Getting my groove back

grace_weaknessInfinite. That’s the word that kept pushing itself into my consciousness this morning as I walked. We returned from vacation over three weeks ago; tan, but not well rested, and my body immediately decided it would rebel. Here’s some travel advice (FWIW). When traveling to Hawaii, spend the extra $ to fly first class (we didn’t). Or, don’t take the red-eye on your return journey (we did). I probably could have gotten away with that twenty years ago; but, no more. So, as a result, I’ve spent the last couple weeks fighting a stubborn infection (3 antibiotics down!), and trying to get caught up on my sleep. I’m not blaming the vacation, I’m blaming the 36 hour trip home. If I was still in Kona, I’m sure I would be right as rain. 😉

Anyway. My fall training plan for a Thanksgiving half marathon lies crashed and broken at my feet. Sigh. Which brings me back to that word, infinity. The Webster definition is “extending indefinitely” or “subject to no limitation”. I think that perfectly describes my question as I rebuild, “How many times am I going to have to start over?”.   Indefinitely, subject to no limitation.  Over and over again.  Forever and ever, amen.

So, here I am again. At the starting line, feeling like I need to go back to bed. Sheesh. There are moments that I think, why bother? But, bother I do. Quitting is never an option for me. My brother in law commented to me the other day that he doesn’t see how I continue to run. I replied that I don’t know either, and it ain’t pretty.

After spending the last couple of weeks rising late, napping every day, getting the bare minimum of work done, and being in bed again by 8 for a 10 hour rest, I’ve had enough. So, this week I set my alarm, dared myself to turn it off, and went to the trail to walk. There is no running yet, but I hope to add it back next week. Even then, it will be run/walk. I plan to run that Thanksgiving half, but I won’t be racing it. I have my eyes set on a spring half to race, and am just trying to get my groove back until then.

I’m thankful that running has taught me a few things over the years. I know that forward motion ALWAYS heals, and the energy and strength I need will follow if I’ll be faithful to move every day. I’m using the walking time to catch up on some of my favorite podcasts, and Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Community Church tops that list. As I listened this morning to a series from August entitled In the Meantime, I was reminded that my pigheadedness perseverance serves me well in times like these. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m treading water in the meantime, and keeping the faith. God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. His perfection should be shining through in 3, 2, 1… Well, soon, anyway.

Having been to the doctor more in the last three weeks than in the last three years, I discovered a few things.  All my bad numbers are up: weight, sugar, cholesterol, etc.  So, it’s past time for some changes.  I’m not a big “diet” person, but I’m making some changes in my nutrition which already have me feeling better.  And, I’m moving again.  Slowly. Oh, SO slowly.  But, I’m moving forward, so that’s what counts.

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I’m counting on God to do what He does so well, and bless this effort immeasurably. With His version of infinity. Forever and ever, amen.

If you don’t already, I would love for you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I am trying to be more faithful to a social media presence, and am not too ashamed to beg would love to count you among my friends/followers. 😉 My twitter is @old_broads_run; Instagram is jaynerich; and Facebook is Old Broads Run. Hope to see you there!

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Confessions

It’s been two weeks since my last confess… wait, that’s not right. Ok, My name is Jayne, and I’m a run-aholic. Hmmm… that’s not right, either.

I haven’t run in almost two weeks, and nothing feels exactly right. In that time, many things have happened. Our government has quit and is threatening to implode, Gary and I had birthdays, fall has arrived, and, apparently, Bruce and Kris Jenner have decided to call their marriage quits. All right, I’m really not sure who Kris Jenner is, but didn’t Bruce get an Olympic gold medal or something? Anyway…

I took a couple of weeks off from running. This has been a craptastic year in the life of my training, and I just ran out of steam. I had a slight head cold, so I let that be my excuse to begin with, then I just decided to sleep in on these exquisitely crisp autumn mornings, snuggled close to my man, not feeling the slightest twinge of guilt. Well, almost. There is always a residual of guilt somewhere in my psyche, I think that’s just the way I’m put together. I do have a race coming up in a few weeks. A fairly long one (a half mary). And, if I had to run it this weekend, there’s no way I would make it to the finish. But, I don’t have to run it this weekend. And, I’m starting to get my head back together.

I’ve learned a really important lesson over the last few weeks. For most of the summer, Gary and I have been fine tuning our diet, and trying to eat clean. We have been mostly successful, allowing ourselves occasional indulgences; but for the most part, eating whole foods, prepared by my loving (if not always gifted) hands, carefully balancing our intake to coordinate nicely with our output. Gary lost weight immediately (of course), and while my weight loss has been slower, it has definitely started, so I’ve been encouraged. Then our birthdays hit. We celebrate three days apart and we allowed ourselves several indulgences, including a chocolate cake. We both REALLY miss cake. We also had some cheese dip and chips, and several other indulgences that we don’t normally include in our diets. Now, first of all, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite. My stomach, however, did not. After ridding my body of toxins so completely over the last couple of months, my tummy went into full on revolt. I won’t go into details, suffice it to say it wasn’t pretty. Lesson learned.

I’ve always said that diets never reel me in with their science. However, if a diet can become an eating plan for life, makes sense, and keeps me satisfied, I’m willing to try it. The true test is how the eating plan makes me feel. I have to say, eating whole foods with an emphasis on protein, limiting carbs, and trying to keep a watchful eye on wheat (without going overboard) has me feeling better than I have in years. We’ll see how the weight loss goes – that has more to do with how MUCH food I put in my mouth, not just the quality of that food.

I’ll be at the beach next week, and I think I’m finally ready to hit the running trails again. We’ll be riding our bikes some, as well, but some of that will be easy, fun riding. One of my many birthday surprises was the coolest bike I’ve ever had. I may even let Gary make my picture on it next week. If I do, I’ll post a pic. Here’s the bike:

Pink!  And, it has a bell and coffee cup holder!

Pink! And, it has a bell and coffee cup holder!

I have the best hubby ever. He also gave me not one, but TWO first edition books, one by my current obsession, Truman Capote, “In Cold Blood”, the other by Norman Mailer, “The Executioner’s Song”. I was absurdly excited about these. Guess that makes me a nerd? I finished “In Cold Blood” in record time, am working on the Mailer book now.

In addition to the nutrition lesson, I learned an invaluable one about training. When you’re burned out, stop for a while. It won’t hurt you in the long run, and will most likely lead to important self discoveries. I’m not an elite runner, and will never be one. I want to be the best that I can be, at this time in my life. Learning to listen to my body, and heed its warnings has been the best gift I’ve ever given myself.

Finding the light

I’ll admit it. It’s been a fairly dark summer for me. I’ve struggled physically, which darkens my mood in direct proportion. I’ve had minor ailments, truly nothing that should make this journey seem So. Dang. Hard. Yet, hard it’s been. I’ve had to dig deeper than I ever have to maintain the barest level of fitness. And, I do mean barest.

But, I’m an eternal optimist. And, I think determined is a kind word to describe me. My husband might call it hard headed, but it has served me well during this time of struggle. I’m not one to ever give up when I have my eyes fixed on a goal.

I have learned a really important lesson through all this. It’s one I already knew, but, deep down I didn’t think it applied to me. It’s a very simple lesson, one we learn as children, and hammer into place as adults. It’s this: Garbage in, garbage out. You are what you eat. Turns out those tired, old cliches are true, after all. You simply can’t outrun bad nutrition. Your body won’t let you. Oh, you may get away with it for a while (especially if you’re young), but at some point, your body will come to a screeching halt, flip you the bird, and declare it’s done. That’s where my body was heading. I won’t bore you with the details of the things I’ve been pouring into it; but, they included large amounts of foods that don’t properly fuel my body, chased by gallons of (very good) wine and coffee.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reigning in my runaway eating, I’ve made purposeful choices about what to put in my mouth and what to leave out, I’ve planned meals intentionally, and I’m cooking again.  I’m finally feeling like myself again.  The body is a truly amazing thing.  When you take proper care of it, it responds well and performs in almost any way you ask it to.

Yesterday’s run was the first one in many, many weeks that really felt good. Still painfully slow, but strong and steady. I can live with that for now. This morning my man and I did hill repeats, again slowly, but with strength and purpose. It really annoys me that he can already kick my a** again on the last hill, in spite of the fact that he’s got hardware in his leg and has just started running again. I’ve written about that hill before. It hates me.  I hate it. So, I’m determined to conquer it. Maybe one day we’ll be friends. Or, at least, it will know who is boss.

This evening, my legs are pleasantly sore (mostly).  I’m tired in the way I should be tired, not in the “I think I’m coming down with something” kind of tired. I’m looking ahead in anticipation to the workouts we have planned this week.

I’m headed toward the light again. Finally. And, I haven’t had to give up coffee. 😉

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Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Hills and valleys

I’ve always been a dreamer, and, most of the time, an optimist.  I come from a long line of dreamers.  Optimists, not so much.  So, I had to learn to be one.  To choose joy and hope, to learn to see the light at the end of the tunnel and realize it is there to guide me.  My mom was convinced the light at the end of the tunnel was that proverbial oncoming train and she always made effort to retreat, rather than to push forward, explore the terrain around her and move toward that ever welcoming light.  That’s not an indictment against her, it was just her nature to believe the worst and try to steel herself against it.  I’m not sure she realized that was her nature by choice, and that she could change it if she wanted. I chose not to be that person and it’s a choice I make daily.  Sometimes, the light seems like it’s a long way off.

I’ve come to a valley in my training in the last few months.  Physically, I feel like I’m light years away from who I want to be.  I’m tired when I get up in the morning, I am sluggish throughout the day, and any efforts to run require a discipline that feels impossible somedays.  Still, I push on.

If I’ve learned nothing else through running, I’ve learned this.  There are seasons of great reward and seasons of great defeat.   There are times when it’s easy and effortless, and times when a walk is a victory.  There are valleys and there are hills.  You have to successfully walk through the valleys in order to appreciate the view from the hills.  Those dark walks through the valleys define us. They teach us who we are and what we’re made of. They teach us how to be the best we can be, how to live our lives with hope, discipline, and integrity. As in running, as in life.

Hopes, dreams, goals, confidence in the future are the stuff that a life is built on.  They are what keep us trudging through the valleys, and looking up the side of the hill.  Sometimes, when I look up the side of the hill, I’m afraid it’s insurmountable.  I doubt my ability to climb, fear my strength won’t get me to the top. Then, I put one foot down, then, another, and on and on until I’m at the peak.  The view is breathtaking from there and I want to sprint to the next one.  

It really is that simple.  Just one foot in front of the other. Keep moving forward. Know that God is with you, every step. Walking with you, encouraging you, guiding you, keeping you from stumbling, helping you get up when you do fall.

Right now, my steps are excruciatingly slow.  But, they’re moving in the right direction.  I’m paying close attention to my nutrition, which has been rather seriously derailed in the last few months.  I’m eating well, resting well, and using that long ingrained discipline to make myself move most days.  I’m ready to get out of this valley, but it seems for now that  I’m stuck here.  I can’t even see the side of the hill from here.  

Good thing I know it’s there.

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…I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Pressing reset

I’ve become something of a computer techie. Only in a minor way, but if you are a professional photographer in today’s market, you better know something about computers. Most of my knowledge has been learned in the school of hard knocks, but I have traveled far and wide to increase my abilities and try to become more literate in a world that was foreign to me a very short time ago. One of the first lessons I learned was get the best equipment. So it was that I went out of the PC world and landed in Apple land. I immediately had fewer problems. But, as polished as my Apple was, it still had issues occasionally. So, I had to learn to troubleshoot. The first thing I learned was that when you have an issue, it sometimes resolves when you reset. Turn off, unplug, let it rest, then reboot. Problem solved.

I try to always apply lessons learned in life to my running, and vice versa. When I found myself out of steam recently, looking frantically for my mojo, I knew just what to do. Press reset. So, that’s what I did.

I’ve spent the last couple of months just running for pleasure. I turned off the competitive vibe, and let myself reset. I had some trips planned, had fantastic runs on them, ate way too much Italian food, drank quite a lot of wine, smelled a lot of roses, and now I’m ready to run. If running has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me how to press the reset button on my mojo. I’m ready.

I’ve always been a runner who was more inclined to stop and smell the roses rather than to run for them, but I’m ready to test myself now. That doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to stop and smell the roses occasionally. It just means that I’m ready to be more intentional about my training. I’m ready to be leaner and faster. I’m ready to push.

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So, along those lines, I’m following a couple of different training plans. I’m easing into more mileage by adding a fourth running day to my week. Right now, that’s just an easy day, with two to three miles. But, I’m also adding an interval workout once a week. I had my first one this past week and, may I just say, “OW.” I think that describes the workout perfectly.

I will continue to run long, but I don’t have another race scheduled until after Thanksgiving, and for that, I’m thankful right now. I’m sure I’ll pick up some short races between now and then, but I’m not going to plan those too far in advance. Right now, I’m concentrating on increasing my speed, decreasing my girth, and, yes, smelling the wonderful smells that spring in South Mississippi brings. So, there may be a few stops to smell the honeysuckle. And, of course, as a professional photographer, it’s almost impossible not to stop and take an occasional pic to commemorate the rites of spring. It’s so wonderfully green.

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But, I’m ready now. I’ve pressed reset, I’ve rested a few, and now it’s time to pick up the mantle and run.

The Lesson of the Leg

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who had been married a really long time.  One day, they realized they were in the most magical time of their lives so far.  Some people called it “middle age”, but they just called it fun.  They worked hard, played hard, and enjoyed life to the fullest.  They loved to travel, and one day they went on a trip to a galaxy far, far away.  They had lots of things planned on this trip, including travels to many places they had never seen before.  To start the trip, the man was participating in a dirt bike race, which was his passion.  Unfortunately, his race was cut short by an evil tree that jumped in front of his bike and broke his leg.  After everyone in the kingdom had a look at it, it was decided he needed to be sent to another galaxy in order to get the best treatment possible.

The man and woman spent a week dazed and confused in a hospital far from home, but after two surgeries by talented magicians and many more people in the kingdom oohing and ahhing over the unusual injury, they boarded a plane meant just for them and flew back to their little nest on the hill.  One more surgery awaited the man, then the healing began.

Being true believers, the man and the woman knew that there were lessons to be learned though any unfortunate experience, so in the stillness that followed, they sought the light.  True to His word, He offered answers, and the first one was immediately apparent.

*Be still.  The man and the woman had worked and played hard for many years, and had often filled their lives with “busyness” instead of business.  The woman struggled with this more than the man, but they both shared the trait.  A broken leg makes you be still in a way you never understood before.  Caring for one who is temporarily disabled makes you prioritize the work in your life.  Being still makes you much more able to hear God speak.

*Bad things happen to good people.  Even when they’re doing everything “right”.  Don’t be surprised or spend your time in anger when they happen to you.  Look for the lesson, it’s somewhere close by.

*Life isn’t perfect.  For every hill, there’s a valley.

*Just because you’re down, it doesn’t mean you’re out.  This was a lesson for the woman.  After the first few pain filled weeks, the man began to work out again, figuring out what he was able to do and setting about doing it.  He went to physical therapy, did all the exercises they prescribed when he wasn’t there,  even resumed his strength training to the best of his ability.  The woman was awed and humbled and resolved not to whine so much about her workouts.  That’s a work in in progress.

*Take time to heal.  We all have events (physical, spiritual, and emotional) that are traumatic and life changing.  Give yourself time to heal before you try to resume your “normal”.  And, realize that sometimes, life gives us new normals.

*Take care of yourself.  The man’s healing and recovery were greatly enhanced because he had spent the last years taking care of himself.  Keeping his weight at a reasonable level, working out, and playing hard.

*Pursue your passion.  Many people would be deterred from pursuing their passions when faced with a setback like a broken leg .  But, one thing the man taught the woman through all their years together was that life is about chasing dreams.  Setting the bar so high that you almost have to reinvent yourself to grab it.  Going for the gold requires endurance, stamina, desire, and a little luck, but it also requires a passion.  Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back.  Dream big, and work hard.

*Choose joy.  Life is full of hard things.  Illness, injury, brokenness, even death.  Those things are part of our walk, and if we allow them to, they’ll suck us under.  Joy is a life decision that has to be made every day, sometimes every moment of every day.  That doesn’t mean walking around grinning like an idiot, it just means that you choose to persevere through the trials and emerge victorious on the other side.

The end of the story is still being written.  With God’s blessing, there should be many more years of magic.  As the new year dawns, the man and the woman are still learning the lessons of the leg and are limping into the future hand in hand.

Why do it?

As this glutinous season grinds on, it’s time to look forward to the new year and start making our plans for training and racing.  I’m excited that so many in my inner circle of family and friends are lacing up and hitting the road (or the treadmill), and hope that many more will join us as this year closes and a new one begins.  As you look toward a healthier horizon, know that it’s never easy, sometimes it’s really boring, and not all runs are good ones, but making the decision to become a healthier you is one you’ll never regret.  Here are a few things that keep me looking for my running shoes at the crack of dawn.

*It helps me be nicer.  I took the week off from running after last weekend’s half marathon to nurse a few ouchies, and by Thursday, my sunny disposition had melted into a snarling, semi-hysterical puddle.  I had two vicious run-ins over the telephone, both of which make me hang my head in shame today.  Not that they were unprovoked, just that I usually deal with that type thing much better.  Apparently, I need running to help me deal with anger issues.  :/  Who knew?

*I’m responsible for my long term health/well-being.  No one else.  I often listen to podcasts as I run, and this morning’s run started with an Andy Stanley series entitled “Take Responsibility”.  In it, he made the statement that if you aren’t prepared to eat right and exercise now, when you’re healthy, you should sit your spouse or children down and ask them to go ahead and plan on taking care of you as you age.  Ouch.  While there are many things that lie outside my ability to prevent, there are lots of things that lie within it.  Eating well and exercising help me be the best me possible, today and in the future.

*I’m good to myself.  Time spent alone on an early morning run is the most quality time I spend with myself.  I relax, recharge, regroup, and reenergize.

*I catch up with my girl time.  Occasionally, I like to run with a friend.  It’s fun, motivating, and keeps the route interesting.

*I catch up with my guy time.  The thing I miss most about having my man down for the time being is running with him.  Yes, he pushes me hard.  Yes, that makes me grouchy.  It also makes me a better runner.  Get better soon, old man.

*I catch up on my reading.  I love to read.  But, my schedule (like yours) is overly full, especially this time of the year.  So, I download great books to my iPod that keep me company on long runs.  I’ve run with Harry Potter and friends, Jay Gatsby and Daisy, the inspiring women in “The Help”, Jamie and Claire Frasier from the “Outlander” series, and many,  many more.  I also like to listen to podcasts by some of my favorite speakers, including Andy Stanley (pastor of Northpointe Community Church in Atlanta), the late, great Zig Ziglar, the down to earth Joyce Meyers, and the funny girls over at Another Mother Runner.  Long runs are often “catch up on my podcasts” time.  

*I have a worship experience.  I have lots of music on my iPod and that sometimes leads to an amazing run.  My running playlist is very eclectic, running the gamut from Queen, Steppenwolf, and Tom Petty to Jonah 33, Jeremy Riddle, and Mercy Me and everything in between.  I dial it in, hit shuffle, and let God choose what I listen to.  At mile 4 this morning, just as I was getting in my groove, He selected Mercy Me’s “Word of God, Speak”.  And, it did.  Mile 4 was a hands raised to heaven kind of mile.  Love it when that happens.

*I feel spectacular.  I’ve been running consistently again for a little over three years.  I felt better after the first six months, then after a year, I felt great.  Now, I have energy to spare, morning runs fuel my day, I’m seldom sick with anything worse than a fever blister, and I wake up easily in the mornings, looking forward to the day.  Does it get better than that?

I hope this list helps you get motivated or re-motivated to move.  Please, don’t think you have to be a runner.  In fact, if you’re just starting out, haven’t run in a long time, are a little older, or are prone to injuries, just walk.  You never have to run, you certainly never have to race to reap the benefits of adding exercise to your life.  Everyone starts slowly, then gradually improves. It’s the natural way of things.    In the words of the incomparable, recently departed Zig Ziglar:

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