Monday, February 8, 2021

100 Miles.

 I struggled with how to start this... honestly, I struggled on how to even title it. I gave up and went short and sweet. I would say this is my second attempt at training for 100 miler that was interrupted but the craziness of 2020...but, I think I have been training for it since I could run-or since I realized I needed that burn in my legs like I need oxygen. And after I conquer this feat...I will start towards my next goal. It's not a matter of ...I started training for a "blank" in January. It's that I am an ever changing woman who wants to constantly be improving and growing. The journey didn't just start...this is just my next pin on the map. 

I am addicted to the journey. Like planning a's almost sad when it's over. Like watching a drawing come together...all those hours spent in building and planning. Then, it's over and I am left wanting. I am left mourning the loss of that journey. So, I keep moving-I keep progressing and seeking out new mountains to climb and new oceans to swim. The irony is I hate swimming. It's terrifying. The risk is so great ... you could drown or be swept away. But, the alternative is sitting on shore watching the birds fly and the ships set out. I won't be left behind. With the risk of sounding like an insane wanderlust thirsty animal...I will be the one who sets out first. I will find the next hidden Island. It doesn't matter to me that no one else is headed that way. That almost fuels me a giant magnate I am pulled in the opposite direction of the masses. I refuse to believe that binge watching shows, spending money I don't have and looking for the approval at a job who may never see your worth or from people who will always judge what this life is all about. I don't want to spend the rest of my life worrying that my hair looks nice, or that I am skinny enough...and god forbid I get older---- and older. I will run fast and climb greedily towards the next ridiculous mountain that calls my name. For a moment, I won't care that I don't look like the women in magazines. I won't care that I don't have kids or care about the things " I should care about." I am just a girl pushing her mind and body so close to the breaking point that when I've finished here... my beautiful strong temple will be well used move mountains with a grateful grateful heart. 

I've always felt the magnitude and the loss of my past. I know that what my life looked like wasn't what it was. I know that I deserved better and the cards I was given were lacking. I know that when old enough, I made decisions I wish I could go back and change. I can't control a lot of things...this I learned more early than necessary. I can't control this thirst for something more. This hunger for the uncomfortable and the almost unattainable. I can control what I do with that pull. I control what I do with it. And that's enough for me. 

A little heavy for my first post back in almost a year. I find comfort in being vulnerable. And I guess I was in need of a little comfort. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Duning It

It's been a whole life time it seems like since I've written anything. That being said...this will not be a masterpiece. It's just a starting block to show my mindset 2 days before my next race. Really it's just be stating that
I am not ready. I am not ready for so many things. And though I am sure it would be entertaining to go over each thing I am not ready for in my life.... I will focus on just a few. A while back I signed up for my first 100 mile race. I am not sure what compelled me to do so... but I wanted more. My life has been one winding road after many things haven't gone the way I expected or anticipated. I wanted to take control. I wanted to set a goal so large that people would look at me like it was impossible so that I could turn around and prove them wrong.

After I announced my new goal I received a nice combination of those who were supportive and those who stated clearly that they didn't think I could do it. Training started off well...until it all went to hell. Turns out I am very allergic to poison oak. On and off of steroids made it really hard to train. Then, as I healed from that...I had a minor cancer situation. As I healed from that....I got pneumonia. On the tail end of pneumonia I climbed and climbed...hills, stairs, buttes, and mountains. Hill repeats and more stairs. I kept doing that till I could run with out losing my lungs. 

With 6 months to go before Old Cascadia 100 miler and numerous races before...I realized I needed a little help. So, I signed up for a coach so with all the lost time and training I am hoping some guidance will go a long ways to help. All this to say...I have a the new Siuslaw 50k race this weekend in Florence, Oregon. With less than 3,000 ft elevation gain and different types of trails (Including lots of sandy dunes) I am hoping this will give me a good idea of where I stand in my training. I know that if I am nervous about this race I should be terrified for Old Cascadia. But, at this point it's one run and one climb at a time. I am going to keep focusing on the why. Why I want to run these races....why I sign up. Why I create crazy goals for myself. Because, I enjoy it...because it's fun. I deserve to be out there with everyone else. And I refuse to not be grateful for the opportunity. So here we goooo..... Let's Dune this.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mindsets are Powerful

It's been so long since I've written anything worth sharing. I spend a lot of time reading other peoples thoughts and sharing them because I can't find the words to share where my own mind is at. I watch other peoples lives on social media, the news and the celebrity lime light. I look at my friends lives and I just imagine how they see me. I don't have my shit together and I've put my faith in one wrong place after another. A foolish girl living her life as if her happiness will climb out of a race she wins, a long run she completes, a guy she loves or job she gets. Imagine you wake up in a 5'x5' box with dirty walls and no windows and realize almost 33 years have passed. You are covered in bruises and your heart lays on the floor across the space. Your lip is bleeding and your head hurts. Everything you own and the people you love are so far away...far away enough that you know you'll never reach them even if you could get out of this box. You can see outside the box and everything you've ever dreamed of wanting, dreamed of and strived for... family, love, financial stability, acceptance and kindness.....all of those things sit outside of your locked box. You can see it but you'll never get to it.  And what's have no idea how you got here and where the time went. You realize you can't get it back and the damage is done. That's where my mind is at. Every time I think the bad stuff is over... and I am starting to heal, something else brings me back to my knees. Every time I get back on my feet, something knocks me back down. I stand back up and fix my makeup. I put on my running shoes and run it out of me. But, it always comes back...I always end up back on the floor. Everything hurts. There are people in the world that get hurt over and over again and turn into monsters. I feel that. But, I will never be that. I just love harder. I just feel more. And it's slowly destroying all the progress I've made. The girl in the box has been a repeating nightmare for years. It goes away for a little and then it comes back. It's hard to sit down and write these words. To be so vulnerable in a world that values harsh truths more than kind vulnerability. But, I am an expressive soul. And it will come out one way or another. I am lost and tired. I know that most of us are. I struggle with my purpose here. I naturally do most things with a purpose. I love hard due to knowing what it's like to not be loved. I give kindness because I know what it's like to live in harshness. I give all of me because I know what it's like to be truly alone. Brutal honestly is a gift that so many have. As much as I appreciate how honest the world can doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt. That I don't absorb it and keep it. I am sponge. An empathetic sponge and a powerhouse of people pleasing tendancies. I absorb it all and have a hard time letting it go. I am getting so heavy carrying it all around. How do you continue from here? Your limited box of tools is sitting outside of your imaginary box you're stuck have nothing but your brokenness to keep you warm. And you're convinced that you are the only one who feels like this. But, then you remember....the world is full of pain. It's full of broken people....broken people just trying to pick themselves up and continue on pretending everything is fine. The world seems to be separated by those who do good with their pain....and those who get lost to it.  And I try so desperately to do what I can to redirect all this hurt. I write, I draw, run and then run some more. I try and make those who hurt, feel better. Most days I feel like I am winning this fight. Days like today...leave little to see what's worth fighting for. What's important to remember is that box you're an illusion. The truth is, there is no box. Our minds are a powerful tool. It can literally convince you there is no happy ending for you in the best of situations and convince you there is one, in the worst of situations. If you let it, negativity will incapsulate your entire mind and leave you feeling like you're in the dark. So, I've taken the time this week to do some of the things that usually bring me happiness. I keep fighting everyday to pull myself out of the dark. And I know that eventually, the sun will come back out. Or maybe it could snow....and give me that beautiful and clean slate. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Trail Running Memoirs

It's striking. How all those colors can cling to the trees and the hillsides. The sun shines right thru the leaves as the wild flowers drench the ground. Dirt clings to my ankles creating the illusion of a dirty tan line. Silvery webs wrap themselves around me as I pass and they immediately begin their rebuild. Sweat rushes down my back as the climb creates a constant burn thru my shoulders and lower back. Little pebbles and pine needles kick up and wiggle down into my shoes. Caked mud and scrapes climb up my shins. Salt weaves its way thru my hair and drips into my eyes. There's sweaty dirt running down the sides of my face from a recent fall as blood dries to the base of my knee. A hot spot reminds me it's time for a new pair of shoes and the constant sloshing reassures me that my water supply won't let me down.
The indent in the back of my pack is an emergency snickers that is calling my name in the inevitable chance that all systems power down without my consent. My tank top is soft and feels comforting against my skin as my shorts create a tan line I'll never be able to hide. Each slow climb burns me from the inside out. Reminds me that the body is capable of so much more than we ever imagined. Tree limbs and black berry bushes reach out over the trail as if to dare me to use their help. Instead of going around the mud puddles and creeks, I only wish to barrel right thru them. Fog sweeps thru the trees and into the moss. Bee's surround me and the constant buzzing gets drowned out by the voices in my head telling me to turn back. But, I had a plan. I grit it out and continue on. As the downhill sneaks up and gravity crawls up my shoes I feel free and child like. Arms out, catching the wind and wolf cries echo off of the rock walls and evergreens. I watch each step for natures intruders and get distracted by everything around me. Rocks imbed themselves into my hands as I catch myself and continue on my way. Every mile completed fills my tank with more fuel to continue and every mile still left makes me question how much I really want it. At some point you make the decision to complete this run no matter what.  Because, this is what trail running is.
It's a constant push to convince yourself that you are worth the finish.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Gaining Ground

It's been a while since I have taken the time to write. I want to be writing about happy and wonderful things but I also want to be real and raw. And life isn't always wonderful. 

Everyone has a vice. Mine is clearly running. It's the only thing that show's up every morning as long as I do. I can always count on it to push me to my absolute long as I put in the work. Running will scrape you from the deepest pit of darkness if you use it. And it will help you enjoy everything you have to be grateful for if you allow it. Like so many things, it's a give and take. As long as you put in the will give back every single time. I have learned that is a lot more than you can expect from most people. Just because you put in 110% doesn't mean other people will. Even when I am injured...the thought of being able to run sooner keeps me doing my rehab and exercises. No matter how heavy life gets and how much pain I am in...I can count on the inevitable ability of running to practice tough love. Sometimes, that means that I am only able to walk. Sometimes that means, I can walk up hills and jog the flats. But my favorite is when it means I can bomb the down hills pain free.

Sometimes you are draped in loss...and sometimes injuries happen and if you are real unlucky or if the universe thinks that you are just that tough....they happen at the same time. The amount of time I have spent processing this is kind of amazing. If I would've been able to throw myself into just running during this painful time....I wouldn't have processed as effectively. I am 31 years old and drowning in this feeling of belonging no where. My skin feels mind is clouded with negativity and I am suffocating in this feeling of impending doom. But, there is something so very vivid and powerful of allowing myself to feel all of those intense and overwhelming emotions without covering it up or dulling it. I could take all of these feelings and fears and throw them in a box and forget it for as long as possible...I could keep adding to said box until one day it just overflows, touches and taints the rest of my beautiful life. But, the fact that I did get injured and was forced to come face to face with some pretty heavy demons....I am processing it all--> one tired and painful step at a time. Sometimes, taking care of you....and making sure you are ok isn't pretty. Sometimes, it is down right just awful. But, in the end I know it's going to make me better. It will make me DO better. I've thrown on the running shoes since my ankle has allowed it. And now I am processing while running. I can feel each step and each painful hot breath through my lungs and I am grateful for life. Pain means I am breathing and that I haven't given up. Pain means I am still here and that there is still chance for me to do better.  Not everyone gets that chance. 

SO, as the losses just keep on coming....whether it's a life I thought I was going to have, or friends and family I thought would stand by me or the inability to just go out and run 30 miles right now-- I am choosing to be grateful. Grateful for the little moments that remind me it's not all bad. Grateful for the people who have taken the time to be there for me and grateful for the people who've walked away because I'd rather know where people stand with me...and if I can count on them or not before I actually need them. Attacks have been coming from every angle of my life lately. Left and right...I am being pushing into a corner that makes me choose right then and there if I will be a victim or if I will walk away and grab the life I know I deserve. As I climbed up Angels Rest this past weekend (the 3rd trail run of the day) my legs were tired and my soul was weary. I felt like I had lost everything. I felt like I was alone. Feelings are a funny thing. When pain takes over it can make it pretty hard to see the truth. Truth is, I have so much in just having a choice on how to live my life. I have a choice on how I am going to react to everything happening. The freedom of choice and my ability to adapt to whatever is happening is a gift.  Arriving to the top of angels rest I hit my knees and cried. So much loss and so much pain. I took a deep breath and realized how much I still have and how far I've come. And these wonderful strong legs got me here. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Netflix on the Fringe

January 21, 2011

6:19 AM
I woke up humming an old devotional song from youth group... "...oh lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true......" I grabbed a glass of water and crawled back into bed. It was the first night I had slept more than an hour in 6 days.  It was restless. But, it was something. A couple moments of reprieve from my 6 days....25 years of a cruel teeter totter...weariness clung to my bones. I fell back into a fitful sleep.

6:43 AM
I knew it as soon as my phone went off. I heard the ring pierce the air. [ Milwaukie, OR] I answer "Hello." It wasn't a question. It was more of a permission for them to proceed with the reason they called. " Is this Ashley?" "Yes" ....." I am sorry to inform you that Paula passed away about 15 minutes ago." Silence. More Silence. Finally, my response is ..."15 minutes ago? And you are just now calling me?" ... the conversation ended with her offering me the name of a grief counselor and a lock of my mothers hair." I remember walking to my closet and grabbing a pair of soft socks and tugging them onto my feet. I went up stairs and sat on the couch. The book on natural remedies was still laying out on the table from my research the night before, next to the Netflix DVD's I needed to return. I had stayed up until 3 AM searching different remedies for liver failure while Fringe played in the background. As if I was going to do what doctors hadn't been able to do and what my mother had no desire to do. She died 19 hours after I got her into hospice. I had spent the last 6 days at the hospital and had needed food, shower and some rest. It's like...the moment I stepped away with her she took it as permission to let go.

January 22, 2011
Before the sun AM

I walked into my mom's apartment. I had ran through the streets of Oregon City at 3:30 that morning.. I ran hard. I sobbed. And then I ran harder. If I had wheels they would've fallen off. I was drowning in my grief and I didn't know what else to do with the day. So, I went to my mom's apartment. Maybe to feel closer to her. I am not sure. As I passed her coffee table my stomach dropped through the floor. Rewind to about a week before my mom ended up in the hospital for the final time...She was gushing about a purple scarf she was making me. She had no idea that purple was my favorite color....when I was 6. But, seeing as my mother wasn't someone who went out of her way to do nice things for people, I was grateful. The half unmade scarf draped across the table and needles lay on the floor tangled in a mass of purple yarn. The purple yarn seemed to crawl into my chest and wrap its way around my heart and started to tighten. It sat unfinished like all of the unsaid spoken words between us. I turned away from the painful display of unfinished kindness and headed to the kitchen. An untouched bologna sandwich lay on the counter, uneaten. Like many, I have had a lifetime of painful, heart wrenching and suffocating moments. Not many can compare to the sharp pain that bit into my heart at that very moment. She was the third death in 3 months. The final straw that I was sure would break me. I loved my mom. However, at 41 years of age all she loved was Vodka. My mom had demons and wasn't given the tools to handle this world, take care of herself , or love me. Conflicted between the relief of her suffering being over and the loss of a mother who was more like my child. I took care of her. I answered the phone at 3AM to hear her rants and I brought her groceries when she used all her money on other things. I watched scary movies with her even though I hated them...just so I could spend time with her. At 10 years old, I spent many Saturdays sitting next to her watching Lifetime movies, drinking sweet tea and eating artichoke hearts, just to be near her. She loved me on her own terms. But, it was all she could do. I have learned that you can't force someone to love you and a person who loves their addiction more than anything will never be able to love you like you need or want. You will never be a priority to them. You will always be expendable. But, I supposed everyone has their demons.

March 3, 2017

That distinct smell of rubbing alcohol and cigarettes will snap me back to her side in an instant. Smells are funny that way. You are present in the moment and then BOOM are thrown 20 years into the past. Every day I think of her....something will remind me of her. Those fleece jackets with cats all over them, Chihuahuas, someone asking for help on a simple computer task, solitaire, those velvet coloring posters, that old perfume in the white and black bottle shaped into an exclamation point, Coors and yarn. The laughing and smiles and affection that only came after 3 glasses of boxed wine. So many things have changed since goes on doesn't it? I threw myself into running. I ran every day for months. I ran my first half marathon and then full marathon. Then another and another. Then I ran an Ultra and then another. PR after PR and adventure after adventure. I went from never hiking alone to running 25 miles by myself in the gorge, following a map I drew on my inner arm. I started really living....since she no longer could. I changed jobs, started drawing and writing again and then moved a total of 5 times. Through it all...I held on to those Netflix movies I had the day she died. All I had to do was drop them into the mail. But, for some reason I wasn't able to. It was basically the ONLY thing that hadn't changed since she died. 

Those 2 Netflix movies.......Today, I took them with me ..and dropped them in the mail slot. I don't know what I expected to happen. Fireworks? Massive rainfall? Some dramatic music? However, I did feel a strange sense of relief. A moment of exhale. A deep breathe after holding it for a long time. Such a silly thing. Netflix if holding on to those movies changed anything at all. Loss happens, coping happens...all the while life keeps going. You hear it all of the's not what happens to you. It's how you handle what happens to you that matters. Just life doing its thing...shaping us into stronger and more unique individuals. We experience loss and gains... we grasps outlets for coping and moving on. Finding things that bring you joy and looking for ways that help you let go of past hurts and loss are what you have to do. Something as small as returning those meaningless Netflix movies you've been holding on to for 6 years is just apart of the process.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

::Running Shoe Love Letters::

  It's dark. I can hear the rain crashing into the asphalt outside. She's stirring. She's hit the snooze twice but I think she will be up soon. I sit up straighter hoping that she will be unable to resist me. The automatic coffee maker just started and I can smell hints of chocolate and caramel. She loves that stuff. She has a cup before she even looks at me. She has her running clothes and reflective gear sitting on the table awaiting her. I watch as she tests out the head lamp. But, I am still sitting here by the door. Waiting patiently of course. She's walked past me twice and hasn't even looked at she going to change her mind? I know sometimes, when she is feeling really low, she gets ready for her run...everything ready to go, but me. And then, after staring at me for a few minutes, she turns off all of the lights and crawls wearily back into bed. I hear her sigh. I know she will regret not utilizing me this morning. It will fill her every thought in every minute of the day. If something bad happens...she will think to herself "I should've ran this morning." She will feel like her clothes don't fit right and like she doesn't fit into her own skin. She will second guess her every decision. She will be uptight and irritable... All because she skipped her time with me. But, that doesn't happen often. Usually, I smell the coffee first and then 5 minutes later her alarm goes off. Sometimes, she even wears her running gear to that she doesn't have to worry about it that morning. She stumbles into the kitchen and retrieves her coffee. I know she might be talking herself out of our visit. No matter what she does though... she can't help but look at me. In the end, she knows the comfort that I will provide and that I will always be there. Anytime with her is better than none at all.

     Finally, she gathers me up and we head out. I can feel her heavy breathing and concrete legs. She's struggling to warm up. It's colder than usual this morning. She had a fitful night of sleep...and this is her solace. I will be here for her in any way that I can be. I don't know that anyone knows her as well as I do. You see... we've shared so many miles together. I've felt the wiggle of her toes after the climb of a hill. I've heard every F bomb she's uncharacteristically dropped due to the difficulty of the climb. I've felt her sob when no one was around on a dark trail and heard her laugh out loud in front of strangers. And as snow sprinkled heavily from the sky...I caught her putting her hands out as if to savor each frozen flake. I was the first one she turned to after her parents couldn't take care of her anymore and the first one she turned to when she was looking for freedom from her demons. However, I was also able to see her cry tears of joy when she reached the top of Mt. Chinidere and Munra Point. A tall feat for someone so scared of heights. I was there when she completed her first mile and her first Ultra. I was there the day she fell and broke her arm and I was there where when she was covered in fog and the dear ran out right in front of her. My girl is so much stronger than she thinks she is. The day after mouth surgery, I talked her into a 16 miler on her favorite home trail. She ran 20 instead. Sometimes, she laughs after she hits 10 miles because, at one point in her life....1 mile was torturous. I saw her when she got sick at 1 mile after years of not spending time together. And, I even get to debut on her Instagram on really messy muddy days. There hasn't been much that I have missed. I love our time together even though she is sometimes reckless with gravity and can be heavy with emotion. She throws me into unseen tree roots and slips me across wet mossy rocks. She trips and falls and runs into things. Makes me laugh when she jumps over a puddle and ends up in the middle of it. She doesn't mean to. I know that. I am probably the only one who finds her clumsiness endearing. Plus, I don't like it when I am all that clean anyway...but don't tell her that.

 If you were to ask me about her I would say.... She loves to take the hard way up the mountain and she enjoys running in the mud and splashing in the puddles. She loves the pull of gravity when speeding down hill, because it's the closest to flying she will ever get... And that she actually likes it when her socks get wet...just so she can enjoy the feeling of being warm and dry later.  Maybe it's because she missed out on the child like puddle jumping, when she was little. I wasn't there much for her during that time in her life. She didn't let me. She spent little time with me then. I can't blame her...she was barely breathing sitting still...let alone spending time with me. I do have a memory though when she was 8. She got off of the school bus and it was pouring down rain. She took me in her hands and then she ran thru the puddles and torrential downpour barefoot, all the way home. That was fun...and I didn't even have to get soaked, but I got to be there with her. Even though life changes so frequently, I know that SHE knows I will always be here. I will be there for the quick 3 miler before work or the 8 miler after work. I will be there for the 16 miler thru the forest or to the top of the heights she is so scared of. I will join her for stair repeats at Mt. Tabor and snow shoeing at Mirror Lake. As long as she is willing to skip the snooze button, I will be there waiting by the door for her to snatch me up and take me on an adventure. I don't want to miss each unsteady step or fierce climb. I don't want to miss anything. No judgement criticism for the way she dealt with the day before or the irrational feelings she can't contain. Just like she longs to be free, my laces itch to be tied and can't wait to hit the trail,, road, or god forbid...the treadmill. Because, in the end....we are in this together.