I knew it would happen. I just knew it. I would be running another trail marathon. I think, compared to street marathons, you either love the trails or NOT. I DO. I love that they attract a smaller group. I love that, unless you have a committed partner to pace with you, you end up on the trail alone; it becomes your own race, like life itself, your self-challenge. I am not the fastest. I am not the slowest.
Alone, just you, the trail, the trees, the streams, their depths according to the rain season, the birds, the rocks, the hills, the crawling up the hills, the flowers, the super fantastic mid-point rest-stop where you are treated as royalty. I love the tent into where I have five minutes, at the most, to snag some hot soup, depending on the season, pretzels, granola, M&M’s, pasta, chicken, re-fill on water, Gatorade, PowerAde, your own concoction pre-delivered, whatever is there that you are trained to physically handle knowing you’ve got another 13.1 miles to go.
But, this time it will not be a marathon. It will be 33.2 miles. A little bigger than the average bear, a bit shorter than the 50 mile monster, the 100 mile killer (think Death Valley Ultrathon…starting race temp around 112 degrees). I am excited. It will be my ninth marathon, my third trail marathon. Did I mention they get easier when you quit smoking? Especially the hills. I’ll never forget the tears that pricked my eyes during a marathon in Lincoln, NE, when a woman, seeing me slow down due to a cramp in my abdomen, reached for my hand, slowed with me, and together we ran, hobbling for me, for a couple of miles, her telling me I could push through it, that she was doing a marathon in each state, never forget how empty my hand felt when she released mine, knowing I was better, and it was time for her to recoup her pace.
I’ll never forget the sheer joy of beating out a father and his adult son at a finish line in Kansas City when they saw me coming up behind them and tried to bolt and lose me. I had more power and strength left, little did they know, to take them on, push past and beat them, the result of a great training regimen, my own son watching from the sidelines, running through the crowd to meet me at the finish line.
You some how, at some times, end up pacing with someone when you’ve hit that wall, and you have a lovely conversation, until one of you is ready to increase pace again, and you must separate, grateful for the soulful encounter with someone you may never see again, with one who knows the joy, the pain, the loneliness, the utter satisfaction and so much more that comes with long distance running.
Thus, as I prepare to deep sea dive for, yet again, another pearl into myself by entering into an Organic Farming Program, having taken several Horticulture classes in the past, and a different step from my former life as an English Professor, I also prepare for another trail marathon, two completely different events, but both new, exciting, challenging, and wonderful. Someone, in a moment of mean-spiritedness once called me aimless. It hurt, as I always viewed myself as focused, yet kind, compassionate, empathic, not driven to run over others in my own life’s quests.
I could never understand that hurtful comment until recently, nearly ten years later; I realize the individual could not see the artistic connection between writing, running, teaching, cooking, gardening, and how they are all art forms, always in flux, always evolving, always moving, always requiring a strong mental reserve, requiring new visions, never static.
Age is not a number; it is an attitude, an attempt, as Thoreau referenced, “to suck the marrow from life”. I am 50. I remember at age 50, my father introspecting aloud, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” I never will ask that question. I always want my children to see me trying new things, want them to see me reach out for a challenge, even if I may not succeed at times.
It was last evening I strongly pondered, for the thousandth time, my existential experiences, past, present, and future. A storm had earlier passed, the sky cleared, Meatloaf sat on the porch with me while I did a bit of reading, as well. And as the blue sky darkened into evening, I knew I had some leftover Rigatoni in the fridge, a baked chicken heating in the oven. Thus began the genesis of my Cream Cheese Pasta dish, which was exquisite, especially as I began to watch the French film “Haute Cuisine” about Mitterand’s private kitchen Chef. Not a dramatic, high action film, but if you like to devour images of old world French cooking, this film is streaming right now on Netflix.
1/8 diced onion
1/4 cup diced leeks
Heaping Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup diced, fresh Snow Peas
2 1/2 cups julienned broccoli (broccoli slaw found in produce section)
3 robust cups of spinach
3/4 cup baked chicken
1 1/2 cups cooked Rigatoni
Sautee, in large pan, all of the above in that order, keep covered( I just use a square of aluminum foil that ends up covering something eventually going into the fridge) as you add each ingredient to retain moisture. Broccoli should be aldente, not too soft. Once spinach has cooked down and blended well into mixture, in a bowl, add to the Rigatoni then add chicken. Drizzle the sauce in and around to your liking. You don’t have to use all of it. I paired my dish with a tall glass of iced, vanilla rice milk.
In sauce pan, heat until just about boiling:
1/2 cup low-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup no-fat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp butter
salt (to taste)
garlic powder ( to taste)