Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If A Tree Falls In the Forest, Will You Hear Me Scream When I Trip Over It?

This past Sunday, I reached two distinctive mileposts in my running (mis)adventures:
I ran 8 miles.
I fell.

I rejoice at the 8 miles because it's a personal distance record for me. I'm training for a half marathon and clearly am still early in the process. I was doing really well and then came down with a respiratory virus that's been going around here. The crud sidelined me for 12 days, and when I went back to running earlier in the week, I was incredibly tired and just couldn't reach my previous mileage.
                                                                            Here   Sidelined for almost 2 weeks...
So Sunday, I was psyched to get out there and kill my long run. It was a little on the chilly side, which I love, with a pretty nippy wind blowing. Perfect! I don't "glow" as much when the weather is like that. A race was being held at our usual location, a really nice greenway, so my husband and I decided to try a nearby park. We'd never been, but I had heard there was a nice lake with trails in the surrounding woods.
                                                                               Here  Nice wind blowing....
So off we went. Talk about rugged! The trail started out innocently enough, a flat pressed dirt trail around the lake. But once it entered the woods, it became another animal entirely.
                                                                               Here   Like a jungle in there...
Every foot or so were huge, tangled roots. Trees were downed all around, branches and sticks littering the trail. The path was eroded everywhere, so there were large dips and swells to bound up and down at difficult angles. We had to squeeze between trees in quite a few places.

We should have left. But I'm not a quitter, and since I'd been recently sick, I really, really wanted to get a long run in.

That was, literally, my downfall. My desire to run got the better of my judgment. At one point, I was zipping along, picking up speed, and then my shoe caught in a root, and I went sprawling.
                                                                          Here   Just like that....
As I fell, I had nanoseconds to think, "This really isn't good." I'd been going at a brisk pace, so the momentum carried me forward pretty quickly. I slid a good three feet along that forest floor like a Hoover, picking up pine needles, twigs, pebbles, and I think a small squirrel.
                                                                            Here   Pulled out of my ear...
When I hit, I hit hard on my right knee and shoulder. My head bobbed down on impact and my chin started scraping along the ground. In slow motion, I was yelling inside my head, "Nooooooooooooooo, not the faaaaaacccccceeeeeeeee!" So I lifted my head up like a trumpet swan, diving along the rough terrain. Have you seen the old movie Romancing The Stone? Remember the scene where Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas are in the rain forest and start slipping down side of the mountain? That was how I felt.  I slid sideways across the path and finally came to a stop.
                                                                               Here    Only dirtier, and not as glamorous...
I was amazed at how badly it hurt when I hit. When you're a kid and you fall, it's no big deal at all. You jump right up and go on with what you're doing. When you're 53, you lie there a little while, stunned, and then take a quick personal inventory. Anything broken? Don't think so. Chin and hand scraped up, yes. Shoulder hurting like the dickens. Knee-- uh-oh. I can't have anything happen to my knee! I'm running a race in March!!
                                                                            Here   NOT a child anymore!!
My husband, who had been walking the same route that I'd been running, eventually caught up to me and helped me up. My knee didn't want to support my weight at first, but as I limped along, it got better. We decided to leave immediately, and go back to our greenway. The race was over by then. When we got there, I ran an additional 5 miles, slowly and gingerly, but I made the mileage.

After getting home, I took a hot bath with epsom salts and then iced my knee for a while. We had dinner plans so went ahead with them.

That night,  I loaded up on ibuprofen. I gobbed up my backside with some sports creme. Ever see how red that makes you? Reminds me of an orangutan.... But I learned a lesson. At 53, if you're a klutz, forget the path less traveled. I'm keeping on the paved trails for a while.
                                                                                   .Here   Ouch....   

Monday, February 27, 2012

Commitment: And I Don't Mean To An Asylum

When I commit to something, I really commit. Fully, with every fiber of my being, to the nth degree. To the point of how the word is connected with insanity.
When I was a mere youngster of 16, I asked the captain of the baseball team to our school's Sadie Hawkin's dance, and once there, said to myself, "I'm gonna marry this guy."  Yep, 36 years later, I'm still with him. So believe me when I say I can stick with something.

It's no different now when I have a passion for running. After I took those first tentative steps, I realized this was for the long term. By golly, I was going to run or die (it was a toss-up there for a while.)

I started off with an old pair of stretchy shorts, a cotton t-shirt and some sneakers I'd had for years. As my distance increased, I discovered those shoes really hurt. A quick trip to a running store and an evaluation there revealed I was wearing shoes almost 2 sizes too small! Who knew I was Bigfoot?
As for the cotton t-shirt...well, I've already revealed how much I despise "glowing" -- the delicate Southern term for gentleladies' sweating. That cotton soaked up my glow in no time flat and in summer was like a heavy wet blanket glued around my midsection. Then I discovered the most fabulous invention of all time -- wicking technology! Wicking products remove sweat from your skin, leaving you cooler, and keep the clothing drier and lighter. As God is my witness, I'll never wear cotton again!
My husband says now I have every running accoutrement known to mankind.  When I'm interested in something, I do diligent research. So I own a modest (in my opinion) amount of running "stuff." Well, ok, my stash of stuff has grown. In the beginning, I simply held a bottle of water and my iPhone. That was no good, because in a few miles you don't want to be carrying things, you want your hands free. So I bought an armband to hold the phone and a belt to hold the water bottle. But the big bottles uncomfortably whacked my hips while I was running.  I'd come home black and blue. So I found, much to my delight, this awesome little bottle which attaches to the hand by velcro. I don't even have to expend energy to hold it!! And now I have a much thinner belt with a tiny pouch so I can hold my Sports Beans or Gu Chomps, if I go on a long run. These replenish electrolytes when I've glowed a little too much.
                                                                   Stylin' like Fergie... here                  
Of course I needed something to keep all that glow out of my eyes. Ever seen the old movie Broadcast News when Albert Brook's character finally gets his big break and subs for the weekend anchor?? Yeah, that's me, only magnify it by about 1000.
So I bought some headbands. Every one flew off my oddly pointy head until I hit upon the Nike ones with the rubber grips. Finally, something to sop up the sweat!!
In the beginning, my knees hurt a lot ( I had never even exercised before.) My muscles weren't built up enough yet to support running, so I purchased knee braces in hot pink. They helped tremendously until I strengthened my knees.

Yet another amazing product is wicking socks. They are genius -- because when you run, your feet swell and sweat a LOT. But these socks keep the moisture away so your feet stay dry and comfortable the entire run. Cotton socks will give you blisters, so make sure you've got wicking ones.

And lastly there is: the Garmin sports watch. My husband bought it for me as a gift to support my running. I was salivating over this watch for 9 months. It had everything I thought I wanted. The heart rate monitor (to make sure I wasn't pushing myself too hard into a heart attack), a gps system (I am always lost), wireless downloading of all the data to my computer and much, much more...Yay-uh!!
Except now I must confess -- I am totally technologically challenged. I am a Neanderthal on the computer. "Me press key? (Grunt.) What key do?" So this watch gives my husband his daily quota of entertainment as I prepare to go on a run.
I assemble all these items in preparation for my run. First, it takes me a good 10 minutes just to squeeze into my compression tights (they fight muscle fatigue). Do you remember when we were kids and we would draw that picture of a light bulb, which in reality was supposed to be a naked woman getting into her girdle? This was the height of hilarity for 10 year olds. THAT is what I look like trying to squeeeeeeeeze my body into the tights. Next,  I do that awkward jumping-up-and-down-trying-to-get-gravity-to-force-all-the-jiggly-bits-into-a-funnel motion. There is MUCH jumping and wriggling. Then I have to take a few minutes to recover, because I'm blue from lack of blood flow to my lower extremities.
Once I have winched myself into the tights, I put on the sports bra (I will give no details here)and wicking shirt and then I'm ready to load up on the "stuff". Put the iPhone into the armband, slide onto said arm, then struggle to fasten velcro with one hand. Plug in earphones. Strap on watch, put on Road ID if I'm running alone (in case I'm lying gasping by the side of the road). Socks, shoes -- check.  Headband on, and if it's dark, a headlamp and Knuckle Lights, high-beam flashlights that slip over your fingers so you don't have to hold them. Then the velcroing water bottle. By the time I'm ready to run, I weigh an extra 50 pounds.

I feel like a Marine at boot camp, throwing on my weighted pack and going out for a 30-mile run. "I don't know but I've been told...."  My legs feel as heavy as gold? It's %$#@ to run in the cold? Patsy Albrecht is really old?  When it comes to Marines, I guess I'm the Gomer Pyle of running.
But, back to the Garmin and entertaining my hubs. He usually accompanies me to the Y and walks the track while I run. So while in the car (yes, I'm aware of the irony of driving to a place to run, thank you), I am trying to fire up the ol' Garmin. I turn it on, then I have to swipe the touchscreen for it to locate the satellite to get the gps to work.  I swipe, and swipe, and swipe, and swipe, and after about 150 times doing this, it begins to locate the satellite. That can take a while. So by the time it finally finds it, the energy saving feature turns on and starts beeping at me. I have to press the right button to make that stop. I push the wrong one. I start the timer instead. I try to turn that off.  Wrong button. That starts the nifty little feature this model has -- you can race against yourself. Yes, it uses data from a previous run and a little man appears on the screen and runs against you. One problem -- I'm in the car riding, and don't want to race Mini-Me. So I try to turn this off. You get the picture. While hubby is driving, he is beset by a volley of beeps, chirps, flashing lights and cursing wife. By the time we arrive at the Y, I am ready to throw my Garmin in the trash.

But once I get the features straightened out, it is finally my time. There is nothing like running at night -- it's as if  it's just me and the universe out there. This track is dimly lit, so the stars sparkle brightly overhead. It's quiet, usually just the two of us. Sometimes I turn the music and flashlights off, and run as if I'm the only soul alive. The solitary sound is the crunch of my shoes on the gravel, and the steady rhythm of my heart and breathing.  The wind is blowing through my hair, a huge moon is looming overhead, the air is fresh and cool, the trees are swaying in the soft breeze -- and it is magic. I am free, suspended between the black velvet of the night sky and the dark, sweet, comforting earth below.

Yes, I'm committed. Unequivocally committed to the clarity, peace and joy that running  brings me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What To Do When Your Children Try To Kill You Off Early

Last year, my oldest daughter, who lives in Boston -- did I mention she is an attorney? < insert image of proud mama beaming like this has something to do with how I was in labor with her for 14 long, grueling, horrendously painful hours with NO epidural, and absolutely nothing to do with her own intelligence> --called to tell me she had started this program named C25k. It sounded vaguely outer-space-ish to me, perhaps because in my uniquely circuited  brain I kept somehow confusing it with  Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is often abbreviated MST3k.
At any rate, she kept telling me she'd started this cosmonaut program (or whatever) and thought I would love it. I listened with half an ear, as mothers of four are wont to do, until I realized it was a RUNNING plan. "What?? I am 52 years old!! I've never exercised in my entire life! Are you trying to get your inheritance early?" I asked incredulously. "Do you EVER remember me doing anything even vaguely healthy??" She had to demur that she did not. I was pleased with her recall.

But she kept on about it until finally, on New Year's Day 2011, I decided if I didn't try then, I was only going to become more decrepit and wizened and would never be able to maintain my health enough to someday live with each child just to pay them all back for what they put me through in their teenage years. So I climbed onto the dusty state-of-the-art treadmill which takes up a good third of our bedroom, pushed start and -- nothing. I discovered it needed to be plugged  in.

I quickly realized I was in over my head.  This plan meant I had to actually move!! For minutes at a time!!

Here was the schedule for Week 1 Day 1 for Couch To 5k:
5 minute warm up
Run 30 seconds
Walk 45 seconds
Run 45 seconds
Walk 60 seconds
Run 60 seconds
Walk 90 seconds
And -- most unbelievable of all --repeat this THREE TIMES!! FOR THREE DAYS A WEEK!! AND IT GOT HARDER EACH WEEK!!!
(Then cool down with a 5 minute walk. You should always have a cool-down period.)
Were they insane????? The people who created this training program must have found directions for torture from the Spanish Inquisition! I mean, really -- I was 52, for Pete's sake! I could keel over and die! I could pull something! I could have to pee! I could.......SWEAT!

Now, there is nothing worse to me than sweat. I was born, bred and raised in the South, and I will die a Southern belle. In the South, we "glow."  During this program, my "glow" plastered my hair to my head, dripped into my eyes, ran down my back, slid over my paunch,  and puddled around my feet. I learned to sling that "glow" off my forehead with a perfected flip that even a professional athlete would have been proud of.

Side note:  I look absolutely nothing like Vivien Leigh (I could only wish) but if you are going to put a photo of a Southern belle in your blog to represent you, you want the epitome of belleishness. Hey, I'm not crazy, I get to pick the photos.
 Side note: My husband said in all fairness I should show who I actually look more like.                                                                        
 So, each day I'd venture out into the neighborhood, hoping not to run into anyone I knew (read my "Boo Radley" blog of how I have frightened small children), and,  iPhone in hand, I'd push the C25k app. Off I would glow, gung-ho for the first 5-minute warm-up walk, but then that darn bell would ring, and a voice would pleasantly scream: "RUNNNNNNNNNNNN!"

Now, running 60 or 90 seconds may not seem much to you. It doesn't even sound that difficult as I type this. But time is a funny thing, my friends. Have you ever noticed how fluid it is? When you are enjoying something, time simply flies by on joyful little sparrow wings. Before you know it, practically before you can even register the pleasantry in your brain, it's over. It has rushed right by you like a barrel over Niagara Falls.                                                          
Yet the opposite is true for bad things, right? People who are in terrible accidents or have had some type of traumatic occurrence say that time stops for them. We've all seen those horror movies, where the crazed knife-wielding maniac in a hockey mask is approaching the sniveling, screaming, scantily clad slutty girl in slowwwwwwwwwwwww moooooooootion, so slowly she could easily escape, but no, of course not, she is a girl and so the director has her trip and fall over her own stupid feet, not once but maybe three or four times.....ummm, yes, well, anyway, when bad things happen, time really drags, that's my point.
Those 60 seconds of running became for me a river of Elmer's glue- and wet-cement -laden molasses paved not with tumbled rocks but sticky fly strips holding each foot captive.  I was slogging for a decade through a yawning chasm of glowing, gasping, on-the-teetering-brink-of-death-right-before-you-tip-over-into-it agony by forcing my body to do something it had never done before, 52 years of every ache and pain I'd ever experienced rolled into tiny, torturous, 60-second increments. I hurt. I hurt bad.

But each day, I got out there -- because if my daughter could do it, so could I. More importantly, SHE thought I could do it. What mother wants to let her baby chick down? Oops, didn't mean to show my maternal side, I'm trying show my bad-ass side right now. Raar.
And an amazing, miraculous thing happened along the way.  Those 60 seconds of running got --- easier. I quit hurting. I began to look forward to getting out there. Each day, I began to think of the challenge as something I was going to push myself to achieve, and best of all, I began to believe I could triumph.
Flash-forward a year. I've run 3k, 5k, 8k and 10k races, and I've won a little age-group bling. Pretty proud of it, actually. I'm looking forward to running a half-marathon soon -- training for it as we speak. So, what I want to tell you is this:
Get out there and make your dream a reality. You CAN do it!! Whether you  want to start C25K yourself, or you want to take a yoga class, or you secretly yearn to run a marathon, my advice is never, ever give up! Because the best revenge when your children try to kill you off early to get their share of the will is -- you'll be in such great shape they'll never be able to catch you.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Is That Boo Radley Hiding Behind My Door?

Let me put your mind at ease right from the start -- no. No, it was not. No sense in stretching out the drama for no reason.

Because -- equally frightening -- it was me. Or to be more precise, it was the reflection of me that I glimpsed in the mirror on my door:  the horrifying sight of myself,  in full, glorious, total deconstruction after completing a long run.

Some women look gorgeous in their running regalia. They have daintily feminine, tight little racer-back tops paired with vibrant capris, color-coordinated wicking socks, and gorgeous, to-die-for multicolored running shoes. They have their perfectly pony-tailed, long, flowing, Rapunzel-like blonde locks (they're always blonde, aren't they? --insert jealous smirk here--), and their adorable matching Bondi-bands, and they almost prance across those finish lines, feet barely touching the tarmac.
I, on the other hand, look like some stumbling nightmare Tim Burton hallucinated while coming down after a weekend of meth- and bourbon-bingeing and kinky sex with prostitutes. First off, usually when I run, I wear black. Obviously, it's the most slimming choice :) but even better than that, it hides the humongous sweat circles -- no, I can't even call them circles, they are sweat galaxies -- that are pouring in a deluge off my lumpy body. Did I mention I am a very pale person? Black is not the most fetching hue on albino-like people. So already I look like one of the Walking Dead before I even go on a run.
Next, the challenge of my hair. I have worn my hair short for decades and just last year caved to the pleas of my youngest son who wore me down with his constant begging for me to "just grow it out and let me see what it looks like long, Mom." He said he had never seen me with long hair. Not true. I have shown him photos of me in high school, after swearing him to secrecy and threatening I would boot him out of the will if he ever breathed a word of them to anyone. My suspicion is he has this idea that if only my hair were long, I would look like the mothers of his friends, who are all petite blondes with large breasts who formerly worked at Victoria's Secret and are a good quarter-century younger than I. It's heart-breaking, I know.
But back to the hair. Red hair, not really flaming, but bright enough out under that merciless, God-forsaken, galaxy-sweat-inducing sun and when I've let it fade longer than the recommended 4-6 weeks, which is most of the time because do we really need to spend $160 to get our hair dyed? But that's the subject of another blog, I am sure. The hair. The hair is the thing. So, anyway, I have been letting this red shade of hair grow out for a while and now I have it in a sort of chin-length bob. Not a bad look when I'm all cleaned up, but definitely sort of Carol-Burnett-playing-Norma-Desmond when I'm in the midst of my plague (read my first blog post) or during/after a run.
So, the other day, I was at the end of a long run, and I shambled upon a neighbor I had not seen in a while, with his two young children in tow. The girl looked at me in absolute HORROR. She actually turned her body away from me -- can you imagine?? THAT is how much she could not bear the sight of me! Ok, I knew I looked bad, but do people not teach their children manners anymore? Do they not instill  that when you see a 53-year-old woman who has run many, many, many, many miles (at least two) in the broiling 43-degree heat, it is not polite to involuntarily curl your lip in disgust? Gimme a break, I knew  I looked horrible! It was misty out too, which was definitely NOT my fault. My hair is fairly curly, which I fight every day to tame into that dang Desmond bob and when damp (either from sweat or rain-- so take your pick, it is always damp when I run), and I am wearing my Nike headband with the rubber grips to keep that &%$@ sweat out of my eyes (which I had surgically improved -- yeah, yeah, fodder for another blog post)-- my hair starts to poke up in little spikes all over my head. Not attractive, cool, punk-rock kind of spikes -- noooOOOoooo, God forbid I look cool -- it forms these awkward, lumpy (yes, I know I already used that word earlier in describing my body), alien little masses all over my head.
And my face was a bright, mottled red that I can only compare to our English bulldog Boudreaux's flubber when I take him to the vet and he gets overexcited and starts hyperventilating.
So you can see why perhaps I was a little startled and mistook my reflection as Boo Radley hiding behind my door.
My husband disagreed with me, however. "I don't think you look like Boo Radley at all. You look more like Michael Keaton in  Beetlejuice."
His bad luck -- he can't outrun me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Date Which Will Live In Famy

Oh. Hello there, fellow wayfarers! On this yellow brick road of life, you have stumbled your way, been directed,  or coerced into reading my very first blog post.  Ta da! I welcome you with arms wide open! 

Hmmmmmm...so why am I here, waiting for you?

Because this blog is the culmination of several things --
1) the nagging feeling (the Godvoice) that I could use something I enjoy doing to help others;

2) my slowly distilling philosophy of life that some have found inspirational and motivational;

3) a goodly number of these people mentioning that they would like to read my musings; and

4) the fortune cookie I got yesterday.
Get ready for it.....
Drumroll pleaseeeeeeeee....
(Are you seriously ready for this? It is truly awesome!!)
"Now is a great time to broaden your scope of influence."
Well, heck, who am I to turn down opportunity when it is glaring in my face,  after I have cracked it open and eaten its yummy golden cookie deliciousness?  Et voila! Le Blog.

The Name Game
The most important part of a blog is, initially, of course, its NAME. Must be creative, unique, succinct, catchy enough to pique the readers' interest at first glance...must be the epitome of all your talent wrapped into one singular, simple title....must be a nugget which conveys all the myriad topics you wish to discuss... Must, must, must -- Phew, there are a lot of requirements to churning out the perfect name. Having been a creative writer in my youth, then working as a copywriter in an advertising agency, and lastly bestowing four adorable children with equally adorable names, this should be a slam dunk, am I right? But, the more I thought, the more I was overcome with doubts, plagues and fears. I doubted I could nail this, or that I was talented enough to even think  about writing, or even if I was brave enough to put pen to paper (er, pink-and-white acrylic nails to my Acer keyboard?) that anyone would even want to read it....and then plague came in the form of a nasty little respiratory virus that literally and figuratively stopped me cold. However, (Ha! Out, out, damn cold!) I outfoxed it and lolled in bed drinking good hot tea and eating succulent oranges until I came up with the most magnificent idea ever --- I, uh, actually texted my oldest daughter, an incredibly talented and brilliant wordsmith in her own right, and begged her to come to my aid, which she immediately did, as every obedient and dutiful daughter should. Yay me,  mom! Not only did I birth a genius but she's a good girl, too. And a darned handy namecrafter. Kudos.
I'm a big convert to living life positively. I've had some heartaches in my life, which I may share on down the road, but I've wasted a large portion of my allotted time wallowing in sorrow and self-pity. I look back with sadness at that wounded woman, but now also with determination that I will not fritter away one more second of my increasingly brief life. I took up running a year ago and I can honestly say, that trite adage is true:  It DID change my life. I am happier, healthier (despite my recent plague) and, I think, a better person for running. So one of my goals for this blog is to share my challenges and achievements in exercising and getting healthier --especially for anyone who's a little "older" (I'm 53) -- and help motivate you to achieve your own fitness goals.  I also want to encourage you to pursue your other dreams, whether that may be writing, painting, sewing, going to mime school, knitting, Pinteresting (is that a word yet? Remember folks, you heard it here first!)  or anything you think will enrich your own life. I spent many years without a dream, and that's a bleak existence. I want you to dream large, and know, really know, deep down in your heart and your blood and your guts,  that you WILL  reach whatever it is you set out to do. Together, I am convinced WE CAN DO ANYTHING!! So, I will be sharing positive, motivational quotes and posts on this blog, to open our minds wide to the possibilities out there. (The synchronicity of fortune cookies is a topic best saved for a later date.)

Noun1.infamy - a state of extreme dishonor; "a date which will live in infamy"- F.D.Roosevelt
All negatives will be relegated to the "Infamy Netherworld" and you won't find them here. Only famy found here! I'll be having "Famy Fridays," where I'd love it if you would share the positives that happened to you during your week, or that you did for others. I firmly believe it enriches us all to be reminded of the good things in life and share our gratitude for them.

Yup, this is how I want to embrace life:

Music jacked up,
arms wide open,
head flung back,
eyes, not squeezed shut in fear but
taking it all in,
hair streaming back,
sweat dripping,
screaming at the top of my lungs,
leaping with total abandon
into the great unknown!!

And you're going with me.

You ARE NOT going to be a passive car rider, all belted up tight and watching me drive. Oh no, my friends, you are gonna shove your feet into your running shoes, double knot 'em, and then we're heading off on the journey of a lifetime together, whooping and hollering, delirious with joy, giving it our very best, pushing ourselves to our limit and then breaking free beyond that, achieving, succeeding, living, loving, giving everyone the very best of ourselves each and every day, making the most of this finite time we have here on earth, not wasting one precious millisecond, being the very best person that God has destined us to be, all of us exuberantly living life together and then racing across that finish line with joy on our faces, laughter in our hearts, and