Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Making biscuits

When I left the D.C. area after graduate school, I found myself in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. I didn't realize it fully at the time, but it was exactly what I needed. A quiet place to live out the summer. Free from traffic and busyness. After two years of living in a city that moved constantly, it was a relief to spend time in a place where I didn't have to leave the house if I didn't want to. No sitting in traffic trying not to be late to the next thing. No helicopters flying overhead at night. No horns or sirens. And for a while, at least, it was just the dogs, the birds, and me.

One thing I remember most was watching my friend make biscuits. She'd say, "Shelby, do you want biscuits this morning?" And in no time at all biscuits would appear. Like it was the easiest thing in the world to make a batch of biscuits for breakfast. As if everyone ate biscuits straight from the oven every day of their life. I was in awe. 

Mama's a southerner, and she did her duty and taught me how to make biscuits. But it's always been an ordeal. Get the ingredients. Dig out the recipe. Roll the dough. Spill flour all over the kitchen. And all these years later, I'm still trying to figure out the trick to get my biscuits to rise as high as Mama's. 

Last spring, Mama and I drove through Kentucky on a road trip. We had a tight deadline. I needed to be at the Nashville airport that day. I very nearly missed that flight. But we took a detour anyway. We stopped in Berea. And even if you don't know anything about the town, take a simple drive through the historic neighborhoods and you will learn this is a town of that values craftsmanship and the arts. On every street are shops selling locally made products. I wanted to stay there forever. 

Mama always uses a drinking glass to cut her biscuits. I have done that too, but I also have those fancy metal biscuit cutters that come in half a dozen sizes all nested together in their own container. But since this spring, I use something else to cut my biscuits. That day in Kentucky, on our drive-through visit, I bought a wooden biscuit cutter. My souvenir from a whirlwind trip. And my inspiration to learn how to whip up biscuits for breakfast or dinner like it's no thing at all. To learn how to make biscuits that rise a mile high like Mama can. 

That summer in Tennessee was over too quickly. The need to get a job and do all the responsible things a college graduate ought, outweighed all the desires soak in the slow pace of that place in the middle of nowhere. But sometimes, I need to remember that a slow life is as much a good life as one marked by accomplishments and big events. And sometimes in a life that feels too much like an ordeal, all it takes is a little flour and a wooden biscuit cutter to remember that any day is a good day to slow down and make biscuits.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Training Suspended

Race day is this weekend. Training went relatively well. I had to juggle workouts with other obligations for the final few weeks of training. Eventually I had to shorten a few workouts and skip a few others in order to maintain my sanity. The weather this fall has been perfect for running. I got to run on some gorgeous trails. These photos are all from one short run. Amazing.

Everything was going great. I managed to run my longest training run last week. Things were good. That is until this week. As if on cue for race week, it started raining. And raining and raining. And if the rain wasn't enough to discourage me. I simultaneous contracted a really terrible cold. It's bad. Things are not looking good, y'all. 

As of now, I have skipped all of my workouts this week. Race day is Sunday. The plan is to hit the road and head up there Saturday mid-afternoon. But it's not looking good. 

I am drinking the worst concoction ever, multiple times a day, because the internet tells me it stops a cold in its tracks. Considering that I'm feeling worse today than yesterday, I may beg to differ.  

Talk about disappointing, folks. I really, really wanted to race this thing. I had such high hopes for what Sunday could bring. If I'm feeling even a bit better, I'll still race. Although my expectations are greatly scaled back. I hereby retract all statements I made to others claiming I was going "kill this half marathon." Because right about now, this entire combination of sickness and looming race day is pretty much killing me. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Being trained

I watched "Man on Fire" for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I now hear Denzel's voice in my ear, "There is no such thing as tough. There is trained and untrained. Now which are you?"

I aspire to be trained. I penned out a plan to be one of the trained. I set out to train for this upcoming half with a purpose. But I gotta tell you, this training thing is hard work some days.

I had a long run last Friday. The longest one yet. I intended to run on a trail skirting a lake. Out and back, since to run the entire trail, I'd run a half marathon, and if I was ready to do that, I wouldn't be training. But on my way to the lake, I stopped on a national forest road that I am familiar with. Two lanes. Few motorists. I have often seen bicyclist there, but never runners.

I'd clocked the perfect distance on my odometer. I knew where my turnaround point would be. And I knew running this two lane highway, out and back, would be a better simulator of race day next month than any run on a dirt trail could give me.

But oh, it was hard work.

The sun didn't know if wanted to shine or send rain pouring down on my head. I like trails and corners. I do not like running straight stretches. Never have. They seem endless somehow.

My legs felt heavy from the get-go. Like the weight of the clouds pressed down upon me, and I was feeling it all. The struggle to propel myself forward through the air around me.

Mile markers on the forest road were sporadic. I am a list maker, and when I run, I like to see those mile markers tick by, one by one, as I mentally calculate the distance I've run and how much farther I have to go.

One-third of the way done.

Over half-way there.

Only a 5k left.

That last mile, I huffed and puffed. So close. And yet, uphill. Any passerby at the end might have thought I'd gone insane.

You've seen children playing ball in the backyard, providing their own play-by-play as they hit a game winning home run, "It's going, it's going, it's out of the park!" Haven't you?

When it's hard to run, when I want to be the trained, but I don't know if I can keep going to the finish, even when I know it is so close, I become my own announcer and cheering section. Like a child playing ball alone in the backyard, out loud I tell myself through short, shallow breathes,

"You're almost there, Shelby."

"Keep it up!"

"You can make it."

"Go. Go. Go!"  

I did finish that run and drove myself home. When I got there, it took me 15 minutes to convince myself to get out of the car and walk the 6 steps into my back door. Finally inside, I sat down on my recliner and fell asleep for a solid hour. Completely spent.