A Failure - Gucci Mane

I didn't make it. I set out to go 15 miles, mapped a route, felt super excited. In fact, my heart was racing when I left the house. So much so, that looking back now, perhaps the racing heart was a bit of a red flag.

Let me star over. Today is my last Wednesday off until August so I was very excited to get everything in the whole world accomplished. Including much unpacking, catching up with all my internerd business and running 15 miles. The weather is gorgeous, my dog is happy, and my body feels very different with all this treatment. I brewed up a perfect cup of coffee, retrieved my mason jar of water from the fridge and set out to get everything done. 

But I forgot to eat. On my way out the door I grabbed a nut bar thingy, hoping that would work out. After the first mile I wanted to hail a cab, which is often the case. I assumed the heightened desperation was a symptom of my disappointment having set out with the racing heart and the high hopes. By mile two, I was to the long steady incline up the back of Bernal Heights. HEIGHTS, people. It's a bit of a hill, but I sort of looked forward to getting though it. Sometimes after my body does a particularly difficult hunk of road, I feel invincible. Not today. I came down the hill feeling Very Strange. Wobbly. Heart still sprinting. By mile four, I noticed the pavement started to slant to the left, people seemed to be darting in front of me at every doorway, and I couldn't stay out of live crosswalks. Things didn't look good. They looked sideways actually. I felt lighter. 


Am I going to pass out? Well at least let me make it through an hour. I'll just get to 16th Street and then I'll haul it home and ice my feet. Did I mention my feet yet? No. The left heel still has a pain pulling through it. A formidable pain, I might add. In addition to this, because my body has now been adjusted to call attention to previously dormant muscles, asking them to get the hell out of bed and make a difference in my world, the running feels extremely different today than it did yesterday and the day before. Each adjustment asks me to train new muscles, so every time it's a little bit like a new start. Exciting, yes, but also really difficult. So while my hip feels a lot better, my ass is killing me. But the left heel. It worries me. I feel pretty scared. 25 days out and the thing still haunts my runs. 

Meanwhile, I'm at 20th Street and the slant seems as though it may begin to dance. I walk a group of 16 paces. Start to run again. Walk again. Run again. Curse myself the whole time, feeling so stupid for forgetting the fuel. Who leaves on a road trip with no gas in the tank? 

Anyhow, I made it to the train and up the hill to my house. I dunked my feet in ice cold water out on the deck while I shook. 25 days out. I don't know. I just don't know.

Sara Elise.

PS: The nice part about being out of my mind is that I did do a good deal of reminiscing about Patrick Swayze. I loved him.

Ten Feet Tall - XTC


I'm at my desk, my computer is hooked up, and I can almost see my house becoming a home. Almost. I've been in the weeds over here at marathon headquarters. What with a move, a crazed work schedule, trying to train, and various body maladies, life seems to have kept me away from my reports here. Turns out, I can't do it on the fly in weird places. Or rather, I don't want to. I tried it on my break at work, a plate of food steaming next to the PR computer as my fellow workers drifted by. The writing was disjointed and flat, lacking a certain toothsome quality I enjoy. Tried it on my laptop surrounded in boxes, the ever present load of donations piling up with crap I lugged to a new house than I never needed in the first place. That, not surprisingly, didn't feel so great either. I even made an attempt in longhand in a notebook that I imagined I might retype here later. But that felt counter to my idea of being where I am at as I tell the marathon/novel story. Seems it all just feels right to do it this way: I like to sit down, have my coffee in my favorite Frankoma mug, a treasured gift from my Tulsa friend Judith, on my right, at home on a tile coaster boasting a faded dandelion weed. Then a short hop from that, the mason jar sweats, beads of water collecting on the sides of it, having spent the evening in the refrigerator infusing the lemon and cucumber flavors. I just don't like water that much. It's boring. Gimme a lime. A lemon. Mint. Something. 

Anyhow, since we last met, I took a whole week off after the shots in my feet. Partly because I was unsure of them, and partly because I had to work full time and pack up my life and move. But I did manage to take the advice of a friend and look up a very sports-specific chiropractor to have him look at my condition. I added this nice member to my healthcare team. Dr. Zachary Greene is a dude from Boston. And by dude, I mean like a regular dude kind of guy. He's incredibly handsome, in a way that a lesbian such as myself might forget immediately. It is a breed of good-looking that is ripe with the zest of life, but a life that reads not of my world. Which is perfect because I am not functioning in my world right now. He's also a Red Sox fan, so we've already dispensed with the idea that we will ever speak of this. I loathe the Red Sox. Actually all things having to do with sports in Boston. Until Dr. Greene. Here is my Boston sports bright spot. 

Here is a story:

It seems that after a woman reclines through twenty years of her life, she develops a certain subset of muscles that do the majority of limited work required to get through an average day of strolling along a boulevard, smoking a pack of cigarettes on a second hand couch, waitressing in whatever establishment that has come to value wit and personality over speed, and sitting hunched over a keyboard at strange hours stolen during the night. Her body, over time, stops firing certain muscular synapses, while others begin to compensate for their lazier comrades. She develops secret heels spurs she knows nothing of over years of inactivity and slanted posture. She also acquires what a strapping doctor from Boston will later refer to as "a brick" in the middle of her back, refusing to give way to motion and startled by any suggestion to do so. And later, as she nears middle age and develops a desire to care for her long neglected body, donning a spandex ensemble and hopping into a running practice she never could have imagined while lighting the twelfth Marlboro Red of any given Tuesday, she is pounding on feet that seem to be jammed up, having done their best over the years to do what was asked of them in less than optimal circumstances. The tan doctor will wrap his hands around her feet, reminding her that these extremities have 26 bones in each, and those bones all have connective tissue, ligaments, cartilage, fascia surrounding all of it, and then maybe he would perform an educated yank and jerk, popping the arch of the foot to place it hadn't been since sixth grade, and maybe she would burst our laughing right there on the treatment table, the kind of laugh you'd see her let loose with on an old wooden roller coaster at Coney Island. An easy laugh of pure pleasure. The laugh of satisfaction. The laugh of having everything be right. These feet are then wrapped in ice packs with electrodes stuck to the soles, pulsing energy into the stuck places, asking them to wake up again.

Having my feet adjusted was, 
one of the best things ever. 

I am now under orders to be at physical therapy twice a week, each session coupled with adjustments. The feet, the hips, the back, the neck. Turns out I'm quite a mess. The doctor says I can make it through the race without killin' myself over it, but apparently I have a good amount of work to do to get myself to healthy. I feel pretty prepared to do the work, run the race, unpack my house, and hang out with my people. And charmed life that it seems to be, I may very well have the amazing opportunity to do that whole list of things. 

I'm less than a month away.

Sara Elise


A Small Victory - Faith No More

Yesterday could have easily been a complete psychological disaster. And so, friends, here we tell tale of the small victory. The victory in which our heroine carries on, choosing to be a woman with head held high, teetering on numb pillows for feet in the quick rush of San Franciscans getting to work. 

The past few days I've been gripped by fear and sadness. The runs have been short but pretty quick, for me, and after seven months of sticking with it, I have finally come to enjoy it a good thirty of forty percent of the time. The enjoyment, though not as frequent as the feeling of toil, far outweighs the struggle. It feels for sure like the weird neon formaldehyde cherry people speak of as the prize at the top of a sundae. I would come up with a better metaphor, but I'm still not through my coffee yet, so just go with the weird cherry as though it matters. The sadness comes in as I realized my feet are destroyed when I get anywhere over ten miles. The fifteen mile day that found it's end in a delirious stagger around Chestnut Street was certainly a face slapper. The ache was seriously beyond what felt bearable, and with 11 miles left in a run for the ribbon, I began to focus on the idea that I might not be able to complete my goal.

I imagined I would be evolved (HA) enough to just accept it and move straight to plan B. Plan B looks like this: I call up my friends and family who are so ceaselessly supportive and wonderful and I tell them I will have to walk a good portion of the route. I will be setting out Saturday morning instead of Sunday, no crowds, no medals, no number pinned to my sausage outfit. No complimentary sports drinks, no encouraging strangers holding out cups of water, no public glory for my whiny Leo ass. But like this all started, Plan B is about finishing. In whatever time it takes. Even if it's a little bit slow. And there at my self made finish line would be all my people, cheering and appreciating my effort, loving me in the San Francisco sun just as I am. 

But fuck Plan B.

I want to run the thing, maybe a little walking, but I want to do it the way it is I dream about it. I'll be wanting to quit, and I'll think, right at that moment,  there will be a bunch of writers in Mexico, working on their books like I got to, because of all us supported that, and really believed that certain stories must be told, and people deserve the right to have a means to tell them. My little number will be crinkling on my shirt, and all those people flanking the route cheering us on, then me bringing up the rear of twenty thousand, the happiest caboose of all. My mom and dad waving wildly, Ginger with the camera to catch me certainly bawling like a hyena, Schaefer and Dana with their reassuring calm, believing in me the whole time, and Coach Cadwallader and her hot lawyer wife Tara beaming at me, proud. I can't NOT be a Leo. It's my astrological fate. So be it. It comes with big hair, and I like that. 

And after this week's runs, I had to start letting go of that image and I didn't want to. I couldn't. I got attached. My feet were fucked. Even with the medicine. And when that comfort began to fade, so did my confidence. The sadness began to crawl over me like a cloak. Maybe it's hormonal, but who can tell as my hormones are the most erratic little bitches around. And even if it is, the feelings are so real, the completely real sensation that even in the sun, I began to walk through life enshrouded in a dark thing, a heavy woolen cape of pre-emptive regret. I could not stop taking my mind walking in the neighborhood of impending failure. All of my tools no match for this disappointment. Mind you, I still hadn't actually failed at anything. It felt surprising to me how much my heart had taken in this goal. I don't know why it was so surprising because clearly, I've endured and kept with it, which is frankly, not like me. I like efficient. The shortest distance between two points is a line, not a twenty six mile run through a city of hills. It is painful to be attached to things. It is the nature of suffering, so I am told. And so I have seen. 

Yesterday I went to the doctor and had my heels both injected with cortisone. Friends who have had this medicine in other parts of their bodies all, unanimously, report that it's pretty much a miracle. Which is great, because I need one of those just to complete the task at hand not even including the pain factor of feet. I believe the distance will be providing me with plenty of pain anyhow. The shots hurt, but frankly, who cares? One short long heated pain versus every morning out of the bed in the body of Bilbo Baggins, a hunched over old Hobbit searching for a wizard. There I did it. I made a fantasy book reference. WHAT?

The doctor ordered two more valuable days off from the road, and my cloak got heavier. I sat in the chair staring at my gnarly feet, knowing they would not see a pedicure for over a month. Coach said no pedis. No flip flops. No summer fling feeling. My cute feet have always been a nice feature for me. Cross that off the list for now. I pulled my shoes on over the numb ugly culprits and meandered aimlessly through the streets, staring in shop windows at clothes I either wanted but could not afford, or could afford, but didn't want. Also knowing my brain was set to sadness and self loathing and trying on clothes in that state is really an emotional set-up. 

I called Kabuki Hot Springs and what do you know? It was women's day. I've never been there. I decided to actually do a kind thing for myself, finally congratulate myself on the hundreds, literally hundreds of miles I've already run, when I never thought I could even make it to three. I began to see the sun, take a hard look at the path, hardly believing me and the sausage outfit had seen so much together. It's fine for me to accept that I'm scared and sad, but I can have other feelings too. And so I turned the beat around, deciding to walk toward a nice serene oasis in Japantown. 

I signed myself up for an Abhyanga Massage. This is a traditional Indian style massage, very relaxing. They light the room with candles and you talk to your nice massage therapist, Trish in my case, about what your dosha may be and she selects the correct oil for your treatment, You are then exfoliated with a dry brush followed by a slather in warmed scented oil for about seventy minutes. Following this, you are left to yourself for a private soak in your Japanese tub flanked by hot herbal tea, a cold cloth with cucumber slices for your eyes, and organic apple sections to eat as you soak. Candles and roses surround you as you return to the world.  

Trish comes to inform me that the power has gone out for some reason and so my time in the bath house portion of the spa won't really work. The sauna and the steam bath are cooling too  much, and there's no light to see where the hell you are walking. After all the relaxation I've already treated myself to, that's fine with me. But not with Trish. She brings me a free pass to return to the bath house any time I want. It was really the nicest, most perfect morning with myself.

This morning is my last doctor ordered day off before I return to training. Although I can return tomorrow, she did warn me that the effects of the injections may not be felt for up to a week. That's cool, man. I actually can't wait. I never thought I'd be a woman to say that. But here I am. A woman who takes herself for a massage and likes to run. My office is half packed, my life is in boxes, and my feet are unsure of what's possible. I suppose the rest of me is too. But I'm really going to try not not be so attached to the outcome of all this and stay in the moment of it. Especially when the moment can just be a choice to be nice to myself.

If y'all can find that kind of massage wherever you are, it was like, for real, the best thing ever.

Sara Elise.


Dont Stop Believin' - Journey

I'm listening to a classic rock station Pandora Radio is constructing just for me based on the band Boston. So far Skynard has crooned the soul of a Simple Man, Asia has endured the Heat of the Moment, and Journey has pleaded for us all, please, Don't Stop Believin'. The hits just keep coming. I imagined myself stumbling and blistered toward the finish line, beside myself with pain, thirst, and stupidity, and begging someone for an ipod just to hear that Journey song. I think that one really sends me around the bend every time. There's something in Steve Perry's vocal on that record that blares such a singular authenticity, real pleading about a small town girl, living in a lonely world. And I suspect, at some point, during the marathon, I'll feel just like that girl, dying to get out, taking a midnight train going anywhere, and I'll want Steve Perry to pull me through. It's just a guess, but I can see it so clearly. And if he's good enough for my favorite sociopath, Tony Soprano, he's good enough for me.

I took more time off from running this week than I have since I started the training in December. (Queen is playing now. Fat Bottom Girls. God Bless Freddy Mercury.) Three days out of the sausage outfit. It scared me to take the time, scared me not to take it. I thought I might have forgotten how to do it, or my body might have closed up shop. I felt scared I would run the tiny three mile route, the one that used to be my big big goal, just get down Market Street to the Bay. Reward myself with a beautiful view. I counted my paces this morning wondering what my feet would feel like by Sansome Street. I couldn't push the worry down. I suppose it became an opportunity for me to practice re-focusing over and over on staying with my pacing. Keep my head in the game and my breath on the stride. Just a small run. A friendly jog. The weather was exquisite. A perfect mix of sun and breeze, enough warmth to get the old heart on track and enough wind to kiss the forehead. (AC/DC now. I had to skip The Who. Ever since that shit show they put on at Super Bowl halftime in February, I just can't face their music. That game was epic. I mean, I'm still happy for the Saints, but I feel scarred from that fifteen minutes up there with The Who.) I made it all the way down, still never shook the scared feeling. Maybe it's there for a reason. Maybe I'm supposed to just keep it by me to keep me honest or something. The race is really bearing down, and me? I'm stuck in a stupid pain problem. I'm looking forward to the shots. The pain is back to a totally bearable level, but I'd like it to just go. Bye Bye, Pain. Thanks for the motivation and all, but get the fuck out. 

Another thing I noticed this morning about fear is that the kindness meditation that has worked so well for me recently didn't even occur to me as a tool to use. I've gotten pretty good at it lately (Scorpions, No One Like You) and even though the run only covered a short distance, I would have thought the words would have come to me. Apparently, I have to come to them. Ha. Wouldn't you know it? It's just like working on the book. This weird collaboration I seem to be building with my very self.  I can drag myself out there, I can put one foot in front of the other, but I don't get help from this voice I'm working with until I actually ask for it. Or maybe I do sometimes and I don't notice it. That's how entitlement works, right? If you truly believe you are entitled to a thing, it will never occur to you that you might be stepping on someone's foot to get what's yours, because you just know it's yours. I think this whole thing has been fantastically weird. I wonder if I have done a good enough job explaining to you how I am such a terrible terrible applicant for the position of Marathon Runner. I am a lark. I am a long shot and a peripheral character. (War Pigs, Sabbath) I am also oddly committed to doing the weird thing.

The other day I saw a picture in my mind of something and I said to Ginger:

I have to talk to you about something I really want to do differently when we move.
Um OK.
I want to get a fish.
And I want him to be white and live in a nice bowl with a pretty plant and white stones and some coral. And he has this red thing on his head. Like he's wearing a ballcap.
A fish?
Yes. And I want to name him Bacon.
Um. OK.

I have never spoken about wanting a fish. Nor has it really occurred to me in like twenty years or more that I might want one. But as soon as I saw the little guy in my head, I knew it was how it had to be. That's how it is with the marathon. The marathon and Bacon are the same. Fated.

The run this morning was really quite nice, regardless of being present for the fear and tripping out. The pain was present but bearable. And I wore my Guns -N- Roses shirt to help me along. It worked. So if any of you know Steve Perry, see if maybe he's free on July 25th. I'd love to see him.

Sara Elise


Feeling Good - Nina Simone

Anti-inflammatories are the absolute shit. Seriously, it's like someone snuck in last night and replaced my feet with the extremities of a slightly fatigued athlete rather than the gnawed up  dinner rolls that I had been trying to walk on all day yesterday. It felt so awful.

I feel so
much better today,
Thanks for asking.

Sara Elise

Unsatisfied - The Replacements

The doctor is sending me to get an MRI. The three letters that come to mind for me in this situation are WTF. The MRI is a special kind of x-ray that shows soft tissue and does all these other fancy things, but what it really means for me is that I didn't get the cortisone shot in case the fascia on my foot is actually torn. This is what they call in the business of training a harsh toke.The good doctor has put me on a steady diet of anti-infammatories, two each morning and evening, a day off from training yesterday, and perhaps today as well, although I am going to try and engage in some kind of activity if I can't do the 6-8 miles from yesterday. If there is no tear, I will go get the shots next week. 

The doctor came in and looked at the old dogs and poked around. It didn't take long. When I got up to walk out, she took one look at my gait and said You better go ahead and take today off. Poor thing. Then she asked me a bunch of questions about past injuries. 

Ever had a broken bone? 
No. Maybe my toe when I was little but we never found out because no one really cares if your toe is actually broken or not. 
Uh huh. Well, I'm trying to determine your pain tolerance.
Oh. I haven't had a baby either. (She laughs. Even though I'm really not joking and wonder what kind of chemicals the body creates to allow such a thing to happen to women. And then what kind of memory loss we all employ to let people go ahead and do it again.) But you know I do have almost forty tattoos or something. 
Yes you do. 

The doctor makes it clear to me that she believes I will still be able to participate in the race. Nonetheless I am gripped by worry that my big big goal is being fucked with by the gods. It's surprising how sad I feel. I mean I feel so sad, right there in the fancy downtown office, like a girl who actually has a shot at the championship. A gold medal once every four years. I mean if worse came to worse, I could run the Nike women's marathon in October. Rumor has it the course is less punishing, and a good portion of it runs along the beach. That's pretty. Plus they pamper the gals and you get a Tiffany charm. At least that's what I heard. But I don't want to wait until October. I want to do the thing now. 

There are two great things that came of my time in the waiting room. I did my best not to hand my day over to panic and depression. While I did not wholly succeed at this, part of the process was coming up with a backup plan. I could just gather my friends and family on Saturday before the official race and do the course anyhow, alone, at my own pace without the hubbub and pressure of having 24,999 other people around plus staff. Or I could just show up, do what I can do, and accept that that's all I had. Whoda thunk I have this much at all? Not me. That is the fucking truth of it. The other thing that was nice to really have time for in that room was a wash of gratitude about health insurance. Part of being a grocer, aside from the insane amount of glamor and fame it provides, is the health insurance. Because I work at a store where the workers own the business, we voted to really provide ourselves with means to take care of our bodies and those of our families. Even our gay families. It's amazing. I can look up the sports medicine specialist dood and know it's an option for me to go. I can go get the WTF, I mean MRI and just know that's going to be okay. Amazing. Bring on that pallet of cat food. I'll stock it happily. 

Anyhow, things already seem a little better just from the anti-inflammatories I took yesterday and this morning. I am sure I'll make it to the course, and all my travels down the avenues of fear and sadness yesterday will be relegated to mere simple scenic routes of life, not based in any kind of tragic outcome. The sausage will prevail!

Sara Elise


Too Fast For Love - Motley Crue

Today I will revisit the dear podiatrist, Dr. Sanders. It's a good thing. Last night I decided to do that thing folks do with a new car. Let's take her out on the highway and really open her up. See what she can do. It was kind of fun, going faster. The sweat just poured out of me, until three and a half miles in, I eased up. I could feel something not quite right going on with my right knee, the hip not a huge fan of velocity either, so I just decided to bring the team home, happy to have tried a new jam, and stunned that I shaved close to a minute off each mile. Not because that's my goal, but just because I find it interesting to see what this thing can do. I spent so many years ignoring it, being, essentially, in a state of horror about it, that this new relationship of cooperating with my body is kind of fascinating. I really have just put it through the ringer, but thankfully, the structure, thus far, has seen fit to allow me some more health. 

I think, alas, it might also need a cortisone shot or two. My heels hit the floor today in a groan and I felt much like last night's outing covered 14 miles. I don't know if I'm doing it wrong or the heel spurs are just too much a match for the training, but I am really past the point of being able to handle it. The last long run was unbearable toward the end and I still had 11 miles to go to finish a marathon. It's not that I mind the pain mentally, it's that my body won't actually keep going I don't think. Maybe I'm not pushing hard enough. I don't know.

I also heard tale told of a holistic chiropractic wizard whose specialty is athletes in pain. The guy's whole mission in medicine is to help people move their bodies pain free. Which I am entirely in the market for. So I am going to track this feller down as well and gather the team. It takes a village. And I'm doin' this thing even if I have to limp about it. 

And on another note, here is an outtake from the writing retreat. Today is my last day of this one. It has been amazing. I am really focusing on how a girl can make a life of this writing and photographing situation. Maybe I can't afford the city if I want to do that. Maybe I need grants. Maybe working forty hours a week doesn't realistically leave me enough time to build a career. Or maybe once I am done training I can replace the long runs with submissions and residency applications. 


The good news is... I love writing. So much that the pain which arrives each time I stand to go get something in the kitchen is just another little bump in the road. My controls are still set to "all systems go".  

And here is where Pandora watches her best friend get swiped like a pack of gum at Walgreen's. Except it's at a show at Pnyx with Orpheus' band. 

I found Persephone’s face in a state I had never seen, a complete calm across it. There was no faint smirk, no figuring in the brow, no sparkle to the eye. it was as if she was willing for the first time off the mountain to let the world happen around her, and not make the world happen around her. She had put down her Olympian charms in the face of these mortals. It was un fucking real.
The crowd of beautiful mortals hushed and parted, ready to be forever changed by the night, for better or for worse, just ready. We all stood, hundreds of us, made up, made out, made over and then finally ourselves and ready. All the costuming ceased to matter and the march wore on, the outfits stopped figuring in to anything and the march wore on. The sex in the sky vanished, the potential of frenzy soaked up by this procession. They reached the stone and set the drums around the girl.
Orpheus turned in the night to face us all, lifted his head to the stars and in honor of his chosen space he bellowed
Who wishes to speak?
And there was no one.
He was patient.
He looked to each and every human available for eye contact. He looked at Persephone for an extra long time, honoring her Olympian presence, but she uttered nothing. Her face stayed placid, a lake of fondness. Every face looked as hers did: kind. 
As Orpheus inhaled the stew of the people’s scent, I scanned the unearthly beauty of the crowd, my peace interrupted by the purse. The jar rattled. Wings beating in a sick tumult, a thrum on alert. And there in the shadows at the back of the platform I found the one singular face not looking at Orpheus, but looking at me. 
The jar continued its misbehavior as the band exploded, waiting for his voice to join in. The sky darkened with the arrival of the Sirens, who in this moment, no one feared. Medusa herself could show up to go-go dance and the crowd would welcome her, toss tips to her snakes for snacks and dance along. I could not arrive fully, the purse beside itself with fever, looking to fly from my side, the eyes behind the stage watching me with every twitch of the bag. I had never seen this person, could barely make out the face. But from here, I knew tonight would never recoil from any of us.
And finally, finally, he sang. 
The ground opened, a black chariot appeared, Hades ripping through the earth in full glory, landing in front of Persephone in her first moment of calm. The music plowed on for the ruler of the underworld, offering the goddess the shotgun seat in the best ride on the planet, or under it. Persephone thought this whole time she’d been preparing for Orpheus, when her destiny was so much more than she could have known. She crawled right into the chariot with him and they soared above the show, Persephone whipping her neck around in abandon sitting in the midst of everything a girl could ever want.
And then she was gone.

I bid you farewell and off I go to my final writing session.

Sara Elise


Add It Up - Violent Femmes

Well, turns out that just like the running, some days the writing won't come together either. 

So be it.

One bad day isn't going to kill me. Obviously, or the book would have been dead, buried, and decomposed long ago. I won't lie. It's kind of a bum out when you have your rhythm going, the characters are just Chatty Cathies going on and on about their mythic existence, philosophising, mourning, laughing, smoking, whatever, easily exposing themselves on the page as my fingers hunt and peck like little hot flames across the keys and then poof. Nothing. It doesn't feel awesome.

Today I spent the writing hours grinding the gears. Type and erase. Seek and destroy. Catch and release. Cliches and bad structure and bullshit flowery camouflage. Too much? Must be time to visit Facebook. Have some fruit salad. Watch the new Gaga video. Get a little space and go back. Nope still sucks. Push through it anyhow. Let yourself write crap. Do it. Create the mediocre blather that gets to the next place. Don't quit. It's cool, man. Part of the process.

Something about all the running has let today NOT be a tragedy. I think all those times I walked or cut out or quit taught me something. I feel like enormous goals have room to fail. In fact, I think part of that process means there is a necessity of failure within it.  And those failures have room to be steps on the way to success. So today, instead of dragging the mean girl out, I actually feel okay about the rough ride. I got some good ideas about plot out of if. I like the basic place I got to. And I may return to try again after my five mile run. We'll see how that goes.

Speaking of that, including today's five miles, I am scheduled to run 242 miles before the marathon on July 25th, 2010. That means I could run all the way to Reno, lose my ass  at a craps table, and still get back to Trukee before I had to start hitchhiking. I love Reno and Tahoe, by the way. But I honestly can't believe I am a woman who could trek there by foot. Turns out I am.

I am woman.
Hear me roar.
A long slow meow of a roar.

Sara Elise


You Can Do It - Ice Cube

Saturday everything was different. I moved along for 14.7 miles. Three and a half hours. I ended up stranded and limping through my least favorite place in the city, Chestnut Street in the Marina. No one has eaten a carb there for seven years. 

Who am I to judge? 

After much  jogging, some walking, and a little sprinting for good measure, I dragged what was left of my carcass to the Apple store and typed out an email to Ginger from an iPad. My first. Eh. The thing didn't thrill me. This jaunt brought me to experience certain sensations of pain I have not yet felt in this life. Each heel a bruise to pound, the knees feeling unhinged, mostly on the right, and the hips aching. Not like where you put your hands on your hips, but where, on the sides of your legs, there is space around the corner from your ass, above the thigh. Furthermore, a fatigue in the lower back, a throbbing in my left arm.

Like I mentioned, I'm a bad planner, so it didn't help matters that I spent the previous evening getting a huge tattoo outline. I don't want to brag about how gorgeous the thing is, but ok, I will. It's so dang pretty. There's a barn owl in flight clutching an old skeleton key tagged by a red rope. A banner weaves in under the bird to an antique padlock, open. The banner bears a Rilke quote, "Let everything happen to you." That run across the bridge reminded me of the quote. To tell you the truth, everything reminds me of it. The shocking utter pleasure of Wednesday, the insistent pain of Saturday. All of it. It all matters. I'm too old to try and avoid discomfort. It's what life does, the necessity of our humanity. But you know, I am also old enough to know better than to schedule a tattoo the night before the longest run of my life. Or run/walk. Duh. Anyhow, I'll show you the thing when it's done.

I will call the foot doctor and I will move forward with the training.
No matter what. I'll do my best.

I can do it.
I can do it.
I can do it.

Sara Elise

I Feel It All - Feist

No one has ever accused me of claiming a championship ring in the Super Bowl of time management. All the way back in December when I told my friend Sarah, otherwise known as Coach Cadwallader (see finish time for #169), that I wanted to run the San Francisco Marathon and also finish the first draft of my novel by August 21, 2010, she replied in a supportive fashion but with a hedging note in her tone. 

The San Francisco Marathon is one of the hardest. There's the Avenue of the Giants. That's much flatter and also quite beautiful.

Nah. I live here. I'll just practice on the course.

Uh huh. Well, yeah, I think you can do it. But maybe both might be hard. The training takes a lot of time. 

It's cool. I can do it.

Ok. Well yeah. Ok. I'll send you your first schedule of training. 

I just assumed the dry catch in her reply was a symptom of her being British. But no. Turns out here we are down the road, and I have no time for anything. Nothing. I'm falling behind on my house stuff, my book only gets attention when time gets set aside and scheduled, I don't really leave the house past 8pm, even on weekends, and my Saturdays consist solely of going for a long long run and spending the rest of the day recovering and lounging. Maybe I can do some laundry or dishes. Maybe. 

It's true I may have to modify my goals, which I'm open to, and hopefully if that happens I can manage to modify without some self-critical shitstorm for a soundtrack. I'm not sure why I thought training for a marathon and completing the first draft of a novel wouldn't cost me much, but I've found denial can often be a majestic tool serving as the gateway to great  heights. Had someone really been able to convey to me the enormity of my undertakings, they may not have been undertook. But one thing that rings a resounding gorgeous bell this week is not how much things cost, but how much they are worth. 

I had most of the day off Wednesday, save for a meeting with some colleagues I enjoy and respect and get paid to work with, and decided I would write in the morning and run in the evening. I normally run in the mornings and relegate writing to whenever a moment shows its face, which recently is round about never. The morning work went swimmingly well. Amazing really. Exhilarating. Sometimes writing is mysterious. It's like working on a collaborative process with someone, except it's yourself. I will leave the book for weeks on end, months sometimes, and at points in its life, I left it for a few years. When I return to it after stretches, it is clear to me that the thing has, like a child, gone through the stages of development where the story has almost gained a kind of sense of self. It realizes it is separate from me, its author. 

I wonder what Lacan would say about this? 
No matter. 

Heading back into the work is interesting. Sometimes I have an idea about what I want to happen, but like my parents, I'm quite sure, found out, sometimes the being wants what it wants and maybe I can't force it without breaking the thing. And so I write into the piece as openly as I can. And when the best thing happens: the piece tells me things. A sentence will tumble out that I had no idea was inside me. To the extent that it feels like it wasn't inside me, but is a product of a collaboration between me and the work that is being built, regardless of the fact that I built it. The work develops a prescience, a code of values for itself. On a good day, an amazing day, writing feels like I am merely transcribing a thing that already exists somewhere in a middle world. There is a voice that materializes and my fingers just clack away. Sometimes plot structure materializes, elements or events that have never occurred to me in any cognizant manner. It feels like spinning straw into gold. It is without a doubt, one of the most magical, rewarding, soaring feelings in life. 

Running has never even approached this moment for me. Yet I keep on toward this goal, harvesting quite a bushel of other succulent fruits of labor. It is power blasting rust from my long oxidized self-esteem. It really does wonders for my skin. It is the most victorious kind of meditative work that's arrived for me yet, providing me with enormous swathes of serenity and beauty. It gives me much needed solitude in a packed world, leaving me with a sense of accomplishment in a salt moustache. But that sense of soaring, maybe,  maybe in fleeting seconds.

Then Wednesday that all changed. By evening I was tired from everything. I wore the sausage outfit around under sweats all day, knowing I had too much time to convince myself not to do a run. A 6-8 mile distance was scheduled by the coach, all training at this point ramped up to the final few weeks, and I felt inwardly bratty about spending an hour and a half doing this. Ginger was making homemade pizza. The house was clean. Danny was coming over. Blah Blah Blah. The usual parade or reasons not to run.

But I left the house to visit my friend Gregory at the shop where he works. It's my favorite flower shop. He recently reminded me that peonies, my very favorite flower, were in high season and I had not come to be among them once this season. I thought between he and the flowers, I might feel inspired. I didn't, frankly. I wanted to just hang out. But he and his date convinced me I should get out there. It was getting late.

The first two miles, as usual, felt like crap. That never fails. Like when you put your jeans on in the morning and they feel weird. Takes a few minutes for the denim to adjust. Still wanting to give up, I gently talked myself into block after block until I saw an old pal across the street. She yelled like crazy at me, like a fan at a race, and I just felt everything come together. Her total buoyancy, my sweat, the self manufactured opiates, and bam. It was just like the writing. The world got more colorful. My body felt amazing, like it wasn't mine. My feel hurt, but I didn't care at all. San Francisco revealed all its glory to me, especially through the industrial stretch. Colors colliding, mist rolling in, turning to fog just as I hit the water. What a beautiful town. Sun setting. Throngs of folks out laughing. The run ran itself. I just showed up to meet it. I went seven miles and felt like a glorious animal. A lion licking big paws. And I came home to Danny in the kitchen, giving Ginger a super cute new haircut, my homemade pizza waiting with fresh basil hand cut all over the thing.

And all just in time for the crunch of the race. 
It's almost here. 

Sara Elise.


Glass of Water - Coldplay

On Monday I set out for a shorter run, four miles down the road. I felt a little weird at the outset, but laced up, not being able to totally place the feeling, as frankly, I'm pretty new at trying to live in my body. After 6:21, the feeling morphed into what I would refer to as a headache. By 7:41, I had to stop running as the headache forced a twitch in my left eye, and had moved to my back teeth and jaw muscles, which were, in one short minute, now throbbing. My vision became slightly fuzzy, which might have been pleasant in a movie scene, but in a sausage outfit on Church Street, it seemed not the sensation a girl like myself could embrace. I made my way to a land of tea and had about three cups of peppermint. Magically, the headache disappeared in the arms of the mighty elixir, the throbbing eased up, and my vision sharpened to the point of a tac. I rested with friends for about 90 minutes and decided to run home. Within one mile, the sensations returned. My first experience with true and acute dehydration, it turns out. Not cute. In fact, queasy and kind of scary. 

I find drinking water to be a chore. I loathe being pulled out of a focus to pee. I hate being in service to the needs of my body, my hormones, and now my muscle tissue. While coffee, the great dehydrator, spins an entire attending culture in its orbit, water has just become a way to kill Fiji and ruin our already beautiful, dying ocean with plastic. And in my personal world, it's a serious pain in the ass I feel resentful having to give a shit about. Course, it makes sense. The adult female body is about 55% water. Over half my solid body is a liquid. That's hard to wrap my head around, but since I am a person who pretty much blindly accepts scientific facts, let's just call it a fact for argument's sake here. I'm not a scientist. I'm a grocer. So at that kind of level, it makes sense I would have to really keep on top of the liquid intake to keep it real. And by real, I mean to keep from passing out while running. 

So I am back to lugging around a mason jar full of water. I try to sweeten the deal by cutting slices of lemon into the thing, cucumber some days. I learned this from visiting rich lady spas on spy missions, stalking the lands of folks sporting what my pal Silas calls "the sheen of the well-off". Also a muddled clump of fresh mint leaf from the garden patch works wonders for a jar of water. I am also using this opportunity to regain a closeness to my Pandora character, lugging around her famous jar, as she says, like a useless barren uterus.  I feel her pain. I resent the thing, even with its bobbing yellow and green jewels. This staying healthy gig is a drag some days. It isn't that I long for the days of stagnation and cigarettes exactly, but I am still consistently drawn to a look of a wan, skinny lady, her tattered jeans hanging perfectly off her angular hips, the faded AC/DC t-shirt showcasing an elegant collarbone and dangly earrings. And invariably, a cigarette in her imaginary hand, fingers topped with chipped nail polish. Alas, my cliched fantasy of self-destruction does not truly suit me, and so on my runs, fortified with my completely boring intake of stupid water, I try to rearrange my fantasy life to include a wider version of jeans and t-shirts. And by the way, if anyone is getting rid of any aging rocker shirts, I'm open to salvage. 

And frankly, it's not like I think of myself as an athlete who actually needs to regard their body as their main instrument. I see why an athlete would need such specialized tools as hydration and long stretching sessions of tired quads. See, look at these definitions:


  [ath-leet] –noun
a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.


  [spawrt, spohrt] –noun
an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis,golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.
a particular form of this, esp. in the out of doors.

With the first, I am clearly not engaging in a contest. Just an ancient Greek measurement of 26.2 miles, to match the Greek roots of my novel. Also note, for the sake of argument, that my undertaking has nothing to do with game or even skill particularly. I am not trying to research a better stride, work on my breathing, whittle my time down, or win anything. And as for a sport, while the "race" will play out with 25,00 other people, I have no intention of competing. 

The undertaking here is more akin to durational performance art, I believe. It is a plea to my mind to endure, to live in synch with my body, to familiarize itself with its own home, formerly living together separately, like a couple who has grown apart and evolved into living in separate rooms of the same house, finding divorce impossible, yet marriage a profound misery. My mind is through with that bullshit. And so is my body. So my thing is that I simply keep going. It's the only rule. I set a goal and try to reach it. Then I think about the nature of what I learn, what I witness, what I see, and what each step informs.

I am looking forward to how the work of the road informs the work of the page this week. My writing session begins Saturday. Five days of scheduled writing hours for nothing but the book. The work will kick off Saturday after I attempt my longest run yet: 15 miles. And as Mary Schmich, although an urban legend attributes it to Kurt Vonnegut, once warned in a brilliant piece: I won't forget the sunscreen.

Sara Elise