Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012: Always Do What You Are Afraid To Do

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" - George Bernard Shaw
“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Several years ago, my husband and I traveled along the French autoroute that traverses Southern France along the Mediterranean. The A8 autoroute, La Provençale, offers panoramas of the sea between Nice and Menton, before crossing the border into Italy. Our trip that day began in Florence and ended in Nice. Here the road (an engineering wonder of sorts) cuts through rolling hills and white limestone cliffs that plunge into the green-blue sea. The length of the highway alternates between vertigo inducing vistas high above the sea to claustrophobicly tight tunnels weaving through the hills. Add to this, crazy Southern France driving tendencies (What? Lane lines? We don't need no stinkin' lane lines.), and you have a frenetic experience -  all at once you are cruising along, out in the sun soaked lush green hills dotted with greenhouses perched on precipitous slopes, then into a dark, winding tunnel...back out into the brightness...and..back into the darkness...The eyes cannot possibly keep up never mind the poor brain receiving whiplashing nerve impulses. By the end of the drive I was dazed and confused, sick to my stomach and shaky. Boy, did I need some wine. What an amazingly beautiful, insanely crazy trip that was. Please don't ever make me drive that stretch of road again. We did two years later - opposite direction. That one went better. For one thing I stopped worrying about lane lines and life suddenly made sense. Vroooom...Go Speed Racer, Go!

This is a metaphor for my year, 2011 - The brilliant light of anticipation, achievement, hope...the darkness of exhaustion, depression, pessimism, fear, stuckness...light...dark...light...dark...
good...bad. The juxtaposition makes me feel bipolar at times. The extremes bring out the extreme: Really good, or really bad. So the really good feels really really good, and the really bad feels like the depths of the deepest darkness. Nothing just IS anymore. Now, am I just supposed to learn how to roll with it all, and things will feel more sane, or will things actually get better. 

I generally don't set New Year's Resolutions - they feel artificial and superficial to me. New Year's Resolutions seem like something "one does" simply because that's what is expected on January 1st. But I've never been good at setting specific goals: I'll say - Oh, I want to find/create my purpose in life, or, I want to run faster, or climb harder, or be a better teacher, wife, mother, person. But, yikes, what does all that mean and how do you know you've done it when you've done it.  

So I like to set goals - not pie-in-the sky goals (doomed to fail, so why bother?), and not goals that are painfully reasonable (boring, so why care?) - but somewhere in the middle. A little outrageous, a little overreaching, a tad absurd...and frightening, a little...but maybe, doable.

This is the last day of 2011. It's been an up-and-down year for me. On the running front, it's been reasonably successful: I qualified and got into the Boston Marathon 2012, and qualified for guaranteed entry into the New York City Marathon, 2012. To celebrate 40 years of running, I'm hoping to make it to the starting line and the finish line of both these races. I'm pretty nervous about it - it feels very (too?) important to me right now. Ooooo, pressure.
When I look back at one of my first Blog posts, dated Jan 14th, 2011, I set myself the goal of qualifying for these races - and I did what I set out to do. Now, to actually run them. I suppose that's my running goal for 2012, along with running 3000 miles (a nice round number), and maybe setting a marathon PR (not masters). Now for the rest of life... 

My Mother now continues her nine month long, and counting, battle with  Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She survived very aggressive chemo - though it almost killed her three times, and damaged her heart - and her surgery three weeks ago appears to have been as successful as we possibly could have hoped. This battle is a true test of endurance for her, for me and for my sister. And now we must take a deep breath and keep pushing on. This is one endurance challenge that I am oh so very weary of. But it will go on, and I must find the will to deal with it, for there is no other way.

And then there's me. I have so much that I treasure and fiercely guard: My family, my home, my way of life. And yet here I am, it's almost 2012, and I'm still wondering, as I have every year of my conscious life: What will I be, who will I be, when I grow up?  

"None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am beginning to listen to the whisper and respect it's wisdom. I hear it clearest when I'm running and feeling strong, when I'm climbing and not feeling scared, when I'm reading to my daughter in the quiet darkness of her room, when I'm driving alone belting out some Coldplay song. What I need is courage and the will to create myself. So I will try to do what I am afraid to do. That's still too vague and ambiguous, but it's the best I can do for now. 

How about you? Where do you wish to take yourself? What will you write on the next page of the book that is your life?

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Goal List Thus far, 2012: Run the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, run 3000 miles (I'm a bit over 2500 this year), do some things that I'm (irrationally) afraid to do. 
To be continued...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wren's Day: Thoughts on Resolutions

Today, 26 December, in Ireland is the day of the Feast of St. Stephen, also called Wren's Day:

  
Celtic myth had it that the robin that was suppose to represent the New Year killed the wren which represented the Old Year during this time. Wren Boys blacken their faces and go from house to house asking for money to bury the wren. The money they collect is used to buy food and drink for the "wren dance" held on this night. http://www.irishfestivals.net/saintstephensday.htm

Many cultural traditions embrace this 'out with the old and in with the new' idea marking the New Year as this critical turning point. Many of us look back on the past year with mixed emotions, some good, some bad, - and we have a feeling that the year now passing was either generally good or generally bad. But we always look to the New Year with the hope that it will be better. The New Year holds this secret power allowing us to renew ourselves - We get to hit the 'restart' button.

I've been doing this blogging thing for almost a year. It's been an interesting experiment thus far. For one thing it keeps me writing, for another, it keeps me honest - with myself, mostly.

Last January I proclaimed my desire to qualify for the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon. I put it out there for anyone to see, and in a sense, put myself on the spot - What if I failed? What if I did not have the strength of will? What if it was shown that my ambitions far outreached my abilities?

In terms of running, I achieved what I set out to do. There's some satisfaction in that, to be sure. But running is easy. Life is not so easy. If I could bring to my life what I bring to running, that would be something else. So, this week I will spend some time thinking about what that means, and how to do it - And I will set some new running goals along the way. 

The notorious and much maligned German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, offers us an interesting idea when considering how to live our lives: Eternal Recurrence. To over simplify this idea it works something like this: Try to live your life in a way that you would wish to live it over and over, exactly the same, for all eternity. Oy! Now that's a tall order! And Nietzsche himself seems to have fallen far short of that lofty aspiration. But the truth of one's words and ideas is a separate issue from whether one measures up to those ideas.

In general I don't believe in making New Year's Resolutions, but I do believe that there are times to sit back and take stock...Now to think...and, I hope, to act...To be continued...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Run On Red Air Days

My husband and I were having a little conversation last evening as we were brushing our teeth and getting ready to turn in for the night - we were talking about injuries and treatments, which I have way too much experience with. I was recounting lots of injuries and how certain treatments did or did not help. My husband is a serious, elite, rock climber, bouldering V12 at the age of 47 - which is done by very few around the world. He has his share of aches and pains, but I deal with many more bodily woes on a more regular basis. And while he supports my running obsession, I don't think he really gets it because: a) I always seem to be dealing with some difficulty (injury), and b) I'm (naturally) a better climber than I am a runner.

And yet my obsession is running. Woe is me.

So, as we're talking about injuries, he asks me: "So explain to me again...How is running good for you?". I reply, "It isn't - I don't do it for that. If someone told you that climbing was bad for you, would you keep doing it?" He hesitated, and then said "It depends on what kind of 'bad' we're talking about". Well I tried to clarify, "It might not kill you, but it might hurt you from time to time". Then he admitted that, yes, he would probably still climb. For him, as for me, our obsessions are ends-in-themeselves, not merely means to ends.

And then I proudly proclaim, with a tinge of sheepish embarrassment, "I run on Red Air Days".

We all do what we do, and care about what we care about, for different reasons - our own, personal, reasons. Many people will consider me foolhardy for running in poor air, or while sick or injured - and I probably am. But I see running as a good in itself, and that sometimes means I walk a very fine line between what is prudent or reasonable and what is not.

The British Utilitarian Philosopher, John Stuart Mill, argued that complete personal freedom to do with one's body, mind, conscience, and expression is a necessary prerequisite to growth and happiness (and this applies to both the individual and the society as a whole) - even if everyone around us believes that what we're doing is pig-headed and idiotic, we must suffer fools (maybe not gladly) as long as they don't harm us. Why? Because this kind of self determination and passionate pursuit of what makes one happy (even if it ends up killing you), adds more life to your life.

So while there's much more to life than running, running adds more life to my life. 

This sometimes leads me to push it too far - but as with many things, we may not know how far too far is until we push it. And yet, if we don't push it, we will never know how far we could really go.

Friday, December 23, 2011

NYCM 2012: Anticipaaaaation...Anticipa-ation, Is Making Wait



I got the email today. Yes! The 2012 New York City Marathon registration opens on January 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm EST (http://www.nycmarathon.org/). I've been waiting anxiously for this email and will now wait anxiously for January 2nd when I get to register, at long last, for the race I've wanted to run since I was 15 years old!

And yet, there's this little niggler of doubt peeking out from the recesses of my brain - Are they REALLY gonna let me register? I mean, really? Am I actually gonna get to say "I'm In" on January 2nd, or will they make me squirm a little longer? 

For the last two years I entered the lottery in October and then waited, with great anticipation, for months until the actual lottery drawing event - which as is everything in NYC - was a big deal. Each April my hopes were dashed as others ecstatically exclaimed for all to hear: "I'm In". So bloody happy for you all. Humph.

So I made a plan to finally thwart the efforts of the NYCM-man who's obviously singling me out (and all the other thousands of hopeful runners who apply to the lottery each year), dead set against ever letting me run this race - Okay, I did take it a tad too personally ;)

I will qualify, then they can't keep me out! And on October 9th, 2011, I ran the Denver Rock n Roll Half Marathon and got my qualifying time with minutes to spare. Having a qualifying time ensures guaranteed entry and guaranteed entry is guaranteed entry, right?

Nothing is a done deal until it's a done deal. So I must wait and hope.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Mutterings: The Marathon Bandwagon

 I've been around the block a few times...And 2012 marks 40 years of running - 40 years of identifying myself as a runner. Over the years I've gone through many phases and stages with running. But it was not until I had been road racing for several years, and regularly running 45-60 miles a week for at least 10 years that I took on a marathon. I had, and have, great respect for the marathon. Did I have too much respect for the distance? Was I just a wimp about this? Did I make a big deal out of nothing? Why did I spend all those years running 10ks when I could have just cut to the chase and done something more exciting?

Today it seems that many runners jump straight into a marathon. It seems that some see this step as a necessary prerequisite to calling themselves runners. Are we using the marathon as a proving ground, to show we've got what it takes, to show that we're 'real' runners? The running statistics over the past two decades indicate that we are in the midst of what some call a new running boom. But this boom is seen primarily in the number of new runners running marathons. There's been an explosion in the number of people running marathons driven by first timers and, more surprisingly, first timers who are also running novices. There are dozens upon dozens of "beginner" or "novice" marathon training plans available. Many new runners itching for a real challenge are assured that with the right training they too can have a fun and successful marathon.


But what's the rush? Why are so many new runners choosing to take on a marathon during their first year of running?  Or...Is running just too easy? Did I somehow miss this fact?

All those novice training programs assure us that we can do it easily, yes, easily, with a proper 16 week training program. It's right there, neatly written on just one page - all I need to do is right there. Follow that plan and, bingo, glory!  Dreams start streaming through my mind as I read through my "beginner" program and all those encouraging words of assurance: You can finish a marathon by learning some of the basics. Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment that less than 1% of people in the world can say they have achieved. You are about to be one of them! Yes.

Back in the day, runners were encouraged to get a couple years of running under their belts before considering a marathon. The theory, way back then (and even more reasonable and responsible advice today), was that you should probably not run a marathon until you have at least a year of running experience behind you with some shorter races thrown in. This allows you to develop and prepare the mind and muscles and tendons and joints for the miles and miles and miles of training ahead. Running shorter races gives you a chance to learn about race logistics, proper fueling and preparation, pacing, crowd management, etc - things you just don't have to deal with during regular training runs.

While the physical demands of training are enormous (especially for a new runner) the more important question is whether new runners have the "running maturity" (yes, that's a term I just cooked up) to run a marathon. By "running maturity" I'm referring to more than overall physical strength. Running a marathon and training effectively for a marathon is as much, or more, mental as it is physical. A new runner really has no idea what they're getting themselves into. How can they? Even someone who has been running for many years really can't know what's ahead when they decide to train for a marathon.

But newer runners are less likely to understand how to train effectively (having some idea of how to train and why you're training the way you're training), how to pace themselves based on reality not pie-in-the-sky dreams of momentary greatness (Oh, I've had many of these), how to recover, how to deal with injuries, how to fuel effectively, and on and on. A new runner probably hasn't had a whole lot of experience hearing the incessant, insistent voice inside their heads that asks (that pleads) over and over, "why are you doing this to me?". They don't yet have the confidence (because they lack the experience), that they can get through a long training run, never mind the race itself. On paper, a 16 week training plan seems pretty straight forward and simple. Follow each step as it's mapped out, and you've got yourself a done deal. It's easy as pie.

But I just keep coming back to the same questions: What's the rush? Why are so many jumping on the marathon bandwagon? Perhaps running really is just too easy. Putting one foot in front of the other 52,000 times can't be so tough. Can it? And can I really call myself a 'runner' if I haven't run a marathon?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's Luck Got To Do With It?

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
- Jean-Paul Sartre

There is a part of me that believes that there is no such thing as luck - that luck amounts to no more then paying attention to the good and ignoring the bad. And yet, I am the first to curse my bad luck when I wake up on race morning greeted by the pounding of rain on the roof, a foot of fresh snow, or sweltering temperatures. I curse my bad luck when an injury creeps into my life uninvited at just the wrong time - at just the wrong damn time, I scream to the heavens! Why now? Why does this always happen to me? It's just not fair. I have the worst luck.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the nature of 'luck' because I'm injured (at what seems like a very bad time) and because my mother is gravely ill. I think runners tend to be a superstitious bunch - Some of us have our pre-race rituals, or we wear special underpants on race day - I've been wearing a C-Prime bracelet that I haven't taken off since qualifying for Boston in May. I always knock on wood when someone asks the dreaded question: "So, are you healthy?". If I am healthy I cringe, say as little as possible, and slink off into the shadows to find some wood to knock on. I am always afraid of dooming things when they are going well.

Now, being injured sucks for any runner but for me, right now, it more than sucks. It feels like a huge, monumental, unfair, and unlucky deal. Right now I'm 17 weeks out from the Boston Marathon and my anal retentive self likes 16 weeks of training. That gives me a little over a week to get all better - and I mean ALL better because anything less will make me nervous. In the past I've gone into marathon training injured and it proved to be an angst filled experience. Maybe it won't get better. Maybe it will just keep getting worse. I don't want to go there, not now, not for Boston.

Luck is also something my Mother is a bit fixated on right now as she continues her battle with very aggressive cancer. She bemoans her lifelong bad luck - and she is adamant that some people are lucky and some are not. She, in her view, is not. There is not a single case of cancer in her family, she points out. She comes from hearty stock and her seven siblings have all lived well into their 80s and 90s. What could explain this anomaly other than good ol' bad luck. When pressed on the subject she will quickly point out the many cases of bad luck that seem to follow her around like her own personal dark cloud, floating ominously above her head.

But in this case, I find myself arguing with her, challenging her - trying to make her see that she's choosing to see the bad only. It takes all my will power not to say to her: Well, at least you weren't born in Bangladesh. At least you haven't suffered the terror of genocide, starvation, etc. But that is little comfort - and the fact is, that there are people, even in Bangladesh, who do not curse their bad luck.

Years and years ago something seemingly unremarkable happened to me that stuck with me in some small but essential way. I was driving along on the Garden State Parkway in my Datsun B210 - It was a classic POS (piece-of-shit) car held together, literally, with Bondo and duct tape. Driving through one of the Oranges I found myself going through a long underpass/tunnel, where you're not allowed to change lanes. In front of me was a pick-up truck with a rack of pipes on top. I had this sudden urge to move out from behind the truck. At the moment I began my illegal lane shift, a pipe came flying straight out, as if shot out of a torpedo launcher, slicing through the air where I had been just 2 seconds earlier. Had I not shifted lanes, I have little doubt that I would have been killed. Was this a instance of good luck? Over the years I've asked myself this question many times. There may be an answer, but I'll never know it.

So when I am feeling particularly doomed, I try to look at all the good things. But it seems that there is much that we can't control. Is that 'luck'? I don't know. There's many things I do not choose. I did not choose my DNA, or where and when I was born. But I do get to choose how I deal with what's been handed to me. Shall I focus on the bad or the good? Wasting your life believing that you have bad luck will do nothing other than create a life filled with bad luck.

Am I lucky or am I unlucky? That really depends on how I view it. If I am feeling unlucky I will notice all the red lights that catch me on my way to work while failing to notice the Red Tail Hawk floating peacefully on an invisible current in the sky. If I am feeling unlucky I will notice the pain in my foot, but I may not notice the sweet smell of my daughter's neck as she hugs me tight. But then I hug her tight, and I am reminded that I am lucky - even though my foot is hurting.

As William James argues in "The Will To Believe", belief creates it's own truth.

Good luck to us all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When Races Go Bad

The subject of this post is not about bonking, puking, injuring yourself, or worse - It's about race organization and the duty organizers have to those running. I would like to suggest that race organizers have both a moral and legal duty to deliver what they promise. Runners sign up for races, pay good money (sometime VERY good money), and expect and plan for the race to provide what the organizers say they will provide. There were apparently two very poorly run races this past weekend: Hot Chocolate 15k/5k and Rock n Roll Las Vegas. The question is: What do race directors/organizers owe runners who register for their events? When things fall apart, what sort of accountability should race organizers be expected to assume?

I didn't run either of the above mentioned races, so I cannot comment first hand about what the situation was, but it seems clear that many runners had horrible experiences. Crowds and poor management/planning caused dangerous and uncomfortable situations. Many runners immediately jump to the conclusion that mega-organizers, like Competitor and their Rock n Roll series, is the root of these evils, and while I'm not super psyched to see the evolution of marathoning moving in the direction of the mega-corporate route, I'm not sure that that is THE problem.

Instead, I believe that greed plays a greater role, and greed is something that may plague both mega-races as and smaller, local races. Greed does not simply concern money and sponsorship. Greed also includes the desire for establishing a reputation - Dreams of Grandeur. Both these races were probably too big, and the organizers were ill equipped to deal with the sheer number of runners. They should have capped the races at lower numbers. Why they bit off more than they could chew is the real issue here.

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Though mega-races have more issues to deal with. Let me offer my experience with two smallish Colorado marathons, one a nightmare and the other a fantastic experience that will keep me coming back for more. What makes the difference? Well, in one case the race director wants to create a world class marathon, and in the other case the race director hopes to run a really good Colorado Marathon.  Both are admirable aims if approached realistically.

In the fall of 2009 I ran the Boulder Marathon. It was local, on the roads I train on regularly, and small - all things I find appealing. It was my hometown marathon! I had to run it, right? I trained through the summer and felt ready to run the race. Race week was HOT, hitting the mid-to-high 80s all week. This did not bode well for me because I hate the heat. SO be it, I can do this things as long as I drink and account for the heat. Race morning dawned warm, as expected. By the 8 a.m. start the sun was already high and hot and a desiccating wind blew across the plains east of the Rocky Mountains. I peeled off as many layers of clothes as was legal. I brought a small hand held water bottle to fill at each water stop. This was going to suck, I told my husband, but I can do it.
At this point I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

What I didn't plan for was that some of the aid stations would run out of water and Gatorade - that is, they had NO Fluids. At about mid-race the temperature was 86 degrees.The last hour of this race was a death march for me. Cramped up runners literally littering the sides of the roads. Ambulance sirens rang out from all direction. Cars drove around picking up distressed runners. At around mile 23, a Subaru pulled up next to me. I was walking, the first time I have every walked in a race, my legs cramped in an agonizing, unrelenting spasm. Someone from the Subaru asked if I wanted a ride. Oh jeeze, I look that bad, I thought to myself. I looked into the car and saw it was full of half-dead looking runners, and shook my head defiantly, laughing a little at the absurdity of what I found myself in the middle of, and said "No thank you". I should have taken that ride. I made it to the end, barely. Looking back, I realize now that my symptoms were fairly serious and this could have been worse then just an awful race. By the time I reached the food tents, there was none - well, there were some banana halves left. And all the available water had been trucked out to the course. There might have been some beer. Somehow, I just wasn't in the mood.

Initially I swore I would never do another marathon. The experience rivaled the pain and effort of childbirth without the happy ending. But of course, that resolution was forgotten after the week of cramping subsided. After doing meticulous research and reading scores of reviews on Marathon Guide,  I signed up for the 2010 Colorado Marathon...

On Mother's Day 2010, the buses ferry us up the Poudre Canyon at 4:30 a.m. to the start of the race. The race begins at a chilly 6 a.m. The sun is just rising as we make our way down the canyon serenaded by the bubbling rumble of the Poudre River. What a wonderful way this is to start the day.


 This race is capped pretty low because of the narrow canyon road. The race usually fills by early January, so the organizers are clearly making a decision to keep it manageable given the logistics of the venue. In my opinion, this is a smart move. Everything about this race went off without a hitch. There was water and Heed at every aid station (which were plentiful). And while this race, on this day, didn't have to deal with any unusual circumstances (eg. bad weather), it was pretty warm, probably in the mid-70s, once we left the the shade of the canyon for the last 10ish miles. The Colorado Marathon doesn't have the crowds and the glitz of a big city, mega-race, but it is a runners marathon.

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Big or small, when a runner signs up for a race, pays the entry fee, trains for the race, etc. they are expecting, and have a right to expect, that they will be given what the organizers say they will offer. If there are aid stations, then those aid stations should be equipped with aid! Duh. Runners make their plans (ie. should I carry my own water/fuel) based on what organizers say they will have available on the course. Running out of water, or anything else promised is unacceptable. Period. If the organizers have failed to keep their end of the agreement it seems that they owe something to the runner's who they've let down. It's simple: They've violated their end of the agreement and the runner has not received what she paid for. 

In response to the 2009 Boulder Marathon fiasco, the director responded with (lame) excuses: He explained that they ordered enough water but it wasn't all delivered., and, that the weather was hotter than expected. To both weasily excuses I say "Piffle". Who's job is it to check on supplies? And, the weather reports for the entire week clearly predicted very hot (80s) conditions for a marathon and half marathon.

We all sign waivers when we register for races, and I suppose that I have been remiss for not reading them very closely. My bad. But regardless of the stated legal responsibilities that races may or may not assume, it seems there is some moral demand to do what you promise to do. Failing to do so puts runners at grave risk that they can not anticipate. So what do we have coming to us when we sign up for races? Is it up to the race directors what we have a 'right' to with our registration? Do the races have no moral and/or legal duty to deliver what they assure us they will offer? My main gripe is with for-profit groups like Competitor, RAM Racing, and other non charity races (big or small) that seem to be offering a 'product' (as much as I hate referring to races that way), but it looks more like a case of "bait-and-switch".


We probably won't see this issue discussed in the pages of Runner's World or Running Times. These magazines depend on the advertising dollars and are unlikely to bite the hands that feed them. But it behooves us, as the runners, who actually run these races, to get the world out and tell our stories. Support well run races, large or small. And to the race organizers who fail to meet their end of the bargain: I think you owe us our money back, at least. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Crazy Making Stuff of Life

There's been a strange combination of crappiness in my household that has left me feeling that all is not well with the Force. I am often all too aware of the shortcomings of the world around me - I teach ethics, after all, and right now I'm teaching Environmental Ethics -  and that forces me to talk and think about some pretty unpleasant and depressing things. But I always find solace in my home, with my husband and daughter, our two cats, and one cranky old dog. Our little house on the prairie in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains full of love and life and energy and thoughtfulness always provides a refuge from the world out there. But this week something was out of whack - all was not well in the best of all possible homes...

First, crappiness #1: As you all know by now, because of my incessant whining, I'm injured. It's not serious, but it's tedious, I don't have a clue how long it will last, and I can't really run - "really" meaning that I've pushed it a bit for what I refer to as "woggles" = walk/jog/waddle - but those woggles are: a) not very satisfying, and b) they leave me wondering if not doing them would speed up my healing so that I could get back sooner to 'real' running which would be satisfying. So when I'm not running I'm neither pleasant to be around, nor am I as able to deal as well with life's difficulties.

Which brings me to crappiness #2: My daughter seemed/seems to be going through something, I knew/know not what. My daughter is a happy soul - sincere and caring. Unlike her two cranky old parents, she is the ray of sunshine in the house and she is the absolute love of our lives. I feel connected to this little being in a way I've never felt before. When we hangout together or go for long walks we talk the whole time. But then, in just one day, like the switch of a light, she changed. At first I couldn't put my finger on it: Lots of whining and constant complaints, talking back but otherwise not talking much at all, claiming she needed time alone hiding behind the curtains in her room, being mean (with a smile on her face!), grunting at everything we said - She turns five next week - but in one day I saw my daughter turn into a 13 year-old before my horrified eyes. At first I thought she was just testing us, pushing the limits, and we responded with timeouts and taking things away from her. But then I began to feel in my very being that something was very wrong, and she wasn't just being a bad kid...something serious had happened.

But let's return, for a second, to crappiness #1 - perhaps nothing had changed with her, perhaps it was me. I'm not as patient and reasonable when I can't run. There's no way for me to release stress and process things when I can't run. Perhaps it was crappiness #1 that was actually causing me to believe that crappiness #2 was real. But, perhaps crappiness #2 was a creation of my running denied mind and soul.

Oh, and don't let me forget crappiness #3 - My Mother has been battling a very aggressive form of breast cancer since March, and I spend at least an hour on the phone each and every day trying to cheer her on and keep her spirits up. She has surgery scheduled for this coming Tuesday, and while this is what we've all been working for, I'm scared. I'm scared for her and I'm scared for me.

Returning to my daughter...My husband's assurance that this was not all in my head, left me spinning - Okay this isn't just me - And this may sound melodramatic (because it no doubt is), but I looked into her eyes and I didn't see her there. I was terrified, about what I'm not sure. I'm sure that 'experienced' parents would laugh at my overreaction - but I felt that something was deeply wrong with all that I care about.

And in that moment, running meant nothing to me anymore. It could not save me in this case. I needed my daughter back...

Did something happen at school? Did someone hurt her? Was her new friend either upsetting her or encouraging this acting out? We asked her what was wrong. She clammed up. Alarms went off in my head and heart. Then we thought hard about the last few days: Tuesday night she had had a traumatic experience with a splinter (splinters are the only thing this kid has a totally irrational, almost phobic, fear of) It was under her fingernail and it needed to come out. After more than an hour of bargaining and histrionics, my husband and I held her tight and in literally 2 seconds I had it out. Instantly she was calm.

All was well again...and yet, it wasn't...

Last night the dam of silence broke in an instant. My husband and I realized that in some way, unintentionally, we had violated a trust and Sophia was pissed at us and scared and confused. We started talking about it, and suddenly SHE returned.The realization that your child has an inner life that may not always be shared with you can be terrifying. But my husband and I learned something momentous today.

I still can't run, and I'm not happy about it, but my world is okay again because, as important as running is, nothing is more important than my family. Sometimes, when I'm feeling really sorry for myself, I need to be reminded of this.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Injury = One Cranky Chronic


A Dhia,
deonaigh dom an suaimhneas
chun glacadh le rudaí
nach féidir liom a athrú, misneach chun rudaí a athrú nuair is féidir,
agus gaois
chun an difríocht a aithint.
O Lord, 
grant me the Serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom
to know the difference.

I am feeling pathetic. I am feeling whiny. I am not pleasant to be around right now. Why? Because I have, of all the lame injuries in the world, a bruised heel. Not a big deal really, but right now it feels like a big deal because I can't run right now and I want to run right now! I don't want to wait until tomorrow, and I better be able to run tomorrow or else I'll lose it! Of course yesterday I was thinking - tomorrow, maybe, I can go for a little run. But then today dawned, which was tomorrow yesterday, and I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I had not been miraculously healed (heeled?) while I slept, and when I pressed on my heel the twinge was still there. Nooooooooooooo...

I went for a nice 23 mile bike ride yesterday which provided a pleasant distraction and actually allowed me to get out and move through the world, outside, listening to the robins chirp and the wind blow. But today winter blew in with 9 inches of snow. I can't run. I can't bike. I can't bloody stand it! What to do, what to do...? I want to jump right outta my skin!

Of course what an injured runner does first is go online and read up on treatments for their particular malady and read stories of others who have suffered similar fates. You read of the hopeful stories and the stories of doom where a little thing blossoms into a huge problem that sidelines some poor running soul for weeks or, gasp, months.You are determined to follow the path of the hopeful not the doomed. And yet you want to run...when will it be safe to run again?

Of course I probably shouldn't be writing this WHEN I'm actually injured. I should be writing this after the fact, when I can be encouraging and introspective - After the injury I might say something like: relax, give your body a break. Focus on healing and do something you never have time for when you're spending all your free time running. Accept that this is part of the game of being an athlete. It's these times that make you hungry for and thankful that you can run. Keep the big picture in mind. This too shall pass...Blah, blah, blah.

But right now I am feeling neither encouraging nor introspective. I'm feeling like a five year-old being told that she can't do any of the things she really wants to do. I want to have a meltdown. I want to throw a fit.

I go through all the five stages of grief over the course of 5 minutes, every five minutes, for 24 hours, everyday: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance...Over and over and over... all through the day. My poor family. My poor friends. Have mercy on them all...

And while I appreciate all the well wishes, all the assurances that I will be stronger for this, the fact is that I am not a patient person - and worst of all is that I really really like to run. I feel that something is missing from my very being when I can't run, that there is a hole in my soul. Melodramatic? You better believe it.

And all this self absorbed whining is coming from someone who, not so very long ago, was told she would never run again. The fact is, it's always hard and it never gets any easier, and yet it is a fact of a runner's life which none of us will ever accept patiently.

The Things That Change Us

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” ~ Goethe Sometimes we never "go back" to what we were before....