Time in Hand

Posted on September 27, 2015. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , |

Hold onto time.

Advice from an elderly man I read the other morning before I went out to run.

As if time were an apple to be held firmly in the palm and not a slippery fish to escape from my grasp.

I’ve never been one for fishing.  Never liked the feel of wiggling worms plucked from the soil or the smell of buckets of chum.  The casting of bait into water, wondering where it will sink, if it will be spotted and taken, hooked into an unsuspecting mouth.

I’ve always found it peculiar to peer over the edge of a boat and onto the water’s skin, only to see a dark and shimmering outline of myself, reflected back to me.

Eye to eye with the fish is where I’d rather be.  Diving through the reefs, pirouetting under water, a ballerina with a tank of air for a corset and silvery fish for a skirt. Leading and then following the curious fish as they hold my gaze, peck my mask, dart straight my way and abruptly turn aside. blue-banded-sea-perch-fish-wallpapers

The hardest skill to master is neutral buoyancy.  Sitting cross-legged grasping my fins, suspended inches above the ocean floor, controlling my buoyancy with my breath.  Inhale too much and I rise too high. Exhale too deeply and I disturb the bottom, kicking up silt. Breathe too fast and I fall over sideways, roll upside down. Falter. The effort is enormous. The trying and failing, shooting up and rolling over, muddying up my sight.

It’s not until I remember to forget myself that I can hover upright, completely balanced, and rest in the hand of time, the peacefulness of being.

Back on dry land and I struggle to regain that feeling, the relief of weightlessness and balance. Three months back from diving. Two months since I started a new training plan, ticking off every sliver of time as the days slip away.

I’m off on a mid-distance run, the elderly man’s advice ringing. Hold onto time. But I am aware of each moment, every breath, the skin taut across my jaw, the muscles recoiling with every step, the effort to get beyond the awareness of it all.

Then within two miles I’m sinking under, and the sound of breath and feet merges with the hum of breeze and birds and, finally, I am upright, completely balanced, resting in the hand of time, simply being.

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Focus

Posted on June 5, 2015. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

A focused mind is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. So says the fortune tacked on the corkboard above my desk.  I believe this is true, which is why the tiny slip of paper is pinned there, a reminder.

If only I could remember to focus on it from time to time.

Geyser_SprinklerSo many projects, events, demands on my time and energy, so much noise in my head, that my mind often feels more like one of those crazy sprinkler toys you hook up to the hose than a laser. The head space required to work toward a goal is hard to find, more difficult to maintain.

For me this is true in running as much as it is in writing, work, the rest of life. The less progress I feel I make toward a goal, the worse I feel about myself.  The more I settle for what feels like mediocracy. I start to believe I am something I’m not.

My running plan ended in April. For nine months a grid containing my current race’s plan was tacked to the side of my fridge. Every morning I knew what to do, how to start my day. Where I was headed. From November through April I ran three half marathons, one 10k, and a ten-mile trail run, the most racing in the least amount of time I’ve ever done.

When the last race ended, I was almost relieved. My body was tired, my store of self-discipline nearly expended.  It was time to shift focus, away from long runs, toward building strength and speed.  But how?

For several weeks the side of my fridge was a blank white slate. No plan, no specific goal, no race. No focus. I took a stab at weight training, trudging early to the gym. Splashed around in the neighborhood pool a few times. Ran, some.

But without a sense of direction or a specific goal I’ve found it difficult to follow a routine, to regain the self-discipline required to wake up early and push myself to my limit. My pace slowed tremendously, and I before I knew it I accepted this as normal. I’m just slow, I conceded. I can’t do any better than this.

This is all I have, all I am, all there is.  fortune

Often when I sense self-defeat creeping in, I try to fix it on my own.  Surely I can pull myself out, change direction, self-motivate, self-charge, self-something. But that’s not how it always works.  Life is not self-contained.

On Tuesday morning two friends and I went out to the local high school track to do speed work. It wasn’t my idea. I hadn’t done speed work on a track since summer 2010. When I moved to San Antonio, a strange place where I didn’t yet know the lay of the land, I joined a gym and began speed work on a treadmill.

You know how it is. Once you get into the habit of doing something one way, you forget that there might be other—better—ways to do it. And sometimes you get bored, distracted, overwhelmed with other things and don’t do it at all.

Sometimes, it takes a friend to alter your environment such that you can change your sense of self.

I was nervous when my friend suggested speed work on the track, but at the same time excited. Relieved that here was someone who could show me a new way, someone who knew what she was doing. Someone to motivate me out of bed.

She set the day’s plan. A ladder, starting with a magic mile to see where we each are at the beginning of summer, then progressively shorter sprints with a progressively faster pace.

In theory, I said. Faster as we go shorter, in theory.

If I gave a mile my all, whatever that looked like, I didn’t think I could run faster as the distance decreased. I didn’t even know what “my all” meant. I was used to treadmills, where I thought I was running as fast as I could because there was no “cheating,” no slowing down.  Plus it had been a while since I’d done sprints even there. And I was slower. Out of practice. You lose so much so fast when you lay off running for a while, I thought.

But when she said “go,” I went, Tigger’s theme song bouncing through my head as I sped along the springy, flat track, focused on nothing but my form, my breath, and the next five feet in front of me.

johnson trackI ran my fastest mile. Ever.

I was stunned. This couldn’t be me. Couldn’t be my legs, my body, my breath pushing me along.

In amazement, I ran again, a 1,200, focusing on each stride, my pace a little faster than my mile.

I ran again, 800, faster and more focused, so that by the time we ran a 400 I felt like I was flying.

No matter that my legs turned to Jell-O from the kneecaps down and knotted braids from the kneecaps up. No matter that when I stopped my stomach clenched like a fist and nearly punched its way up through my throat.  I was elated, stunned, spent.

I walked away from the track rethinking not only my running, but my writing, my work, every area of my life. I’m not what I thought I was. I’m more. And I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been shown a new environment, a new plan, a different approach on which to focus.

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Running Buddies, Part III

Posted on May 15, 2015. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

“You got this.”

She was waiting at the bottom of the hill just short of the finish line. The steep hill. The hill some genius thought would be a good idea to put right here, blocking the view of the end of things, but not the sound of people clapping, music playing.

“F*%@,” I said before I knew I would say it, the word escaping with my breath.

“I know.” She nodded. “Come on.” And ran me up the hill.

The YOSA 10k, my favorite 10k, the only race I really try to place in.  The course usually meanders through a neighborhood, across somewhat rolling hills. But this year it was moved to the River Walk, along a series of hills hugging the San Antonio River just south of the city, on the Mission Reach.

The 10k was a double out-and-back. I hate double out-and-backs. Races are mentally challenging already without having to repeat the same scenery, the same steep hill just short of the finish line.

1380749947000-SA-River-Mission-Reach

Not that it’s all bad, experiencing the same thing twice. The tuba player standing on the hill near the halfway mark belting out songs I’d never before heard done in tuba. The wildflowers studding the tall grass, waving in the breeze.

The breeze that blew at what felt like 25 mph, both ways.

My plan was to run hard but not too hard. I was running a half marathon the next weekend over the truly rolling hills in Luckenbach, Texas, and I wanted to save my legs.

But I ran hard anyway. I couldn’t help it. Once the clock started I was off. At the first turnaround, halfway through the first 5k, I found myself counting the number of women ahead of me. The second time around I was determined to pass as many as I could.

By the last half mile my legs were throbbing low and hard, like a tuba singing for me to stop already, or at least slow it down. I ignored them, kept my eyes down, and ran. Prayed that I would just make it to the finish line, just up over this low grade, long rolling hill, and around the bend. Then I would be there. Done.

Except I forgot about that hill. The steep hill just short of the finish line that some genius thought would be a good idea to put there.

When I looked up again, I saw the sharp incline first and knew I couldn’t make it. I was out of steam.

But I saw her second.

“You got this,” Stephanie said.

Just a few steps and we were up the hill. “It’s all you.”

She skipped back down as I ran toward the finish, knowing. It’s never all me.

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The Longest Run

Posted on March 27, 2015. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Bridal veil blooms early in San Antonio.  I see the first flowers open sporadically like buttermilk dripping down the side of the neighborhood fence as I set out for my long run alone.  It’s been months since I’ve run distance alone, and I’ve grown accustomed to deep conversation and chatter, miles that speed by and long stretches of comfortable silence, all beside a friend.

But it’s spring break and I’m on my own, trying to remember what it’s like to be inside my own head for so long, all the years and miles I’d done it alone, wondering now how long eleven miles will take.

I start slow, uphill in the direction of my first out-and-back, a 6-miler that crosses back through my neighborhood entrance, where I plant a water bottle under a wisteria, then my usual 5-miler in the opposite direction, another out-and-back down Park Ranch Road where I unfailingly startle the deer.

spirea

Bridal veil blooms later in Salado, was blooming in her last weeks when we wheeled my grandmother out on the deck to see the spring thrusting up flowers in sprays of white and purple and gold. Bridal veil hung heavy over the neighbor’s fence and into my mom’s vegetable garden, and I cut it away in thick strands, just enough for my mom to walk under, tend her garden, with my grandmother on the deck tethered to the house by her oxygen tank, watching.

I clipped long tendrils, stuffed them in vases where they sprang wildly over the edges, placed them throughout the house–on the table, by her chair, in her room.

The bridal veil here is the color of buttercream. There, it is the color of fresh milk, whiter, purer. I feel my throat constrict with the weight of memory and will it back open. Crying and running do not mix. The contraction of muscles, sting in the eyes make it too difficult to breathe, too hard to see.  I’m only one mile in and a long way to go.

I run under a line of wisteria, branches burgeoning with flowers, my chin up, and inhale deeply to savor their grape-soda smell.

In the long, hot Detroit summers when I am 7, 8, 9, the whole neighborhood moves outside in the evenings to sit in their lawn chairs. We play in the sprinkler that soaks the lawn, my grandfather’s roses, the only time I see him in an undershirt, in this heat. My grandmother carries out bottles of Faygo, rootbeer, grape, cream soda, my favorite, her house dress swaying as she calls us out of the sprinkler to dry, smiling as she hands us our drink and, maybe, if we’re lucky, ice cream.

wisteria

I’m four miles in and stop for fuel, slow to a walk, squirt the gel in my mouth, wash it down with water, and pick back up into a run. Sticky water dribbles down my chin, my neck. I reach up to wipe it away where it has settled into the hollow at my throat, where my race necklace usually sits.

The polymer cross seems to pulse from the other side of the store, shiny red like a drop of blood hanging amid the other jewelry on the rack, a heart beating. I’m drawn to it, hold it in my palm, let it dangle from its black rope. I consider putting it back. I’ve come here to buy Mother’s Day gifts. But I buy it anyway, put it on in the car.

My grandmother notices it immediately as I sit on the side of her bed, her hand rising up to my throat, she holds it lightly. It’s May, nearing race weekend, the Beach to Bay Relay, and I am reluctant to go away, she is so sick.

“The race is this weekend.” She removes her oxygen mask, reading me.

“Yes,” I say, avoiding her eyes, “but I’m not sure I’ll go.”

“Don’t you have a team? Aren’t they relying on you?”

“Yes,” I say, “but…”

She puts her hand on my lips to silence me, back down to rest on the cross. “Go,” she says. “Win.”

I think of the past nine months caring for her, and in between the running, the races, not for the race itself, but for the training, the structure, the plan, the discipline to get out of bed, to feel life, any life, the life in my own veins as I watch it slowly drain from hers. The excruciating days that melt into nights and back into days, all the same, and the only way I know that time has passed, know the day of the week, is from the markings on my training plan.

“OK,” I say, not wanting to go, knowing she is right. “For you.”

My sister and I drive to Corpus late Friday night, arrive in time to meet our team for dinner before the greasy diner stops serving. We follow our friends to the strip of bars and they dance while we walk to the bar at the end of the line where a three man band plays the blues. We buy a beer and sit outside sipping and listening quietly until we go back to the beach house alone.

I have the first leg of six in the relay, my sister the third, the bridge. The race is supposed to start on the beach, and I am nervous about running in sand, it’s been so long since I’ve run the beaches in Guam.  I arrive at the start line well before dawn to find the route has changed—too much debris washed up on the beach overnight and we will have to run in the street.

I pace the start line, handling the cross still at my throat, anxious, wanting this to be done. I wiggle my way to the front of the pack just before the gun sounds, surprised when it pops, and run faster, harder, stronger than I have ever run before, over cement streets that wind through stretches of cornfields I cannot see, flats of land I barely notice as my vision tunnels and fog drapes my shoulders, wets my hair, constricts my lungs. My stomach threatens to rise up and out, and I will it back down, promising my body it can do whatever it wants once we’ve passed off the baton, we just have to pass off the baton.  But I am not running for me. I sprint until my legs nearly collapse across the line.

cornfields

I walk to the edge of a field and wonder how fast I ran, good God it must have been fast, I’ve never felt this bad after running. My stomach lurches up and I will it back down, will my legs to keep moving, to get me to a seat on the bus.

Two hours later, I find my sister pale, sitting in the back of the car with some of our team, forcing down fuel. She too had run faster, harder than she knew she could, had collapsed after handing off the baton, weaved to a guardrail through her tunnel vision, and walked in tiny circles until she came back to herself again.

Mile eight and I pull my head into the moment. Time to fuel. I can feel it in my legs as they weaken. How did four miles pass so quickly that I am here again, at fueling time? I squeeze the gel into my mouth and wash it down with water I barely remember refilling at my crossing-point and trot back into a run.

Right after the race, we shower, pack, and drive to Salado, back to see my grandmother.

“Did your team win?” she reaches up for the cross that still nests in my throat as I sit on the edge of her bed.

I hold up my medal. “Yes,” I say. “Seventh out of 212.”

“Good.” She nods, closes her eyes, pats my hand.

She will die the next day.

I reach up to wipe away the sticky water trickling again down my neck, my throat constricting. Almost time to put on the cross again. Three weeks until race day. I have worn it for every race since the one, going on five years.

I pick up the pace, eager to be done. Running is so much easier when I remember it is not for me.

Mile eleven and I stop under the wisteria, sweating, panting, a strange light happiness creeping in. How long did this take?

Before I look at my watch I gulp water, close my eyes and inhale the scent of grape soda, Faygo pop, deep into my lungs. I see my grandmother walking with a tray of soda and ice cream, smiling, house dress swaying.

How long did this take? A lifetime.

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What’s Your Attitude?

Posted on March 6, 2015. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

“It’s so cold and miserable outside I have to go to the gym, do hills on the treadmill,” I complained to my boyfriend on the phone yesterday morning. “I hate the treadmill.”

I feel like I’ve been complaining a lot lately. So much so that I began to keep a gratitude journal last month. Each night before I go to bed I record five things from the day for which I am grateful. The next morning, I read that list to set my mind right.

Although I’ve always tried to practice in real time a recognition of “good” things that happen throughout the day—a stretch of green lights on my drive home, an item on sale when I didn’t know it, the rain letting up long enough for me to run errands or get gas—I am not always successful at maintaining a positive attitude. My negativity sometimes spills over onto others. My boyfriend. My mom.

It was at her suggestion that I began the journal-keeping.   struggle-gratitude

Last night after I jotted down my five, I quickly drifted toward sleep. But before I could get there I found myself wide awake, thinking about my attitude toward my morning’s workout.

If I am cultivating a mindset of gratitude, here’s what I should have thought instead:

  • I get to drive to the gym (in my own car, 10-years-old and long paid off, with a blazing heater and cushy seat-warmers, a working radio, and more).
  • I get to go to a gym (I have worked a membership into my budget without a second thought, foregoing other luxuries each month instead).
  • I get to go to the gym at 9am—or any time, really (I work from home, plan my own day, schedule my own time, and I can be up at 5:30am, working by 6 in my pajamas and slippers, hair uncombed, glasses askew, dog in lap, and then take a break when it suits me, my schedule, my day).
  • I get to run (Thank you, God. I am able to run.)

I slept more soundly than perhaps I otherwise would have, resting in the knowledge that I am luckier than I think.

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By the Numbers

Posted on January 16, 2015. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

My brother turned fifty-one last week.  Fifty-one.  A big number.  Not so long ago, turning fifty sounded like an impossible thing, a feat maybe other people managed, but not the people I knew, my family, my friends. Yet here we all are, there or nearly there, in a place that sounds different than it feels.

I asked him the question my dad asked me on each one of my birthdays:  How does it feel to be fifty-one (thirteen, sixteen, twenty)?

His answer to me was the same one I always gave my dad:  Just the same as it did to be fifty (twelve, fifteen, nineteen).

But you know, he said on further reflection, this one makes me think a little more. It didn’t bother me to turn fifty, but fifty-one is different. It’s into my fifties, one step closer to sixty, and sixty just sounds, well, old. It’s when people retire. I don’t feel old, he went on, I don’t feel like my age sounds.

I know what he means.  Turning forty was nothing. But forty-one, well, that was different. Into my forties, one step closer to fifty. And now even more steps closer. Yet I don’t feel like someone approaching fifty.

Twenty-five, forty, fifty-one, they’re just numbers. And who’s to decide how a number is supposed to look, how a number is supposed to feel?  numbers

A couple of days after my brother’s birthday, mile sprints showed up on my training schedule again. It’s been several weeks since I’ve sprinted miles, and I went to bed the night before a little apprehensive. A mile. It sounds so long.

I trudged early into the gym bleary-eyed and grumpy, not quite prepared to exert the energy I’d need to expend.  You can always just run three miles, I reasoned with myself as I grabbed a towel off the shelf. No one says you have to run sprints.

I climbed onto the treadmill to warm up, trying to wake up, deciding what to do. A mile. It sounds so long, too long of a distance to sprint. I could always run 400s or 800s. I could start slow and build. Or I could just dawdle here on this treadmill and continue walking at a nice reasonable pace for the next three miles.

But no matter how I sliced it, a mile is a mile. And, I thought, if I made the effort to get this far, to the gym and on the treadmill, then I guess I should probably run.

I thought of my friend Ceci and a conversation we had not too long ago about sprints. If you have any energy left at the end, she said, if you can go a little faster or do a little more, you’re not doing yourself any good. By the time you reach the end of the road you should have given everything you have to give.

A mile. A long distance to sprint. But as I approached the end of my warm-up, I shut down the mental calculations, the slicing and dicing of time and distance, as if math could change the nature of a mile. If I made the effort to get this far, by God I was going to run, not measuring a mile by numbers, but measuring it by how I felt.

I inhaled deeply, held my thumb on the Up arrow—and ran the fastest mile sprints I’d ever run.

This week, I ran them just a little faster.

And it felt good.

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Breaking Eggs

Posted on December 12, 2014. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

You can’t bake a cake without breaking some eggs.

I was scrambling eggs to make an omelet when the proverb came to mind.  I had run the Shiner half marathon the day before, and I woke up feeling good. The race was challenging—intermittent rain and wind, unexpected steep grades (who was the genius that decided to put a hill at mile 11?), two miles of mud—but I met one of my two goals, finishing in the top 10 of my age group.

A great race ended, another goal met, and I tried hard to be in the moment to enjoy the accomplishment that comes from hard work, a job done to the best of my ability.

Nevertheless, post-race blues were sinking in and about to be compounded by holiday-associated stress, the approach of the busiest four months of my work year, and a sick dog.

Maybe you don’t get post-race blues. It took me a few races to recognize them for what they are. When the thing I’ve focused on for 8, 12, 16 weeks or more is over and I look at the side of my fridge where my training plan hangs only to see a blank slate waiting to be filled, to start all over again. The promise of a new beginning, which is, and should be, exciting.

lemonmeringuepie_86114_16x9Yet any beginning emerges from an end. Creation is preceded by destruction. (Or as Wallace Stevens would say, “Death is the mother of beauty.”)

Before I let my emptiness cave in on itself—before Thanksgiving Day—I selected a new race, registered, and created a new training plan, ready to start December 1. But the long days of holiday-associated stress, the approach of the busiest four work months of the year, and a sick dog cut into my plan. I am not off to the best start. (Although, thank God, my dog is getting better.)

This week I stood in the kitchen beating eggs again, remembering when my mom taught us to bake. For a time my favorite was lemon meringue pie. It wasn’t the taste I so much enjoyed as the making of the pie, or, at least, the end result. So many eggs broken, vigorously whisked into tall, stiff peaks strong enough to stand on their own.

It was the beating that gave me qualms. Before they can peak, the eggs fold in on themselves, all mush and formlessness, unable to hold anything together, much less themselves.

Me, the past couple of weeks.

But you can’t bake a cake without breaking some eggs. Maybe it’s time to rise again.

 

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Why I Don’t Love Tapering

Posted on November 21, 2014. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s only four miles.

A dangerous thought. As if completing each quarter mile isn’t a miracle in itself. As if four miles is an easy run.

In the big scheme of my training plan, it is. My half marathon is this weekend, and I’ve covered a lot of ground in the past three-plus months.

But in the big scheme of my running history, there have been times when four miles may as well have been an ultramarathon.

As I’ve watched my mileage decrease over the last two weeks—8 miles, then 5, 5, 7, 4, 2—I’ve noticed a tendency toward carelessness creep into my thinking.

Sure, I can sleep just a little longer and wait to start my run. It’s only four miles.

But training is training, and routine is established for a reason. Throw one car off and the whole train threatens to derail.

Sure, I’ll have an extra cookie the night before my run. It’s only four miles.

But fuel is fuel and is important always. Extra cookies often turn into an entire bag, at least for me, an all-or-nothing snacker. Self-discipline in habit takes a long time to establish but can take me less than a week to destroy.

Sure, start the coffee, I’ll be right with you. I can get this run over with fast—it’s only four miles.

But every step, every quarter of a mile is consequential.

smart thoughtsI think hard about this new stealthy lackadaisical attitude during my four-mile run. It’s 9am, a good three hours later than I normally run, and the sun beats down on my back. A cold front has descended on Texas, and even at this hour it’s only in the mid-30s.

Noting before today’s run how my self-discipline has been slipping, I awoke early and worked for a couple of hours before stepping out for my run. I’m mindful, now, of my routine and how losing time, if only an hour, fills me with anxiety.

One mile in and I’m still not there, not yet in that comfortable space where my body is happy we are here. It takes a good mile or two until I settle into a run, three or four until it feels good.

This is why I don’t run many 5ks, I think as I chug up a hill. The race is over before I even know I’m running, before my mind connects with my body and we’re moving in synch.

Just after mile three I start to feel it, the ease with which my body falls into pace, into the right cadence. The corresponding peace. I smile with relief.

This is why I run.

And this is why I don’t love tapering–

There are twenty-four hours in a day. Only during one do I get to run, and then only three times a week. The other twenty-three hours, the remaining four days require extra vigilance to guard against the mental carelessness that would let me believe that four miles is a breeze.

I can feel every step.

 

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13.1 Things I’ve Learned from Half Marathon Training

Posted on November 7, 2014. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Only two weeks left to the Shiner half marathon, a race my friend Amy and I have been training for since the first week of August. There is always something to learn—or to remember that I’ve forgotten—as the result of training.

  1. Never get a pedicure on long run day. It is not a way to pamper yourself. It is not a form of pleasure. Sharp objects pushing at your cuticles, snipping away bits of skin. A tool resembling the cheese grater in my utility drawer scraping off mounds of dead skin. Sometimes this is fun. On long run day, it is not. It is a form of torture for sensitive post-run feet. Ice baths, on the other hand, are a form of pleasure. ice bath
  1. Long runs are so much better with a running buddy. It took me nearly 15 years of running to figure this out. Not only do the miles go by more quickly, but I can’t think of a better way to get to know someone than by running with them. You meet each other at your best and at your worst, and you talk about things you probably wouldn’t if you had to look each other in the eye across a wine glass or coffee cup. 
  1. Drive somewhere to do your long run. I learned this from my friend Stephanie. When I started half marathon training coming back from an injury over a year ago, I mentioned how nervous I was to do that week’s long run alone—5 miles, longer than I’d run in more than two years. She immediately offered to pick me up that Saturday and take me running. I was nervous—not only about the run, but about having to pack up and prepare for the run. Which is, of course, the point in going away, Stephanie explained on our drive to the park. It simulates race day preparation: getting up early, packing your stuff, fueling properly, and generally getting yourself together. Great training. (Stephanie’s kindness and friendship was also my eye-opener to lesson #2. And she is the genius behind the ice bath process.)
  1. I love running in the dark. I already knew this, but it’s reaffirmed all the time. There’s something soothing about dulling one sense and heightening the rest of them.  It’s peaceful. Thoughtful. Joyful. Plus I seem to run faster when I can’t see how fast I’m running.
  1. But I should probably get a head lamp. This was also reaffirmed on a long run with Amy and the local Fleet Feet marathon training group, who’ve let us crash their early-morning parties a couple of times. New route, new potholes. Not very smart without light.
  1. Don’t short yourself on speed work days. I’ve taken to doing all my speedwork on the treadmill so I can’t slow down. 800s and mile repeats used to scare me, but now I embrace them.  They truly do make you faster.
  1. I don’t love tapering. That’s the phase I’m starting now. It’s hard to run fewer miles when you know your race is right around the corner. It takes a lot of mental discipline to rest, but it’s so necessary.
  1. I can go seven weeks without drinking. Not that I drank a lot, but I enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner, a night out on the town, a martini at the end of a long day. This current break started during the first of two high mileage weeks, when it occurred to me that it would be easier to get out of bed and run without any alcohol in my system. It was, so I did it again the next week. After two weeks, I didn’t want to break my streak. It’s been awesome to train alcohol-free.
  1. But I can’t go seven weeks without chocolate. I mean, really. Isn’t alcohol enough? Something’s gotta give.
  1. I am a genius. Just in this one thing: I chose a race that begins and ends at a brewery–before I ever thought about not drinking during training. Not just any ole brewery, but the Shiner brewery, some pretty awesome Texas beer. Knowing this is waiting for me at the end of the line makes lesson #8 a happier thing yet. shiner-spoetzl-brewery
  1. I am stronger than I feel and faster than I think. I only wish I could stop myself from feeling and thinking, at least about my perceived limitations.
  1. But that’s what Girls on the Run is all about: pushing yourself past your mental limitations, outside of the box you (and your surroundings) have trapped you in. I see the girls in our program differently during training. They always bring me joy, but during training they inspire me to make the seemingly impossible possible.
  1. There’s no reason I can’t run a marathon. I never have. But I am willing to try. Again. See lesson #12.

.1    I still have a lot to learn.

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Ginger

Posted on October 31, 2014. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

“God,” I say staring up at the ceiling in my shower, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I think I quit.”

I’m not exactly sure what I mean by “this.”

My job? Long days, into evenings and nights. Saturdays. As much as I swear to myself I will not work on Sundays, there is inevitably a phone call. An email. Something.

My living situation? Seven weeks now with my sister, who temporarily moved in when she sold her house unexpectedly fast. With her three dogs. Added to my two. In a home office.

All of it. None of it. I don’t really know. Sometimes, as much as I am grateful for all I do, all I have, “this” can seem so weighty.

I wash my hair and wait for God’s reply.

dog listening

I used to think God’s distinct voice would sound something like a cross between John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Gandolf, but I’ve never actually heard it, distinctly. It comes across, rather, in the words, actions, and eyes of people I know, and many people I don’t know. More often, it comes across as an unclenching of my gut. A certainty that something is or isn’t so.

By the time my hair is conditioned, I get my answer:  “Blah, blah, blah, Ginger,” like my favorite Far Side cartoon. I imagine God rolled His eyes when He heard me, said here we go again, and I sounded something like that.

I translate His answer to mean, “You’re not done yet.”

“OK,” I sigh as my gut relaxes just a touch. It really doesn’t matter what I want or don’t want to do, or what I think I can or can’t do. What needs to get done will get done, regardless of me. Despite me. Sometimes, if I am listening, because of me.

Out of the shower and dressed, I survey my training log tacked to the side of my fridge and my gut unclenches completely. At least tomorrow I get to run. This is something I can do.

 

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