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.

2Tim1-7

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

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I run because I know

conteffortRunners often ponder deep thoughts as we pound along, and, I guess, I’m no exception, although some thoughts are deeper than others. Some days my mind simply chases its tail as I plunk along, others it busily solves the world’s problems. Mostly, though, it just sits there in a receptive state, eager to grasp whatever little bit God may offer me, and chew on it thoughtfully.

Today’s run was one of those that I did only because I knew what it would do for me, not out of any innate desire to jump out of bed and meet the cold world head on.

So, I got to thinking about the reasons that I run, and I kept circling back to the realization that I run because I know. I guess having been a runner for several years, I have internalized some truths that keep me lacing up and heading out, even when I’m not particularly in the mood to do so.

I know:

* that on a quiet, cool morning, when the only sounds I hear are the animals rustling the dry leaves around me and my feet pounding along, is when God’s whisper in my ear becomes audible. God speaks to me often, but I hear Him most clearly when I run.

* that running detaches that little black cloud that hitches itself to my posterior all too often, and dispels the gloom it often leaves behind.

* that, even though my running won’t detach anyone else’s black cloud, it may make me a little more capable of dealing with them, give me some insight into their clouds, and help me to know what to say (or not say) that will perhaps shine a little light into their darkness.

* that perseverance trumps talent, discipline trumps genetics. I’ll never be that speedy old broad who sets world age group records, but I’ll be dogging her heels until they put me in the ground. Then, I’ll dog her heels on streets lined with gold. Maybe I’ll catch her then. An Old Broad can dream, can’t she?

* that the only way to combat the deterioration that age inevitably brings is to meet it head on, chase it down, and wrestle it to the ground.

* that my day will go better, my relationships/work/life will flow more easily on days that begin with the quiet contemplation of a run.

* that my interactions with strangers and the world at large, the one that is filled with evil and selfishness; will be kinder and gentler if I start my day off at a trot. Somehow, I like people more after I’ve sweated and gasped for air a while. Strange how that works out.

* that in the long term, my health (mental and physical) will be improved by incorporating movement into my days.

* that in the short term, I just plain feel better when I run consistently.

* that running keeps me moving forward, on the trail and in life.

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Forever the Comeback Kid

start_finish2014 was a year of rest for me.  Not complete rest. But, no races, no set training goals, just learning to love running again and focusing on staying injury free.  After injury prone 2013, burn out, and even worse, doubt, crept into my training and combined to make me forget how much I love this sport.  So, I took the year off.  I ran when I felt like it, walked when I didn’t;  cycled a lot; hiked with my man from the mountains and beaches of the Big Island, to the urban intensity of NYC and New Orleans, and multiple spots in between.  And, guess what?  I ended the year injury free, and renewed my love affair with running to the point that I’m ready to hit the ground running (pun intended, lame as it is) in 2015.

To that end, I’ve set some goals.  I usually set my yearly goals on my birthday (in October), but I even took the year off from that last year.

Fortunately, I’ve been a runner long enough to know that comeback is the name of the game.  There will always be another injury or illness to recover from, always be down time to rev back up, always be another race down the road to make up for the one you bailed on when you had chills and fever.  New years, new challenges, new goals.  I live in conscious and constant thankfulness for that truth.

As always, my goals are simple.  I’m a pretty uncomplicated gal.  Unless you ask my man.  So, here are my goals, for what they’re worth.  I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments.

1) Get back to racing form/weight/endurance.  As I think back over decades of struggles with weight, I realize that the desire to be “thin” left me when I started running.  That’s weird to think about now, but my goal has gone from being that “perfect” weight that society or some doctor decreed was “normal” to being the optimum weight to feel good, run well, and race faster.  I would share my goal weight here, but it’s a constantly moving target as I move forward and decide what feels right.  The number isn’t that important to me anymore, the way I feel is.  And, of course, I would like to be faster.  I heard or read the other day that for every pound you lose, you shave 2 seconds off your time.  So…  losing a thousand pounds ought to be just about right.  😉

2) Remain injury free.  I’ve learned the best way to do that is to ease back into a training plan and listen, listen, listen to my body.  I’m not a runner who can race a lot, for whatever reason, so I have to be very conscious of selecting races/training plans that challenge me, but don’t require me to run myself into the ground. Because I love the half marathon distance, I don’t sprinkle many 5k’s or 10k’s in my year.  I hope one day to run another marathon, but I have some very specific criteria for myself about deciding when or if to do that.

3) Read more.  I have at least six books stacked on my shelf, calling my name, and a list of titles on my iPad at least 5 times that long.  So many books, so little time.  So, I’m going to use my time more wisely.

4) Connect with friends more.  I tend to be a solitary soul, given my choice.  But, whenever I connect with my friends, I remember how much I love good company. I have terrific friends and I’ve joined a couple of groups toward that end.  More on that later.

5) Seek God’s presence in my day to day life in a more intentional way.

6) Accept where I am, dream of where I want to be, work like heck to get there.

Simple list.  Ongoing goals that I’ve set before, and come back to again and again. Yep, forever the Comeback Kid.  I’ll take that.

impossible_effortless

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!

Body Conscious

 I was in a never ending checkout line recently, and in a shopping cart a couple of people ahead of me was a young child, being entertained by his mother.  He was having none of it, though, so she lifted him out of the cart and he snuggled into her shoulder with a sigh of contentment.  I marveled, not at the beauty of the child (even though he was absolutely delicious), but at how wondrously designed our bodies are.  The curve of the mother’s neck was perfectly proportioned to accommodate the baby’s sleepy head, her shoulder nicely rounded to accept his fat little arm, her shoulder blade smooth and flat to feel the tap, tap, tap of the baby’s gentle pats.

The beauty of that moment made me forget the impatience of the checkout, my long list of errands, the pile of work waiting on my desk. I remembered with a smile the long ago days of my daughter’s childhood, the feel of her sweet head curved into my neck, the pat of her fat little hand on my back.  And, I remembered with regret that I didn’t truly appreciate the divine design that made those moments possible.  Instead, I wished I were ten (or thirty) pounds lighter; that the cushioning that had nurtured her into being would fade away and leave me with a “perfect” body.

 Why did it take me a half-century to understand the absolute perfection of the woman’s body?  Why have I taken my own amazingly designed body for granted, not appreciated the divine plan of the temple God created in me?  This woman’s body, the one sculpted to nurture a baby, then toddler, then child is also designed to respond to her husband’s touch; to feel joy, pain, grief, and desire; to feel powerful; to feel fatigued.

 The human body is truly a marvel.  It is designed to alert us to impending danger, whether from a bear chasing us, or an illness overtaking us.  When did we stop listening?  When did we stop marveling?  Why is it so easy to spot the flaws and overlook the perfection?

 We live in a world that judges beauty by harsh and unrealistic standards.  We see images of women that have been altered by technology to the point that they’re often unrecognizable, and we think that’s how we should look.  Never mind that the subject of the photo doesn’t even look that way, or that it is usually physically impossible to achieve that look.

We live in a world that’s conditioned us to accept fast food as an acceptable eating plan. A world that’s designed to keep us imprisoned in a chair facing a computer screen or desk for hours on end.  One that encourages us to give too much of ourselves to mindless entertainment, zoning out and allowing our minds to deteriorate along with our bodies.  One that discourages intimacy and allows relationships to be technology based.

 Was it the world that caused all this, though?  Wasn’t it our choices and decisions that brought us to this place?

It’s time for a change.  It’s time to take back our lives, our health, our bodies, our minds.  It’s time to remember that our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, designed to last us a lifetime.

 It’s time to marvel at the beauty of a baby perfectly curved around his mother’s body.

embrace your body

Wintertime Blues

There comes a time in most relationships when passion wanes and you begin to operate on autopilot.  You forget what drew you to each other in the first place, your mind starts to wander, you may even seek a diversion outside your partnership.  No, I’m not talking about marriage (even though I’m sure that’s true of some), I’m talking about running.

Over the last year, my passion for running has cooled.  I’ve struggled for motivation, dealt with injury, looked forward to tapers and time off with a little too much relish.  But, because I’m no stranger to long term relationships, I know that this, too, will pass.  That eventually the passion will return and I’ll remember why I fell in love with running.  I’ve learned that the secret to overcoming that lack of passion is to “fake it til you make it.”  In other words, keep moving forward.  Find your motivation anywhere you can, race a new distance or location, set new goals, maybe find a running partner.  Run even when you don’t feel like it, when you see no discernible difference in your speed or endurance, or when your mind screams,  “Stop!”  Just keep running.  Maybe throw in some cross training, but if running is your heart’s desire, then you just have to run.

An enduring relationship with running is just like any other relationship.  It takes work, discipline, mental toughness, and sometimes, creativity.  Why keep going?  The same reason you stick it out in any relationship.  It’s part of who you are.

Running for me has been a dream maker, a companion, a comfort, a cathartic release, a creativity boost, a way to iron out problems in my mind, a time to grow closer to God.  It’s carried me through the illness and death of my parents, family struggles, financial woes, the sting of criticism and rejection, and the ongoing journey to discover my way.  It feeds me, nourishes me, punishes me, disciplines me, humbles me.  It allows me quality time with God, a time to hear God’s voice and meditate on His promises.  It threatens revolt when I don’t eat well and kicks my butt accordingly. It makes stair climbing easier, gives life to my legs and lungs, and enables me to live a life filled with adventure.  It gives me strength and makes me stronger, it strips away all pretense and reminds me that I’m not Superwoman, I’m just an old broad who runs who can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.

I’ve been watching the Olympics along with the rest of the world, and even though I like the summer games better (with its track and field events), I’ve really enjoyed watching the athletes as they compete in their disciplines.  It takes a great deal of mental toughness to make it to that level and I want to soak up as much of that by osmosis as I can.  Watching Noelle Pikus-Pace’s silver medal skeleton run and her heart warming reaction at the end reminded me of the other bonus in my life that keeps me running and helps with mental toughness.  My family.  I’ve watched the video multiple times now and I’m not ashamed to admit that tears flowed each time.  Knowing that others believe in us and are willing to sacrifice to help us accomplish our dreams helps give wings to our feet and brush the cobwebs from our minds. Knowing that the legacy I want to leave for my girls is one of strength and fitness keeps me lacing up those shoes, even on hard days.

I know running and I will get through this relationship crisis.  We’ve gone too many miles together to stop now.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

 Isaiah 40:13

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A few of my least favorite things.

A few weeks ago, I posted some of my favorite things.  I’m a person who likes to see the bright side, and I have long held the belief that ranting and raving about things is not a productive enterprise.   You know, if you can’t say anything good,  yada, yada, yada.

But, sometimes… Well, sometimes, a gal just needs to rant. Maybe it builds character. Or not. In any case, as I’m feeling a little punchy from not running for too many days in a row,  I thought today would be a good day to give my least favorite things some equal time.

So, with no further ado, here are some of my least favorite things (random and in no particular order):

– Cold weather. Not. A. Fan. Give me triple digit temps with crushing humidity any day of the week. That’s why God dropped me into the South. I really think he was aiming for Kona, Hawaii, and something was lost in transit. Maybe His aim was off that day.

I need spring.  Soon.

snow in ms

– Traffic, lines, and crowds. Age has made me much less sanguine about lots of bodies in one place who don’t respect personal space.

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– People who don’t purchase official race photos, but still use them on their blogs/social media. Truly one of the things that makes me nuts. When the photo on your blog has the word PROOF labeled across it, you’ve branded yourself a thief for all the world to see. You wouldn’t walk into a grocery store and slip a steak into your pants, then walk out without paying, would you? Same thing. Although I think you should support the small business that is trying to make a living by photographing your race, if you can’t afford to buy your (usually reasonably priced) race photos, have a friend come to the race and take pictures with your iPhone.

I could go on and on about this one, it really hits close to home.

– The comments I read online on news stories and social media threads. Truly, I weep for humanity. Keyboard courage has made idiots of us all. Step away from your computer. Seriously. There are some things you can just let ride.

– Social media shares by people who don’t realize they’re a hoax. I don’t know, though. This one sometimes makes me laugh. But, due diligence, people. Do your research. And, if it’s an article from “The Onion”, chances are it’s tongue in cheek.

– And, while I’m ranting about social media… inappropriate oversharing and poor grammar and spelling on social media.  This includes status updates that make us cringe; racy photos in your underwear (or bikini, or barely there dress); and the misuse of “your and you’re”, “their, there, and they’re”, and “to, too, and two”.  Proofread, people.  It only takes a moment. And, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother (or preacher, or Sunday school teacher, or whoever you greatly respect) to see your status/picture, don’t make me look at it.

– The fitness lost after only a few days off. It seems really unfair how fast fitness fades when you’re injured or just taking some time off. Bleh.

After reviewing this list, I’m kind of proud that it’s much shorter than my favorite things list.  I hope I always see more good than bad in the world.

And, I hope it’s warm enough for my long run tomorrow.  I’m sure my family does, too.  Not that I’m grouchy or anything.