In the Long Run

Photo by  This isn't me.  I hate running on beaches.  So there.

Photo by This isn’t me. I hate running on beaches. So there.

I’m training for a half marathon and each week I’ve added an extra mile onto my long runs.  Can I tell you they have each been hard in their own way?  The ten-miler was tough because my brain had to get around the double digits involved.  The eleven-miler last week hit me hard because my heart wasn’t in it at the start.  Then my legs started to hurt.  A lot.  I walked a ton and ended up feeling defeated by the time I reached home. 

This pattern didn’t encourage me.  How could I recapture enjoying running long distances again?  I thought about it off and on over the week.  I knew I needed to run this morning, a Thursday, because we leave for Rockaway for a family reunion-beach vacation in about an hour.  Running 12 miles along Hwy. 101, aka the road with a teeny shoulder, fog and log trucks, didn’t appeal to me.

I talked to Jonathon about it last night. I thought there might be a mind-body connection, meaning the more I worried about it, the more the muscles seized up.

“You need to change your meta cognition,” he said.

Huh?  Dr. I., you lost me!

“You need to think about how you’re thinking,” he explained.  “When you ran long before, you didn’t focus on your legs hurting.  You didn’t care.  You got excited thinking about the distance involved and just getting there. You love being out on the road.”

I pondered this for a moment.  It’s so long ago now.  Did I?  Methinks he’s right.

“So, you can do this.  Who cares if your leg hurts?  You finished last week, even through the pain.  What’s one more mile?” He smiled his adorable smile, the one that melted my heart.  I got it.

Indeed.  This does not mean if excruciating pain or injury crops up that I will ignore it.  It does mean that aches and pains are part of running and training.  I can strengthen muscles and stretch out kinks, but pain remains. If I don’t hurt, frankly, I wonder if I’ve done enough.

This morning, I got up, did my devotionals and got caught up on the world, ate breakfast, completed my chores and went out for a 12-mile run.

As I moved along, I thought about Jonathon’s insightful assessment.  The pain came.  I let it ride.  Yes, I walked a bit.  Especially when my left calf cramped up in mile 9.  I stretched it as best I could and kept going, walking when necessary. I thought about how I’d mentally counted myself out because of this pain that has dogged me for more than a year.  What if I didn’t let it stop me?  What could I accomplish?

Do I hate walking while on a run?  Yes!  Do I get discouraged when I need to walk now?  No.  I never would have been able to say that to the old Susan. Walking doesn’t mean it’s over.  Walking is taking a break, reassessing, but still moving.  I ain’t dead yet.

And so it is in every aspect of life.  We keep parenting even when we see no visible fruit.  We keep loving and serving our spouses in the darkest times.  We took a vow and the vow binds us.  We go to work and do the best we can to honor God and our employer, though things get sketchy at times.  We may need to walk at times, change tactics and figure out a new strategy.  We may need to apologize and backtrack. Pain is part of the human experience.  It’s not the end of the story, but possibly the beginning of a new chapter.

There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion! – Ecclesiastes 9:4



Five Miles Before Breakfast

I wandered outside this morning just before the sun rose.  The chilly 40-something degree weather caused me to zip up my jacket.  I looked up into the pale blue. The sky was partly cloudy, a half-moon hanging in the sky like a divided sugar cookie.  As I ran up the hill, fog engulfed me. I could literally see it floating down from the sky like a fuzzy blanket.

As I turned east, I could see the sun.  It had crested the horizon and sat in stillness, a valiant yellow blur. Very few cars passed me and only three pedestrians, one running like me.

I’d forgotten how beautiful and peaceful these mornings can be.  The hanging baskets, newly hung in anticipation of summer and the impending Forest Festival, garnished my running route.  They look small now, blossoms barely overhanging the baskets.  But by October, they’ll be stuffed and overflowing with fragrant flowers.

I walked Ruby to school this morning.  As I hurried her along, the sun picked out the sparkly dot-to-dot of slug tracks. Pink rhododendrons blushed along the road. Birds flitted and landed above us.

“Look, Mom!  Over there,” Ruby pointed.

A dog, curly tail wagging, partially obscured by tall grass, was taking himself for a walk.  I could feel his happiness a half a block away. I smiled. In that moment, I felt grateful.

I wonder about our kids.  I remember with great regret some of the mistakes I’ve made.  I’ve apologized as well as I know how and tried to learn from my errors.  I pray our kids will grow to be like those overstuffed baskets, scenting the world around them with acts of joy, peace and love.




Friday Fundamentals

For reals.

For reals.

There’s a gal in my neighborhood who walks every day, rain or shine, down Olympic Highway.  Olympic Highway isn’t really a highway in town; just a main thoroughfare.  It has a pedestrian walk on one side of the concrete median.  She trudges along in raingear.  She hikes with purpose through the damp, foggy mornings.  Sometimes she’s in a purple fleece coat.  Other times she’s wearing  a bright neon raincoat, hood up.

She used to come to kettlebells.  She and I had the same silver, purple and gold Asics (GT-2170, if you’re wondering.  Still my favorite running shoes).  Mine I used for running, hers for urban hiking.  We struck up a slight, shoe-based acquaintance. Then she quit.

“Susan, I couldn’t take the music!” she whispered to me one time, shaking her blonde-gray curls in consternation.  Well, it is an acquired taste.  Ozzy and ACDC and Poison and such.  But I can’t imagine swinging a huge metal object to Bach or Mozart.  Not happening.

Sometimes I pass her and her husband as they traverse the way, me running up and them striding down. We smile and say hello, waving through the Shelton dew.

“Don’t you get tired of the same route all the time?” I asked her once.  “I lose motivation running the same route over and over.  Gets incredibly boring.” True story.

“Oh no,” she told me.  “I just get on autopilot and go.  I don’t have to think about it,” she smiled.  “Besides, my husband buys me a coffee every morning at Starbucks and it’s waiting for me when I arrive.”

Pretty good gig.  Pretty great husband, I think.

I saw her this morning after class, heading down the hill. Rain, then hail, poured down on her.  Now it was my turn to smile as I drove past . She carried a bunch of pink rhododendron blossoms in her hand. They bobbed along in time with her steps. Her walk has become a meditation to her, a daily habit of movement and thought and processing.  I understood.




passionCan you really bottle it?

I’ve been pondering passion lately.  As part of a recent skin care purchase, I got a perfume sample.  It’s a glass tube with a roll-on applicator.  As I opened the slender crimson box labeled “Passion”, I thought, Ooh!  Passion.  Exciting!  I held the ombre-colored bottle, fading from faintest amber to maroon.  I removed the metallic top and rolled it on my wrists and dotted it on my neck.  It smelled wonderful, with a sort of musky, powdery scent. “Express you inner passion with this bold statement of sparkling star fruit, sensual jasmine and alluring vanilla bourbon and creamy musk” says the box. Behold, the essence of passion. Sounds delicious.  Can I get whipped cream on that?

The word passion conjures up various images.  Most of them have been hijacked by the media – sex, lust, heat, etc. The sexual element is a possible subset of passion.  Passion, in fact, is a stand-alone word.  It needs no filler or qualifiers.

Pas·sion: 1 – strong and barely controllable emotion. 2 – the suffering and death of Jesus.

For my blog today, I’d like to focus on the first definition.  What does it mean to have passion?  Some synonyms are ardor, passion, zeal, enthusiasm.

Passion drives us to become better people.  Passion gets us up in the morning to serve those we love. We would do anything for our family.  Passion enables us commit to one person for the rest of our lives. We place our spouse’s needs before our own. Passion causes us to birth babies.  Not the creating of babies, but getting through the birth.  We long to see the little one’s face.  Passion drove Rex to battle Rita.  Of course, he paid for it with a few bites and scratches, but he’s recovering.

You might be saying it sounds an awful lot like love.   I don’t think you can be passionate about anything or anyone without loving it, at least a little.

Psalm 69:9 – Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

I’m realizing I need more passion for the things God has put in front of me.  How do I express my passion?  I don’t need a fragrance, I need actions. I need creative ways to pour out my passion for God, my family and friends.  I don’t want to be uncontrollable.  I do want to be deliberate yet zealous.  Can passion be disciplined?  I wonder.

For Janathon today, due to time constraints of getting to church by 7:30 a.m. and very tight hamstrings, I did a lengthy set of stretches.  I truly needed more rest.  Late in the day, I found  another break in the floodwaters and walked outside for 20 minutes.  Fresh air, gusty winds and downed limbs.  Doesn’t get much better than that!

Take 5

This Dave Brubeck tune seemed appropriate, since it’s 5 days into Janathon.  Extra points if you know why the song above  is called Take 5.

Sundays are usually rest days for me.  Occasionally I’ll run on a Sunday if I took Saturday off instead. But today, I walked for a half hour. I grumbled to myself a little about going outside. From what I could see, the day seemed forbidding. I bundled up because it was clear and cold. The sunrise blushed on the horizon.  A few brave birds swirled in the air – sparrows, chickadees, crows and of course, seagulls.  The dreamy landscape painted in muted grays, browns and blues evoked a more delicate beauty.  Shelton creek, undeterred by the freeze, gurgled on its meandering way under the town.  I only saw a couple of people out and about.  Too cold and early to be on the loose, I guess.

Later in the day, when we returned from church, Ruby spotted something.

“Look, Mom!  A deer is in our yard!” Her voice rose in excitement.

I looked out my window.  Actually, there were two does.  One quickly departed up the hillside.  The other did this.

Not our deer, but close.

Not our deer, but close.

The deer just gazed at us, as curious about us as we were about her. We suddenly found ourselves plunged into a bubble of silence, held by her liquid stare.  A breath.  We blinked. Then she turned and followed her companion into the trees.

Happy Sunday!

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.

Saturday Synopsis

I apologize for not blogging yesterday, but time got away from me.  I had a long conversation with a friend of mine and it gave me a lot to think about.  More on that another time.

A few updates:

This is day 3 (or is it more?) of icy fog that never lifts.  It gets to 33 degrees every day.  Is this what London weather is like?

My back is getting better.  I’m almost ready to try running again.  Almost.  Because of this injury, I’m trying new things.  I’m walking again, which isn’t running, but isn’t terrible, either.  I walked on the treadmill this morning at a pretty good clip for about 30 minutes, the first time on that apparatus in several weeks.  It was a bit disheartening to watch other people, some whom I knew, come and run next to me.  I’m not there yet.  I am going to see what else I can do to mix it up and fire up ye olde metabolism.  I’m not dead yet!  This is an opportunity to explore.

I realized yesterday that I’m very grateful for my friends, in real life and online.  I don’t care if you’re male or female.  If we’re able to establish some common ground and learn from each other, I’m glad you’re in my life.  Of course, if you’re male, we can’t share our birthing experiences.

Moving on.

Rex continues to battle Rita.  Rita bloodies him, but he perseveres.  Haven’t seen Rita around much.  Rex is winning the war.

I’m appreciating the love that is in my life, now.  I am married to a fabulous guy who puts up with my moods and penchant for exercise.  I have two adorable children who I would do anything for, and are learning to do for each other and others.  Most of my immediate family lives here, too, and they provide a supportive, loving framework for me.

I’m finally, finally learning that who we are is so much more than what we look like.  We can spend so much time trying to lose weight, be hip or what have you that we lose sight of our mission as people.  I’m thinking more and more about ways to serve and to love others and be Jesus to them. What would make them happy?  How can I encourage or edify?  I may not always have the finances, but I can give of my time and my care.  I can also bake things.  And they’re edible.

Which brings me to…sugar.  I’ve tried to go sugar-free again, this time with a sister-in-law.  I managed about 4 days.  Woot!  But I’m also learning that sugar is not the enemy.  The real issue is learning to eat all things in moderation, and stopping when I’m full.  Period.  Otherwise, I’m looking at world with no chocolate chip cookies, cake or ice cream.  That’s just…unacceptable!  I’m also learning that there will always be another opportunity for dessert.  I can let it pass by sometimes.

God’s grace is immeasurable.  Just when I think I’ve blown it forever, He comes through.  I don’t have to live this life alone.  He is always with me.  He gives me the strength to do the things I thought I couldn’t.  He is the center of my joy.