The Answer to an Unspoken Question.

Lack of updates is nothing more than pure busy: I am having a hard time keeping up with my life right now.

This weekend, after the end of a long walk with Finley on an absolutely glorious night, I was heading back to the house when I ran into my neighbor.

My next door neighbor, you see, is the pastor of the church down two doors from us. He and his wife are wonderful neighbors; kind to Owen, who is prone to walking through their hard-earned flower beds to get a stray wiffle ball. They see me run past their house many times, and ask about my race plans and how I’m doing.

They’re wonderful people, and great neighbors.

We chatted for a few moments about his youngest son, recovered from cancer which ravaged him only a few short years ago, who just graduated college. We spoke of how Owen was heading to kindergarten in the fall.

How fast time goes, we agreed.

And he pointed out that it was nearly five years ago that we baptized our son. And he was too kind to ask out loud, but an unspoken question hung between us.

Why hasn’t he seen us in church?

Five years ago, my grandparents and parents and aunt and uncle came to visit us, and we had Owen baptized in that church. We joined that church afterwards, in part because we thought it would be a good way to meet people in the community, and we wanted Owen to grow up with a good foundation in religion.

We stopped going, in part because Owen hated being in the nursery when he was a toddler, and he was too young for the Sunday School classes.

But mostly we stopped going because a lot of kind of crappy stuff happened in my life and being in church made me kind of pissed off. Jeff didn’t really want to go if I didn’t go.

My relationship with God and religion is, well… complicated. I have a hard time believing in “God’s plan” whenever something bad happens. I have a hard time with people using religion to duck accountability and responsibility for their hand in causing pain. I have a hard time when religion or God is used to discriminate between the “good” people (who are clearly going to heaven) and the “others” (who have not yet been saved from the fiery pits of MORDOR!).

I have always felt that religion was man’s way of trying to put a box around something that was too big for us to understand. And I despair when I see people fighting in the name of religion.

And then? I started running. And I ran country roads when I was training for my marathon.

My town and the surrounding area is woods and farm and marsh and low stone walls.

It’s breathtaking.

I have seen deer, and listened to deafening birdsong in early summer, and smelled the fullness of the woods all around me. I run in the warmth of summer, the riot of color in fall, the crispness of winter, the green of spring. I run in the darkness of early morning, the dew of late mornings, the heat of the afternoons, and the softness of the evenings.

On my run, I feel closer to a god, the universe, the pulse of humanity – whatever “God” is – than I EVER did in any church. I feel connected, and part of something bigger. I am strong, and thankful for my life, for the power that flows through my legs.

I didn’t know how to say this, though, to our pastor – whose own son spent years in cancer treatment, who can’t work in certain fields because of his “medical condition.”

So I didn’t say anything.

And instead, I stood with my neighbor and marveled at how quickly time flies.

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Recovery (Aka: The Week I Fell Apart, Physically).

I don’t know if this is delayed-onset fatigue brought on from last week’s race, but the past few days have been TOUGH for working out.

First there was the cold. Last week I noticed that Owen had a runny nose and was rubbing his eyes. I assumed that he had a touch of seasonal allergies, given the pollen dust I see on my car every day. I even put Children’s Claritin on my to-pick-up-from-the-store list.

And then I started to feel imminent doom: the combination of dry throat and the feeling that you are swallowing glass.

I removed Children’s Claritin from my list.

I follow a simple rule when it comes to running and colds. If the cold affects anything that is ABOVE my shoulders, then I’ll run. I might take it slower, and have to stop more for, er, nasal-cavity elimination, but I have no issue with running.

Anything that includes lungs, or aches and pains, or fever – I stay home. Period.

This cold, though annoying, was a Runnable Cold.

But then.

90-degree heat and humidity which moved in on Thursday. Or Friday. I don’t remember; it’s so hot my brain is melting and I can’t even think anymore. Honestly, what the FUCK, mother nature? Can’t we have a couple of in-between 70s, 80s in there? We have to go from 42 degrees and raining last Sunday to 95 degrees with 95% humidity? Seriously?

No wonder I’m sick.

Yesterday morning I went out, early, with the goal of running an hour. I was in light clothing. I carried my handheld water bottle. I was hoping for 6 or 7 miles; within 2 I knew it wasn’t happening. I was tired and a little dizzy, and my muscles screamed at a pace that is usually pretty comfortable for me.

So I called it at a reasonable 5 miles and went home. To the blessed air conditioning. I spent the day cleaning and doing errands and laundry and whatnot – but I wouldn’t call it a physically TAXING day.

Nonetheless, by last night, my IT band was SCREAMING at me whenever I walked down the stairs. My quads ached, and I had a random shooting pain in my left calf. I was exhausted and went to bed at 8:30 last night.

As an aside, is there anyone else like me out there? I, apparently, do not have the DNA required in order to “sleep in.” I would MUCH prefer going to bed when it’s still LIGHT out than trying to force myself to sleep late in the mornings. Jeff makes fun of me incessantly for this – I hate being up late and cannot sleep late.

Also: seriously, body? We’re falling apart NOW? I haven’t felt IT band PAIN in more than a year. My calves, though tight, aren’t usually painful without good reason. This week has been a very low mileage week, and I’ve been keeping a Be Kind To My Body pace.

I swear this is delayed-onset recovery; it’s taken me a week to actually feel like I am tired and need a rest.

So I am taking another rest day today. Because it’s still nasty swampy hot out there, and my head aches from the cold, and I’m tired, and honestly, there’s no sense in pushing it.

The good news is that my house is clean, and there’s pulled pork going in the crockpot, and I’m nice and cool hanging out with the puppy. Finley knows where it’s at – licking, laying on, and sleeping on the air conditioning vents is one of his new favorite summer hobbies.

To sum up: I’m tired and sick this week. It’s hotter than Hades outside, and I’m a little bitter.

And a question: Am I the only one who prefers to go to bed early, or sleep in late? Please tell me I am not alone here.

In The End… (aka: A Catch Up Post)

So.

It’s the day before my Official 30 day No-Yelling challenge, and I think I’ve figured out some things about myself. Which, hopefully, will help me figure out other ways to express my feelings before I pop and yell at the people (and dog) I love most in this world.

1. I am actually yelling before I realize I’m yelling. It took me looking at myself from the outside to realize this; there was a moment this weekend where I thought, Hey, wait a second, my voice is raised! when I wasn’t particularly angry, just kinda annoyed.

Looking at it from my husband and son’s perspective though, I would think I was yelling too.

2. I am more prone to yelling when I am trying to do too much at once. For example, I generally snap at nighttime, when I am making dinner, keeping an eye on the dog (so he doesn’t chew our moldings or pee on the floor), half-listening to Owen asking me to play with him, cleaning the kitchen and counters so I can get dinner on the table on time. Et cetera. I have very little patience at that point, which means I need to simplify.

Do less. That’s easy, right? 😉

3. I need more time in a day. No, seriously. I’m commuting 3 hours a day. Slowly, the time spent in traffic is sucking the soul out of me. I didn’t realize how edgy traffic made me until the day I pulled into daycare and screamed my head off – for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. (Thankfully the windows were closed and the kids were inside and no one witnessed me.) It was a bit of a revelation to me – I thought music was enough to keep me occupied.

The idea I’m wasting 3 hours of my day in the car, in traffic, kills me.

So I downloaded a book about dog training onto my iPhone. Wa-LA! I am now using that “dead time” to be productive – getting tips on how to train Finley.

And now I’m not counting the minutes I’m wasting in traffic because I feel like I’m getting something accomplished. Win.

So far, anyway. 🙂

4. I need to be kind to myself. 37 years of yelling when I’m mad won’t be undone in a day.

I’m well on my way, I think. For me, just being aware of my triggers is huge in terms of trying to change my behavior.

And the coolest thing? I’ve found women who want to do the same thing as me. We formed a Facebook group where we support each other in the challenge.

I just love knowing that I’m not alone in this.

______________________

I ran my goal race last weekend – the half marathon I’ve spent the last few months training for.

I went into it with three goals.

The A goal was to break 1:45:00. This was aggressive, I knew, and I didn’t really BELIEVE I had the ability to run that fast for that long. I’ve had very few miles in my training that were run that fast.

The B goal was to break 1:50:00. This was the realistic goal for me – the one that would be hard but sustainable.

The C goal was to break 1:55:00. This was a comfortable goal, or if something happened mid-race like a muscle/tendon tweak or something.

Now, mind you, meeting ANY of these goals would have meant a personal best. My fastest official half marathon time was run this April; I clocked in at 1:56:31.

The race was hard. I never really felt comfortable – which meant I raced it like I needed to. But if it weren’t for my friend Jen, who ran with me in the middle miles, I might have gone slower.

But I met my B goal. I finished in 1:49:15.

I’m thrilled with this time. Seriously, I ran my first half marathon three years ago, in 2:18:18. And since then I’ve taken nearly a full half hour off my time.

It’s shocking and empowering and exciting stuff. And gives me SO much hope for my fall marathon training.

____________________

The Career Stuff. Yeah, it’s still hard. I have been considering quitting my job altogether so I can be home more. It would simplify some things, for sure. Laundry, groceries, housecleaning, bills. All me. Jeff could focus on his work only.

But it would also complicate things, too. Money would become an issue. And back in the day, when Jeff and I sat on a beach in Fiji, we talked about living a life where money wouldn’t be an issue.

Course, we also talked about balance, so it’s not like there’s not complications there.

What I have the hardest time with is the fact that I am currently working mostly part time. Yeah, I spend three hours in the car when I’m at the client. But this week? I’ve worked only two days. And I make good money.

I could trade that for a job closer to home, where I make half of what I make now. It’s still accounting – I could do bookkeeping pretty damn easily. It’s just, well, I can’t get excited about taking ANOTHER accounting job for less money.

I wish I had clarity or passion for ONE thing. I am so envious of the women who knew in high school or college what they were going to be when they grew up. Those women had a vision and goal and passion.

So that’s why it’s so hard to take the step and stop doing what I’m doing now. I’m hoping to find that magical place of balance. I don’t need to LOVE my job, but I also don’t want loathe my time there, either.

I keep telling myself I’m doing the best I can with what I have today. It’s all I can do.

So that’s my update. For now anyway. 😉

The Runs.

Okay, so a running update.

Last September, I ran a half marathon with one of my best friends. Two weeks before said half marathon, I turned my ankle in the dark on a training run, and thought it was sore, I didn’t really think much of it.

And then. Literally 15 seconds after we started the race, I turned to say something to her… and turned the very same ankle in a small groove in the middle of the road. Badly this time.

Probably it wasn’t the best decision to run the race anyway, but that’s what I did. Honestly, after mile 4, I felt very little – some twinges here and there when we walked through the water stops, but nothing awful. We finished 2 hours and 17-some odd minutes after I turned my ankle, and within minutes of stopping I found I couldn’t really, well, WALK at all. My ankle swelled to massive proportions on the drive home that day, and for three weeks I hobbled around and couldn’t run.

During that time, I had a lot of time to think. About what I was doing with my running, how I was approaching it, and my goals.

So I did what any person who couldn’t run does: I decided that I’d run a marathon in 2013. 🙂

Except THIS time, I was going to do whatever it took to make sure I wasn’t injured this year. I talked with my PT, who helped me rehab from my ITBS. I hired a running coach to help me get my running form back, who would keep me honest over the winter. I did PT exercises on my ankle and my IT band and strengthwork at the gym. I ran when my coach told me to, didn’t run when he told me not to.

And the biggest thing: after looking at my spring half pictures, the day I broke two hours in a half marathon, I looked heavier than I had in 2010, when I finished the Smuttynose half marathon. I had put on muscle, yes, but I also had put on fat. So I also started counting calories on myfitnesspal.com so that I could shed some weight.

Since then, I’ve lost 15lbs, and am at my lowest adult weight ever. And I am back logging regular, consistent mileage, peppered with speedwork sessions, strength training, and long runs.

A month ago, I ran a half marathon in Central Park in 1:56:31, a personal best from my last half marathon of more than 3 minutes.

And couple of weeks ago, I ran a local 5k and ran a personal best by a full minute and forty seconds – my official time was 23:15.

So running, right now, is going really well. Even the hard runs give me something to take away. Like last week: in one run I gained confidence that I can keep running a number of miles when my legs are really fatigued without losing pace. In another, I figured out that I’m really bad at tempo pace and I need to focus some workouts on that.

Every run I do is leading towards a goal race.

My goal race this training cycle? Boston’s Run to Remember on Memorial Day weekend.

My ideal time goal is to break 1:45:00. Realistically, I’ll be happy with anything under 1:50:00. And if it’s hot, I’ll aim at 1:55:00, which is still a PB for me.

And honestly, it’s kind of insane that I’m looking at these numbers.

Because I remember the days where I’d need a gel at mile 4.5 because I had been running an hour – where I had to walk a hill I regularly use as my warmup. I remember the days where running my 6 mile loop around town felt like a really far run. I remember my first 5k, where I walked multiple times and finished at 32:48. The day where I ran my farthest distance – 6 miles – and realized, holy shit, you can run as far as you want. It’s actually possible!

It’s not been that long since my first race – 4 years ago this August.

So really, I kind of have no idea what I’m capable of as a runner. I’m just going on faith and working hard and making sure that I put all the pieces in place in the hopes that I can do something awesome.

Which is kinda how life works.

So here’s hoping. 🙂

Off the Grid.

This weekend, Owen, Jeff and I we’re heading up to Lake Winnepesaukee with my inlaws, sister and brother-in-law, and niece and nephew.

A full week spent in teeny cabins right on the lake, beach two steps outside our door. Without internet access (thought Jeff and I both have smartphones. I’ll never really disconnect, who am I kidding?).

But whatever, NO internet access!

I have a loose plan to stick with my half training: 26 miles next week. I’m hoping to actually do the speed workout on Tuesday night if I can manage to find the local high school, if not, I’ll do it as best as I can on the road. (Maybe hill repeats? Ooo, that would be something.)

I am also going to try my first open water swim – am hoping to spend a half hour in the water and try and focus on sighting moreso than doing a full on workout.

And obviously, there will be ice cream. And playing in the sand. And throwing the frisbee. And splashing in the water. And a train ride. And a trip to Laconia. And ice cream. And Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

And did I mention the ice cream?

Morning Magic (Aka: My 4 Mile Run.)

A night of insomnia; wordless dreams from which I wake often and forget nearly immediately, only to be plunged back in when I fall asleep again.

The alarm rings much too early. It’s set to the local classical music station to ease my wake up, but today it doesn’t matter. I only have the energy to slam the snooze button, hard. So, so tired. I do not want to get out of bed.

But my mind is awake. It moves restlessly; I’m focused on the number of miles I want to run this week and how I’ll juggle everything I need to get that accomplished. I won’t have another chance to run in the morning – the best time, given the heat and humidity – for another three days. When the music starts again, I turn the alarm off and get out of bed quickly, not looking back in case I’m tempted.

Once in the bathroom, I change into my running gear and put my contacts in. Within minutes I’m downstairs, sitting in the dark mudroom, lacing my sneakers.

It’s dark outside; I have yet to hear birds, but the drone of the insects is soothing somehow.

I strap on my garmin and head out; the sky near-black in front of me, but getting lighter behind. Impatiently, I wait for the watch to establish the signal with the satellites so I can start my run. When it vibrates, I start down the hill to the main road, stiffly at first.

The first few minutes of a run always feels like I’ve forgotten HOW. My legs move, but my cadence is off and I feel awkward and stiff. But I know it fades once I warm up, so instead I look around and breathe in the morning air.

This early, there are very few people up and around in my town. I run down to the river and cross the street, barely looking over my shoulder, since I hear nothing but the insects and my breath, and wave to the town cop parked across the post office. I turn and head over the bridge.

Mile 1 comes before I know it, and my legs are fully warmed up. The humidity is making me breathe a little harder than what I’d like, but I keep on, even though it is starting to hurt. I know that if I just keep going, it’ll get better.

It’s always in the beginning of mile 2 where everything settles down; my breathing is deep and regular and my legs have found a good rhythm. I find that place where there is nothing in my head except my breath.

In and out.

In and out.

In and out.

I can run forever like this. The morning, the river on my left, the insect droning. I’m warm and strong and happy and relaxed.

It, of course, doesn’t last forever. Because the rolling hills at the end of mile 2 always hurt.

I tell myself, out loud, Nice and easy to the top, then a recovery. You got this.

I don’t always believe myself, but today I actually AM able to run all the way to the top, recover downhill, and power up the second hill. I know all I have to do is make it to mile 3, which is close, and I get a good downhill for a long time, where I can really roll.

Thank god, mile 3. I take a minute to recover, and then I let my legs go, following the downhill. My breathing hitches a bit, but I focus on my exhale. Breathe OUT. Breathe OUT. I keep going.

A slight incline to the bridge again, and I’m only .25 miles away from the end of my run. That’s a 400. I can run a 400 in less than two minutes. I lean forward just a bit, pumping my arms a teeny bit more, because I want to finish this run STRONG.

And then it’s over. As I walk back to my house, I can see the sun warming the sky in front of me.

And.

I feel so good.

Redeux.

After my race on Sunday, I wanted a do over.

Honestly, on the way home I was already planning the next one.

The next time, I thought, I will go out a little slower, maybe a 8:00/mile, stay conservative in mile two, and then kick it up at the end.

And never, ever walk.

So I asked Jeff last night if he minded if I signed myself up for another 5k.

I think I found a race. Sunday, June 3. Early enough start time so when I’m done I still have the whole day in front of me.

And it will give me a couple of weeks to let my legs recover from my half and the hard races, but also attack some tempo runs and speedwork.

I know I am capable of breaking 25:00 in a 5k.

I just need to go and DO it.

So that’s the plan for my 5k redeux.