Running Quote – Each Step Changes Us

Parallel PathsI have a ton of thoughts going around in my head – posts to write and ideas to share, but I am a little overwhelmed. Hermes’ surgery last week sucked up all my mental and emotional reserves, and now I am running on fumes. So, I thought I would re-post something I saw that made me happy. I loved this quote posted over on Fit For a Year:

You are different in some way than you were the day before

It’s important to remember that each footstrike carries you forward, not backward. And every time you put on your running shoes you are different in some way than you were the day before.

John “The Penguin” Bingham, Going with the Flow, The Penguin Chronicles Archive.


Photo credit: Jennifer Elaine Hagedorn


Hermes Update and Dealing with Stress

On a walk in the rain

Can’t wait to see this face.

First, good news! I finally got some good news about my little guy. It has been a long, rough week! As I mentioned, his initial surgery to remove the tumor went well, but it was followed up with complications. Hermes spent two nights in the Emergency Animal Hospital and another night at the vet’s getting blood transfusions and IVs. However, I got the call this morning that he is looking great, has finally eaten some food on his own (his last real meal was Monday morning before all this went haywire,) and is sitting up and bright-eyed. The doc is weaning him off his IVs and if all goes well, I’ll have my little guy back home again by the end of the day.

I can’t wait… the house is far too quiet without him.

Here’s an interesting thing – I’ve been handling the stress differently than I ever have before, and it has a lot to do with the changes I have made over the last year.

I actually hold up fairly well under extreme stress. The day-to-day stuff can really get under my skin, but when things go absolutely sideways, I tend to be pretty solid. I think I get this from my dad who was the same way. (Perhaps a good inheritance for once, eh Andra?) He had some, well, let’s call them “anger management issues” on the day-to-day, but when things went really, really bad, he was always calm, cool and collected. I’ve worked hard not to have the anger problems he had, but I’ve nurtured the calm. I tend to be practical, (sometimes to the extreme,) and while I have my teary moments like everyone else, my goal is always to hold it together until I get through to the other side.

The waiting is the hardest part.* Whenever situations like this come up, especially ones dealing with medical issues, there is always waiting involved. My tried and true method of getting through it is books. Preferably something interesting, but fairly light. My favorite are older, formulaic murder mysteries like the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. I can’t tell you how many books I flew through back when my mother was in the hospital, waiting on some kind of news.

My other tried and true method is emotional eating. I’m not proud – when the shit is hitting the fan, I’m not going to take the time to count calories. Besides, I love food – and I really love great food, so having something decadent really does make me feel better for a bit. This week, I have been doing both of these things. I’ve been burying my head in books  and coating my throat with wine.

But… that isn’t all I have been doing. I’ve also been running, weight lifting and walking. Now, I need to make this clear – I am not trying to balance out the scale here. There is no way one of my runs will burn up the quantity of dark chocolate almond bark and glasses of wine I’ve had. It’s more that I have added another tool for coping. The night Hermes went in for emergency surgery, I knew it was going to be a couple of hours to before I heard how it went. As I headed towards the kitchen, I heard a voice in my head say, “Is emotional eating really going to help right now???

The rest of me said “*&^$!”

… and then went and put on my running shoes. I had that antsy, nervy energy – the kind that makes you want to pace, or punch something. Going for a run, even a bad run, totally let me escape the situation and work off the twitchiness. And man, were my runs bad. My times were terrible, I had equipment failures, I was distracted and unfocused… and yet, I ran. I found, incidentally, that 2 min run / 1 min walk intervals are perfect for this. I didn’t have the willpower, or the mental capacity, to run much more than this, and “just doing whatever” was actually more stressful because it involved making choices – something I had already been doing way too much of this week. Intervals gave me a structure, a purpose, and a framework, plus I could run full-out for 2 minutes if I wanted knowing I had a break coming. Though by every metric my runs were terrible, for me, they were great.

I also worked on my strength training. I mentioned that I am starting to go through The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Even though without Hermes in the house I could have slept in, instead I got up, got out my weights and went to work. I’ve been walking too. One day this week while I was waiting on a call from the vet, I headed out for an hour-long lunch hour walk. Another morning, before weight training, I went for an early morning power walk.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

This is all really new to me, and believe me, I understand why it wouldn’t be appealing. One of my coworkers is going through a rough time too. He said, “I am having to do enough stuff that I don’t want to do right now, I am not going to make myself run as well.” I get that! And even though it briefly occurred to me to take the rest of my chocolate into the office and put it on the “free food” table in the break room, I haven’t – there is a still the long road of recovery ahead.

Here’s the point – I think everyone deals with stress a little differently. I am not going to judge anyone for how they handle it. For myself, I am surprised that exercise has become something I’ve started turning to. I’ve heard for years that exercise is good for stress, but it always seemed like a lot of blue mud. How could sweating, and panting and working hard feel good? Yet here I am, workout clothes hanging in the laundry, running shoes ready to go.



* Did I just get Tom Petty stuck in your head? Please tell me I did.

Is It Still Working Out When You Are Relaxing?

turkey vultures

A good reminder why it pays to stay healthy!

As I wrote yesterday, I spent last weekend up at my cabin. It was wonderful! The cabin helps me to reset and recharge. It’s always been a place of journal writing, reading, taking long naps, and cooking elaborate meals. It’s still that, but nowadays, I also find myself getting in a lot of exercise. It is the kind of exercise I like best, but is the hardest to get: unplanned and out in nature. The weather was gorgeous, so I took long walks with the dog, kayaked around the lake, did a whole bunch of yard work, and even went for an unplanned run.

The roads near my cabin are mostly long gravel lanes or country highways. There are no short blocks, so my morning and evening dog walks stretched out to an hour or more. When I have the time, this is my favorite way to walk. Hermes and I both enjoy it. He pretty much keeps his hound dog nose to the ground, but I saw deer, rabbits and lots of birds – including a large flock of turkey vultures. No worries, they weren’t interested in me! I’m not dead yet!

On Saturday, after a long nap, I popped up, threw on my shoes, and went out for a three mile run. It didn’t go as well as my last run, but I didn’t really expect it to. It was more about just getting out and keeping up with my running than it was about any specific times. When I got back, sweaty and tired, I sat on my picnic table for a few minutes catching my breath, then finished cooling off out on the lake! (My run, and the couple hours I spent doing yard work and raking, were good calorie burners, which made me feel a little bit better about my multiple glasses of evening wine!)

By far my favorite cabin exercise, though, is kayaking. At this time I don’t have a way to transport it, so where my kayak is, is where I kayak. So, when I am at the cabin I go out as much as my arms will allow. I went out twice each day on Saturday and Sunday. (I would have gone out Friday night too, except it was dark by the time I got there. Fall is coming way too fast!) I like to start with a morning trip around the lake around 9:00 AM. It’s after the fishermen have left the lake, but too early for the weekenders. These morning paddles are fairly leisurely. I look for fish, turtles, frogs and water birds. I saw several nice sized bass – bigger than I have seen there before. (Which gives me hope that my little lake hasn’t been fished out yet.) I also spotted birds in a rainbow of colors: purple martins, blue herons, green herons, yellow finch, orange orioles and, of course, cardinals; plus gulls, geese, kingfishers and hawks. My afternoon rides are more… focused. There is usually a lot of motorized watercraft out by then, so the wildlife goes to quieter places. I just concentrate on joy of being out on the water.

When I got back to town on Monday, I was pretty tired. I could feel it in my bones. Good thing I had to go back to work – I had to take a rest day from my relaxation!

New Personal Running Records!

This is me in my car after a run. The photo doesn't do it justice - I am approximately the same color as my shirt.

This is me in my car after a run. The photo doesn’t do it justice – I am approximately the same color as my shirt.

Last week I had one of my best runs to date. It’s funny that you can’t really tell how a run is going to go until you start putting shoes to pavement. Sometimes things just come together, other times they definitely do not. This was one of the good times. It didn’t start out that way however!

The night before, Julian and I had gone out for a wonderful dinner to celebrate our anniversary. (I assure you, I ate like a king – not like a pauper, that night!) But apparently, it was so good that the next day – it was still with me. When I went to run, I could feel it bouncing around. It was like having a bocci ball in my belly. I’m not talking about extra weight, (I might have gained some from that meal, and if so, it was totally worth it.) I’ve run being heavier than I am now and this was a completely different feeling. This hurt.

But you know, I’ve only been running for a couple of months and already I’ve faced snow, rain, extreme heat, bugs and hills. What’s a little gut pain, right?  ugh… yeah.

Nonetheless, it turned out to be a great run. The weather was perfect, sunny and nice, but not too hot. My goal that night was 4 minute run / 1 minute walk intervals for 35 minutes. This is another one of my river parks – Big River Park. (The river is mostly the same size, but this is a big dang park.) It has a walking/jogging/biking path that runs along the water, for what I now know is 2 miles. I parked near one end of the park and took off.

Normally, I would think, “Okay, if I am supposed to run for 35 minutes, I will turn around at the 19 minute mark.” Yes, I know that adds up to 38 minutes, but if I run faster on the return trip I run out of trail! I like to leave a little buffer so I don’t have to double back. This time though I was kind of in a groove, and I didn’t think about it until I hit 20 minutes. By then I was nearly at the end of the park, so… I decided to just keep going.

RunKeeper screenshot record runI knew I was going to over shoot my 35 minutes. I figured if that happened, I’d just walk the last bit back to my car, no big deal. However, something happened around the 30 minute mark – I decided to keep running the whole time. Again, I was doing intervals, so that means I was actually walking one minute for every four of running, but I kept up the repetitions all the way through!

Afterwards I was tired, but not dead. I could definitely feel that I pushed myself harder than I had before; the muscles in my legs were pretty worn out, and yet, I wasn’t a wreck. I felt like if I had had to, I could’ve kept going. It is enough to make me wonder exactly what I am capable of! It’s actually good for me to have a little energy left when I get done, though, because after a run, I still have to drive home. And, as soon as I get home I have to go walk the dog! Jelly legs or no, the pooch cares not.

One other interesting thing – there are lots of people that use this park. There are tons of dog walkers, people playing frisbee golf, fishing, riding bikes, skating, running and pushing strollers. There are fitness classes, sports teams using playing fields and families having picnics. All this you expect to see. What you might not expect is this:

knights in the park

I have no idea either. They looked like they were having fun though.

It’s Late, It’s Dark, and I’m Running

A view from my couch

A view from my couch.

The other night I had a Board meeting, afterwards, I had hoped to run. I had even packed my gear, but somehow when the meeting wrapped up, I ended up driving home instead. I guess I was thinking deeply about the meeting and drove home on autopilot.

Once I got home, I walked the dog (of course,) and then settled in with a book. I had eaten at the meeting, so no need for dinner, and it was nice to just relax for a bit. Then I heard a voice in my head.

“Go run.”

It was 8:30 at night, I told the voice. I was tired, I had a had a long day. I wanted to sit on my couch with my book and my dog!

“Go run.” it said.

I ignored it successfully for about a half hour. Then, I got up and put my running clothes and shoes on. That’s how I ended up running through my neighborhood at 9:30 at night.

Is this how addictions start?

You Get a Different View with Running Shoes

park bench by benstone410I mentioned yesterday that our local river has won a piece of my heart. That was the inspiration for yet another river run. There is a park at the heart of our downtown that holds a few special memories for me. Back when I was a teenager, our downtown had fallen out of favor and (except during banking hours,) was almost always dead. My friends and I, with nothing better to do, would drive down and walk through the empty streets. We’d hang out at that park, sit on the edge of the fountain or on the grass, and talk about dreams, life and, (of course,) boys.

I’ve been thinking about going there to run for a while, but downtown has changed a lot since then. Now it’s a busy, thriving place. It isn’t quite as easy to find a place to park, and now the park can sometimes draw some… unsavory elements. But, it was late afternoon on Sunday, the weather was nice, and I wanted to be by the river again. So I headed over.

You know that feeling when something that was mythic in your youth suddenly becomes very small? That happened to me that day. It’s still pretty there – there’s boardwalk along the water, big pieces of sculpture and that beautiful fountain is still there, but the park is far, far smaller than it has been in my mind. I only ran 2 miles that day, but in order to make it I had to loop, backtrack, and finally, run across the bridges to the other side of the river – several times. I just couldn’t believe that those walking paths I spent hours and hours on took about 4 minutes to run.

I’m glad I went. I’ve been thinking about running there since I started running, but my guess is that I won’t be back. I have new, longer paths to run.


Photo credit: benstone410 on flickr

A Good Run and Some Ducks

I had an awesome run on Friday for a whole bunch of reasons:

Pictured: my knees and some sleeping ducks. Not pictured: another thirty or forty sleeping ducks off the right frame of this photo.

Pictured: my knees and some sleeping ducks. Not pictured: another thirty or forty sleeping ducks off the right frame of this photo.

1.) I hit my best time ever. I’m not planning on racing at this point, so time doesn’t really matter, except that by tracking my time I can tell that I am getting stronger and building more endurance. I like taking a look at my pace, weighing it against how I felt at the end of the run and seeing the changes. Not long ago, the idea of running a couple of miles would have been completely out of the question. Now, I’ve done it several times, and I keep getting better! I’m really excited by that – it’s like I never really knew what I could do before. My body is a lot tougher than I thought.

2.) I am now over 25% in on my 100 mile goal! I thought it would take a long time to hit that goal. I keep plugging away at it, though, and I suspect I am going to hit 100 miles a lot sooner than I thought! Again, there is nothing riding on this goal. I picked it as a distance that would be a stretch for me, but that felt doable. I just didn’t expect to be this far, this fast! Part of that is because…

3.) Friday was my first successful “three in a row.” I’ve mentioned before that I only have so many days week I can run, so this wasn’t the first time I tried going three consecutive days. However, the last time I tried doing three in a row it was back in spring – and it didn’t go well at all. By the third day I was tired, frustrated and slow. This time I felt great and ended the run tired, but strong. (And again, with my best time yet!)

After the run, I rested on a picnic table down by the river with a bottle of water and my towel. All along the water’s edge were ducks. I thought (being at a park) they were going to try to hit me up for bread, but nope – they were settling in for the night. They popped their heads up briefly when I sat, then settled back in to sleep. We hung out together, the sleeping ducks and I, until it was time to go home.

Happiness is Running Down a Trail

Not my trail, but a good representation I found on flickr.

Not my trail, but a good representation.

Wow, I had the BEST run yesterday! Sadly, once again, I was short on sleep. I know that isn’t good for me and I almost didn’t go at all. The weather, though, was just perfect. It was the kind of summer day you spend the other three months of the year dreaming about. With it being the first part of August, there are only so many of those left, so I threw on my shoes and headed out. I am glad I did!

I knew I wasn’t at my best, so I decided to try to change things up a little and try a different park. I wanted something that would inspire and motivate my mind. So… I decided to trail run! I’ve been wanting to run on trails since I first thought of running. Before I even bought my shoes, I went to a Run Clinic to learn good form running. While the class was waiting for everyone to show up and settle in, the trainer ran a video of Anton Krupicka. There he was, bouncing through the woods and over streams, and I thought, I want that! Forget that he wears minimal shoes and runs endurance races, that wasn’t what got me, what I wanted was to run out in nature. It called to every part of me.

There is a park near my office that I’ve wanted to run since the beginning. The last time, I tried though, it was spring and it was completely flooded. I ended up doing laps around the picnic area instead. I don’t know why I haven’t been back there, “once burned,” I guess. Last night, when I hopped on our county website to look for a new park to run in, that one popped up. It’s been a fairly dry couple of months, so I decided it was time to try it again.

It was running through a meadow like this where I wished I was wearing longer pants.

It was running through a meadow like this that I wished I was wearing longer pants.

Here’s the tricky part – I don’t know this park at all. I’ve never explored it and because it is all winding trails through the woods – you can’t see that far ahead. On the map, there are a couple of paths that make big loops, but it isn’t like that when you get there. It appears that most of the folks that go there go to walk their dogs, but they only go so far. The first part of the trail is well traveled and well marked, but after a certain part it becomes… dicey. There are several break off trails, but they are so small it is hard to tell they are real trails or deer paths. I did my best to keep to the main path, but it wasn’t marked: no blazes, nothing. There was one section through a meadow where the weeds were so tall I started to wonder if I was heading in the right direction! I ended up back in the woods, and eventually, I saw a hint that I was on the main path – a lone bench located near a big tree.

Running like this, not knowing where you are going, certainly sharpens the senses. There was no “zoning out” this time. I saw birds and rabbits, and even one tiny shrew running across the trail. Bugs kept flying into my head – not getting caught in my hair, just bouncing off my head like tiny ping pong balls. But being out in nature was gorgeous. I was deep in the woods, the river alongside me, and wildflowers all around. At one point my brain just went: “YES!!!”

It was so great, it made me wish I was a better runner – just so I could keep going. I’ve never felt that way before.

Part of me is tempted to grab Hermes and go hike as many of those trails as I can. There are certainly some advantages of knowing where you’re heading, and if I am going to hike in a dog friendly place, you bet I am taking my buddy along. On the other hand, I really liked the exploring part of the run – feeling like I was finding something new. I’ve already explored one part of the trail, so each time I go I could just go a little further and see what is over the next hill that way. We’ll see.

I’ll tell you this though, I am going to spend some more time finding all the trail parks in my area! Trail running makes me very happy.


Flickr Photo credits:

Meadow by Andy Arthur

Flowers by tjk

Some Runs are Diamonds, Some Runs are Coal

Keep movingWell, my last run didn’t go as I had hoped. I was pretty excited for it – having had so much fun on my one minute intervals. I was scheduled to do intervals of 3 minute run / 1 minute walk for 28 minutes. I made it, but it wasn’t pretty. I was too tired, had eaten too little, and was too sore. Instead of being fun, it was a drag, and I found myself looking forward to the end.

But, instead of beating myself up about it, I am trying something different. A couple of days ago I read a great post by Fit and Feminist: Advice from a celebrity is helping me cope with a crummy race. So, using the three-step program she wrote about, here’s my review:

What I did right:

  • Even though I could tell from the get-go that this wasn’t going to be a good run, I kept on going. I was tempted to quit, but instead, I just tried to make the most out of it that I could.
  • I did it! No matter how it turned out, it is great that I got out there and ran at all. A year ago I couldn’t have done it.
  • Instead of focusing on how things were going, I tried to distract myself with my music, the scenery and whatever else I could think of.
  • Fresh air, green trees and sunshine. I ran at the college campus and it was gorgeous. Being around nature is good for my mental state.

What I could improve on next time:

  • One problem was that I was tired. I really function best on 8-9 hours of sleep. I hadn’t gotten that the last few nights, and I really felt it. My brain was sluggish.
  • Know what to eat beforehand. Usually I eat at work about an hour before I am going to run. I ate this time too, but different (lower calorie) food. I didn’t realize it would make that much of a difference, but it did.
  • My legs were so tired. I could tell it wasn’t only my brain that was tired, my legs were sore. I would guess it was from doing yard work with my sister the night before. Days like this, I should probably stretch a bit more.

Now, Move On:

The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do, right? So, I am not going to fret about a disappointing run now and again. It happens. The best I can do is learn and keep moving forward.