Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thank you

...for your comments. It's encouraging. Blogging about running keeps me accountable. Now that I've "published" all this, I'm conscious of it on the trail.

I tried something new yesterday: half-way through the run, when I didn't think I had another drop of energy, I asked for help. J could tell I was hurting, and I let myself dwell on the distance and discomfort way too early in the run. So I said, "Help me. Get me through this. " And he did. He reminded me we had less in front of us than we had behind us. He said I was doing great. He said, "This is nothing! You got this!" So I kept going. And I finished.

Since we first ran the whole lake without stopping, our times are improving. In one month, we've dropped NINE minutes off our time. Since running 2.6 miles, we've dropped 4 minutes. The last two runs, there have been brief portions that I enjoyed. I wasn't in pain, it actually felt like a good stretch, a nice "feel the burn" moment. Miraculous.

Fishing season opened last weekend, so the lake is much busier. There are people on the trail and in lawn chairs, wielding fishing poles and swinging hooks over their heads. It's very disconcerting, especially because they hear us coming (what with all that heavy breathing) and they look over their shoulder to see what's bearing down on them. Not so helpful to my self-consciousness. I have to keep reminding myself, "I am a beginner. But I'm running. I might get dirty looks, but I am the one running." I have the urge to defend myself, as if I am obligated to explain why I can't exercise silently, or why I don't look like an REI catalogue, which I dream of.

Like Bob Wiley says to Dr. Leo Marvin, I hear myself whining,
"Come on! I've come so far! I'm not a slacker. I'm doing the work!"

Thanks for cheering me on. Keep the comments coming. In the meantime, I'll keep repeating my favorite motivational comment from my husband: "Pain is just weakness leaving the body."

Saturday, April 25, 2009


This week, I met a goal months in advance of when I thought I would: I ran all the way around the lake.

Husband and I have been running since April 1st, on a local trail that circles a small lake. On Wednesday, I ran the whole loop: 2.6 miles. Without stopping. I've done it twice this week, and I still can't believe it. I wish running was more like getting a tatoo: one incident of pain followed by an indelible badge of toughness. "Look! I did it! I'm bad ass!" Before I have anything visible to show for my running, I have to keep doing it, repeating the painful stuff.

It occured to me the other day, while running, that one of the major reasons I dislike it so much is that running is undignified. So far, the payoff keeps me going: I feel better and I want to be healthier (read: lose 30+ pounds). But man, the process is humbling. I like presenting myself to the world in the best way possible. I gain a sense of control by how I dress and talk. When it comes to communication, wardrobe, and body image I emphasize the positive and gloss over the negative. This does not happen when I run. It's not a pretty sight. All the wobbly bits I try to disguise are suddenly on display. I breathe hard and my mouth gets gummy and I wipe my face with my shirt sleeve. I sweat and turn bright red, like a cartoon character holding it's breath. I stumble and shuffle and suddenly lose the ability to automatically put one foot in front of the other, like those dreams where you forget how to walk. Every footfall takes effort because it feels like I have cinder blocks on the ends of my legs.

All this makes me a very cranky running partner. If I didn't have J at my side the whole time, I would give up after the first quarter mile, or just collapse in a pile and cry. He talks me through it. He reminds me when to slow down so I don't outpace myself. He points out landmarks as we pass them. He tells me I'm doing awesome. I feel anything but awesome, and his encouragment gets me grinning. But I usually resent him the whole time. While I'm learning what to do with all this insecurity and indignity, he gets the brunt of my bad attitude. I hate to admit this, but the thing that keeps me running is competition. I don't need to win, or finish first, or make better time. I just hate the thought of him seeing me fail. That's what I realized the other day: I'm miserable while running because my husband sees me struggling. How messed up is that? Where does that much pride come from?

I find myself wishing I was all alone, so I could struggle in privacy, master the tough parts of the trail, and then join him again to show off my success. The current arrangement is that I blame him for all the discomfort (I ask myself, "How did I let him talk me into this?") and then take all the credit when we finish our run. The truth is, I couldn't do it without him. Like I said, never in a million years would I have guessed that I'd make it around the whole lake after 3 weeks of running. NEVER. (I still wonder if it's trick photography or something.) But J's shown me I've got it in me. Amazing. I'm going to work on the attitude thing. Thank you for sticking with me, Honey.

I wish I had a grand concluding paragraph, wrapping up all this insight with an applicable anecdote, "How Running Has Made me a Better Person." But frankly, I have a long way to go.


Analyze this: I went to Weight Watchers this morning for my weigh-in. Minimal loss, but good advice at the meeting on tracking points and being accountable for what I eat.

On the way home, I caught myself humming and laughed out loud. The song in my head was this:

Mama's little baby loves shortening bread.

Therein lies the challenge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Travelogue part 3

Monday 5:13pm

As promised, here are all the relevant details:
Where? Jacksonville, FL
Why? 4th Annual Girls’ Getaway
With who? Jamie (fellow African Children’s Choir chaperone)
How long? All weekend!


I’m on a layover in Atlanta, GA on my way back to Seattle so I have a moment to post an update. Jamie and I packed a lot in to the last 3 days. The highlights: Sightseeing at St. Augustine (the oldest city in the nation), spent a day at the beach in Jax, we ate at Joe’s, and enjoyed sweet tea and sunburns (okay, the burn is not really enjoyable, but I‘m no longer the whitest person in the lower 48).

This time together, we’re both married women, so we swapped a lot of stories about married life, why we love our husbands, and what we’ve been up to in the last couple of years (the last two visits have been for each others’ weddings, so not a lot of time to visit). A strange concept, us needing to “catch up” after almost two years of spending every day together. It was strange not to be on the move via bus, nor have 24 children to keep track of. We talked about the aspects of tour we miss: the excitement, the constant change, the kids, the limelight. But we agreed we’re happy where we are with places of our own, spouses, full-time jobs, and schedules of our choosing.

We compared notes on visiting churches, too. We're both looking for Community (capital C). It’s nice to have a friend so like-minded. Our experiences mirror each other in so many ways and I really value hearing her perspective. You should check out her and her husband's blog.

I miss her already.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Travelogue part 2

Friday 3: 50pm
Greetings from 38,000 feet. Turns out cheese as an in-flight snack costs six bucks. Guess I’ll stick with complimentary peanuts.

I have a window seat, and I can see Montana in all it’s miniature glory below. Quite a bit of turbulence so far. I made the mistake of not eating before boarding and the 20 ounces of water I bought from the vending machine (for TWO FIFTY) proves less than filling. Ooh. The flight attendant finally made it to the back of the plane (I’m a mere three rows from the closet containing a toilet).

NO! PA just announced snack service cancelled due to turbulence! I don’t know which is worse, instability in a 757 while airborne, or my growling stomach.

Oh my. The highly anticipated snack totals 12 grams.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Travelogue part 1

Friday, 12:45pm
I’m by myself at the airport, with an hour and twenty minutes before my flight across the country. I’ll save all the details of where and why, who and how long, for another post. First, some musing. I really enjoy traveling alone. It’s nice to be anonymous, with no one to keep track of or keep up with, and to operate on my own schedule (with the freedom to alternate between “rigid” and “helter skelter“). I slept on the shuttle bus during the 2.5 hour trip here. I’m well rested, feeling sharp in a denim jacket and bright orange scarf and reliving my independent traveler days. I’m armed with a new book, my Dell Mini, comfortable shoes, and cell phone. What more could a girl need? The world is at my fingertips.

Airports are like malls: lots of people-watching opportunities, a variety of shops (all overpriced), and plenty of nooks and crannies to disappear into. I believe airports provide a wonderful cross-section of humanity. By wonderful I mean harrowing. This place is a sociological gold mine of human behavior. Where else could you find this many people funneled through such a narrow opening of common experience? Maybe at Wal-Mart. Everyone here is consumed by one or more of the following:
a) timetables
b) destinations
c) relationships
d) assignments
We travel for a variety of reasons but use a common mode of transportation. Most of us could do without the proximity to one another.

I love to see what people consider appropriate travel attire. I wish I had the cojones to wear a sleeveless dress and heels on an airplane. Some people are clearly headed for the Outback, dressed like Crocodile Dundee, complete with a canteen on their utility belt and a walking stick (how’d they get that past security?). Others are dressed for success, announcing via their wardrobe “I belong in first class,” with power suits, ties, briefcases, and wing-tipped shoes. And then there are those who opt for a super-casual travel experience, with a pillow under each arm, a tote bag filled with snacks, dressed in Pjs and flip-flops.

Airports are designed to be idiot-proof. You’d have to work really hard to miss all the signs, instructions, public service announcements and last calls. We are herded like cattle, instructed to remove our shoes in a public place and expose the contents of our pockets and purses. It all feels ridiculous, but we do it in the name of safety. And I do feel safer. Knowing that any potential crazies are subjected to the same treatment at least levels the playing field. If my flight ends badly, I can rest assured it won’t be because someone had any liquid in excess of three ounces, without a zip-lock bag to carry it in.

We’re all here temporarily. For some that translates to “take it in stride,” put up with the inconveniences and roll with the punches. For others, that means “treat strangers like dirt” and demand preferential treatment whenever possible. Like the guy at the ticket counter who got all pissy with the airline agent while trying to relocate his luggage, after he told the agent his layover location, rather than his final destination. His bags were long gone, presumably en route to the wrong city. The ticket agent tried to remain calm while several dozen people watched. He turned bright red and kept his voice as low and even as he could while describing a very simple progression of cause and effect: you screw up, you deal with it. The angry passenger kept shifting his weight impatiently, shaking his head in disbelief, and even threw a ballpoint pen in disgust. Or consider the woman in line in front of me, who stood in one place, waiting for instructions, even though she had not checked in electronically, nor received a boarding pass from the counter. She announced without irony that she was going to miss her flight, yet stood still, waiting for some direction. Another man paced between computer terminals, eager to leave his luggage with someone in a uniform and go find his gate. Lots of frustrated facial expressions and darting eyes. Fascinating.

Wouldn’t an airport be an ideal context for a social experiment? Travelers are stressed, tired, uncomfortable, and possessive. With this many variables intersecting with so many desired outcomes, I can’t help but compare myself to a rat in a maze, looking for the biggest piece of cheese. Maybe they’ll serve some for my in-flight snack.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

As promised...

Here's an excerpt from my running journal. It doesn't really capture the anguish of pushing myself beyond the breaking point, the internal battle between mind and muscle, or the victory of setting a new record. Please notice the improving time. And hum the theme from Chariots of Fire.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Note to Self: It's Worth It

The latest development in my life is that Husband and I have started running again. We didn't join a gym or a runners club, or commit to a work-out regimen, but last week all conditions were favorable as far as timing goes, so we ran. The weather was horrible. Altogether a miserable experience. BUT...I ran a full mile. Last year, it took me until AUGUST to do that. So having a jump start on a summer-of-outdoor-activity feels good. Tonight will be our fifth run.

J has to verbally prod me along the whole time (his endurance and pain tolerance are way better than mine) and I have to fight murderous thoughts as I gasp for breath and stumble forward. The only thing going through my mind in the last quarter-mile is, "WHY did I let him talk me into this? I will NEVER do this again." But I like the way I feel after running. I want to show you our progress from last week, so I'll post my few running journal entries next time. For now, I'd like to jot down a few things before I forget. Remind me of these if I start whining.

1) My body is more capable than I give it credit. All my limbs and joints and respiratory and cardiovascular systems work. My muscles and breathing and general well-being are improving. I am lurching out of a sedentary winter of physical and emotional hibernation, into this new schedule of activity and exertion. I'm impressed. Way to go, anatomy.

2) Being exhausted is a good feeling when I've ACCOMPLISHED something. The quarter-mile markers on our trail show little landmarks of success. Cooling down after our run, collapsing into the car on our way home, guzzling water, breathing belly-deep breaths with expanded lungs, all feels GOOD. I'm frickin' proud of myself. I'm no gazelle, but at least I won't be a sloth.

3) I have fewer tension headaches, more energy during the day, I sleep hard, and feel stronger.

I'm a brand-new, baby-beginner. But I see a lot of benefits after the first week, and I hope this post will motivate me when it doesn't feel so rewarding.

Friday, April 3, 2009

If you have time on your hands and need a laugh...

Try this:

Google the phrase "unfortunately,_______________" and fill the blank with your name. Put the whole thing in quotation marks. Hilarity will ensue.

Here are a few results from my search:

"Unfortunately, Emily turned out an old maid because of her father."

"Unfortunately, Emily has neglected to inform Joe that she is now married to Deputy Marshal Wade McPhail."

"Unfortunately Emily seems to have participated in such a disturbing crime and the video and pictures have been leaked."

"Unfortunately, Emily is still feeling a little different as she is the only half-human/half-mermaid hybrid she knows."

Just what I needed during Friday's lunch break. What funnies do you find? Post your favorites in a comment.