Monday, September 30, 2013

The Space Between

May the space between where I am and where I want to be inspire me. ~Tracee Ellis Ross

Not sure a more fitting quote could have popped up in my Twitter feed today. Hard on the heels of this doozy:

It wouldn’t be out of line to caption this image The story of my life

I don’t know how not to compare myself to others. My competitive streak is a unique blend. I don’t like outright competition. I don’t like declaring goals publicly. Discussing raises and promotions is extremely uncomfortable, and I would much rather show you how well I can do something than tell you about it. This isn’t to say that I don’t want to be first place, faster, stronger, fitter, higher ranked, higher paid. This isn’t to say I don’t get a thrill when I look at my watch and realize I have met or exceeded a goal. (whispers) I just don’t want to talk about it.

I could tell half a dozen stories about boys I liked who would rather talk to my friends, people with far less experience than myself being hired for jobs I know I could blow out of the water, or about the time I almost cried learning to water ski because I was so bad at it. I don’t like being bad at things. I don’t like the look on people’s faces as they think of something to say that is encouraging without being patronizing.

If this were the Biggest Loser, it would come down to this pivotal moment when Jillian terrorizes me with questions and burpees and there is a breakthrough moment to reveal that I have a fear of failure (duh-duh-dunh!) Since this isn’t Biggest Loser (New season starts in two weeks. I have a reason to turn on the TV again!), I’m going to re-visit something I used to tell the parents when I taught parent-child classes:

In order to teach your child to succeed, you must teach them how to fail.

Can we put taking my own advice in the “not my favorite things” column?

If we want to see our kids walk across that balance beam all by themselves, we have to teach them not to be afraid, and to maybe fall off a few times. If we want them to want to do their best, knowing what it feels like when they don't is a powerful lesson. If I want to hear “Yes.”, I have to A.) Ask the question. B.) Learn to accept “No” and keep plugging. If I want to pass people, I have to try to pass people. I get it.

So my commitment for today is that I am going to choose to be inspired by the space between where I am and where I want to be, rather than intimidated or discouraged. I am going to get excited about how far I will have come when I reach my goals, and how wonderful it will feel to look back and say “That’s where I was. Look where I am.”

I’m not going to say I will stop comparing myself. (Baby steps.) I’m not going to tell you what my goals are for this program. (Yet.)

I am going to wring every last drop of joy, growth, and sweat possible from this experience.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's In A Name?

A simple name for a simple reason- after great debate and many attempts at being creative, punny, and unique, Birds Words won as title for my blog. I am Bird and these are my words.

I'm taking their word for it, but my parents tell me that they started calling me Leigh Bird as a baby for no particular reason and it just kind of stuck. We also have a 'Bear' and a 'Bug' in our family. It could be genetic.
There are probably fewer than 10 people who call me Bird, but it is as much a part of my identity as my last name, and probably slightly more so than my first name. (Leigh is actually my middle name.) When talking was still a relatively new trick for my niece I asked her what my name was. She said "Birdie." It was precious. 

It's a little crazy how much it soothing it is to hear "Hey Bird." It's like hearing "I know you, I love you, I like you, even if you do like to microwave cauliflower and stink up the kitchen, and I don't care if running turns you into a salty sweaty pink-faced, stinky shirted being with all the grace of a one-eyed goat."

There is pretty much nothing about me that is birdlike- not my appetite, my bone structure, my singing voice, or my bathing techniques. I'm a full on, deep-clean shower kind of girl. My hair isn't feather-like and the only worms I'll approach come in a Brach's bag.


I have two colorful bird prints in my living room, hung in frames my grandfather built. They remind me that I am home, that I am me. No matter how many people I didn't get back to today, no matter how much dust there is on my dresser, no matter how incapable I am of doing an un-assisted pull-up, I am Leigh Bird. I am my parent's daughter, my brothers' sister, and 50% of Team Ramrod. (There is no clever way to combine our names.) 

Enjoy the words.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The things we do for love (and running)

I'm long overdue for a running post. Here it is.

We all have those moments when we take a step outside ourselves and ask, "What am I doing?" (Depending on the activity, there may or may not be a word your wouldn't say in front of your grandmother in that question.) You find yourself running by the light of the moon at 5:30am to make sure you get that run in before spending a full day in the car driving. You look up as you round yet another switchback on a one mile gravel track and question your sanity. You look up an insanely steep, rediculously long hill and charge it, telling yourself that you only have to run to the top. And then you do it again and again as the 'rolling foothills' become baby mountains.

These moments aren't reserved for running. It's the moment you are on your back porch in your pajamas at 3am, shivering, while your dog makes an emergency trip to the backyard. When you instinctively cup your hands to catch a 3 year-old's vomit, and a beat later, your conscious brain points out that you are in fact holding handfuls of vomit. When you make the meals, do the laundry, clean the house, pay the bills, make the calls, go to bed late, and wake up early over and over again. These moments happen and the answer is always essentially the same.

You do it because you love it/them. You do it because you have faith in the outcome, in the moments after this one. Because you aren't content to live with what happens if you don't. (AKA it just needs to be done). Because you believe in this:

Mile repeats on the Vita course in Byrd Park were some of the least fun I've had with my CVE/Lulu teammates since training began. The loop is a weird shape, it's gravel, my watch wasn't exactly on board, and... it was mile repeats. My mantra for that run was long and not orginal, but it worked: If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.  Said another way, demonstrated through yoga:

It may be reaching, it may be trying to go too deep when it's all really simple. But whether it's rediculous hours at work to get your business of the ground, spending 48 hours in a van with a group of sweaty people, or spending 2 hours running baby mountains on your vacation, it's all driven by love. Love for what we do, love for our goals, our sport, our friends, our family. When we love them, ourselves, our futures, we will do things that sound crazy when you say them out loud. But when those are the things that need to be done to get where you want to go, nothing could possibly make more sense.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If you give a mouse a cookie... (Or the time I got a new windshield)

If you haven't read the book If you give a mouse a cookie.. who are you?! Kidding. But seriously, where did you grow up?

Just like the mouse who got a cookie and ended up needing a glass of milk, pencil, shaving foam, and a bed, my desire to set out on a road trip with a clean car led to many other seemingly unrelated things.

We're driving to a wedding in Maine this weekend. Some fun stops on the way up and back, really looking forward to our road trip. (Much to my parents' befuddlement) I am not the tidiest of vehicle owners. I see it is as my oversized purse/additional closet space that goes with me everywhere. Pen? Packing tape? Extra running shoes? 3 umbrellas? Re-usable bags? Extra set of floor mats? All right there, easy access.

Knowing how much stuff 2 people will require for a 5 day trip that includes camping, I purged a little and decided to take my employer up on their handy service of mobile detailing. Park your car at work, get the interior and exterior done for 30 big ones. Deal. Love it. Efficiency.

Until the guy cleaning your car calls you to say that he knocked your rearview mirror off while cleaning the windshield and when he went to put it back on, a microchip in your windshield "spidered" and there is now several much larger cracks in your windshield. While the manager is confused as to how the guy cleaning your window turned into a cracked windshield that he now has to replace (get in line buddy), my body temperature went up and I started stress sweating as I realized that not only did I need to convince Captain Confusion that yes, he was going to get those repairs done today since I had no plans to drive to Maine sans rearview (yeah, that was still sitting on my front seat), I needed it to happen by 2:30pm so I could be at my 4 hours, 3pm meeting across town. My life may not be interesting or important, but I can do frantic.

Many phone calls, one regular coke (so. delicious), a little venting, and many hours later, I drove my clean car and new windsheild home. Happy ending.

Nothing like the excitement of wondering if you're actually going to be able to drive your car roughly 12 hours before departure. Almost as satisfying as the high you get from running mile repeats around a gravel track. Another story for another time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Training News: Enjoyed a true first long run of Fall today. 60ish degrees, rolling hills on Riverside Drive, first post-run HOT tea of the year. Happy happy happy.

Skipped my Saturday run altogether. 24 hours with my mother, the first solid night's sleep in 10 days, a morning with no alarm clock, and a solid day of house cleaning felt like a fair trade.

I swear I'm going to start doing Core work. Tomorrow.

In yoga the othe day, Jen discussed the idea of your innermost being, your most true self, being deep inside you, like the one solid, tiniest of the nesting dolls that lives within larger, thinner layers of herself. The idea that we have layers on top of layers- a breath layer, a mind layer, a physical layer, wasn't a completely foreign concept, but one that feels very relevant.

I love the mental picture, and the notion that I have ability to focus on one or two aspects of myself at a time brought me enormous comfort. It was like permission- that I don't have to hit every single mark in the same day. I don't have to be number 1 runner/worker/daughter/yogi/dog mom every. single. day. I don't have to be organized, well-exercised, home-cooked, thoughtful, volunteering, innovative, and well-dressed at all times. Identifying and acknowledging the layers allows us to be curious, to notice, and to (hopefully?) accept. The idea of having it all, just not at the same time, takes a lot of the overwhelming out of life. In a world where Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the people around me provide constant reminders of opportunities to engage, get fit, help others, and generally get my stuff together, and all the people out there who are doing it all better than me, a gentle granting of permission to focus on just two or three layers at a time were welcome words. 

(My one caveat is that I think it's important to be kind every day, in every situation.)

Maybe I missed Jen's point, maybe I took in an entirely different direction. In any case, I deeply appreciated the reminder that there is only one deep true me, way down inside- a centering point to true back to when I am feeling overwhelmed and imbalanced.

Wouldn't It Be Nice

Wouldn't it be nice...

if nobody smoked? Anywhere. Ever.

if all humidity could be sucked into giant billboards and transformed into clean drinking water like these amazing smart people did here? Happier hair, better running weather, few bottles of water to buy and recycle.

if there were a valve on your car to release all the hot air before you got in it?

if pimples didn't happen?

if weekends were always 3 days?

if chaffing didn't happen?

if you could get lobster and crab for the same price as chicken?

if the moment you stepped out the door for a run, the clock stopped, and there was always enough daylight/time for the run you wanted and 20 minutes for tea afterwards?

if everyone would just be nice to each other and acknowledge that the person in front of them at the grocery store/next to them highway/on the other end of the phone, is in fact, another person?

if instead of wrinkles, we grew muscles with every year of age?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Facts and Fiction.

(Disclaimer, some facts may in fact be opinion.)

Fact. Running in the heat kills my appetite. Post workout meals in anything over 70 degrees should consist of coke slurpees and Gatorade.

Fact. Citrus Cooler Gatorade is the best flavor ever. You will almost never find it, because it is a liquid gold commodity in extremely high demand. And when you do find it in the sketchy Wal-Mart, you will buy 10 bottles.

Fiction. Running makes you skinny. Running makes you hungry. Some skinny people are born runners and some skinny people become great runners. Other people just get hungry.

Fact. I have not had ice cream in my freezer for nearly 10 days. There is only one person in the world who can attest to what an amazing feat that is, but I'm kind of proud of myself.

Fact. Life is so much better when you get at least 8 hours of sleep. So. Much. Better.

Fiction. There are better things to drink besides lemonade. What are these things? Unless they are iced tea mixed with lemonade, I don't believe you.

Fact. Swedish Fish contain an addictive compound similar to those found in girl scout cookies and crack cocaine.

Fact. Boys are wimps about getting sick.

Fact. I am no triathlete, but my ideal 'brick' is a run-yoga combo. Also known as Thursday mornings. Also known as perfection. Also known as the day I'm always late for work.

Fiction. There is quality TV on in the Summer. If they have played anything besides America's Got Talent since June, I'm not aware of it. Would it kill them to run some Modern Family/Wonder Years re-runs every now and then?

Fact. I am a Gemini, which means I am twins. My twin is a triple-threat rapper/hip hop dancer/surfer. (Hawaii, not California.) I can't wait to trade places.

No, that had nothing to do with running or training. Just felt the urge to put some of my truths out there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Recaps and Feelings

It’s been a little while since the last post, so I feel like I owe some recaps. I mean, it’s only Tuesday but at the same time, it’s only Tuesday. (Read it if you have time. Always makes me laugh.) 

After those recaps, I have lots of feelings about lots of things. I’m going to share some of those.

Recaps first:

Sunday's long run- I finally ran on the canal walk! Found an MTT SAG who shared powerade, enjoyed beautiful weather and wonderful company downtown, who doesn't want to start their Sunday with 90 minutes of sweaty awesome?

Hills- funny to me that I have grown to be ok with hills. I remember my first hill workout in high school track. It was my first time being part of a sport team of any kind, maybe the third week of the season, and we did a hill workout. Sprint up, jog down, sprint up again. I was NOT FIT and not at all prepared for team sports. My main focus was not throwing up and ruining any chances of making friends among the athletic crowd in high school. We got to the bottom after about 3 hours (maybe it was more like 40 minutes...) and Coach said the most beautiful thing: "Alright you're done." I stopped moving, thankful for the mercy of permission to stop. Then he said "If you want to be champions, do another one." Nope, I'm good. First season of track ever, I'm not trying to be a champion- just trying to get through this with some dignity. But then ever other girl kept going. High schoolers (and runners, to some extent) are nothing if not pack animals. When the herd moves, you move. Ah, peer pressure.

Softball- Naturally, because I was in charge of the department tournament and I thoughtfully scheduled it for September when it would be "cooler", it was 91 degrees. Naturally.

Sleep and dogs- I love our dog. Capital L love. I love his adorable face and his insane enthusiasm when I get home from work. He is sweet, portable, and cuter than anything I've ever seen. Dripping in cuteness, he is somewhat lacking in fearlessness. If it's after dark, he is not leaving the safety of the deck unless Mommy/Daddy is with him. Not even if he has to poop. Which means there are undeniable urges at 3 am that require a long haul out of bed, through the kitchen, into the backyard. And while he's a diligent guard dog, he does not distinguish between menacing intruder and his owner. So when Seth returns home from work at 1:00am (ever want the real story on being in business for yourself, call me), Buster loses his mind and gives me a freaking heart attack. Being awoken from a peaceful sleep by a manic dog doing his barky best to let you know you are in mortal danger never stops being terrifying. All that to say, I would like a nap.

Showers after workouts- Love them. bestfeelingoftheday. Entirely worth getting drippy salty sweaty sopping wet.

Holy Grail. Royals. Roar. I have no idea why, but if a music video is playing, I have to watch it. I love them. They're like my intellectual junk food. I believe it stems from those formative early high school years when we first got satellite/cable (!) and I would rush home for a delicious dose of TRL with Carson Daly. Oh, mindless pop culture with your catchy tunes...

This message. I love it. (Thanks Molly!)

It’s September. I think I'm neutral. This month we finally take our summer vacation long weekend. I have been training with the CVE/Lulu team (yes, we're still working on a team name) for over a month. Roughly 2 months until our half marathon.

Police officers who set up in an office park at between the hours of 8am and 9:15am. That's a negative feeling ghostrider. We don't want to be rushing into work, we'd much rather be at home enjoying the Today Show. However, we are responsible tax-paying citizens, just trying to get to work before our manager. Back off.

Sweat. I feel defeated. My clothes still have that 'odor de effort' fresh out of the washing machine. Pondering ways to keep baking soda under my arms.

Gratitude. I feel a lot of this lately. Grateful for my job that lets me do things like plan softball tournaments, arrange days at Habitat for Humanity, and work from home on Fridays when I lack the mental wherewithal to assemble a work ensemble that hasn't been worn in the past 10 days. Gratitude for the ample fat energy stores my body keeps to fuel me through 90 minute long runs, 20 minutes of tempo running, and everything that fills all those other hours each week. Gratitude for supportive coaches and teammates, gratitude for parents and family I love and enjoy enough to wish I saw them far more frequently. Gratitude to be able to surround myself with people who inspire and motivate me in so many aspects of my life, gratitude to live in a city I love at a time when I feel like we are on the cusp of full bloom.

And, of course, gratitude that you've actually read to the end of this post.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Twitter Style

(I'm not actually counting if these are 140 characters or less. Don't get critical.)

I firmly believe we would be a happier, more productive society with 4 day work weeks. Work 10 hour days, enjoy 3 days of freedom every week. Winning.

I killed a cockroach outside our bathroom Tuesday morning. Low point.

Buster ate roach bait (poison) on Wednesday. Lower point.

Animal poison control charges for their consultation. Effing really??

Buster is fine. Roach poison doesn't affect him in any visible way.

5 x 1000 meters Tuesday night. Have to agree with Emma- half laps are stupid.

Yoga this morning. BLISS.

People are all excited about pumpkin spice everything, I'm all like, 'Can I still wear my white jeans?'

Kindergartners (including my niece) who started school this week are the class of 2026. Uhh...

After 4 negative experiences with Bikram yoga (2 of which involved vomiting), I still had to resist purchasing this week's 3 for $30 Groupon.

Packed a lunch on Tuesday. Opened it to find 3 drinks inside, In addition to the two I carried into work with me. Hydration- check.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stuff and Nonsense

There are some things that just make me scratch my head. Like toe hair. Why? What's the point? At what point in the history of humanity did survival come down to those 7 gnarly strands of hair on your toes? And people who take calls in the bathroom at work/Target/the airport. Do you seriously not care that the person on the other end can hear flushing? Seriously?

Other things make me say "Huh, you're weird." Mostly those things are about me. Like, on nights when I am left to my own devices, I get irrationally excited about being able to have a dinner that consists of cauliflower, succotash, swedish fish, and ice cream. No judgement. Buster (sweet, adoring, undiscriminating terrier that he is) gets just as excited about licking microwaved vegetable remains as he does about meat and potato scraps (that took way more time and far more dishes to prepare.)

Another "You're weird." realization was solidified for me today. I've kind of noticed it before, but today was a solid reinforcement that I, in fact, am more content to struggle up a rediculous hill than to enjoy a few miles of calm flatness. Today's long run took us up a familiar road, popular amongst Richmond runners for many reasons. Six lanes wide, with sidewalks, Grove Avenue is scenic, well-lit, connects to many pleasant neighborhoods, boasts the infamous Grove Avenue Water Stop (shout out to Sherie!), multiple gas stations for bathroom emergencies, and, the most essential of all running needs, Starbucks. I'm not much for numbers, so won't try to estimate how many times I've run that road, but I can easily say far more of my runs in the past 4 years have involved Grove Avenue than haven't.

We took Grove, in all its runner-friendly, sunny, flowered familiarity, right to its end, where we got to cruise down some lovely hills. (I call this neighborhood Southern Living. It's beautiful.) A nice jaunt past some ideal homes with to-die-for porches/yards, brisk clip around the U of R pond, and then it was time to head back up. Those. hills. are. steep. This wasn't news to me, I've been up them many a time. I often picture someone (my older brother??) standing in front of me with their hand on my forehead saying "Go ahead, move forward. Get up this hill. What's stopping you." And there I am, lowering my head like a bull, swinging my arms and going nowhere. That's kind of what those hills feel like. But for all their maddening enforcement of the laws of gravity, I like them. I like getting on the balls of my feet and encouraging myself not to die, telling my lungs they can make it through this. I enjoyed that part of my run so much more than those final 3 miles all the way back down sweet, unassuming Grove Avenue. Maybe it's because I was tired by that point, maybe it's because I've run it hundreds of times, but a part of me thinks it's that my mind is bored.

And that's weird. It's been said a million (billion?) times how much of running is mental. But for me, I've lately found myself enjoying those runs that allow me to focus on one repeat at a time- whether it's an 800, a lap around the track, or getting to the top of a hill, I find it so much easier to engage, be present, and enjoy the run than plodding along straight miles. It's funny to me because I often tout my ability to zone out while running, and just shut my brain off. There are times when that happens, when I look at my watch and realize I've gone 30, 40 minutes without "thinking". Looking back, I realize those runs almost always involved me trying to keep up with a group, enjoying someone's company, or focusing on the twists and turns of a trail- so focused on my next step and not landing on a rock/root/ledge that there was no room in my brain for things like work, paces, or the fact that my refusal to join in the company carpool program is contributing to Earth's slow but inevitable melting.

So there it is. My brain likes to be involved in my workouts. Who knew?