Friday, July 8, 2016

A sunburn's what I needed


For the first time in a long time I’m on a plane right now headed back to the West and I won’t have a two-hour-10-minute drive up to Flagstaff. I’ll have a 30 minute drive to the basement that I sleep in.
I can’t bring myself to call anywhere but Michigan ‘home’, and that’s rightfully so. This was a last-minute trip, and I went back to try to find a piece of myself that I thought I had maybe lost. I’m not sure if I found it, or if it was lost in the first place, or what that piece really was or is but I left feeling smarter, more loved, and that I love more. This is, undoubtedly, due to the people I was able to see – the people that I will always make the effort to see.

On this trip I met Ian. Ian Matthew Wittenberg is a perfect six-and-a-half-month old human that has spawned from two of the most incredible people I’ve met in my life. Katie Wittenberg was my first running partner. She taught me how to cure a side-stitch, she gave me my first gel to eat, her rambling stories are what have gotten me through several painful long runs, and a way of talking that I have fully adopted over the years. She was the first person to believe in any athletic ability I had in the sport, ran my first race with me, and has continually helped remind me that the root of the footsteps must come from the love for the sport – otherwise it is empty. She has heard my relationship problems and baked me an oversized lemonade cake when I graduated and I remember when she made her final car payment.
Matt Wittenberg is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and we’ve exchanged several glances in social situations which we perceive awkward (read: all social situations). As I grew as a runner I watched Matt push through injuries and mental battles that, to this day, still help me through my own. I still don’t know anyone with as many pairs of running shoes as him or lists on their iPhone Notes. Branching off of that, he’s the only other person I know who writes their grocery lists on their phone and gets satisfaction from erasing the items. Matt taught me there is only one way to car dance to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and that is with your whole heart. I feel like I was at Matt and Katie’s wedding because I know the day through Katie’s words. I will also never forget their anniversary, because it is 6 September.
Ian was born the day after I left Michigan this past Christmas. And as I listened to all of the details of him being born I got goosebumps and my eyes filled with tears of love, because these two beautiful humans now have Ian. And Ian has no idea how rad his parents are.

And there’s Nick Chard. Until this trip home I haven’t been able to catch up with him while he’s not working. Nick taught me to laugh at customers that pissed me off as a server. This has transferred effortlessly into a significant way I live my life. He taught me (and Emily) to tornado kick, to be patient while building a gingerbread house, to tactfully leave behind friends that aren’t really friends, and that making people laugh is truly the best gift one human can give another. I have countless, vivid memories of Nick over my four years at Bravo and they all involve the most genuine kind of laughter. He’s now a husband and a father of three, and as I become a more critical beer drinker after working in breweries, he continues to impress me as a brewer. 

And there is Amanda, who has beautiful blonde hair and an even more beautiful soul, complete with the most infectious laugh. Amanda planted the love for stouts and porters in me years ago, and for that I am forever grateful. She is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, and I am inspired truly inspired with my own career after hearing her speak about hers. After every conversation I have with Amanda, I’m left missing her more but with a certain kind of excitement about life. Amanda is one of those (very few) people that makes my life significantly better.

And I remember the day I met Gayle Gracia. It was a Monday and the previous day was the day that Joe had left me for the last time. I met her and immediately purged all of my events of the day before to her (indirectly – I was talking to Val, who was with Gayle at the time, standing at the host stand at Bravo). I remember Gayle nodding and shaking her head along with my story, and as I walked away Val said “You’re better off, baby.” And without turning my head I shouted “Yeah, fuck him,” into an empty dining room. This was the beginning of Gayle being my relationship counselor for the next five(+) years. Rightfully so, because this fall Gayle is starting her PhD in Counseling at OSU. I stand by my offering of her to use my atrocious lack of patience and effort in relationships in her classes or with fellow patients. Gayle also has the coolest fucking glasses ever, and no one besides her could ever pull them off. Her husband, Nate, is the perfect compliment. He also once cooked me a breakfast to die for.

No matter which version of me you or I have known in the past 27 years, all know that my mom lives on a lake, and I think it’s the best place in the world. It is my home, and it is always where I’m most comfortable. I sat on the deck looking through the trees and as the forever familiar breeze brushed my sunburned legs I thought about all of the people I’ve been on that deck. I’ve been a child, an angsty teenager, a smoker, a drug experimenter, a Graduate student, a runner, an ultrarunner, a climber, drunk, sober, high, a writer, a server, a bartender, broken-hearted, commited and a heartbreaker. And they all matter. I cannot tell if one is more important than the other, but some are forgotten, whether that’s due to time brushing away the edges or choosing to leave parts of life behind I can’t ever really be sure.  

I woke up in Colorado finding myself confused as to why I was waking up in Colorado. A part of me can’t even remember how I got there or why, or what the hell I’m doing. So I freaked out. And I came home. And I spent time with people that I find inspiring and that I miss so much. And I went tubing with my brother and may have damaged my vocal chords because at age 27 skipping across water towards manmade waves is absolutely terrifying. And as I screamed to my brother “Mom is trying to kill me! Mom is seriously trying to kill me!” He shouted back through laughter “You climb the fucking Rocky Mountains! What are you scared of?!”

And Giselle said it best right before I went back to Michigan.
“We don’t travel and move places to ‘find ourselves’. We do it to create ourselves and become the people we always wanted to be. At least that’s how I see it. So who do you want to be, Kels?”
(-Giselle Fernandez)

Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of Frontier Airlines we’d like to welcome you to Denver, Colorado. The local time is 5:27p.m. and 80 degrees. Whether this is your final destination or just your connection, we hope you enjoy your time here.


I’m trying to enjoy my time here. And I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m struggling.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

swipes without soirées

I’ve been in Colorado for five and a half weeks and in that time I’ve swiped left on Tinder approximately 846 times.
I find the vast majority of people unimpressive and this is likely not news to your eyes.

But I got Tinder because I moved to Colorado on a whim and I didn’t have anyone to climb with and I was bored and everyone else in the house has it, too. And you can’t have a Sunday Tinder Party with your three incredible roommates where you sip wine and swipe away inbetween the
“OHHHHHH, my what?!”
“Nice group picture.”
“Who? What? Who are you?”
“Sweet pics, I can’t see your face in any of them.”
“Literally fuck off.”
“Ew, NO.”
“Why is this so fun?”
without Tinder.

I’ve met a few people on Tinder and only one that I actually became friends with and enjoy climbing with (shoutout to Matt).
Notably so, I have approximately 30+ conversations open on Tinder which I just stopped responding to because a) it’s boring 2) it’s repetitive and also I actually do have a real life.

On Monday morning I went to my new favorite coffee shop in Denver to work, because in true freelance style I was two days over my deadline and approximately only halfway through my project and cringing every time I got an email, hoping it wasn’t a pissed off client.
St. Marks is my favorite coffee shop because of the lights and it seems to be filled with everyone on their computers and shutting the fuck up and the croissants are bomb and the refills are free and there’s beer for when you are strung-out on caffeine and want to get a little drunk so the words can come a little easier.
So I claimed my small space with a person on either side of me within 18 inches.
And I arranged my coffee and my water and my phone and put my headphones in.

And as I was reacquainting myself with the [based on a true story] screenplay I was in the middle of editing, a man pulled out the chair on the other side of my very small table and tried to sit down, and seemed startled that my bag was there. I lifted my eyes with what I’m sure was a look of annoyance and pulled my headphones out, and maybe thought this was an employee telling me that I couldn’t sit there or use the wifi for free, but didn’t he see the coffee I had in front of me? And I’d buy a croissant in a little while and probably also a muffin or a cookie because I have a severe lack of self-control and do zero things in moderation.
But before I could even get my left earbud out there was,

“Hi, are you my Tinder match? Kelsey from Arizona?”
Oh. My. Ffffffffffffucking God.

I didn’t even respond verbally to these questions. But anyone who has spent significant time with me can surely envision my eyeballs burning a hole into his head while he stared at me with this dumb look of hope and eagerness.

I’m not from Arizona.
I must’ve said “I’m from Michigan, but I moved here from Flagstaff,” forty seven times in the past five weeks.

“My name’s Dan..”
This is my nightmare.
“…I sent you the picture from Flagstaff.”
The picture from Flagstaff?
Right, right. I matched with someone who sent me a link to an Instagram post they had a year ago and said “If you’re really from Flagstaff, can you name this bar?”
I am not from Flagstaff.

It was a picture of a drink on the bar that’s facing out towards Mountain Sports, on the corner of San Francisco and Aspen. I’ll remember that view the rest of my life, and I knew the drink. It was a Gin Jam. I’ve had a few blackouts at Rendezvous.
And his response was “No, it’s the hotel Monte Vista.”
And my response was “No, it’s actually the Rendezvous, which is the bar in the Hotel Monte Vista. Nice try, though.”
And that was the end of the conversation.
Now here Dan was, in public, mentioning that we had matched on Tinder, and looking at me like I was supposed to be impressed or happy to see him or even wanting to engage in conversation, and seemingly waiting for me to move my bag so he could possibly sit at my very small table that I had, in true Kelsey fashion, sprawled all over. I did eventually speak.

“Right. Hi.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Working.”
“Yeah, me too. I’m just two tables down. I actually have a Skype phone call in a few minutes. Do you come here often?”
“No.”
“Do you live in the neighborhood?”
“No.”
“Where do you live?”
“Westminster.” Get the fuck away from me.
                        Sometimes I say things in my head so clearly that I have to retract and wonder if I said them aloud.

He then let me know he was very unimpressed with the fact that I lived in Westminster and I let him know that I did not care.
Dan eventually left me alone and I immediately texted Giselle something along the lines of  “OH MY FUCKING GOD I JUST HAD A TINDER NIGHTMARE.”
I looked to the person to my right and to the person to my left and both had seemed to not notice the annoying and socially unacceptable encounter I had just had. Who was Dan? I wonder what he had done to make me not talk to him anymore. I quickly opened Tinder and searched the conversations. Oh, right. He was boring. After a quick scroll up I found the true culprit bubble of the conversation and let out a (likely obnoxious) laugh.
Dan, 28.
Founder/Editor at The Pro Audio Files
Matched on April 15th.
One month ago. 
Me: What do you edit?
Dan: I don’t understand the question, but yeah I usually edit the articles/videos for my biz. So wait, just to be clear, you’re both on Tinder and super literate? Very rare combo. Impressive.

A straight forward question. To which you fucking answered.
Biz. Biz! Not okay.
Ew. Gross. No. I can’t. I just had to put my phone away.

So I worked for five hours and walked out in a fit of laughter from an unrelated topic, and when I got home, told Lauren the story in extensive detail, only to be interrupted by a Tinder message from Dan.
“How’d the rest of your day go? Still in Denver? Shortest first tinder date by far, but certainly not the worst.”
I’m sorry, what? Go away. That was not a date. Leave me alone forever.
The conversation was a mix of the above statements and ‘No’ gifs.


In true late-20's-white-girl-fashion I stood up, tossed my phone down and stuttered "I just I seriously I literally just can't fucking even. Goddamn."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We write to taste life twice; in the moment and in retrospect.

The title is an Anais Nin quote.

I was driving home from downtown Denver today and I put my iPhone/iPod/iTunes on shuffle, which is always a risk when you've had an iTunes account since 2005. The first song that played was Bombay Bicycle Club's 'How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep'. Do song titles go in scare quotes? I'm not sure. I should know that, but I don't. I thought hard for a minute about last night when I had told Adam I hadn't written for myself in a long time. And that song made me want to write again. So I figured I should light up this little corner of the internet that used to be mine.

That song is one of those timeless classics for me and I tried to think of the time in my life when I first heard it and I cannot remember. I know I snagged it from a rocketshoes playlist but I cannot even remember the year. Sometime in my undergraduate career, for sure. I have it on a playlist called 'Writing Songs'. And I'm listening to it now.

And I moved to Colorado, so maybe we should start there. But before there I absolutely have got to write about the experience that was the last shove out of Flagstaff.

I got Cohen when I was 21 years old. He was a gift from the worst boyfriend I've ever had. I was probably too young to care for an animal but it's one of those situations you just kind of get thrown in because of cuteness and lust and a fleeting feeling of believing. When I first got Cohen was when I first met Emily Prange and Lauren Vranich - two of my now roommates, and two of the funniest people I've ever met in my life, and one night when Joe told me he didn't want to be with me, Emily was the first person over. The third is Kelsey Peppers - the only person that could ever convince me to actually use the alien face emoji.

I'm rambling because this is hard to write about. Which means it should be written about.

There was a lot of heartbreaking that went on for me in Kalamazoo for a few years, and I buried my face into Cohen's neck and cried hundreds of thousands of tears during those times. When I finally got the courage to leave that relationship is when I started to run. And I ran because of Cohen. Great Danes aren't exactly exercising dogs, but we ran together from my apartment and through campus, topping out at about 3 miles. Thinking back on it, it had to be an odd scene. A girl who was smoking a pack a day and drinking every other night jogging around with a dog that was bigger than herself.

From there, life got better. Running took off for me and I didn't stop, and Cohen was happy to join me for leisurely trail miles. He was three then.

There's a comical blog post I wrote a couple of years ago when I couldn't catch Cohen at the trailhead during the winter. I think it's titled 'A Cohen Conversation'. I can't bring myself to reread it quite yet.

We moved to Flagstaff and kicked life around at 7,000 feet for a year and a half. Cohen remained my right-hand-man, my body pillow, my conversation starter at bars and my occasional pain in the ass. In February of 2015 he needed surgery on his spine and the grand total was just under $10,000. And I made it work. I wiped out my savings, spent my tax return, used some student loan money and had generous donations from a GoFundMe account. It was then that I realized how many people loved my dog. How could you not? Cohen loved every person and every animal more than I ever could. At the time I thought he had a few good years left. I never imagined it'd be just one.

Great Danes are known as the heartbreak breed. I thought I'd know when the time had come to say goodbye but my mom had to kind of help me see that. And when I saw it, I couldn't stop seeing it. When did he get so grey? When did he stop getting up quickly? When did he start laying down so slowly? When did his body start to fail him? Why didn't I see that?

I put him down on a Wednesday night. The thing about Cohen is that everyone always has to talk to me when I'm with him, and they have to pet him, and they have to ask his name and how much he weighs and how old he is and if I've had him since he was an 8 week old puppy and if it was just me and if he was okay and if he likes other dogs and if he can have treats and some godforsaken horse joke. I had answered all of these questions for six and a half years and I knew that on that Wednesday evening it was the last time I was going to answer them. And I managed some nods because I couldn't speak around the lump in my throat. I remember sitting there, with him standing over my legs and leaning his body onto my torso and looking at the receptionists behind the desk and listening to their conversation. One of them was having relationship problems and was discussing how to approach her significant other about it in a 'non-threatening way' because he 'gets so mad'. And I remember clenching my jaw as hard as I possibly could and having anger run wildly through my veins because what I wouldn't fucking give to be dealing with a shitty relationship rather than putting my dog down. Fuck them. Fuck that girl and her shitty relationship. Who fucking cares. Your life is trivial and I hate you and my heart is breaking so hard I swear to God I can feel it.

I couldn't talk to my vet without crying and she understood and we agreed on the decision. We agreed that it was the humane thing to do. Because I had always said I wouldn't be that person that made their dog hang on to life because they couldn't let go. What happens is they take you to this nice room. There was a huge dog bed, a fireplace and it was dimly lit with plenty of tissues within an arm's reach. And you take as long as you want and then press this button. So I sat next to him and put my arms around his neck and told him what an amazing dog I thought he was and how much he had changed my life. Cohen had led me to running and running had led me to Flagstaff and Flagstaff had led me to Colorado, but I wasn't there yet. I told him about how he had helped mend my heart from some breaks, but nothing compared to the break that was happening with him dying. And he did that thing where he lays his entire body weight into mine and throws his huge head into my lap and stares up at me and I couldn't even breathe in that moment, and I almost can't while remembering it, either. And my vet came in and it was two simple injections and then she listened for his heartbeat and told me he was gone. And I cried harder than I ever have, with the shortest breaths I've ever taken. And I had to choke out "He's-[gasp]-lean-[gasp]-ing-[gasp]-on-[gasp]-me."Because his body weight was still against my bent knees and if I got up I wasn't sure if I could take seeing his lifeless body move. So my vet moved him a little for me. This is a weird thing to recall, but for some reason I remember it so clearly.

And I sat in my car and called my mom because that's what you do, even when your'e 27, that's what you do when your heart is shredded. You still call your mom. And we cried together. And I couldn't pick my head up off of my steering wheel for an hour. My whole body shook with every sob and I remember thinking it almost sounds like I'm laughing really hard. And then I drove home.

And I texted Nick Irvine who is my friend and was my boss and I knew had gone through the art of losing a dog last summer. And he texted me back and so did his amazing wife, Amanda. And Amanda said that when they lost Pongo she was okay during the day, and whisky helped at night.
Because that's what it's like. It's the ultimate heartbreak, and I knew how to deal with heartbreak.
You surround yourself with people. Constantly. And you drink. You have to keep busy. So Sarah came over with wine, hummus and cookies. And I forced Dave to climb with me almost every day. And Giselle finally came back from California.

It took me about a week to realize I should probably tell the world that Cohen was gone. I was running into people around town and they asked "How is/where is Co?" and I had to awkwardly say "Uhh, I actually had to put him down." and once I just blurted out "Dead". I instantly laughed at how blunt and morbid and awkward but oh-so-Kelsey that response was. The responses I got from everyone were incredible. I distinctly remember Gayle texting me and saying how she remembers Cohen always leaning on her and standing directly in front of her when she was sitting on the couch, staring her down, waiting to be pet. And that made me remember how he would do those things. I remembered every detail. I remembered the weird little low-key whine he would do until you pet him, and he'd shift his weight on his front legs. I realized I was remembering. Why had I forgotten it? How had I forgotten it? What the fuck, Kelsey?!
Because you force yourself to forget things, sometimes. You protect yourself when you're that hurt. And sometimes you're not ready to remember them. But I remember it now. I remember all of it.
(Queue my psychology friends)

I had read a few days prior that it's normal for people to think they hear or see their animals after they're gone. That didn't happen for me. I'd like to think it's because I'm very in-touch with reality, but I think it's because I held him as he slipped away and I knew he was gone. And I knew he wasn't coming back. And I think that's closure. There were two times that I did catch myself thinking he was still around. One was at the grocery store when I had stopped for avocados and thought "Oh, I better get dog food," and was two steps towards the pet aisle. I had always needed dog food. Another was a local commercial that came on when I was baking my 8th loaf of banana bread, reminding people to make sure their pets were up-to-date on their vaccines and I, without skipping a beat, thought "Is Cohen due for his Bordatella?" But just for a half of one second.

I wasn't sure what to do with Cohen's body. I had him cremated because in that situation it's hard to think of any other option. I didn't have my own place to bury him, and even if I did, I couldn't carry him. I'm not that strong. I asked how much the cremation was, and she said she wouldn't charge me for the euthanasia because she wanted me to be able to take him home. This is why vets are the most under-appreciated and under-paid doctors.

I was halfway through my bedroom door with my phone in my right hand when I watched the screen move from
Canyon Pet Hospital calling to
Missed call from Canyon Pet Hospital to
Missed Call + Voicemail from Canyon Pet Hospital.

I knew what that voicemail said, and six days later I actually listened to it.
Three days before I left Flagstaff I knew I had to actually go there and pick up his ashes. As I walked up to the counter one person told me they'd "be right back to be with me" and the other sat at the computer without glancing my way. And I stood there and stared at the corner that I hung out with Cohen in and wished that someone would just hurry the fuck up and give me the ashes and let me get the fuck out of there because goddammit I was going to lose it.
And once I got back to my car I did lose it. But not for very long.

The next night Giselle and I camped at the End of the World in Flagstaff. We made a fire and drank cups of wine. She fueled the fire with some memories that needed to be let go, and our conversation bounced from me realizing that I can't stop chasing things, and neither of us want to own a house and whether I should eat a third hotdog or not and where she will be next and was the wine gone?

G set an alarm for sunrise and we slept through a windy night. I remembered how the last time I was at the End of the World it was so windy the highline webbing snapped and the next day I had flown to Boston.

Spreading ashes is kind of a weird thing. It's also kind of a really funny thing. I thought it'd be this emotional experience and it'd be like a movie and out of nowhere the perfect song would play. Cohen was a huge dog, and his ashes came in not one container, but two. G and I each hiked out with one, and she asked when the last time I was able to carry Cohen like that was. I laughed and couldn't even think of the answer. 10 weeks old, probably. She also pointed out that this was our last hike with Cohen. I laughed again, and felt like I was healing.
We found the perfect spot and I couldn't get the containers open and found myself muttering "Goddammit, Cohen" one last time. Once open, I wasn't entirely sure to do. "Do I just.. like.. dump it?" "Yeah I think so." ... "Like this? Am I doing it right?"
There was a nice breeze that worked in our favor that morning, but when I started dumping the ashes it died immediately. They just sort of piled up on this rock a foot or two below the ledge I was standing on and I just started laughing. Of course this scenario wasn't working out like the short movie I had in my head. When does it?
I waited for a second and the wind started again, and then we got that movie scene where the ashes wisp away in a little ash tornado. And then they were gone. And I had a deep, satisfied sigh and then realized there was still another container to go through. And how can you not just kind of chuckle at that?

Over the past six and a half years, I've lived alone a lot. Not entirely alone, of course, because it was always me and Cohen, but I've started to recall my best memories with him with laughs instead of tears. Cohen always got reallycrazyexcited when I'd dance, and for a few months I had a routine of getting up in the morning and playing music and we'd dance around whatever one-bedroom-apartment I was in at the time and I'd start laughing at him and not be able to keep dancing. And I'd collapse on top of him, give him a huge hug and shake his ears and get in the shower.
I did that every single morning for months and I'll never do it again.
But that was a long time ago.
And you're never the person you are at 24 ever again in your life, anyway.



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

three moves, a career, a breakup and 80 minutes of running

The first move was Sarah Renkoski. Most people don't know who Sarah Renkoski is.

She is my best friend. She was the first and is, so far, the only person in Flagstaff that I can truly be myself around because she is the exact same. We met at Karma, where I bartended until very recently and she was a server. We have the same sense of humor, are both pretty offensive, love to eat, love to shop, love to be honest and honestly love to be bitches. We both love our space, we both love our dogs, we both hate our dogs and we both have superb taste in wine and beer. We are level-headed at opposite times, giving the other one an honest sense of ground and reason. We hung out almost every day and I am now realizing that may have been the clutch of my poverty, because when you love shopping and you love food it's really hard to just sit around. When Sarah and I first started hanging out, I realized I hadn't laughed that hard or that honestly in far too long. Those days seem so far away, and they are far away because everything changes when you're not looking.

Sarah and I both started looking for jobs at the same time, and we got them at the same time. The only difference is that I stayed in Flagstaff, and she moved. She started interviewing for a job with Boston Beer Company, and we started having beer tasting parties on Sunday nights for the several Sam Adams/Boston Beer Company beers (who knew there were so many?) while naturally having Hello Ladies on in the background. If you haven't watched that show, then watch it. If you don't like that show then we aren't friends and also (in the words of Stuart) "You can fuck off." This was the beginning of the end on a few different accounts, but that's hindsight speaking. Sarah left on the morning that Jesse and I broke up for good. Sarah moved, and I was alone again. However that is not really true because a) I have Cohen and b) I am a̶l̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ good at being alone because c) I like it.

And the breakup is hard to write about not because it is painful but because there is everything and nothing to say. We are both wonderful people but we are no longer great together, and that is sad. At the same time, now is the most hopeful and happiest I have felt in too long. I can't speak to his account because that would be unfair and rude, but I suspect it is along the same lines. Several of the people I've told have been shocked, and asked "What happened?!" but that is a loaded question and also an impossible question. Sometimes things just fall apart, you aren't right for each other anymore, wants and needs of the relationship don't match up and there's really not much else to say.

This breakup prompted the second move. I moved out for approximately 20 hours into a condo of a co-worker's boyfriend, who had two spare rooms. I quickly realized it was a rash, poor decision on my part. Before living with Jesse I think I've lived alone for too long to have a roommate - at least one that I don't know well. There are a few people that I could see myself being roommates with, but not someone I don't know, or with such a different lifestyle. So I moved back, and that is the third move. The apartment that we shared is expensive for my new salary, but do-able, and Jesse has a kind heart.

So then there is my new career. When Renkoski and I were job searching, I applied to be a rep for Patagonia. During this specific length of time, I was bartending at Dark Sky (Flag's hottest new brewery owned by people who deserve it most) and met a gentleman named Brad, who had just moved back to Flag to run an outdoor store (Peace Surplus) after spending a year and half in Seattle working for AmerSports/Arc'teryx. I picked his brain and asked for advice in the industry after telling him about my Patagonia prospect and he had so much to say. He extended his help to me whenever I needed it, and I soon took him up on that. After two interviews with Patagonia they offered me the job. It was total shit pay and I had to move to Reno. Fucking Reno but the thing is that it is Patagonia. I didn't know if I should take it to get my foot in the door or tell them to (for lack of better words) go fuck themselves for expecting their employees to live off of such a low pay. Anyway, I went to Brad for advice and (a very long story short) I have now accepted a position as the Apparel Buyer for the store that he runs. I have a dream job, decent pay, great bosses and get to keep living the life I've built in this town. I won, and I needed that win so badly.

When Brad called to offer me the job, Sarah Renkoski and I were sitting in my car in the Safeway parking lot. She was dead silent when I called him back (I missed the first call) and while we both rapidly started to sweat in my black car in the Arizona sun we silently celebrated by car dancing and jumping up and down. I'd like to think I was calm and professional while accepting the job, but I think my voice was shrieking with joy. While he discussed the pay she elbowed me and mouthed "That's good money!" as I rapidly nodded my head and smiled wider than I had in far too long.

I'm currently dealing with a herniated disc in my lower back which is causing me some nerve pain throughout my left hip which is hindering my running. I can't recall whether I have written about my running lately (likely not) but I work with Emily Harrison as my coach, Shea Tinder as my massage therapist and Dr. AJ Gregg as ... everything else? He helps me weekly with my current injury, nutrition (racing and day-to-day) and strength training. I truly believe I have created the perfect trifecta of a team to help me succeed as fast and best as possible. Yesterday I ran for 80 minutes and was relatively pain free. This felt like a victory, and for the first time in too long I felt quite positive. So far this summer I've PR'd in every distance I've raced, including a win at a hard mountain half marathon. My ultra season starts at the end of September, and if I can keep my shit together mentally I think I will be very successful.

So I'm currently in the middle of a lot of changes, but I find it exciting and motivating. I'm starting a career, my home life is back to just me and my dog, I'm buying a plane ticket to Connecticut and I'm finally getting back to longer distances in my racing. I worked my last shift last night as a bartender at Karma Sushi. I am thoroughly excited to be getting home at 5pm instead of 11:30pm, and with a  company where I can grow, while being in the industry that I love and am passionate about.

My FAMILY is also coming out to visit tomorrow morning for an entire week. A lot of people would be like "Ugh, my family is here for a week," but my family is the best. It is not only my immediate family but also some extended, and they are amazing. They are hilarious, they are incredibly good at drinking beer, (more importantly) they have wonderful taste in beer, and I can't wait to laugh with them, share this place with them, and just be with them. If you know them, you get what I'm saying, and if you don't know them, then a) you should and b) I feel bad for you.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

On life being short or whatever.

In November of 2013 Jesse had a seizure while we were out running on the trails. I never wrote about it, and I wish that I had. Yesterday it happened again, and now I'm writing about it.

We went on the Kachina trail. I just recently played around on this trail and loved it, and I knew Jesse would too. Kachina starts up at Snowbowl and goes at least 5 miles to Weatherford (and I think beyond that?). I'm falling in love with this trail because it's not only up high but also very runnable. For the first mile or so it's very nice - little rollers with a couple of passes through small aspen meadows. It comes to some small outlooks with nice big boulders, and when we got to this part we ran in to four ladies (to be known later) having lunch/taking a break. The trail drops down a bit and becomes more technical with boulders to navigate between/on/around. I asked Jesse to lead because when he leads we go faster, and me trying to keep up improves my running. We went a little over a half of a mile until he stopped and said he wasn't feeling well. This never happens. I always wimp out on a run before Jesse does, even if he's not feeling that great. I'm always the first to be like "Ugh, I need a minute." or "Fuck, I need to walk this". He sat down and I made a joke with "'Tis the weather for a seizure". I now regret saying this.

And no, I didn't have my phone. I usually don't run with it when we are both together. 

The weather is always the same when it happens or there are symptoms. It's usually dreary, humid, and a bit cold. That's what it was like up in the peaks at 11:30am yesterday. The clouds were low, it was humid but comfortably chilly running weather. 

The left side of his body twitched twice before moving into full-blown convulsions. This is different from last time, as last time it began with him standing up. I was also not terrified for his life at this point, because I've been through this before and I knew it would be okay. I tried to hold him and kept saying things like "It's okay," and "I'm here, I'm right here". Last time he stayed on the ground until he regained somewhat of a consciousness, and this time it was different. 

He tried to stand up immediately, and fought me when I tried to keep him on the ground. It's not like Jesse is a huge person, but he has a solid 30 pounds on me and is much stronger, and I lost that battle. He was trying to speak to me but it was so slurred and mumbled because his motor skills and brain just weren't there yet, but when he started to form words it was a different Jesse than I have ever seen. His voice was different, for starters. He literally did not sound like himself. He was also severely panicked. He kept saying we had to leave, we had to go, and we had to go now. As tears streamed down my face I tried to get him to sit down and he would not. From the second he started convulsing, I started shrieking for help. I screamed as loud and as long as I could, hoping that those four ladies would hear me. I still do not understand how they couldn't. In his panicked state, Jesse covered my mouth several times as I tried to scream for help. As we stood there, me fighting to get him to stop and him fighting me to start walking, he kept tipping back towards the side of the trail that drops off. I grabbed him aggressively every time and he would try to correct his balance. I had no choice but to start walking with him. I held both of his hands and stayed on his left side, placing myself between him and the steep drop-off side of the trail. All it would have taken was one little misstep and I think he would have been dead. He would have fallen and not been able to stop himself. I asked him his birthday, and he didn't know. I told him I couldn't wait to be back in Michigan in a few weeks and he asked me what I was talking about, and why I was going there. He soon began to think that I was injured - that we were walking like this because of me. He started to say things like "It's okay you just have to push through and we'll be back at the car soon," and "You can do it just stay focused". So I went along with this and started to say that I needed breaks, that I needed to sit down. When we would sit down, he would sit for almost 10 seconds and stand back up, wobbling, saying "Okay so do you think you're okay now? Can we go now?" And every time he would jolt backwards or start to fall I would support him with everything I had and scream for help as loud as I possibly could and started to sob. When I would try to make eye contact with him nothing really happened. It was like he was just looking at my eyes and not connecting. He just wasn't there yet. Everything that was happening was completely out of character for Jesse. If I was feeling that shitty on a run (which has happened), the last thing he would do is try to push me to get going. He is always patient. 

Several times he stopped and told me not to cry and that we would be back soon. The one thing I just cannot stress enough is his voice. It didn't sound like him and it was constantly rushed. Every word that he was saying was so fast and said with such urgency that nothing I could do would calm him down. He kept second-guessing me, telling me that we needed to turn around and go back to the car. Every time I told him "This is the way back to the car," and he would ask me how I knew that. It was the longest half mile of my life, and all I kept thinking about was those women that were stopped and hoping they were still there. I would give anything if they were still there. As we climbed up some boulders I saw Nice Lady #1, #2, #3 and #4. I immediately collapsed into tears and said "You need to help me. This is my boyfriend and he had a seizure and he doesn't know what's going on and he won't listen to me."

It was here that Jesse started to come back. Maybe it was me fully breaking down that pulled him back, or maybe it had just finally been long enough since the episode. Two of the women were nurses, which is always immediately comforting. They had plenty of water and food. Jesse kept saying that he didn't want to die, and he was terrified that he was going to die out there. They walked with us over a mile back to the trailhead. Jesse was more coherent but kept asking me the same questions over and over. He eventually realized he and already asked, but asked anyway, such as "I'm sorry Kelsey I know I already asked but I can't remember, ___(question here)___." 

I got back to the car and immediately called Erin. Erin is my boss. I was supposed to be at work in 2.5 hours. Last time this happened I was also scheduled to work (back in the Bravo days), and when I called they said "Well, we need you to come in for a few hours." And I did. This time, all Erin said was "Get to the hospital and don't worry about work. Let me know what happens." I work for wonderful people. I work for caring people. 

Jesse saw a neurologist (who actually specializes in seizures) and got a diagnosis of 'provoked epilepsy'. The doctors and whole experience at FMC was so much better than the previous experience at Borgess Hospital. Last time it was "But was it really a seizure?" And this time it was "This was a seizure, here's what we're going to do." I won't go in to details because that is Jesse's personal business and not mine to divulge. 

But now, a day later, I still feel emotional about it. I still start to cry when I actually replay it in my head, and on my run today I became angry. This isn't necessarily life-altering. He has medication, but can still do what he loves and I have no doubt about any sort of actual debilitation from this. We've talked a lot about what he does and does not remember, and he remembers not wanting to die. He told me he just kept thinking that he didn't want to leave me, and that he wasn't ready to leave me yet, and we have a whole life together to live still. And we do, and we will. To have a love as big as this sometimes feels unreal to me. I continually think I am the luckiest person in the world to have Jesse Scott as my significant other.

But then I thought about all of the people that are so willingly unhealthy and don't seem to give a fuck. Here is Jesse, the least deserving person of something like this (not to say that anyone deserves to be an epileptic), and he was worried about dying. He was worried about leaving me. My own mother smokes a pack of cigarettes a day and doesn't seem to worry about that. People die long and painful deaths of lung cancer and somehow, in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't seem to bother her. How can she not care about that? How can someone not do everything possible to stay alive as long as possible? How can people be so selfish? What the fuck is wrong with people? How do people not care about their health? And how do people in much more serious situations deal with things like this? And most of all, HOW DOES NO ONE FUCKING TALK ABOUT IT? Why is it unacceptable to talk about it? Why are interventions only acceptable for drug addicts? Why is it rude for me to call out women on my Facebook Newsfeed that post things like "I just want to be skinny" and then eat a fuckload of fried food? "Because it just is, Kelsey." I know that you just have to accept people for who they are. That is one of the rules of life. Sometimes that is just so hard, though and sometimes life is just too unfair. And sometimes I just feel like kicking and screaming about it in my own little corner of the internet. 

I have a friend, Scott Spitz, who has been living with cancer while still being an elite athlete and holding true to his ethical vegan standards. How does he deal with seeing people treat their bodies like shit, when he is the one that has to live with cancer? I know that you have to let it go. You just simply can't worry about other people that much and I will never understand people who are fat and can't breathe while walking up stairs and still eat shitty food. Perhaps writing about it is my way of letting go and cleansing myself of those kinds of frustrations. ...At least for a little bit.

I thought about my own health and how I treat myself. I work with a nutritionist and sports chiropractor (Dr. AJ Gregg), a professional running coach (Emily Harrison), and get worked on by a professional masseuse (Shea Tinder) to keep things in check - all just because I want to be the best athlete that I can be, and I have never felt better in my life - physically and mentally. In no way do I expect that of other people, and I understand the whole "Life is short, I'm going to do what I want". But my point is that life is short, and maybe people only realize that when there are close encounters with death. I also am not saying that everyone should be an athlete or measure every meal and record every ingredient. That shit is tedious and annoying and even I can't comma to doing it every day. I'm not preaching for people to live my lifestyle and I'm paranoid that people are going to think that I am. But people die of obesity. People die of lung cancer. And sometimes people just die. Several times my mother has told me "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." And that is so true. Oh, the irony. 

I suppose it is necessary for me to wrap this post up with going back to Jesse. He is now back to normal (though a bit tired, seizing is exhausting, yo) and in good spirits. He also has a beautiful, sweet new mountain bike. :) 

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Not-Forgotten TNF50 2014 Explanation in 2015

We can start with what happened in San Francisco.

Anyone who knows me, knows that the Bay area (more specifically, the Marin Headlands) is my favorite spot in the world. If you know me and you feel like you didn't know that, scroll down to my race report from TNF50 last year. This year was a world of difference.

My training for that race this year was very course-specific, because I was so familiar with it. I thought this would be a great advantage to me, and it was, until I didn't care anymore. It's the hardest thing to describe and I feel bad saying or even typing the words, but I stopped caring about that race about three hours in. And I don't know why. I loved where I was, but I hated what I was doing. I started to slip off my goal time and I just stopped. I actually, quite literally, stopped. I remember staring at the sky with my eyes so furiously burning with frustration that I think a few hot tears actually escaped. The only reason I kept making it from aid station to aid station was because I had to find Jesse, so I could finally drop. There were a few course changes this year, and one involved over two miles of road running; a nail in the coffin, to say the least. It has to be said that I felt fine, physically. I wasn't bonking or low on water or even tired. My muscles didn't hurt and my feet felt fine, my breath was steady and my heart rate only spiking when it should. The downhill to Stinson Beach is the best part of the course, in my opinion, and I charged it just as hard as I did last year. The difference was that last year it was out of joy, and this year it was out of desperation to be at the bottom, and to be done. Once I saw Jesse just before the aid station I stopped and said I was done. He did his crewing duties and attempted to change my mind but I believe he could tell that was not happening. Every time I went to explain why, a lump rose in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. I knew there was no way in hell I was going to continue, but admitting defeat isn't always easy. I didn't want to finish 'just to finish'. I've finished enough 50milers that just a finish doesn't feel like an accomplishment anymore. I used to think it was humbling, and now it is just confusing. I've dropped from ultras before, smiling and laughing while doing so, but this race is different. This race is always different for so many reasons. It will continue to be different for every reason.


So after 20 minutes of standing there, watching people come in and leave the Stinson Beach aid station, I finally spoke without almost crying, and officially dropped. We then walked across the road to the ocean, and I stood there, rinsing my shoes from the mud (God, the mud, it was so wet this year), and letting the salt water burn my blisters and wash away with a blood tint. And standing there was amazing. Looking over my shoulder at Mount Tamalpais I clenched my jaw with frustration, disappointment, confusion and happiness.

After talking with Jesse about it, we collectively decided that I just have to do something different. I cannot keep doing this 50mile dance right now. I decided to do the Antelope Canyon 50k, and attempt to do it somewhat fast. A shorter distance with a different kind of effort actually lead to me thinking about an 'off season'. I've never really had an 'off season' before.




















We had that talk with this view. The whole weekend we had this view. I get lost in my own mind thinking about this view.

The next day we went on a recovery run on the Coastal Trail. This is the best trail in the entire world. I'll do my best to describe with pictures.













































So Jesse taught me to swim (One of my favorite things in my life is that my significant other is also my coach in many sports, and knows when I seriously need his advice). NAU has an amazing aquatic center, and it's pretty fun. I grew up on a lake, living in the water all summer and often times well into October (only my brother understands), but I never really learned how to appropriately swim. What I've been doing for 26 years is an awkward hybrid of a doggy paddle and a breast stroke.

I swam a mile last week and I was so proud of myself it took everything I had not to squeal. It felt like when I ran my first 5k, except Katie wasn't there to hug me. I just smiled and quietly skipped away from the pool. (But, of course, I spilled my victory to Jesse as soon as I saw him.)

So now I'm going to run a half marathon next weekend. Jesse is doing the full (in Sedona), so I figured I'd do the half while I wait. My longest run since TNF (which was December 6th) has been 9 miles, and that happened just now. Besides that I've only been swimming, weight training and in the past week, approximately 5 speed workouts. I also occasionally snowshoe at Snowbowl in the morning, up 1,000+ ft, and then run down (while Jesse skis). I'm well aware that I'm likely setting myself up for failure here, but I've never been to Sedona and I'd like to just have a good run. At the very least, I know I can still gut out 13 miles.

But it's incredible how ridiculous my behavior was to just do a 'long run'. A 'long run' of (what I wanted to be) 10 miles. I had four cups of coffee, changed into my standard running attire and stepped outside. I didn't even open the door all of the way, but just stuck my head out. Fuck it's kind of cold. Stop, just go. So I stepped onto the patio. But seriously I should take water because I"m dehydrated already. So I filled a water bottle, and stepped back outside. But this probably isn't going to be enough because I've had so much coffee. Maybe I should take my pack. So I filled my pack. A liter of water. Third time is a charm. But it's not that sunny so I should probably dress a little warmer. I chose my cozy Salomon headband and thin gloves. I sat on the couch and stared at the ceiling. I thought about going to the gym instead. I thought about asking Jesse if my 35 mile run in the beginning of December was good enough to count as a long run for a half marathon at the end of January. If there's anyone I can count on to rationalize absurd training ideas, it's Jesse. I actually sighed loudly and shouted a word that was a cross/blending of "UGH.", "Fuuuck" and "Goooooo". So I went. And I was too hot. And I only took two sips of water.

And I had fun. I did a few pick-up miles in the middle where my legs started to fill with cement, my breath was some sort of rigid three-part instead of having a steadiness, I could feel my hip bones rubbing on the top of my shorts and I was absolutely sure a rib in my left side was puncturing my skin. But it was worth it. For the first time in a long time, running was hard, and running being hard was actually fun.

It's easier when this is your view.

























I'm going to attempt to update this blog much more often. I'm a writer. And it feels good to write again. Even if it was just a race/running update.



*The next update will likely be about Cohen. There's a lot going on there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

on when reality and cliches don't match up

I keep envisioning those people with perfectly straight, white teeth and shimmering, immaculate hair smiling and saying "I just love being pushed out of my comfort zone." And I keep envisioning myself sucker punching them square in their perfectly straight, white teeth.

Moving across the country has been nothing short of an internal bloodbath on my feelings and, many times, my outlook on life. This likely comes as a shock to most that know me, because it was an incredible shock to myself. Leaving Michigan I didn't have any of the feelings I was supposed to have. I didn't cry enough when I hugged my mom goodbye because I was shoving every sad feeling I had into the bottom of my chest. When I crossed every state line I didn't get a wave of excitement. I felt like no matter how high I had the AC on, and how cold it made me, there was not enough air in the car and there was some pair of hands were surely reaching up to strangle me and I shivered while cold sweat ran from the top of my nape down between my shoulder blades. I thought about the end of my life and how it was feeling. But, of course, this wasn't the end of my life, it was just another panic attack. I reached up and felt my pulse throbbing far too quickly and far too hard through the skin in my neck and wished for it to go away through shallow breathing and trembling lips.
If you are lucky enough to be a person that is not ridden with anxiety then I hope you perhaps reread that and try to imagine what it's like.

I've had several of those since I left home, and in-between them are long stretches where my throat feels too swollen to talk and my mind is so blank yet unbelievably crowded that I don't have anything to speak about anyway. My jaws clench so hard that sometimes I swear my molars are cracking together when I check my phone and someone from home has texted "How are you?" or "What's it like?" or "How's Arizona?" And usually I can hold back the swollen tears but sometimes one seeps out, and sometimes one thousands follow it, and sometimes none.

I have glimpses where I know I need to get it together, and in those glimpses I feel like I have a life. I applied for a job and had a spot-on interview, which made me smile as I walked to my car, and as I was sitting across the table from the manager discussing fine dining service/stigmas/cliches I felt like myself. For the larger part of an hour I didn't have a weight on my chest or puffy eyes and things were okay. It was short-lived, but I held onto that memory of that feeling for the rest of the night, and it felt like a big deal to me. It is not, however, a big deal to others, and I felt foolish for thinking it would be.

I had orientation with roughly 200+ people that were in some range of the same situation as myself. There is one other girl in the Literature program and from 9:00 to 12:00 I felt like I had a friend. I was forced to sit at a table with 8 other people who identify their hobby as 'running', and though I forced myself to be a part of the rapid conversations it was hard to drink my water out of a plastic cup because my hands were shaking with a fierce so bright that I had to stop trying. Three different times I had to ask someone to repeat what they had said because all I could hear was my own blood pumping through my ears.

No one likes being pushed outside of their comfort zone. If you're enjoying it, then you aren't outside of your comfort zone. There is the cliche of "the best things happen when you're outside of your comfort zone" but I don't fully believe that. Perhaps the best things happen when you find a new comfort zone, after you are out of being outside of your comfort zone. And perhaps sometimes the best things don't happen. Both of those outcomes are very real and very possible every single time. People tend to forget that. Mainly because people only like to remember the good things.

I was texting Sammy while sitting in my car outside of World Market (I know, I was surprised Flagstaff had one as well) and as I clenched my phone in both hands I tried describing to her what I was going through and it's probably the furthest I've gotten with anyone on the topic. At one point in the conversation she said "Have you talked to your mom? I assume Julie always knows how to make you (or anyone) feel better." Then I cried because I missed my mom, and she does know how to make me feel better. And, as Sammy, had included, make anyone feel better.

One time (more than one time) I thought my life was in shambles because I was experiencing a heart-wrenching breakup, and all she kept saying were things like "It just takes time," and "Fake it until you make it," and "Time heals all wounds". When I called her out through my tears for her abundance of cliches she responded with "Well, they are cliches for a reason. Because they're true."
And I always thought there was some validity in that. Props, mom.