The Extra Mile

Tonight after work I finally ran 3.04 miles, almost a 5k! And I ACTUALLY RAN! I only stopped to use a bathroom, and pause to get a picture of a blazing sunset. My pace has improved, too.

It’s my longest run since March, and I think that was a race. I feel amazing. After six months of not being able to sustain a run of any length, tonight I reached within myself and made it happen.

The temperature inspired me– in the ’70s! A breeze. I drove to a nearby trail rather than just the same route near my neighborhood.

I had planned on 1.5 miles but was going to try for 2. But I got lost somewhere and actually ran an entire mile out of my way before realizing this. Yeah, I know! I am something else. 😉 I laughed at myself, feeling like God decided I was going to run 3 miles tonight even if he had to be sneaky to arrange it!

Thus, tonight I ran an extra mile and felt so empowered. I decided after I hit the 2 mile mark I’d run the rest of the way back, rather than take it easy.

I won’t get down on myself for not running much this summer. I’ll move forward.

It was so uncomfortable for the first mile– my lungs were really feeling it! On the bright side I had no side stitches, no knee or ankle pain. No issues with my shoes feeling flat or uncomfortable. I was dressed just right for the weather.

Just when I thought I’d have to start completely over, my body has retained *some level of fitness. My body knows I’m a runner.

How lucky am I?!

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Bella and Cookie: How Two Tiny Devil Dogs Felled me Mid-Run

You’re not a runner until you are bleeding IN YOUR SHOES!!

Tonight was my first run post-cast removal. I waited an extra 19 days past my six weeks off running while in my cast. I was anxious about falling again. So I get my run app and music apps open, I lace up, and set a humble goal. I make it .02 miles up the street before these two itsy bitsy white fluffy willing to bet my miles on it BICHON FRISE devil dogs attack me! They come running full force and go for my feet. These little shits are fearless. I’m so fucking surprised that I trip on one of them and what happens? I PLUNGE straight down.
Just like when I broke my damn hand two months ago!
But this time, luckily, it’s just some road rash. On my left elbow and my right kneecap. (See picture! Lighting is dark.) Blood is running down my leg onto my teal Nike socks, and I’m on the ground and LAUGHING. I swear I feel like God is saying to me, “HOW BAD do you want this run tonight?”
A TEENAGER runs up to me, “Are you okay? I’m so sorry! Can I help you?” He reaches a hand out to me and I grab his palm with mine, he lifts me up with a genuine smile. He’s got a friend. They’re both holding a dog.
“What are their names?” I have to know.
“Buttercup and Cookie.”
That gets a good cackle out of me. Those tiny beasts are named Buttercup and Cookie. I told him to leash them next time, since I’m going to be running often from now on. I get up. I laugh, wave, and get going.
A guy in a black truck drives by on my right, and sticks his arm out the window to give me a thumbs up.
I get in a mile before I feel the runner’s trots creeping up on me and make it home. I ask a random girl walking whose probably high if she’ll take picture. I explain about the fall.
“That’s some SHIT,” she says, and obliges me. I go in. I tell my neighbor, who gets a good laugh and high-fives me. Then brings me a weird egg and grilled cheese sammich. I clean up my leg and arm, shower, and tell all ya’ll. Hope you got at least a little laugh out of my return to glory.
I don’t even want to wash the blood out of my shoes. Makes me feel like a legit bad ass.
I’m officially BACK! God, I missed this!

Sharing My Short Story: A Reader’s Reaction

Tonight I read aloud a short story I wrote some years ago. It was two pages.

I loved watching the face of my audience: so intent. Afterward, she asked if she could read it over herself. There were several points she wanted to talk about– things that jumped out at her as symbolic of me. Connections she made about my personality that were illustrated in my characters. Questions she wanted to ask.

I was happy to indulge her, to be interviewed.

Watching someone else hold my work in their hands and study it was amazing.

Suddenly my short story felt elevated to literature.

I stopped writing creatively years ago. I barely blog these days. I didn’t consider myself intelligent, creative or brave enough. I also didn’t want to take on the vulnerability of being published, analyzed.

I had other reasons as well. The last time I wrote something creative and personal, in a “free” writing work shop, it was stolen and published without my permission. The betrayal caused me to shut down and stop writing.

But this experience made me feel validated. More confident. Safe.

This reader found my story inspiring. She was impressed with my creativity.

It made me feel smart, important. Powerful.

I want to share that story with others. Maybe even try and publish it.

And maybe let my pen run free once again.

The Truth About Running

It’s more than hard.

I’m realizing that it’s a constant series of injuries and disappointments. They’re small, so you can do deal with it. But for me, anyway, it’s regular. And that constant– it breaks your heart a little.

And then fleeting moments of unexpected success where you surpass your own humble expectations. Those moments, those ENDORPHINS, make you feel more than human.

They make you feel better than you knew it was possible for you. Flabbergasted.

In those moments, you’re so confident and positive.

That’s when you dare to dream your new goals : to increase your distance, to PR.

That’s when you sign up for races.

This year since February has been extremely humbling to me.

I know now that I’m cleared by a respectable orthopaedist specializing in knees to keep training. My knees are healthy, I felt no pain when they rotated them. Four x-rays showed no bone spurs and plenty of open spaces– a wonderful thing.

He answered my question on the difference between normal discomfort and real pain that requires stopping a run or calling it a rest day, or a longer break from running.

He told me to start cross-training. Because what had caused my fall was what I expected: my right knee over-compensated for my left, and the knee gave out. He said if I start strengthening the muscles, it’ll be less likely to happen again. That I’ll be able to run longer distances.

So I renewed my health club membership, and I began cross-training last night.

I swam. And I felt free. I felt strong.

I felt proud, walking in my bikini. I could feel people looking at me. I felt voluptuous and strong simultaneously. Like Wendy Peffercorn, dammit! Amazing.

I swam forty minutes.

I’m doing what I can. I plan to invest in some goggles and a better suit.

I plan to start going to classes at my health club– maybe power lifting.

I want to to do this the right way. I want to be well-rounded in my exercise.

But today I got a blister on my second toe, underneath. Because of flip-flops. And it hurts to walk and I’m not tough enough to run on it yet. I did an Out of the Darkness walk on behalf of my friend Andi. That was my exercise today.

But later on I did put my running shoes through the washer and dryer.

Despite all these “surprises” and the recovery times and setbacks…

I still want this.

I can only pray that with time, my injuries will be less. My recovery time faster. My mileage higher and my pace quicker.

Because maybe what hooks us to running is the magical ability we gain to learn about about our bodies and their limits.

Running teaches us to be aware and to heal ourselves. To persevere.

I was supposed to go to a friend’s celebration of graduation from her doctoral program tonight. I brought my dress to change into after the walking event.

But instead, I came home. I washed the dirt off my blister. I cleaned it up, disinfected it, but Neosporin and a bandage on it.

I took care of my foot, because my feet are important to me. And then I texted my friend and told her I wouldn’t make it tonight– she understood. And it was just too HOT. I wasn’t up to driving 80 miles round-trip and meeting new people tonight. I just wanted to stay home and rest.

My body told me to pay attention today and I did.

So I’m getting smarter. I knew better than to ignore the pain and continue on.

Pain is a signal to stop and rest, to evaluate where it’s coming from and why.

So today I chose to pay attention to my body and that makes me feel responsible.

And now I can sleep deeply, knowing that I still have dreams to run.

The Base Layer Quest: Building a Runner’s Wardrobe

This week I realized why it’s worth it to buy *actual running clothes– you need them to be consistent in different weather and conditions.

I had to give up a run day yesterday because it was 29 degrees and I quickly learned that a thermal shirt underneath a hoodie, plus two pairs of leggings, was not going to cut it. The two biggest struggles I have are estimating distances on my runs and figuring out proper layering/running ensembles that don’t encumber me and slow me down.

Now I get it: cotton is bulky and does nothing to wick sweat or preserve body heat. It’s useless. I can deal with cold legs– that’s kind of invigorating. But I need warmth for my upper body, especially since I want to be able to run minimum five miles in the cold. What you’re paying for with official running gear is fabrics designed to layer easily together and for flexible performance if the weather changes during your runs.

So today I bought my first base layer top! And it works, I tested it later.Boom, on sale.

Until now, I’ve been operating with a cheap substitutes from Old Navy, sometimes sales at other stores with cute sportswear. That’s fine for summer and spring runs. But as I transition to a strict training schedule, these old ensembles are holding me back.

Today I learned that I’m becoming knowledgeable as a “serious runner.” I questioned staff in three different stores about what brands are best for winter, and how they really hold up– how cold would would they run in these products? What are their temp deal-breakers?

As I bargain-shopped in a general sporting goods store, I got generic, dismissive answers. They were eager to end the conversation and go back to whatever work they were doing. But can I blame them? How can you be an expert on every sport, or even your section, if you’re just randomly assigned to that area?

The difference in going to a running store is that the staff live and race in these products– they have educated opinions. The veteran staff can debate performance of several brands for your need. They ask intelligent questions about my goals and my running– and they are excited to hear it! Best of all, I have answers for them! Confident answers.

“You’re a distance runner, not a sprinter,” my favorite staff told me today. I had told her of my goals for the Rockdale Ramblin’ Run 10k (6.2 miles) and the Soldier Field 10 Miler.

And I felt proud. I AM a distance runner. It’s just taken me a long time to find the confidence and make time in my schedule to fully commit. I’ve always been a “Big Picture” sort of gal about important decisions.

This staff is short like me and has been running all her life. I asked her work schedule and will be returning to her in the future. I told her my plan– slow and steady. Start with the most essential basics. That I felt a base layer top was more important than tights for now.

She agreed. “You’re doing this the right way,” she said. We were geeking out!

And after I went home and changed into that base layer, and it worked! I knocked out my 3.25 mile run and I felt good.

It’s all coming together.

My Father’s Smile

My father has a wonderful quality: faith.

Recently I received an unexpected bill and was feeling frustrated. Just when I thought I was getting ahead! I aired my frustrations to him, and he quietly smiled.

Just seeing that relaxed me.

He reminded me that there will always be unexpected expenses in adulthood. It’s not something to despair over– just a part of life to accept and tackle. He’s confident that I will manage and overcome these situations as they arise, so I’m beginning to believe it.

It used to be that I wanted a partner who would embody those qualities in him.

But now, I am delightfully surprised to see them appearing in myself.

I rarely panic these days– even when I have just reason to be overly emotional. When I do, I get over it much quicker.

His gentle strength emanates. I’ve become a calmer woman.

Someone my friends rely on.

And today I’m relying on myself, more and more.

Yet I always know his advice is a phone call or a hug away– if I do need him.

He’s taught me that though I may fall, he’s not far away. He will always encourage me to get up and keep going. He will always smile at me.

When my belief falters, his bolsters.

Pretty in(tegrity) : Andie’s Choice

Since “Pretty in Pink,” is showing at my local mall, I took myself for Valentine’s Day. It’s the 30th anniversary– I went to the first of two showings.

If I’m single, I might as well be around a love story. It’s been years since I’ve watched this movie, though I played the soundtrack until the CD broke in my trunk one day. Neglected to put it back in the case.

I’m more impressed with Andie’s character than I’ve ever been. Girl’s got class.

Her life was rough, if you consider the big picture. Not only does she live in the bad side of town, but her depressed, creepy father only works part-time and mostly wears a short bathrobe around the house. Her mother deserted them both three years ago and Andie has clearly become her father’s care-taker. Their relationship is co-dependent and haunting.

In the first scene she is making him breakfast, waking him up, and encouraging him to just get out of bed for the day. Then she drives herself to school for a full day. Not only does he refuse to function as an adult, but his entire appearance seems resigned. Lots of wrinkles on his face, dark stubble. He always seems exhausted.

There’s something stony and untouchable in Andie. Edgy, even. She may dress in an openly romantic fashion, full of florals, skirts, and of course– pink. But she does not mask her hostility when it’s earned. She works after school. She has her own funky pink ride.

At school she encounters three men: Steff, Duckie, Blane. Steff is the hot, fashionable guy who is incapable of talking to her without a sneer and is hitting on her in a passive-aggressive way. Duckie is straight-up obsessed with her, to the point of fawning. He is her only male friend, and she appears to be his only friend, period. He’s cute, but annoying.

And then Blane enters the picture. He visits her at work and buys a record to talk to her. He’s clearly interested but ambivalent. Steff notices the flirtation with Andie and does his best to quash it. Steff puts her down and gives Blane the ultimatum of dating her or losing his friendship. Under peer pressure, Blane retreats– though he does sincerely like her.

I commend the film for a level of sophistication I missed previously. Andie and Blane have no time to casually date and enjoy what may be a burgeoning connection. This may be a high school film, but it’s a very real predicament that continues to translate 30 years later.

When beginning any new relationship, you are forced to choose sides. It may be your peer group or your family that has misgivings. At times we have a strong attraction to someone but no idea if it has a real future. The timing may be off, or you may seem too different.

Clearly, Andie chooses to be single. Both Steff and Duckie like her, even if they are awkward about it. She spotlights Blane’s cowardice.

Best of all, I like the scene where Blane ignores Andie’s phone calls over the weekend. Rather than trying to be the detached, laid-back girl, she waits by his locker and confronts him. Not only that, but first thing, before classes! And although she didn’t need to yell and did seem a bit crazy– she doesn’t hide her disappointment or humiliation. She lets him know that she cared about him.

“What about Prom, Blane?”

He can’t even look at her. He makes up an excuse– he asked another girl and forgot about it. Incensed, she walks away. She accepts the rejection.

The sad thing is, this type of awkwardness doesn’t end in high school. In adulthood, this kind of skittishness still persists. You either tango with it, or you recognize it and stride forward. You know that’s a sign that someone is insecure or not available, and that you demand more from the beginning of a relationship.

And goes to Prom anyway. Alone. She makes her own damn dress!

“I just want them to know they didn’t break me,” she tells her Dad. And by the end of the film, he does right by her. He gives her a dress. He knows it’s ugly but tells her he knows that she can make it something beautiful with her imagination and sewing skills

And of course, Duckie and Blane are attending solo as well.

But she didn’t require their support. She went to prove to herself that she could.

Andie has more guts than all three of her would-be suitors put together.

Like most others, I’m not particularly fond of the ending– she forgives Blane.

But at least he does step up and own his mistake, which takes character.

This year I’m single, and that’s okay. I found a beautiful red poet’s blouse with ruffles, even if it’s not my design. I bought it and wore it today. Red is a color I rarely wear, but I should!

It’s energizing.

It takes guts to stand single. To march forward into the unknown, not knowing when you’ll find a relationship but believing it will happen again.

And that it will surpass anything in your history.

Happy Valentine’s Day!