Always an adventure

I love to travel, so I do it a lot. Mostly with my man, who has inspired wanderlust in me for almost 36 years. He plans the best trips, takes me out of my comfort zone, gives me confidence, and helps me dial back the travel anxiety that airports give me these days. Well, for the most part he dials it back. When he can’t dial it back, he gets me a glass of wine. Or two. That does the trick.  

I have lots of places still on my bucket list, but I have two favorites that draw me to them like magnets. Whenever my man gets that travel bug spark in his eye and starts planning a trip, he doesn’t even have to ask me if or when I want to go to either of these two places. He just plans the trip and tells me the dates.  

 New York City is the place I love to go to, spend 3 or 4 nights, see shows, do a run-about (or three) around the city, and wander around museums until my man is bored to grouchiness. Then, I love to go home. Big cities are a great place to visit, but I don’t think people would like me very much if I lived in one.  

Hawaii’s Big Island, on the other hand, is a place I could stay forever. The first time we came here, I got off the plane and into the rental car, and felt like I’d come home. It’s the only place on earth I would ever consider living off the grid, and that says a lot for a gal who really likes her hour long hot baths.  

Sunset on the first day

Tonight, as I sit enjoying the sunset from my balcony with a glass of wine, I feel more at home than ever. After a 9 1/2 mile hike to see the lava flowing into the ocean today, I’m exhausted, every muscle and joint in my body hates me, I have a blister forming on my pinkie toe that doesn’t bode well for the toe nail that resides there, and my sunburn is making me a true redneck, but I can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow. 

Tomorrow’s adventure is under the sea.  

Even better.  

He loves living life on the edge

Lava making land. I’m not ashamed to say this sight brought me to tears


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.  And the spirit of God was hovering over the deep waters.  Genesis 1:1-2

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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.  

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.  

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.  

Digging In

It’s going to take a little longer than I thought.

I’m struggling.  There’s nothing like a good training plan to let you see with crystal clarity just how far you are from your goals. Week 9 finds me stumping along; making the mileage (mostly), if not my pace times; and feeling like I’m pulling a 10,000 pound weight along behind me. Sigh…

There’s a fine line between transparency and whining, so I’ll try to toe the line on the side of truth. Forgive me if it occasionally sounds like whining. I’m tired. And, I have to run 9 miles in a few days. AND, I have a lot of doubt about my ability to do that.

Turns out, all that foundation I thought I was pouring during the six months leading up to this training plan wasn’t building my base after all. It was the excavation under the base. Just the digging. Not the footings, even.

When I asked God to help me rebuild, He just handed me a shovel and said, “Start digging. I’ll be over here watching. I’ll let you know when you’re there.”

I have to know, is that the way He teaches everyone? Or, is it just me? Hmmph. It’s like He thinks I’m a little hardheaded or something.  As though He knows that I have to put in the work if it’s going to have any lasting impact on my life. Maybe He’s onto something.  Still, after two weeks of epically bad runs, I sure wish He would come down from the peanut gallery and grab a shovel to help me dig.

This I know about myself.  I won’t quit digging. I still haven’t even gotten to the foundation part of my base, and won’t before my fall half. But, one thing He has taught me through running is that persistence always trumps talent and ability. That’s why He handed me the shovel.

But, it’s going to take a little longer than I thought.