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. ūüėČ 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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I Would Do Anything (to Run)

Jim Steinman’s piano got my run started this morning, circa 5:30 a.m.

In the darkness I smiled to myself.

Pre-dawn, Meatloaf’s vocals are the perfect motivator for me. Especially this song– starting delicately and then building with tension. Perfect for a morning work-out.

I actually did some dynamic stretches today after waking up! Feeling smarter every day. I’ve decided learning (and implementing) stretches is one of my goals for this Tues/Thurs training class. And I got the layers mostly right today, though I could have used another pair of tights! My core, hands and head were toasty, however. And that’s enough for me.

I’m making this work! ¬†Last night I was asleep just after 8:30 p.m. My body is starting to cooperate with me, at long last. Yesterday morning in class I had something like 3.5 hours of sleep because of anxiety about waking up so early. I did okay. But today I was better.

I’ve run this early before, but usually when I couldn’t sleep anyway or because I had plans.

Today I woke up this early out of sheer discipline, and surpassed my goal! Coming down the hill toward by car at the end, I stopped to behold the sunrise. I was in no rush.

God was there with me.

Just after three miles, my knee began to hurt a little. But I’ll ice it and be on with my day.

I feel refreshed and hungry. Time for breakfast and a shower before work!

 

 

I Get It : Finally!

I’m really good at keeping busy.

I like helping out and doing things for others. But this year I’ve really noticed that without even realizing it, I was still putting myself last.

I’ve been “single” for years. But most of that time, I was actively dating or looking for ways to meet someone. Wishing. Praying.

I was fine doing things alone– going to dinner, the movies, staying home and enjoying it.

And I kept so busy.

I was singing in the choir at my parish. I was attending political fundraisers and meetings, phone-banking, canvassing. My Sunday mornings were for Mass.

I was always there for my friends.

But the best friend I’ll have is myself. Why am I so quick to change my plans for others?

Slowly this year, I’ve been clearing my schedule of those obligations. Even Mass. I’ll go when I feel like it, but am not allowing myself to feel guilty if I don’t.

Instead, I’m going to run as much as I’m able. That’s my priority.

I’ll meet God outside, and worship him in motion.

Like any adult, I know how to push myself. Through fear, confusion, sickness, exhaustion.

But have I ever truly set an ambitious goal and believed?

No.

All I saw were obstacles. I won’t say they were excuses–¬†I was terrified to fail. So I would just not even attempt it. And sometimes depression crept in, manifested in over-sleeping.

But running is a natural anti-depressant. Endorphins are real!

My initial reaction is one of caution. I get that from my Dad. He’s wonderful, but he’s not the best at encouraging me when I want to try something new. And it’s understandable. He’s suffered a lot of loss. I’ve battled health problems all my life.

But I’m changing. I’m realizing that’s just the way he’s built emotionally- and it makes sense for him. And that I don’t need his approval to motivate me.

I was in this mind-frame of asking for permission.

But now I’m giving that permission to myself!

I don’t need to even tell him. I can just do it.

I can do what makes sense for me, even if he doesn’t get it.

My dreams are bigger than his: and that’s okay.

A friend at work approached me about a race yesterday. He knows I run… sporadically. This friend is a consistent runner– even in the winter! He has a training regimen.

Months ago, I had approached a different friend about running this race with me. She wasn’t game– I just gave up on it.

I’m going to sign up for it: the Solider Field 10 Mile in Chicago on May 27.

So what if I don’t finish it?

I can still do my best. And I’ve finished every race I’ve run thus far.

Instead of sleeping in on weekends, I want to go bed earlier.

I want to rise and run.

I usually like to sleep in on weekends. But if I had a date or some fun plans, I’d get up.

What if my fun plans were running?!

And now I get it! The true FREEDOM of being single: constructing my life 100% around ME.

Without obligation or guilt. I will never have that kind of freedom again later in life.

Just what I want to do. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary.

I deserve this!

Even with casual dating, you have to block out time for this person. You talk to them after work, they may text you to check in during the day. You plan dates– you invest hours and days and weekends getting to know each other.

In taking this time for myself without dating on the table, I’m putting ME first. I’m saying that the biggest priority is what *I* want to accomplish.

I won’t let myself feel guilty about saying “no” to social invitations. Or going home early.

I can still make sleep the priority– by regulating a bedtime and schedule.

I’ll build socializing into running. I’ve got three months to train.

I have no idea how, but that’s the adventure.

And I’ve got running friends to support me.

During Superbowl 51 : Self-acceptance, Gaga and mother/daughter bonding

I had some great moments with my family this Superbowl Sunday, as we gathered at my parents’ home.

Waiting for the game to start, we were chatting in the kitchen. My aunt, who I adore, was talking with my step-mother, Diane.  My aunt is a generous, hilarious, devoted womanРbut also quite conservative.

Her reaction to a story Diane was telling about a woman she knows ¬†was to interject, “Without a HUSBAND?”

“You don’t need a husband to be happy,” Diane said in her calm way.

A bit later, my aunt referenced a man I had been texting as I was celebrating Christmas Day at her home. I updated her, announcing that I ended it and have moved on. And that currently, I’m not seeing anyone.

And I’m happy.

She laughed and said “You are a woman chauvinist!” and that I date a lot.

I won’t deny it, I did. Currently I’m off dating, and feeling relieved. I’m no chauvinist.

In stark contrast, anyone who knows me would correctly name me a strong Feminist.

I then sang a few bars: “Oohhhh, here she comes. Watch out boys, she’ll chew you up! She’s a MMMAAAAAAAAAAAN-eater!”

They laughed, I laughed. Finally, I had the perfect clap back! The conversation moved on.

Mission accomplished.

After dating that last guy, I realized I’d rather just focus on my own life– truly. There was a part of me who felt I *should be dating someone, just because I’m 36. And that’s bollocks. I even took the plunge and deleted the dating profile I was using. I don’t need the comfort of having “a line in the water.” The moment it was gone, I felt free.

I only watched the game for Gaga’s half-time show– with was magnificent, for “A Million Reasons.” She was courageous, flawless, mesmerizing.

Gaga is single and she’s having the time of her life! Her career is sky-rocketing.

On Friday, my friend Heather and I dressed up as Wayne and Garth for a 25th Anniversary showing of “Wayne’s World,” at a local theatre. I’m a brunette, she’s a blonde, we put on some ripped jeans and I bought a hat from Amazon for authenticity. She ratted up her hair and donned a flannel. We met Tia Carrere (Cassandra,) who was impressed with our female cosplay and said upon meeting us, “I love your work!” We took selfies and had more fun together than I think we’ve ever had.

I’m becoming more interested in my friends, my family. I’ve been really connecting with my girlfriends in a new way since then– and it’s energizing!

I’m asking more questions of them, listening better to the details. I’m not feeling wistful for a man in my life. I’m grounded in the present- not ruminating on my past exes, not dreaming of a future man.

Rather, I resolved to pursue my friendships and make plans with them the way I used to pursue dating. And you know what? I feel a whole lot better. I’m in more frequent contact with these ladies. I’m less stressed.

At 36, people consider it either tragic or a joke if you’re single. ¬†You can’t just be a woman living her life– you must be either desperate, bitter, or a resigned spinster. I used to feel offended by these inquisitions.

I’m just Amee.

Tonight, I could laugh it off and change the subject with aplomb! What a milestone for my self-esteem.

As we watched the game, I was sitting on the couch on the right of my step-mom, Diane. She then scooted next to me and put her arm around me– which she’s never done before. She’s a wonderful woman but not very touchy-feely or physically affectionate.

I relaxed and leaned back against her arm, into her shoulder. She was sticking up for me. She and her sister are best friends, but she certainly understands being criticized by her. And Diane didn’t marry my Dad (her only marriage) until she was 53. We had a great little conversation. Eventually we sat up and moved apart a little and returned to watching the game, but it was something I’ll cherish forever.

That moment happened because I’m single and she’s proud of me.

She obviously remembers what this feels like, to be judged on a no-relationship status.

And she ended up with my Dad, who is both perfect for her and perfectly devoted to her.

I’m finally at a point where I am at peace.

My thirties continue to become better and better.

“Amuck, amuck, amuck”– in a Pumpkin Patch! My (Early) 36th Birthday Party

I decided to celebrate my birthday about three weeks early this year– since all the fun Halloween/fall stuff is closed by November. I chose a family-friendly, sober activity where we could all just be kids again and run “amuck, amuck, amuck!”

Bengston’s Pumpkin Patch in Homer Glen.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so special. I’m beyond blessed! It was an eve of hilarity, surprises, generosity, memories, and non-stop laughter. It was exactly what I needed. ¬†It was a great mix of old and new friends! I hadn’t seen most of them in quite awhile but we all came together as if no time had elapsed.

In attendance were my dear friends Melissa and her husband Bill; Kaela, Justin and his son, Kai; Leta; Tammie; Ian and Mallory (siblings) and her boyfriend, Camron; Heather and her man, Phillip, and Dawn. I love them all and am so happy they made the effort to come celebrate with me, even though it rained earlier! In your 30’s it’s easy to feel disconnected from people you’ve known for years– everyone is so busy with jobs, families, obligations.

But I was happy to learn tonight that the ties with these people run deep. I see them always being in my life. They indulged me in my favorite love language: pictures. They posed for pictures with me that were classic and adorable, they took pictures of me just being myself and enjoying the day, they took tons of unflattering but hilarious selfies!

My birthday is actually four days prior to Election Day, which is depressing. So I told myself I deserved something extra-special to compensate. Who hasn’t been stressed with all these horrible news stories about our candidates?

My friends were the perfect anti-dote. We took so many silly pictures that I’ll have to finish uploading them tomorrow! Work in the morning. ūüôā It was a small group, which was perfect. Everyone got along great and I got to spend time individually with them all– something I’ve learned from past birthdays is hard to do at a big party.

I’m glad I didn’t go in with a plan. I just had people text me when they arrived and we found each other and decided what to do. And we did everything fun! The Fun Slide (twice!) — I finished first both times! The petting zoo, a hayride, the haunted barn, and mostly just hanging out, catching up, and taking myriad fun pictures because I’m an obsessive picture-taker! Luckily, they were all good sports and everyone jived well together, too.

I had a Toasty Cheese sammich, an apple cider donut, and apple cider ice cream with a flabbergasting hyper-color orange spoon that turned purple where you ate!

Somehow it was 75 degrees but I luckily had found the perfect ensemble yesterday, including a big loose sweater that matched my very ’90s black floral dress, which I wore with black tights and brown leather lace-up boots I’ve had for eons! I felt stylish and beautiful in it.

Tammie, Dawn and I closed out the park together, including a manic spinning session on the Honey Pot ride (like the Teacups at Disney!)– which Dawn commandeered. Tammie was in the Teapot behind us and went “Live” on Facebook to record it– which I’ve always wanted to do but never thought anything I was doing was cool enough. Haha ! I got my chance. She had us spinning so crazy all I could do was hang on, cackle with abandon, and do my best not to hurl. (I didn’t!)

Party on, Wayne.

Then the three of us gals walked to our cars together and I separated from them to find mine. However, we were all in a muddy field. It was dark. I couldn’t see the path. I went down a hill and then tried to turn right and power up a hill to get out and realized I was spinning in the mud. I tried second gear. Nothing.

Luckily, both Tammie and Dawn were still there– I texted them about my problem and within minutes, they both came to find me. Tammie got out and suggested I put in in the “L” gear and drive slow– Dawn gave me a push from behind with her SUV and told me via phone to get on the grass, out of the mud. It worked!

For a few minutes before, I almost panicked. There were no parking lot attendants. I was in the back of the field, alone, in the dark, past 8 pm. at least 30 miles from home on a Sunday.

But God heard me. And with a little help from my girlfriends, I was back on the road going home within a few minutes.

Today is one of those days I’m loving being single. I love that I can spend five full hours at a pumpkin patch with my friends having adventures among the ordinary, and that they will not leave me when I truly need help. I’m more than okay– I’m loved and cherished.

I already know that 36 is going to be my best year yet! But I’ll also cherish my last few weeks as a 35-year-old, indulging in as much Halloween fun as possible! The actual weekend of my birthday I will be traveling to see family.

And now, it’s time for a hot bath and a good sleep! Goodnight, my pretties.

 

Bucktown 5K: Pom-poms, Trust and No Glances Behind

Truth is, I don’t like running. Yet it remains the only form of exercise I can tolerate. I avoid it as much as possible but keep signing up for races.

So I must be a runner, deep-down in my gut.

My friend Lisa and I drove up together, parked, took a bus, and arrived in plenty of time. I loved the race swag– a light blue, white and red hoodie with the Chicago flag logo. Mine is just the right size but it was too hot to race in, though I wore it on the way.

I’m struggling. ¬†My friends are able to increase their mileage and continually improve their times. I think I’ve done one race where I ran it all, but otherwise I need to walk at times– ¬†and lately I’m walking father intervals, for longer.

My problems are that I’m unable to commit to a running routine and when my body complains during a run, I’m not able to sustain myself without slowing down to walk at some point. They are signing up for longer races. I’m still stuck doing 5K’s, though I did manage an 8K this spring!

Routine has been a blessing in other areas of my life. I have a feeling it would center me, if I can just find some way to make it happen with running. I’m working on a regular bedtime, weekends included. I know, that sounds so juvenile! But it’s working. I’m not a morning person but am convinced with repetition I can adjust.

How do I jump that mental hurdle? Ignore my sore feet, the pain in my right knee that chronically flares up though I have no official injury? I want to break through!

I refuse to give up, to settle for this. I know I have it in me.

This morning I decided to trust my friend Lisa when she suggested we leave by 6 a.m., park her car away from the crowds on a safe street, and take a bus to the race. I’ve never done that prior, but this was also my first neighborhood race– and she lived in the city years ago. She knows where the parking is bad and what times to avoid, and so I agreed. And it worked! Riding a bus was even a little extra component of fun. We took selfies at the bus stop. It was great to not have to hoof it all the way to the car!

It felt good to trust someone else’s plan.

And today, I truly felt special in this race. I owe it to the cheerleaders/pom squad, whatever title they choose! They were right by the starting line– in uniform and shaking metallic blue and red pom-poms!!

I’m just a woman who pays to race. Who’s not “good” at it yet but still showing up. And being in this neighborhood race today, I felt this enormous gratitude.

I didn’t look back even once– I never stopped moving. My knee was okay! It was such a liberty to not feel any compulsion to check how many people were behind me. I was mindful, focused on where I was going– not who might pass me up or my placement in the number of other racers.

I got OUT of my ego, with that little victory.

And then there were the childrenРmostly toddlers and four and five-year-olds, standing curbside with their tiny fists opened, leaning in and hoping one of us would choose THEM  as we passed by!

That made me feel like a super-hero! Knowing that some little person was thinking *I was cool because I was one of the people running in that crowd. As we passed through all the beautiful homes in Bucktown, people gathered on their balconies, front stoops, sidewalks ¬†and corners to encourage us. Yelling, holding up signs, dancing, saying ” Great job!!”

Also, how many people in neighborhood envied US– the people who volunteered to challenge ourselves? The crazy people who refuse to quit running?? I’m guessing a lot.

Just when I was feeling sorry for myself about my foot pain, God showed me something humbling: a woman runner sitting curbside, fixing her leg prosthesis. Her t-shirt said “Chicago Blade Runners,” as did the t-shirts of two other women who were not disabled but seemed to be there in support. I’ve now learned it’s a running club for amputees and disabled athletes.

That woman would probably give anything to feel pain again in both feet. Imagine the grief of losing a limb– and not just any limb, but a leg. But that doesn’t stop her. ¬†If that woman’s not making excuses, neither should I!

And when I came to that finish line, I felt myself start to tear up again– two of three times. Again, I wanted to let go and cry with relief, with JOY– but couldn’t. I kept control.

One day, my dream is to run so hard and so fast, that when I cross that finish line I burst into tears without abandon. I will be so proud of myself.

Honestly, I’m proud of myself now. And right now, little tears are escaping me.

Because writing about this is hard– but I’m doing it. I’m admitting to myself– and all of you– that running scares me. That I feel stuck and disappointed in my progress. And that I’m lucky to be surrounded by other runners who inspire me and invite me to race with them, who wait patiently for me to finish after them.

I have two strong legs, two knees, two feet. I can condition them to do better, and I will.

Cinco de Miler: crying at the finish!!

Today I broke my seven-month hiatus with racing by running the Cinco de Miler 2016.

And finished FIVE MILES!! Along Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.

It was my friend Lisa’s idea, and this morning she picked me up and we made it happen!! She invited me around January, but I was ambivalent about committing for quite awhile. First, I wasn’t sure I was up to two extra miles beyond my standard 5k. Second, the race shirts were hideous and I didn’t want to pay for one!

But she was so excited about it and we motivated each other. She was waffling herself not too long ago, and I encouraged her. We both decided to wear something of our own rather than those ugly shirts. This is our second race together!

We took a ton of silly selfies– one of the best parts of a race! I’m so glad we did this.

In the parking garage, I noticed the women parked next to us had a Joliet sticker on their vehicle. I introduced myself and we got a long great! She was with a few of her friends and it seemed a few of their daughters. Her name was Kim.

All the festivity– flowers in women’s hair, men running with Mexican wrestling masks, children wearing fake black mustaches that curl, some women with traditional cotton tops embroidered with flowers. Salsa blasting on the speakers as we lined up in our corrals!

Yesterday I mostly walked four miles, to warm up after months of nothing. I was shocked how easy it was. How natural I felt returning to this exercise.

In past races, I always felt insecure; I needed someone by me. If my friends ran ahead, I felt abandoned. Especially if they disappeared into the crowd.  As long as I could see them, I felt a little

I was so much in my own head that all I could think about were all the people passing me by– I was always glancing behind to reassure myself that I wasn’t last. ¬†That *I* was ahead of others.

Or I was so fixated on the miles ahead— counting down, worried about my time. There was a part of me who never fully relaxed.

I was hard on myself if I had to slow down and walk. Always comparing.

Today, I broke free of all that.

I didn’t try to keep up with Lisa– I let her go and decided to do my own thing. And I felt calm, steady.

Maybe because this is my sixth race now– I knew I would find her afterward. I wasn’t worried about getting separated or lost.

I trust her more. I trust *myself* more.

I chose to run my own slow, steady pace– right down the yellow line of the streets blocked off for this event.

Proud to say I ran the first 1.5 miles at around 13 minutes!! I had set my Pandora on my phone to Selena and that driving Latino beat was perfect for the occasion.

But after that, I was conscious of the two added miles and felt I’d slow down and walk a bit. And then first my right knee and then both knees began to hurt. And I had to acknowledge it.

I ¬†tried running sporadically after but had to accept that with the added miles I couldn’t push it or I might not finish.

But oh, running along Lake Shore Drive!!! Since I began running it’s been a fantasy of mine. I always thought I’d drive up and park somewhere and be one of those cool people you always see while in traffic, inbound to the city North on 41.

Until Lisa mentioned it last night, I had no idea this was part of the course route.

God arranged my dream to come true.

And thank Him that I wore pants, not shorts– and brought two long-sleeved shirts. Since it was a 9 a.m. race and I tend to get cold, I brought an extra hoodie in case it rained or was cold by the lake.

Talk about The Windy City!! Once we hit the third mile and were right next to the lake on our right, both those shirts felt like a joke!! But I felt badly for those wearing only tank tops or shorts, or even t-shirts. Had I been otherwise attired, I might have quit.

Between my knees, which seemed to get worse– and the serrating chill lakeside, I was beyond tempted.

But I saw racers returning, wearing medals. That energized me.

And each mile marker surprised me. I had learned to just ENJOY the race.

I was always moving except when I stopped to take a few pictures– a tree in front of the lake, the MARIACHI band performing!

I loved the man around mile 2– a tall old man with white hair waving maracas. “Everybody’s gonna finish,” he said with a smile.

And I believed him. When I felt weak, I thought of him.

Not long before mile 4, one of the women also from Joliet in the parking garage¬†before the race appeared next to me. She tapped my shoulder and smiled. I slowed down and we commiserated about our knees. She gave me a vital tip: she takes Ipubprofen before a race. I prefer Tylenol– but I’ll remember that next time.

Maybe start taking a supplement to help my joints. Loosen them up by running regularly.

Rather than accept my joint pain and give up running– I’ll learn to take better care of myself to prevent it.

Even the Tin Man couldn’t walk the Yellow Brick Road with un-oiled joints! Oil is needed.

God was showing me that we’re never alone in the race. This race called life.

I allowed her to pass me, and felt at peace.

I had told Lisa to text me when she finished– and when she did, I was happy for her! Glad she did her thing and I did mine. For one of the first times in my life, I didn’t feel envy.

What a blessing!

I felt stronger than I thought capable once I saw the FINISH around the corner!!

I started running again: it was important to finish RUNNING.

Volunteers were standing in a cluster, handing out finisher’s medals.

When I arrived I was shocked to feel emotional– tears started to well up.

I almost cried– but I didn’t allow myself. I admit at that moment I did feel self-conscious.

I suppose I associate crying with loss– grief.

When was the last time I cried with RELIEF?? I don’t remember.

I couldn’t totally let go. But I teared up again, gulped deep breaths.

And vowed to start training again. My time is 1:36: 05

Lisa and I are already planning our next race! We talked non-stop on the way home.

I know I can do it. I’m already getting better.

And one day, I will let go enough to ACTUALLY cry with joy at the finish line.