Harvesting Wind

Yesterday I told myself, “I am going to run today.” I didn’t. I was going out to Palm Springs to have a joint birthday weekend with a friend, and thought I would go out for a jog in the morning before the drive. I put it off, with the excuse that I did not have time. I also thought it would be nice to take my run in the desert once I got out there. I postponed the run, because of the excitement of seeing my friends, coupled with some tenacious snacking that got in my way.

This morning I woke up and uttered an expletive to myself. I felt terrible. I had low energy, even for the morning. That’s the thing with running, your body will tell you when you are slacking. Mentally I still didn’t feel like pushing myself out the door. I did another yoga flow and a couple asanas with a friend, which worked like a charm. With blood flowing, I swigged some coffee and set out in my Forester for a dirt road that ran amongst the windmills of Palm Springs.

I can come up with any excuse not to get a workout in, but those are the times that exercise turns out to be the most rewarding.
I can come up with any excuse not to get a workout in, but those are the times that exercise turns out to be the most rewarding.

The first mile sucked. The ground was rocky and I wasn’t wearing trail shoes. The road climbed up in elevation, while large rocks gave way to wet sand. To top it all off I was running against the wind that the turbines were farming. After that first mile I snapped a picture and turned back towards my car. I had proven to myself that I would get out there even in the middle of a procrastination attack. The second mile reminded me of why I do this. I had the opposite experience of that trudging jog out. I ran swiftly down a road that was more like a dried river bank, with the wind at my back. Taylor Swift belted out “Shake it Off” from my smartphone, and I did.

Taking Shape

When I was sixteen my parents gave me a membership to a gym called “Taking Shape” run by an talented trainer named Moses. It was a small gym in an office building, but I found a new world inside. I learned how strong I could be, and also how well I could relate to a different crowd, as I was usually the youngest person working out there. I would go there almost every week night and most Saturdays during the off season to hang out and workout.

Moses was a great man and a world class trainer. Before he opened up Taking Shape, he traveled the world working with elite athletes. He would come up with fun drills based on what events I was running or position I was playing in basketball. Sometimes he would take me on outings to get a running workout in, but since I was a sprinter, he would have me do drills up and down the hallway once the workday was over. The workouts were always varied and challenging, and I was ripped by the time I was seventeen.

All the people at the gym would get together once it closed at night and go to a nearby restaurant to eat. I liked the crowd. The people were in their thirties to forties, so at least twice my age, with experience to pass on, and I learned so much during that time. We had shirts that read “Created by God, Improved by Moses”. I met my running mentor, Steve, at that gym, the man who pushed me to try the 400 meter race after I had spent a season running just the 100 and 200 meters.

Moses got sick when I was going away to college. It was hard news to hear. I had written one of my college entry essays about him as a mentor. Here was a man who ate right, lived right, but still got stricken with disease. He would still show up to the gym, though not as often, and on my breaks from college I would go in for an hour a day to run on the treadmill, while he rested, so I still got to spend time with him.

A few semesters into college, Moses passed away. The gym members went to the service. Pat spoke. It chokes me up to think about it. Pat told me recently that Moses would be proud of me, how active I am and how persistently I pursue my fitness goals. We don’t get to keep everyone for as long as we like, but we get to carry on their legacy the best we can, and hope the message does not get weakened. Go- get fit, be strong, be the best you can be which is always good enough.

New Zealand & Solo Travel Beginnings

In its not always easy to be true to yourself. The search to be “you” is hard. It doesn’t always reveal something easily managed, but I also found that the nicer you are to yourself, the more kindness you store up for the rest of the world. Say you are standing in the middle of a room with ten new objects surrounding you. No one is looking and you have time to consider- Which doodad do you walk to? Which one would you want to examine more closely?

“So Travel has helped me to have direct experiences, and to know more about myself”

                                                                                                -Michael Crichton, Travels

 

            The fall semester after I graduated college, My friend Monica and I did a three-city tour of Europe. We started in Dublin, then flew to Amsterdam, and took a train to Paris. In Amsterdam we met a young man who was traveling alone, and had been for quite awhile. I imagined him to be a prodigal son, someone who was expected to do great things at home but sought the world instead. Monica and I would often find him in the array of pillows and rugs provided in the common area of the hostel we holed up in, The Flying Pigand at some point we got into a deep conversation about traveling solo. I asked,

“Why can’t I travel by myself?” He assured me I could, that he knew plenty of young women that did.

            Previously, I had traveled to London to visit a high school friend studying abroad, and also gone on a one month group trip to Costa Rica with International Student Volunteers, but my desire of truly traveling about foreign places seemed out of reach. I had been enamored with the adventures of “Alexander Supertramp” after reading Into the Wild in high school. I had no designs on dying alone in the Alaskan wilderness, but the idea of throwing up my thumb and seeing the country and meeting new people thrilled me. As I talked to this lost boy in the hostel, a spark flew in my heart and I knew I would go on a trip by myself, soon.

            I had always wanted to go to New Zealand, had even read Lonely Planet travel guides on it in high school, so I decided to travel there, first. I researched and planned, and by the next spring I was on a plane to a place brand-new to me. I had no idea why I wanted to go out to the world so badly, but there I was, ready to dive into that unexplained phenomenon known as wanderlust.

            I landed in Auckland and spent my first night alone in a hostel that blew the ones in Europe out of the water. All of the hostels I stayed at in New Zealand were amazing- I don’t know if I planned well or if that is just how they do it there. My foreign running exploration began in that city. On the second day I was there I went on a long run with minimal planning. I had a street map and information for the bus, so that if I ran too far I could ride back. On that run I was able to see Holly’s Auckland, the things that stood out to me, rather than being reported by a tour guide or a book. I ran to the harbor and examined yachts. I changed direction and ran through the city to a calm park with great, drooping trees. I finished at a coffee shop (like many runners, I’m a coffee addict), then took a bus back to the hostel.

            I completed more sight-seeing runs on the trip. It wasn’t my focus, but I’m a runner so I ran. The most memorable jogs were along the coast in Napier and a bit of trail running in Queenstown. On these runs, I took my time, and I would slow down when I found the little nuances that made a place a place for me. I found on that trip that it wasn’t about what New Zealand was, it was about how I related to it. I found a small part of my wanderlust explained- I was after the experience of discovering what I was truly drawn to.

            In its not always easy to be true to yourself. The search to be “you” is hard. It doesn’t always reveal something easily managed, but I also found that the nicer you are to yourself, the more kindness you store up for the rest of the world. Say you are standing in the middle of a room with ten new objects surrounding you. No one is looking and you have time to consider- Which doodad do you walk to? Which one would you want to examine more closely?

That is how traveling alone is to me. Given no constraints, and with no one really looking, what do I want to pick up? Heck, I went fly-fishing in New Zealand. No idea why I was drawn to that. I’m terrified of heights and falling, but I flung myself down 134 meters at a bungy jump. I also found that I wanted a boat. I get seasick, and I know they are money pits, but when I got back to the States and people started in on me, my stance was solidified and no one could talk me out of it. I still don’t have the boat, but its there on some horizon, waiting for me and my skeptical friends.