Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Everyone Wants To Be a Dirty Girl

In case you stumbled across this blog and are wondering what the heck this Dirty Girls thing is all about...

"Everyone Wants to Be a Dirty Girl"

Friday mornings are a bitter/sweet time for me. Bitter because I have to wake up first thing in the morning to run (I am, by nature, more of a shake-off-the-day runner), and also bitter because I have to have a strong cup of black coffee first in order to make it to the run. The "sweet" comes when I arrive at Gig Harbor's McCormick Forest and am enveloped into a swarm of my favorite local ladies, the Dirty Girls Trail Runners (aka the Dirty Girls). I work at Route 16 Running & Walking, a specialty running store where in addition to selling shoes we advise our customers on proper training and injury prevention. "Hit the trails," is one of our mantras, and each of us who works at Route 16 lives by what we preach. "But what about safety?" the women always ask. Especially after last fall, when four female joggers were attacked in the Puget Sound area, they have every right to be concerned. Thankfully, for women who chose not to run trails alone, we now have an easy solution to their question. "Come run with the Dirty Girls."

After the attacks, the gals that work at Route 16 (myself included) banded together to form a women's-only trail running group. There are no fees or dues for the Dirty Girls. We welcome all ability levels. Our only requirement? You have to be willing to get a little muddy and a lot wet. When we formed the group we figured we'd probably be it's only members. Gig Harbor is, after all, somewhat of a wealthier community, and the women around here dress up and turn out well-groomed. At last count there were close to sixty Dirty Girls running the trails at McCormick Forest. While we definitely have our fair share of hard-core ultra-runners, we also get trail-running virgins to turn out every week. Safety-in-numbers is what initially draws women to our merry pink pack. But it's the camaraderie that keeps them coming back for more (nor does it hurt when they discover that muddy legs are sexy). No matter your pace we make sure that you have a buddy to run with if you show up to run with the Dirty Girls. And if you're nervous about getting lost we offer you a whistle. It doesn't take but one or two trail runs for a woman to be a trail-running convert, and after a few months of running the steep hills at McCormick Forest a new Dirty Girl begins to reap the fitness benefits. Pamela Holt, a Dirty Girl who deserves a MOST IMPROVED award recently told me, "I love running trails because when I race roads it feels like I'm on vacation."

In addition to having a Facebook Page, we also have a Google Groups list serve that we use to find running partners on other days of the weeks. Everyone wins when women run together. Except the bad guys. We may be cute, but let me tell you, you'd want a Dirty Girl on your side in a fight. Well-developed from hill-running, our calf muscles are deadly. Plus, we'd kick mud in your eye if you tried to mess with one of our posse. Recently I was at a race watching a relay team of Dirty Girls. Standing at my side was my boss's six-year old son, Micah.
"Here come the Dirty Girls," I said to him, waving and clapping at my friends as they ran across the finish line together.

Micah tugged on my shirt.

"What's wrong?" I asked. He was frowning. 

Sighing, he said, "I wish there was a Dirty Boys."

Everyone wants to be a Dirty Girl. 

The Dirty Girls Do The Dirty Dash
Tony Seabolt Just Wants To Be A Dirty Girl

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Own Private Fourth

Yesterday was the Fourth of July.

Bang. Bang!

I am not a big fan of fireworks. I think this comes from some close calls with lightning in my youth. Or maybe someone shot a BB gun too close to my ear. Or maybe my ears are just extra sensitive. I can remember going to see firework displays with my parents... and hiding under our picnic blanket the entire time (moaning). Something about fireworks felt shady to me. Irresponsible. Out of control. What goes up must come down, right? The last thing I wanted was a burning explosive on my head.

When I was in the sixth grade we lived on the Mississippi Coast, a place that is anything but "regulated." Our grandparents had gotten a bunch of fireworks on the cheap the previous year and had given them to us as presents. Any other kid would have felt like they'd won the jackpot. Not me. We drove down to the beach to see the firework display, only to find that the locals were lined up on both sides for miles, shooting fireworks at each other. As we worked our way down to the main drag we heard a guy exclaim, "I haven't seen anything like this since 'Nam!"

I fled screaming back to our car.

Later this night my psychiatrist dad decided it was time for a little immersion therapy. He handed me a Roman candle. "Here," he said. "You'll be fine." (Note to parents everywhere: if there's a bargain to be had on fireworks you probably don't want them.) The Roman candle backfired, straight into my hand. Both my dad and I were very sad and sorry. Since then, I haven't held so much as a sparkler.

I'll never understood why we choose to glorify our "independence" with explosives. Right now, I know there are a whole bunch of military guys just back from Iraq (and some very anxious dogs) who agree with me. Yes, I am grateful that I live in a "free" country. But I'm not going to lie to you... it makes me uncomfortable that a lot of blood was shed for my freedom, and it makes me even more uncomfortable that we glorify this bloodshed with explosives.

So here's how I celebrated the Fourth this year. I went for a run at Millersylvania State Park.

It had been a while since I'd run at this park, since these days it's a good fifty minute drive from where I live. But since I was down in the area yesterday, I figured "why not?" For many years this park was my favorite place to run my long runs. There are lots of great loops here, and it's easy to use your car as an "aid station." The trails are soft, gentle, and wide. Some of the them traverse through a swamp via a boardwalk (y'all know how I feel about swamps, right?), and in late February the skunk cabbage start pushing their way up through the mud in one of the first telltale signs of spring. There's a lake and campground at Millersylvania, and always, in the summer, you smell woodsmoke and barbecue and picnics.

Once when I was working at the bank and training for a 50K, I called in sick to run twenty-six miles at Millersylvania. Once I ran here with my friend Angela French, one of only three women in the US to qualify for the Olympic Trails seven times (because she was struggling with tendinitis I was able to keep up with her for just this one day).

Since my injury last fall I've been focusing on consistency in my runs. Base work. Laying down long, slow miles. I feel "different" in my body on this run at Millersylvania, "different" in a good way. My stride is lighter and shorter and I'm using my upper body. The few rolling hills no longer feel so steep. I allow my mind to wander, and a couple of times I have to remind myself to "slow down."

Is it possible that I'm learning to let go? Is it possible that I'm actually learning?

It's a hot day, and when I finish the run I am dripping with sweat and salt. Though I stink my smell is reassuring to me. I smell like a runner. The lake is just a short walk from my car. I can hear children laughing and screaming, medicine to my boom-weary ears. Do I dare? I wander down to the beach, kick off my flip flops, and wade a short ways out. The water is cold but it's a hot day.  I strip down to my sports bra and running skirt, and make sure my car key is zipped in tight. Then I wade out to my hips. I stare at the water a moment, considering it's murky depths. Perhaps this is just a silly notion. I allow my mind to consider the practicalities of driving back sopping wet. I didn't bring a towel, after all.

But who needs a towel on a hot day? "Fuck it," I think, and dive in headfirst. Bang!

It's cold all-right, but within seconds I'm feeling elated. Within seconds I've crossed under the buoy, and am kicking out for the center of the lake. When I get to the middle I tread water and do some back flips to stretch out my spine. Surfacing, I contemplate the shore. This is the life. This is freedom. This is better than any fireworks display.