Lucky # 13: My First Shamrock Shuffle 8k!

I’m floating!

On endorphins. On CRUSHING the race goal I set for myself.

On the joy of new running friends. On knowing that I am indisputably more fit.

This was my lucky 13th race, and a phenomenal PR all-around.

To give some context, the only other race with a comparable distance was the Cinco de Miler last year– a five mile, not an 8k. It was May 7, 2016, also in Chicago. At that point I had neglected running for seven brutal months– and then only did that race because my friend Lisa invited me to push past 5ks and try it with her. Like the naive casual runner I was, I ran four miles the night before– rather than resting. My race suffered immensely for it– I had to walk/hobble three full miles due to intense knee pain. I had to stop and sit and massage my knee. Three separate times, I desperately wanted to quit– there was also horrid wind and rain along the Lake Shore Drive. I ended up with a “pace” of 18:18 for 5.15 miles at 1:34:26. I was just happy to finish, period!

Today, my time is ONE HOUR, FOUR MINUTES, and SEVEN SECONDS!! My Nike Running app said my pace is 12:12, but the official race time reports 12:54. Whichever, I’m ECSTATIC either way!! In about 10 months time, I shaved nearly SIX minutes off my pace and nearly 30 full minutes off my finishing time!

Twinges of light knee pain a couple times, but otherwise felt like a gazelle. No knee pain post-race or hours later. I’m getting more fit!!

Today was the first time I’ve felt truly confident in all aspects of a race!

Last night I felt the beginning of a blister on my instep and put a Band-Aid on it. No problem today!

I knew to rest yesterday, save for walking around the expo to pick up my packet. I knew to eat a good dinner and a light breakfast. I drank water and avoided coffee. For the first time in a race, I feel like I finally knew how to DRESS! I had a real base layer and wasn’t cold once all morning. I had a race shirt that was exactly the right size. My race bib wasn’t on crooked. I was even okay doing a gear check without worrying about it. I’m more relaxed in general with the racing scene. And my bag had everything in it– band-aids, Bengay, Tylenol– though I didn’t need any of it.

Probably my biggest accomplishment?

I DID NOT NEED ONE BATHROOM BREAK THE ENTIRE RACE! I truly feel like a bad ass.

A few times I felt the urge to pee, but just told myself to hold it and shortly it subsided. I also only took the first cup of water, but only drank about half in sips and threw the rest out.

I ran only forward the whole time– not even considering what was behind me. I ran mostly in the middle of the road, at my own steady pace. Thanks to the official race results, I know I finished ahead of 2,885 people. BAM.

I saw one woman give another an extra ponytail holder as she passed by. I saw a woman in blue and white run to hug what seemed to be family members briefly, then keep on going. I saw signs of encouragement. I saw people shedding their hats and layers.

I was surprised by how warm *I felt– but I kept my racing stocking hat on because I didn’t want to carry it as I have in past races. And also because yeah, it looked cool!

Crossing the finish line, I was so calm. As I passed into the chute, I reached the volunteers handing out medals. I stepped forward so a man could put it around my neck. I grabbed my banana, water and chips from the boxes.

I asked someone to take a picture of me, sweaty and glorious– brandishing my medal.

I went to gear check, then easily found my running crew peeps.

Everything today went amazing. I was so warm after the race I changed out of my base layer in a porta-john and just wore the race day t-shirt.  People were excited to hear about how I did and so supportive! I got to meet and chat with several people.

I loved picking everyone’s brains about their own racing goals and bucket lists.

Runners are my tribe.

I’m smitten with racing. It’s my happy place.

Now onto my next race goal: the Rockdale Ramblin’ Run on April 29th!

I’ll be learning hill work and building up to 6.2 miles– my first 10k.

Cannot wait for the next adventure!!

 

 

 

 

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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.

Instead: Lyle Lovett Wins

I chose music over fitness tonight.

I drove to Downtown Joliet planning to run this evening. It was after 6. I was driving around looking for a spot to park, when I saw the marquee for The Rialto.

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt!! Playing tonight, 7:30 p.m.

And decided I can run anytime– but this was not a concert to pass up. I had to try.

So I found parking and rushed to the theatre. At the window I asked if it was sold out– it wasn’t!

I was NOT dressed at all appropriately. Running pants and shoes, a hoodie over it. Bad hair! I wasn’t expecting anyone to see me running solo in the dark. Certainly no make-up. I felt a little ridiculous in the midst of all these threat-going people, mostly dressed up. It was definitely an older crowd— probably mostly ’40s and ’50s. Mostly couples.

I was able to get row M, which is a pretty great seat.

Sadly, I had left my hearing-aids at home. I missed out on a lot of the banter.

The shocking thing is that I knew nothing of Lyle besides that he is Julia Roberts’ ex-husband. I was psyched to see John Hiatt– I have one of his CD’s. I was hoping to hear “Have a Little Faith.”

And once they began, I was smitten by Lyle. They were great together– very comfortable and respectful of each other’s talents. They sang and played together a few times and also allowed each other to shine with solos. The audience was laughing often as Lyle mostly spoke and told stories.

John got better as the eve wore on, but there was not a single Lyle song I didn’t adore. Tragically, I have no idea what most them were that he played. I was able to look a few up on my phone by guessing at lyrics.

Lyle radiated this easy calmness. His songs were so much more inventive and varied, I couldn’t get over it!

The couple directly in front of me was having a wonderful date. She frequently put her arm around the back of his chair and stroked his hair. They leaned in together to whisper and laugh– they kissed a few times. Their shoulders were always touching. Several times, she leaned her head on his shoulder and relaxed. She swayed in her seat, seemingly an equal fan of both. I couldn’t see in the dark if they were married and wore rings– but they radiated the kind of love I imagine most couples would aspire towards. I wanted to ask them how long they’d been together. She had on a leather jacket and shoulder-length hair.

I hope one day I’m part of a couple so unable to hide their affection! It was sweet to behold.

Tonight was something special. Even from where i was sitting, I could see Lyle’s ears sticking out! He had a on suit.

They ended the show, and then re-emerged for an encore. I yelled my song request, along with others I heard.

Luckily, John Hiatt obliged! He did sing “Have a Little Faith,” but it was a  bit anti-climactic. I was just happy that I got to hear the song which motivated me to take a chance on tonight!

It felt so luxurious to be out on a Thursday night enjoying such a wonderful concert.

After that song, I left. It had started circa 7:40 and was nearly 10 and still going! I wanted to beat the crowd. In the lobby I stopped and bought one of Lyle’s CDS: “Release Me.” I played it in the car on the way home. I was a little bummed that more songs weren’t written by him, but all the songs are great regardless.

One thing is for sure! I’ll see Lyle again if I get a chance. And I’ll definitely be exploring his catalog.

What an incredible surprise. Thank you, Mr. Lovett.

Sucker Punch: Keep Fighting and Walk it Off

Tonight we reviewed techniques we’ve learned in this class.

And I was calm, ready, and logical. A few times I blanked out, but my instructor was right there telling us what we were doing wrong and how to fix it. They were fleeting moments, and then I figured it out and got it right. We as classmates broke down each other’s reactions and moves as well, re-positioning, critiquing and praising. It’s been that way all along.

I’ve learned so much about myself in this class. I started off very meek, and would panic easily. I was also defiant, because I didn’t trust myself or the moves in the class. But repetition and a safe environment helped me overcome that.

Last week, I had a small meltdown when I felt afraid. I panicked and cried, just gave up entirely. I had been holding it in the whole class– but crying helped me get it out. I went off by myself and calmed down for a few minutes. Sometimes you just gotta feel what you feel and release it. It’s bottling it up and pretending you don’t have a problem that gets you into trouble. My classmates were supportive, as was my instructor. I think it reinforced to them that although the class is also fun and a great way to get in shape and meet people, we are all there because we need to protect ourselves– and each other– in an unsafe world. We’ve become allies, if not close friends. But I do like and trust all of these people.

I had some major trust issues when I began this class. I still don’t trust most people unless they prove safe– but that’s smart. But now because *I’m* more confident, I’m finding it’s getting easier for me.

Probably the best thing I’ve learned is to not put up with disrespect. Confront it right away, and most likely you’ll stop it in the future. People will test your boundaries to see how far they can push you. It’s up to us to let them know we’re paying attention and what we will not tolerate.

The problem with being Christian is we are conditioned to forgive at all costs. But I’ve learned now that if someone moves to strike or threaten you, the SAFEST thing you can do is to make a decision and take control. Waiting to react on them could leave you dead.

I have no obligation to forgive someone who has betrayed my confidences, lied to/about me, threatened me or attacked me openly in any way. If you do that at a job, you get fired. Why do we make exceptions for people in our lives just because we have a long history together, we’re related, or we’re dating? The only people who are truly innocent are children or individuals with disabilities, be it mental or physical. Everyone else needs to be held responsible for their words and their actions.

I’m letting go of guilt over people I cut out of my life because they were insufferable or untrustworthy. Condescending, hostile, passive-aggressive, disrespectful, constantly drunk/high and using that as an excuse to behave badly. I’m making peace with realizing I let go of toxic friendships and relationships to protect MYSELF– and I don’t need to apologize to anyone for that.

I’ve become more decisive in my personal life. Things roll off me easier. I’m not scrambling for approval. I’m taking more pride in my appearance. I’m more relaxed, but also more aware.

Tonight I had a few moments of having to pause and think before I could react, but I never quit or got afraid enough to be emotional. I wish the class was longer, because I’ve come to really respect and trust this group. I’d like to keep in touch with some of them, or maybe take another class if my schedule and finances allow.

It’s nice to be called, “Miss Amee,” for a change. To be treated with respect, rather than objectified. All the men were respectful, not creepy. Once you’re treated well, you just can’t accept anything else.

I’ve learned to rely on reason, structure and repetition in this class. I’ve learned that I CAN keep myself safe, and that I’m way ahead of the game in terms of just avoiding bad situations and being aware. That being small can be an asset– and how to use it to my advantage. That I have excellent instincts, and I should trust them.

While watching me and one of the men in the class work on an exercise tonight, our instructor reminded me that I can’t out-muscle him– to stop struggling and just stick with the techniques. After that, I was calmer, and I did it quickly and correctly.

I don’t need to out-muscle anyone. Just out-think them. And that, I’m already doing.

If I know what I’m doing, it doesn’t matter what they’re doing. It’s wonderful.

The best scenario we did by far was tonight’s: we had to spin around with our head on a pole in circles, then fight off one of three people who would charge us, with padded shields. Our instructor said this is the closest way we can simulate being sucker punched. I asked for a definition and he said that’s being hit when you’re not expecting it– it’s not any particular location. It’s just being whacked hard and getting dazed a bit. And I don’t drink or get high on anything, so right there, I have a huge advantage for my safety.

He told us when to wait, when to charge. I charged my hardest, and I fought my hardest.

Now I’m going to study what I’ve learned, and practice with a classmate or two before the test. I already made plans for that.

Wish me luck! Whatever happens, I feel good. I feel capable. I feel strong.

“She’s a Wildcat:” Week Nine of Self-Defense

I didn’t blog about last week.

But tonight was note-worthy. Small class, again.

I noticed my instructor complimenting me often, after weeks of criticism. I think he sees how hard I work– I’m probably trying harder than anyone in the class. That’s because I need the lessons in this class for my survival the most desperately, being the smallest. Also, I don’t assume I’ll be able to take the class again.

“She’s a wildcat,” he said, as I was about try something we learned with a partner. It was issued like a playful warning. I chuckled a bit.

This week I picked up the moves quick, and used my voice without thinking– loud and effective. In every exercise, I found myself yelling, “NO!” over and over. And he commented on that as well.

Clearly, I’ve earned his respect.

I noticed how calm I was doing these exercises. I used to get frustrated with myself instantly and want to give up. Now I can power through, especially with some help about my technique. Even when I had a neck spasm– I stopped, noticed it, massaged it briefly, and kept going. I was able to complete most of the moves with a calm face, without fear changing my expression. I have less fear, period.

But on one of our exercise scenarios, I started out working with a woman taller than me. We were working in a trio, along with a man I’ve worked with several times the past few weeks. She said she wanted to try it with him, not me, because my being small threw her off.

I thought that was fascinating. Here I am, feeling intimidated about “attacking” a woman bigger than me, almost feeling like I have a handicap because of my small stature.

And she was MORE afraid of me (when I role-played the attacker) because I’m smaller. I thought about how the joke about how elephants are terrified of mice– at least in cartoons. Probably a better example is arachnophobia. How often do most people joke about wanting to burn down a house just after seeing a spider? ONE?

Sure, spiders are poisonous– but only some. Bites can be fatal or at the least annoying. But the main reason people are so freaked is because they are small and move fast. Usually they blend in and you never notice them unless they move. My Dad has always said that “Spiders are a lot more afraid of you than you are of them!” And it’s true.

I suppose I can relate. How many times do spiders encounter grave danger, just going about their business? All they are doing half the time is walking or spinning a web, so they can eat. They are constantly being attacked by predators much bigger– they are pretty low on the food chain! Why do you think they are created to blend in? It’s their main defense against oblivion. But also, spiders are powerful. People know that.

I’ve been trying to blend in most of my life. I’m finding this is impossible. So instead of working so hard to do something that is sure to fail, I might as well embrace it. I stand out because of my smallness. I’ve got a big voice, though a quiet demeanor. I don’t raise my voice unless necessary– and that’s rarely. And this class is helping me learn to have a command presence as well.

If people want to be intimidated by me, I’m probably safer! So I’m going to stop hiding. I’m going to dress better, walk proud, make more eye contact and stop being meek. I’m not apologizing like I did. I’m doubting myself less and less.

I’m a serious woman, and I like that about me.

I have a feeling this will be good for me in business.

Self-Defense, Week Seven: Tranquility and Self-Preservation

I’m feeling calm.

This week, we worked on fighting off someone for a few minutes. We had drills.

And even when I struggled to break free, I didn’t panic. My instructor and my classmates encouraged me– watched what I was doing and gently corrected me. My voice got stronger, and I used it.

I always got away. It didn’t matter the size of the person I was fighting, or how aggressive they were.

I used the moves I learned and improvised a few of my own, too. And this time my instructor didn’t criticize me from deviating from the curriculum. He seemed impressed.

I learned a have a strong instinct for self-preservation. My best weapon is my intuition and my brain.

I’m good at avoiding trouble, and that’s not being weak.

On my way to class, I encountered my across-the-hall neighbor on the back porch. I told him where I was going and he jokingly offered to fight me. He had his hands up, defensively.

I stood my ground and said, “Dude, I’m not fighting you.”

Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is walk away from a fight.