effect of this. (Or maybe it’s not endorphins, I don’t know. Just feels the same as exercise, but faster.)


So this is a disjointed post, I guess. An attempt at honesty. Facing down the same old demons over and over. We’re all tied together, me and the demons, so the task is to live with them.


Here are some logistical updates about what the heck I’m doing:


Ophelia is getting a summer job on a glacier (here in Alaska) showing tourists mushing with my great friend Riley, who I trust implicitly in his dog care. I’m really, really sad to see her go, but I know for fact he’ll take super care of her and show her the ropes.


Hooch is with Judy, her original owner, for a couple of months, being a professional couch dog. She gets to hang out with her mom, Wilma! It’s pretty cute.


I wanted to get my four legged friends out of the city. Living by a freeway was giving them both pretty constant allergic symptoms (runny eyes and noses all the time), and Ophelia had gotten way too good at eating all the street food (read: condoms, squirrels, pizza, plastic ridiculous things) she could. Finally, I felt like it was probably a good idea to get them north of ticks and heartworm.


I’ll be back in Minneapolis for two more months getting ready for the drive up with my brave personfriend, Shawn, who instigated this whole plot to move to Fairbanks. In July, that’s our plan. We’ll drive 3200 miles to Two Rivers, Alaska, where we are gonna settle in and– if things go well– acquire a couple more additions to the “kennel.” Our plan is to start small and take an easy year getting to know the area, building up some stability, and enjoying Alaska. Ideally this will transmorgify into a couple more dogs and maybe start leading to the ultimate goal: running Iditarod.


I’ve been up in Alaska this week trying to get some logistics sorted out, and settling the girls into summer work (and couch duty!) until Shawn and I get up there. I fly back to Minnesota on Monday to spend two months enjoying those skyline sunsets, good friends, and packing for adventure.


Back to the whole mental shenanigans– I need to pass along big, big thanks to a few people who have been hearing about that unfun end of things and providing a lot of support. Alycia, Eleanor, and Carter have been good listeners and good sharers, and their support means a lot. Riley, Ryne, and Judy, thank you guys so much for hosting me, my dogs, or both. No ammount of thanks will suffice. And most of all, to my personfriend Shawn– Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are an incredible support, and I can’t wait to show you all the lichen up here.


There you go! I felt better even just writing some gratitude.


Well, now you know too much, but I guess that’s just how it goes with the truth, and you know what there is left to say?




Here we go.



*Later I learned this is not at all a new concept (just new to me!) and it’s especially Alaskan, I gather! Figures!

Training Log… Date Unknown!!!

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Okay, okay, I haven’t done the best at keeping up with my training log. Truth be told, I fell off the wagon considerably. But I kept following the wagon as it trundled down the road, and eventually I sort of hauled myself back onto it in a less than dignified manner, and am at least there if not in the form and function I hoped.

Lots of change in the air. Running around my neighborhood in Minneapolis as the snow melted, I realized that this is not a great place for me and the dogs. Ophelia now is strong and bigger than Hooch, and she also loves street food. Like street pizza. Or street squirrels. Or street poop. She eats it all. No discrimination. We play a constant game of “can I consume this before my human makes me drop it or scoops it out of my mouth?” Also, the girls have some allergies, and I think it’s about the city air. We live right next to a freeway, which just can’t do them any favors.

So, back to Alaska we go! Ophelia has landed a job as a tour dog on the Denver glacier this summer with Riley Dyche, a good friend and great musher. Hooch will be on couch assignment with another friend in Fairbanks. I think she’ll be relieved to have a break from her offspring. Their relationship has looped back to one where Hooch just endures Ophelia, and Ophelia just wants to hang off Hooch’s ears. Don’t get me wrong. They still love each other. But. Hooch will appreciate an extended spa day.

I fly them up on Alaska Airlines next Friday. I’ll drive up to Fairbanks, see some friends, drop off the dogs, and then spend a week with my parents. It will be great to be back in the 49th state. I’m hoping to climb some mountains, do a little hiking, and generally enjoy nature and friends. And Turkey Red. (Best restaurant ever, in case you don’t know.)

Then I’ll be back to Minneapolis to be with my personfriend, enjoy some summer sun, and prepare for the next big step– moving to Fairbanks! I’m ironing out details, but the move is on the move. Or at least it’s pretty imminent. I’m excited. I’m finally aiming for what I have dreamed of my whole life, building my small kennel. I don’t have huge aspirations, but I want to run Iditarod, and I’m excited to do it in my own style. Nervous too, let’s not kid ourselves, but mostly pretty stoked. This coming year or two I’ll have and raise pups, get to know the Fairbanks area a little better, and start building ATAO Kennel. When the pups are yearlings or two year olds, we’ll do some mid distance races, and when they are three, the goal is Iditarod. So– big plans. We’ll see.

But oops, this is supposed to be a training log…

So… for now, I have been running the girls every morning. Last weekend I got myself out on a solo run, because it was too hot for the dogs, and it felt great. I intended to go 3 miles but ended up doing 5. I kept a decent pace (right in what I used to train for), and felt good. I’m getting back into the habit of running. Running with the dogs is still hard on my legs but we have been doing short runs (we also have to keep it short cuz it’s HOT for these guys!), and just a lot of them. Today is the first day I haven’t run with them in the last week maybe. We’ll take a rest day and then hit the pavement early tomorrow morning.

Okay, not the most comprehensive log… Just what’s up. I am still running. Still adventuring. And back here to tell you about it, I guess. Thanks to some accountability buddies for keeping me going. Eleanor keeps me boxing. We box twice a week even if we don’t want to. Alycia inspires me to keep running. We have talked about all kinds of things and can relate to wanting to run and not wanting to run. And running anyway. Shawn Goggins gently encourages me to get my shoes on and go out the door even if I don’t feel like it. And the dogs require me to get my butt in gear.

I’ll update more about Alaska visits and impending plans…


Training Log 2/26 – 3/3

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Okay, real talk today.


So I’m famous now! My debut as a podcast guest has aired here. It’s about… Periods! I never thought I’d be interviewed about that. Ha. It’s quite timely, though, because this week has been a hell of PMS.


My friend Whitney, who recorded the podcast, added in a section after our interview about PMDD. I didn’t even really know what that was until she mentioned it, but once I looked it up, I was like– Whoa that’s me. As I mention in the the episode, my PMS strikes hard. This is when depression and hopelessness and general lack of perspective really rule my brain. It’s also when it’s the very hardest to put my running shoes on.


I didn’t stick as arduously to my routine this week. I’m gonna give myself something of a pass (because my other MO is to beat myself up about it, and none of us need that). But I am going to look at where and why I skipped some stuff, how my workouts went, and what I want to do better. Accountability!


On Saturday the 25th (technically last week, but I did my training log early last week), I did a 4 mile run. It was slow and stedy but I kicked its butt. That was at a cabin in Wisconsin some friends and I visited. I ran among the fields. It was awesome to be out of the city, even if farms feel pretty city-ish to this Alaskan.


I will admit on this 4 miler I was a bit hungover. The friends and I enjoyed a lovely friday night involving a lot of wine and board games, and, probably unwisely, a big bonfire. This was the first time I managed to get a hangover for about a decade. Good times. However, I’ve always found that exercise really does help me sweat things out. Headache and nausea aside, I tied up my shoes and took em out for a stroll. It was slow but good for me. I felt better after. Make note!


I also threw in a quick boxing workout when I got back, doing some jumprope and the weight routine I learned at Mark’s Boxing Gym.


I did a 3 mile run with the dogs the next day, just cuz, and that felt great. We also went for a little hike at Taylor’s Falls on the way back home, which was more excercise in the form of resisting Ophelia (who has become giant and very strong) yanking me around everywhere.


The Monday after I got back ended up being much busier than expected. I did my scheduled 3 mile run at a good pace, but didn’t get in my 30 min of boxing. I hoped to push that to Tuesday but then the avalanche of waiting til tomorrow began.


Tuesday I did go for another run with with dogs. Ophelia especially is getting more and more ansty as she grows into her dog body and wants to do the one thing thousands of years of evolution and breeding have selected for her to do: RUN!!! However, she is also really really strong now. Up to this point it has been okay for me to run with the two dogs. I used to run with Hooch alone frequently, back in the day. With her and Ophelia it was obviously a little tougher, but it was working pretty well. I use a skijour belt to distribute the pulling against my body. My running style is drastically different from regular running. It’s like running down a very very steep hill. You have to throw all of your weight backwards.


The dogs are at a point now where I cannot keep excellent control of them when I have them both on leash! When I am walking them, there are times where if they both decide to throw their weight against me, they will drag me where they want to go. This bodes well for my future sled dog team! But it is difficult for walks, and now, it is really really hard on my legs during runs.


On Wednesday, I didn’t run, partially because I felt crummy mentally, partially because I’d done an “extra” run Tuesday (even though it was with the dogs!), partially because my legs were starting to hurt. I played basketball but wasn’t at my peak. I could really feel my legs. It felt like I was getting shin splints again, which I haven’t had since high school. I am sure this is due to the situation with the dogs.


Thursday, I had a real battle with myself. I did NOT want to run. I knew I had to to make up for missing a run Wednesday, but I was fighting it. Ophelia was also extra extra pesky. She needed a workout bad. Finally, I compromised with myself and took just Ophelia on a run. This was easier to manage, but she still pulls harder than Hooch. Hooch has learned over many years to keep up a steady trot. Ophelia just wants to GO. So even though it was just her, it was still pretty high impact. Another note– I live right in the city, so I’m running completely on pavement. There are some places I could drive to to get to more trail based running, but my option here is pretty much sidewalk or pavement.


I did do a good boxing workout Thursday night. I have been doing a lot better at pushing myself in boxing. I hold myself to the same standard as I hold my friends who are working out with me. I feel good about what I’ve been doing with that.


Friday I did a short (2.5) mile run with my person-friend, Shawn. They run at a slower pace than I normally do, which was excellent for me. My legs were still really bothering me. Doing a short and slow run warmed them up and actually made them feel a lot better.


Saturday I was supposed to do a run. Did I? No. I had a lot of social things, but the truth is, I just put it off. Sunday, same story. In my defense, I did start getting really sick on Sunday– I caught a plague that’s going around. But is that a real excuse? No way. I have done things way effing tougher than go on a run when I’ve been sick. So that’s a pretty lame cop out.


Here’s advice: don’t put things off!!! Once you do, it starts a cascade. I know, because I do this all the time. This week was a perfect example. At first, I kept pushing workouts to the next day, and then I gave myself a pass on one workout and it gave me permission to not do any workouts. This, coupled with my impending PMS, was really tough to fight.


As I mark this stuff down, I see the run I really missed was my big weekend run. I have definitely been feeling a lot of guilt about that. It’s a really tricky balance between accountability and shame. I need to work on being accountable but not flogging myself with guilt. It’s not really useful.


The weekend was also stressful because Hooch got an infected anal gland. This had to be lanced by the vet ($$$). I felt like I should have caught this earlier (I should have), and it also made me worry a lot about money. Moving down here and being in the city has been really hard financially. Those who know me know I am not the most sensible about money. I got into a pretty good guilt spiral about that yesterday… And I also realized that I am PMSing really hard, and tend to beat myself up for things and lose hope about things. Yesterday when I was going through that, I made the choice to NOT make any big choices. That took some of the pressure off. When I get in that zone, I tend to think I need to make all the big life choices RIGHT THEN to solve the pain. But without perspective I tend to make unreasonable choices which can come back to bite me in the butt.


So that was my week in training. It’s good to see I did keep hitting the pavement. Today I am slated to go for a run. I have already put it off– but I made an agreement with myself that I will do it this afternoon. It’s sunny and clear out, and even fairly warm, so I should take my lunch break soon and hit the road.


Resetting the clock for this week!




(PS if you dig this… eg if you were one of the intrepid few who made it this far in this novel… click here and like my Facebook page. I’ll be posting pics and– I promise– shorter updates about my training!)