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.

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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!

That fickle friend: Motivation

I’ve neglected my blog much too long this summer. No real reason, other than the voices in my head have been unusually quiet, so I’ve felt uninspired and uninspiring. I’m happy (?) to report they’re back, talking over each other in their need to be heard, and coming soon to a blog post near you. Turns out, they’ve all been sulking this summer because they thought we weren’t going to get some much needed R&R someplace salty and sandy, because when we booked a last minute trip for later this month, they all came out of hiding, quivering with excitement.

The loudest voice has been talking about motivation. I don’t know any long term runners, including myself, who haven’t been asked how they stay motivated to run. I think I can answer for all of us with two simple words, “We don’t.”

I frequently lose motivation, even (or maybe expecially) in the middle of a training cycle for a race that I’m looking forward to with intensity. Doubt in my abilities, inclement weather (which for me means cold), that weird combination of anticipation and dread inspired by a particularly hard workout, not eating well, eating too well, discouragement in lack of progress, feeling too fat for my running skirt, just pick a reason. I’ve lost motivation for all of those and more.

Having fallen in love with this sport early in my running life, and knowing that I want to be a life time runner, I knew I had to learn to deal with that sinking lack of motivation that comes to every runner, even elite ones, at various seasons during their running lives. For me, that was accomplished by making it a habit, like brushing and flossing my teeth (which I’m also frequently unmotivated to do).

I’ve learned that it’s okay to take time off from running, as long as I maintain my fitness doing something else. I’ve learned to listen when my body starts complaining about over training and heed its warning. I’ve learned the value of rest days, and the importance of cross training. I’ve learned to take my running clothes with me when I work out of town or go on vacation so I don’t get out of the habit, and that a simple change of scenery will often breathe new life into a stale training plan.

When you first begin running, or begin again after a break, motivation is an almost constant companion. But, after you’ve accomplished your goals, run the race or lost the pounds, the new kind of wears off. If it’s not something you’ve taught your body to expect, you may lose interest and stop.

That’s where that habit thing comes in. Some may call it discipline, but I don’t. I’m not particularly disciplined, but I am a creature of habit. After too much time off, my body reminds me in subtle, then not so subtle, ways that it’s time to lace up again.

For instance, earlier this summer, I had a somewhat frightening migraine that triggered a spike in my normally very low blood pressure, making me feel bad for several days. By day four, I was done with feeling bad, so I forced myself to get out of bed before 7, and headed to a local trail for a walk. My mind kept telling me to go back to bed, but my body knew. I walked so slowly that the turtles looked at me with scorn, but in less than five minutes, I felt better. And, I felt better the rest of the day. I made myself walk at least 30 minutes every day for the next week, and finally, my BP got back to normal. Within a couple of weeks, I was running again, back on my training plan.

When my alarm clock goes off WAY too early, I sometimes resort to trickery to get myself out of my nice, warm nest. I tell myself that I’ll only go for ten minutes, and if I still don’t want to run, I can go back to bed. I never end up back in bed. Once I start, I’m reminded of how much better I feel when I run than when I don’t.

It all comes down to this for me: I’ve felt bad, and I’ve felt good. Feeling good is better. I’ve been fit, and I’ve been fat. Being fit is better.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I sometimes give in to the siren song of my comfy bed with my warm man in it, but more often than not, I get up and out the door to get my run on. That said, I turned my alarm off this very morning and stayed in bed another half hour. What can I say? Stuff happens.

I’ve never once regretted getting up early to run, but I have almost always regretted sleeping in. For me, for now, that’s enough.

Searching for sanity

After taking a few months off from running following my last race in November, I found myself about mid-March mired in a pit of depression, which I blogged about a few weeks ago.  I’ve always known that running does more for my mental health than anything else I do.  So, I pulled myself up by my shoestrings, threw on my favorite running skirt, and started the long journey back.  And, it’s been a journey.  Until I stopped running for a while, I had forgotten just how much it helps alleviate anxiety, reminds me of the beauty of my life, raises my mood, and makes me feel invincible.  Truly, after a good, hard run, I feel bulletproof.  Work flows more easily, creative thoughts fight with each other to express themselves, the little aggravations of life (like the restaurant that over billed my debit card by $40 and won’t acknowledge the mistake), even the real problems of life lose their power to turn my tummy into a pit of burning anxiety and my mind into a swirling vortex of crazy.

My weekly mileage is still low, my pace is absurdly slow, and until today, every run has felt like a job.  Not a fun job.  More like a “clean the toilet” kind of job.  After it’s been used by men.  Still, I’ve continued to plug away.  I mean, someone has to clean the toilet, right?  I knew that at some point, it would feel a little easier and I would be reminded of why I love to run.

Today was that day.

I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of running.  It’s hard,  it’s hot, it hurts.  Almost always.  And, I don’t want you to think that I’m some gracefully gifted runner who flies along the path like a cheetah, feet barely making contact with the ground, hair flowing out behind me.  I know some of those runners, but I’m not one.  I plod along, scraggly ponytail tucked into the hole of my tattered, smelly running cap.  I’m carrying an extra burden of 15 pounds or so that the short hiatus from running and the food trough I fell into packed onto my short frame.  Sweat runs down my face in rivers and turns my pale (not creamy) skin into a blotch of red spots that make me look like I have a contagious disease.  I’ve never been fast; now I’m positively glacial.

Still, I plod.  Then, sometimes, like today, the plodding rewards me and reminds me why I continue to make this journey.  A run that had some aggravating factors before and during (not going to expound on that, just think “crazy people” – if you’re in business for yourself, you immediately thought of someone) turned into the soul soothing, sanity producing, anxiety eliminating run that I so desperately needed.  I  wasn’t running some fun, new route; the earth didn’t move; I didn’t have a celebrity sighting (and, by celebrity, I mean like Meb or Ryan Hall or Shalane Flanagan); I was only marginally faster than Thursday’s run; I didn’t even see any of the cool critters which often brighten my runs.

Even so, my soul was soothed.  My mind was comforted.  God showed up with His Asics on and ran beside me.  Love it when that happens.

If you never want to run, I get that.  I would never tell anyone (especially another old broad) that they need to become a runner.  What I would tell you is this:  If you’re searching for sanity; trying to pull yourself out of the pit; or looking for goals and trying to decide what the next phase of your life holds,  you will almost always find the answers on the trail.  Walk it, run it, or do some creative combination of the two. Just put one foot in front of the other and move.

Sanity lies just over the next hill.

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Determination

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’ve been steadily moving forward, mile by mile, some days inch by inch.  I’m slower than ever, my legs don’t seem to remember that they can run long, and motivation is ever a fickle friend.   The slowness I can live with; I know the endurance will return; but, motivation is sometimes that mean girl whose a** I want to kick.  I know her well enough now to understand that her ebbs and flows are just part of the plan, and I try not to let it keep me from my task.  I learned long ago that discipline is more important in running than motivation, so I’m calling on all my reserves to remind me every morning as I get up to go about my day.  The mornings that she joins me on my run are inspired and beautiful; but I know I can run without her; and, it seems, I often do.  One way I entice her to run with me is to change up my routes, find new running paths, and look for fresh inspiration on every run.

Today was one of those days that motivation deserted me, turning over in bed at the time I needed to rise, and informing me that she was going back to sleep, so I was on my own.  I gave her a vicious shove and headed out without her.  I headed to our local rails to trails, my go-to trail when I have to run with no motivation.  It’s an easy run; very flat and shady; a run I can do on auto pilot.  At the stage my training is in right now, that’s often what I need.  Runs that remind my legs we can do this, but that don’t require a lot of mind games to accomplish.  

I headed out at my usual starting place (Jackson Road station), mind still not on board, and just ran.  I love our local rails to trails (Longleaf Trace): no dogs, no traffic, just people like me, intent on getting their workout in.  One of the really cool things I discovered about this route last year is that there are numerous trails that lead off the path through the woods that are well marked and easy to follow.  I LOVE trail running, but don’t go to many of our trails often, as they are quite a distance to drive, and my man doesn’t really like me to run them by myself.  The trails off the Trace, however, are a different story.  I’m never far from the main path, so running the trails isn’t quite the lone experience it is in the national forests that surround the other trail runs that are within my reach.  On a whim, I darted onto the first trail I came to, Turtle Loop.  It is a short one (1.5 miles) and that was just what I needed for today.

This is what greeted me:

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It was at that moment that motivation decided she would join me. I smiled and welcomed her, and on we ran. The smell of a Mississippi spring is almost indescribable. More talented scribes than I have attempted it. The odor of spring honeysuckle takes me back to my childhood, carrying me back to simpler, sweeter times. Yes, the sweet smell of spring brings my allergies into screaming awareness, but I love it, all the same. The path melted away under my feet, taking me up several fairly steep inclines, but giving in return the promise of renewed strength and determination. Glorious, spectacular day. Motivation was running right beside me, drinking it all in. I was happy to have her along for the ride.

At the end of my run, as I returned to the Trace, I encountered a little guy who was, perhaps, a little too on point (I was running Turtle Loop, after all). This very determined turtle was climbing up one of the steepest inclines on the trail. I stopped and marveled at him a few moments, taking a photo and realizing how much alike we were, then I headed on down to the path to complete my run.
turtle_determination I’m quite sure that he made it to the top.

I’m thankful that I know that persistence trumps talent, because, as running goes, I have very little talent. I am, however, one very determined old broad who knows that determination can bring about results that talent can only dream about.

Keep moving forward, my friends.

Starting over… again

I was fishing for compliments the other day, and I flippantly asked my man why he loves me.  He looked at me very seriously and replied, “Because you can do anything.”  Never one to accept a compliment graciously, I rolled my eyes and said, “Well, I can’t sew.”  He squinted at me curiously and said, “You could if you wanted to.”  I was touched to my soul.

Once you come out of your sugar coma, set aside the cheesiness of that interchange and look at the truth behind it.  I’ve been blessed my entire life to have people around me who believe in me (often more than I believe in myself), who encourage me, and who tell me the truth when the truth is hard to hear.  This particular truth, that I can do anything that I truly want to,  has been spoken to me, sometimes aloud, sometimes through actions, for most of my life.  I fully believe that if there is something in life that I want, and am willing to put in the work necessary to achieve it, it can be mine.

When I became interested in photography, I tried to learn everything I could about how to become a better photographer.  I dug deep to find classes that would teach me the basics, found people who mentored me, shot rolls and rolls of film, learned how to process film in the darkroom, then had the rug snatched from under me and had to learn digital and all that goes with this new age of computers.   I eventually went on to become a professional photographer, and even opened a studio and worked full time in that industry for a while.  It was (and still is, to some extent) something that was important to me, so I gave it my all, and succeeded to the degree that I wanted. I wanted it, so I worked for it.

My last post was about the drop into depression that I experienced this year.  It was one of the worst bouts I’ve experienced in a number of years, for many reasons, most of which I’ve identified.  I’m FINALLY better; it helps that spring is peeking around the corner and that my world, which was dark and drab over the weekend, became green and colorful overnight.  Even though I sneeze through spring, I love it for its reminder that, while the dark seasons of our lives are inevitable, renewal is always right around the corner.  For now, that demon of depression seems to be bound, and although he escapes his bindings occasionally, God is keeping him at bay for me.  I’m humbly grateful.

My world is brighter and more colorful, with the dogwoods and cherry blossoms blooming right outside my bedroom window.  I’m setting new goals, and asking myself some tough questions about where I’m heading.  Gary and I are running together some, and the slow rebuilding of base miles has begun.  I’m reaching for new goals in life and reminding myself that, if I want it, and am willing to put in the work for it, it can indeed be mine.

Life is ever about starting over, it seems.

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