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.

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.  

The Honeymoon is over…

…and I got my first DNF.  Sigh.  

But, because I am who I am, I’m looking for that silver lining.  My glass is always half full.  You know, I think my glass is actually always brimming over.  

In the same vein, though, I am who I am, so I’ll be be brutally honest and give you the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Lots of ugly out there today.  

  
First off, the race directors did a great job.  Packet pick-up was a breeze (and I’ve been to races where it was more painful than the race itself), logistics getting 1000+ people onto the island went smoothly, signage and crowd support were awesome (especially for a small race), and our starts were more or less on time, depending on your watch.  That’s the good (well, some of it).  

What the race directors couldn’t foresee during their planning phase was the weather.  Today’s forecast was sunny and clear, high of 88, 100% humidity.  Yikes!  I realize I’m in sunny central Florida, but Lord VoldeSun was truly in his element.  And, therein lies the rub.  While we started and finished on beautiful Honeymoon Island State Park, most of the race was run across Dunedin Causeway, in the Broiling.  Hot.  Sun.  

The course was set as an out and back loop, half marathoners completing the loop twice, 10k’ers once.  For the majority of the race, there was NO shade, and Lord VoldeSun was relentless.  

Now, I’m used to hot, muggy weather.  I live in South Mississippi, for pity’s sake, we’re positively swampy for most of the year.  But, when I train, I do it on shady trail; very, very early in the morning.  

Which brings us to the bad. This race should have started an hour before it did.  Half marathon runners started at 7:20, a full hour after there was light enough to hit it.  

  This image was made before 7 am, plenty of light on the roadways.  

I’m not a race director, and I know there were huge logistical headaches for this race in particular, as we were on an island which is also a state park.  But, if you’re opening the park to racers at 5 am, why not move it back to  4 am?  I mean, we are runners, most of us are used to obscenely early alarms when we train in hot weather.  They could have opened the causeway and park up to others an hour earlier, which would have alleviated many of the complaints I heard from non runners who wanted to enjoy their day on the beach.  This may have been a weather anomaly for this area, but somehow, I don’t think it was.  

My only other complaint was that most of this race was run outside the park, across the causeway (pretty enough; but, still – it’s a bridge) and through a neighborhood.  The park itself is beautiful, and I would have loved to wind my way through and around the trails there (shade?).  I think that past participants may have complained about the sandy trails, which are tough, but the ones I saw were pretty hard packed.  I also realize there may be environmental concerns about moving 1000 people through a trail system, so I get it.  Still, it felt like a wasted opportunity.  

Now I get to the ugly.  

I knew going into this race weekend that I wasn’t ready for it. Indeed, I considered not coming at all, then I realized I would have three days at the beach alone with my man after the busiest October I can remember us having in, well…, ever; and I decided to just go for it.  I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?  A DNF?  Who really cares?  So, we did it.  

Miles 1-3 were easy and uneventful.  Then, we went out of the park.  It was still pretty early, but Lord VoldeSun was already beaming down on us.  The trip across the bridge wasn’t awful, the wind was in our faces, so we were relatively cool.  We circled into a neighborhood, and I realized I wasn’t doing well.  We headed back to the bridge, and when we got to the highest point, with sun bearing down on us without mercy, I knew I could not do another loop through that.  We ran on, me struggling with the decision to DNF, my man just “protecting his investment”.  He’s so awesome.  Did I mention his longest training run for this was a 30 minute extravaganza earlier this week?  But, I know he would have hung with me to the end, matching me step for step and encouraging, badgering, or pulling me along, as needed.  Love that man.  He has that mind/body/ninja thing down cold.  He, more than almost anyone, inspires me to be better.  

  
We got back into the park, and the decision was made.  I told him we were stopping at the halfway point, there was no way I could go back across that causeway with Voldy blasting his rays at me.  So, we ran to the halfway point (along the best path of the race), headed to the finish line (while staying far enough away so that our chips wouldn’t be recognized and give a false finish time), and had a volunteer cut off our chips.  We were done.  We made it roughly seven miles.  

Yes, I’m disappointed.  But, after seeing the third ambulance come onto the island to pick up runners in heat distress, I know I made the right decision.  There’s always another race, one we’ll be better prepared for and eager to run.   Of course, we were stuck on the island until they re-opened the roads.  I know, boo hoo, right?

 There were compensations, though.  

  
That’s what I call an ice bath.  😉

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that inspire and encourage me:

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.  Colin Powell

  

We may or may not come back to Dunedin (pronounced done-eden, btw).  We really like this area, it’s beachy and artsy and filled with stuff we love (running trails and places to SUP and kayak.  AND, great restaurants.)  But, I’m not sure about this race.  The course missed the mark by quite a lot, so we’ll have to see if we want to try it again sometime.  

There’s always a lesson, isn’t there?  Wonder why they have to hurt so much?

Today’s lesson for me:  Listen to your body.  Live to race another day.