A voice from the past

This time eight years ago, my man and I were winging our way north for me to run my first marathon in NYC. So far it’s a one and done, but who knows what the future holds.

I’m always nostalgic as the first Sunday of November looms, so I went back to read some of the posts that were the reason I started this blog to begin with. This one felt appropriate to reblog this week as runners begin filing into NYC in the thousands. Sure wish I was there.

THE VIEW FROM THE BACK OF THE PACK

It’s been almost a week, I’m walking normally again, and the last glow of finishing has faded from my cheeks.  It was a back to reality type of week, I hit the ground running mid-week to make up for time away from the studio at this busy, busy time.  But, I couldn’t resist one last post about the race.  I wanted you to know how it feels to run at the back of the pack.  I had a bird’s eye view from there, so I’ll fill you in.

The view from Staten Island before the race

Starting in the third wave of a 47,000+ racing field allows you to know that you’re among friends.  The third wavers are mostly running enthusiasts who race to enjoy the experience, not to set land speed records.  The race announcer noticed the difference immediately as we crowded together at the bottom of the Verrazano Narrows bridge.  He commented that we were definitely the rowdiest group to start.  There was lots of laughter, shouts of joy, singing, even dancing around with glee.  We sang along with “God Bless America,” even the runner beside me who spoke little English and asked me twice what the song was.  She hummed along and raised her hands just as the rest of us did.  There were lots of older runners, groups of women run/walking together, a husband and wife team dressed alike in running bras and skirts (yes, really), fun costumes, and joy abundant.  Off we went.

I mentioned in the previous post how much I liked Brooklyn, and I just want to re-emphasize that here.  It was still early enough that thousands of people lined the streets.  Kids, parents, grandparents, maintenance workers, all manner of people were out, shouting for us, calling our names, high fiving us, encouraging us. Many brought signs to encourage, some for specific runners, others for general encouragement.  One of my favorites was “Black toenails are sexy”, held aloft by an NYPD fireman.  Made me laugh.  And, for those of you who are keeping count, I lost my third toenail after the race.  No matter, it was worth it.  Brooklyn was amazing.  I would run that section of the race over again tomorrow if I could.

On into Queens, and then that wicked, wicked bridge.  I won’t whine about it, but it did take the wind out of my sails.  I was really looking forward to rounding into Manhattan onto First Avenue, I had heard stories about the solid wall of people who would be there to give us fresh legs with their yells.  Alas, I had not counted on it being so late in the race, and many of the merry makers had left their posts to get on with their days (or head into the pub).  There were still a fair number there, and that was when I realized one of the benefits to being a back of the packer.  The people who were left cheering knew that we were the ones who would struggle to the finish line, and their encouragement became very personal.  I had not put my name on my shirt as many racers did, because my name is not pronounced the way it is spelled and I didn’t want to hear people yelling for “Jane” the entire race.  (It’s spelled Jayne, pronounced Janie,  not a big deal, but it is my name, after all.)  However, I began to wish that I had put it on my shirt, anyway.  The encouragers yelled to me, some of the bands sang for me and yelled encouragement into their mikes, and made me feel like they were truly rooting for me.  And, the fun thing about this race is that they really were.  One guy even ran into the road, picked me up, and hugged me!

Through Manhattan, into the Bronx, then that long, seemingly endless 5k with legs made of lead, through Central Park, out onto Central Park South, then across the finish line.  I’ve read comments posted by some of the earlier finishers that there was a lot of congestion at the chute leading away from the finish.  Another advantage to being a back of the packer is that there was no congestion by the time I got there.

I share this back of the pack experience because I want anyone who has a desire to run to realize there’s no shame in being there.  Do I wish I was faster?  Of course.  But,  another advantage to my race is that I remember every single step, each mile, many of the faces.  It was a fantastic, bucket list experience that I wouldn’t change in any way.  

Added bonus: when you run at the back of the pack, there are no lines at the port-a-lets!  😉

Central Park Monday after the race

If this was my one and done, I’m really glad it was NYC.

I don’t know where I am, but I know I’m not lost

Looking at the date of my last blog post makes me sad. I can’t believe I just put down my pen and walked away for three long years.

I was hiking (by myself) last week, and realized that I had no idea where I was. I looked around, found the trail markers, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I got someplace familiar. I might not have known where I was, but I knew I wasn’t lost. That seemed like a very real description for my life right now.

Not long after that last blog post, I had a pretty significant injury that derailed running or even walking for a bit. Every time I thought I was better and ready to hit it again, that injury, or a related one hit me again. And, I’ll admit, it kind of sent me into a spiral. Couple no exercise with a busy (and sometimes stressful) life, and it’s not long before anxiety and depression come riding up on their infernal black clouds. And set up camp.

Needless to say, those black clouds brought on weight gain and lethargy, which made getting back to daily exercise seem like a hill I couldn’t climb. No movement and iffy nutrition led to thirty pounds and a Type 2 diabetic diagnosis.

2019 has been about taking back my life. Ten months in, but I finally feel like I’m making progress.I’m eating well, moving regularly, and taking care of my mental health again. Baby steps, but in the right direction. My A1C has dropped to a normal level, and my energy is back up and motivating me to move.

Regaining my mental health rests not just in the movement of my feet, but in picking that proverbial pen back up and writing again. I probably won’t be sharing this to my other social media feeds for a while, but I might after I’ve dusted off my computer and worked some of the soreness out of my writing muscles. We’ll see how it goes. This feels very raw to me, and not something I normally share, but it also feels necessary.

I don’t know where I’m headed, but I’m definitely on the right road. I hope running again lies in the not too distant future, but I’ll take walking and hiking right now. I just have to keep reminding myself that I am Here now and to be present in this moment. There’s a lot to be learned Here, and it’s time I started paying attention.

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.