So this morning I slept in until around eight. I knew that would be a problem, but there is something just full on blissy about not getting up with an alarm. I carried a tired body down the stairs, sore from a new work out and a pounding head ache from truly not eating well yesterday. It was already eighty degrees with high humidity. I knew I didn’t want to go. I thought about waiting until tomorrow, but really it didn’t look any better in terms of weather. After a bowl of granola and finding some summer running clothes, I was out the door by around nine thirty. It was eight six degrees with a heat index of ninety three. Lordy, it was hot.

Originally, I thought I would stick with my plan of extending out to seventeen minutes. I made it about twelve before I took my first walk break. It was so freaking hot. At one point I seriously considered taking off my tank top and running in my running bra. I had seen other women my age do this. However, I am loathe to show what I call my mommy belly. White, floppy, scarred and indented with cellulite, it just wasn’t something I felt the need to have out there. The sun felt as though it was a ray gun burning into my stomach. I regretted not wearing a looser short sleeve running shirt. What was I thinking? Damn! It was hot. I toyed with the idea of stripping it off again. Two misogynistic narratives kept me from doing so. The first being the “nobody wants to see that.” It’s not a perfect little flat belly so really, it should be kept hidden. Regardless of how hot I was and how much my shirt was sticking to me, really just showing it all anyway in a lovely heather gray  fabric.  The second was the idea that I was running in a running bra to be sexy. You know, the whole idea that if a woman dresses a certain way she is obviously looking for it. Although I reject both of these narratives, and am slightly jealous when I see other woman brave enough to run in running bras without perfect flat bellies, I am not that person. So I kept moving forward. On an up note, thinking about this helped to whittle away ten more minutes of running. But by then I was at the top of the hill and just so spent. I walked for two minutes and tried running again. I didn’t even make it three minutes. I felt defeated and thought for a split second of going home. And then I decided to just walk the distance with run bursts. And then after the first burst of two minutes, I remembered how I started running two and walking one, so I did that for awhile. I continually lengthened my walking breaks, especially in sections where there was just no reprieve from the sun. There were times when I could feel the temperature differential from one side of my body to the other. I was out of breath a lot and never did less than a 10:26 mile, and that was not maintained for any length of time. Sometimes being in the shade gave me the shivers, but it was also lovely. Sometimes, going down a hill I could lengthen my run to three minutes or a little more. But mostly I kept to the two and one. And then two and two. It made for a really crappy time.

By all accounts this run could be considered both a stupid idea and an epic failure. Except the biggest reason I chose to continue with the run was push aside the excuses and just go out there. It didn’t matter that I knew almost immediately that not only was I going to need a lot of walk breaks but I was never going to get to five miles. Not even walking. It didn’t matter that every time I went by a car I saw my mommy belly flopping along. Here is what mattered, I did it. Run, walk, whatever it was, I got myself out the door. And even if it wasn’t a great run, there was still enough running to continue training my body to deal with this, to strengthen the parts of my body I needed to run the way I once did, even if I never get totally back.

And I figured something out in the heat. I don’t think I ever had a flat belly, ever. I have always enjoyed the night life and had the belly to prove it. This is the belly that carried my babies, so on some level it is perfect. But there is something about this running this working out that is somehow tied to my mortality. In the last couple of years I’ve seen people I love really age, some have died. My own peers have begun to retire or talk about it more seriously. My son leaves to go to college in two years, and in some sense is already gone. At five eleven and growing he is no longer the little boy who jumped onto my lap, but rather the young man who has a timer in his head which tells him exactly when a hug becomes awkward. Sometimes he ruffles my hair. There are no more babies in my life, as my daughter starts her last year of Lower School, looking forward to Middle School and (she hopes) a phone. Suddenly, life has gone into hyper drive, and I feel myself catapulting into old age. And I’m scared.


Figuring it Out

I have lost all ground. Every ounce I lost two years ago is back. I hate the idea of going back to work fat. And I hate even more that is what is bothering me. I thought I was getting past that. But I know, really, I never did. I did become more complacent, or maybe tired is a better word. Even before last fall I was struggling to get out the door. Whatever it was that made the summer before seem magical now seemed so much harder. Sleep, running in the dark, balancing food and running, the heat, the humidity. All of it felt like reasons to rethink everything. It wasn’t just that I got too close, I became too militant. But that, the discipline, was also what got me through.

Running is hard. But, for some reason, I can’t explain, I do love it. And I want it back. I want to be able to run like I did before. I know that it isn’t just the working out that has gone out the door, it is also my eating and general outlook on like. I am less patient, more irritable, feeling less motivated, having a harder time focusing. All of the “go to” joys in my life, the pieces of me that I recognize seemed to have gotten stale. They have become a chore. And sometimes the need to pull back is so strong. I just want to escape. At the same time, I recognize every day how fast life goes by and I am ever conscious (aahh!) of how quickly my life is going to be so different. My children are growing up and I don’t want to miss a moment. It makes being fully present hard because I am holding on too tightly.

So, I guess I have to ask myself why I am doing this. What is it I want? A perfect (unattainable!) body? Health? Longer life? Bragging rights? Mental health? Role model for my children?

This summer I have been getting out three to four days a week, some running, some biking and some weight lifting. I have gone to a party every weekend with abandon. I have had ice cream at the pool (once) and pizza or some other unhealthy choice, at least once a week. I have also found myself constantly in the kitchen. Every time I turn a new leaf, I go a sleepless night, go to a party, or have an IBD episode (probably caused by the other two) and flip it right back. I have also been on Facebook obsessively. And way too deeply involved in the election process. I have flipped sports radio to news radio and had a steady diet of everything wrong with the world. It makes me depressed and angry. But it also feels like something I should be doing. The world has problems and you need to be informed. It is like the course you took in college that you were supposed to love, but instead you tolerated.
Here is something else I realized. At some point I tried to go back and figure out what worked before, and tried to bring all of those things back. I failed miserably. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging. I don’t feel as though I have anything to cheer about, and I am ashamed at how far I have let myself slide. So “cheering little successes” is really all I have right now.

I think the shame is what is at the heart of it. Because regardless of how much I tell myself and everyone else it is about going farther faster, the reality is when I started to have trouble fitting in my clothes that is when my whole sense of self esteem walked out the door. When I had to start taking walking breaks, I no longer wanted to talk about running and I never post it. I am ashamed at how much ground I lost. And it wasn’t getting sick last September. It had been creeping in before that. I was already turning discipline into excuses.

Yesterday my daughter and I went bathing suit shopping. Last summer we did the same thing and it wasn’t a big deal. I knew I wasn’t going to be reaching for the bikini but I also felt pretty confident about what I would fit into and feel good about myself. Not so yesterday. There were moments when I tried things on and I couldn’t believe how big the person in the mirror was. (I swear those dressing room mirrors add weight!!!) When had that happened? It was as though the last two years were a mirage. I felt deeply ashamed and could feel my mood slipping. For the first time in a long time I didn’t want to go to the pool. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I felt worthless.  Since I had run that morning, I knew that the shape matched up to my running. I struggled to go more than a mile without taking a walk break and then towards the end struggled for even that far. I think I did a little more than four miles before I called it quits. Fifty minutes. Forever.

So, here’s the thing. I am not the same person I was two years ago. I started running on the cusp of a major change in my life, and it is something that I have to deal with. Two years ago at this time I was checking the calendar to see  if I would have my period during the duathlon. Now I never know if or when I will get my period. And I no longer ever consider getting pregnancy tests. Two years ago, when I went to bed I knew I would sleep through the night unless one of my children had a bad night. Now it is always a crap shoot. Two years ago I was truly a beginner runner and every thing I did was a success. Now, I’m not and what was once a success is not.

So I have to start over, again. I bought the book Run to Lose, because I like programs and guidelines. I like writing it down, marking times and creating plans. I like reading about how to improve and what to eat. Some of it I know I read before, but I forgot. So, fifteen minutes in the heat is my baseline. I will have to work from there. Tomorrow I am determined to try a long run (which for me will be about five miles) but it is something I haven’t done in a long time. It will include walk breaks. I know that. But, I’ll be out there. Figuring it out.

So here is my theme song for the next four weeks!

Small Successes

Sometimes as I scroll through my Facebook feed it is hard not to feel jealous. I see people posting accomplishments and I feel left behind. As menopause has settled in for real, I struggle to sleep and with constant fatigue. It has affected my mood, and my motivation. Sometimes I’m even a little ashamed because a Facebook memory will pop up of something I accomplished two years ago which seems unattainable now.

Last year during the summer I started to struggle running in the humidity. I don’t know why it seemed sooooo much harder but it did and still does. I’ve taken to multiple walk breaks when I run in humidity. This is something I would have considered a complete failure by this time two years ago. But now, I am working on covering distances, and if I need walk breaks to accomplish that, then so be it. I have also noticed that I am getting faster the longer into a run I get. It feels more comfortable and I can sustain it for longer periods of time. A small success, but right now I am less picky than I was before.

So, my new motto is to celebrate small successes. Such as last night I may have had broken sleep, but when I did sleep I slept well. That small success helped me to get out the door this morning and get to the gym. Although I have to admit my motivation was not as high as I would have liked I put in a decent work out and added twenty five minutes of cardio at the end. Something I haven’t done for awhile.

Also, I have noticed that when the humidity is lower, or the temperature is cooler not only can I run without walk breaks  my speed is getting better again. Although I need to work on my distances, I am proud of the fact that I feel as though I am making progress. And my biking came back to where it was two years ago. I can get in just about thirteen miles in an hour. For me that is pretty fast. Hills are once again getting easier and I am working towards the thirty mile ride in October.

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Getting Faster!

So, I know I need goals. Because working out sucks but training makes you feel like a super hero. The only problem is, I don’t feel ready to run a half marathon yet, and to be honest, I’m not sure I want the pressure. So for now, I think I will just keep celebrating my little successes.

Today I crawled out of bed at ten of five and made it to the gym before five thirty. I put in a solid fifty five minutes of working out. That is a small success.