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Fargo Forever

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Over the course of the last four and a half months, I ran 434 miles. Last Saturday, all of that training culminated in me running — and I do mean running — the Fargo Marathon. I did it! I ran the entire thing! I never stopped, except this one time (we’ll get to that).

First things first, I will never do it again. I will never run another full marathon. My body just isn’t meant for it, you know? In the last few days of recovery, I’ve felt like an old Volvo whose frame was just sprung in an accident. Everything was rattled and pounded and jarred and thrashed. I’m back to walking, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to squat down to unload groceries into the refrigerator ever again. My knees are talking to me, telling me the deep secrets of their souls. My left glute is permanently crimped. I descend the stairs backward like a toddler, using my hands for balance, butt in the air. Nay, I say to thee: I will live the rest of my days in a safe, padded cocoon, treasure my cartilage, and protect my joints like the precious gifts they are.

But am I sorry I did it? Not a chance.

My sister Sarah drove up from Kansas City – 9 hours! – to be race support

The morning of, standing in the chute waiting for the race to start, even before they starting playing “Eye of the Tiger,” I was already tearing up. I couldn’t believe it was finally here, all of the hard work come to fruition. It’s true what they say: the training is the real achievement, and the race is just the victory lap.

A reeeeealllly long victory lap.

The first 20 miles went better than I could have ever dreamed. When I did my 20-mile training run, it took me 3 hours 40 minutes; when I hit the 20-mile mark on race day, the time was 3 hours 15 minutes. I was flying! (You know, for me.) Up until that point, I was running 9:55 minute miles, and having a great time.

Still feeling good with 7 miles to go — I was so young and innocent and had no idea what was coming

But then I passed mile 20. And you know what’s past mile 20? Hell. Except hell is made of a billion tiny knives stabbing you simultaneously. And then those monkeys from The Wizard of Oz fly in and rip you limb from limb. And then what’s left of you is set on fire and left to burn in a dumpster.

I’m trying to find a strong enough word for the pain. Agony? Excruciation? I could feel every cell in my body individually dying — probably because they literally were.

Somewhere between mile 22 and 23, I reached downtown Fargo. This is the iconic stretch of Broadway where you run past the Fargo Theater, and tons of people are out to cheer. Earlier in the morning I had had visions of reaching this point, and how surely it would result in a euphoria that would carry me to the end.

But do you know what happened on Broadway?

I stopped, put my hands on my knees, crumpled to the ground, and curled up in a ball. I curled up in a ball in the middle of the road! There were no thoughts going through my head except one long “Noooooooooooo.” No to running. No to pain. No to life. I heard footsteps around me as runners passed, and figured it was only a matter of time before someone yelled for a medic.

I was down for about 10 seconds before I felt hands under my arms and I was hoisted up — but it wasn’t a medic. It was a fellow runner. He was wearing a National Guard shirt and looked like a real BAMF, you know? He stood me up, steadied me on my feet, looked me in the eye, and then shook his finger in my face and yelled, “YOU GOT THIS!” Then he high-fived me so hard my hand hurt, and took off.

And you know what? It worked. I started to run again. I ran through the pain all the way to the end, because, in the words of modern day wise men Rascal Flatts, “When push comes to shove, you taste what you’re made of.” And it turns out I’m made of grit. Who knew?

Our sage prophets

When I crossed the finish line, I immediately burst into tears. There was my sister Sarah, and my dad and Nicole, and our friends Scott and Stephanie, and I didn’t have to run anymore, and it was over, and I had done it. I had done it! The thing I had never been sure I could do. But I did it anyway.

I earned those ugly tears

I finished in 4:27:14, faster than even my secret stretch goal. And I will love Fargo for the rest of my life.

Marathoner!

In advance of the Fargo Marathon

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

In less than a month, I’ll be running the Fargo Marathon.

Now before you go trash-talking Fargo, let me tell you something. I drove through last September, and was immediately smitten by the small town feel. The tallest building downtown was… not tall. Several stories, maybe? I found shops and boutiques and restaurants, a brewery, a bike shop, and an Amtrak station. My experience was brief, but I found Fargo to be a sweet community, with affordable real estate, a growing economy, and a great arts scene. It just felt so live-able. I have a crush on it.

Plus, dontcha know their marathon is flat as a pancake? And since this is my first 26.2, that sounded great to me.

Being nearly 17 weeks into a 20-week training plan, I’ve reached the point where I’m just sort of over it. This Friday, I’m slated to run 20 miles — the longest distance so far — and lest you think I’m a confident runner these days, know that I will spend every moment between now and then in utter anxiety. These long runs are brutal, because while I know I have all of the physical and mental stamina necessary to finish the race, I didn’t anticipate that it would be so painful.

It just hurts. Oh my →SWEAR WORDS← goodness.

But no matter how my 20-mile run goes, and no matter how the full marathon goes, I will always be proud of myself for deciding to do this and then just doing it. I haven’t had a training partner or a running club; every single run has been by myself. Whether running 18 miles on a deadline (rushing before picking someone up at the airport) or 3 miles in the pouring rain the morning after a delicious yet irresponsible night of Scotch (whoops!), I’ve just kept getting out there, with no one motivating me but me.

I’m not a good runner. I don’t love it. I’m not fast. I’m not leggy and lithe (if you want to know how much weight I’ve lost, the answer is +7 lbs). But I was ready for a challenge, and chose my challenge, and have followed through on the challenge. What more can one ask of oneself?

I’ve been largely absent online these days — quieter than usual on social media, and nearly non-existent on this blog. I’m under no delusion that people notice, because the Internet is a loud, loud place where anyone’s absence is immediately filled by a hundred other voices. But since hootenannie.com is my party and I’ll talk if I want to, I’ll say this: the past four quiet months have been so good and so necessary for me. They’ve been fertile soil, and good things are growing. The 362 miles I’ve run so far have been a big part of that, and I never want to forget it.

Anyway, I’ll letcha go (just practicing my Fargoan). But just as a poll, do you know what hotdish is? I had never heard of hotdish before I moved to Minnesota — but you guys, it’s a casserole topped in TATER TOTS. What the heck. It’s either a nightmare or a dream-come-true. You decide.

January running update

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

I ran a lot in January, and of course I kept track because I keep track of everything. Including trespasses against me.

My total for the month is 86 miles, and I’m proud of every single step. It’s tough to start running again after years away; when I started easing back into it in the fall, I could barely run a mile at a time. But I’ve just kept getting out there (or on the sub-zero days, in there to the gym) four to five days every week, and this past Saturday I ran 8+ miles like it was normal!

Remember that episode of Homeland when Brody finally emerges from a heroin-strewn cell in Caracas so weak he can barely function — but then there’s a montage of him going through 16 days of training with the Marines, and all of a sudden he’s back to being a badass?

THAT is what I feel like.

I will never be fast. I’m not a gazelle. I’m more like a pack mule, slow and steady, with meaty haunches. But a mule can travel far — and “far” is my goal. I’ve got a marathon in May in mind.

Consolation and New Year’s resolutions

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Over the past month or so, I’ve woken up several times in the middle of the night with a sudden panic that I’ve left Foxy outside in the cold. I sit up straight and call her name, scared to death that she is [morbid alert] frozen to death out in the yard. And each time, I’m relieved to find that she’s right there by the bed. Of course she is.

My lifelong propensity towards anxiety paired with a winter that’s already more extreme than the entirety of the 2015-2016 season is doing dismal things to my brain. It’s not so much the temperature as it is the wind chill, and it isn’t so much the wind chill as it is the darkness.

Winter in Minnesota, man. Only the strong survive.

But regardless of how I feel about the weather, I find myself living in Minneapolis for my second January. Take four degrees and subtract them from zero, and that’s the temperature at this very minute – and it doesn’t even seem all that unreasonable, given the stiff and hypothermic potential. My survival strategy is to just keep living – and in January, I’ve decided that life will be made up of only two things: working, and running on the treadmill.

It happens to all of us at the start of every new year, doesn’t it? Making resolutions, resolving to re-solve what we’ve deemed wrong about our lives. As usual, I’ve decided that the root of all that’s wrong with my life is not, in fact, my fallen nature, but the circumference of my thighs. My re-solution? To run.

To run a freaking marathon.

Ha. That was actually my New Year’s resolution – to run 26.2 miles, twice as far as I’ve ever run, twice as far as I’ve ever wanted to run. Annieeeeeee. Why must your goals always be so extreme??

But since then, some thoughts.

First, last week I listened as a wonderful dinner companion shared about the Ignatian method of discernment called Examen, a prayer-fueled mindfulness that involves the idea of consolation and desolation. Each night, one is to review the events of the day and pinpoint the moments that were consoling (life-giving, inspiring, connecting) and the ones that were desolating (draining, despairing, isolating); in other words, consolation is movement toward God, and desolation is movement away.

As patterns begin to emerge, the idea is to orient one’s life toward consolation as a way forward. It’s not about making the “right” concrete decisions or checking items off a list, it’s about moving toward the things that stir us up and send us out, strong, tender, and present.

A few days later, I listened to an episode of Steve Wiens’s podcast in which he makes the case for “change that actually changes you.” So much of what he said parallels the idea of Examen. You should listen to the full episode, but for now, I’ll share the simple daily prayer offered by Steve at the end: “God, I want to experience life in all of its fullness today. Please lead me there.”

Do you feel how different this way of life is from our crazy New Year’s resolutions, those hard-hitting, full throttle plans that we think are going to turn our sorry ass luck around?

At the Christmas dinner table, I told my sister-in-law Ashley that I am thinking about training for a marathon, but that I’m nervous that if I commit to it and say it out loud that I won’t actually be able to do it and then I’ll be a total garbage person failure. She said, “I guess that you’d need to know that the process of reaching the goal would be just as worthwhile as achieving the goal itself.”

This morning at the gym, I ran for 45 minutes while staring at a poster in front of the treadmill that said, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” That’s a preposterous notion, really, since we can and do fail all the time. So I changed it in my mind to, “What would you do if you knew you might fail, but you’d kind of like to give it a shot anyway?”

Here’s the truth about today: I’m glad I ran for those 45 minutes. I feel awesome. That run felt like consolation. I want more of that feeling.

Here’s another thing that’s true: I was not well in 2016. The quiet stress I experienced during the first half of the year wreaked havoc on the second, health-wise. I had an eye infection that lasted for two months. I got shingles. My body harbored infection, I was sick over and over again, and I couldn’t sleep. But in November, when I started getting back into running after years of not running, I started to feel better. The beginning of 2017 finds me quite well, physically. I credit much of this to running, which is reason enough to keep doing it.

I don’t know if I’ll run a marathon this year. But at the risk of feeling stupid later, I’ll say it anyway: I’m going to try. I’m going to follow this training plan day by day, as far as I can take it, and give it everything I’ve got.

Maybe it will result in the torturous achievement of running 26.2 miles all at once, or maybe I’ll find that running 26.2 miles via multiple runs spread out over a week is a pretty cool accomplishment, too. Last week, my new friend Barnabas said something like, “What if running 15 miles 10 times is just as big an achievement as running 26.2 once?” I like that. When we drop our rigid expectations, the world opens up to us (the most Oprah thing I’ve ever said); success can take so many different forms.

(But I really am going to try for a marathon.)

I hope 2017 finds you experiencing life in all its fullness and moving toward consolation, New Year’s resolutions or none. And if you’re dying for a getaway, please come visit me in Minneapolis. I have a brand new furnace.

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Unleashed

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

I live a block from a city park where Foxy has made a lot of dog friends. There’s a huge grassy area in the middle, and a lot of dog owners have taken to letting their pups off leash to run like banshees. The Fox loves it, and there’s no better way to tire her out than to have her chase dogs 5 times her size.

The only catch: it’s illegal. I’d been warned by the other dog owners that city officials will ticket if they catch you with your dog off leash; the first time is $80, the second is $150, the third is $300, and most everyone I’ve met at the park has been ticketed at least once.

So yes, I’ve been warned. But I’m Annie Parsons and live on the edge of danger.

Today, on this beautifully bright morning, I bundled up and walked Foxy to the park. The sun was gleaming off the snow, and she couldn’t wait to chase the ball I’d brought. I did a quick spin-around and saw that the perimeter of the park was clear of any city trucks, then unleashed her to run like the unrefined mongrel she is. A few other people showed up, and we chatted as our dogs romped.

All of a sudden, one of the women hissed, “TICKETER.” And sure enough, walking toward us was a man, notepad in hand, his white Parks & Rec truck at the curb.

So I did what any self-respecting person would do. I ran.

I grabbed Foxy and ran full speed in the other direction.

One glance over my shoulder, and I saw the city man about-face and head for his truck. He was going to circle the block and head me off at the corner – because is this girl seriously running?

But the thought of an $80 ticket was sickening, so I picked up speed, blessing the tread on my Sorels as I beat across the ice.

I made it to the edge of the park, and turned to see the truck about a half block back on the other side. The light was red, but we crossed the street anyway. I cut through a neighbor’s yard and into the alley behind my house, crouching behind the fence just in time to see the truck pass us by. Just like the movies.

And when I finally made it through my front door and locked it behind me, I closed the curtains, put my hands on either side of Foxy’s little furry face, and collapsed into a pile of giggles.

Seattle Half-Marathon: ch-check

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

On Sunday, I ran the Seattle Half-Marathon, and man alive, was it fun.

(I just really think that “man alive” should be brought back as an exclamation – “man alive,” and “hot damn.”)

Back in September, I had the thought, “I want to train for something.”  So I went online, looking for a race that would be in a city that I wanted to travel to, and a course that I would like to run.  I realized that Seattle had a race on the Sunday after Thanksgiving; I did the math, and figured out that it was 12 weeks away, to the day.

Serendipity (not the movie) – I started training that night.

The 12 weeks flew by, and before I knew it, I was standing in a crowd of 11,000 people before the sun came up on Sunday morning.  I didn’t train with anyone, and I didn’t run with anyone – I just showed up, jumped into the sea of runners, stared at the people around me, and then ran across the starting line and didn’t stop for 13.1 miles.

I know that I’ve written about running before – how it’s not something that I’ve historically loved, how it’s not something that comes all that naturally, how the fact that I currently consider it one of my hobbies is utterly flabbergasting to me.

But there I was, by my own volition, running my third half-marathon.

For the first 10 miles, I ran a 9-minute mile pace.  For a girl who never runs faster than 10-minute miles, I don’t know where that extra jolt came from – all I can think is that training at Mile High and then dropping to sea level is the way to go.  The last 3 miles were a bit slower, but in the end, I cut 6 minutes off of my previous best time, finishing in 2:03:13.

As I ran, I was struck with how much FUN I was having.  I was just so happy –  traveling through my favorite city on earth, my body cooperating better than I could have hoped, carrying me up hills and around turns and past the man with the hairy back and the woman with the long, whipping, Texas polygamist compound braid.  I watched the people cheering on the sidelines, laughing at some of the signs (i.e. “Worst parade ever”).  I saw my mom and our friend Lisa three times along the course; they win the prize for the best navigation of Seattle streets.  At one point, I swear, I think I saw Vili Fualaau.

I ran uphill, against the wind and the rain.  I thought about the last several years, and how hard they’ve been, and how good they’ve been, and how the road has been uphill and against the wind and the rain – but man alive, this place is beautiful, and hot damn, I’m still breathing.

Running uphill

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Well, well. It seems that yesterday’s post was the blog heard ’round the world – that was the most visits I’ve gotten since December 1, 2010.

In the event that you’re new here, welcome. I’m Annie, the curator of this here little web log, and I live in Denver, where the weather is currently 27 degrees and snowing. I’ve been told that for having a desk job, I lead a pretty exciting life – and a lot of the time, I have to agree, although it’s probably worth arguing that I just like to make a big deal out of the dull. I’m hungry all the time. I order the clothes in my closet according to ROY G. BIV. I’m working really hard toward becoming debt free. I don’t own a single pair of leggings.

Here’s a little glimpse into my present reality.

I’m less than a month away from the Seattle Half-Marathon, and my training has been going super well. I’m excited to run this course through my favorite city (if you’re familiar with Seattle, check it out – such a fun and scenic route). I know that there are a lot of hills, and I’ve been figuring out how to run hills more efficiently. My über-runner friend Mark Miller always says that when running uphill, one should keep the same effort level, but not necessarily the same pace – which is relevant to my life right now.

I’m heading uphill, and trying just as hard – but just going a little bit slower.

Several months back, I found myself at rock bottom in the ditch of all ditches – down with the muskrats and the snakes and the creepy crawlers – with no clear and easy way out. I’m slowly but surely working my way upward, but realizing that a lot of damage has been done. Movement doesn’t come as easily as it once did. I’m finding that it’s helpful to slow down, to not push myself too hard, to strip away distractions, and to focus on one step at a time.

It’s not flashy, and it’s not exciting, and it’s quiet and tough and sometimes painful work that can only be done on my own, under the strength of my own two legs. But it’s leading me higher.

Thanks for being here, friends.

Talk about my booty on the internet?

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Don’t mind if I do.

And in case you think I’m a fraud because I’ve said I’m not training anymore, I ran 5 miles on the treadmill last night, and 7 outside on Saturday.  So, see?  I’m still doing my thang (although last year at this time, I was running 12 miles, so YES I KNOWWWW).

East Nasty really is something special.  If you live in Nashville and are a runner – or have any interest in becoming a runner – these are some of the greatest folks you could ever meet and run with.  They meet on Wednesday nights at 6pm on the corner of 11th & Holly in East Nashville – I think you should go.  Tell them Booty Girl sent you.

Update: running

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

I am registered for the Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville in April.

Long story short:
I’ve basically given up any hard-core training.

Short story long:
My life is so full right now.  I don’t have the hours in the week to put in the miles, nor do I have the desire to give anything up in order to make the time.  My body is a wreck.  I have a broken toe that has never really healed on my left foot, and what I believe are two bone spurs on my right.  I think about going on a long run, and my first response is a quivering lower lip.  I have zero motivation.

I know, blah blah blah.  Excuses, excuses.  Cry me a river, sister.

Last year, I was all about the running.  Then again, I didn’t really have friends here in Denver, and had endless hours to fill.  Last year, running kept me busy and active, got me out of the house and out into Denver.  In some ways, it really saved me.

This year is different.

I have more on my plate than I can swallow.  I am busy at work, and have a secret project taking up my free time.  There are some really wonderful new friends that I’m enjoying getting to know, and some really wonderful books that I’m enjoying reading, and some really wonderful opportunities that I’m enjoying taking advantage of.

Something had to go.  I chose running.

I’m still signed up for the race at the end of April, and I still plan on participating.  It’s just that my “participation” will likely take three hours instead of two.  Whatevs.  I’LL STILL GET A MEDAL.

Better self

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

After my half-marathon back in April, I quit running cold turkey.  I don’t like to run when it’s hot outside, and I focused more on hiking and mountain climbing this summer.  Because I’ve been insanely active, I didn’t think that it would be that hard to get back into running this fall.

Oh, my friends.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give the treadmill a go.  I ran one ugly mile.  When I stopped running, my butt kept moving.

Bad.

Then, someone who will not be named told me that she didn’t think I could fit into the bridesmaid dress I ordered for Mel’s wedding.

Bad bad bad.

But AP’s reverse psychology has kicked in, and as of last night, I’m back up to 3 miles.  You’d have thought I’d won the Olympics.  Come Halloween, I’ll be up to 5.  And after tomorrow night when I meet with a Viking of a trainer man named Gunnar, I will be back on my way to that ever elusive runner’s booty – the one that I never get, no matter how far I run, but always think MIGHT happen at some point.

For me, running helps ward off depression, insomnia, and existential crises.  It’s a good and healthy thing for me to do.  I haven’t weighed myself since March of 2009 – which, I might add, is more liberating than terrifying, even though I still have my terrified moments – and while I have a hunch that running actually makes me weigh more, if I don’t ever see that number, it doesn’t even matter.  I feel better.  I look better.  I think better.  I sleep better.

In short, I’m back on the path to my better self – the one with happier thoughts and a smaller booty.  I know: you’ll hardly recognize me.