All in my mind

Well, we’re here.  Dunedin, Florida.  For the Honeymoon Island Half Marathon which starts tomorrow at 7:30 am in warm, muggy central Florida.  Good thing I’m close friends with warm and muggy, I guess.  I hope to post again tomorrow with a race report, but my mind was whirling today, so I had to get a few thoughts down in black in white.  It helps settle my nerves.  

Love our little rented condo.  It’s a quad plex, and we’re in the upper northwest corner.  Our downstairs neighbors drove a hearse here from Indiana.  Hmmm…   Our other neighbors have just arrived, so all I know about them is there are a lot of them.  They’re young and athletic, so they may be here for the race, too, for all I know.  We’ll see. 

Gary and I drove to the park where the race will be held tomorrow to do a little reconnaissance.  We started down a hiking trail, then were besieged by mosquitos, so we retreated to our car and headed back to the condo.  Packet pick up is in a few hours, reservations for a pasta meal have been made at an Italian restaurant in lovely downtown Dunedin, Gary is taking a nap, and I’m having a glass of wine (or two) to calm my pre-race jitters.  

I haven’t raced in two years.  The wheels fell off my training bus about a month ago, after a 10 mile run.  Enter a strep infection, an antibiotic, then, of course, the subsequent yeast infection, and you can imagine how my body felt about running.  Still, I ran.  Not fast, not far (missed my 11 miler), but steadily and with intention.  Then, I was able to get a 12 miler in on a trail, which was exquisite, but sloooooooooooooooow.   Truly breathtaking, though.  

  
I realized something on that long, lonely 12 miler.  The ability to accomplish anything, whether it’s to run 12 miles on trails or something even more challenging, really resides in my mind, not my feet.  

If I believe I can do it, I really can. A few weeks ago,  I was unsure if I could complete a 9 miler, then I put my mind to it, and I did it.  The next week, my 10 miler felt easy.  Yes, I was felled by angry microbes afterward, but I got it done.  Then, after all the misery of a strep infection and a yeast infection, Twelve.  Miles.  Done.  Wow.  

There’s a lot to be said for making a plan and sticking to it, even when you get temporarily derailed.  Tell yourself you can, and you’re more than halfway there.  

I have a long list of Bible verses and literary quotes that I refer to for inspiration when I need it, and this one seems appropriate today:

It is our choices that show what we really are; far more than our abilities.  Albus Dumbledore                                                                                            

I choose to believe that I can.  

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

Love the one you’re with

To be honest, I never liked that song. If you can’t have the one that you want, love the one you’re with? Really? No, get over yourself and go for the one you want and let the one you’re with go find someone who appreciates how amazing they are.

…Anyway…

faith_human nature_marathon

This past weekend, my man took me to NYC. You may remember, this blog started during my training for the 2011 NYC marathon. The first Sunday of November each year in NYC finds thousands of runners of various abilities pounding the pavement through the five boroughs of NYC, aiming to win, hit a personal best, or to simply finish. I was one of those brave souls then, and I’m proud of my less than illustrious finish, even if it wasn’t the time goal that I had originally sought. For me, it was about setting a goal and finding the mental strength and the determination to see it through to the end.  I did that.

This year, when I learned that Meb would be running NYC after his historic Boston finish, I knew I wanted to go watch him run. So, my man and I booked our trip, and last Friday , we headed to one of my favorite places to watch one of my favorite races and try to chase Meb through the boroughs. We had a blast running around Brooklyn, trying to find the best spot to see the elite men and women, then hopping back on the R train and heading back uptown to try to catch them again.

What on earth does that have to do with loving the one you’re with? Let me explain.

I love NYC. Since my very first trip there in 2006, it’s been my favorite city to visit and explore, and I’ve made trips there at least once a year since then. Each trip has various goals, but some goals are the same every time. I always want to: see at least one Broadway/off Broadway show; run a new route; visit at least one new historical icon; run in Central Park; eat lobster ravioli in Little Italy, a hot pretzel, and a Nathan’s hotdog at least once each; go to a new museum; and simply walk the city as much as possible. We achieved each of these goals (some more than once), except the Nathan’s hotdog. That’s ok. I’ll eat two on my next trip. 🙂 And, I’ll spare you a pic of the half dollar size blister on my heel from walking around the city.  You’re welcome.

New York City was one of the first trips I made when I began running again. I visited with my sister and got up early (while she talked business on the phone and blew cigarette smoke out the window of our No Smoking room) to run in Central Park, by myself, with no fear and tons of amazement. I ran a bit, took a few pictures, and dreamed. I dreamed of being a faster runner, of running new paths, of exploring the world through running, and of becoming the woman that I envisioned – one who pursued her dreams while raising her family and being the woman that God wanted her to be. Big city, big goals. I’m still working on those goals, all these years later, but one of those goals I met in 2011 – to run the NYC marathon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun, and I finished with a smile on my face.

This year, as I watched the amazing athletes (elite and real people) run the boroughs and reach for the stars, I was awed and humbled. We made the journey to see Meb run (hey, you have your celebrity crushes, I have mine), and were able to catch him at the beginning of the race (around mile 2 in Brooklyn), and close to the finish (around mile 24 in Central Park – geez, those dudes are fast). We were able to see some of my other celebrity crushes, Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher among them, as we waited for the elite men to zoom through.

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair as I shot with my GoPro)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair on the bottom left – the wind was brutal!)

Deena Kastor, mile 24.  God bless the Old Broads.  Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Deena Kastor, mile 24. God bless the Old Broads. Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher

Then, came my favorites, the real people. The ones like you and me, the ones whose eyes aren’t set on winning, but on a dream, a goal. One that’s personal and private. One that makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something, one that makes them believe in themselves. One that reminds them that, as bad as life can sometimes be, there’s always hope. These are the people I love. The ones who know that life really only has the limits that you allow it to have. The ones who understand that nothing is a given; life isn’t always easy; that a life worth living is filled with dreams and hopes, even when it’s hard; and the only person who can fix it/achieve it/fulfill it is themselves. I love these people. Watching them race on Sunday; some with grins, some with grimaces; all different body types – some looking like runners, others looking like me; some in obvious pain, others with a smile of wonder on their faces; some fast, some slow; some walking, some running;, some crying, some laughing; some singing, some barely hobbling along: these people are my people. The ones who know that dreams are achievable, borne to us on the wings of hope, faith, and pain. The real people. The ones who make marathons sing with joy and hope, overcoming pain and sorrow, disease and trouble. My inspiration.

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

And, that brings me back to loving the one you’re with. One day, several years ago, this old broad decided it was time. Time to reclaim my life, my health, my sanity. Time to reach for the stars. In a life only marked by mediocrity, it was time to reach for my own personal definition of success. To embrace the body I was in and begin to seek good health, sanity, a life lived well. If I had waited to start running when I was thin enough, or fit enough; if I had waited for that perfect moment in time when it all came together, I would never have started.

It’s still a struggle. I have good days, weeks, months when running seems effortless; then a long, long string of bad ones. I struggle with injury, with losing weight, with finding time. I struggle with speed, with endurance, with motivation. I just struggle.

Still, I run. I’m taking the body I have and I’m moving it forward in pursuit of the body I want. It’s an ongoing pursuit, a never ending battle. But, I love the one I’m with. I’m content in my pursuit.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0501.

 

 

A few images of our fun weekend in NYC:

I love Brooklyn

I love Brooklyn

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Central Park run -  the Reservoir

Central Park run – the Reservoir

The skyline as I left the MOMA

The skyline as I left the MOMA

Central Park in the fall

Central Park in the fall

9/11 memorial

9/11 memorial

And me, keeping the faith and learning to love the one I’m with.

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

Some (belated) goals for the new year

I’m a person who tries to focus on the positive.  My life is good, my glass is half full, every cloud has a silver lining, and the grass is greener on my side of the fence.  I see good in everyone, and I generally give people the benefit of the doubt.

For some reason, though, 2013 found me walking around with that nasty, proverbial cloud following me.  No silver lining, just a dark, ugly cloud.  I often let anxiety take control of my emotions, and forgot to release my worries to God a lot more than I care to admit.  I think I achieved full hermit status – staying at home, working alone, going to bed by 8 and sleeping in, hiding behind my computer and not reaching out to anyone.  I intend to change that this year.

I’ve set some goals for this year – write something every single day, run a spring and a fall half marathon, lose this pesky weight, give my liver some breathing room by cutting my wine intake, reconnect with old friends, and make new friends. I’m excited and terrified all at once.

How do you even go about making friends at 52?  I want some friends who share my interests.  As much as I love my old friends and as much fun as we have together, not many of them are runners, and few seem to be readers, either.  I want to join (or start) a book club, and find some women my age who enjoy running so we can encourage and motivate each other.

It amuses me that so many of the women who share my interests are either the “crunchy granola”, super nerdy, or over the top competitive types.  Hmmm… maybe I’m not as cool as I thought, and maybe I’m more competitive than I realized.  Food for thought…

Another goal I’ve set is to read more and watch TV/mindlessly browse social media less.  Not batting a thousand on this one yet, but I’m better than I was, so I consider that a small victory.  I have so many books on my “to read” list that I’ll never get them all read if that insidious box (my TV) doesn’t stop squawking constantly.  Lately, I’ve enjoyed sitting beside my man late into the night (at least 9 pm), reading while he watches XYZ on the tube.  Yes, I’m trying to push past 9 pm, I realize how completely lame that hour is.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

success

Keeping On

The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running. Unknown

My twenty-four year old daughter was digging around in one of our junk piles recently, and came upon what she thought was a treasure.  It was a beautiful hardcover book entitled “Our Christmas Memories”.  She very excitedly sat down to reminisce, only to discover that just the first couple of pages had been completed.  It had a few sad little pictures, a few notes on Christmas from that year (maybe 1993?), and the rest of the book was blank.  She brought it to me, and we both had a laugh over it.  One of the many projects I’ve started and stopped over the years.

The truth is, I’m not particularly crafty.  And, as sentimental as I am, I’ve always had a hard time following through with a project, even one started with such good intentions as passing down to the next generation a record of our Christmases together.  I think the current generation calls that an “epic fail”.

One of the many reasons that I hold running so dear to my heart is because successful running requires commitment and discipline.  If your goal is to cross a finish line after running  X  number of miles, you better make a plan, and stick to it.  Particularly if your goal is endurance running.  You have to respect the distance, putting mile after mile on your legs, preparing them for race day, making sure they know that giving up is not an option.

Running has taught me perseverance and that has carried over into my life.  I’ve learned to be mindful of the projects I select, choosing them with care, then following through to completion.  Training my mind and body to never quit has given me a mental discipline that I’ve sought my entire life.  God gets all the glory for that, He alone powers my legs, guards my mind, marks my path.

Running has taught me that persistence trumps talent.   I always thought that to succeed, you have to be genetically gifted in whatever area you were pursuing.  Now I know that I sometimes have to adjust my definition of success.  If my definition is to always come in first, then yes, I need some genetics on my side.  However, if my definition is to be MY best, to do MY best, to give MY all, then genetics don’t really matter.  Putting my head down, putting my eyes on God,  and moving my feet forward will get me where I’m going.   In my 52 years, I’ve learned that what I really want, what really matters to me, is to be MY best, not looking to the left or right, just making sure that I run MY race, no one else’s.

As a new year approaches, my plan is to keep moving forward.  To keep seeking my path, the one God laid out for me before I was even born.  To plod along faithfully, seeking my best and His will.  Knowing that, if I keep moving forward, if I keep on keeping on, He will bless my efforts, guide my way, and allow all my efforts to bring Him glory.  Amen and amen.

conteffort

I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, and an Old Broad Who Runs. I began blogging as I trained for the 2011 New York City marathon in an effort to keep myself accountable. I discovered that running and writing completed me in a way nothing else ever has. I am a professional photographer by trade and have discovered a love of writing that I pray carries me through the autumn of life, all the way to the end.

Mile 3  of the New York City Marathon, November 6,  2011

Mile 3 of the New York City Marathon, November 6, 2011

The power of a man and a mantra

There’s a lot to be said for having a running partner.  Especially when said partner is your partner in life, as well.  Now, I DO NOT recommend this for new runners, or for the newly married. But, if you don’t get your feelings hurt easily, latching on to the competitive spirit of a man might be just the ticket.  At least, it worked for me this time.

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve had a miserable training year.  The weeks leading up to this race would likely have been lost to me had my man not developed a training plan for us to follow that would get me across the finish line.  He committed to train with me, and his (mostly) gentle encouragement got me through.  We had an awful long run on Monday, and I’ll admit I had my doubts.  We felt pretty good this morning, though, so we decided we would try to run the pace that would get the PR I want, and see how we did.  Unfortunately, he hurt his leg yesterday playing with his girls on a zip line – you know the leg, the one with the expensive hardware in it that he broke a little over a year ago.  Not much stops that man on a mission, though, so we lined up in the cold this morning with the rest of the nuts and headed out.

I have an awful habit of starting too fast.  You know, fresh legs, cold start, fast runners, race nerves.  Then, I crash and burn too soon into the race.  Gary kept reeling me in, reminding me to slow down, and kept us right on pace.  We were running behind a couple of women who had on really cute skirts that I was admiring (come on, you know you check out what everyone else has on, too) when I noticed the back of their shirts.  I typically devise some type of running mantra for long races to help me through the tough spots, but  I really hadn’t thought much about it this time.  Then, I read these shirts.

photo 3
And, I had my mantra. In case you can’t read it, it is Isaiah 40:31.
“…they will run and not grow weary.”      

(And, aren’t their skirts cute?)

Every time my mind started trying to tell my legs they hurt, I repeated the mantra, substituting “I” for “they”.  I felt really strong through mile 10, then I got some Gatorade, forgetting that it’s kind of a no-no for me.  Don’t know what it is about it, but it nauseates me a little when I drink it at races.  Grabbed some water at mile 11 to try to cleanse my palate, but the damage was done.  The wheels fell off at mile 11, and the power of my man and the mantra faded a little.  We slowed the pace, walking a little.  Gary even grabbed my hand at one point, trying to transfer his power and energy (and maybe dragging me a little), but it was a tough, ugly mile.  I dug really, really deep, reminded myself that I would run and not grow weary, and gave it all I had for the last mile.  Our girls met us at mile 13 and breathed new life into my legs and tummy.  We finished strong, actually with a slight PR for me, not the one I was after, but one I can live with after this crazy year.

Not too shabby for an old broad and an old guy with a limp.

Misty encouraging us at the finish while Kaitlyn takes pics

Misty encouraging us at the finish while Kaitlyn takes pics

Mile 13 - almost done!

Mile 13 – almost done!

The racing Richards family.  Did I mention that both my girls won their age groups in the 5k?  They take after their Dad.

The racing Richards family. Did I mention that both my girls won their age groups in the 5k? They take after their Dad.

Of course, I had to meet and thank my mantra girls.  Love those skirts!  (And, yes, Auburn fans, you were well represented, too)

Of course, I had to meet and thank my mantra girls. Love those skirts! (And, yes, Auburn fans, you were well represented, too)

Stormy seas

I’m racing on Saturday.  A half marathon.  13.1 miles.  Miles for which I am woefully undertrained.  This due to injuries and illness that have plagued my training this year, but somewhat made up for in the last six weeks training with my man.  We ran our last training run yesterday on the course where the race will be held, a ten miler.  The last three miles were ugly and painful, but we powered through.  Or, he did, as I tried to draft off his energy, but fell behind over and over.  Of course, he waited for me to catch up, then hit it again.  Yes, a man with a really fancy scar and very expensive hardware in his leg is faster than me, even though the break was only a little over a year ago.  (But, I’m not bitter.)

That ten miler was truly an exercise in mental discipline.  I mentioned I’m undertrained.  I’m also still struggling with injury.  Something (often everything) hurt from mile 4 until the end.  About half the run, we ran into the wind.  Queasiness set in about mile 7.  I really, really wanted to quit.  The only thing that kept me moving was that man quietly limp/running slightly ahead of me.  Of course, this morning, I’m glad I endured.  The race Saturday will probably not yield a PR for me, but hopefully, I’ll endure until the end, and come out stronger on the other side.

As I sat in our rented condo at the beach this morning, watching the rainy skies and seas pounding the surf, thinking of recent struggles in my life and the lives of those I love, I began to reflect on what makes us strong.   Have you ever noticed how calm and serene the sea is after a storm?  Or how, after a thunderstorm, the world shines with a new glow?  The same is true in our lives.  It’s the storms of life that teach us, that discipline us, that make (or break) us.  I add the “or break” because sometimes the storms do break us.  It’s always a choice.

stormy seas

I read with interest an article which dispels the notion that many of us have grown up believing, that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  The truth is He will, and does.  But, the more awesome truth is, He won’t make us walk through the storms alone.  And, when we seek answers, He always provides them.

Whatever your belief system is, the hard truth is that we will all have storms.  The “trick” is to choose to look into the storm and believe you’ll get past it.  To choose faith, and not fall into the black hole of despair.  That’s really hard sometimes.  It’s not always easy to have faith, and doubt has a way of teasing the corners of our hearts until we give in to it.  What I’ve learned through running is that you put your head down, chase the doubt from your mind, and keep moving forward.  It doesn’t have to be pretty.  It doesn’t have to be fast.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You’ll eventually cross the finish line.  Maybe battered and torn, but you’ll heal.  And, you’ll heal stronger than you were before.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:2-4