Turtle Days

It seems like every run lately has involved a turtle sighting.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I live in the boggy South, where heat and humidity have a summer long competition to see which one can make me the most uncomfortable (humidity won today).  Still, I run a lot, and to see turtles as often as I have lately feels a little like a message.  

Even the trail I often run is sending me the turtle message:

  

As I plunked along this morning, cycles whizzing past me at Tour de France speeds, runners easily lapping me, it seemed even the wildlife mocked me.  I thought of all the turtles I’ve seen over the past months, and it dawned on me:  these are Turtle Days.  

Now, this isn’t really a thing.  I realize that.  But, I have a particular affinity with the tortoise of fable.   I, too, am strong and steady.  And, slow.  

 I may not be fast, but I plod along, solving the world’s problems  in my mind, writing the great American Novel, plunking along until I get to the end.  Then, I go home, shower, live my life, and do it again the next day.  Slow, steady, true.  

Most days, I’m fine being the slow, steady one.  But, I’ll admit, it plays with my psyche.  I mean, will I ever be fast? Or, just faster?  Doubt creeps in and does its ugly number on my mind, and, if I’m not careful, soon I’m thinking, “Why bother?  I’ll always be the slow one.  Why keep on keeping on? ” I’ll admit, it sometimes discourages, even defeats me.  I mean, am I just not built for speed?

Then, I think of those turtles that I’ve seen.  Hmmm…  they don’t allow the fact that they are the slow, chunky kids on the playground to stop them from coming out to play.  Seriously, if my runs of the last few months are any indication, they are the most active kids on the playground.  Turtles are everywhere.  Coming and going, hither and yon.  They don’t allow their lack of speed to stop their progress. 

 There’s a lesson there.  

   
    
 

Most of the time I have no problem being the tortoise and not the hare.  I’m accepting of my lack of speed and I’m ever hopeful that one day I’ll be faster.  Until then, I’ll plod along, getting stronger, solving world crises, and writing the great American novel in my head.  I’m winning all the races in my mind, as well, so there’s that.    

  

I’m in this running game for the long haul, so I’ll keep on moving forward.  Plunking one foot in front of the other, reminding myself that it’s not about speed for me, but endurance.  I want to be running when I’m 90, after all, so for me that means slow and steady now, and maybe always.  

I have a lot of admiration for this little guy though:

  
He’s giving it his all, and what more can we do than that?  
  
I’m running on faith at this point.  It’s gotten me this far, I’m sure it’ll get me where I’m going.  

Salty sanity

    The coming of summer has found me plodding along; wiping sweat from my eyes; slowly, slowly, slowly rebuilding my running base. The older I get, the longer that seems to take. Race season will be here soon enough, though; so, build I must.

    For me, spring and early summer are my favorite times to run.  The “dog days” aren’t quite here yet, but the warm, sticky air brings on a salty sweat that gives me a feeling of accomplishment I just don’t get at the end of a cold weather run.  I like to sweat.  It makes me feel like I’ve done something with my day, and makes even a bad run feel like it was a job well done.  It couldn’t have been a bad run, see how the sweat is pouring off me?  

    The sweat of a summer run cleanses my soul.  It feels like all those winter toxins I built up are pouring out of me and I’m leaving them behind in a puddle on the ground.  That winter coat of depression that I wore like  a crown of thorns melts away the sweatier I get.  My feet move faster, my mind feels clearer, and life just feels good.  Call me weird (you wouldn’t be the first); but give me a hot June morning over a cold February afternoon anytime.  I’ll know just what to do with it.  

    I’m running trails this weekend.  On my own.  They aren’t long, and they all circle back to the campground my man and I are staying at (also deliciously on our own), so there’s no danger of getting lost.  My man is working a race (motorcycle, not foot), and enjoying his Father’s Day happy of a new dirt bike –  his first since “the Broken Leg Incident of 2012”. 

    I’m mostly laid back about the whole dirt bike racing thing.  It makes him happy, just as running makes me happy, so I don’t complain.  Or worry.  That sounded believable,  right?  Anyway, I could wish for a less dangerous hobby that would make him smile, but that’s not who he is.  And, probably any hobby has its pitfalls.  I mean, even growing hothouse orchids could lead to… I don’t know, maybe being taken hostage by an orchid bandit?  At least, with dirt biking, my man takes me to some very serene places to run trails.  And, for that I’m thankful.   

      Already muddy.  

     I needed serenity today.  I don’t live a particularly chaotic life, but, sometimes I allow the voices on the Interwebs to drown out the voices in my head and fill me with despair for the human condition.  This has been a week like that.  Even with a minor miracle that my youngest daughter had at school this week, seeing God work in her life, and then hearing from a beloved nephew about how God is working in his, I allowed the screaming voices online to disturb my peace.  To wonder why God abandoned us to such a place as this, and to wonder if He is ever going to come get us.  

    So, today and tomorrow, I’m running back to sanity and away from chaos.   Not fast (am I ever fast?), but along woodsy trails that have been carved out by strong men like my man.  Paths that run wide and deep in some places, and trickle off to a pig trail in others.  Trails that are filled with ruts and roots and slippery orange clay.  Trails that make me pay attention to where I place my foot, and look extra carefully at that root to ensure it’s not a snake.  

    On my first two mile loop, sweat soaks my hat and slides into my eyes and stings.  My winter white legs are shiny and slick over the salty layer of grass and leaves; my shoes, so pristinely clean when I started, have gained two pounds of Mississippi mud.  I stagger back to camp, fix myself a snack, and sit under the dripping trees to refuel. My skirt, shirt,  and sports bra are damp and clammy and my hair, pulled into a sloppy ponytail and shoved through the back of my hat, makes a steady drip down the center of my back.  I’m sure if you came upon me, you would have to stay downwind, but I don’t smell myself yet, so it can’t be that bad.     

    After a short rest, I head out again.  A soft, warm rain begins to fall when I am about midway.  No thunder or lightening, just  the splash of sweet, clean raindrops that gather on the brim of my hat and drip off in a steady patter.  The smell of clean, woodsy rain fills my senses and relaxes my mind.  I trudge on, carefully manuevering around slippery clay, listening to the sound of unseen critters scurrying around me.  My mind is calm.  My heart is full.   Sanity, or at least my version of it, has returned.  

    After another rest, I head out for my final loop.  I often listen to podcasts when I run, but this loop, my last of the day, was just between me and God.  We talked the entire time, and I won’t share with you all of what we said, but I will say this.  I prayed for our nation in a way that I never have. Humbly, and with full knowledge that I’m part of the problem.  I prayed that we, as Christians, and particularly I, will step away from our keyboards, get down off our soapboxes, get up off our comfy pews, and walk out into the world.  I prayed that we would find people who don’t look like us, act like us, or believe like us and love on them like they’ve never been loved on before.  I prayed that we would begin to be light in the world, because, my friends, we have dropped the ball on that.  I prayed that God would close my mouth and open my heart, teach me to listen more that I speak, and remind me every day of the huge plank in my eye that prevents me from pulling out someone else’s splinter.  I prayed that He would teach me how to love like He does, because that’s the only thing that’s going to save us.  

    Then, I got a shower.   

      

    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.

    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.

    challenge

    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