The Phoenix rises

It’s probably a bit pretentious to refer to myself a phoenix. Not probably. Is. But I honestly can’t think of a more apt description for how I feel.

My journey to the 2010 NYC marathon crashed an burned like the Hindenburg. It was not pretty. And getting back up on my two feet was a roller coaster that I’m pretty sure, nearly four years later, still hasn’t leveled out. Injury, and then pregnancy took me out of the running game for quite some time. (Despite thinking I was one of those female runners who would continue going well into pregnancy, I never made it past the first month.) Then, post-partum chronic pain flared (fibromyalgia and arthritis) and doing anything more than working 50 hours a week while taking care of the little guy seemed too much to ask. Add in some major life changes, and, well…running was pretty low on the totem pole.

Running fell so far out of my life that I didn’t remember until today, when I was working on another project, that I even had this blog still up in the Interwebs. 

BUT — there is always a ‘but’ — here we are in late summer 2014 and I can proudly say I’ve been back at it for the last 8 weeks. It started as a brisk walk with the dog and stroller, then a light mile-long jog, working up to 5K, then to 4 miles…5…6. I’ve got a 10K race scheduled for next week, with the South Shore Half Marathon and a marathon relay in November. 

I’m not running the way I used to: I’m slower by at least 2 minutes per mile, and I hurt for the first quarter mile no matter how much Ibuprofen is in my system (until the endorphins kick in). But I’m happy and teaching my son how to be active and healthy, and the dog is getting a good couple miles in each day to calm her down to a moderate frenzy.

I’m inspired by finding this blog again and aim to keep the posts coming…for whomever desires to read them.

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Getting the Mojo Back

It’s been months. Yes, literally, months since I was running regularly. After two  really bad spills back-to-back last October, the second courtesy of the crap pavement down Staten Island Ferry way, I had to pull out of the 2010 race. With busted knees and elbows, open wounds on the hands, I gave in and said, “Fine. Enough. 2010 is just not my year.”

It took some time to heal up, to feel confident on my own two feet again, but on the day after Thanksgiving I got up the nerve and went for a 5K run. It was great! Felt amazing! And shortly after that, I was back on the pavement and treadmill to build up the muscles.

In January, I was running 2 to 3 times a week on the treadmills at the gym, averaging 4 to 5 miles a run. Within no time, I was back up to 6 and 7 miles — topping 8 at the longest. The adrenaline was pumping, the heart felt strong…the confidence was back.

And then injury #2 hit. A combination of plantar fasciitis and shin splints. It didn’t matter that I varied up my distances and shoes. It didn’t matter that I iced my legs and feet after the long runs. Running on a treadmill consistently, with no variation in terrain, created repetitive stress issues. I could hardly walk and developed a near addiction to Ibuprofen. So that cut out the rest of January, February, and part of March for training.

But it’s almost spring, and I’m itching to stretch the muscles; to feel the wind in my hair, the dirt under foot; to burn and ache because I used every fiber of my body to cover the distance. It’s time.

I don’t know how training will go. I’ve signed up for the Colon Cancer 15K, so will be running one way or another shortly and my acceptance into 2011 Marathon here in NYC is guaranteed — so I need to get out and do something soon. Let’s just hope that a longer training season, taking things at a slower pace, and cross-training will get me to that finish line.

A Fool in the Rain

I suppose that when you start any new activity, you’re bound to learn a lot about yourself. This last week I learned that I absolutely, no question about it, need to eat something carb-heavy no more than 2 hours before attempting any run longer than 3 miles. Otherwise, my blood sugar level drops and I get a massive headache and nauseated (if I’m lucky) or pass out. I also learned that I love to run in the rain.

This latter fact was quite a surprise, as I tend to avoid any sort of outdoor activity on bad-weather days. Yes, I’m one of those runners. But now that I’m part of a team that holds practice in any conditions, barring thunder and lightning, I have less say about when I run. Last week, the team met at 6pm on a drizzly day.  It wasn’t too bad moisture-wise during warm up, but as we set out on our 4 miles, the skies opened and for the next forty minutes dumped buckets upon buckets of water on our heads.

I ran beside my friend Lee, feet dropping into deep puddles, apologizing every time I splashed her. After the first mile, strings of water shot off my hands each time my arm swung forward or back. All my clothes clung to my body, adding what turned out to be 10 extra pounds of weight (I measured it); my hair and scalp completely saturated in the cool water.

But it was refreshing, too. The water came steadily and kept my body temperature down. The pollen was out of the air, so it was easier to breathe. I did wonder whether goggles would have helped with seeing, as there were plenty of moments when I was blinded by the sheets hitting my face.  After a while, the track became a bit of an obstacle course and I practiced my gazelle moves by leaping over the muddy ponds barring our way.

For one full hour, the park became a new world, completely separate from the city and its chaos and I realized how relaxing it was to push my body and hear only the steady rain, the pounding of my feet on dirt and the laughter of my friend.

Catching Up With Myself

It’s been a few weeks since I last had a chance to write, here, and it’s been filled with a lot of ups and downs. On the up side, I had my first running session with Team for Kids — a short 5K along the East River up to Randall’s Island. The folks who are on the team are really lovely, which was a massive relief for me, and the coaches seem fantastic. I’ve also hit a milestone for myself in terms of writing: I’ve managed to write 80 pages, typed. (I’ve mostly been a short-story and non-fiction writer. While I have written and published a non-fiction book, getting something this long in fiction has been a challenge!)

But then there have been downsides. I’ve been walk/running to work and this week have discovered that the 10K minimum each day with at least 10lbs on my back is causing me shin splints. This was partly started because I stupidly bought a pair of fancy Nike trainers because I was told they’d be better than the cheaper, less extravagant Nike’s I’ve been running in for ages. (Lesson learned: when something works, don’t f@$& with it.) Then, the new shorts I bought were comfy and great to run in — but the chaffing of my still chubby thighs left me walking bow-legged with bare, red patches of skin between my legs. (Second lesson learned: shave legs right before running.) So, the recovery has been touch and go.

Because of this, I feel like my abilities have tapered off. Running 10K in 59 minutes was exciting a few weeks ago — now running 5K in 30 minutes is painfully difficult! I’m exhausted most of the time, always wanting to eat, and (according to my husband) more fussy than usual. On top of that, our 6 month old kitten Romach refuses to let me sleep past 5.30 in the morning.

So, as I’m dealing with all of these little set-backs, I’ve decided to take some advice from Buddha:

“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.”

Today, I will get down off my cross, quit the whining and keep on keeping on. [Queue the Elf music: “Put one foot in front of the other…”]

Feeling the Burn

Last week, I let my Metro card lapse and started (what I thought would be) running to and from work. It turns out to be exactly 5K/3.1 miles, and not the 4 miles I had originally thought. This is just as well, because what I didn’t account for in this new, green plan was the added weight of carrying my clothes and lunch in a backpack. I weighed it at the gym the other day. I’ve added 10 lbs to myself.

The good news in this is that the added weight is helping my muscles build up a bit faster, which means when I take the backpack off on Saturday for a long run, the stamina should be better. The not so great news is that running with that extra weight is killing my legs and hip! After four days of it (walking, mostly) last week, I ended up taking the weekend off from all activity except writing and walking to the pub. The overuse took two days to recuperate, and I still felt a bit of it when I started off yesterday.

On the up side, I think the days of rest did my muscles some good. Today, I managed to run the entire distance without taking walking breaks — with the ten pounds on my back.

Along a different track, I have been finding the mornings to be incredibly inspiring. The number of people out in the park, regardless of weather, running and cycling is impressive. One woman in particular brings a smile to my face. I don’t know her name, but I’ve seen her a number of times (including the weekends) running the 10K loop. The reason I remember her is because she seems to have suffered a stroke at some point in her life. Her right arm hangs slightly limp at her side and her head turns slightly to the side. But this isn’t the only noticeable thing about her. She has a strong, brilliant stride that is steady and deliberate. It’s one I’d like to learn!

I like to think I’d be like that after a difficult health event. Make myself get up off the couch and keep the body moving, regardless. For now, I’m cherishing the fact that I get to watch her succeed each morning, kicking the dust up in my face.

Bye Bye Metro

In an effort to ramp up my stamina, I’ve decided to abandon my metro card this week (when it runs out) and take to the streets for my commute. Rather than cramming onto the 6 train and sweating like a pig with other New Yorkers first thing in the morning, I will strap on my Nike trainers and earn my sweat with a jog to and from work. I had thought I’d start this yesterday, but early spring thunderstorms and buckets of rain put me off a day.

I’m hoping that this will help me make more time in my life for writing and family, while still letting me get my training in. If nothing else, the 4 miles run home ought to help burn off some of the workday’s frustrations!

Day 1 of commute by foot — so far so good.

Making Up Time

I met my best friend in the park after work yesterday for the 40-block walk home. We strolled up the east side to Belvedere Castle, then parked our bums on a stone bench in the Shakespeare garden. It was the first time we really spoke about the marathon and why I had signed up.

“It’s a massive thing,” she said to me. “Really.”

“I know!” Giggling, I reminded her about my tendency to get excited about new things, then give up as the energy wanes. This time around, there’s more at stake. Not only do I need to run the 26.2 miles in November, but I’ve committed to raising $2620 for the privilege of doing so. “This year, though, is about finishing things.” I said.  “I’m about to be 36. If I don’t do it now, then it’s never going to get done.”

This is a reality we both understand all too well. Too many of our early years were wasted. Wasted trying to please parents, to please partners, to please everyone except ourselves.

Does the state of being I’m experiencing right now qualify as a true midlife crisis? Maybe not. But that clock-ticking-alarm thing that seems to live in so many women’s brains and bodies is at play here and, instead of screaming for babies, it’s screaming for me to do the things that I have been talking about for so long but put off because of that little green monster called “Practicality”.

I’ve decided that year 36 of my life will be characterized as the year of anti-practicality. I don’t mean that I’m going to do things that make no sense or are impractical. I mean that I am not going to allow the demands of everyday life to dominate and dictate how I will spend my time and energy. Yes, I have a 40 hour a week job. Yes, I have a husband who wants to spend time with me. Yes, there are friends and other commitments vying for my time.

But none of these things are going to be allowed to run unrestrained in my life any more. The first step in making up for lost time? A schedule. Today, I have created a weekly schedule and blocked out all the time I am already committed. Time I spend coming to work, making meals,  and everything else I don’t really control is blocked out, leaving me with a very small, but distinct, list of hours that belong to me and me alone.

My thinking is that, if I’m more conscious of how much free time I really have, then I’m far more likely to protect it for the things that matter to me — whether they be a movie with my husband, a long session at the gym, or time to write in the office with the door closed. It’s also giving me a very clear idea of how much time I have for training for this long running-journey ahead.