In this mile

If you read my last post, you know that my confidence in my running ability has dipped into single digits.  For this week’s scheduled 9 miler, I knew I would have to draw on resources beyond my own and play some serious mind games to get it done.   

My man is racing this weekend (dirt bike, not foot) in Pontotoc, Mississippi – about 4 1/2 hours north of our home.  Having been in the area a great deal over the last years for work (and play), we knew that Trace State Park is a beautiful, serene area to get my run on.  In fact, we stayed here when I was training for NYC in 2011, and I did a long run here then, as well.  I even remember I had to do a 13 miler that day, and the hills and valleys the park provided were just the ticket.  Would it be again?  

After much prayer, some whining (okay, a LOT of whining), some deep breathing (exasperated sighs count, right?), and a new determination, I made my plan. 

 I would hit the trails in the park with no direction except to go where the spirit moved me.  And, each mile, I would purposely, consciously, and with direct intention STAY IN THAT MILE.  I wouldn’t think about how many more miles I had to go.  I would ignore the obscenities my hamstring screamed at me.  I would pay no attention to Lady Garmin’s discouraging data screens that carefully calculate my pace and distance.  I would walk when I needed and run when I could.  

I would carefully place one foot in front of the other until I reached the end.  I would find joy in each mile, and be humbly thankful for it.  

Guess what?  It worked.  Running trails is a great way to stay in the mile, as you have to be very aware of where you place your feet.  Especially prone-to-roll-an-ankle me.  Also, many of the inclines were so steep, there was no way to run up or down them, so I didn’t feel a bit guilty for walking.  

Trust me.  The image doesn’t do justice to the steepness of that hill.  

Mile one was all about the sunrise.  

The trailhead was about a mile from our camp, so the first mile was on the road.  The stillness of the cool, fall morning and the deer crossing the road ahead of me pulled me to the trail with more anticipation than I’ve felt in a long time.  

Mile two found me doing  The Dance of the Spider Webs.  All trail runners (and cyclists, and ORV riders) know that the first one down the trail gets to clear out all the spider webs.  I’m just thankful I was alone, as my dance skills are somewhat rusty.  On the plus side, I brought enough cobwebs back to camp with me that I could make a quilt.   If I was so inclined.  Which I’m not.  

Miles three and four were filled with deer sightings.  I ran into a clearing and surprised an entire herd (do deer travel in herds, like cows?).  They lifted their heads as one to see what lead footed creature dared to come crashing into their space, saw it was just me (who was just as surprised to see them), then flicked their tails at me in disgust and turned, again as one, and gracefully melted into the forest.  I stood still for a moment, watching after them with envy.  Their movements are so elegantly beautiful, and mine are so clumsy.  Still, I was humbly grateful for the moment, and reminded that I don’t HAVE to run, I GET to run. I never want to take that for granted. 

Miles five and six brought more deer, squirrel, bunny, and spider sightings.  They also brought renewed complaints from my potty mouthed hamstring, so I slowed down even more.  By the end of mile six, I headed back to the trailhead to finish up on the road.  

Miles seven, eight, and nine passed more quickly than I had a right to expect and I stumbled back to the campsite where cold chocolate milk and a banana awaited me.  My awesome man helped me stretch my aching, grouchy legs, and I headed for the shower.

After almost three weeks of craptastic runs, and the realization that the upcoming race is probably going to be my slowest one so far, today was much needed.  Non runners may wonder what keeps us running when it hurts so much and seems to give nothing back for the amount of effort we put in.  I could easily write a thousand word essay on why I run, but I can also boil it down very succintly.

This.  This day, this run, this feeling.  The joy of new discoveries, the aching of my muscles that makes me aware of how lucky I am to be able to run, and the way chocolate milk and a cool shower taste and feel at the end of nine miles of trails.  

The exquisite relief of making it to the end and realizing you had it in you, after all.  


She believed she could, so she did.

And, she found joy in every mile.  

Digging In

It’s going to take a little longer than I thought.

I’m struggling.  There’s nothing like a good training plan to let you see with crystal clarity just how far you are from your goals. Week 9 finds me stumping along; making the mileage (mostly), if not my pace times; and feeling like I’m pulling a 10,000 pound weight along behind me. Sigh…

There’s a fine line between transparency and whining, so I’ll try to toe the line on the side of truth. Forgive me if it occasionally sounds like whining. I’m tired. And, I have to run 9 miles in a few days. AND, I have a lot of doubt about my ability to do that.

Turns out, all that foundation I thought I was pouring during the six months leading up to this training plan wasn’t building my base after all. It was the excavation under the base. Just the digging. Not the footings, even.

When I asked God to help me rebuild, He just handed me a shovel and said, “Start digging. I’ll be over here watching. I’ll let you know when you’re there.”

I have to know, is that the way He teaches everyone? Or, is it just me? Hmmph. It’s like He thinks I’m a little hardheaded or something.  As though He knows that I have to put in the work if it’s going to have any lasting impact on my life. Maybe He’s onto something.  Still, after two weeks of epically bad runs, I sure wish He would come down from the peanut gallery and grab a shovel to help me dig.

This I know about myself.  I won’t quit digging. I still haven’t even gotten to the foundation part of my base, and won’t before my fall half. But, one thing He has taught me through running is that persistence always trumps talent and ability. That’s why He handed me the shovel.

But, it’s going to take a little longer than I thought.

Body talk

Damp.  Moist. Clammy.    Those words describe me perfectly for hours after I run these day.  August brings us dog days here in the south, and apparently, the dogs like it hot and humid.  The kind of humid that means you’re never actually dry, no matter what time of day it is.   

My man and I work about 10 days every month on the road together, much of those days spent outside, in convenience store/gas station parking lots.  (We do compliance inspections for several companies around the state – long, boring story, but I do like the work.)  He’s actually on the road without me another 10 or so days a month, so he’s in the heat all the time.  I can stand the heat fairly well, and he does even better.  Still, we’ve leaned that our aging bodies have to stay well hydrated when we sweat as much as we do, so we pour on the water, Nuun, and Powerade.  We try to eat our water, too, although I’m better at that than he is. Probably because I have never met a meal I couldn’t learn to be friends with.  I love the fruits of summer; watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes all help my rehydration process, so I eat them with abandon.  

When I feel the worst is typically after a really hard week of work, runs, and playtime.  Last week found me dragging by Friday, and my run that morning was unspectacular. It was short (two miles), and I was dragging and dripping at the end.  I took a cold bath and drank lots of water with Nuun.   Then, I took a nap.  That’s how I knew I needed a rest day, so, even though my Saturday training plan called for my “long” run, I slept in, and took it easy all day.  Well, I vacuumed.  But, other than that, nada.  Legs up, cool bath, lots of water with Nuun, some cukes and tomatoes, and, bingo.  I was better by Sunday and had a very good, strong run.  

Learning to listen when my body talks to me and know when its not lying has been a process.  I still want to believe it when it tells me I’m too tired to run as my 5 am alarm goes off.  More often than not, though, that’s a lie.  I have to shut those voices down and make myself get up and head out the door. That’s when my strategy of having every item I’m putting on my body laid out the night before really comes in handy.  If I have to dig for a sports bra, it ain’t happening.   

My body grumbles for at least the first ten minutes, sometimes more on these hot, muggy mornings.  Then, it punishes me afterward by not cooling off and making me sit in a puddle of sweat, even after a cold shower, drinking ice water, and with a fan.  Like this morning.  As I type this, sweat is sliding down my fingertips and causing me to have to stop and mop up the mess so my keyboard won’t stick, making the shower I took after my run an exercise in futility.  

One thing I know, though.  It will be cool again.  Then, cold.  And, my body will scream even more loudly when I make it get up and go run.  I’ll cross that frosty bridge when I come to it.  
For now, these dog days are making me stronger. I feel it in the way I’m moving, the way I feel after a run, the energy I have after a 12 hour day in the heat with my man. Got to love that. I don’t have it every day, but that’s how I can tell I’m due a rest day. And, maybe a cupcake.  

The road to 13.1 (again)

I’ve never been mistaken for an athlete.  In high school, I think I was probably thought of as the “smart one”, simply because I pulled off  a clever ruse.  By being bookish and nerdy (way before that was cool), I was mistakenly thought of as smart.  I’m not smart.  But, I do read a lot.  And, I’m teachable.  So, there’s that.  But, no one EVER mistook me for an athlete.  Because, I wasn’t one.  

I was 50 before my inner athlete decided to come out and play.   There are pros and cons to that.  Pros include never having to look back and mourn for the days when I was really fast.  Because I wasn’t.  I’m still not.   Cons include not having that inner voice built into my head that so many lifelong athletes seem to own.  My mind can defeat me in ways my body never would.  I think lifelong athletes have an advantage, in that they learn to dominate the voices in their heads at an earlier age.  I’m still listening to mine and letting them have their way.  

My man and I are on “vacation” this week.  If you’re self-employed, you know there’s really no such thing.  Gary has fielded calls and returned e-mails all week, but we’ve managed to mostly just do what we wanted to, and we can cram a LOT into a week. I’ll probably need to sleep for 72 hours just to get rested up when we’re back home.  

Our daughters were here (Orange Beach, Alabama) for the first part of the week, staying at my sister’s condo, while we “roughed” it at Gulf State Park in our new camper.  We crammed a lot into the first days of the week while they were here, running trails, learning to paddleboard, kayaking with dolphins, and taking the girls out for a refresher dive, as they haven’t been in a while.  We grilled, watched movies, and generally enjoyed being a family, which is a rare treat when your kids are grown.  

We enjoyed our time with them, but always, in the back of my mind, was the knowledge that this was Week 1 of my half marathon training.  So, we ran.  

I haven’t raced in two years.  Wow.  Two years.  That seems like a really long time.  I’ve been running over that time, just not with any particular goals in mind.  I needed that time to push the reset button.  Maybe everyone needs to do that, or maybe it’s just me.  Whatever, I know it has really helped to get me in a better place with my running.  I’m finally ready to race again.  

I’ve selected a fall half marathon.  Gary and I are training together (sort of), and I’ll be depending on him heavily come race day.   My goals for this race are: 1) Finish.  2) Be smiling in my race photos.  3) Start and finish the race injury free.  That’s it.  Simple, right?

Towards that end, I’ve selected an entry level training plan that is based on a run/walk system.  Having built my base since the first of the year,  I’m actually a little past the first couple weeks of the plan, so we’ve been winging it this week, adding a lot of miles that the plan doesn’t include.  Of course, we’re on vacation, and doesn’t everyone return from vacation exhausted and sore like we do?  

I’ve added a new favorite cross training workout to my regime, one I’ve wanted to try for years, but for whatever reason (time, money, fear?), didn’t add until this week.  Paddle boarding.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.   This uncoordinated Old Broad feels like a Warrior on that board.  After taking a one hour lesson with Water Warriors in Pensacola, I was enchanted.  As I wouldn’t shut up about it, my amazing man called Becky (my new best friend ;) ) at Water Warriors and purchased two used boards for us.  We took them out this morning after our long run (yes, I’m tired), and paddled with dolphins in Bayou St. John.    Sigh.  Heaven on earth, not to mention a great cross training workout.  I’m hooked.  (Thanks, Becky!!)


I think the most valuable lesson running has taught me is: don’t wait until the moment is right to live life.  You may never shed that 10 (or 30) pounds, and won’t you be sorry if you get to the end of your days and you never kayaked with a dolphin, or learned to scuba dive, or stood up on a paddle board?  Or, whatever your thing is.  Grab life by the tail and swing it hard.  And, make sure it lands where you want it to. 

If I can stand up on a paddle board and stay upright (mostly), anyone can.  

As an avid outdoors woman, I believe in taking care of the environment.  If I pack it in, I pack it out.  I often pack out more than I packed in.  But, on this road to 13.1, I intend to leave a lot of trash along the way.  If you’re running behind me, be careful not to trip over the doubt I plan to drop, or the fear(s) I’m leaving behind.  I plan on picking up a few things as well.  The joy of a quiet sunrise in the company of my man, the peace of an early morning run with just the sound of my feet to keep me company, the confidence that comes from making a plan, then working hard to make it happen.  

Because, as excited as I am about the race, I confess the part I look forward to most is the journey toward it.  The slow build up of strength and courage that culminate in a race run well, but more importantly, in a life lived fully.  No doubt.  No fear.  Just a life filled with faith.  

I’m still never mistaken for an athlete.  That’s okay, because I know that sporty girl is there, just waiting to come out and play.  She’s alive and well; fearless and strong.   She’s living the good life.  

The “D” word

Today’s run was one of those ugly, demoralizing events that made me question whether I should just throw in the towel, quit trying to rebuild my running base and take up competitive eating. I think I would be really good at that. I’m not that great at running.

Yes, it was ugly.  If you live in the south, you know that it’s hot.  No, I said that wrong.  IT’S.  HOT.  Insanely hot. Even for me, who really likes to sweat.  Especially if, through your own laziness and forgetfulness, you get up late, forget there’s a 5k at your usual running spot, and have to drive 15 minutes to another one.  No one to blame but me.  I know I need to be running no later that 6:15, so when I don’t get up until then, I’m already in a deficit.  Anyway, enough complaining.  It was hot, I was late, it was hard, it was ugly, but I got it done.  Four miles, even.  You did not want to be downwind from me when it was done.  And, if there’s any cell phone video of it while it was happening, I’m going to be needing that.  No one else needs to see just how ugly it really was.

Today’s run (and other recent doozies) was a reminder to me that nothing worthwhile (like good health) is easy to obtain.  I’ve managed to let me health decline, while allowing my weight to creep up, and it’s just going to take awhile to get back to the starting line.  As my wise daughter texted me the other day, “I wish getting fat hurt as much as getting fit.”  Ain’t it the truth.  (She’s so far from fat that’s almost laughable, but she knows the struggle is real, so she’s putting the effort in early.)  If getting fat hurt as much as getting fit did, I know for a fact I would be a size 2.  Running hurts.  Pizza feels good.  Not eating bread sucks.  I’m sorry, there’s just no other way to really say that.  

It’s physically and mentally painful to get fit.  It often requires more effort than I’m willing to give it, and this time of year, in South Mississippi, it takes 10 times the amount of effort it took just three short weeks ago.

I know why I do it.  I want to be healthy. I love to live life; scuba diving, hiking, exploring, letting my feet and lungs take me places others never get to go.  I have a hunger to experience life that it seems only my feet can fill.  I like the way the world looks from the trail.  And, I can’t run that trail, hike that hill, dive that reef, even walk all day in a new city, if I don’t keep chasing that running dream.  For me, it’s that simple.  

The reality of that 5 am wake up call is something else altogether.

Which brings me to that “D” word.


That verse is the first one I ever committed to memory as an adult out of need. It’s meant various things to me over the years. I’ve called it forth when I was fearful of something, whether it was as simple as singing a solo in church, or as monumental as trying to mend relationships that seemed broken beyond repair. At this point in my life, the “D” word is the one that jumps out. Yes, Discipline. Yuk. There are several translations of the words “self-discipline”, some translate it as “sound mind”, others as “self-control”. This is my favorite translation.

As I’ve pulled it into my heart this week in a daily reminder, I realized something that I don’t think I ever thought of before. This is a gift God has given me. The ability to discipline myself. Discipline as a gift? That had to settle in awhile before I grasped the absolute loveliness of it.

As with all His gifts, He’s given me the choice of whether to receive it or not. I can continue in my life as I have: sleeping in, eating/drinking too much, not allowing this gift of discipline to take hold in my life and set me on the path towards my goals; or I can embrace it with open arms and let it fill me with determination (another “D” word). I choose the latter.

Sigh. I really miss pizza.

warm up

Turtle Days

It seems like every run lately has involved a turtle sighting.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I live in the boggy South, where heat and humidity have a summer long competition to see which one can make me the most uncomfortable (humidity won today).  Still, I run a lot, and to see turtles as often as I have lately feels a little like a message.  

Even the trail I often run is sending me the turtle message:


As I plunked along this morning, cycles whizzing past me at Tour de France speeds, runners easily lapping me, it seemed even the wildlife mocked me.  I thought of all the turtles I’ve seen over the past months, and it dawned on me:  these are Turtle Days.  

Now, this isn’t really a thing.  I realize that.  But, I have a particular affinity with the tortoise of fable.   I, too, am strong and steady.  And, slow.  

 I may not be fast, but I plod along, solving the world’s problems  in my mind, writing the great American Novel, plunking along until I get to the end.  Then, I go home, shower, live my life, and do it again the next day.  Slow, steady, true.  

Most days, I’m fine being the slow, steady one.  But, I’ll admit, it plays with my psyche.  I mean, will I ever be fast? Or, just faster?  Doubt creeps in and does its ugly number on my mind, and, if I’m not careful, soon I’m thinking, “Why bother?  I’ll always be the slow one.  Why keep on keeping on? ” I’ll admit, it sometimes discourages, even defeats me.  I mean, am I just not built for speed?

Then, I think of those turtles that I’ve seen.  Hmmm…  they don’t allow the fact that they are the slow, chunky kids on the playground to stop them from coming out to play.  Seriously, if my runs of the last few months are any indication, they are the most active kids on the playground.  Turtles are everywhere.  Coming and going, hither and yon.  They don’t allow their lack of speed to stop their progress. 

 There’s a lesson there.  


Most of the time I have no problem being the tortoise and not the hare.  I’m accepting of my lack of speed and I’m ever hopeful that one day I’ll be faster.  Until then, I’ll plod along, getting stronger, solving world crises, and writing the great American novel in my head.  I’m winning all the races in my mind, as well, so there’s that.    


I’m in this running game for the long haul, so I’ll keep on moving forward.  Plunking one foot in front of the other, reminding myself that it’s not about speed for me, but endurance.  I want to be running when I’m 90, after all, so for me that means slow and steady now, and maybe always.  

I have a lot of admiration for this little guy though:

He’s giving it his all, and what more can we do than that?  
I’m running on faith at this point.  It’s gotten me this far, I’m sure it’ll get me where I’m going.  

Salty sanity

    The coming of summer has found me plodding along; wiping sweat from my eyes; slowly, slowly, slowly rebuilding my running base. The older I get, the longer that seems to take. Race season will be here soon enough, though; so, build I must.

    For me, spring and early summer are my favorite times to run.  The “dog days” aren’t quite here yet, but the warm, sticky air brings on a salty sweat that gives me a feeling of accomplishment I just don’t get at the end of a cold weather run.  I like to sweat.  It makes me feel like I’ve done something with my day, and makes even a bad run feel like it was a job well done.  It couldn’t have been a bad run, see how the sweat is pouring off me?  

    The sweat of a summer run cleanses my soul.  It feels like all those winter toxins I built up are pouring out of me and I’m leaving them behind in a puddle on the ground.  That winter coat of depression that I wore like  a crown of thorns melts away the sweatier I get.  My feet move faster, my mind feels clearer, and life just feels good.  Call me weird (you wouldn’t be the first); but give me a hot June morning over a cold February afternoon anytime.  I’ll know just what to do with it.  

    I’m running trails this weekend.  On my own.  They aren’t long, and they all circle back to the campground my man and I are staying at (also deliciously on our own), so there’s no danger of getting lost.  My man is working a race (motorcycle, not foot), and enjoying his Father’s Day happy of a new dirt bike –  his first since “the Broken Leg Incident of 2012”. 

    I’m mostly laid back about the whole dirt bike racing thing.  It makes him happy, just as running makes me happy, so I don’t complain.  Or worry.  That sounded believable,  right?  Anyway, I could wish for a less dangerous hobby that would make him smile, but that’s not who he is.  And, probably any hobby has its pitfalls.  I mean, even growing hothouse orchids could lead to… I don’t know, maybe being taken hostage by an orchid bandit?  At least, with dirt biking, my man takes me to some very serene places to run trails.  And, for that I’m thankful.   

      Already muddy.  

     I needed serenity today.  I don’t live a particularly chaotic life, but, sometimes I allow the voices on the Interwebs to drown out the voices in my head and fill me with despair for the human condition.  This has been a week like that.  Even with a minor miracle that my youngest daughter had at school this week, seeing God work in her life, and then hearing from a beloved nephew about how God is working in his, I allowed the screaming voices online to disturb my peace.  To wonder why God abandoned us to such a place as this, and to wonder if He is ever going to come get us.  

    So, today and tomorrow, I’m running back to sanity and away from chaos.   Not fast (am I ever fast?), but along woodsy trails that have been carved out by strong men like my man.  Paths that run wide and deep in some places, and trickle off to a pig trail in others.  Trails that are filled with ruts and roots and slippery orange clay.  Trails that make me pay attention to where I place my foot, and look extra carefully at that root to ensure it’s not a snake.  

    On my first two mile loop, sweat soaks my hat and slides into my eyes and stings.  My winter white legs are shiny and slick over the salty layer of grass and leaves; my shoes, so pristinely clean when I started, have gained two pounds of Mississippi mud.  I stagger back to camp, fix myself a snack, and sit under the dripping trees to refuel. My skirt, shirt,  and sports bra are damp and clammy and my hair, pulled into a sloppy ponytail and shoved through the back of my hat, makes a steady drip down the center of my back.  I’m sure if you came upon me, you would have to stay downwind, but I don’t smell myself yet, so it can’t be that bad.     

    After a short rest, I head out again.  A soft, warm rain begins to fall when I am about midway.  No thunder or lightening, just  the splash of sweet, clean raindrops that gather on the brim of my hat and drip off in a steady patter.  The smell of clean, woodsy rain fills my senses and relaxes my mind.  I trudge on, carefully manuevering around slippery clay, listening to the sound of unseen critters scurrying around me.  My mind is calm.  My heart is full.   Sanity, or at least my version of it, has returned.  

    After another rest, I head out for my final loop.  I often listen to podcasts when I run, but this loop, my last of the day, was just between me and God.  We talked the entire time, and I won’t share with you all of what we said, but I will say this.  I prayed for our nation in a way that I never have. Humbly, and with full knowledge that I’m part of the problem.  I prayed that we, as Christians, and particularly I, will step away from our keyboards, get down off our soapboxes, get up off our comfy pews, and walk out into the world.  I prayed that we would find people who don’t look like us, act like us, or believe like us and love on them like they’ve never been loved on before.  I prayed that we would begin to be light in the world, because, my friends, we have dropped the ball on that.  I prayed that God would close my mouth and open my heart, teach me to listen more that I speak, and remind me every day of the huge plank in my eye that prevents me from pulling out someone else’s splinter.  I prayed that He would teach me how to love like He does, because that’s the only thing that’s going to save us.  

    Then, I got a shower.