Shut Up and Run

Credit: www.heidiwestover.com

A few weeks back, my fiance’ and I  ran in a 12k race on what turned out to be a sun shiny spring morning. For the most part, I enjoy competing in these events regardless of the distance as they are one of the best ways to shake up one’s running routine and give yourself over to just plain hard work of physical exercise for a part of your day.

Running is meant to be a simple sport. No extra equipment is necessary in order to participate. I also like to consider runners to be humble creatures, generally speaking. After all, the race is really between you and the clock and perhaps your own mind. We don’t like to be fancy or flashy. So I guess that’s why I was overly annoyed when a group of runners showed up at the starting line with their health club’s over-sized flag and bellowing voices. “Ugh,  I thought, what a bunch of egomaniacs.”   Of course, they needed to be at the front of the pack as well. Right away, I knew that I would need to stay ahead of these creatures.

Well, the gun went off and I must admit that my irksome state was set for the race. Sure enough, the bantering banner carriers were loud and obnoxious. One woman clearly needed everyone to know that she was running a marathon the next weekend; that was absolutely necessary for her in order to qualify for Boston. She then proceeded on an even longer rant about the pros and cons of other marathon courses in the area using her best runner’s lingo, as if she knew it all. My finance’ made a snide comment to me signaling he’d had enough of  her boasting and we picked up the pace.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot take endless chatter in a race at all. It just seems out of place. The focus should be on the course and how you feel, period. And no one wants to hear the tin, tin, tin of your ipod either. For me, the sound is like nails on a chalkboard.  Hey, I know music can psych you up, but there is such a thing as keeping a song in your head!  Back in the old days, I used to blast my Fleetwood Mac album before I left the house. “Second Hand News” was the perfect song to keep my pace fast and furious. 

I guess you might say that I miss the straightforwardness of  racing. The real test is in your effort and ultimately your performance. Maybe even in the satisfaction of finishing even if you’re having a bad day. Like my dad used to say: “Put a number on and meet me at the starting line.”

The Magic of a Long Run

Credit: bizdaily.com.sg

One of my favorite parts of the week is Sunday morning. Actually, Sunday mornings when I am training for another half-marathon to be precise.  By the time I have laced up my shoes, I have already mapped out the run in my head. There is a kernel of excitement and an inner energy stirring in my brain. I feel almost twitchy in my muscles (stretched to near perfection from Saturday morning’s 90 minute marathon of hot yoga!).

I am what you call a running purist. I keep things simple. No doodads or hoohas of technology adorn my body. No solid foods for energy boosting during the run. Definitely water, though. I have been known to place water bottles at strategic mile markers along a route as I despise water belts (although I own one and have worn it from time to time) They interfere with my stride, really. I actually prefer a loved one to meet me along the course with liquid refreshment; it’s a great incentive to keep going!

That being said, there are times when I have too many thoughts spinning in my head and demons dominating my domain. Most of the time, a straight-on run with the sounds of nature give me peace. But on the rare occasion when music is a soothing solution, I confiscate my oldest son’s Ipod. You never know what you will find  when you listen, just as you never know how you’ll expect to feel as your feet hit the pavement and pound out mile after mile. The music is the best kind of mix. I can be cruising along and Wyclef Jean will pop on, only to be followed by John Coltrane and then Adele. Seventies rock, Dave Matthews, Lady Gaga, Brad Paisley and Frank Sinatra keep me company on my ever changing route.

On this particular Sunday, I chose a more challenging route than usual.  Of course, the area where I live does not lack for hills but the route I planned has more than its usual share. And to add to the pain, the last 3 miles were essentially uphill!  At times during a run, the most difficult parts of a course can reek havoc on my mental strength- most especially when I feel vulnerable or have a lot on my plate. And this is where my rare use of the Ipod comes in handy.

With 2.5 miles or so to go,  a favorite song of mine came on. Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” is a piece that gives me strength and makes me want to shout out loud.  Although I have not directly experienced the exact situation spoken of in the song, the theme certainly is the same.  The refrain, ‘let freedom ring’ is my anthem! And days or hours or even minutes when the devil of the past pokes me, this song lifts me up. I was so grateful for the timing. I was dog tired with fatigue and I had six more hills to climb. With each refrain, I was able to dig deep, lean in and lift my legs (needless to say, I replayed it!). With a mile to go, the hills were done and so was the Ipod.  The battery gave out just in time and I ran the last mile in perfect peace.

And really, this is all I need. Quiet and room to breathe. A means to slough off the negative energy that invades my spirit sometimes.  I haven’t felt as good on my subsequent runs this week as I did on Sunday, but that is okay. The mornings have been cool and beautiful with the sun rising earlier each minute. The birds serenade my miles.

I think of Sunday and dream of distance.

 

Why I Run

Credit: davegetzschman.photoshelter.com

I run for no specific reason

I run because I like to feel the morning air on my face

The dark nip of winter

The welcoming breeze of spring

The heat of summer

and the tri-colored relief of  autumn

I run to  feel the aches

as I first shuffle my feet

and the sweet release as I enter my stride

 I run to see the changes in my world reveal themselves bit by bit

I run to listen to the day’s first stirrings

and the night’s final slumber

to hear the coyotes’ howls

the red tail’s hunt

the snort of  deer

and the yip of the fox 

I run to peek at Venus, my morning star in the east

I run to watch the moon’s final rise at the first mile

and the sun’s first with one to go

I run to breathe, to think (or not)

I run because I want to feel alive

and take in my daily dose of peace

Being in the Distance

Credit: www.lululemon.com

I smelled the rain before I saw it

Butter in the air

The roads were still dry after yesterday’s Spring baking

 A welcome sign then after Winter‘s marathon of cold

As I neared the pond, I could hear the first drops’ pings hit the leaves

Too late to turn back and I never would anyway

By mile 1 the roads were already glistening

I was stiff and moving slow

but not really thinking of  when I would end this march into my daily reverie

Warming up the mind occurs at mile 2

When the bell tower was reached, I turned to hear a friendly beep

My white truck clad neighbor

An incentive to go further than planned

The rain drops seemed to miss me

as I descended the long hill

and turned left on the only flats I swear exist in this town

My cares and worries from yesterday fell to the pavement

melting with the sky’s happy tears

My Sunday expedition reminds me of why I lift my feet

take in my surroundings

watch my world change minute to minute

I take stock and notice with all of my senses

I seem to float on the next mile’s ascent

This town is full of hills

A runner’s speed work in disguise

I realize the rain has picked up but I am barely wet

This is a good place to be

                   Alone

To not worry about what’s coming next, to just keep moving forward

Witness

Hunger by TessCummings

Credit: howtheotherhalflives.deviantart.com (Hunger by Tess Cummings)

 

The list resides on a yellowed pad

Necessary nourishment for the coming week

We stop here first before our feastive task

Caffeinated fuel and friendship

A 21st Century Communion

In the shop’s short distance

A dear friend is spied

A light touch to greet her

Deep hugs and hushed whispers

Our minds meeting for a minute and more

 

But ensconced in the corner

Nearly unnoticeable from view

Sits the Serpent Sipping sumatra opposite a slender lass

His head a crusted flesh

 

For me: a glimpse of recognition

A trickle of fear

A tiny rat-a-tat-tat of  the heart

But for the first time a small measure of sincere safety, a healthy emotional distance

A graceful departure

 

This crinkly creature

This squalid stranger once starved three loving souls

Sacrificed them for his vision quest

 

Yes, the memories linger still

Days of bare cupboards and hollowed tummies

Secret stashes hidden from him

Stunned into silence

Bullied and Blamed by the Beast

A Buried Hunger hidden from everyone and ourselves

 

At present day an unfilled refrigerator and a paltry pantry give rise to a familial panic

A sign of a decade’s old deprivation

 

The yellowed pad travels with us

The list an act of defiance

A shout out loud

A second slaying of the dragon

And always a Harvest of Hope

Sunshine Award

Nominated by the lovely poetress Annie @ http://anniesmuse.wordpress.com/

After writing and posting my 169th piece, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself nominated for the Sunshine Award! We sure could use some up here in the month of February!

So, onto the process: Write 10 facts about yourself and nominate 10 others as well.

1) I love to read and carry at least two books with me in my car daily. You never know if you’ll break down. Reading is a great thing to do while waiting for AAA!

2) I love running and have participated in the sport since I was 11. Took a break for a bit in my 20’s and love it even more in my 50’s.

3) I love yoga almost as much as running.  My yoga mat is near my desk ready for use at all times. I go to a hot yoga studio weekly and am now into my 36th straight day of doing yoga with a goal for a full 365 for this year.

4) I  also enjoy strength training but find it hard to do when my basement is 48 degrees. Plus, I spend a lot of time shoveling snow in the winter.

5) The ocean soothes my soul and it is in these long winter days that I miss it the most.

6) I make sure to see the sunrise and sunset everyday no matter where I am. The only obstacle is usually cloud cover!

7)  I love getting my hair done. For years when I was married and the mother of young children, I kept my hair very short and got cheap haircuts. That ceased about 8 years ago when a good friend of mine paid for my haircut with her hairdresser. She spent the year convincing me to grow my hair and Voila’!

8) I am grateful to be in a healthy relationship with a wonderful man.

9) My two grown sons have turned into two good men. Very little fine tuning needed!

10) No matter what life has brought to my door, I have no regrets about the choices I have made-they helped to make me a stronger person.

And the nominees are:

1) http://dorothychiotti.com/  Consistently strong writing spoken with passion from the heart.

2) http://pinkwoods.wordpress.com/ This girl can write about pain so beautifully and with true honesty.

3)  http://talichaj.com/ I love her spoken word poetry!

4) http://phylor.wordpress.com/ This writer blows me away every time!

5) http://jenniesaia.wordpress.com/ Jennie’s passionate opinions and energy ring true. I look forward to her posts all the time.

6) http://markschutter.com/ What can I say? I just love Mark. His appreciation for his life shows in all his posts and his art.

7) http://graypoet.wordpress.com/ A man with a gift for rhyme and more.

Well, I just have 7 because some of the ones I love no longer accept awards or have already been nominated for Sunshine!  Quality writers here nonetheless!

Namaste’

Enlightenment

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I00004iajZOWrFKM/s/750/750/spiritual-art-008.jpg

Credit: www.fotolia.com

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi

When I round the curve in the road, my thoughts unexpectedly go back to her and that not so long ago time when she was the “other”. The past lingers for just a moment then disappears as the road straightens and I head for home.

Each week, I return to the space that provides solace and heat. A place in that not so long ago time that seemed to call my name. The road was dark then, the route unknown. Each visit an escape hatch from pain.

Perhaps I was conceited enough to believe that he would never leave-never mind deceive. Then we became another cliché. Middle-aged man leaves wife and kids for younger woman. How trite and how true.

The knowledge came in bits and pieces. An off-handed remark made by a close relative. Phone calls saying he needed to help a friend.  Concentrated text messaging during our son’s sports game. A trip out of the country that appeared to happen as an unplanned event.

Then he said her name and it became all too real. Well, you can’t put words back in a box once they’ve been hung in the air. I felt slayed. Chopped up. Diced into tiny pieces. Shattered like broken glass. Tossed into the trash.

And then we met. Quite by accident. On a cold, dark holiday eve. A face to her name. Polite exchanges and then an awkward and quick exit.

It is hard to hold your head up when you feel like you’ve been slapped in the face. It is hard to stand up straight when you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut.

I needed to detox, to purge. So I took to the only path that would help peel the pain away. The space of healing energy and consolation.

Then she appeared once and again over time. In that sacred space. Ironically, it was easy to be gracious then; perhaps because she had cast him aside. Friends and relatives were aghast at my charitable demeanor while in her company. But it would have been too easy to take the low road. Did I really want or need to speak of him or treat her in a degrading way?

Certainly it would be simple to converse with someone in this way. Someone who had been naked with your husband. Easy to cause her discomfort or guilt. But I had moved on. Grown confident inwardly. Better to show healthy growth than to sow bad seeds.

Since then, there have been others with him. The door may have been a revolving one; and still could be if only in his mind. I need no “others”. I need only myself so that I may love and trust one other.

The sacred space is mine now. I share the energy with other souls bound for the glory of feeling grounded and balanced. We renew one another as we journey down our own paths; some curved others straight. Always honoring the light of one another.

I use memories but I will not allow memories to use me.”

Deeprak Chopra

Race Day

photo credit:  fromthekitchentotheroad.wordpress.com

The forecast was ominous. Temps in the low fifties, rain and wind off the lake at twenty mph. Not great racing weather for the long distance runners who had trained hard for their marathon. Luckily, my fiance’ and I were sharing the length but we were still anxious about the predicted conditions.  Speaking for myself,  I found the forecast hard to believe because it had changed so quickly over a period of twenty- four hours.  I thought I was prepared enough with my gear; after all, I had run in much colder conditions. Long sleeves,  a layer of water proof on top and a pair of shorts seemed enough at packing time.

We could never have been so wrong!  As we drove the 200 miles north the day before the race, rain and wind pelted the car. When we arrived at the runner’s expo to pick up our numbers, we were assaulted by the cold, raw wind and plummeting temperatures. We needed to get more body protection for the starting line!  So we shopped a bit at the expo kiosks, finding hats for five dollars a piece. Everything else that we may have needed was severely overpriced (when did running become such a high-end fashion sport?) so we decided that a trip to a big  chain box store was in order. Well, this particular type of store is hard to come by in the state we were racing in ( in truth I like the idea) but luckily we were minutes from its location. We wanted cheap and “disposable” gear that we could peel off during the race. And we hit pay dirt-feeling relief that we would not freeze our arses off too much.

The night before a big race holds two important ingredients: a good meal along with a good night’s rest. We headed to the inn that was situated in the mountains.  As we ascended the mountain road, the precipitation increased and rapidly turned into snow! We were a little dismayed at the deteriorating conditions while still holding out hope that tomorrow would be a better day.  Dinner was delightful and we hit the sack early.

Race day arrived and greeted us with below freezing temps and enough snow that it stuck to the ground as well as our car. As we reached lower elevations and our destination, the snow disappeared and the temperature warmed a bit. We were grateful for our semi-toasty clothes but definitely not excited about the conditions! Actually, at one point -as my fiance’ and I huddled under the shared tent of our jackets- I said that we could change our minds and bag the whole thing. (My man had a cold and I didn’t want it to get worse).

In reality, when you train for an event of this nature you cannot back out unless you are injured or very, very ill. So, I assumed my place in the starting corral and began to feel a bit warmer from the body heat of the 4,999 other brave and crazy souls. And once the gun went off all thoughts of the discomfort from the adverse conditions exited from my brain. It was now up to me to navigate my way through the endless sea of humanity as well as the puddles and rushing water of the fine streets in Burlington, VT. By mile 1, my shoes were completely soaked and I feared I might blister. When I hit mile 5, I stripped myself of the cheap sweats and tossed them to the side of the road. My legs were warm and happy for the rest of the race! Yes, yes the wind whipped us about as we headed further north but the 12 piece percussion ensemble really revved us up.  By mile 8, the  country station truck was playing Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim” and I  was so pumped that I high-fived the DJ!   For once in a race, I did not worry about pain nor pace; I was just running. By the time we circled back to the downtown area, the crowds were cheering loudly. Local drag queens strutted their stuff in support of us. Irish bands played on the corner. Then we headed south closer to the lake and even closer to the halfway point. Here the the race took on the zen-like quality that all runners experience.  I was in my own zone with just 5k to go and feeling no pain.

Things to Remember Redux*

          photo credit:www.masterpiece-beth.com

           Anger is a secondary emotion

And when directed at you is not about you

            Pain and Grief don’t last forever

But can give you strength to become a better person

             Shame and Fear can hold you hostage

But shedding these layers leads to enlightenment

                Joy can be found every day

And when experienced in small ways, multiplies

                   Trust is essential

And is the glue that holds all relationships together

                 Pride is sometimes helpful

But hubris can distance you from others

               Wonder and Anticipation can make you feel alive

And attracts others to your inner child

               Kindness and Patience are at times a challenge

But when practiced, lead to healthy relationships

            Hope is at once all we have and sometimes need

And the foundation for faith, peace and love

 

* Thanks to Kellie Elmore for the Free Write Friday Image Prompt: http://kellieelmore.com/2013/05/24/fwf-free-write-friday-image-prompt-8/

I took a lot of liberties with the image this week. It  reminded me that taking a road trip can be a solitary contemplative experience at times. I am heading out on one this weekend with loved ones. It is much needed after this week and even this past month !  And truly, I have used some of these recent experiences as fonder for the poem.

10 Miles or 10 K?

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But I don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”
Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I am now in the last week of training for a partner’s marathon which is happening in six short days.  This past Sunday was to be my last longer run before the race. As I was sitting at the bonfire late Saturday night with friends, I was relaying the fact that I was scheduled for a 12 miler the next morning ( I was in fact just going for 10.5 since the course is outrageously hilly).  My friend Emily said “Twelve miles, after today’s events? You run a lot!”  My oldest, of course, had graduated from college that day and I had been up since 5 am and also spent the previous weeks preparing the house, working full-time and training extensively for the marathon. I knew she was right but I still went to bed -at midnight I might add and without much carbo loading that day-seriously considering one final assault on the course.

Well, morning broke early that’s for sure. I heard my dad get up at 3:30 am to leave for the airport. Then he texted me at 5:30 to say that he “had a ball” and for me to “go back to bed”. So I did; awakening again after 7 with a fatigue hangover.  The long run prospects were looking mighty dim at this point. Then I did what no runner ever usually does-I listened to my body!  I changed my plans and decided on a favorite 10k course that I had not run in a while.

My decision proved to be a smart one. I felt fantastic! In fact, I hope to feel this good during my half of the marathon this weekend.  Moreover, my decision to cut the run short got me contemplating the training program that I used for the race. Initially, I thought that I would use the advanced guide since I had used the intermediate one a few times before and I was in better shape this go ’round. However, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that it was killing me! Three weeks in and I was wiped and sore nearly constantly. I never run more than 3 days in a row and the program was requiring 4 days with longer runs plus two days of speed work mixed in. Plus, I had already been running extensively before the training started. So, I rebooted and went back to  the intermediate program with some of my own stuff (like 90 minutes of hot power yoga weekly-just the best!) in the mix.

Dedicated runners are remarkably adept at losing a few brain cells when it comes to training for races. On the one hand, you may have the competitive devil whispering fervently in one ear: “GO LONGER AND HARDER”; and on the other, the sensible angel sweetly saying: “USE YOUR COMMON SENSE.” Well, there is a time and place for everything and I do hope that I have approached my training with a mix of both-truth be told. I am in this sport because I love it; it is part of who I am and how I live my life.

In the end, I know that when I put my number on Sunday morning, I will be ready to give it my best knowing that I did my best to prepare for the race.  After all, my fiance’ will be out there at the halfway mark waiting for the hand off!

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen