In this mile

If you read my last post, you know that my confidence in my running ability has dipped into single digits.  For this week’s scheduled 9 miler, I knew I would have to draw on resources beyond my own and play some serious mind games to get it done.   

My man is racing this weekend (dirt bike, not foot) in Pontotoc, Mississippi – about 4 1/2 hours north of our home.  Having been in the area a great deal over the last years for work (and play), we knew that Trace State Park is a beautiful, serene area to get my run on.  In fact, we stayed here when I was training for NYC in 2011, and I did a long run here then, as well.  I even remember I had to do a 13 miler that day, and the hills and valleys the park provided were just the ticket.  Would it be again?  

After much prayer, some whining (okay, a LOT of whining), some deep breathing (exasperated sighs count, right?), and a new determination, I made my plan. 

 I would hit the trails in the park with no direction except to go where the spirit moved me.  And, each mile, I would purposely, consciously, and with direct intention STAY IN THAT MILE.  I wouldn’t think about how many more miles I had to go.  I would ignore the obscenities my hamstring screamed at me.  I would pay no attention to Lady Garmin’s discouraging data screens that carefully calculate my pace and distance.  I would walk when I needed and run when I could.  

I would carefully place one foot in front of the other until I reached the end.  I would find joy in each mile, and be humbly thankful for it.  

Guess what?  It worked.  Running trails is a great way to stay in the mile, as you have to be very aware of where you place your feet.  Especially prone-to-roll-an-ankle me.  Also, many of the inclines were so steep, there was no way to run up or down them, so I didn’t feel a bit guilty for walking.  

  
Trust me.  The image doesn’t do justice to the steepness of that hill.  

Mile one was all about the sunrise.  

  
The trailhead was about a mile from our camp, so the first mile was on the road.  The stillness of the cool, fall morning and the deer crossing the road ahead of me pulled me to the trail with more anticipation than I’ve felt in a long time.  

Mile two found me doing  The Dance of the Spider Webs.  All trail runners (and cyclists, and ORV riders) know that the first one down the trail gets to clear out all the spider webs.  I’m just thankful I was alone, as my dance skills are somewhat rusty.  On the plus side, I brought enough cobwebs back to camp with me that I could make a quilt.   If I was so inclined.  Which I’m not.  

Miles three and four were filled with deer sightings.  I ran into a clearing and surprised an entire herd (do deer travel in herds, like cows?).  They lifted their heads as one to see what lead footed creature dared to come crashing into their space, saw it was just me (who was just as surprised to see them), then flicked their tails at me in disgust and turned, again as one, and gracefully melted into the forest.  I stood still for a moment, watching after them with envy.  Their movements are so elegantly beautiful, and mine are so clumsy.  Still, I was humbly grateful for the moment, and reminded that I don’t HAVE to run, I GET to run. I never want to take that for granted. 

Miles five and six brought more deer, squirrel, bunny, and spider sightings.  They also brought renewed complaints from my potty mouthed hamstring, so I slowed down even more.  By the end of mile six, I headed back to the trailhead to finish up on the road.  

Miles seven, eight, and nine passed more quickly than I had a right to expect and I stumbled back to the campsite where cold chocolate milk and a banana awaited me.  My awesome man helped me stretch my aching, grouchy legs, and I headed for the shower.

After almost three weeks of craptastic runs, and the realization that the upcoming race is probably going to be my slowest one so far, today was much needed.  Non runners may wonder what keeps us running when it hurts so much and seems to give nothing back for the amount of effort we put in.  I could easily write a thousand word essay on why I run, but I can also boil it down very succintly.

This.  This day, this run, this feeling.  The joy of new discoveries, the aching of my muscles that makes me aware of how lucky I am to be able to run, and the way chocolate milk and a cool shower taste and feel at the end of nine miles of trails.  

The exquisite relief of making it to the end and realizing you had it in you, after all.  

   

She believed she could, so she did.

 
And, she found joy in every mile.  

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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

Simple pleasures

Today I’m thankful.  I try to live my life in a constant state of gratitude, but some days, God just fills me up.  Today was one of those.  Nothing huge happened.  I didn’t win a million dollars or suddenly drop fifty pounds.  It was just a simple spring day, filled with God’s goodness.  Beautiful, cool sunshine on a brightly colored canvas of a world.  A dental visit that removed two years of coffee and red wine stains from my teeth.  A lunch with ladies that I’ve come to know and love over the last few months, shared with some remarkably beautiful women from the ministry at the Fieldhouse for the Homeless.  A new calling on my life?  An afternoon portrait session with one year old and two and a half year old sisters that made my heart smile and reminded me how much I love photography.  The anticipation of an early morning run tomorrow in this sinfully spectacular weather.  Life is good.

And now, at day’s end, the simple enjoyment of my lake, my dog, a container of flowers,  a glass of red wine (got to restain those teeth, right?), today’s New York Times crossword, and a good book.  No supper to cook, no house to clean.  Yes, it’s all still there and dirty, but it’ll be there tomorrow, and I’ll clean it then.

I’m often too busy or too stressed to just sit and enjoy the simple beauty of life.  My man has been a good teacher over the years, simple pleasures are his speciality.  He’s taught and encouraged me to slow down, sip the wine, smell the roses, eat dessert.  So, I do.  And life is better because of it.  Listening to my fat, lazy dog snore at my feet makes me smile.

One of the things no one warned me about becoming an old broad is that sleep becomes a long lost friend.  I often awaken in the night after a few hours of fitful sleep and lay awake until just before my alarm goes off the next morning.  That’s the time of day I take back all those things I’ve so carefully laid on God’s shoulders, because, you know, He really needs my help in solving them.  I suddenly remember the form I forgot to fill out, the bill I forgot to pay, the worries of and for my kids, the friend(s) whose needs are urgent and dire.  I call it “The Midnight Hour” and it has become a time I dread.

A few weeks ago, I started counting my blessings during that time.  You remember, like your grandmother told you to do every day?  I just start saying (in my head, not aloud – the old man next to me has no trouble sleeping) I am grateful for _________________.  Some nights, all I can think of is that I’m grateful for my exquisitely soft sheets and perfect mattress, so I start there.  That leads me to that man softly snoring beside me, my healthy and mostly happy kids, work I enjoy, the ability to pay my bills, and on and on.  Usually, I only get to about 10 things, and then I remember no more until the sun comes up and a new day starts.

So, I’m particularly thankful for the blessings of this day.  Not a perfect day.  Just one filled with simple pleasures.

It’s OK, I ran today

run slowly

The best thing about being sick is that, when you’re finally better, you REALLY appreciate how good you feel.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks being in the grips of, then recovering from, a nasty tummy/body bug that had me running fever, fighting nausea (sometimes better than others), and squinting with a headache.  We had two weekends in a row of absolutely exquisite weather, and all I could do was raise my head weakly from my perch in my chair, wrap another layer of blanket around me, and regret not being able to enjoy it.

Of course, by the time I was finally better, I had to play catch up at work, and the weather had taken a nosedive.  Still, this week has found me feeling, not just better, but wonderful, and gnawing at the reins to go for a little trot.  Other than a short, easy hike along the Natchez Trace with my man (one day when we found ourselves the disbelieving, but excited owners of a few undesignated minutes), I haven’t even put my running shoes on since I returned from my recent trip to Nashville, only to fall victim to the bug that infiltrated our hotel.

The Natchez Trace is always a favorite place to spend a little time and energy.

The Natchez Trace is always a favorite place to spend a little time and energy.

This week, with the return of energy and the departure of ill health, I decided it was time to get my butt off the couch and head back out. The first part of the week here in Mississippi was frigid. Ok. After seeing some of the images floating around the interwebs, I’ll rephrase and say the weather felt frigid to me. And, if you’re not a stranger here, you know that I don’t really do cold. Still, it’s time. So, I dug out my big girl panties, layered several layers of very expensive running gear on top of them, and headed to the Trace. I was the only soul there.

Cold, lonely run on the Trace

Cold, lonely run on the Trace

I’ve been back at Square One so often that I’ve set up a really nice little camp here. My favorite music, new books uploaded to my iPod, trails to get me excited about running again, my favorite running partner (my strong, silent man) and the energy to put into starting a new training plan. They’re all here, waiting for me comfortably at Square One. I’ve actually begun to like it here. Or at least, not hate it.

I know that the real magic happens when I get outside my comfort zone, so I’m heading there. It’s a journey of many thousands of steps, though, and I’m prepared. I know that starting here, at my comfy little Square One, is only the beginning. That it starts to hurt soon, that there are disappointments and setbacks waiting ahead on the trail. I know these things, and still, I start again. Because I’m going to one day be the person I pray to be, that strong, resilient woman that I envision.

And, it will be warm again. I found proof in my driveway this morning:

Promise of spring

Promise of
spring

If you don’t believe me, just watch. 😉 (And, yes, that one is definitely on the playlist.)

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

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.

imm_more

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!

Kona

The view from the plane the day we arrived.

The view from the plane the day we arrived.

We’re at the end of a magical two weeks in Hawaii, and I’m trying to think of ways we can move here. We came to Kona the first time in 2010, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and we fell in love with this place. So, when my man asked me a few weeks ago if I would like to come back, I started packing immediately. We booked a last minute trip, and, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to go home. We’ve traveled a lot over the years, and been to some magical places, but this is the one I would call home if I could. I truly love it here.

Of course, at this point in my life, that’s not possible, so I’ll use this post as a tribute to the island, and just try not to think of how much I want to stay.

First off, to Kerry and staff at Kona Dive Co, job well done. Love you guys! We dove with you back in 2010, and Gary and I both marveled at how every dive still feels fresh and new under your guidance. I know you dive the same spots week after week, but you seem to absolutely love what you do, and that makes every dive guest feel like you designed that particular dive for them individually. Thanks so much for our time on the water! My underwater camera decided to sit this trip out, but I think that made my dives even better. It allowed me the opportunity to savor each one, and drink in the entire experience. While we didn’t see the things we saw last trip (at a different time of year), we had amazing dives filled with beauty and peace. Eagle rays, turtles, eels (including the beautiful dragon eel – thanks, David!), pompom crabs, and too many other things to enumerate here. Thanks, guys, hope to see you all again soon.

What makes Kona special to us is the topside experience we have in addition to the diving. As much as we love to dive, we love hiking and seeing all the area has to offer. That’s one of the reasons we love Kona so much. The diving is spectacular, and the island itself is like a beautiful puzzle we unlock one step at a time. This trip we enjoyed the Kohala coast, the southern district of Ku’a, the Honaunau Coast, the exquisite Mauna Kea sunrise, and, of course, the beautiful volcano, Kilauea. We used the website bigislandhikes.com almost exclusively for our hiking guide. We also asked the locals (Kona Dive) for their recommendations.

Enough words. Here are some of my favorite iPhone pics from our trip. We don’t fly out until tomorrow night, so I reserve the right to add another post later if we see something amazing tomorrow.

Mauna Loa from the dive boat

Mauna Loa from the dive boat

Honokohau Harbor hike

Honokohau Harbor hike

Akaka Falls. Hint: don't go on Wednesday, cruise ship day in Hilo

Akaka Falls. Hint: don’t go on Wednesday, cruise ship day in Hilo

Sunset from our condo

Sunset from our condo

Trying to stay warm on Mauna Kea

Trying to stay warm on Mauna Kea

Above the clouds, Mauna Kea at Sunrise

Above the clouds, Mauna Kea at Sunrise

Petroglyphs at Kilauea

Petroglyphs at Kilauea

The arches at Kilauea

The arches at Kilauea

The steep climp to Pololu Valley

The steep climp to Pololu Valley

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Honaunau coast

Honaunau coast

 

So much left unseen. Until next time, beautiful Big Island…