Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Very Brady Christmas

Christmas is over.  Officially.  The trappings are still out, ie. lights, tree, other stuff, and too much left over food.  But all company is gone and the house is quiet.  The floors are quiet.  The walls are quiet.  The AIR is even quiet.  All I can hear is the fridge humming and my fingers on the keyboard.

I don't mind the rain outside because my run is done.  5.25 miles this morning.   And that's all you'll hear about running in this post.  Because I'm going to talk about Christmases past.

We used to live in the semi-country, on a couple of acres, with a long driveway.  In the early years, before our driveway was paved, the gravel used to scatter out onto the street below.  I don't remember ever actually walking down there and sweeping the rocks off the street.  But we talked about doing it.

So one Christmas morning, after our resident Sugar Plum Fairies dutifully waited until the hallowed 7:00 hour when they were FINALLY allowed to make any noise or disturb their parents --- they tripped, stumbled, danced, wrestled their way down the stairs announcing in full volume:  It's time to open presents!

"Not yet." said Dad.  "Gotta sweep the street first."

Oh the wails of agony.  The sheer torture of child abuse.  The demands for justice.

"No!!!!!!!  Dad!!!!!!"

Of course he was teasing, and the rocks on the street were forgotten.  Until the next year.

"Dad, are you going to make us sweep the street first?" asked one small resident fairy.  "I don't want to sweep the street!  Do we HAVE to??"

So for many years thereafter, it became the family Christmas tradition.  Not to actually sweep those rocks off the street.  But just to talk about it.  I'm not sure, but one year there may have been a broom set out by the Christmas tree as a reminder of the all-important chore.

Fast forward to 2011.  Christmas day.   We're all here in fully-grown adult-status, and in addition there are six NEW sugar plum fairies and a son- and daughter-in-law who helped produce them.  Favorite Daughter, and mother of three of the above-mentioned next-generation fairies, presented us all with copies of a drawing, neatly framed.

All who'd grown up in this household instantly got it.  Poor Daughter-in-law didn't have a clue why we were all suddenly laughing and exclaiming our delight.

The driveway was eventually paved and no more rocks spill out onto the street.  And we don't even live there anymore ....

But the memory continues.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Blog

One year and 85 posts old.  

Recaps, thoughts, and lessons of Blog's Year One:

I discovered I like to write.  Honestly, this was news to me.
I got to run in New York City! -- Okay so it was only about a mile because we were hurrying to catch a boat for a harbor tour to get my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
I learned a Garmin GPS watch doesn't work very well on a moving cruise ship.
Favorite Daughter became my Favorite (& indispensable!) Running Partner.
I faced my demons, met my goal, and became a marathoner.  Still no plans to do another, but learning to never say never.
I learned that training for and fretting about a marathon is far worse than running it.
I ran four more 10Ks and finally did one in under an hour.
I helped organize two official running events.  One went flawlessly.  One didn't.
Third year in the Hood to Coast.  The last half of the route was a disappointing and over-crowded mess, but we're not giving up on it yet.  We get to do it again next year!
I found kindred spirits on facebook in our Runner's Anonymous group.
I am still completely dependent on my iPod and music playlist.
I ran over 100 miles in one month and over 1000 miles in one year, for the 3rd year in a row, and intimately know every stretch of road in this town.
Biking is not my passion.  At least not like running.  And that's okay.  I still plan to ride.
I converted to Asics Cumulus running shoes and wear the largest size EVER.  So far the toenails are intact, but I haven't really put them to the test.
I endured four days "trekking" back in time as a pioneer, following a handcart through miles of dust and sagebrush, giving me a keener appreciation for my heroic ancestors and for modern conveniences, as well as confidence in the upcoming generation.
I'm still lousy at committing to supplementary forms of exercise, ie. weight lifting.  I lasted four months.
My dream job is motivational speaker.
I still hate treadmills and all forms of indoor exercising ... and flying .... and cilantro.
It has been confirmed yet again that I have awesome kids and the dearest husband on the planet.

T'was a good year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Runner's HIGH?

I've never been able to pinpoint what, exactly, is a "runner's high".  Have you heard of it?  I was perusing an article in the NY Times that ran too long for my attention span, but told of actual studies, using actual science - neuroscience to be exact, that it does indeed exist.

It's all about endorphins that get released in the brain during exercise, causing mood changes.  We're talking about the same parts of the brain that kick in when one is involved in a love affair or when a piece of music gives you the "chills".  One researcher said he could see blissfulness in runners' faces after two hours of running.

So that brings me to wonder.  I have done runs that lasted two hours.  And runs that lasted three, four, and over five hours.  And I'm pretty sure I wasn't feeling any endorphins.  There may have been some mood changes along the way, but nothing that fits the description of euphoria.  Not even close.  The only "high" I feel happens afterwards when I've STOPPED running -- when I'm in my shower and my run is DONE for the day.  But even that wouldn't fit what the article described.  It's more like relief.  Or satisfaction.  Or comfort in the perceived belief that I am safe from getting fat that day.  One acquaintance, who mentioned that he often sees me out on the road, said he might consider taking up running if he ever saw me looking like I was having fun.  So far he hasn't.

The article also mentioned a follow-up study about how running affects pain perception.  Meaning - tolerance for pain increased to the point that some runners kept running with stress fractures and even during heart attacks.

Not me.  Albeit I've never had a stress fracture nor a heart attack, I have had nasty leg cramps wherein my calves morphed into painful wooden stumps and although I tried to keep running, it just wasn't going to happen.  The upper body was willing, the lower body was in revolt.  It did cause a mood change to be sure.  But again, euphoria just doesn't come to mind.

I've heard that some runners "hit the wall" somewhere during those last few miles of a marathon which means the bodily revolt mentioned above, turns into full-fledged mutiny.  Some marathoners also experience dark feelings of discouragement and/or anger.  Typically-cheerful Favorite Daughter had some of this and her husband, who waited in a supportive-husbandly manner to see her cross the finish line, briefly thought she was mad at him for being there.  I, on the other hand, felt joy crossing the finish line because at that moment I was thinking I NEVER HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN!

So I've given up the hope of euphoric highs when I run.  My bliss happens at the Sees Candy counter - free samples!  Or at Dairy Queen with a Chocolate Extreme Blizzard in hand.

  Or when I find the perfect pair of boots marked 75% off.   Score!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Class envy

Not to be overly snit-ish, but on the same theme as this post, and although I passionately admire people who can do them, I resent the whole concept of an ultra-marathon.  In fact anything beyond the established, commonly-and-respectfully-known entity of 26.2 miles doesn't set well with me.  Why?  Because the ultras (100 stinkin' miles!), the 50 miler, the 50K (31 miles) all diminish the accomplishment of finishing your standard time-honored marathon.

"Ho hum.  You ran a marathon?  Well, bless your heart.  I used to do those.  Then I got serious and bumped it up to an ultra.  THAT's a REAL challenge.  But only for the really Hard Core.  Nowadays I use marathons for warming up."

Not that I've actually heard anyone say that.  Nor seen it written..... But surely they're thinking it.  ...... Buncha show-offs.

I liked the whole idea that the number of marathon finishers is less than 1% of the population.  And that I was one of them.  And that somehow, it set me apart from the Rank and File.   Whether or not that number is a myth, it felt good.  It was validating.

But now there is an even smaller elite group that is gaining too much recognition, crowding MY group out of the top tier.

Again, these mega-runners deserve our highest admiration.  A body can burn calories and grow weary just THINKING about a such a feat!  Nevertheless, to them I say - Calm down!  Go climb a mountain, or swim the English Channel.  Or get the most hits on You Tube.  Whatever!  Just stop pressuring those of us who barely survived a marathon and can't THINK past 26.2 miles.  Enough is enough!

Besides, I'm not convinced it's POSSIBLE to run 100 miles.  Unless of course you're a Kenyan, made of nothing but lean muscle, carbon fiber bones, and the lungs of Lance Armstrong.  Not to mention the discipline and determination of a Jedi Warrior.  Which I'm not.

So those of you who think a marathon is just a breezy morning jaunt, I strongly suspect there is some Kenyan and/or Jedi DNA floating around in your bloodline.  Surely you don't have to WORK as hard as the rest of us.  It MUST be easier for you.  Forget the proverbial silver spoon - obviously you were born with a tattoo of a Nike swoosh.
Just saying.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lace up your shoes and grab a jacket ...

... because I'm taking you on one of my typical five mile runs.  This is what I see day after day after day after day .........

Just leaving my neighborhood.  In the spring, this seemingly harmless stretch of road is the scene of vicious and unprovoked harassment by birds.

Through the small recently-built college campus next door.

 Past the first of several "round-abouts".   (Remember to roll your Rs and pronounce round like rooond (as in balloooon), according to my sister who has been to Scotland and KNOWS.)

Past our lovely golf course. 

Around the back of the hospital where we catch a glimpse of my shadow.  This spot is where I often see hospital personnel go to smoke.  Reminds me of high school.

To the local highway that funnels too much of Oregon's traffic through our small town.

 Another rrrroond-about.  (IMO round-abouts are only good for cyclists.  I don't like them as a driver, nor as a pedestrian.  But when on a bike, they're great!  They don't force me to stop which involves unclipping and re-clipping into the pedals.)

A small but notable hill.  With bicycling, you can get some momentum going down to carry you partway back up again.  Not so with running, unfortunately. 

The intersection I know all too well.  I cross it in 99% of my runs.  Note to drivers:  Go ahead and go!  Don't wait for me.  Let me stand (and rest!) here for a minute.  Really.  I don't mind.

Back to the highway and past one of the few remaining outdoor drive-in theaters in the country.

Looping around Walgreens.  Just before this spot, we've hit the 5K point.  1.9 miles to go.

Here's where I feel smug.  Just run, Curves-members.  Once you're outfitted, it's free! .....

One of the more eye-pleasing(?) sections of my run, through a back parking lot and behind Les Schwab.  This shot failed to include the ambient trash bins.

More smug thoughts.

Here we are within a stone's throw from a quick finish at my house, straight ahead down the road.  But to add another 3/4 mile, we're turning left ....

... down this asphalt path.  Note my shadow in the corner.  I actually took some shots of my shadow, but I looked like a fat Dr. Seuss creature. 

See what I mean .....

Back to that same ol' intersection where we stomp on a few seed pods from the oak trees.

On the home stretch!  I SHOULD be sprinting now.  Ha!  As if.

The end of our run!  (AKA Home)
Off-topic side note:  The Christmas garlands on the posts look scrawny during the day, but at night it's pretty.  Actually, there is a respectable amount of lights on the house and bushes which YOURS TRULY put up all by herself!  Using REALLY BIG ladders!    (P.S.  Vote for Rob!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A happiness check list

Recently, on one of my favorite talk shows, the host stated that he believed three ingredients were necessary for a happy life:  Purpose, Structure, and Camaraderie.   Lacking any of these three, one will not be truly happy, he claimed.  It made sense to me so of course, I inserted my life into this formula, to see where I stood.

Purpose:  For me, my religious faith fills this one.  I know where I came from, why I'm here, and where I'm going.  You can't get much more purpose than that.  IMO, one needs faith in both God and an afterlife to have true long-term purpose.  I understand, of course, there are plenty of people who would disagree with me; nevertheless, this is my blog and my opinion counts here.  They are free to write their own blogs.  But what about other purposes in life?  Short-term stuff.  Like goals.  Again IMO, all short-term goals are lessons or types if you will, of the one larger eternal goal.  Setting and achieving short-term goals teaches us that we CAN achieve the BIG one.  Running plays a role here.  Learning that I CAN do things I never thought I'd even try, has added confidence and purpose to my life and has increased my happiness.  Check.

Structure:  Here again, my religion plays a big part.  It is a 24/7 lifestyle with plenty of structure which to some, might appear to be confining.  But actually, it has kept me free of many forms of bondage.  By following its tenets, I have avoided many of life's pitfalls and poor choices with all their unintended consequences.  Work is also a great source of structure.  But in another sense, running, like any type of exercise, also promotes structure because of the discipline involved.  My schedule and mileage goals each week have given me a sense of control and security that I can remain strong and (somewhat) lean despite age.  Check.

Camaraderie:  Again back to religion.  Activity in my church throughout my life has been the source of many friendships.  Family, of course.  My husband most of all.  They have taught me how to care about others.  And running has enhanced my social circle.  When I started running, my camaraderie level took a leap upward.  There's nothing like sharing a common love for something that the rest of the world looks at with total dismay.  I have kindred spirits among my friends and most importantly, I feel valued by them in return.  THAT's camaraderie.  Check.

Take a moment and assess your life.  Are you happy?  If you are missing any of these three ingredients, you might consider raising your level of activity at a church.

Then I suggest you go outside and run.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Born to run?

One of my earliest memories takes place at what must have been a church picnic at a park somewhere in Portland.  I was about four.  There were organized activities for the little kids, including a short running race.  I remember my mother coaxing me to participate.  But I, being extremely shy, just clung to her leg.  Then once she gave up on me and the race began, I burst into tears. I was upset that I had missed out.  And of course it was her fault.

That was the only organized running event I can recall in my youth, although there must have been others.  However, nothing comes to mind because I avoided sports whenever possible.  I preferred climbing trees and building forts.  I obviously was a proficient cyclist (see above) and I could hold my own in foursquare and hopscotch.  I even played a decent game of ping pong, but never anything involving speed and endurance or throwing something farther than a few feet.   I still can't throw a ball  - well actually I can, but as Husband jests, I do it "like a girl".

Anyway, this is one of the many appealing things about running.  It takes no skill.  You just run as we were all born to do.  Well, actually there is SOME skill involved called form, and if you want to learn from a master, just watch a kid ..... which may be difficult to do when they're clamped onto their exasperated mother's leg, bawling.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Birthdays, PRs, etc.

Today is my 57th birthday.  There.  I admit it.  One thing I don't like about "pushing" sixty is that Heaven knows I get ENOUGH exercise without also having to push something.  So I proclaim that NO ONE HERE is even CLOSE to sixty until they are AT LEAST 59 and 11-1/2 months old.  Then we'll broach the discussion about pushing things.  Maybe ... well ... no ... probably not.

Speaking of exercise, today is also noteworthy because I just completed a new PR!  For the first time ....

(drum roll ....)

... Yours Truly has ...

(more drum rolls ...) 

... ran 100 miles in one month!


Yes indeedy!  And we're not talking 100 miles of running and walking breaks.  I still break to walk quite a bit, but when I do - the Garmin is PAUSED.  (That also brings to mind:  Happy birthday to my Garmin!  One year ago today, it replaced my stopwatch and we've been a team ever since.)
The sign denotes MILES, not age!

I didn't set out to run this mileage on November 1, but because I've been obsessively logging my miles as described here, several days ago, after a fun 6+ mile run with friends, I realized that I was within 15 miles of 100.

"You can do it!" cheered Husband and Favorite 3rd Son.  So I went out and did another two miles that day, and these last 72 hours have been a scramble to meet this new goal.  Who knows when I'll get this close again?

It should also go without saying that I don't plan to do another 100 next month, or any other month for that matter, so please don't hold me to anything.  No one is raising any bars here.  If it happens, it happens.

Another significance about today:  It was exactly one year ago when I signed up for my marathon.  What a birthday present THAT was!  --- For six months the "gift" never stopped giving!  My gift to myself THIS year is that I'm NOT signing up for a marathon.  Yay!!  Best present ever.

For now I will just feel proud of, and grateful for, these very tired legs of mine which, for 57 glorious years, have hauled me across a lot of miles ... with a LOT more hauling to go .... But remember, NO ONE is pushing anything!

(P.S.  After listening to my many moans and complaints of exhaustion, Husband supports the plan of not running 100 miles next month.  Deal!)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Just so you know .....

.... I sometimes do things other than running.  Like tonight, Husband, Favorite 2nd Son, and I went bowling! It's been at least 10 or 15 years since I've even lifted a bowling ball.  Afterwards I was pleased that I didn't come away smelling like cigarette smoke.  Not that anyone ever smoked near us when we used to go there.  It's just that too many years of housing smokers has caused the smell to permeate every bowling alley in which I've ever been.  But not anymore!  Nice.

My bowling skills are still as random as ever.  In one game I can get several strikes and spares earning a decent score, and the next game I barely break over 60.  But all in all, I'm not too bad at it and I think some of the credit for that comes from the principle of cutting fabric.  Let me briefly explain.

Another insight into my past - I used to sew a LOT.  When cutting fabric, I learned that if I look at the point where the scissors need to go, they will usually go there.  I don't need to watch the scissors or my hand as I'm cutting.  Just keep my eyes on the end point.  It works.  The cutting-fabric principle seems to apply in bowling.  Utilizing the arrows on the lane, decide which arrow you want your ball to roll across.  Then really focus on that arrow.  Keep your eyes on it.  Generally, if you keep your wrist straight, your ball will indeed roll across that very arrow.

Now since I only bowl once every 10 or 15 years, I haven't tested this method that much, but so far, it's proving out.  At least it did tonight because I WON our last game.  HA!  Oh yeah!!

Another valuable bowling lesson I remember from years ago:  Guys:  Unless she asks, NEVER give bowling advice to your date WHILE SHE IS TRYING TO BOWL.  Don't offer suggestions on how improve her skill.   Just sit there and smile.  Act happy if she knocks down a pin.  Ignore her gutter balls.  Tell her she looks really good and ask if she's lost weight.   Even if your wise and valuable advice would improve her game, it'll do no good because she won't want to go with you again ... or if she does, it won't be for a long time .... say 10 or 15 years.

And for THAT advice, you can thank me later.

Home-made Turkey Trot - where's my camera?

Our family opted to do our Thanksgiving a few days early this year.  Hence as the rest of the world gears up for the annual feast ..... I'm feeling a bit liberated because the only remnant of the big bird in my fridge is a pot of turkey stew, which will soon become turkey pot pie before it disappears entirely.   Last night Husband and I went to the local grocery store in search of ice cream, and mingled with the last minute shoppers and their bulging carts.  I wondered about the people digging through the frozen turkey bin.  Do they actually think it'll thaw over night??

Anyway, it's officially Thanksgiving and this morning I got to join in on a home-made turkey trot.   Why pay when you can run for free with your daughter and her friends?  (Well, actually I could give several good reasons for paying, but today I don't have to.)   We ran amid the pumpkin patches on Grand Island, my old marathon training grounds.  (Note to self:  Next time bring camera! - Fortunately Daughter, aka Photographer Extraordinaire, pulled out her camera for a quick shot before we dispersed for our homes/showers.)
Besides good company and picturesque scenery, some highlights of our 6-mile run were: 10 year old grandson Garret got to lead the way in his special stroller, bundled in multiple layers plus a blanket.   (See, I needed that camera.)

Plus, although we've had three days of almost non-stop rain and wind, the clouds parted long enough and revealed a few temporary patches of blue.  (Dang.  I had my phone and IT has a camera.)

This is a much better way to spend Thanksgiving morning, instead of mixing roll dough and chopping onions.  Better than parades on TV?  Much MUCH better!  Better than football?  Um ... YES.  And in honor of the actual reason for the season, I am reminded of one of my myriad of blessings - the ability to run.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Best Laid Schemes ....

I admit that in some things, I am a perfectionist.  Not in the neatness of both my bathroom counter and my sewing room ... and our garage ... but rather when I take on an endeavor that involves other people.  Added to my perfectionism, is an absolute abhorrence for asking for help.  When I MUST ask others to participate or to help with something, I am hell-bent to make it all flow as efficiently as possible.  My obsessiveness over details, is due to my respect reverence for other people's time and resources.  I will do everything humanly possible myself, only asking for help in those things I absolutely cannot manage alone.

For example, the last time we moved, almost eight years ago (.... wow, time flies!) Husband and I hauled every box and every item we could carry before we asked for help.  Then when our helpers (dear friends) arrived, the truck was ready and all that remained were the large furniture and appliances that couldn't be disassembled into smaller pieces.  Our helpers were here less than two hours, after which I fed them donuts and gratefully sent them home to their families.  Unless it is an emergency of tsunami proportions --- if I feel I need/want something, I will start it, do it, and finish it myself.  And I would never THINK of asking anyone to clean up after me.

That said, as you know, I have been in charge of several 10K runs, or have been in charge of portions of the events.  And I have encouraged (nagged) people to come and participate, along with those dreaded, but unavoidable pleas for help from my priceless friends and family.  When the event is free, my perfectionistic nature isn't quite so obsessive ....  after all, you get what you pay for ... right?  But when the runners arrive with their checkbook, along with their trust that the event will be worth their time and money, I am almost driven over The Edge, trying to make everything go FLAWLESSLY.

But in spite of "best laid schemes of mice and men", it often doesn't.

There are circumstances that dwell in that hideously evil place called Beyond My Control.  Or in that other equally evil place called the Land of Unforeseen.  Sometimes those evil places spew their contents onto my event, sending my world into a tailspin.

So what does one do?  Live and learn, I guess.  Chip away, little by little, at the uninvited from the Land of Unforeseen, and learn to roll with whatever arrives from Beyond My Control.

And appreciate anew, those trite little sayings we often share on face book like, "The only failure in life is the failure to try", which offers some comfort.  But not as much as, "No man (woman) is a failure who has friends".

So true.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Run for the babies

I think I can officially add a new item to my Should-I-Ever-Need-One resume:  10K Route Planner.

Remember this post?  I've found The Answer to 10K-planning stress gremlins and it is simply to NOT be in charge.  Just be on a committee!  YES, we are putting on another 10K (and 5K) ... (and kids' run) ... (!!) this Saturday morning featuring another custom-designed route by yours truly.

The PURPOSE is to raise much needed funds for a nonprofit birthing center in Haiti, called Mama Baby Haiti.  You can read more about it here.  The poorest of the poor in the Western Hemisphere can receive free medical care and education to help combat Haiti's higher mortality rate for newborns in this fledgling little clinic.  A worthy cause if ever there was one.

So the 6.2 and 3.1 mile routes are ready and our ever alert volunteer spotters are standing by.  (Spotters are those highly indispensable people who stand at an intersection and point the way.  Remember this post?  I, for one, owe MUCH to volunteers at organized runs.)  I've learned, in my impressively vast route-designing experience (note the modesty), to plan around sidewalks and wide road shoulders, painted crosswalks and stop signs.  The local police department assures me that we don't need special permission or training for crossing guards -- they just need to wear one of those chic, trend-setting vests and hold a colorful flag.  And deep down, who doesn't want to be a crossing guard?  Now really, think of the power ....

I've tweaked, measured, and have personally run and walked all parts of the route several times and Google Earth has verified the mileage.  This is my home running turf and I know the roads in this town well.  So come and join in the fun, rain or shine, and run (or walk) for the babies!


P.S.  For added good news, we're already talking about the NEXT Mama Baby Haiti Benefit 10K.  Possibly next spring - in more dependable weather.  So stay tuned .....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Inner Beast

Soooo, some of us in our Runners Anonymous facebook group, to whom you were all introduced in this post, have begun recording our miles online.  The purpose is to show support for Brandon, one of our members whom I've never met, who is currently stationed in Japan and is shipping off to Korea next spring.  Brandon wants to run 500 miles by then and a bunch of us jumped on board with the idea.  As of November 1, we've been tallying our individual miles.

Now .....  I never thought I was the competitive type.  But apparently I am.  We are ten days into it and I was in 3rd place (with total miles) for several days, but slipped into 4th place today.   First and second places are waaaaay beyond my reach because some of our awesome group members are MACHINES -- including Brandon.  But my goodness, this is motivating ... and it's even .... fun.

Remember my 20 miles per week quota?  Not good enough.  Last week I totaled over 22.  This week will probably top that.   There is no prize nor is there any logical reason to crank out more miles than was in The Plan.  Twenty miles per week is over ONE THOUSAND miles a year for Pete's sake!  But somewhere down in my soul, this competitive Cut-Throat Alter Ego which had been lying dormant for 50+ years, has now sprung to life.  I may not regain 3rd place, or even keep 4th, but By Dang, I'm going to make a good showing.

Let's see.  Tomorrow, if I can manage five more miles maybe I can edge back into 3rd place, and then another five miles on Saturday ..... no, make that 5.6, then I'd have an even 30 miles for the week!   And next week, if I run six miles every day but Sunday, and maybe more than six on Saturday .... say eight or ten .....

Gads!!  Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE the motivation and I adore my friends who motivate me -- it's just what I need!  But it was never meant to be a competition and therefore, before I drop dead from exhaustion, please tell me how one reigns in one's inner beast.  And don't bother suggesting I sedate it with banana milkshakes or chocolate .... or coconut ice cream.

Tried that.  Didn't work.

(By the way, you're welcome to think this is a picture of me.  Unfortunately it's not, but you're still welcome to think it.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Break out the campaign buttons!

In the World of the Ridiculous, let's say there exists a country of runners with sole voting power, and to add MORE of the ridiculous, let's say I was "running" (no pun intended) for president of said country.  What "dirt" would my opposition uncover as they attempted to smear my name in the campaign?

My first guess would be that they'd find nothing shady in my past.  No criminal record, no illicit affairs with other sports, no scandals whatsoever.  In fact my past is so boring that simply BEING boring might be my biggest hurdle.  But digging deeper, there is one skeleton in my closet.  A skeleton so unspeakable, that it might cost me the election ....

....... I used to hate running.  And I told people I hated running, hence ..... there are witnesses.  I tried running a few times over the years and outwardly rejected it.   Yes.  It's true.  I am a flip-flopper.   Therefore, my campaign strategy is to "out" myself right up front, and deal with the fallout.  Transparency through and through.  After all, it's seldom the crime alone that brings you down, it's often the coverup.

My inconsistent history may cast doubt onto whether or not I am a true runner.  Do I espouse the love of the Daily Run?  Am I sincerely out there braving the pavement regardless of rain, blisters, spandex, and looking dangerously close to being a frizzy, schlepping .... frump?  Or am I running with my finger in the wind ... feigning devotion for my Asics?

I say YES!  A person CAN change!  We, as human beings, can evolve, grow, and become BETTER.  In fact, if one fails to change, when presented with new information and experience that teaches one that there is a point of view that might be a step above one's previous opinion, then SHAME on .... one.  Thus I, as a fictional candidate for the office of President of the United States of Runners, have decided to wear my flip-flopping proudly.  I used to be .... (fill in the blank) ... but not anymore.  I have learned.  I have grown ... (NOT in the waistline!  No!  Yikes!!) ... but in spirit, endurance, and in my own delusion that I don't look THAT bad out there.

So VOTE for ME!  If I win, I promise health, prosperity, and free GUs for all!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Runners Anonymous

Hello.  My name is Brenda and I am addicted to running.  

I am also addicted to a motley assortment of fellow runners, most of whom I've never met.  We are a facebook group comprised of kindred spirits scattered across several states including our tenacious little chapter from the military base in Japan.   All deal with this common affliction of which we hope to never be cured.

It started about a year ago when I was invited in by ... um ... actually I don't remember who brought me into this then small group.  Fearless Leader Kevin was the founder, whose warmth and friendly support provided a strong foundation.  He is currently taking a break from fb and we look forward to his return.  The group grew and we high-fived as the 100th member was welcomed in.   Today it's over 230 and still growing.

In Runners Anonymous, I have found friends who understand.  They don't roll their eyes and look for an exit if I mention the R-word.  Instead, we latch onto each other as we slip blissfully into our gibberish of odd words such as: halfs, 10Ks, tapering, hitting the wall, cross-training, intervals, fuel belts, and GUs.  I think my other fb friends were all relieved when I disappeared into this outlet and they no longer are burdened with constant updates of my latest session out on the road.  (Perhaps I also need a Politics Anonymous fb group to spare my ever-patient friends of my occasional right-wing rants, but then I'd rarely show up on my main "wall" .....  maybe that'd be a good thing? ....)

We post about injuries, bad weather, and life's challenges that mess with The Run.  We share our triumphs, PRs, exhilarating finishes, as well as our jitters about The Next Run.   We talk running fashion, shoe brands, chafing, favorite iPod music, muscle cramps, the woes of early morning runs before the spouse leaves for work and the kids awake, in addition to what-do-you-eat-before-a-marathon??  We also plan group runs to meet a few more new faces in our merry band.  

Best of all is the encouragement.  Whether it's someone's first 5K or first marathon, the group sends support and cyber hugs, and then waits anxiously to hear how it went.  We're brimming with advice and empathy and for every victory, the cheers and congratulations gush in.

How does one qualify for exclusive membership in RA, you ask? 

The only requirement is that you either:  1.  Love running, or 2. Want to love running.   

What are the entrance fees?  1.  A generous sense of humor, and 2. A quick mind that can follow tangents of odd and unrelated topics into which we tend to wander and get lost.  (ie:  Easter peeps and helicopters .... don't ask .....)

So hail to RA!  Live long, run strong, and don't forget to charge your Garmin.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crispy, crunchy, GORGEOUS fall!

Autumn was MADE for running.  The hot days are gone and one can procrastinate one's run until late in the morning or even into the afternoon, if one has a flexible schedule, as I usually do.  The leaves are crunchy and colorful, assuming it hasn't rained rendering them soggy and slippery.  The neighborhood kidlets are neatly tucked away in school ... not that that has anything to do with running ... I just tossed it in as a happy benefit of fall.  On a dry October afternoon, maybe even with a blue sky, the Pacific Northwest can deliver up a day so gorgeous that you could swear you were living in a calendar page.  Add some cool crisp air and this song on your iPod, and you've got the makings of a great run.

To illustrate just what I mean, here's what greets me as I head out the door.

... I try to ignore atrocities like this:

When this all fades away into wet and mucky winter, I hope time then kicks up its pace and quickly we can all trot happily into spring.  But for a little while, I'm just going to soak in this color and fall in love yet again with Oregon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Enough already!

I just heard on the news that a 100 year old man just finished a marathon.  Fauja Singh, born in India, and currently a British citizen, finished the 26.2 miles in Toronto.  His time was 8 hours, 11 minutes, beating his previous time.  (He was shooting for 9 hours.)  He didn't start running marathons until he was 89.
Are you feeling amazed and ashamed of your own paltry attempts at greatness?  Does it make you rethink your reasons for vegging on the couch?

Then there's this:  Gladys Burrill, of Prospect, Oregon, recently finished a marathon in just under 10 hours.  She's 92, and she ran her first marathon at age 86.
Not finished yet.

Get a load of this:  Amber Miller from Chicago, finished her hometown marathon and then promptly went into labor and delivered a healthy baby girl.  Amber's pregnancy was 39 weeks along AND it was her second marathon within the past few months.   

Inspired?  Or annoyed?  For me ... a little of both.

I mean, who do these people think they are??  Why must they do things that mess with my psyche, making me think I've got NO EXCUSES!   My own meager little marathon is fading fast, evidenced by my nearly re-grown toenails.  I can't milk the glory from it forever, and THAT sad fact isn't setting well with me.  THE PLAN was to earn the title and wear it proudly for years.

Not, mind you, that I don't stand in utter and complete AWE of champions like Fauja, Gladys, and Amber.  I KNOW how long 26.2 miles is, and I cannot fathom traveling it by foot in an aged or advanced pre-natal condition.  You must be half crazy to do it even at the height of youth and physical toughness, much less attempt it with any sort of limitation.

So I stand here, in all my mediocre-ness, facing that bar which has been raised so high.  Not wanting to try another marathon ... heck, I'm only in my 50s ... there's no glory in it for another 30 or 40 years!  And a pregnant run is no longer an option, thank goodness.  I have to continue to remind myself that mediocre is JUST FINE.  My only competition is ME.  And ME is willing to call it a draw.                  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do MAPS come with this run??

Usually I am reasonably organized.  I hate being late for anything, and I seldom get lost.  But I have discovered in running events that, for some reason, my inner sense of where I'm at and where I need to go, occasionally shorts out.  Often there's someone to follow, but the problem with THAT is others have been known to follow ME, which is highly risky.

This was confirmed once again last Saturday in the Best Dam Run.  I mistook the finish line, placing it about 20 feet sooner than it was, and slackened my pace as I THOUGHT I had crossed it.  When you're trying to shave a few seconds off your time and have been sprinting the last couple of blocks, THAT is never a good thing to do.  Another runner mentioned that her GPS matched up perfectly with the mile markers.  ....... There were mile markers?  I never saw one.  I don't know what on earth I'm looking at, other than the ground in front of me ..... maybe that's my problem.  All I SEE is the ground, or the runner who just passed me, .... or the one I'M passing .... HA!  YES, it's happened a few times!  No lie!

On my first leg of the Hood to Coast this year, I dutifully followed what I THOUGHT were the instructions from a volunteer, whom I'm sure said, "Go straight till we tell you to turn!"  So go straight I did, which promptly sent me off course, adding an extra mile to the 6.38 I was supposed to run.  At the time it felt like something wasn't right because there was no indication of anyone or anything relay-ish ahead of me.  I looked back and saw other runners coming my way, so I figured I was okay.  Unfortunately for those other runners, they were foolishly following ME.  Hence we ALL added a mile to our leg.  If that wrong street hadn't eventually turned back towards the right street, we might be out there still.

Then there was the 10K last spring in Sherwood.  It was a 10K and 5K and we all started together with signs to direct us onto our different courses.  You can already guess what I did and as I crossed the finish line, I yelped, "Where do I go now??!"

"You're done!" chirped a cheerful official person.

"That wasn't a 10K!" ........ Oh C--P!  Somewhere around that point I realized what I had done and jumped back on the 5K course to run it again.  Fortunately a few of the 5K signs hadn't been removed and I found my way back to the finish line for a 2nd crossing.   Husband, who came late to snap pictures along the 10K route, wondered where the heck I was.  Why, out of a large group of runners, was I the ONLY one to mix up the routes??

Typically, my directional problem kicks in at finish lines.  Like the Dam run.  I've been known to run NEXT to finishes, rather than through them.  Or I stop short.  Or like at my marathon, I nearly missed the turn which would have sent me right past it.  Fortunately alert volunteers pointed and hollered, saving me from running off into oblivion.

So if you ever see me plodding down the road with a confused look on my face and a bib number pinned to my shirt, please point the way.  And try NOT to see the schlepping, frizzy hair, and over-sized shoes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New PR!

I'll just come right out and explain AGAIN that PR means Personal Record without shaming any of you for not knowing basic running lingo.  And yes, I have a NEW one!  

In my vast running history of just over three years, I have run eight 10Ks.   (10K = 6.2 miles ... again, no shaming; however, a BIG eye roll if you don't know what a 10K is by now!  ... get with it People!)  Plus I've done countless practice 10Ks with just me and my Garmin.  It has been my goal to break an hour, meaning to run it in less than that.  I got very close in the Newberg Camelia 10K last spring, with a few seconds over an hour.  Typically I hover around 62 to 63 minutes.  

Today I met my goal.  59 minutes and 18 seconds.  (It might have been a few seconds faster if I hadn't miss-placed the finish line thinking it was a street-width sooner than it actually was and had kept my pace up ..... one of those annoying regrets that might keep me awake tonight.)  Even MORE satisfying than THAT was my average pace --  9:33 minutes per mile.  For this grandmother of six, an average pace of 9:33 is dang good.  At least it is for me.  So indulge me in a little bragging please.  

If you are wondering which 10K I ran this morning, it was the Best Dam Run in Estacada, OR.   This run is definitely a keeper, partly because of its COOL name, and also because we were bused from City Hall, up to the starting line which was situated next to a gorgeous, scenic-in-typical-Oregon-fashion, river.  Did you notice I said UP?  Yes!  We then ran back DOWN to City Hall.  (When one is running, down is always a good direction for one to go.)  Added to the gorgeous scenery:  summery weather, that mostly-downhill run (there were a couple of uphills), some fun friends, ... and you have a winner of a morning.   Now, you may be thinking that my pace and time were due to the descent in elevation, but we need not go there.

Here's our merry group at the start.  We didn't bother herding the many other runners and walkers into the picture.  They would have crowded out the background anyway.

Favorite Daughter and I with our Happy-It's-Done grins.  She ALSO got a new killer PR!  (Less than 54 minutes.  She'll have to comment, because I can't remember her exact time.)

       T'was a good day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dedicated to my Big Bro

I've often said what got me started in running was my interest desperation to maintain my weight loss three years ago.  And that is mostly true.  But I had other sources of motivation and one came in the form of one of my siblings.

About six or seven months prior to my discovery of Weight Watchers, (or maybe it was longer ....) we went on a Caribbean cruise with a delightful group of friends and family, including my sister, brother, and their spouses.  As I've mentioned several times here, I was a confirmed walker who disdained running, and during this cruise I'd sometimes be on the upper deck, doing laps.  Once or twice I met my brother Larry up there while he ran.

Larry has been running for years.  He ran in the Hood to Coast several times long before it entered my world.  He has joined in various races and biking events through the years and would casually mention it now and then.  Since I hadn't yet started running and was painfully clueless, I never understood how completely AWESOME this was.  He has always been the model of discipline and moderation.  Some people would go all out and attempt marathons, Ironman events, or other examples of emotionally-driven craziness, often overdoing, then dropping off, stopping and starting, revving up and burning out, while Larry just continued on with his regular routine of healthy exercise and active lifestyle, year in and year out.  I can't begin to express how I have always admired all that he does.  And it goes without saying that ALL my siblings stand solidly on pedestals, IMO.

So back on that cruise ship, I ran a few laps with him.  I wasn't even wearing proper running shoes.  But it was fun and I remember being a little surprised at that.  Those few laps with my brother stuck in my head.  THAT seemingly little thing helped to fuel my interest enough to eventually start running.

Larry also, years prior, inspired my husband to start biking, which was life-changing.   See this post.

When I was about 20 lonely miles into my own emotionally-driven marathon last June, I thought about calling my brother, two states away, on my cell phone.   I wanted to hear him tell me that he was proud of me.  Second in value to my husband's opinion of me and what I was doing, my brother's opinion ranked very high.  I didn't make the call, partially because I probably would have started bawling at that point, but I knew he was proud of me and just knowing that was what I needed as I pushed through those last endless miles.

So my humble thanks goes to my big brother for his inspiration, example, support, and love.  I hope to always be worthy of ALL my terrific sibs, and to make them proud of me, as I am of each of them.

Friday, September 9, 2011

You know you're a runner if .....

.... this strikes you as totally normal.

Back to the basics

I'm not sure why, but it doesn't feel like I can run as well as I did a couple of years ago.  Back then I ran 13.1 miles (my own half marathon) with only one stop to visit a bathroom that a wise and helpful person placed in a park on my route.  No walking at all.  I can't do that today.  Is it that I'm just getting older, or something else?

As you know by my previous post, I walked regularly for many years with my friends.  When I started running, I wasn't willing to give up the walking so I tried to do both.  Many mornings I'd go out early and run 5 miles, then do our hour of walking.  I'd count each walking hour as one running mile and my quota was 24 running miles each week.   It was tough, but I kept it up for months.  When I got my bike, I realized I couldn't do all three so, after 20+ years, I abandoned my walking friends.   I put over 600 miles on my bike that year, which has slacked off since, even though I do still feel the awesomeness of that vehicle every time I climb on.  My quota settled at running 20 miles each week and it remained there for another year or so.   That amount of running adds up to over a 1000 miles each year.  THAT is an accomplishment of which I am proud.  It all went well until The Marathon took over.

Marathon training upset everything.  I adopted the philosophy of Jeff Galloway, published running and marathon trainer, with his walking breaks because that was the only way I could realistically see myself traveling 26.2 miles on foot.  I religiously followed his schedule which interestingly enough, had me running less than before, except on the weeks when a long run was mandated.  Galloway is very generous with his permission to stop and walk for a minute or two, whenever you feel like it.  So of course, I felt like it a LOT.  Plus he stressed the importance of frequent rest days for those of us who are not-young-anymore, and I was happy to oblige.

In an online running forum recently, I was indulging in some self-pity about my negative progress.  One person responded with the thought that I need to go back to what I was doing when I was stronger .......  Hmmm.  Okay.  Well.  That makes sense.

So now, three months post marathon, I've been weaning myself OFF those walking breaks.  It hasn't been easy.  Before Galloway, in my head, walking breaks were forbidden, cloaked with disdain and shame.  During Galloway, they were expected and encouraged.  After Galloway,  I'm pushing them back towards forbidden like a bad habit; but for the sake of reality, I try to keep them tucked somewhere between rare and occasionally.  And it needs to be said -- Galloway enabled me to finish that marathon.  For that, he deserves a lot of credit.

My weekly quota has been reset to running 20 miles (including hills and a weekly date at the local track doing intervals) plus my two weights classes.  Walking breaks still happen, but less frequently.  Rest days (AKA non-running days which can still find me at the weight room or on my bike) have been pushed back to two, maybe three, per week, depending on how many miles I can manage on the running days without collapsing.

With no marathon to stir up my life this year, it feels good to have a plan.  Back to the basics.   Maybe I'll get back to being able to run 13.1 miles non-stop, but since I would have to actually TRY it to find out, I may never know.  And that's okay ... for now.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bragging rights

It was about three years ago this month that I began running in earnest.  Having made a few disinterested attempts, including in my childhood, (I was primarily a tree-climber) it had, thus far, failed to impress.  I was a confirmed walker, which I think I originally inherited from my dad.  Along with hardcore walking friends Barb and Sue, we had it down.  
 I'm just now realizing how odd it is that I don't have a picture of us walking.  This shot was taken right after a bike ride.  Maybe that's because we walked for over 20 years together and took it entirely for granted.  Biking was rare, once with Barb actually, and apparently more deserving of the camera.  I also have a picture of us right after running a 10K (their first!), but to preserve the friendship, we'll leave it at this. 
Then, as described in this post, my life changed unexpectedly when I walked into my first Weight Watchers meeting, hoping to do what all those years of walking didn't.

The dominos began to fall and my weight loss motivated my first real attempts at running which led to a passion for the lifestyle and then to events that I never before saw myself joining.   Many thanks to good friends who helped me build a solid aerobic launching base. 

Three running years later and WELL into my grandmothering/menopausal years, I have accumulated this:
Who would have thought?   (Not ONE award for the walking.)

Note:  I have another 10K coming up in a couple of weeks, "The Best Dam Run", and I hear they're giving out medals!

Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz, MOVE OVER.