This week I arrived home to a big–and very heavy–box at my doorstep. Not expecting any packages, I first thought it was for my neighbor. Then I suspected Henry had secretly ordered 20 lbs of Pokemon cards. The return address was Colorado. Inside my big box, I found a stack of these:
Posts Tagged ‘Running’
Happy Day After Day After Mothers Day! I love Mothers Day because it feels like a Birth Day Birthday, which is fun to say, and I can say things to Henry like, “It is Mothers Day and so there will be no references to butts.” And he actually complies. I get to eat pancakes for lunch and pocket “coupons” for services such as “laundry“– from a boy who doesn’t know where the washing machine is.
This weekend a fish fell from the sky into my backyard. A 10-inch pike, to be specific. That’s not what I’m going to write about; it just seemed too significant to leave unmentioned. It arrived Saturday, lying in the grass with a bloody wound on its underside. By Sunday it was gone, either to fight the windmills or fill the stomach of a raccoon. I felt momentarily sorry for the bird that dropped it, having carried its dinner so far only to lose it.
Then I came to my senses and felt bad for the fish, dead for nothing but a scavenger. The animal kingdom is a vicious place.
But that’s the opposite of the topic at hand, which is as the title says: every single beautiful thing.
Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of care and concern. Boston 2013 is a day of mixed emotion for me. One of the most special moments of my life will be running the final quarter mile down Boylston Street with my son, tears filling my eyes to share such an amazing experience with him. One of the most terrifying moments of my life will be standing with my son and seeing a bomb explode 200 yards away, the loud and stunning pop followed by smoke.
No mother should ever have to lie to her frightened son: “I’m sure it wasn’t a bomb, love. I’m sure everything is fine.” But I similarly feel profoundly lucky to have had my child by my side, safe under a foil heat sheet in my arms, as more importantly, no mother should ever have to lose her child.
After yesterday, I am grateful, sad, relieved, and likewise filled with maternal warmth to have shared that marathon so closely with my son. My heart aches for those who were maimed or killed and for their families.
Following the blast, I hurried Henry away from the Finish area as sirens screamed down the streets we walked. I reassured him the entire way that everything was totally fine. After we found our people, before anyone really knew what happened, Henry and I took a picture, with confused and slightly forced smiles, which I think captures our marathon.
Peace and love.
As a mere weekend stands between the Boston runner and the road, a lot of us kvetch about the final days of The Taper, bemoaning the low mileage, the inability to run as long as we’d like. Personally, I have no problems with the taper, and in fact, I pretty much love it, especially when I’m as casual about a marathon as I am about this one. The taper has given me weekend mornings with my kid and extra precious time to sleep during the week. I can make pancakes. I can be a diva, slowly sipping coffee and reading the Sunday paper.
Which is what I did last weekend, at least the diva part.
Happy first day of Spring. Ugh. It blizzarded yesterday, and here we are, completely snowed on March 20.
I am practicing my deep breathing, but the air is so cold, I sputter, find the couch, and go back to distractions like public radio, Popeapalooza, and the Modern Love column in the New York Times. I need Spring. The winterizing of my soul is getting old, and everything in life feels like two steps forward, one step back. Which I guess is better than one step forward, two steps back. That said, I don’t think that simple, humble forward progress is really asking all that much.
Obviously, the seasons are a good example, and they seem to set the stage for everything else that happens. Two weeks ago, I ran the slowest 22 miles of my life, which was horrendous and demoralizing, but it was winter, so I shrugged it off as a seasonally affected long run. That run was what it must feel like to run on legs suffering from a major depressive episode. But it was winter then.
Then we had a touch of Spring. I saw a crocus. My garden Buddha finally poked his head above the snow. Things were looking so good. It was a New Englandy sort of Spring, but it felt Springy nonetheless. One day, I wore a skirt without tights, the pores on my white, ashy legs taking big gulps of unconstricted air. Last weekend, I ran 20 miles at a pace that was a minute per mile faster than the 22-miler, on the Boston course, on an out-and-back through the Newton hills. It was St. Patrick’s Day. I wore green, the color of Spring to those of us who aren’t Irish (Irish Spring soap notwithstanding). Two steps forward. Happy, content, optimistic, even.
Yesterday, the sky dumped another too many inches of sleety, icy, nasty snow. And just like that: winter. Skin back under under fleece, and my spirit again hibernating beneath every defense mechanism I can find. Agonizing, slow 10k run on the mill yesterday, looking out a window onto snow banks higher than my child. Today, digging out and finding my soul back in protective mode to get me through Ides. One step back.
I have one more very long run planned for this weekend, 20-22 miles. I don’t know if it will be Winter or Spring, and that’s a weird, uncomfortable place to be. It’s like a bipolar disorder of climate. What’s a runner to do? Pack some Gu and run far far far–thinking of the good season, which will come again, as it always does.
It’s hard to know what to think when another runner merges with your long run at mile 6, saying, “I know who you are!” In my case, it’s a safe bet he doesn’t mean, “Everyone talks about what a beautiful and intelligent inspiration you are!” More likely he means, “I read you peed your shorts at mile 5 in Chicago.” Or, “I know so-and-so across town doesn’t like you.” Still, there’s always a small thrill that comes with nano-celebrity, and so it was.
Saturday morning, I putzed around way too long before going for my long run. My excuse is that my foot does better on a run if I’ve been walking around on it for a while. Also, I was lazy. A little past 11, my gentleman friend and I finally hit the road for 16-18 miles. We decided on two loops of 8+ miles so we could call it off midway through if either one of us had knee or foot pain. Matching injuries are much less romantic than they sound. It’s more like the dorkiness of wearing the same shirt than the swankiness of ordering the same martini.
Anyway, we limped off for mile 1.
“How’s your foot?”
“How’s your knee?”
I know: hot, right?
The first mile was fast for me, but I held on and so did my foot and knee. We ran along the rural roads, noticing a conspicuous amount of discarded fruit along the way. Apple cores, orange peels, like Carmen Miranda had been running ahead of us. It was a mild kind of day, cloudy for the most part, and windless, which was a nice change of pace this winter. I’m mostly sick of the roads in my town, but running them with someone else lets you notice things you don’t usually see. “What’s your favorite giant statue in that yard?” is a question you wouldn’t ordinarily ask yourself, for example, when running by a property dotted with a prominent display of statuary.
“The Venetian boys in the gazebos, obviously.”
We ran by the library, which had a sign for a book sale. “Why would the library have a book sale?”
I never really thought the library book sale was odd before. “So they can buy new books? Circle of life and whatnot?”
After running down the mile-long hill from the town Common, we crossed the railroad tracks and passed the parking lot to the big town trail system . I saw a man getting out of his truck, obviously getting ready to run. Obvious because he had the expression that I have when I’m getting ready to run, the one that says, “I am compelled to do this. Whether or not I like it is irrelevant.”
I ran on with my gentleman friend. Less than five minutes later, the sound a of a different man’s voice startled me out of my fantasies about potato chips. “I don’t want to scare you guys. Just running up behind you.”
I thought he was probably trying to pass us, but instead, Mike joined us on the run. I’m always happy to have more conversation to distract me from my watch/foot/knee/brain, so I wouldn’t have let him pass us anyway. After we’d exchanged two sentences came the “I know who you are!”
He’d read my blog. His wife knows I bought a foot scruncher for my plantar. He knows friends of mine. We’ve both run for Dana-Farber. He probably knows I peed my shorts at mile 5 in Chicago. We run in the same circle, kind of literally, since he runs the same roads I run all the time. It was fun to make a new friend, who I’m surprised I hadn’t met before. And for 20 minutes, I didn’t look at my watch.
The three of us ran together to mile 8 or so, when we diverged, pilgrims in technical fabrics pursuing different paths to 18 miles on the watch. My gentleman friend and I paused at the halfway point, deciding that we both felt good enough for a second lap. We refilled my water bottle with Nuun we poured all over my right glove and headed for another round in the opposite direction.
At about mile 11, just before the mile-long climb to the town common, I gave permission to my gentleman friend to dust me. I futzed around with my earbuds and iPod, weaving around the shoulder, but got them in at the base of the hill when he took off. Beyoncé launched her “Single Ladies” anthem, which I thought was particularly cruel timing at this point in the game. Ring or no ring (on it), I really can’t put my hands up (hands up) while trying to climb a mountain. An uphill battle is hard enough without putting my hands in the air like I just don’t care.
I passed a house that reeked of pot but I made it to the top without stopping for a bong hit, amazingly enough. After I’d passed the weed den and made it to the Common, I had to pull over to take a Gu because I couldn’t fumble with my water, mittens, and Gu at the same time, not to mention the iPod that was swinging around my feet because it came unclipped when I took my Gu out. I hate these kinds of shenanigans when I’m just trying to run, dammit. This is the kind of thing I imagine when someone says, “I know who you are!” With my luck, he means, “You’re the freaky lady who was tangled in her iPod cord, smearing chocolate Gu all over her face in front of the police station.”
I got myself put back together and ran on, with less than 5 miles to go and a right hand frozen due to the Nuun spill. With 3 miles to go, I took off the glove and ran like a Michael Jackson tribute. This is usually the point in a long run where I start making bargains with myself. Usually the bargains have to do with lunch, dinner, and the placement of a margarita in my day. By the time I got to the last mile, I’d figured out where we were having lunch and what I would order because it was 1:30 and I could think of nothing but carbohydrates and salt. Also, we were going to have beef short ribs and potatoes for dinner. By the close of the 18th mile, the question about when to have a margarita became a question about when not to have a margarita.
I turned the last corner to get to my house, and my gentleman friend was cheering and jumping with his hands in the air, for me, not Beyoncé (I assume). 18 relatively painless miles done, 15 sec/mile faster than last week, plus a new friend, who knows who I am and seemed to like me anyway. I call that a long run success.
I’ve been dealing with the issue of grace lately, and if I’m to be completely honest, I don’t even really know what that means. I just know I’m dealing with it. I think it has something to do with calm and patience and… grace. See, that’s how dire things are. I’m defining a word with the word itself, the cardinal sin of the literary faithful.
I know what grace isn’t, however, which is why I know I’m looking for it. I know that grace isn’t desire, self, or control, and those are the Big Three I’ve been trying to duck, but they keep kicking my ass anyway. I’ve been fighting this body for months, believing I’m entitled to run it hard simply because I want to run it hard and because it’s mine, and isn’t that virtuous and so shouldn’t I be able to? Well, no, stupid lady.
I’ve watched my body soften while I try to beat it, coax it, ignore it into submission, and I’ve gotten completely pissed off by the softening and its unwillingness to cooperate with the aforementioned desire to run it hard. You simply can’t control most things, even your own damn body. It ages and hurts, and it tells you “too much” when you know you haven’t had nearly enough. I hate when things I want to control have their own agenda. I also hate when I think I know something so intimately as one knows one’s body, and then it turns out it deal me hurt and pain. It completely blows.
Which is how I came to look for grace because I know that kind of relationship is most definitely lacking in it.
Saturday morning, I played with grace for three hours.
The first step was to not say, “I’m running for three hours, which will be 20 miles, and so is the word forever and ever, amen.”
Step 1: Give up control.
Instead, I said, “I am going to try to run 20 miles. It might be 15. It might not be 15. I will have to see how I feel.”
This last sentence is the most impossible thing I’ve ever said to myself. I don’t like to see how I feel. I’d rather run.
Then I took care of my body for a while. I iced my shins and knee. I stretched and massaged my Achilles and the baseball that took up residence in my left calf sometime in the last month. I drank water. I walked around a lot.
Step 2: Immerse self in mindfulness and ritual.
Then I did the things I always do. I shoved Gu in my pockets, strapped on my Garmin, filled two bottles with water and Nuun to plant in my mailbox and filled another smaller handheld to carry with me. I made sure the water was room temperature so it wouldn’t freeze outside. I braided my hair and rubbed Glide in my pits. I trimmed my toenails. I went to the bathroom 3 times. And then I did my favorite thing to do before a run: I procrastinated.
This habit is handily cured by the need to hire a babysitter for long runs. Procrastination means cash for Rachel, so I didn’t indulge in much of it.
I decided to do multiple out-and-back courses because I was worried enough about my knee and foot that I didn’t want to be too far from home if things went bad. I was pretty sure I’d have an hour in me, so I left for a 7-mile leg. I had my Garmin, but my attempt at grace meant I was going to run by feel and start as slowly as possible without looking at my watch for any of the splits. This is very difficult. At one point, I caught a mile split from my wrist and winced a little, not in physical pain but in ego pain. I had seen the same woman jogging my route at two points already, and I was not happy to have been caught twice at a mosey.
Grace me now and grace me hard.
The first seven miles went by unremarkably, which is to say, painless. I left for the next out-and-back, which took me out of suburbia and into the rural void of windy roads, high snow banks, and tall pines. I savored the windless and mild air, which was about 38 degrees. I felt good, and I was enjoying the run, which might sound like a bland nonstatement, but it’s a huge achievement for anyone who’s been running with discomfort for months. My foot was fine, and my knee only hinted at tightness, like it remembered being tight last week but had changed it’s mind.
So I ran further out, turning around after 5 miles instead of 3.5. When I’d finished that out-and-back and grabbed a shot of water at my mailbox, I had somehow made my way to the 17th mile. I still wasn’t watching my splits (much) and my body was holding up. I hadn’t hit any walls of crushing fatigue, either, the prospect of which still fills me with prerun anxiety 15 years after I started running.
I only had three miles left to go. I started out on that itty bitty less-than-5k run like I owned my body, which is not very graceful, but hey, I’m a work in progress. On my way out, the babysitter passed in her car with Henry on their way back from the bookstore. They both waved to me as I ran, my first spectators since my last race in August.
I’d forgotten what it feels like to be cheered for. Even from inside a station wagon and by two people and in total silence, a cheering crowd is a cheering crowd.
When I was finally in the 20th mile, I did what so many of us do. I said to myself, “Maybe I can go 21…”
But I stopped myself. My shred of grace spoke up, clearing its throat to get my attention. The Garmin reached 20 shortly before my driveway. When I got to my mailbox, I just stood there for a little while. I looked up into the trees and felt my breathing, labored but easing by the second. I listened to Bruce sing “Wrecking Ball” and got teary at the line that always makes me cry: “Hard times come and hard times go and hard times come and hard times go… just to come again.” It’s so sad, that idea, but that is why we need grace in this life.
I got my 20 miles, 2:59:57, run entirely by feel/effort. I felt blessed by grace for those few hours. It was probably the endorphins, because then I went to the salon and ended up a blonde. True to form, I think my ego transmuted the lovely and modest idea of grace to the lovely and desired Grace Kelly. I guess I still have some work to do to get past issues of desire, self, and control and find grace with a lower-case G. I do like my hair, though.
My 20-miled three hours of grace did lead me to finally book my flight to California for Big Sur. I added on travel insurance in case I’m hurt. Not sure if that has anything to do with grace, but it seemed sensible and these days, I’m trying to protect my self and body by practicing more sensibility, too. As my blonde highlights suggest, I have some ground to cover on that front, but hey, maybe I’ll have more fun in the process.
If you look at the numbers, it’s all moving along nicely. This weekend I ran 18 miles, putting in a second consecutive long run that found me on the treadmill. Last week’s 16 miler, the day after the blizzard hit, was pretty miserable. I ran 8 slow miles in the slush, cold, and wind, then hopped on the mill for the second 8 miles. My legs were so spent from fighting with the snow that the treadmill half was a real struggle. The problems I’ve had with my right foot seem to carried to my left knee, as overcompensating for injuries tends to play out. It’s a good metaphor as well as the literal state of my lower half. I stopped three times in that second eight to roll my IT bands in an attempt to ease the knee pain. The upside of a treadmill run is that you can do that sort of thing, proximity to your bathroom being another perk of 70 minutes on a hamster wheel.
Because that run was so hard, I started yesterday’s 18-mile run on the treadmill, putting in 13 miles in front of some awful reality TV that is so embarrassing I won’t even tell you what I watched. There wasn’t that much snow on the roads, but it was crazy windy and cold, and I’ve become a little diva-like when it comes to running in 40 mph gusts. Plus I was nervous about foot and knee pain and you can more easily quit a run on the mill than in the February cold when you’re 5 miles from home.
My knee only started to seriously complain around mile 15, so I was already on the road. I am much more stubborn on the road than on the mill. If I have pain on the mill, my mind’s boredom can be my body’s saving grace. I’ll more easily flip that switch and call it a day. But if I have pain on the road, I start generating rationales for why I can/should/will keep going.
Which is what I did.
- It’s too far to walk home.
- Running up the this hill will help.
- Running down this hill will help.
- Running flat will help.
- It’s too cold to walk.
- I can’t do that much damage in 3-4-5-18 miles.
- Betty Friedan said I must get outside the home.
The Feminine Mystique turns 50 this week, and Friedan and that book have been central to my life, personally, professionally, athletically. I majored in that book. I’ve taught that book to young women who say they’d never give up what many of us, of course, will compromise at some point (for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health). I’ve used that book to drive myself out of mind-body paralysis through running. And I’ve used that book to guide my mothering of a feminist son, which I am very proud to say, he is (in equal part because of his feminist dad). Because of that book, I’ve strived for a deliberate, intentional approach to living with care and principles (to varying degrees of success, but I do try).
And so, because of Betty Friedan, I couldn’t cut my run short. Duh.
I finished the run with a very tight knee and a plantar in protest. Then I walked in my back door and grabbed a shovel for the snow on my driveway. In a weird way, I think the 30 minutes of shoveling after the 18 miles were good for my legs, a true New England cool down. I think Betty Friedan would be on board with that.
I hobbled my way through the afternoon and agreed with myself that I should take today off. I got my 18 miles, but hopefully not at the price of the body that ran them. As Friedan wrote, “You can have it all, just not at the same time.” How true it is.
Winter running has finally hit, and so has winter everything. I love winter running. My dad thinks my lungs will freeze if I run in the frigid air, but as long as my water bottle doesn’t freeze, I love cold running. It’s been in the single digits this week, and I’m feeling January in my bones. I am all over the winter running, but the rest of the day, I lust for Spring. Yesterday, I bought a new duvet. Today, I booked Henry’s next mystery trip (shhhh, don’t tell) for Spring Break: beach, Florida, seashells.
And then tonight, I came home to a broken furnace.
My house was 42 degrees.
I put on a second sweater. And my parka. And then I built a fire, and I poured some Malbec that I discovered was chilled by the air of my kitchen.
Then I made dinner in my parka while waiting for the oil company to call me back. I repeated my new mantra: “Strong… Calm… ” while cooking eggs.
I’d happily run a marathon in 42 degrees, which is on the warm side, if you ask me. I’m not happy, however, when my house is 42 degrees. I am about 24 hours from my first and totally unapologetic visit to a tanning salon. I will drink coffee while I tan.
The furnace man is coming tomorrow morning.
I was going to run on the treadmill tonight, but I can’t take off my giant black parka so it’s a de facto rest day. And there you have it: the irony of my love of winter running. Strong. Calm. I am woman, hear me roar. In my parka. In my house. I can’t wait to go for a cold winter run this weekend in my mittens and my hat… and come back to a house that is 68 degrees.