Snot Rockets, or Be Kind and Look Behind!

Winter runners, you know what I’m talking about – the air is cold, you’re trying to breathe through your nose, and you begin to experience that incessant drip, drip that annoys the crap out of you and everyone else (if there is anyone else) because of the constant SNIFF! SNIFF! you have to do to keep it in. What’s a runner to do?

Personally, I hold out as long as I can, sniffing until I can’t stand any more. I then use my glove or sleeve to wipe my nose if I have to, but sometimes, sometimes I just have to clear it all away. I do have tissues in my pack but they’re for…uh…other reasons. I also am not going to stop to fish them out over and over again.

Snot rockets. They are the only other alternative.

Many athletes, including cyclists and runners, do them. I really don’t like them, however, for a couple reasons: one , they aren’t pretty. I don’t care who does them; two, if done improperly, they can come back to haunt you – if you catch my drift – or worse yet, haunt somebody else.

Unfortunately, I’ve been that “somebody else” too many times!

It’s disgusting.

So, if you have to launch them, consider these pointers before you strike:

  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, make sure NO ONE is around you! Winter running often means windy running, and that mucus can carry. If you gotta blow, don’t do it when someone is next to or even behind you;
  • Point your head down and to the side, away from your body, to avoid hitting yourself;
  • Usually, for me, the need to blow occurs only on one side. To increase trajectory force, I close the opposing nostril by pressing it with a finger, taking a breath, and blowing hard to the side of the trail.

That’s it. Not too difficult. Unless the wind is so strong it’s ripping the snot right out of you before you can even blow. In that case, the snot rocket is futile. Trust me, I’ve tried. Better to just let it go!

If you need more coaching, here are a couple of articles you can use: (this one also talks about proper spitting technique)

Sorry, no videos. They were all too gross for me.

Happy running!


A Hero

There are some people you meet in life whose stories go beyond your comprehension. So much suffering, so much trauma, and yet — and yet, the most amazing thing about them is that, in spite of all that, they are kind, hardworking, and nice. How can they be that way? How is it that they do not go through life bitter and angry, or demanding and expecting some recompense as their due?

My step-father is one of those people. He met and married my mother a few years ago, when he was in his 80s and my mom in her late 70s. Since that time, he has brought my mother nothing but happiness. They are wonderful to watch, and we all should be so happy when we reach that age. It is fitting – neither of them have had life hand them anything except hardship. Both were children during the Great Depression, but not here in America: my mother lived in a small mountain town in southern Germany, and my step-father in a small mountain village in southern Austria. Bare feet to school, little money or food. But while my mother had a family and a farm, my step-father had parents who left him to be raised by an aunt and an uncle in a two-room shack. He spent his years sleeping on a cot next to the stove, and learned to play the accordion at a young age so he could earn money, playing music on the streets. He still plays that accordion. I’ll never be the one to ask him to stop.

My step-father has many stories related to being a musician, some funny and some not. It was his playing that got him pulled into his first military service, in fact. At first, as a prisoner of war under the Germans, where he was subjected to violence and humiliation most people could not even endure. Then, when it was discovered he played the accordion, he was “recruited” into the German military, and became a soldier forced to play for an enemy he hated. Later, just as he was released near the end of the war, he became an American prisoner, and was transferred to a camp in the north of Germany. It was not his country, it was the country of people who had enslaved him, and yet he was a prisoner along with them.

Two years a prisoner, then after being released, he made his way back to his home town and eventually to America. He looked for and found his father, “living like a dog” in a garage. “You are not my son,” was the greeting he received.  Later, he found his mother, and even had her come to live with him for a time, even though she told him, “I wanted to abort you.” It was a sense of duty that led him to care for her, and perhaps a little hope that she might come to love him. She never did though. He has spent his entire life knowing that his parents did not care for him, no matter what kind of person he had become.

His military days were not over, however. Soon after moving to the U.S., he received a draft notice. He was not a citizen; merely a resident, yet he was drafted into the Marines. An MP, he was asked to not appear on the drill field during inspections because he was too short and not the “Marine type” to be shown to dignitaries.  He served his duty for two years without even being a citizen, and did so with integrity.

Despite all he went through, he married, suffered the loss of two children and raised two wonderful sons, whom I am happy to call my brothers.

These snippets are mere drops in an ocean of stories from a humble man who is kinder and more good-hearted than almost anyone else I know.  How is it that he does not use his suffering as an excuse to be selfish, or violent, or bitter? So many of us do these days. We wear our suffering like beacons to demand sympathy, retribution, and free passes when we hurt others. We scream, “it’s not my fault!” when we fail through lack of effort. Why is that? What makes my step-father so different?

It was his choice, I believe. He chose not to give in. I listen to his stories so that I am reminded, I can be like him.

The Disease, the Parasite, of Doubt

(and how I beat it, this time)

It has been a l-o-n-g hiatus from running for me because of an injury with complications. After a tough, teary-eyed session with my physical therapist last week, however, I think l’ve turned a corner. You may think it’s hokey, but that emotional release during treatment might have been just what my body needed to finally let go of the injury and truly begin to heal. Today, I ran my first mile in over two months. It was slow, deliberately so, and I walked another 1.8 miles after that, but it felt sooooo good to be moving in a way that is much a part of who and what I am.

The next steps are going to require a lot of patience. I am anxious to start running and training, as I have some big plans for next year. First, I plan to run a difficult trail marathon in May. A month later, I will run a tough forty-miler in the same gorge as the marathon, a new race that already has a reputation for being a killer event. After that, I have a solo fifty-miler planned in the fall. For someone who doesn’t race much, this is a packed schedule.

Following some good advice from a recent podcast, I’ve chosen the trail marathon to be my A race. That leaves me a tad over four months of training, so long as my ankle recovers properly. For now, I will just keep rehabbing and rebuilding my base, focusing on heart rate recovery and bringing my body back into balance.

One important take-away I’ve learned from working with my therapist is that my notions of what is and isn’t right for my body are correct, and I should stop doubting myself. I was beginning to see myself as a failure because I wasn’t getting “back out there” fast enough. I wasn’t taping up and gritting through pain to complete a heavy session, and it seemed like everything I’d been reading was saying I should. Or, at least, that I should have been out there much earlier than what my body seemed to be telling me.

This sort of thing had me asking myself, “Am I really able to be this kind of athlete?” I couldn’t help but feel that I had no right to set such expectations for myself. Maybe I am not a true ultra trail runner. Maybe I’m not good for anything beyond mediocre. Perhaps I’ve just been kidding myself, thinking I had the ability within me to do amazing stuff.


Even as I write, those lines above make me feel sick and knotted inside, like I’ve allowed a parasite or disease to enter my body. I’ve felt this disease before. It’s the same one that tried to convince me I’d never succeed at college, or learn a language, or be worthy of wonderful relationships. It’s the sickly look from others who judged me even before I had a chance to try, like the high school English teacher who once said to me, “I know you,” in a way that meant, “I know what a good-for-nothing you are; you won’t succeed and you can’t be trusted.”

Well, I am not going to let that disease take hold. I am not going to let that parasite in.

I believe that is why I cried last week. I struggled with that same doubt, and I made it through, this time.

There will be more times like it, I’m sure, but for now, I am looking forward, believing I can do some amazing things.

I give myself permission to go for it.


Sunny day outside, temps are below freezing.

I am taking a break from painting a room in our new home, watching golden leaves fall from the hickory trees in our yard, and watching a few trail and ultra running videos online.


A sprained ankle in September kept my running to a minimum for a few weeks, but I had still planned to run a 50 mile race in early October.  Just two days before the event, however, a family member had an emergency and I chose to head back to my home state rather than run. The day after returning home, I sprained the same ankle again. Not running, just walking down the stair and catching my foot on the last step. Turns out the second time was not just a sprain, however; weeks later, still not being able to run, I learned that twist number two had resulted in a fracture.

I have major plans for next year, including (so far) two trail races and one solo 50 miler. I know I need to let this ankle heal well. I need strong, agile ankles to tackle the climbs and the gnarly terrain – the races I signed up for have reputations for being particularly tough. So my routines now are all about rehab and recovery.  Sensible, right?

My brain and body, however, are still wondering what happened with that race I had been working toward. Where’s the reward for the work of the previous half year? What happened to the anticipation of the distance and effort?  WHY AM I NOT RUNNING?!?

This is stage 2 of recovery. The caged animal is pacing, wanting to spring.  The first stage was a a depression of sorts after missing the race and respraining the ankle.  While I go through these stages, I experience frustration, but I also spend time thinking and reaffirming why I run.

I do not run to race. I am not a competitive person.

I run to lose myself in distance.

I run to see how far I can go – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

I run to arrive at the core essence of myself.

I run to be wild.

While I heal, I dream of mountains and streams, roots, dirt, and green things.  While I heal, my heart is longing to be free.

Soon, I will be beneath those trees, flowing with the leaves, to places I have yet to discover.

I Don’t Fit the Box

Running, I am slow. After moving to a new region, I find I am slower still. New surroundings, more road, still adjusting.

I miss my home.

To be sure, there are wonderful things about this move.

I have my family, including two dogs, for whom this move was made. I have neighbors who all seem to be terrific people. I once again have a yard to putter around in. The area around my home is also very pretty.


There is no wild.

My spaces are limited; tamed trails trapped by property and roadways, with nothing to fear except humans, whom I rarely encountered before. Oddly, I fear them more than wild dogs, rock slides, and boar (can you blame me?).

Without the element of wild, there’s a beauty missing.

I don’t feel I belong here. I am trying but I do not yet feel connected.

The same goes for my professional life.

There, in my former home, I was connected. It was hard work: intellectually, emotionally, and sometimes even physically challenging. 

My life’s history had meaning there. People saw it and connected.

Here, people see the history and don’t connect. They can’t fit me into the right boxes.

Overqualified here, title not quite right there. Certified, yes, but not exactly in this state’s way or with that exact stamp.

Interviews happen with comments like “Impressive,” and “Well, you certainly have a lot of experience.” These, I have come to realize, are code for “You don’t fit.”

Perhaps the only box I fit is the one labeled “Other”?

Maybe so. Maybe so.

The loss I feel…

The loss, I feel…

…is theirs.

(as you may have guessed, I’ve moved. Same country, new continent. It has not yet been a month.)

Never Close Your Eyes to a Moment

I have been busy, very busy, lately. Little sleep, lots of labor, facing deadlines. Little time for chitchat and such, but reminding myself that I have to make time for important things like walking my dog, Hunny, listening to my child’s stories, etc. When we are busy like that, it is easy to become hyper-focused and forget that we are here for a purpose, and that purpose is not just to ourselves. Today, I had a reminder of that and I am thankful for it.

I had just finished strolling with Hunny. We had gone to the beach and I had allowed her a little time to swim, knowing that I’d given her short shrift over the past couple days. While I worked all night Sunday and was away from home, my daughter said our pup barked incessantly with that short yelp she does when she is unhappy. I felt guilty, I admit. So she swam a bit and we were almost home when I spied a woman sitting on the curb near my building. “Good morning!” I said. She smiled. Something about that smile. I hadn’t seen her before, an older woman (well actually, probably about my age). I walked a little closer on my way to my building. She looked at me with a tad bit of anxiety, so I stopped and asked, “Can I help you with something?”

She whipped out her phone and showed it to me. “Please, here? Help me find?” She spoke only rudimentary English, if even that. I looked at her phone. There was a man’s name and an address, but not to any of the buildings in my complex. And the last part of the street address wasn’t correct. There is no “Street” here; there is “Circle” and “Place” and “Road,” but no “Street.” This woman had no idea where she was. A quick search on Google had me worried that she had picked the wrong town entirely.

I searched a little more and decided that no, she was in the right place, almost. I found the number of the building she was supposed to go to. I pointed in the direction she needed to go but then I thought, she doesn’t speak any English, she looks very confused and anxious…she needs someone to help her.  I pointed to myself and said, “I’ll go with you.”

The woman thanked me over and over. As we were walking (I was still dragging Hunny, as she is one who likes to mosey more than walk these days), the woman said, “I walk two hours here.” Wow! It was hot already and the asphalt just made things worse. “I Filipino.” I chitchatted and told her that many of my students are Filipino, but she didn’t understand. I think just speaking pleasantly and walking beside her was relieving though. She looked better.

After a little searching, we found the general place we were supposed to be. The area is a warren of ramshackle warehouses and run-down shops. I wondered what she could have to do here. I knew that some people lived in second floor rooms of some places, but none that we asked at were the right location. Just then, she remembered a number and said, “Please, you call?”

I did call. It was the number to a caseworker, Yes, we were in the right spot, and we needed to find a certain shop and search for a man named Peter. That was all the information the caseworker had, apparently.

We went to the shop. It was closed. The guys working in a warehouse next door only knew of a man named Dave, and they hadn’t seen him yet this morning. I thought about it – I remembered this run-down second-hand furniture store had another entrance where it stores stuff in the back. I motioned to the woman and said, “Come with me. We will check there.”

I still had Hunny. The woman was a little nervous. It is a crappy looking area, but I pass through it frequently. We were fine.

We walked a bit and got to the back of the warehouse. We found a woman sitting in the pile and I asked if she knew anyone named Peter. “Oh, he lives up there,” and she pointed to a window on the second floor. “Just go through there and stay to the left, up the stair.”

She called up, “Hey Peter! Pete! Somebody here for you!” A guy came to the window but did not show his face. “Okay, just come up.”

There was no real door there; it was just an opening. Inside was dark and dirty, with junk everywhere. There was a small, dark hall and then light coming from an angle above, so I figured there had to be the staircase. The woman hung back a little. I had Hunny, so I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll go with you.” Hunny and I went first. As we turned the corner to find the stairs, I could see that the top floor looked more like a home. It was lighter and less cluttered. The woman looked at me and said, “Okay, I fine. Thank you very much!”

Hunny and I walked down and out the door. At that same moment, a truck pulled up and a woman got out. “Are you the one I talked to on the phone?” I said yes. “Thank you so much for your help. I’m the caseworker. I can help from here.” Apparently, the woman who I was helping is part of a home care program, and this was her first time coming to this spot. Perhaps the caseworker had given her better directions but, not speaking English, the woman just did not understand. Who knows. All I know is that we found the space, she was relieved, and Hunny had a little adventure.

30 minutes of my time, and it’s made things into a good day.  It was an unexpected and unsought for moment, but helping someone was totally worth it.  : )


photo_2017-04-11_15-47-07The wind is free,
I feel dirt beneath my feet.

The hill is before me to climb,
Promising the reward of descent.

The miles pass below me,
Measured by my steps and breaths.

What is time anyway?

When pace meets breath,
And body becomes the breeze;
Sweat is like the dew grass,
Measuring the balance between body and universe.

I am Nature,
I am Nature herself.

I flow,

I move,

I course,

Through the contours of the land and sea and air;
Within Nature and through her,




In straight lines and curves,




To points of quiet where my rhythm slows,
And rapid steps decline to almost ceasing,

In places where my banks are silent
And my heart is filled with peace.