Friday, March 20, 2009

Sylvia then. Sylvia now.

I am trying to work on an article about Sylvia Plath. I'm thinking of expanding a blog I wrote about SP for the newspaper into a longer magazine piece. But without an actual deadline, I find that I am becoming a procrastinator. All talk, no action. Or, more to the point, all prep work, no actual finished product. (I always prefer training to races -- why, I wonder?).

In theory the piece will be about reading SP fifteen years ago when (to me) her life and subsequent suicide seemed so romantic and exciting; and re-reading her now when her life and suicide suddenly strike me as horrifying.

I went back to my old journals to help myself remember what exactly was going on in my life the first time I read through the Plath ouevre. Re-reading old journals is a strange experience. It's different from reading someone else's journals, you know it was you writing all of this, but it's difficult to believe it. Oddly, I have never done this before. Never "researched" myself.

Turns out I was reading SP right around the time Brian and I got married. In the weeks leading up to the wedding I was reading her biographies, and I took her letters with me on our honeymoon. I don't remember this. I guess I have to take my own word for it.

This is also right around the time I ran my first ultra. I was 26. I read about this 50K race in the paper on a Thursday and showed up that Saturday morning 10 minutes before the start. That's how it was back then. No training plans, no race calendars. Just show up and run. I figured I had just run my sixth marathon the month before, and how much harder could a 50K be?

The first ten miles were on the road. I tried to keep an 8-minute mile, but it was hard because it felt so slow. (Imagine!) And then, to my great surprise, we hit the trails and ran to Council Crest, 1000 feet straight up. And the remainder of the race was like that. Up down up down. My mile splits plummeted (to my great dismay). Brian rode his bike on the trails with me for the last 10 miles just to make sure I stayed alive. I walked the last 2. I survived.

Some people ran 50 miles that day and I thought they were crazy and amazing.

The other weird coincidence: my journal tells me that right after this race, I bought Zen Mind Beginner's Mind (Suzuki) and read it at night to fall asleep. I just bought that audio book last week to play on my iPod during long runs and hill repeats.

Sylvia Plath then. Sylvia Plath now.

Zen and ultras 15 years ago. Zen and ultras now. This has not been a continuous journey. I read two Zen books back then (The Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg and Zen Mind) and then dropped it in favor of studying the Medieval Mystics. I ran two ultras, both 50K, and then stopped in favor of long triathlons. Both things have come back into my life this year.

Very strange. What could it mean?


  1. Huh, my mother always said, "What goes around, comes around. There is nothing new under the sun." I guess it's true with things other than fashion too.

  2. I like means we're not only bound to repeat our mistakes.

  3. Yup. Like hearing Nirvana in the grocery store. Unexpected and weird. But still good.


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