“You must have …

“You must have a miserable life”

That was directed – to me – from a vendor this past Saturday at the Durham Farmer’s Market. After finishing the Running of the Bulls 8k, Aaron and I wandered through the lovely stands, which we had not done in ages. Seeing my post-race crust, this vendor offered me a free sample of his soap. Alas, I kindly declined, attributing the fact of my gentle refusal to my vegan lifestyle (the soap was goat’s milk based, but he honed in on the honey factor). This is when those six words tumbled out of his mouth toward me.

My first thought was something I cannot post alas I would owe the swear jar some $ (plus the whole notion that one’s online reputation follows them everywhere). My second thought was: how sad, for this man. i do not know anything about him, nor do I care to at this junction. It would appear that he has assumptions of what “being a vegan” means, and sadly for him, I believe his thoughts are clearly misguided. Miserable life? I have an incredible life, some of which has to do with what I eat/apply/use for my body and health, and much of the rest stems from those who I surround myself and draw and learn from.

Muttering under our breaths, we continued on, foraged some beautiful vegetables (kohlrabi, squash, cucumbers, English peas, and beets) and happened to walk by this vendor’s stand again. And – here comes the best part -

he offered me another free sample and used my first name that was on my race bib.

Recap: Tackling the Trails for the Dirt-Y Durham Relay Race

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to take part in a completely community-organized relay race over 37 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea trail. A week prior, we held a logistics meeting: how do we get 20+ runners, moving in groups of 3 to 5, to and from each of the 11 sections our fearless leaders (Becky and Sean) had created?

ImageOld school = paper

ImageThis is the point when we had scraps of paper with each person’s name on it and moving them around like strategic generals in a game of Risk. I’m not sure if I was skeptical of this or in deep secretarial mode thought.

After nailing down the hatches of planning (including the critical potluck sign-up list for our concluding celebration), the Dirt-Y Durham County Relay was ready to begin:

ImageOrange was a critical component of our shirts to notify hunters that – while we may move through the forests gracefully, we were not, in fact, their future dinner. Unless.

Last Sunday proved to be an ideal day for long distance running. It was slightly overcast, in the upper 60s at the start, and no impending threat of rain. Our first section runners took off at 7am, setting the tone (and pace) for the day. Our group’s overall goal = completion. It had absolutely poured on Thursday night, and the trails remained soggy (although we would soon learn that mud was not our biggest obstacle).

I helped transition runners between sections 4 and 5 (where one of my friends was so impressed – and/or shocked – by my car having manual windows. Yeah, old school strikes again). Then, I was ready to get some trail time for section 7:

ImageSean, me, and Amanda – ready to rock

Alas, little did we know what await us in this six mile journey. About 2.5 miles in after moving at a great pace, we were stopped by a lake. Unfortunately, this lake was not supposed to be in existence. The rainwater from Thursday had completely flooded out this section of the trail. We scouted out an alternative route, but after not seeing an immediate path to dry land, we forged ahead and forded through the waters. Sean and I let Amanda lead since she had the vertical edge. Once the water reached Amanda’s waist (yes, we were wading through waist-high water), we decided to turn back around and try – one more time – for another exit. Now, I didn’t spend a lot of time growing up playing in rivers and lakes, so stepping into murky waters with unknown contents, I envisioned leeches, eels, and perhaps the creature from the black lagoon. None were present, but that fear pushed me to move through that water quickly.

Fortunately, we did find another way (with more water to wade through), and continued on, stopping to wring out our socks and touch base with the next team regarding our delay. (This is the point where I wish I had brought my phone for photo evidence of this experience). Another mile-and-a-half in, we hit another lake, this one even bigger and broader than the first. Again, we debated wading, but there was no end in sight, and none of us were keen on treading waters again. We circled back and discovered a path around a transformer station. Despite our challenges, we made it to the next leg, a little bit behind schedule, but with a great story to tell.

Fast-forward ahead, I came home, changed shoes and shorts, and headed back out for section 11, the final leg in this journey. We got started at around 4pm, which put us on time for our estimated 5pm celebration at Falls Lake. While there was still water, it was nothing like section 7. That was legendary. But, Aura and I still tackled it:

ImageSince this was the last leg, we definitely stopped to take a few more photos, including some “action poses” – what form!

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Alas, we cruised in, and then it was time to dry off, sit down, and, of course, eat. And celebrate.

ImageIt was just a wonderful day and experience. My trail running has been limited, but this opened my eyes to how much I really enjoyed trekking over hills, rocks, twigs, and more (not so much the water). On top of that, I had the opportunity to spend time with a group of people – some of which I had never actually talked to at a YMCA class – but we all spend hours working out alongside each other. This time, it was about the group rather than the individual, which was a nice change of pace. Looking forward already to 2015!

Recap: Denver, the Driest Place on Earth

Perhaps a slight exaggerations, but after leaving the humidity, I felt upon deplaning as if a vacuum had sucked all the moisture from every single pole. Granted, I know what it feels like to exist in a dry climate (hello first 20+ years of life), but as I was also still a bit on the mend from virus 2014, it hit me like a wall.

But, let’s talk Denver. My first time in Colorado, and I was pumped! I traveled with our team for our organization’s national conference. It was great timing since I had just over a month under my belt, so I didn’t have the same sense of feeling overwhelmed (outside of the reality that I knew no one outside of our staff). But, I was pumped to learn more about what other state leagues are doing to engage and mobilize environmental advocates and glean what our national partners are conducting on a large-scale. Overall: inspiring work but a lot more of it needs to happen.

During the playtime of Denver, my top priority involved beer. Thanks to knowledgeable friends and patrons, I had a robust list of places to visit. Many would be saved for a future visit both time and distance were challenges, not to mention that I was missing my partner-in-crime and wanted to experience those adventures with him.

Our first stop: foraging. We ended up at Ace just about a mile outside of our hotel, which boasted Asian-inspired cuisine with the allure of ping-pong tables. Several of them.

10256806_10102800789896492_1649004168312971096_nOur group split the intriguing crispy brussel sprouts, which I paired a Left Hand Weak Sauce (coffee Porter). Both the appetizer and beer were outstanding.

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Not so weak sauce for me.

10173815_10102800790754772_3137260249010518129_nSpicy goodness!

I went with the kale salad for my entree and topped it off with tofu. It was very good, especially after I topped it with the crisp chili oil available on the table – gave it some nice crunch and a little more heat:

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After filling our bellies, it was off to check-in, take a mini walking tour of downtown, and then prep for that evening’s reception. As the evening wound down, we realized we had not eaten dinner (one thing I quickly learned in Denver: dinner does not happen until after 9pm, which is typically my bedtime). We were mostly full from lunch, but needed a little something something (and time for another beer). We wandered over to Freshcraft for some pretzel bites, loads of house made mustard, the Antioxidant Mix salad, and – of course – a beer (the Trinity Seven Day Sour Gueze):

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Fast-forward to Friday night, I must share this with you:

1901284_10102800787052192_1095818479356175044_n18″ of glory

That is one big pizza. Again, after realizing at 9:30pm that dinner had not been add, I jumped on Yelp and found Marquis Pizza, which offers the “Sticks & Weeds” veggie pizza with vegan cheese as an option. It was right off a club where live music was pounding, and outside on the sidewalk, it was quite…grassy? Definitely potential for a contact high, if you catch my drift. Regardless, my friend Erik and I split this monster (his side was the non-vegan cheese), and I will be honest: I crushed two enormous slices while sitting outside, and then downed a third back at the hotel room, only to be filled with regret 5 minutes later. Regret only because I thought my stomach would explode because – dang – that was a freaking delicious pizza. I’m still not 100% on the vegan cheese bandwagon, but whatever brand this place used melted nicely. And the crust – which I argue is the most important aspect of this dish – was chewy, crunchy, and yeasty.

There was some other vegan/vegetarian joints on my hit list, but there was only so much time, so I’ll look forward to checking out more when we plan our return trip in May 2015. Until then, here’s to you, Mile High City, for some amazing views, great brews, and fascinating people.

10312671_10102800787346602_1525128801307798639_nPianos available to play in the street

10341424_10102800787142012_1490878289886819261_nA must-stop for all craft beer fans

1604864_10102800789467352_995676266768890141_nSome views from our reception patio

10300005_10102800789746792_5115627565665205073_nFun street art

10311197_10102808564740642_7507293340636683015_nNext time I’ll get to see a game

10246737_10102808562759612_2167804982916361751_nBeautiful trails along downtown creeks – this one had rapids!

10320348_10102808563448232_7017365066583510511_nNC representing!

10329161_10102808564186752_695698588065842274_nEnjoyed Sunday morning oatmeal & coffee at The Market at Larimer Square

10341766_10102808564855412_6034401543282922361_nLast stop before airport: more beer

10294349_10102808565299522_7109311219900716220_nSour paddle

As always, it’s great to get away, but it’s equally as wonderful to return home. Fortunately, I came back healthier than I left (at least germ wise – the food and beer took a bit of a toll). This helped me achieve one of my goals for this year: to visit a new state! I look forward to getting to spend time in the outdoors doing more than just walking to the next bar.

How are wedding plans coming?

That has to be one of the most popular questions directed at me over the last three months, and for good reason: it’s a major life event. People are kind enough to remember, inquire about said event. However, since the start of 2014, I feel that my answer has not sufficed the hungriest of mouths:

“Fine.”ding

“Good.”

“Well, I really haven’t been doing all that much…”

Initially, I jumped on the wedding blog bandwagon, seeking out ideas for how to create the perfect vintage décor. Mason jars! Burlap!

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I had ambitious goals of crafting invitations, gifts, centerpieces, and the like. Not that I have abandoned such dreams. But, something started to happen the more I dug deeper into the wedding advice channels:

 

I began to panic.

 

Clearly, a major life event will likely be complemented with a good dose of stress, which is not always a negative. Stress can help one focus, follow-up more quickly, and take decisive action. But, the thought of experiencing stress more than six months before the actual wedding frightened me. If I already felt on edge in February, what would I be like in August? Don’t even think about September, the actual month.

Immediately, I enacted a cease and desist order on pawing through wedding publications: in print, online, didn’t matter. I had worked myself up to a frenzy inside: was it okay that I wasn’t having a wedding shower? Maybe I should begin setting make-up appointments. What about wedding shoes? Should I be caring more about flowers? Would I need to hire a calligrapher to do our wedding invitations? All I could see was dollar signs increasing and my to-do list growing.

So, I stopped. I walked away from even thinking about our wedding for a couple of months. One of the many benefits of finding a partner who is a stronger “J” on the Myers-Briggs profile than you is that a great deal of our required tasks were done. We have a venue, caterer and DJ. We have someone to marry us and the rings to symbolize the commitment. We have the desired dress for the occasion, notions of our vows, and our first dance song. What else is there?

Over the last two weeks, we’ve delved back into the world of “wedding planning.” We’re looking at invitation designs, making plans to pick out our cake, creating our desired playlist, and sketching out our ceremony. I’ve allowed myself to start thinking about the more nuanced aspects of the day, from what might be placed in my hair and ears to what song we should use as our exit music.

In the end, it’s about the people who have enriched our lives, and having the experience of celebrating this momentous occasion with many of them. Because in the end, will anyone care if the wedding invitation arrives sans calligraphy or if our floral displays came from Costco?