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.