Two days ago I turned forty eight!!!! Wow! To celebrate I went out to dinner with my family and I got presents. I love presents. I know it is childish, and at my age I am suppose to say, “No, really, all I need is love.” Which may be true, but it isn’t all I want. What I wanted was a Polar 400 watch. Why? Because I have read that using phone apps, even Runkeeper are not as accurate. They supposedly over report your milage and your pace. This, for me is a problem. Plus, I would really like to run and ride with nothing in my hands. And I wanted something that would also record my gym workouts.  But, the watches are expensive and so, I really didn’t think I was going to get one.

But I did. And, yeah, I was really happy. Yesterday, I took it out for a spin. And I won’t say that it made me stronger but it is the first time in a long time that I was able to do six miles and I felt pretty strong straight up through mile four. The deeper I got into mile five, the more tired I became and then six was a struggle, but I did it. I also brought my phone and used Runkeeper as a comparison.

In the beginning, I couldn’t figure it out. It is a little complicated, and though I thought I understood it, when I went to use it, I had some glitches. The first of which was getting a satellite signal. I pressed the button, started to run and then realized it wasn’t really doing anything. I paused, saw it was waiting for a satellite signal and then gave up waiting and kept running. It must have kicked in. The end result was that the watch said I ran 5.88 miles and Runkeeper said I ran 6.02. Whether that was the watch seeking the satellite or there really is a significant difference I’m not sure yet. I also tried to use it today in the gym and found that although I had set it up for indoor cycling, I wasn’t sure it was working. I must have hit some button because it stopped. Right now, I’m trying to get it to sync to My Fitness Pal, but it isn’t working. Still not sure if it is the watch or my recently really slow Internet service. Anyway, although the Polar software is on the watch, my computer and my phone they don’t automatically update each other, which I think is a little weird and kind of archaic.

There are plenty of different screens online, so I can obsess to my heart’s content. I don’t have the heart rate monitor, and I’m not sure I’m going to get that. There is something all a little intimidating about it. I can’t even figure out the buttons on the watch. I’m not sure I need anymore buttons. There is also a Personal Trainer site. I think most of this relies on the heart monitor. There are a lot of spaces to put in your heart rate and the zone you are in. I’m not really sure how I feel about this.

As I was driving to the gym this morning I realized one of the reasons I stayed away from working out for so long wasn’t because of the physical effort of working out, although that was part of it. It was all the work that goes with working out, the stretching, the foam rolling, the time consuming little parts that are suppose to keep you from hurting yourself. In this last year I have slowly entrenched myself more and more into this world and all of the parts. And I do like it. But sometimes there are just too many parts. That being said, I have to laugh at myself because I know I am spending a silly amount of time reading over all the different ways I can look at my workouts on the screen. Exactly how I am going to apply this to my training, I’m not sure yet. But, it’s kind of cool I can watch my run on the screen with a little preview.


Just Go

Last time I wrote, I was focused on one thing: just get through a week that was full of nightly social obligations, and some good byes. I promised myself that I would go for forty minutes as best as I could everyday, for at least five of the seven days. For the most part I was able to do that.  Normally at this time of the year, I am both sad and relieved and a little excited. Summer coming and some way less stressful days would allow for me to regroup in every area of my life, including running and biking. For reasons I haven’t been able to fully define I have been out of sorts and it is affecting every area of my life So I promised myself that I would just get to the last day of school and then step back and evaluate what the hell was wrong with me.

And then my grandmother died. I don’t believe in making people saints posthumously, I think it is a stupid thing to do brought on by guilt. But I can honestly say that my grandmother was one of the best people I had the gift of knowing. To me. I can’t speak for anyone else. My mother called her Lady, because she said my grandmother was always, no matter what a lady. I think this is high praise from a daughter in law. I started visiting my grandmother weekly after my son was born, every Wednesday for four years. What started out as an awkward visit, became something I looked forward to every week. For four years I learned exactly why my mother called my grandmother Lady. She had a way of hearing me complain and then somehow not make me feel small for doing it and yet never taking up the battle against whomever it was that was making me crazy, normally my mother in law. And I had the gift of hearing the stories of what life was like when she was younger, my father, my aunts, my uncles. We had amazing conversations, and shared in the love of my son. And then I went back to work, and wasn’t smart enough to continue making time. I felt overwhelmed and sorry for myself and gradually, let the relationship slide. And then she moved away and rarely seeing her became never. And then, even when I did see her, we never found time alone to really talk, and then her senses began to fail her. Her hearing and then her sight, and then some weren’t sure she even knew who was there. But I felt as though she knew I was there. I felt her eyes track me when I was in the room, and I believed she knew me. And I felt both joy and guilt. But still, when I found out last Saturday she died, I was stunned. There was a part of me that believed I would have the opportunity to reconnect. To share some of what was going on in my life, to get her advice, to listen to her talk about old times, and how old photos just made her sad, and how she hated feeling old. To hear her laugh at herself and to just know the world was okay. Because my grandmom was there. She was here for ninety nine years, and somehow I had convinced myself she would always be here. But she isn’t. And I should be happy that she is no longer stuck in a body that won’t connect with the world, but of course instead I am feeling sorry for my own loss.

I thought I could run or bike it out. But I found myself in a perpetual state of exhaustion last week. Getting up and going to work was an effort, I had this odd feeling of air filling my insides as though there were huge gaps around my organs and that space was being filled with cold air. I did run and I did bike, some. I never made it to the gym. I managed to keep it all together until Thursday which was the funeral. As I was getting ready for the funeral I got a phone call. A person close to me was struggling with a self induced medical issue. I needed to know this, to prepare for what I was going to see. Drama. Only when it is your life it doesn’t feel like drama. It feels like shit.

Finally, Friday. Finally, the funeral is over. Finally, I am down to the last day of school and I can start to look forward to putting things back together. To gathering my work out routine and pushing myself harder. I kicked it off with the first really good ride in awhile. I promised myself I could put it behind me and then recapture whatever zest I had generated last year.  And then a bad run on Saturday followed by a sunburned day at the beach on Sunday. After taking yesterday as a final day to feel sorry for myself and a hope that my sunburn would feel better after a day, I pushed myself out of bed today and went to the gym. I had a very thorough weight work out followed by some speed work on the treadmill. It was hard, but doable. It didn’t save me. It still hurts. I don’t feel any more or less motivated. I don’t feel miraculously cured from the challenges in my life. But I don’t think staying home would have helped at all.

Last year when I started this I wasn’t sure how far I would get, or even if I would continue working out. Over the year I have challenged myself to go farther and faster. Right now, my biggest challenge is to just go. Just to get out of bed and continue out the door. Because this is a part of my life that I love. It is something I really like about me. At a time when I feel as though the world is slipping away beneath my feet I need to keep putting one in front of the other. To just go.

Beginning Again

When I first started running, it was a win to run a mile. Then three. Then the thrill of victory when I passed five miles. There was a sense I was on my way. Surely by the next May I could whip out ten easy. Surely that isn’t what happened. But I did do ten. It wasn’t as hard as finishing the duathlon, but it wasn’t super easy either.  In the beginning I read every running article I could get my hands on and then promptly discounted the information when I walked out the door. Part hubris, maybe but mostly I didn’t think of myself as a runner so it didn’t really apply to me. That was for, you know them real running type folks. The people in the front of the pack. So I did some silly things such as running when I hurt and running when the weather said no, and running harder or faster or longer then I was ready. Which compounded the hurt, which made it more difficult to get excited about running. But I kept running anyway. At some point I became more of a runner then someone who enjoys cycling. Although I still love my bike and my rides there is something about running that pulls me.

So when I first started running outside and struggled to do four miles, I wasn’t exactly surprised but I was sort of disgusted. I was here. Again. Again it was really hard. Again. I was burnt. Again there were plenty of reasons: the humidity, pms, just the different mechanics of running on the road as opposed to on the treadmill. But I didn’t care. I was tired of it being hard and I was developing quite the self pity chip on my shoulder. It wasn’t FAIR!!!! And, on top of everything else, life had the audacity of being super busy just when I wanted, needed, to work on reigniting my running.

So, I made a deal with myself. When I first started working out every day, there were plenty of days that I just didn’t feel like working out. I didn’t want to push myself, but I still wanted the benefit. I called them placeholder days. These were days that I went through the motions, but didn’t go full out. Sometimes during the workout I would kick in and really push, and other times I was pretty much just showing up. It was mostly to maintain the habit of working out. I decided that for these two weeks, when life is going to be ridiculously busy  – something every single night- I would simply put in placeholder days. I wouldn’t try to up my milage, increase weights or reps, change my routine or bike further or harder. Instead, I would get up as early as I could, get out and do the best I could for forty minutes. I would allow walk breaks, easier routes.

At some point, during these easier workouts, I realized that I was starting over. And it didn’t always work. So, when I allowed myself walk breaks, I turned it into speed drills. But I enjoyed them. It was fun to run as fast as I could for a minute. And the two minutes walking really let me recover. Three miles ticked off in no time, and I did a slow mile just to top it off. I wont’ lie, the timing made me crazy. When I look back and see the time for my average mile, I cringe. But I had the running pep throughout the rest of the day. And then one day I decided to run more slowly. Advice again from my brother when I recently shared that I was starting to hate the idea of getting up and running. So I ran more slowly, a lot more slowly. And it felt great. It was early morning, I could smell the grass and the honeysuckle. It was only about fifty-five degrees and low humidity. It was runner’s paradise. It was an amazing run stopped only because I needed to get to work. And it was just what I needed, that one run that keeps you coming back for more.

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One great morning run!

When I realized I was starting over, I started to think of all the things I would have done differently if I had known, when I first started running. All the advice I would have listened to from all the articles I have read. If I were to give advice to someone who is thinking of starting to run this is what I would say:

  • Do strength workouts from the beginning, especially for your core. Don’t wait until you hurt.
  • Warm up! It takes five minutes but it is so worth it.
  • Start slowly. Pace comes, it is so much easier and more enjoyable when I start out slow and then after about a mile allow myself some speed. Although, again, it makes me crazy to look back on my timing. Vanity.
  • Stretch. Each and every time. It makes a huge difference.

So, I’m taking my own advice. And I am starting to enjoy running again. Newbie that I am.