Sunday Confessional: I should’ve paid attention

I ran cross country in high school. In addition to the regular conference meets, our coach entered us in quite a few invitationals around the state. We ran on many different courses. Before every race, our coach had us jog the two-mile course. One of my teammates always paid very close attention to the flags and turns, noting each. It was vital she knew where she was going because she was a front-runner and frequently won the races. From my perspective, the pre-race course jog was a warm-up and nothing more. There were always plenty of runners ahead of me in races and I’d just follow them.

Yesterday I decided to run the race route of a local 5k organized by the high school cross country coach. I’ve run the race several times and thought it would be a nice change to do a workout outside my immediate neighborhood. I assumed I’d remember the course route.

Turns out it would’ve been a good idea to go online and refresh my memory before taking off. Without runners ahead of me to lead the way, I got lost out there in the hot afternoon sun and with all the backtracking, ended up running considerably more than 3.1 miles.

Old habits die hard.

Sunday post-run portrait

Not sure when the lady beetle hopped on board, but I was happy to have its company on this gorgeous spring afternoon. It’s been a very difficult week and I welcome any overture of friendship.

It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events.
Joy comes in sips, not gulps.

~ Sharon Draper

Twofer Tuesday: Cacti edition

Yesterday I went for a run on the trails. While stopping to stretch at the top of what Zippy and I refer to as “the slog,” I spotted a splash of bright pink off to the side of the trail. At first I thought it was a candy wrapper and as I moved closer, decided it was a painted rock. It was neither. Sitting there all by itself was a perfectly round, perfectly lovely little cactus. **

Later, as I continued running, I noticed something sticking out of my shoe. I figured it was grass that’d gotten stuck in some mud in my tread, and promptly forgot about it. However, when I was home and taking off my shoes, I nearly impaled myself. Not on a wad of grass, but on the spiny cactus that had hitched a ride on my shoe.

Now I remember why it’s much more fun to run on the trails than the streets.

(** I didn’t have a camera with me, but when Zippy went out to do an errand, he drove to the nearest trailhead and photographed the beauteous cactus for me.)

Thankful Thursday: the Dr. John Sarno edition

I just got home from a run in which my right hip got SO tight, I was forced to stop running. The pain was close to excruciating. It was definitely in the oh-my-effing-goddess category, and if I hadn’t known about the mind-body connection, I might’ve panicked and thought I’d suffered some horrible injury.

But I knew better.

So I stood there in the street and talked out loud to my brain. I said, “Brain, I get it. You know that I’m under a great deal of stress lately. You know I was just now thinking about how slow I’m running, how tired I’m feeling, how hard life seems to be these days. I was feeling sad-angry-depressed. And then BOOM,  my hip locked up. But guess what? This bogus pain, that is NOT rooted in any kind of physical reality, will only get in the way of me being active and coping with those emotions. Running is what I need to do to live my life. Your job is to make sure I don’t trip on anything. Your job is to process info from my eyes so that I can enjoy the signs of spring and process the bird songs I hear, so I can identify those feathered friends. Your job is to work with my body that absolutely requires movement in order to handle stress. I must be active. Let’s work as a team.”

And then I started running again. I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel great. My hip was still tight, still painful, still annoying as hell. But as I ran, I talked some more. I pointed out to my brain that I was running, that the bogus pain hadn’t achieved the desired effect of making me focus on the pain so that I’d “forget” about the hard stuff in my life. Instead, I was going to continue running so that I could cope with the many challenges that wouldn’t just magically disappear because my hip was locked in muscle-spasm-hell. By the time I finished my run, my hip had loosened. It’s sore after spasming, but there’s no lasting damage.

My brain is being very tricky lately. Last week, I suffered tightness and pain in my neck unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (Zippy could hear the vertebrae click when I tilted my head forward). I have to admit, I got caught up in that one and didn’t immediately recognize it as mind-body stuff for a couple days. But as soon as I started talking to my brain, it loosened up. It’s still not 100% better, but I am being active and living my life. I have not given in to a bogus “injury” that isn’t rooted in any kind of reality.

If anyone’s still reading and is interested, there are forums in which people discuss all sorts of physical conditions that they’ve been able to treat as mind-body conditions. Our brains are very crafty and will go to great lengths to manufacture pain to distract us from life’s stresses, difficulties, and anger-inducing situations. Sometimes we gotta be smarter than our brains.

Today, I ran back to myself

Yesterday was cold, gray, and icy here in the Rocky Mountain foothills. Today was sunny and warm enough to run in shorts. The last few days have been emotionally draining for a variety of reasons, and I felt that fatigue and heaviness as I ran.

However, each step felt like a gift, my cadence matching my internal chant:
I am strong and getting stronger. I am strong and getting stronger. I AM STRONG AND GETTING STRONGER.

Sing it, believe it. Live it.

Bunny Monday

I just got back from a 4-mile run around the neighborhood. Emma started with me and then bailed at about 3/4 of a mile, possibly due to it being only 27 degrees. But it all worked out because as I dropped her off at home, I had the sense to put on my mask. Suddenly, it felt quite pleasant out there.

And when a bunny ran in front of me, I grinned and remembered that it’s Bunny Monday!

I’m sorry I don’t have a bunny photo to share, but here I am at home again, reenacting my Bunny Monday grin.

Putting Emma on notice

Emma and I walk the neighborhood every day. Some of those days, Zippy joins us. Other days, it’s just Emma and me. Today it was just the two of us and I optimistically dressed for  a run in case Emma was feeling energetic.

Emma was not feeling energetic. Emma was too busy missing Zippy. She kept turning to see if he was behind us. About three minutes into the walk, she dug in and refused to budge. I said, “Fine,” and headed for home. Emma RAN the whole way there. I put her inside and went out for my own run.

Today wasn’t an isolated incident. However, in the past I’ve coaxed her along. Not anymore. From now on, if Emma is too busy missing Zippy to keep moving forward, I’ll immediately take her back home and then go for a run by myself. That short-legged dog cramps my style, anyway.

Win-win.

Every creature fast and small

Every creature is better alive than dead,
men and moose and pine trees,
and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.

~  Henry David Thoreau

Over the past weekend, we were in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My two sons, Wildebeest and Zebu, got into a lively debate over running ability and were finally coerced by those sick of listening to that debate into running a short race. While their uncle got ready at the finish line with his camera to capture their final steps, their father (Zippy) lined them up at the starting line. But just before Zippy shot the proverbial starter’s pistol, he saw a tiny creature on the race course:

Horned Lizard aka Horny Toad

After moving the Horned Lizard to safety, the race commenced.

 

(NOTE: Wildebeest won by a slim margin, pulling a quad muscle in the process. The two agreed to switch “lanes” and run it again, and that time Zebu won by a whole bunch. I’m guessing the Horned Lizard is as happy as the rest of us that the two of them have, at least temporarily, moved beyond that whole running debate.)

Thankful Thursday: trail run edition

Today I’m thankful for these awesome shoes that carried me over the rocky and uneven trails this afternoon:

I’m also thankful I had the trails 100% to myself as I ran, never seeing another human during those 35 minutes, not once, not even off in the distance.

I am thankful for the company of the 80 million grasshoppers, the occasional butterfly, the what-I-hope-was-a-hummingbird-and-not-an-enormous-insect buzzing in my ear, the one bunny that allowed me a glimpse before disappearing into the rabbit brush, the sunshine, and the unidentified bird with the black tail.

I’m thankful for the strength in my legs, the power in my lungs, and the lack of ego that allowed me to walk when I felt like it.

Finally, I’m thankful that the rain didn’t fall until I was already home.

Today I embraced my inner squirrel

I’m working on a synopsis for my work-in-progress and, as anyone who has ever written one can attest, it’s not a pretty process. This time around I’m writing a synopsis before writing the novel which means I’m not locked into anything.

NOT LOCKED INTO ANYTHING = EVERYTHING IS A POSSIBILITY

Or another way to describe it: SQUIRREL BRAIN FREE-FOR-ALL

My ADD tendencies are having a blast-y as I try to reconcile my rough outline with all the brand new shiny ideas firing in my brain.

ZIP ZAP ZOOP.

However, I did make progress today. And when I’d had enough of ye olde synopsis, I put Emma on her leash and we went for a run on the trails.

Nothing clears the squirrel from one’s brain like a run over uneven terrain.

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Sunday Confessional: The today-I-parched-my-dog edition

I went out on the trails with Emma today. It was sunny and warm (probably about 80 degrees), there was substantial elevation gain, and we ran when we could.

Another pertinent fact? I didn’t bring water.

When we got off the trail and back on the street, we’d gone about 2.75 miles and Emma’s tongue was hanging out. We walked about 150 yards and then hit a patch of shade. She flopped onto her belly, legs splayed behind her, and panted. I let her stay down there while I stretched, and then got her going again. Several patches of shade later, she did the same thing. Belly flopped.

So I picked her up and carried her.

We passed some guy who asked, “Isn’t she supposed to be walking?” Nope. It was totally my bad. I overexerted my short-legged dog in the heat AND neglected to bring water. Two belly flops from her meant the rest of the way home was on me.

So I carried the 25-pound dog the last half-mile. For the record, she completely enjoyed the ride, looking around from her new vantage point.

She’s still a bit tuckered, though. While she rested, I dug my water pack out of the closet to use on our next outing.

 

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Happy Windsday, Piglet

Zippy and I just went for a run.
It is very blowy out there.
Ugh.
winnie-the-pooh-and-the-blustery-day-winnie-the-pooh

It wasn’t quite that bad.
I mean, neither of us went airborne.
But that’s only because we’re not chubby little cubbies all stuffed with fluff.

Otherwise . . . WHOOOOOSH.
Trust me.

 

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Thankful Thursday: The sunshine edition

weather-station

This is Zippy’s indoor weather station. As you can see, it’s sunny and 65 degrees outside. Granted, the outdoor thermometer is in direct sunlight right now so it’s really only 65 degrees against the bricks on the south side of the house. But still. Sixty-five degrees in January!

I’m going out for a run around the neighborhood and am looking forward to cruising past the snow piles lingering from last weekend’s storm.

Gotta love Colorado and its split-weather-personality.

 

 

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Pity party interruptus

Last week I was in Florida and while there, I went running for the first time in a month. As a result of all those weeks off, I ran slower than usual.

When I hit the 3-mile mark, I stopped running and began my cool-down walk. Almost immediately my brain started beating me up: you’re used to running at elevation and this was running at sea level! You’re used to running up and down hills, and this was running on mostly flat! You’re slow, slow slow. Old, old, old. Sad, sad, sad.

As I walked on the path through the woods, I regretted the health issues that had prevented me running. I regretted losing the fitness level I’d worked hard to achieve. I regretted my loss of muscle, stamina, and lung power.

I admit to feeling a wee bit defeated.

Then there was a WHOOSH and SQUAWK as something dropped from the tree above and landed next to my feet: Two woodpeckers, one on the back of the other, briefly wrestled on the path before separating and flying off to different trees.

And just like that, my mood lifted. I realized I was going to be all right. I knew I’d regain my strength, just as I knew that it was a gift to be able to up and run three miles after time off. How could I not know?! I’d just witnessed the miracle of wrestling woodpeckers!!!

Sometimes the universe gets sick of our whining and drops a big ol’ SNAP OUT OF IT sign in front of us.

woodywoodpecker

I’m grateful I could see past the pity party to read it.

 

 

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Neighborhood steeplechase

I’ve been having some health issues so took three weeks off from running. During that time I did a lot of speedwalking around the neighborhood and while it got my heart pumping, I felt wistful whenever people ran past me. I need to run.

So it was a big HOORAY on Monday when Zippy and I did a short run around the neighborhood! We timed today’s run to end just minutes before the Olympics men’s final 3000m steeplechase and in preparation for watching that race, I spent my run scanning for potential hurdles and water jumps. There was a little runoff in one of the streets and I’m pleased to report that I cleared that water no problem!

This image from the 2015 African Youth Championships. (Clyde Koa Wing)

This image from the 2015 African Youth Championships. (Clyde Koa Wing)

We finished our run and watched the men’s final, cheering on all the athletes. Evan Jager from (one of) my alma mater, UW-Madison, won silver today. A few days ago we saw Emma Coburn from Zebu’s alma mater (UC-Boulder) win bronze. Such inspirational races.

Maybe I should start hurdling the boulders next to the trails!

 

 

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Bras for Dummies

I’ll be brief.

  1. Are you a female runner? Yes? Invest in a good sports bra.
  2. Make sure it fits correctly. (There’s lots of good info on the intertubes re proper fit)
  3. Replace said bra more regularly than, say, every 12 years or so.
  4. Own a bra, any bra, that’s too snug? Save yourself $10 bucks and make your own extender using hooks from an old bra.
  5. Watch this video for instructions:

    6. You’re welcome.

 

 

Sharing the Trail

I just got back from a run on the trails.
This sign is at the trailhead:
CoyoteCountry sign

I knew I wouldn’t be lucky enough to see coyotes because I didn’t get out there until about 8:00 when they’d already be on people-alert. I did, however, see and hear many birds. Western meadowlarks, orioles, and magpies. I also saw a friend and her dog.

A few minutes after passing my friend, I was on a downhill. Running “fast.” And I heard a LOUD hissing, rattling sound off to the left of the trail. 

I startled, kind of screamed, did a little side-hop, and kept running. But it wasn’t until I’d taken a bunch more steps that my brain made the connection: rattlesnake. And then my first thought was:

How many times before I hear that sound
and know it’s a snake,
and NOT lawn sprinklers turning on?

IMG_9421

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. ~ Aristotle

Can’t Say I’m Sorry to See You Go

We’re in the last few hours of 2015, one of the most difficult years of my life.
But not only am I still standing, I’m still running.
Despite the frigid temperatures (about 30 degrees in the sun),
Zippy and I went for a run around the neighborhood.
Cold yet life-affirming.

And now a friend is coming over to hoop with me.
That will be a warmer yet also life-affirming activity.

This morning some of my favorite kinds of birds showed up

Crows and Magpie 012

Crows and Magpie 019

A lovely way to say close out 2015.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a glorious, life-affirming 2016!

Crows and Magpie 020

 

Running Fashionista

Zippy and I went for a run this morning and it wasn’t until our cool-down walk that I noticed this:
Spit trail

A spit trail down my thigh. Apparently the wind caught my saliva rocket and returned it to me.

When I got home and started my stretches, I realized I’m basically an all-around rag-tag runner gal wearing holey socks and a ripped 20+-year-old polypro long underwear shirt:
Running socks   Torn polypro sleeve

I do, however, have a fairly new Garmin watch in fashionista chartreuse:
Garmin watch

Look for me on the nearest runway. I’ll be the one rockin’ the groovy watch and sweat-stained togs. I promise not to spit.

Writing, Running, & Ruminating

Yesterday I sent off the manuscript for the first book of mine that will be published. It’s a short work-fore-hire book about composting and how to build a compost tumbler. (One of my critique partners (yo, LP!) is a nonfiction goddess who guided me every step of the way as I applied to the editorial company. Thank you, friend!)

One of the hardest parts of that writing process was switching from my fiction brain to my nonfiction brain. Plus there was the research that triggered my ADD tendencies, writing to a lower reading level, explaining complex concepts in a simplified format, footnoting and formatting, glossary terms and pronunciation keys . . . Suffice to say there was a steep learning curve and a few tears of frustration.

learning curve back and forth

But I put my head down to push through the doubts and nasty voices, and I prevailed. Plus, I (mostly) kept to my promise to myself and worked on my middle-grade novel revisions every day. I learned to bounce from fiction to nonfiction and back again. And it felt like a real accomplishment to hit SEND when I emailed my manuscript yesterday.

This morning Zippy and I went out for our run on the trails. As we took off, I mentioned how I wished we could take a different route out there in the open space. I love the trails and they’re kinder to my body than pavement as I pound out the miles, but lately I’ve noticed my mind wanders when I run. And my mind shouldn’t wander when there are rocks and knapweed and eroded trail segments to navigate. But it wanders because I’m comfortable with my route; I’ve run it so often I can close my eyes and visualize exactly where the rabbit brush stalk sticks out onto the trail and how far up the trail past the turn-off it is that I need to side-step a cluster of partially submerged rocks.

So today Zippy took the lead and he mixed it up. He took us on side trails and detours, but the biggest change was we ran parts of the route in reverse. Which meant I was running downhill where I’m usually straining to run uphill, and struggling up the steep inclines where I’m used to flying down the trail.

TrulyErgonomic_LearningCurve

Talk about a learning curve. I thought my brain was going to explode! (Not to mention the other very real concern that I was about to barf up a lung).

Well, I eventually made it home and recovered enough to have today’s deep thought:

It’s good to step outside my comfort zone because doing so allows me to learn new skills and expand my muscles (whether brain or brawn). Becoming more flexible ain’t always pretty, but it’s necessary.

Friday Five: The Random Edition

(1) I used to be kinda indifferent about Led Zeppelin, but for the past couple months have been mainlining it at a LOUD volume.

(2) I’m still having to run back and forth on the one flat street in my neighborhood due to glute issues and yesterday did three miles with the help of Sly & the Family Stone.

(3) I’ve started working part time as a substitute library page which means I shelve books at various local libraries, and have developed a love-hate relationship with the Dewey Decimal System.

(4) I’m revising a manuscript and enjoying the process which I call a WIN.

(5) If this rain doesn’t let up soon, I’m gonna scream loud enough to be heard over the Led Zeppelin.
screaming-quotes-1