Directionless?

Photo courtesy of amritanshparth.blogspot.com

Photo courtesy of amritanshparth.blogspot.com

I have a poor sense of direction.  In fact, it’s gotten me into trouble more times than I’d care to mention.  Jonathon, on the other hand, is pretty amazing.  He can get us back to wherever we were even if it’s a new place he’s never been to before.  I, on the other hand, get lost in new surroundings, and then get my bearings.  It served me well delivering flowers in Scotts Valley. I learned the area by getting lost.  Repeatedly.

This morning, I went into the clubhouse of our timeshare to use the treadmill. Upon my arrival, I discovered a couple in there already.  The man had just finished on one of the treadmills, which he graciously wiped down and let me use.  He moved to the bicycle, intent on Fox 5 news.

I got situated, headphones plugged in, and pushed the green button.  The treadmill started up.  I usually use the Quickstart mode.  It runs about 60 minutes, should I choose to run that long, and lets me manually adjust the incline and the speed.

Not today, girlie.  I had no data to track by.

The only reading I had were the Lite-Brite dots on the screen, showing me how much I had done of the workout and the huge spike in speed that would come on soon.  When?  No idea, since the timer didn’t work.  No concept of how fast I was going, other than the gauge of my own effort.  I couldn’t even get the incline to move.  Did I mention the entire small space was heavily mirrored, too?  Yeah.  I kept almost walking into the walls, my poor sense of direction multiplied exponentially.

I almost stopped everything and concocted an outside route.  Then I remembered the movie we watched last night – Rio.  Kind of late to the party on this one, as the previews looked lame.  But this scene caught my attention.  Blu and Jewel, two blue macaws are chained together.  Raised in Minnesota through a freak accident, Blu’s owner/best friend brought him to Rio in order to breed with Jewel.  The two birds got captured and managed to escape – together. They need to get across town to see Louie, an unknown entity to them, who will break their chain and set them free.  Neither of them are comfortable.  An outgoing toucan named Pedro encourages them to relax and enjoy.  It’s Rio!  Pink petals flutter down from the sky.  The sun sets in the foreground.  They have no control over where they’re going, but they can make the most of it.

So I did.  I watched the clock on the wall and the percentages mount up on the treadmill’s one working screen.  Ten percent done, twenty percent done, all the way to 50 percent.  I guestimated my mileage and still got a good workout.  I didn’t need the “chain” of the timer or speedometer, though it would have been nice.

In case you were wondering, the two (eventual) lovebirds got released from the chain via dog slobber.  But that’s all I’m telling you. Obviously, taking life advice from animated movies can be haphazard at best.  But in this case, I’m glad I listened.

Runner’s High

The moon hung in the sky, a frosted coin.  A hazy halo of fog diffused its light.  I gazed into its beauty and considered running outside by the moonlight and intermittent streetlights, but kept to my date with the treadmill.  I needed some time alone on a stable surface to think and to sweat.  These early morning runs feel like prayer.  I craved the stillness.

I drove up the hill, twisting and turning with each curve in the road.  Somehow, even at this early hour, I ended up behind a slow-moving van.  White and ancient, it moved with glacierlike speed, chugging upwards way below the speed limit.

“Come on, come on,” I muttered.

It has been 4 days since I gave up sugar.  Again.  This is the best I’ve felt in a very long time.  I wanted to get on the moving sidewalk and conquer my miles.

Arriving at the gym, I found only a couple of people there.  A guy in glasses and  a buzzcut next to my favorite treadmill and an older lady with steely colored, tightly permed hair on another one.  They each walked at their own pace, absorbing the news coming from the TVs mounted above the windows.

The sun still slumbered.

I got myself situated on the machine, decreasing the incredible incline some person had left it at what, 8?  I rode the ramp down, down, down, thankful I didn’t get a nosebleed.  I think the most I’ve ever inclined a treadmill is 2.  I want to simulate pavement/asphalt outdoors, not Mt. Everest.  I untangled the Gordian knot of my mp3 player headphones, shoved them into my ears, and took off.

I will state, here and now, that I’ve lost a bit of speed over the last 9 months of being on the injured list.  My per mile pace is slower than I’d like.  But I’m working back up to my race pace.

I did the first 2 miles slow, the third and fourth a little faster.  The fifth mile, which I almost didn’t do at all, I did at my original pace.  My right hip gave me a little trouble.  I stretched after the third and fourth mile, lunging and trunk twists.  I picked it up again.

One thing I’ve learned from all of this is I have to keep moving forward.  If I’m still hurting, I need to keep seeking solutions.  My body is not bad or wrong, but something is “off”.  So far, what’s worked is prayer, massage, chiropractic appointments and stretching.  Lots and lots of stretching.  I’m learning to be open to new methods.  I’m learning just how little I know about my body and how much respect it truly deserves.

I contemplated all these things as I oozed along, the “glow” dripping into my eyes.  Another guy, one I’ve seen around, got on a treadmill a few machines down from me.  I think we got into a friendly debate once about whether the fan should be on or off.  No matter now, since the fan is MIA; hence the ooze.  He ran a little and walked a little, breathing hard.  It seemed as if he was trying to compete with me.  I ignored him.  I’m not there to race, only to run.  My stiffest competition is, and always has been, myself.

I finished with a smile on my face.  The sun was up, the air pinkish with low-lying fog. The runner’s high is real, folks.  I’m living proof.

Pacing Myself

Last week:

Conference, partners with
Foreign accents, note-taking
Lost in translation.

Vs. this week:

Being mom again,
Back to real life and kids and
Making the sandwiches.

One of the first things you learn when you take up running is that you can’t run fast for very long.  Your endurance is nil.  Gone are the days when you sprinted everywhere.  Ruby still does this.  She runs up the stairs.  She runs down the driveway.  She runs to the bathroom.  Okay, some of us might still do that.

But if you want to run distance, you can’t do it fast.  I ran on the treadmill today.  I started out pretty slowly.  I could not go as fast as I had in the past due to coming back from my injury.  I could go longer, though.  And I did.  I ran three miles today, which is the farthest I’ve run since January.  Yes, I walked between the miles and stretched a bit, too.  But it felt good.  I didn’t even get queasy.  And I beat the guy on the treadmill next to me.  Not that I was looking.

Running is like so many things in life.  Sometimes your runs feel good.  You feel like you could run forever, to Venus and back, soaring among the stars.  You could make a lovely holiday home there.  Other runs are torture.  You’re tired.  The desire to run has dried up, an exotic bird flown to a warmer climate. Something you ate in the last 24 hours threatens to make another appearance.  You’re hurting and achy.

Take this week.  I have very few things on my docket this week.  I have a few social engagements, Zac’s 9th grade registration orientation (yikes!), church stuff and the usual rotating list of household duties.  Last week was different.  We were staying Seattle at a hotel for a couple days, then, at the Bellevue Hyatt taking notes for the Microsoft PACs, finally returning home to the chores and the rest of the time editing the notes.  I had to put some things off in order to prioritize the main event.  I had to pace myself then in order to finish and not get discouraged.  I could not finish all the corrections in one day.  Each day required new strength and effort. This week, I must dredge up motivation to do the daily tasks with joy.  It’s a bit of activity-whiplash, I suspect.  Yet each of these weeks are important in their own right.

I am learning to pace myself here, too.  The cold and drizzly late winter weather makes me contemplative.  I  can choose to find the good things and be happy.  It’s been said, “The trouble with life is that it is so daily.”  It’s true.  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.  It’s just different.  These days require strength and effort, too, albeit of a different sort.  Meals must be prepared, bills paid, children ferried to school.  And a mom with a good attitude helps the family stay on course. This run will strengthen me for the next one.

Up and Running

Today, for the first time in 7 weeks, I ran!

Not Iran, like the country in the Middle East.  No.  I ran on the treadmill today for the first time in 7 weeks.

I didn’t run far and I didn’t run fast.  I alternated running with walking, trying to see where my limits were.  I could’ve done more but I wanted to get home and stretch out so I could do more another day. I don’t want to overdo. Been there, done that. I lasted about a half hour and covered 2 miles.  I couldn’t stop smiling. I must’ve looked like a dork.  Sure, it’s a bit humbling to be back in the gym where I used to rack up the miles on that infamous machine going nowhere.  I don’t care.  We get hurt and we get back up again.  Maybe I can be encouraging to someone else on this journey.  Nobody’s perfect.  Our bodies will heal, given time and the correct care.

I am on my way back.  Yay!

Last night, I dug out my old journals from 2006 on.  I won’t bore you with the details, (drama bomb!) but I discovered something.  I’m definitely not the person I used to be.  One thing stayed the same:  my handwriting is still atrocious. Thank God for His faithfulness.  I also see that things really started to clear up and make more sense once I started running.  Funny.  My thinking was messed up.  I thought about negative things a majority of the time and so my attitude was poor.  I battled depression and discouragement a lot. I still do, but not nearly as much or as badly as in the past.  Running has helped to create new ways of thinking.

What did I learn from this time off?  Glad you asked.  I pretty much laid it all down, whether I’d ever run again or not.  I had to or I’d get a little crazy.  Not that I didn’t…but it passed.  I don’t  know if I want to race anymore.  I want to run because I like it. It makes me feel alive.  I want to work out because it makes me feel better and get stronger.  I have nothing to prove anymore, nobody to compete against except  myself.

The Challenge

I realize I haven’t written much about running lately.  Truth is, all that training and then *not* finishing the marathon was very not fun.  Or not very fun.  Either/or.  Debate the grammar amongst yourselves.

I kinda got disillusioned.  Oh, I still love running.  But it was harder and harder to get up in the morning – especially with no goal attached to training.  And then Daylight Savings Time ended and it was so very dark.  Not to mention rainy.  Lots and lots of rain fell after our summer of sun and dryness.  We seemed to reach the floodwatch stage in our county in a matter of days.

I don’t like to run in the rain. I don’t like to get my feet soggy wet.  I don’t like rain dripping on my face either.  Call me a weenie.  It’s alright.

I did most of my running post-marathon on the treadmill.  It’s okay.  It’s a necessity when I have to squeeze it in before going somewhere else.  But it doesn’t help my right leg and the view doesn’t change much.

I’ve been thinking of staying way scaled back on running for the season.  I want it to get fun again.  I don’t want to push myself so hard because it’s the right thing to do.  I’m not sure when or if I’ll race again.  I don’t have it in me right now, at all.  I want to recapture that joy of running for its own sake.  Meantime, I’m going heavier on the kettlebells.  I imagine my instructor will hold me to it!

I’ve been here before.  I need to regroup and play.  I need to get sweaty for the pure exhilaration.

So, this week Runners World posted a challenge.  They want people to sign up to run at least a one mile every day between now and New Year’s Day.  Hmm…I’m thinking about it.  It sounds – dare I say it? – fun.  It sounds sorta medicinal, too, this way:  Run one mile and call me in the morning.  Could I do it every day?  Would I do it in the rain?  Would I do it on a plane?

Any new challenges in your world?  What will you tackle next?  What’s getting you excited these days?

P.S.  As the year winds down, I haven’t forgotten about my gluten-free week.  It’s coming, promise!

I Heart Running

Don’t you?!

So, to update the QuickBooks saga, I got everything to work yesterday.  My Scarlet O’Hara impression paid off.  Had a bit of user error printing the checks, but fixed all that.  Direct deposit went through this morning.  One timesheet got missed and one handwritten paycheck came out of that, and apologies all around. We’re  in the money, baby!  Whew.  Thank you, Jesus.

I moved my run to after work yesterday.  I figured no matter how stuff with payroll went down, I would need an outlet. Jonathon had been out-of-town for 5 days, and it seemed like a morning to just enjoy being together, albeit for a short while.  Still a bit of rushing to get both kids to school and me to work, but it was okay.

The running plan I’m following said, “Run 5 easy miles.”  My husband says there’s no such thing.  Oh ye non-runners are so funny!  And he has a point.  He remembers when I was in my 20s and I’d say, “I managed to eke out 3 miles today before work”.  And I was toasted the rest of the day.  I’m getting stronger, I guess. 

Shelton is shaped like a bowl.  Hills are unavoidable and don’t qualify in my mind as “easy”, hence the machine. I set up on the treadmill, oscillating fan trained only on me and my treadmill.  The fan, it seems, is a huge point of contention.  Real men don’t like air blowing on them when they’re running in place.  I get all kinds of snarky comments and dirty looks, so I’ve learned to ask if people want it on at all, or want me to leave it on when I’m done.  Women, in general, seem to like the fan more.  Maybe it’s that longing to be a supermodel with windswept hair leftover from little girl dreams.

Yesterday, running felt tough.  The first 2 miles usually are the hardest, getting into a groove.  I don’t really like hearing my feet on the machine – pound, pound, right, left – but I don’t want to change machines.  This one, closest to the fan, is the most “on time”.  If I run  10-minute miles, I don’t lose many precious seconds hitting the half-miles and miles.  The one right next to it is at least 4 seconds slower, even at the same pace.  Weird but true.

But the other miles were cake.  I kept upping my speed. I know, I was supposed to do it easy.  And I didn’t up it that much, just a tenth of a mile per hour every mile or so.  And I thought, I’m doing it.  I’m really a runner.  I felt like a gazelle. Nobody could catch me. Okay, a cheetah could. I remember from those old Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom shows. But that’s not the point.

Some of you know I’ve run long distances before.  Half marathons, to be exact.  But a lot of the time during those races I felt like the little girl from Oregon, trying to make good.  I didn’t know if I could run with the big boys.  Lots of people passed me then; still do.  I am not the fastest, though I am getting faster in my dotage.  When things don’t go well on your runs, you can start to wonder if you even want to do it anymore.  You question training and diet and just everything.

Then I have a day like yesterday where I felt like a little kid at recess again, and I remember why I love to run.  Even if no one’s chasing me.

Petite Advantage?

It's all about the shoes.

Today I ran 7 miles. It wasn’t consecutive but I did it. I haven’t run that far since sometime last summer, ever since the Bubblewrap Incident.

It felt good. I didn’t get queasy. I got a little shaky and my right leg cramped up at mile 5, but not to the point where I felt I was physically throwing my leg forward for each stride.

I ran on the treadmill. Generally, doing long distances on the treadmill is torturous. It’s very boring and the scenery barely changes. It gets hot and crowded in the gym. Sometimes people feel like they need to compete with you. But the rain was bad, even for me, the girl who doesn’t mind running in the rain (much). It’d be better if I didn’t mind if my face or feet got wet. As long as I don’t get too chilled, I’m good.

While I ran, I considered something I saw yesterday. I read a book, or rather, I skimmed a book called The Petite Advantage Diet.  My mom brought it with her for me to check out.  The first thing I noticed: the book is very anti-running for shorties.  The author, Jim Karas, says that short women should avoid cardio because it increases your appetite.  He also argues that running disturbs your posture.  You tend to stick your neck out and hunch your shoulders while running.  Who wants that?  He’s a big advocate of weight training (check!) and using resistance bands. The exercises in the back of the book are, well, goofy and boring.  I can’t imagine fastening a colored rubber band to a door like a Johnny-Jump-Up and stretching my arms and legs.  I’ve tried to do these sorts of workouts before and I always get bored, not to mention frustrated.  They’re not interesting or challenging enough. Plus, you look dorky.

He makes some good points about how petites have a smaller body size, a smaller frame to stretch food out on, and so portion size is a big issue.  He says tall people are in the Olympic-sized pool and petites are in the “baby pool”.  Thanks for that!  Whatever “splashes” over the side – meaning overeating – becomes fat for us.  He emphasizes eating clean – cut down sodium and additives and sugary drinks. He says to eat less “snacky crap” and empty carbs.  So far, except for the portion stuff, nothing new there.  The diet itself is a lot like the South Beach or Atkins Diets. 

There truly is nothing new under the sun.

In the past, I would have jumped on the bandwagon and done what he suggested.  I would have spent $100 a week just on my groceries, purchasing asparagus and strawberries out of season and hoping the rest of my family would eat what I could not due to the strict meal plans.  I know, having done the South Beach diet before, I would miss good carbs.  You can’t run just eating fruits and veggies; I’ve tried it.  At least, you can’t run far – 3-4 miles, tops, before you crash. Your stamina won’t hold up. I think I know myself enough to realize that I need challenges. I need goals to reach for.  I need to be around people and to have variety.  Otherwise, no matter how skinny I get, I will fall off the wagon and back to my wicked ways, doing the things I love:  running and kettlebells.

I’m not sure what the advantage is in this whole thing. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool to have secret agent skills because you’re shorter than the average bear? I would love a photographic memory or some other superhuman power. Look out, Tom Cruise!

So, while I appreciate someone has taken the time to research why short women can’t lose weight like their 5’9″ friends, I think I’ll stick to my old regime. I can certainly eat less junk and watch my caffeine intake.  And while it may seem prejudiced to single shrimpy gals out, I’m okay with that. Short people may have slightly different rules than their statuesque friends, but they’re still in the race. Perhaps the advantage is our cute little feet.

Has anyone else read this book or tried this diet?  I read a couple of interesting reviews and would love to hear anyone else’s experiences.