Always an adventure

I love to travel, so I do it a lot. Mostly with my man, who has inspired wanderlust in me for almost 36 years. He plans the best trips, takes me out of my comfort zone, gives me confidence, and helps me dial back the travel anxiety that airports give me these days. Well, for the most part he dials it back. When he can’t dial it back, he gets me a glass of wine. Or two. That does the trick.  

I have lots of places still on my bucket list, but I have two favorites that draw me to them like magnets. Whenever my man gets that travel bug spark in his eye and starts planning a trip, he doesn’t even have to ask me if or when I want to go to either of these two places. He just plans the trip and tells me the dates.  

 New York City is the place I love to go to, spend 3 or 4 nights, see shows, do a run-about (or three) around the city, and wander around museums until my man is bored to grouchiness. Then, I love to go home. Big cities are a great place to visit, but I don’t think people would like me very much if I lived in one.  

Hawaii’s Big Island, on the other hand, is a place I could stay forever. The first time we came here, I got off the plane and into the rental car, and felt like I’d come home. It’s the only place on earth I would ever consider living off the grid, and that says a lot for a gal who really likes her hour long hot baths.  

Sunset on the first day

Tonight, as I sit enjoying the sunset from my balcony with a glass of wine, I feel more at home than ever. After a 9 1/2 mile hike to see the lava flowing into the ocean today, I’m exhausted, every muscle and joint in my body hates me, I have a blister forming on my pinkie toe that doesn’t bode well for the toe nail that resides there, and my sunburn is making me a true redneck, but I can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow. 

Tomorrow’s adventure is under the sea.  

Even better.  

He loves living life on the edge

Lava making land. I’m not ashamed to say this sight brought me to tears


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.  And the spirit of God was hovering over the deep waters.  Genesis 1:1-2

The power of a pity party

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When my youngest daughter was growing up, she had the usual amount of teenage angst and drama (although it seemed at the time it was more than the usual amount).  I didn’t have a lot of patience with self pity then, and still don’t.

I’ve always encouraged her to remember that we are embarrassingly blessed.  Not just our family, but most of us in the western world. We have more materially, but we also have the freedom to do things, to be who we are or want to be, to pursue things that interest us and ignite our passions, to worship as we like. We can choose our careers, our friends, how hard or how little we work, and we have a nearly unlimited ability to get food and soothe our creature comforts.  (I could go on in this vein, but this isn’t a political post, so I’m sure you get the picture).

What all that meant to her was that I didn’t allow her to have extended self pity sessions.  I would remind her of all that she has and all that she is, I might agree with her anger (or depression, or whatever she was experiencing), or I might tell her how silly she was being;  then, I put a time limit on it.  I told her I would give her XX amount of time to be sad, depending on the situation, then I would drag her out of bed, if needed,  and make her face the world again.  Head on. I only had to drag her out a couple of times.

It’s always been my philosophy that we need to remind ourselves of the silver linings.  To see the world in a positive light, even when the world doesn’t really deserve it.

I’ll admit that’s not really my nature.  My lineage is filled with  “Woe is me, the sky is falling, nobody likes me, I can’t catch a break” characters, including my own mother.  But, I determined early not to be that person; that I would always find the silver lining, and, for the most part, I’ve been successful.  I have to dig really deep sometimes, but it’s always there to be found, and I want to live a life of joy and hope, not one of despair and fear.

Running has been a lifeline to that for me for many, many years.  So, the struggles I’ve had for the last couple of years with injury and illness have subdued that spirit more than I’ve wanted to admit, even to myself.  My inner dialogues go something like, “I know this hurts, but remember that not everyone is able to run,” or, “Get over yourself, you have a life most people never even dream of,” or some variation on that theme.  And, all that is true.  I’m thankful each day that I have been able to have running as a part of my life; for every slow, painful mile; for every sunrise I’ve seen on the run; for every city I’ve explored on my feet; for every trail I’ve stumbled down; for every beautiful moment running has brought to my life, and there have been many.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken a run for granted.

Which brings me to now.  Because, as you’ve guessed if you’ve stayed with me this long, I am injured.  Again.

A few weeks ago, I went for a short, easy 4 miler, and somehow came away with a pulled hamstring.  I thought, okay, no worries, I’ll stretch, get a massage and take a week or so off, and be back to normal in no time.  Tried to run a week or so later, and limped for the next two days.  More days off, another massage, essential oil applications, diligent stretching and it was time to try again.  No dice.  A week of chiropractics, more of the above, and yesterday’s test run ended in tears.  I mean The Ugly Cry.  You know the one.

Drove straight to the doctor, went through my treatment, was short and cross with him, and left with more tears. It felt like the end.  No one said that to me; in fact, he (the doctor) told me he sees no reason that I can’t get back to running.  But, yesterday, I was afraid that my body was saying something entirely different.

Now, if you’re not a runner, you won’t understand this.  I don’t mean that to be condescending, I just know that before I was a runner, I didn’t get it either.  I never understood my husband’s need for motorcycles, never understood the pleasure people derived form hunting or fishing or whatever their passion was, how doing those things fed their souls.  I just never got it.

I had passions, sure, but they involved my faith, my family, my friends.  I never knew that the passion I felt in those areas could be intensified and fanned into flame by simply moving my body forward through time and space and allowing God to use that simple pleasure to make me whole.

I get it now.  And, yesterday, I thought that was over for me.  So, I threw myself a good old fashioned pity party.  Sorry I didn’t invite you, but I really didn’t want company.

After the doctor’s visit, I decided a pedicure would help, so headed to my favorite salon.  Who should plop into the chair beside me but a bubbly young mother donned in running clothes, gushing about the nine half marathons (yes, NINE) she completed last year, and how much she is looking forward to the Dopey challenge at Disney next year (Google it, it’s ridiculous – I’m not even going to give you a link).  I’m pretty sure I didn’t curse or throw lightening bolts from my eyes, but I wasn’t my usual chatty self.  The pedicure was a bust.

My toes look pretty, though.  (See?  Silver linings.)

I thought a little shopping would help, so I tried on a few things for the summer.   You know how that went, right?

I finally got home to get a little work done.  After completing the most urgent of my tasks, I gave in to it and had a good cry.  I didn’t try to tell myself how lucky I am, how blessed I’ve been, or how many people have issues much more serious than mine.  All true. Not helpful.

I could only think, if I’m not a runner, then who exactly am I?  I let the tears flow, I soaked in a lavender bath, then I let the tears flow some more.  I had a date with one of my best friends, and while I thoroughly enjoyed her company and the theater production we went to see, the two+ hours spent seated in the theater made my bottom/leg/groin hurt even more, and tears flowed freely on the journey home.  I stayed up much later than my typical 9:30 bedtime and used that time to wallow in self pity like a pig in slop.

Then, came the morning.  A beautiful, cool, sunny, spring morning as only my Mississippi can throw at you.  A perfect day for a run.  Sigh.

Oddly enough, I met the morning with a smile.  My heart and mind were clear, my joy and hope had returned, and I no longer had that dark little cloud attached to my back end.  I went to my doctor’s visit, where I was much nicer and he very diplomatically didn’t call me out on what a b**** I was yesterday.  We did some different therapies, and I left with much less pain, and in a more hopeful frame of mind. I realize I was being overly dramatic (who knew I could still be that at my age?), and that, of course I will run again.  It’s not like I’m trying to make the Olympic team or qualify for Boston, I just run to stay sane.

Making a plan always makes me feel better, so I’m working on that now.  It involves some time off running, but I’ll be filling that time with other good things.

The point of this post is that sometimes it’s okay to have a little pity party.  Limit it, don’t let it go on and on, and if it does, it’s not a pity party. It may be something more serious for which you need to seek help.  Don’t be afraid to do that.

This is one of my favorite quotes, and the truth of it is huge for me today:

I’ve have my tears, next week I have a short beach vacay with one of my dearest friends, and the week after I’m headed for a dive trip in the Dry Tortugas with my favorite person in the world, my man.

Life is good, salt is healing, God is full of grace and mercy.  I’m truly thankful.

Running upstream

It’s a mixed metaphor kind of day.  

My running goal this year is very, very simple.  To run.  That’s it.  That’s all I want.  To put consistent miles on my legs each week.  

The jury is still out on the results of my efforts thus far.  

My foot issue is better.  More or less.  I’m working with a great PT (who runs!), so I’m making progress.  Slowly.  But slow is  the story of my life, after all.  

I’m making strength training more of a priority than ever, and if you’ve ever been around me, you’ll know that the only thing I hate more than strength training is Daylight Savings Time.  So, this spring brought a double whammy.  Well, a triple whammy when you factor in the pollen.  

I know, though, that if I’m going to get back to this thing, and continue to run for life, I’ve got to do it right.  So, I’m squatting, and lunging, and planking, and doing toe raises.    It ain’t pretty, but there it is.  

Today, I ran Front Beach in Ocean Springs, then meandered back up through town to our secret hotel (seriously, I’m not telling you where it is – it stays booked enough as it is, and I’m here once a month for business, so I need it.).  

Ocean Springs is one of Mississippi’s jewels, I highly recommend spending a few days here, especially in the spring.  Okay, fine, I’ll tell you the best place to stay.  But, if I need it and you’re in it, we’re going to have a problem.  

The Inn is a small, boutique hotel located right on the main stretch.  It’s quiet, clean and comfortable, easy to book, and very private.  They only have four rooms available (two in the main location downtown) so you see my reticence in telling you about it.  Don’t book it when I need it.  Fair warning.  

  
Anyway, back to today’s run.  I love running Front Beach to the bridge, then up and over that big, bad thing.  Today, I didn’t have steam for the bridge.   It made me sad, but more determined than ever to get the steam back.  

That bridge, though.

It’s been a weird year, so far.  I’ve been working more than ever, but am squeezing in runs when I can.  We were in north Mississippi for a couple weeks, so I got some wonderful hikes in, and a few quality runs.  

My body is only participating in my return to running about 50 percent, so I’m retraining my mind to pick up the slack.  Today’s run involved a LOT of mental gymnastics.  The run to the bridge was relatively easy, but there wasn’t a lot left for that up and over, so I turned around.  That put me running into a really strong wind, so it was slooooooow going.  Even for me, whose middle name appears to be “Slow Old Broad”.  It truly felt like I was running upstream through rushing waves, hence the mixed metaphor title of this post.  

My self talk today involved a lot of reminders that it will come back, that I’m grateful for every step, that I can’t take ANY run for granted, and that I’m still lapping everyone who slept in this morning.  It also included many prayers for peace and patience.  

Heading back into town, I purposely changed gears and put my mind to taking in all the beauty that is this sweet town.  The azaleas blooming, the wisteria hanging like fat grapes, the majestic oak trees.  And, of course, the architecture.  I turned down Ocean Drive because, well, this:

  
And, I stopped a few moments to lift some folks in prayer.  

There was a very angry dog across the road who was less than thrilled with my presence, so I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked.  

I returned to my room, did my strength exercises, showered and changed, and headed up the road to French Kiss Pastries for coffee and a cannoli.  I stopped at one cannoli, although there is another peeking out of my bag that I’m trying to save for Gary.  Hope it makes it.  😏

Choosing gratitude

  
Do you know what this image means?  No, it’s not Groundhog Day, nor am I Puxatawny Phil (I’m hoping he doesn’t see his shadow on Tuesday).  

It means the sun is out this weekend and the weather is fine.  It also means I’ve found a trail to run.  So, you can’t see it in my shadow pic, but there’s a huge grin on my face.  

I use the term “run” in its loosest possible way today.  I have that pesky foot problem that’s still giving me grief, but after a very painful shot, and two weeks of wearing a “toe condom” (don’t ask) and wearing only comfortable (read: ugly) shoes; the issue is feeling much better.  So, of course, on the first pretty weekend in a while, I decided to put it to the test.  

My man and I loaded up our little camper and headed to the woods yesterday.  He to burn up the trails on his dirt bike, me to skip along them at much decreased intensity.  We’re at his riding club’s lease, so he has lots of company.  And, even though it’s a very large lease, I still have to keep my ears open for flying trail bikes, and get out of their way accordingly.  

He and I took our bicycles out yesterday after we got here so that he could show me the paths and help get me oriented.  What he tends to forget in his perfectly balanced world,  is that I’m always too focused on trying to stay upright as we plow over rough terrain to pay attention to the route.  I won’t ever be a threat on the trail biking circuit, that’s for sure.  I much prefer my feet (flawed and painful as they are)  solidly planted, thank you very much.  And, I nearly always find my way back by myself.  So far, at least.  

There’s something intensely satisfying about a trail run, even an excruciatingly slow one.  Other than the sound of distant dirt bikes, I’m kept company by the sound of the wind and the occasional flutter of birds as I scare them up out of their nests in the ground.  The open blue sky, the rattle of the leaves, the smell of fresh dirt.  There’s nothing likely to make me feel more grateful to be alive and for the ability to run.  However slowly.  

I’m reminded to never take the run for granted. I’m reminded that I don’t “have” to run, I “get” to run, and that every single one of my runs has taught me something.  Especially the bad ones.  Mostly small, inconsequential things, like what not to eat before a run, or to never try out new shoes (or bras, socks, shirts, or skirts,etc.) on a long run.  

While those things are important to me, the real lessons have been subtler.  For instance: everything in life is a choice, including gratitude and happiness.  Yes, those things are affected by circumstances, but the final decision to be happy, grateful, content, rests with me.  And, just like I have to choose whether to run or not daily, the decision to live with gratitude and to be happy is made each morning, also.   

While trail running on dirtbike paths has its dangers, it also has some perks.  It’s hard to get lost.  Between the rutted mud tracks and the sound of engines revving, I can always find my way back, even when I take a wrong turn (as I often do).  But, I think the thing I love most about sharing the trail with men who fly through the woods and around trees on two wheels for fun, is hearing them laugh while they’re doing it. That childlike delight of reckless abandon can be clearly heard above the whine of their engines.  

The sound of pure joy.  

That’s the sound my heart makes when I run.  I’m profoundly grateful for it.  

Running, injury, humility, and wisdom

When you become a runner, you make your peace with the inevitability of injuries, and the attending inconvenience, frustration, and expense associated with each one.  You acknowledge that you’ll need to keep an orthopedist on retainer, bow to the knowledge that you’re going to have to pay a bone doctor or an internist eventually, anyway, and make your choice accordingly.  

You find a good one early on, and stick with him or her for life (and help them build expensive new surgery centers and clinics with your $$.  But, I digress).  It rattles your chain; therefore, when you’ve been with said Doctor long enough for him (or her) to semi-retire and then pass you off to an associate young enough to completely solidify your Old Broad status. You may not grin and bear it, but you bear it, knowing that running is so life affirming, so integral to your mental health, nearly as necessary to your life as air and food; that it makes it all worthwhile. 

So, yes, once again, I’m sidelined with an injury.  A smallish injury, which may or may not require surgery in a few weeks; aggravating more than painful, but painful enough to take me off my feet for a while.  I’ve been here before, way too many times, it seems; but secure in the knowledge that I’ll eventually be running again, and dreaming that I’ll run faster and longer than ever.  Hey, a girl can dream.  Especially when her foot hurts.  

There are probably people who run their entire lives injury free.  I don’t personally know any (and I’m not sure that I want to),  but there are some.  There are certainly people whose bodies seem made for running, who run fast and long, who resemble cheetahs more than humans, without the wear and tear on their bodies. I’m not one of them, and I’ve come to grips with that.  More or less.  

 I’m becoming reacquainted with my sweet little bike, and am remembering how much I love her.  I’m walking some, or limping, as the case may be, but moving nonetheless.  When I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I reflect on the amazing keynote speaker I was privileged to hear at Imaging USA earlier this month, Amy Purdy, and I have the perspective I need.  If you don’t know who she is, listen to her TED talk here.  Wow, just wow.  So, I can’t run or wear heels for a bit.  I’ll live.

  

    

Humility seems to be a lesson God wants me well versed in. 2015 brought my first DNF, a training plan that revealed all my flaws, and the realization that I’m actually getting older. Seems like an Old Broad would have already made her peace with that; but, when faced with the reality, it kind of kicked my butt. Turns out, I have an aging body that resists my attempts to keep it healthy with anger and vengeance;  one that requires more and more effort to make bend to my will. I’m sporting legs and feet that demand lower and more comfortable shoes, forcing the abandonment of all those exquisite, expensive heels, sitting forlornly in their boxes in my closet. 

 Sigh. Maybe I’ll have a fire sale. Or, a “my feet hurt” sale. Whichever, if you have young, size 7 feet, I may have a deal for you soon.  

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

  Proverbs 11:2

I’m waiting anxiously for the wisdom.  

The Honeymoon is over…

…and I got my first DNF.  Sigh.  

But, because I am who I am, I’m looking for that silver lining.  My glass is always half full.  You know, I think my glass is actually always brimming over.  

In the same vein, though, I am who I am, so I’ll be be brutally honest and give you the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Lots of ugly out there today.  

  
First off, the race directors did a great job.  Packet pick-up was a breeze (and I’ve been to races where it was more painful than the race itself), logistics getting 1000+ people onto the island went smoothly, signage and crowd support were awesome (especially for a small race), and our starts were more or less on time, depending on your watch.  That’s the good (well, some of it).  

What the race directors couldn’t foresee during their planning phase was the weather.  Today’s forecast was sunny and clear, high of 88, 100% humidity.  Yikes!  I realize I’m in sunny central Florida, but Lord VoldeSun was truly in his element.  And, therein lies the rub.  While we started and finished on beautiful Honeymoon Island State Park, most of the race was run across Dunedin Causeway, in the Broiling.  Hot.  Sun.  

The course was set as an out and back loop, half marathoners completing the loop twice, 10k’ers once.  For the majority of the race, there was NO shade, and Lord VoldeSun was relentless.  

Now, I’m used to hot, muggy weather.  I live in South Mississippi, for pity’s sake, we’re positively swampy for most of the year.  But, when I train, I do it on shady trail; very, very early in the morning.  

Which brings us to the bad. This race should have started an hour before it did.  Half marathon runners started at 7:20, a full hour after there was light enough to hit it.  

  This image was made before 7 am, plenty of light on the roadways.  

I’m not a race director, and I know there were huge logistical headaches for this race in particular, as we were on an island which is also a state park.  But, if you’re opening the park to racers at 5 am, why not move it back to  4 am?  I mean, we are runners, most of us are used to obscenely early alarms when we train in hot weather.  They could have opened the causeway and park up to others an hour earlier, which would have alleviated many of the complaints I heard from non runners who wanted to enjoy their day on the beach.  This may have been a weather anomaly for this area, but somehow, I don’t think it was.  

My only other complaint was that most of this race was run outside the park, across the causeway (pretty enough; but, still – it’s a bridge) and through a neighborhood.  The park itself is beautiful, and I would have loved to wind my way through and around the trails there (shade?).  I think that past participants may have complained about the sandy trails, which are tough, but the ones I saw were pretty hard packed.  I also realize there may be environmental concerns about moving 1000 people through a trail system, so I get it.  Still, it felt like a wasted opportunity.  

Now I get to the ugly.  

I knew going into this race weekend that I wasn’t ready for it. Indeed, I considered not coming at all, then I realized I would have three days at the beach alone with my man after the busiest October I can remember us having in, well…, ever; and I decided to just go for it.  I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?  A DNF?  Who really cares?  So, we did it.  

Miles 1-3 were easy and uneventful.  Then, we went out of the park.  It was still pretty early, but Lord VoldeSun was already beaming down on us.  The trip across the bridge wasn’t awful, the wind was in our faces, so we were relatively cool.  We circled into a neighborhood, and I realized I wasn’t doing well.  We headed back to the bridge, and when we got to the highest point, with sun bearing down on us without mercy, I knew I could not do another loop through that.  We ran on, me struggling with the decision to DNF, my man just “protecting his investment”.  He’s so awesome.  Did I mention his longest training run for this was a 30 minute extravaganza earlier this week?  But, I know he would have hung with me to the end, matching me step for step and encouraging, badgering, or pulling me along, as needed.  Love that man.  He has that mind/body/ninja thing down cold.  He, more than almost anyone, inspires me to be better.  

  
We got back into the park, and the decision was made.  I told him we were stopping at the halfway point, there was no way I could go back across that causeway with Voldy blasting his rays at me.  So, we ran to the halfway point (along the best path of the race), headed to the finish line (while staying far enough away so that our chips wouldn’t be recognized and give a false finish time), and had a volunteer cut off our chips.  We were done.  We made it roughly seven miles.  

Yes, I’m disappointed.  But, after seeing the third ambulance come onto the island to pick up runners in heat distress, I know I made the right decision.  There’s always another race, one we’ll be better prepared for and eager to run.   Of course, we were stuck on the island until they re-opened the roads.  I know, boo hoo, right?

 There were compensations, though.  

  
That’s what I call an ice bath.  ;)

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that inspire and encourage me:

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.  Colin Powell

  

We may or may not come back to Dunedin (pronounced done-eden, btw).  We really like this area, it’s beachy and artsy and filled with stuff we love (running trails and places to SUP and kayak.  AND, great restaurants.)  But, I’m not sure about this race.  The course missed the mark by quite a lot, so we’ll have to see if we want to try it again sometime.  

There’s always a lesson, isn’t there?  Wonder why they have to hurt so much?

Today’s lesson for me:  Listen to your body.  Live to race another day.  

 

All in my mind

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Well, we’re here.  Dunedin, Florida.  For the Honeymoon Island Half Marathon which starts tomorrow at 7:30 am in warm, muggy central Florida.  Good thing I’m close friends with warm and muggy, I guess.  I hope to post again tomorrow with a race report, but my mind was whirling today, so I had to get a few thoughts down in black in white.  It helps settle my nerves.  

Love our little rented condo.  It’s a quad plex, and we’re in the upper northwest corner.  Our downstairs neighbors drove a hearse here from Indiana.  Hmmm…   Our other neighbors have just arrived, so all I know about them is there are a lot of them.  They’re young and athletic, so they may be here for the race, too, for all I know.  We’ll see. 

Gary and I drove to the park where the race will be held tomorrow to do a little reconnaissance.  We started down a hiking trail, then were besieged by mosquitos, so we retreated to our car and headed back to the condo.  Packet pick up is in a few hours, reservations for a pasta meal have been made at an Italian restaurant in lovely downtown Dunedin, Gary is taking a nap, and I’m having a glass of wine (or two) to calm my pre-race jitters.  

I haven’t raced in two years.  The wheels fell off my training bus about a month ago, after a 10 mile run.  Enter a strep infection, an antibiotic, then, of course, the subsequent yeast infection, and you can imagine how my body felt about running.  Still, I ran.  Not fast, not far (missed my 11 miler), but steadily and with intention.  Then, I was able to get a 12 miler in on a trail, which was exquisite, but sloooooooooooooooow.   Truly breathtaking, though.  

  
I realized something on that long, lonely 12 miler.  The ability to accomplish anything, whether it’s to run 12 miles on trails or something even more challenging, really resides in my mind, not my feet.  

If I believe I can do it, I really can. A few weeks ago,  I was unsure if I could complete a 9 miler, then I put my mind to it, and I did it.  The next week, my 10 miler felt easy.  Yes, I was felled by angry microbes afterward, but I got it done.  Then, after all the misery of a strep infection and a yeast infection, Twelve.  Miles.  Done.  Wow.  

There’s a lot to be said for making a plan and sticking to it, even when you get temporarily derailed.  Tell yourself you can, and you’re more than halfway there.  

I have a long list of Bible verses and literary quotes that I refer to for inspiration when I need it, and this one seems appropriate today:

It is our choices that show what we really are; far more than our abilities.  Albus Dumbledore                                                                                            

I choose to believe that I can.