Category Archives: running diaries chapbook

The Art of Running in the Rain

Fun as a kid ~ fun as an adult
There was a time when I only was able to run on flat roads. I sought out routes that consisted of level surfaces avoiding even the slightest incline. Then I ran in the hills of Palm Springs and realized that scrambling over rocks and gaining elevation added to my running joy. I began to incorporate hills into my runs and grew stronger.

I used to allow the heat to discourage me from running. As the temperature increased, my interest in adding my own sweat to the pervasive humidity that is upstate New York in July, diminished and I easily abandoned my intentions to get some exercise. But then I discovered that a steady pace, and the relative coolness of the evening, allowed me an opportunity to stretch my legs despite the heat and my opportunities for running grew broader.  Running in cold weather and precipitation never held any appeal for me. I’d see those people out there and conclude that they must be crazy – plain and simple. And then the day came when I was committed to getting a run in and the weather did not cooperate. I considered my choices:
  • skip the run and feel crappy
  • drive back to Delmar for the third time of the day and jump on a dreadmill
  • suck it up and follow through on my original plan to run
We’ve known each other awhile now (2 years, but more on that in a future post).  Guess which option I went with?  As I parked my car on State Street on a rainy, dark early evening I was utterly convinced that I was in for a miserable time.  It was cold.  And wet.  Really wet.  I started walking down the block past the Capital and something happened.  Maybe it was the song in my ears or the holiday lights in my face, but I suddenly felt good.  Really good.  I was struck by a thought – what’s so damn bad about feeling the elements?  I had the advantage of adequate attire and the promise of a hot shower to follow.  I wore quality running shoes and was fairly familiar with my intended route.  I knew that once I was completely soaked I couldn’t get any wetter, so why not just yield to the experience?  
image: http://www.timesunion.com
It was amazing!  I ran up Washington Avenue in a mercifully quiet rush hour, due probably to the weather.  I observed the shrinking Occupation and silently thanked them for their efforts.  When I approached Washington Park, my body felt warm and the festive, and charmingly corny, light display invited me for a private tour.  On foot, of course.  It was perfect.  The course I took, which was a modified version of the upcoming Last Run, finishes with nearly a mile downhill.  By the time I hit Swan Street, I’m practically at a lope, and by Eagle it’s a full out canter.  Fully engaged and present – just about exactly where I want to be.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Exercise, musings, running diaries chapbook

Drug of choice

I can’t remember a more beautiful early November than we’re currently experiencing. It almost makes up for the muted foliage season and the need to crank on the furnace in October to offset the chill from our premature snow event. Something happened to me this month, just like I’ve always feared since high school health class when I learned that one could become addicted to heroin with just one use. I’ve found my heroin in cross country running.

Now, granted, once upon a time, I knew I was born to be a gymnast, however I started lessons way too late to ever be competitive, so I competed against myself. Maybe that’s when I became a non-team player. I remember one summer in particular, I practiced for hours with my friend, Brenda, in her cement basement cushioned with old mattresses, as she worked to perfect her side aerial and me my back handspring. I kind of lost my passion after an unrelated injury forced me to take some time off. There was an extended period of time when my feats were more social and academic than traditionally physical endeavors, which means I was too busy having a different type of fun to exercise with any real commitment. And then the babies came, which was an entirely different and engrossing physical experience, of course, leaving no room (or energy) for recreational physical pursuits. It was about mere survival some of those days.

I stepped back into the exercise world when the boys were in primary school, beginning with yoga. When I left my first class I remember declaring “I’ve found my sport!” I immediately loved it, the combination of physical stretching and mental quieting was just what I needed. Ultimately I learned that it really was all about the instructor and just couldn’t work a class I loved regularly into my schedule. And honestly, I need to exercise more than once or twice a week and would find myself easily bored with yoga. I needed something more demanding. Spinning class met the requirement for physically challenging, but again it was about the instructor and their music and I needed more flexibility in my schedule – plus I hated the competitiveness necessary to get a bike. And I got bored.

The only things that really held my attention, and that I could do on my own schedule, were cross country skiing and cycling.  While totally dependent upon the weather and season, these two activities provided everything I seemingly wanted in a drug exercise – I could go solo or with friends, there were both local and more distant places to pursue these interests, I could literally do either on a moment’s notice, modifying my route to accommodate time available and challenge desired.  And I could party exercise outdoors – something I found increasingly more appealing as I began to acquire the clothing and gear that allowed me to play outside and remain comfortably warm.   

But, now there’s something new in my world – an activity I never expected to like, much less fall in love with. Running cross country has changed my world. Perhaps my passion is a natural progression on the path of health and well being I’ve been increasingly drawn to you as I age. Which is ironic in a way because when I’m trotting along a wooded path in a park or golf course, I feel very much as if I’m revisiting my childhood.  The sensation of being outdoors, observing and absorbing the world around me while  pushing my body to keep going, is amazingly invigorating and stimulating. Like speed with a slightly different, less erratic heart race.  
I’m never going to run a marathon, unless running 26 miles is 6 times more fun than running 4.5 miles, and I’m perfectly okay with that.  The pure joy (now I get it, Lucinda!!) I get from running solo, or in the company of a friend, allows me the opportunity to continue my lifelong quest to enjoy moderation in all things.  Anybody want to come along and score some endorphins? 

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Filed under Exercise, favorites, friends, running diaries chapbook, stress

Running through the pain

image from: wholeironwoman.com
The good news is that the thing with my  right glute that had been bothering me seems to have resolved itself. I wish I could say it was because of the awesome stretches my chiropractor, Lee Masterson at Delmar Chiropractic had shown me, but, honestly, I haven’t been vigilant about doing them. I have tried to stretch a bit more, but ultimately think it just worked itself out.  The bad news is that I now have transferred my pain discomfort to the left side of my body – namely in my hip and knee. Each time I ran last week, I could feel things being not quite right. The pain wasn’t sharp, just kind of a dull ache, and I muscled through well enough to joke that since I hurt in so many places, it was impossible for me to focus on a single pain. Yeah!

I wondered if I should ease up (nope) or if maybe I should replace a run with a ride (check) and this week I was rewarded for sticking with my training. Training, you ask? More about that in a moment… My last 2 runs have been amazing, for me. I remember months ago hoping to run a 5k without having to stop or walk, and I’ve accomplished that. Twice. I’ve been working on extending my distance and honestly thought I’d be content with 3.5 or maybe, just maybe, 4 miles.  However, when I was talking to my middle son the other day and describing how I have been increasing my runs he immediately knew where (or how far) I was going – 5 miles.  That’s the goal.  And, remarkably enough, it truly feels within my grasp. 

In approximately 2 months I plan to participate in an event in my hometown (what’s up, Greenwood Lake?!) called the American Memorial Triathlon. The three components of the triathlon are a .5 mile swim, followed by a 16 mile bike ride, finished with a 4 mile ride. Unlike the last triathlon I did, this one has some (ok, one) familiar aspect and that’s the bike ride. I’ve ridden around the lake before and am not concerned about this middle activity whatsoever. Thanks to stubbornness athletic prowess, I am growing more confident in my ability to run 4 miles. Actually, the other night I ran 4.6 and still had some gas left in the tank. I’ve got this. So, what to obsess over other than the right attire for a triathlon? The swim, naturally. That is where I need to shift my attention and I’ve gotten my toes wet, so to speak in the past week or so, in a pool and a couple of lakes.  My upcoming annual beach vacation should be the perfect opportunity to work on all three areas, and I’m hoping to balance my physical activity with the ideal number of margaritas and fried scallops. It is, after all, vacation.

Another thing happens in approximately two months: I turn 45. I can only imagine the sense of strength and accomplishment I will feel knowing that I completed a triathlon held in the village where I spent so many of my younger years.  Greenwood Lake will always hold a special place in my heart and returning there to compete (against myself) is incredibly exciting to me.  Factor in the date of the event, September 11th, and the magnitude of how fortunate I am to even participate is completely inspiring.  
Please share any tips or suggestions or experiences.  Or, better yet, meet me at the finish line.

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running diaries chapbook – part iv

happy runner girl
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been running injured. It’s nothing serious just a tightness in my right hip and an awareness of my left knee. It is prompting me to try to stretch more conscientiously, which is good. It is also putting me in a position where I am continually asserting the will of my mind over my body – maybe not the best thing, but I try to do it with respect. Legs, lungs, eyes and mind, propel me beyond the discomfort as my body and mind gradually reach an understanding and work in unison to take me where I want to go.

It is hard to back off from running because it is incredibly satisfying to know that I am running distances that are ever increasing, if only by minuscule amounts. Running and biking both give me an opportunity to practice conscious breathing – something I find the need to do occasionally.  I can’t be the only person in the universe who finds themselves somewhere (for me, it is usually driving in my car) and realizes that they can’t remember the last breath they took, can I?  Exercise forces me to think about inhaling and exhaling and I believe that is a positive thing.  And to expand on the thinking process, running helps me to release my thoughts and generally lighten my head. I always feel better mentally after a run – things clarify and the extraneous weight gets discarded. Another good thing.
The outdoor season is brief, and I love the familiar sights along my route, so I respectfully push through and reward my body with tasty food and lots of water.  I often pass the same people on my run, which makes me feel like part of the community in a really nice way. I have names for the people I see regularly. There’s Crazy Dog Lady, which I say in a completely nonjudgmental tone and never out loud. I was first exposed to her a number of years ago during school board meetings when the discussion was focused on the construction of the current neighborhood middle school, Myers. She was strongly opposed to the school being built and I’ve often considered engaging her in a conversation to learn how she feels about the building 6 or 7 years post-construction.

Mr. Neat and Tidy is another regular along my route and he seems pleasant, although he is a bit intense about his yard and his appearance in general.  Very pressed looking, if you know what I mean.  He’s a walker and I’ve noticed he seems to know a lot of people.  And then there’s Ms. Never Has a Passenger in Her Car.  I’ve never really even seen her other than from a distance but she got her name by the way she parks her car – with the passenger side door so very close to the house she lives in that another person could never open the door to get in or out.   I guess I’ll have to keep running until I can make up figure out more of her story.  Because while running may seem to be primarily a physical activity, the truth is, for me, it is much more a mental exercise.  And really, who doesn’t benefit from more of that?

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a weighty subject

In the last week, a minimum of 8 people made comments to me about my weight.  No one was overly critical, but there was a note of concern in more than one voice.  I can only imagine that if 8 people said something to my face, another 5 or 10 had said something behind my “tiny” back, right?  So, let’s talk about it.

Yes, I have lost weight and, no, I’m not sick, thankfully.

The usual ways – more exercise, closer attention to what I eat, coffee and emotional energy. Not always in that order.

I feel great!  I am totally clued in to my body and its health.  I went to the chiropractor for the first time in a year and diagnosed the problem prior to walking in to the office – told him I felt my right hip rolling in and my glute stretching, and my foot on the same side, turning in as I ran.  He completely confirmed my assessment and gave me some exercises to help. get me back in alignment.  It was incredibly empowering, to me, to be that tuned in to what was going on with my strong body. Cool.
Speaking of cool, I figured out that abs come from breathing correctly!  I realized that I no longer felt rawness in my lungs because my breath was coming from another, deeper place – my abdomen!  That’s how  it works.  Sorry, if I’m a little slow and, by the way, I don’t run fast either, but I can run 4 miles and love almost every step of it.

My heart has had quite a workout in recent months, but it is stronger than ever.  The heart is a muscle, isn’t it?  That’s a factor as well, don’t you think?

kind of proud of my ugly toenails…

I was looking for a random older photo on my computer – my iphoto goes back to 2007, just to compare my appearance from then to now.  I was struck by how many photo albums, or events, I had to scroll through before I found a picture of myself.  Wow – I was invisible!  I thought that maybe I had a bit of a  dysmorphic disorder going on, but after reading the definition, I say nope.  I definitely do not feel overly critical of my physical self – ugly toenails or not.  I just don’t see the same changes to my appearance that some of you seem to see.  The pictures below help, but I think I look healthy and lean, not thin.
April 2011
June 2007

So often, weight is an indicator of happiness;  up, down, holding steady or coasting.  It isn’t about that at all, for me.  It’s about gaining control of my body by listening to it. So, when you tell me I’m too thin, I’ll smile and listen to you, but  there’s no reason to get heavy on me.  My body is speaking even louder.

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running diaries chapbook – part III

I was running the other evening and started thinking about a conversation I had shared earlier with someone to whom I am very close, a person who wants to take care of me in a way I have never known.  I took note of my grey exercise skort and my different shade of grey jersey, and realized I was ridiculously poorly dressed for the dusky conditions, and not being as cautious as I had promised to be.  Damn.  I need to pay better attention.
image from: lh5.googleusercontent.com
Our discussion had been, as it often was, about writing and people and people who wrote, and who reads what people write.  We talked about sickness, and the consistent thread of exercise and healthy eating often tying together those who had been physically challenged, yet had recovered. “Survivors” is a dramatic word, ruined by reality television, but it perfectly describes people who, following serious illness, had begun to experience their bodies, and more than likely their minds and hearts, in new ways.  “Survivor.”  Serve I.  I get it – I need to pay better attention.  I was asked if there had been a moment of clarity for me to become more physically fit?  Was it a conscious decision? A resolution?  

No, it wasn’t, it was gradual, almost imperceptible. Kind of like that cancerous piece of shit which had taken hold of my thyroid, and later, my parotid gland. Stealth. I experienced a shift in what I was interested in eating, an expansion of my appetite for exercise.  I was more selective about what I ate to maximize my enjoyment – I have no interest in food that doesn’t nurture me, regardless of how “good” it tastes. Fruits, veggies and grains became more appealing and I felt great.  I became more patient about preparing my meals and investing the time necessary to obtain quality food. I was worth the effort.  I became more dedicated to a regular exercise schedule.  Working out became a nonnegotiable priority.

Exercise and healthy eating require one to pay attention to their body and to be seriously committed to getting stronger.  It takes time.  I will always wonder if I got cancer because it was a message to pay closer attention to my own body. A body which has been challenged with an illness such as cancer, I think, can teach a person to take ownership of their body with healthy habits. For me, getting fit was a direct, albeit initially subconscious, response to feeling as if I was not in control of my body.

I’m in a very new place in my life these days.  New, however, doesn’t feel the slightest bit scary, which is very unusual for me.  I’m paying attention to every moment, patiently waiting for what comes next while loving this exact moment in time.  

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running diaries chapbook – part II

image from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/
The runs I resist the most, are always the most satisfying.  The unexpected charm of an arid mountain, climbing to the cloudless sky in 85 degrees.  Running along the port on the north side of Amsterdam’s Central Station, listening to Bono count to One…a drizzly jog down the west shore of Greenwood Lake, nursing a heartbreak… These are experiences that have stayed with me in some instances, for decades.  The sensations from those runs have been tattooed on my body with invisible ink, leaving permanent marks that only I can see.

A recent run nearly didn’t happen.  I came this close to bailing.  But, I changed into my running clothes, plugged into my little eye pod* and began to jog just outside my door and it felt good in the dim light of an early June night.  Here are the songs which shuffled between my ears:

Pump it/Black Eyed Peas (samples Dick Dale’s “Misirlou”)

Ray of Light/Madonna “And I feel like I just got home”

Crash/DMB

Own it/Black Eyed Peas “If you’ve been dreaming all your life this is your chance”

Dog Days are Over/Florence and the Machine “Happiness hit her like a train on the track”

The Time (Dirty Bit)/Black Eyed Peas

Redemption Song/Marley

Changed the Locks/Lucinda Williams

Each song seemed to speak directly to me about the future, and promise and hope and love. More than once, I laughed out loud at a particular lyric and there was a complete permagrin on my face as I adapted my pace to match the beat in my ears, the rhythm in my heart remaining strong and steady.

I can’t even describe what a fantastic, magical run it was!  As I passed the tennis courts at Albany Academy I glimpsed the moon, an orangy crescent to my left, and I knew it was going to be a memorable run.  One of those I would remember forever.  There were times when I felt as if my legs wanted to race even faster than my heart or head, and I literally felt them pull me along.  Amazing.  
Go find something which amazes you.  I promise it will be worth the effort.

**thus named because so often the music helps me to see

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