Let the mind games begin

Summer is here.  Officially and unofficially.  Runs have become sweatfests.  I’m not complaining, I’m ready for it.  I’ll probably be singing a different tune about mid-August, but for now, I’ll take it.

The thing about running summers in south Mississippi is timing.  Unless you have a death wish, you can’t run between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm.  Before or after, you’re going to sweat, but you’re less likely to die of heat stroke.

The problem for me is that I’m not really a morning person, and I’m REALLY not a late evening person.  A late bedtime for me is 9:30.  I know, that shows my age, but I don’t care.  I fully embrace my old broad status.  I’m fed, bathed, and in my pj’s by no later than 8 pm, and in bed, usually asleep no later than 9:30.  Seems like I would then be bright eyed and bushy tailed by 5 am, but, for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen that way.

I can make myself get up, as long as my man has to get up, also.  Staying in bed isn’t as much fun solo.  I’m a little dangerous when I get up really early, though.  This morning, Gary had to leave by 6, and I wanted to get in a short run, so I got up at 5:30 to fix his breakfast.  I put my coffee water on to heat (I’m a French press girl, so my coffee takes a little longer), then I set about making Gary’s breakfast while I waited for my brains to wake up.   I put his bacon on to cook, then started prepping the scrambled eggs.  I sprayed the skillet, whisked the eggs, then fixed Gary’s coffee (he’s a Keurig guy).  I took him his coffee, then checked the bacon.  It was still completely raw and cold.  What?

By then, the kettle was whistling for my coffee, so I poured it into the French press, then turned back to the bacon.  Still raw and cold.  I felt the pan and it was cold, too.  Turns out, I hadn’t turned it on.  Geez.  Turned it on, poured myself a cupa joe, then looked back at the stove to see smoke spiraling toward the ceiling.  The eye I had turned on for the bacon was actually the eye under the egg skillet (which, of course, was eggless because I was waiting for the bacon to cook).  Anyway, Gary finally got his breakfast and I finally got my coffee,  but it really brought home how clueless I am before 6 am and coffee.

So, what’s a South MS gal who loves her sleep to do when summer rolls in?  Learn how to trick herself into rolling out of bed early on those hot summer days.  It’s a little easier for me when Gary has to be up early and get on the road for work.  Mornings when we don’t have someplace to be, it’s way too easy to snuggle down in bed.  I’ve spent a fortune making my bed sleep friendly, Tempurpedic mattresses and pillows, 1600 thread count sheets, temperature set at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, fans creating white noise, as well as keeping us cool and comfortable. I love my bed and treasure my sleep time.

I’m telling you, running is much more mental than physical.

I learned when I was training for NYC through the long, hot summer of 2011, that in order to roll out early, several things need to occur.  I have to be completely ready the night before.  No early morning search for shoes or Garmin or iPod.  All is neatly laid out and ready to fall into.  But, that’s not enough.  Getting my feet on the floor requires some mental gymnastics.  I’ve had to come up with many tricks to make myself get up.  One of my go-to tricks is to tell myself that I don’t have to run today, I can just walk and pray.  Sometimes, I promise myself coffee and a devotion, then I can decide if I’m actually going to run.  Sometimes, I bribe myself.  If I run x amount of miles, I’ll get a treat to go along with my after run coffee.  Almost always, just the act of getting up and starting my morning routine will get me out the door and running on time.

The most effective “trick” right now is to remind myself how wonderful I feel when I make myself workout, how my day flows with productivity, how my mood is brighter and happier; and how awful I feel for the entire day if I don’t get my butt in gear early.  Also, the threat of having to complete my miles on a treadmill because I’ve stayed in bed too long to safely run outside is motivation to get me moving.  I would rather broadcast my weight online than get on a treadmill.  Yes, I hate treadmill running that much.

As you can tell from my breakfast fiasco, I’m not a morning person.  However, after a couple of cups of black coffee, I’m usually ready to roll.  Today’s run was a pretty easy one.  I ran five yesterday, so I didn’t want to push my luck. I’m still very, very slow on my injury comeback, but I’m getting there.  I pushed the last mile yesterday pretty hard, so I took it fairly easy this morning.   Walked half a mile for a warm-up, ran two miles hard, then walked half a mile for a cool down.  I guess the humidity was really high, because after I was done, sweat engulfed me.  I keep a towel in my car so that after runs, I can put it on my seat and keep the funk smell at bay, but I guess I took it out to wash after the last run at the Trace and forgot to put it back.  Fortunately, I have a convertible, so I put the top down and headed to Starbucks for my post run coffee.  It’s a commentary on how humid it was  that my barista asked me if I had been for a swim this morning.   I’m sure I looked lovely.  Good thing I checked my ego at the door.

So, mind games are the topic of the day.  What are some of your favorite tricks to get yourself up and “at ’em” in the wee morning hours?  Share in the comments section, I may have to steal a few to get me through the summer.

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6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes,
but by evening it is dry and withered. Psalm 90:6

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Faith, prayer, and doubt

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it is an element of faith.  Paul Tillich

I actually wrote this weeks ago, when a friend was going through a particularly difficult struggle.  It felt too personal then, but some events this week have made me very introspective about life and it felt right to post it now.

When I pray for those I love, I have a tendency to ask God to ease their path, to make their troubles go away, to give them happiness, to make their lives easy.  As God has increased my faith, though, I have realized that is the wrong way to pray.

I want God not to calm their storms, but to give them the knowledge that they will weather them, and the peace that comes from that understanding.  Not to make their troubles disappear, but through those troubles,  teach them the lessons they need to live their lives with passion and integrity.  Not to give them happiness, but to give them joy.  The joy that comes with the faith of knowing He still walks on water.

As a parent and a loving friend, those prayers don’t come easily to me.  I have an innate desire to keep my kids (and friends) from falling, to prevent their failures, to mend their broken hearts as easily as I tended scraped knees and bruised feelings when they were young.  I’m learning, though.  As we release our children into the harsh, cold, often evil world, we have to let them go.  Let them make their way, walk their own path, learn from their own failures and mistakes, and, yes, allow them to face the evil in the world.

It’s important to face evil and learn to summon our faith when evil presents itself.  The ability to summon that faith is only learned in the school of hard knocks and at the foot of the cross.  We walk (or stumble) through trials for a reason.  Those troubles define us, and it’s up to us to decide if they are going to swallow us or if we are going to rise out of the ashes and put the lessons they teach us to good use. It’s up to us to use those lessons to discover our purpose in this world.

I often wonder if it’s as hard for God to watch us hurt or fail as it is for us to watch our loved ones.  Parenting and loving people are not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

When our kids are very young, we can shield them from the world to some degree.  But, when they’re grown, we have to completely relinquish control.  For a control freak like me, that’s no easy task.  I want to reach into the lives of my children and friends and mop up the mess they’ve made, or even better, prevent them from spilling it in the first place. Pretty arrogant of me, I know.  I’m not sure if learning to let our loved ones fail is a lesson for them or for us.  I suspect it’s an even split.  The knowledge that we can’t fix all their problems is humbling.  It’s also an opportunity to overcome doubt and realize Who is in control.

So, I pray for wisdom. I pray for the ability to listen without speaking, the knowledge to know when to speak and what to say. I pray for the peace of knowing my loved ones are truly seeking God.

When I was younger, I had all the answers.  Now, I realize that I mostly have questions. I was afraid to admit to doubt, unaware that not only is God big enough to handle my doubt, no question is off limits with Him.  I know that when I’m still enough, He guides me.  When I’m troubled, He calms me.  By the same token, when I’m prideful, He humbles me.  I’m thankful for that much wisdom, at least.

I still wish that seeking God was easier.  That finding the answers was as easy as “Googling” it.  I wish our paths weren’t strewn and marred with the detritus of our struggles.  In spite of the seeming unfairness of that, though, there it is.  I always learn more when I stumble through the darkness than when I walk easily in the light.  Accepting that is a life long challenge.  So is learning the art of intercessory prayer.

I pray that I learn how to pray for those I love.  That I learn not to try to make their paths easy,  but to give them comfort and unconditional love as they struggle. That I learn to keep my mouth shut when I need to, and learn to wait for God’s wisdom to speak.  That may mean not saying anything at all.  A Herculian task for me, I’ll admit, but one that God can easily accommodate, if I let Him.

Deep thoughts and big prayers this rainy evening.  I’m thankful my God is able.

You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”  Matthew 17:20

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It’s all relative

Gary and I decided at the last minute to spend Father’s Day in Natchez this weekend. Our A/C unit at home has gone out, and has to be replaced inside & out. And, the kicker is, they can’t get to it until next Wednesday or so. 😦 If you’re south of I-20, you know – it’s hot. Summer has arrived in all its glory. So, after spending a few hot days & nights at home, we decided we would come to Natchez and see how cold we could get our hotel room. Turns out, pretty cold. I think I brushed icicles out of my eyes when I woke up this morning.

I’ve written about Natchez often, as we come here once a month for business and it’s one of my favorite places to run. Usually, though, we come for one night, get up to run, have breakfast at the incomparable Natchez Coffee Company, and head out for a day’s work. This time we had a whole day to be lazy and explore.

We started with an early morning run. It was my first run with Gary since his injury, so even though it was a little tough for him, I smiled the entire time. Love running with my man. So thankful he’s able to get back to it. I’m humbled by God’s mercy.

It was hot and muggy, even at 5:45 am. We ran uptown to the Basilica first, passing a bar which was apparently just closing as its somewhat worse for drink patrons stumbled into the street. Note the time I said. Do bars really stay open all night? Do people really drink all night and into the morning? That’s a life choice that confuses and saddens me.

We got to the Basilica just as the bells chimed six o’clock. Is there anything more majestic than an early morning run to a beautiful, old church and hearing the church bells ring? After the six chimes, the bell was silent for a minute, then started ringing again. I counted 27 times. Not sure what that meant. I took it as a celebration of life and the ability to run on a hot, muggy June morning in Natchez, MS.

We rounded the church, then headed back to the river. West along the riverbank to one of my favorite running spots in the world, the Natchez City Cemetery. We got there and Gary decided to walk a little, I headed back to Jewish Hill so I could overlook the river for a moment, then to the back to the Bishop’s plot. Didn’t make it all the way back there, but wound back through and headed back to the river. I caught up with Gary and we finished strong overlooking the mighty Mississippi. A quick shower, then breakfast at Natchez Coffee Company where we had the luxury of lingering over our coffee, then a nice long nap in our igloo of a hotel room. Happy Father’s Day, indeed.

Feeling fat, sassy, and blessed this fine Sunday evening as I watch the sun go down over the river from the balcony of my room. Thankful for so many things, not the least of which is the man God chose to be the father of my children. Thankful that God gave me an earthly father who showed me what it was like to be loved by God. Miss him, but so thankful that he’s getting his heavenly reward for a job well done here. Thankful for my precious father-in-law, for the example he set for my man, and for the Godly walk he exhibits.

I’m even thankful for my slow pace of a run this morning. I could obsess about the fact that my pace has dropped a full minute (in the wrong direction) in the last few weeks. I could bemoan the fact that running is hurting a little more now than it did just a few short weeks ago. I could weep and wail and gnash my teeth because it seems like my running is always two steps forward and five steps back. I know lots of runners who do obsess about those things. Most of them have enviable race times, and I could be jealous of them. Ok, sometimes I am. But, mostly, I’m grateful for the ability to put my feet on the ground and run. I know lots of people who would gladly exchange places with me, who would take my abilities, as meager as they sometimes seem, and, well, run with them. This morning’s run reminded me that pace is always relative. What seems a slow pace this week may seem a completely unattainable pace after an injury. So, I’m thankful for what it was. And, for whatever it will be tomorrow.

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Now, I’m going to go find some sweatpants, socks and blankets, and head back into the Arctic.

Begin. Again.

It seems like a lifetime ago that running felt effortless and easy.  When a hard pace left me feeling tired, but happy.  It was only a few weeks, but it seems like a different time.  That sounds a little overly dramatic, but when you have to slow down, or stop in order to nurse an injury, coming back seems harder than starting fresh did.

My injury (this time) was minor.  Just a lower back thing, cared for diligently by my wonderful chiropractor.  Then, just as I started getting better, Gary & I went on a short dive trip on a live aboard that’s only about a hundred feet long.  So, no running there.  I came back with a minor sinus thing going on, and while we were away, summer arrived here in South Mississippi, so hot and muggy are the words of the day.  Which led me to put off rebooting my running for a few more days.  Now, though,  it’s time to begin.  Again.

I started slowly over the weekend.  Just two short, slow, warm miles.  Then another two the next day.  Biking on Tuesday (also painfully slow), off a day, then four slow, warm miles this morning.  My goal is to slowly build back my miles over the next couple of months, then maybe, just maybe, introduce some speed work in mid August.  We’ll see.  It’s awfully hot here in August, and speed and heat don’t go together well.  It’s back to obscenely early mornings, which lead to very early nights (as though I didn’t already go to bed with the chickens).

But, I have to say, even with the challenge of the heat, I’m feeling more than blessed this day to be starting again.  And, I know, that, God willing, there will be many more times in my life that I have to begin.  Again and again.  I have a young running friend whose life was changed a couple of months ago by a cardiac event, followed by severe brain trauma.  I don’t know what God has planned for him, but I hope it includes beginning again.  Right now, that’s looking doubtful, but our God is still in the miracle business, and I know a lot of people are praying for this God-filled young man and his sweet wife, so I’m hopeful.  His name is Terrod, so add him and his wife, Nikki, to your prayers.  You can get updates on his progress here.  

The summer is lending itself to a slower, more thoughtful time for me this year.  Our air conditioning is out (on the hottest days of the year, so far), so I’m moving slowly at home, but I’m finding I kind of like that.  And, I’m even getting somewhat used to the heat.  After lunch yesterday, I decided I had had enough of work in my hot little corner, I put on my bathing suit, and went to swim at my sister’s where my daughter, nieces, and nephew were playing in the pool.  I enjoyed that little respite so much, I may have to repeat it today. How often, as “grown-ups”, do we allow ourselves time to just do nothing?  Just be with our loved ones and enjoy their company?  It’s rare for me, and I would venture to say, for most adults – especially those who are self-employed.  It feels like the wolf is always at the door, and we have to move productively all the time in order to keep him at bay. I think I’m going to just break down and invite the wolf to come on in, put his feet up, and have some dinner.  As hot as it is in my house right now, he won’t stay long anyway.

Me, my little red one, and my daughter just chilling.  Admire my bravery for posting this bathing suit pic.  ;)

Me, my little red one, and my daughter just chilling. Admire my bravery for posting this bathing suit pic. 😉

As I begin my training, again, I want to keep in mind the reasons that I run.  The joy that running brings to my life is the most important one.  All the other reasons fall in line behind that one.  So, I think, beginning again in the heat of the summer is probably the best time for me.  It forces me to not worry about speed, or weight loss, or clicking off a certain number of miles per week, and to just enjoy the journey.

progress not perfection