Monday, December 31, 2012

SHM Cumulative Half Day 2: Reflection on 2012

I had this Neil Gaiman quote up at the office January of this year. I have had everything it says.

Read some fine books.
I read 48 books out of my 60 book goal. Many comic books, many biographies, some theology. Favorites include Mistress of the Art of Death, Silence of Our Friends, Let's Pretend This Didn't Happen, and the Ooku series. The Slow Fat Triathlete books were the most inspiring.

Kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful.
That happened. A lot. Who knew getting in shape could renew a marriage in such an amazing way?

Don't forget to make some art.
I did my usual dabbling around. Played with yarn. Made a go at an Etsy shop. Filmed a single episode of a video podcast. Did some voice work for an animated short that Mister submitted to a film festival.

Can you call this whole project of becoming a runner while wearing a Wonder Woman costume a form of performance art? Maybe so. It feels good to be writing regularly again.

I hope you surprise yourself.
I don't think anyone is more surprised than I am in this.

Here's to Magic and Dreams and Good Madness in 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sandy Hook Memorial Cumulative Half (Virtual): Day 1

What does a parent of a Kindergartner--or a human being, for that matter--say about what happened on 14 December 2012 in Newtown, CT? How does one begin to comprehend? How does one respond?

I've begun half a dozen posts regarding this event and erased them all out of frustration of not being able to say what I really mean. I hug my child and watch her for signs of distress. I continue to participate in our community and vote my conscience. But like others, somehow I want to help and extend my sympathy, even though I know it doesn't change a lot for those families.

I respond with the things I love in an attempt to give myself.

This week, I will be participating in the Sandy Hook Memorial Virtual Half Marathon; I will be running it cumulatively, which means I will try to complete 13.1 miles of running total in one week. The entry fee goes 100% to the United Way of Newton--that way funds will be directed to where they are needed the most. I do not pretend that the running itself is helping families, communities, and/or first responders; that part is only to make me feel better--like I'm "earning" it. I could say that I'm praying while I'm running (and I am), but I do have some perspective here.

I will also be participating in 600 Monsters Strong by knitting and donating a stuffed monster to comfort a child. The organizers are well aware of the influx of stuffed animals to the Newtown community, so they are also working with nonprofit organizations that work with children who have been victims of gun violence. One way or another, the creature I create will be put into the arms of a child who needs it. I will post pictures of my progress along with my distance report.

My goal is that the final run will be to the post office to send the monster on its way..

Thursday, December 27, 2012

201.2 in 2012

I have walked 201.2 miles since January 2012. I knew I was going to pass the 200 mile mark this morning, but I didn't know the number would be so wonderfully clever.

I know walking isn't as sexy as running, but I also know that I only really have a small window for my running activity. Walking will always be there--cheap, easy, readily available. Walking will always be my fall-back position, and I know I can do it for years to come.

In walking this year, I've learned:

  • It's not the intensity; it's the consistency.
  • I've come to really depend on some kind of activity to manage my emotional levels.
  • Nice people live in my neighborhood.
  • My neighborhood has a variety of birds and wildlife that I wouldn't expect in an urban area.
  • Despite a lot of light pollution, I can still watch the movement of the stars throughout the year.
  • There's also an annual rhythm to man-made lights, from home decorations to floodlights at the high school stadium.
  • I love the company of my dogs. I haven't had the courage to walk both of them by myself yet, so each walk is one-on-one time. Each dog opens my senses to a new way of seeing.
  • I've also learned to like my own company and being aware of my own body rhythms.
  • Weight loss is a byproduct, not a motivator.
Again, everyone who has been encouraging me this past year at all levels of my activity--THANK YOU!

And if you've been inspired but feel overwhelmed, go take a walk today to feel good today. Then go again tomorrow. Then the day after. Just go.

I'll see you for the next 200 miles ... or more.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Race Report: Santa Hustle 5K

Beard and hat
part of the packet
Charity: Toys for Tots
Finish Time: 0:42:02 

I was a little nervous about this race because I anticipated many possible hiccups that thankfully never happened--between Groupon redemption, hotel reservations, meeting up with friends, and dog-sitting, everything went pretty smooth sailing. The other worry was, of course, me still getting over the sick. I woke up feeling pretty good--and then started coughing.

The show must go on.

I made some modifications to the Wonder Woman costume to be appropriately Christmas-like by adding sleeves, long pants, and put the tiara on the Santa hat. I was very pleased with the results, as I fit in with the spirit of the event while still being true to my personal theme. It generated more than a few encouraging cheers and photographs, which pleases my ridiculously exhibitionist soul.

Sea of Santas
As for the race itself, it was kind of ... inspiring. I'll wait until official chip time, but I think I actually made a PR! Update: The chip time was not a PR, but it was the best of the month. (It did take us a couple minutes to actually cross the start line once we got started.) It was an out-and-back route, which spooked me a little at first. But, for some reason, the mile markers didn't seem quite so far apart. Coming back, there seemed to be quite a sizable crowd behind us, which let me know we were pretty mid-pack. I wished the water stations had been a little more spread out (I was pretty dehydrated at the beginning with all my mucus and stuff; I know I should start carrying water, but I'm embarrassed to do that for less than a 10K). Toward the end, traffic was getting a little unruly too. But strong finish, all told!

But here are some people who were the real inspirations of this race:

1. My Mister

Just like my birthday race, Mister coached me through (and all while having some of the crud himself). When I felt like I couldn't run any more, he set a timer for us to walk for only two minutes. Then he would set landmarks as goals. This went back and forth throughout the run, and I loved his company.

We both agree, however, that he's going to have to be more of a hard ass with me next time.

2. My friend, Antoinette

She, too, had been pretty sick this past week. Yet, she did the half-marathon (her first) in a little over three hours! (WOOT! WOOT!) She's the kind of runner I want to grow up to be. (Plus, she's encouraging and way fun.)

I'm also HUUUUUGELY grateful to her husband and boys for letting our Miss hang out with them while her daddy and I ran together. The original plan was to plop her in the jogging stroller (she still fits), but I think she had much more fun this way. (I'm not sure the same can be said of Tristan; thanks a million, man!)

3. This guy

Seriously, after seeing him, what excuse can I possibly have not to keep going and try harder.

I'll see you with my shoes on tomorrow.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Today's Walk OR It Really Isn't the End of the World

Since I finished Christmas cards last night, I thought a good way to get back in the saddle again was a walk to the post office this morning to send them off. I took Luna with me; she's been needing more training sessions herself, as boredom and anxiety (and youthfulness) has urged her to get into things.

Tomorrow I'm going to diiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee ....

I did try some running. I was surprise that: 1) I could get into the mode pretty easily; and 2) Luna fell into step with me like a dream. But then the coughing fits would start again.

So, yeah, there's going to be a lot of walking tomorrow. But at least it's a little get-away with the family--hook up with some friends, sea food, (cold) beach, Christmas-type festivities. For now, I'm going to have to let the hope of a PR this month go.

Sad puppy face.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grounded OR Excessive Coughing Counts as Ab Work, Right?

I apologize for my silence--not that anyone's really complaining. It's been a combination of Reserves weekend + child sick + me sick that's cut into my training. I thought I would be better enough to get at least a walk in this morning, but last night was horrible--congestion and shakes. When I took an ibuprofen this morning, my body was covered in sweat within five minutes from fever breaking. It seems that Mister is starting to get a bit of it too. We could roll with it were we not doing the Santa Hustle in Galveston this weekend.

December has been a bad month for races.

On the up-side, Miss had her karate award ceremony last night. It was cool watching her practice her stances and blocks, as well as demonstrate Stranger Danger defense moves.

Meditate on this!
What really impressed me was ansa, or when all the kids sat cross-legged, eyes closed, hands still while the Sifu provides distractions with loud noises and close passes. Of course, my girl was not the stillest of creatures in comparison to the rest of the class. But I appreciate that her Sifu pointed out that everyone comes to the ansa at their own pace, and she had made great strides from the beginning. Of all the reasons that I wanted her to do karate, I wanted her to develop the practice of stillness, as I think it will help with her perfectionism. Now that I have the vocabulary, I'm going to try to do this stance with her frequently; like a fire drill, we've got to practice when we're calm so we know what to do when in danger of falling apart.

Nevertheless, the girl leveled up to yellow belt. Really proud of her.

Now if we all could only get well...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Today's Run OR Dog Fight

My actual dogs, Bella and Luna.
They are both good dogs. Mostly.
There's a teaching that says everybody has a Black Dog and a White Dog that live inside them. The dogs are always fighting. The one that wins is the one you feed the most.

Today was a royal dog fight.

Black Dog: It's cold--36 degrees! I'm wrapping up a head cold that still gives me coughing fits. I'm retaining water. My weight is creeping up. I'm just feeling generally surly around the edges.

White Dog: In other words, all the more reasons to go. I don't have to run perfectly, I just have to move. If my breath only lets me walk, then I walk. Plus, I have a new Bondiband that needs wearing.

Black Dog: I'm not finishing these intervals. I'm still not finishing these intervals. This whole project is a lie. I should quit.

White Dog: I can't quit. I've already talked long and loud about it. I've already paid for a race in March. I have people joining me. This is just temporary.

Black Dog: My boobs hurt. I feel too fat to move.

White Dog: Temporary. Don't make any decisions today. Besides, I gotta get home somehow.

Black Dog: It hurts to breathe in cold weather.

White Dog: I learned how to run in 90 degrees and 90% humidity. It's just a matter of practice.

Black Dog: I'm slow. I'm never going to get past 5K races.

White Dog: Did I hear my app right? My average pace is under 13 minutes? I finished 3.12 miles in 40 minutes? Let's run!

Black Dog: But ...

White Dog: Shut up! Run!

Black Dog: Breath ... Trying to catch breath ...

White Dog: I need to cool down anyway. Stretch. Breakfast and coffee.

Black Dog: Make it black.

White Dog: Sure thing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Race Report: Rudolph Fun Run

Charity: Houston Food Bank
Finish Time: 0:45:12

In a lot of ways, this is a race that almost didn't ... or maybe shouldn't have ... happened.

The zen from last night melted away with many anxiety dreams of not being able to find my costume, not finding the starting line, missing the starting time, etc. I awoke with a very productive cough--if there's a part of the body that's like a TARDIS (aka bigger on the inside), it's got to be the sinuses based on all that came out of me.

There's an Easter Egg here
for comic book fans!
We got there in plenty of time--or we would have if they hadn't decided to start 20 minutes earlier than the posted time. The start was squishy until everyone managed to space themselves out. In terms of running my level, this race was good for that--many people pushing themselves who looked like me, many families. I didn't feel intimidated. I found a woman in a blue shirt that I used to set my pace, since her runs and walks seemed to match mine. All that being said, I ended up walking more than running. And my phone fell out of my pocket in the first half mile (I got it immediately), which threw me a bit; I may have to Spi belt it in the future.

The course itself was very pretty, all neighborhoods. Only one water station that needed trash bins nearby. Cute signs showing the mile marks; I tried to be encouraged, but all I could think was, THAT WAS WAY LONGER THAN A MILE!

Lots of great Christmas costumes, and great responses to my WW costume. At one point, one the HPD officers asked me what my costume had to do with Christmas. "How do you think it all gets done?" I quipped back.

At least there were medals.
Pushed it a little at the end to make a decent finish shot. Mister and Miss were hanging out after having done her 1K. I admit to being disappointed but not surprised by my time (after I got past feeling like I had to throw up a little). It was okay. Just not as good as I had hoped.

Then we got the call from our emergency contact that our alarm had gone off and the fire department was on its way to our house. And just when I thought I couldn't run any more. False alarm--all okay.

Now to spend the rest of the weekend recovering and doing Christmas-type things. Next race: Santa Hustle in Galveston on the 23rd.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

(Virtual) Race Report: YOUR Birthday Run

My Official Race Shirt
Charity: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Finish Time: 0:42:11

I decided a long time ago that, while I may dye my hair, I won't lie about my age. Every year is hard-earned; the good and bad experiences should be embraced. So, today is my 42nd birthday--the funniest of all the numbers, according to Douglas Adams.

Not this girl.
My work schedule worked out so that I could have my actual birthday off. After dropping Miss off at school, Mister and I drove to Memorial Park for my official run. I took a risk asking him to run with me, as I know he is in better shape than I am. I made the conscious decision not to feel guilty about holding him back, since he was there for me!

Mister turned out to be a pretty good coach, in that I hated and loved him at the same time. He would set limits to our walking time. He would set goals. He checked my form.* He coached my breathing (which seems to be what needs the most work right now). I growled and groaned at him, and he still prodded and pushed.** Ultimately I was very grateful for his companionship, faith in me, and drive to help me be a stronger person. It's one of the reasons why I'm glad I married him, among other things.*** I'd really like to run with him again if he's game.

Birthday Bondiband & bling!
All in all, decent time--a few seconds better than Thanksgiving. Got to keep his coaching in my head on Saturday when I'm doing my race on my own. I will say that it had been a long time since I have used that track; we used to walk it, and it took nearly an hour. Today it seemed a little shorter.

Happy Birthday to me! May the coming year continue to be filled with infinite improbilities!

* Totally not a euphemism in this case.
** Still not a euphemism.
*** There's your euphemism.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Today's Run OR Rainy Train

I groaned when I heard the rain when I first woke up. It was too late to get to the Y to use the treadmill. But with two races this week, I knew I had to get a run in. I reminded myself that Saturday's race was a rain-or-shine affair, and that rain was an actual possibility. Why not practice running in the rain?

The results weren't great--I felt sluggish, plus the slickness of the roads made me wary. I also cut part of the route a little short to avoid mud. Be that as it may, it got done. I regret not running more than running under bad conditions these days.

I did learn a hazard of the Season, however. I normally run without my glasses. I went to turn down one street, but I saw red and green reflections on the street. I didn't remember a streetlight that way; I must be turning too early. So I went down the next street. Once I got my bearings, I realized that the "streetlight" was Christmas lights on a house. D'oh!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Today's Run OR Thanks for the Reminder, Grim Reaper!

Get this here.
Even though there's a time crunch to run on my working Saturday, I feel so much better if I get out and run first. Makes me feel productive. Or maybe it feels more like a regular work day than having to go in on a Saturday, the only difference being the shows on NPR at the time.

Speaking of, I was listening to "Only a Game," when they were discussing this study about older runners. A lovely thing to hear on the cusp of my 42nd birthday, let me tell you. Blend that with the knowledge that my dad, a runner from his 20s, had had a heart attack despite being in fantastic shape.

After I got over my initial panic and despair, I reminded myself that these are runners who go too fast (ha ha!), too long (ha ha!), and have been running for many years (ha ha ha!). I also reminded myself that, despite being obese for decades now, my resting heart rate and blood pressure are amazingly low (which has annoyed more than a few doctors).

But is this the end of my long-term marathon dreams?


Here's the plan, as I see it:

  • I will set myself the tentative goal to run at least one marathon before I am 50. And if that's the only marathon I ever run, I'm cool with that. If I get to 50 and have only done a half marathon, that's okay too. At this point, a 10K would make me happy.
  • Not right now, but in a couple years it might be time to change up sports anyhow. The focus of the study seemed to be on running. What about cycling? That will require a little more investment, but at least I have good sources and the jerseys are cute. Or maybe martial arts? Now that I have tried running with some success, my mind blooms with possibilities.
  • As with anything, I have to listen to my body and talk with my doctor. I am an individual, not a study group. In a lot of ways, this is like when we decided to finally get going with our family; according to studies, I was past my prime, there were physical circumstances that made it more difficult, and we should have given up. But after some effort, we have a child and a pretty awesome one at that. If I only have one kid and only run one marathon in my life, I am far from failure. I'm far from failure now.
But getting back to actual reality, I have two races this coming week--a virtual one on the 5th and a in-person on the 8th. Both are 5Ks, of course, so no danger there (she said in her sarcastic tone). Right now I'm concentrating on making decent time (maybe under 43 minutes each?) and figuring out what to wear in this continually fluctuating climate.