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!!

 

 

 

 

Baby Blue Nails and a Morning Run

It’s been not quite two months since I “quit” this blog.

As Jack Twist said in “Brokeback Mountain,”

“I wish I knew how to quit you.”

I just don’t!

Blogging is scary and boring and exciting and exasperating. A lot like love.

Because writing is about baring yourself, and commitment. Committing to the words you print. To your readers.

But here I am. And here we go!

I went running for the first time in over a month today. Truthfully, I never kept it up this summer– I loathe the heat. Now that it’s cooling down I feel more comfortable, and I just had other things I needed to straighten out first. But I missed it.

And I didn’t run long– probably 20 minutes. I walked to the rest, and am unsure of the distance. But I walked until my knees hurt, for roughly 45 minutes. I was on a path near my apartment, and it was gorgeous this morning.

I passed a man who had put his bike on its kickstand and was gathering crab apples in a bag in someone’s yard. Did he venture out just for the crab apples? Who knows. He was working diligently, on a mission.

Soon I passed another man, walking a bulldog. I slowed down and asked if I could pet him, and the man tried– but his bulldog, Buddy, was shy. I learned that they walk four miles every day together, and he walks him in the morning because bulldogs don’t do well with heat. I stood and admired him for a few minutes, and then thanked him and went on my way.

I feel grateful and refreshed.

Yesterday, I painted my nails a trendy baby blue color. I had worn it last week and gotten a lot of compliments, but it needed a fresh coat. I still need to finish my right hand, but I did my feet and my left hand and they look great! Usually I would only wear a variation of red or pink– finally I’m branching out a bit from my comfort zone.

I enjoyed my sabbatical from this blog– but I realized that I don’t want to give up writing after all. I just needed a break.

One of the motivating factors in my return is actually you– my readers. Out of my 88 subscribers, not one dropped me after I announced my “final” post. Maybe you had been around long enough to realize I’ve dropped out for awhile before and weren’t sure I was done. Maybe you just liked the archives that weren’t deleted. Or maybe you are just fantastically loyal readers.

But that fact– that all 88 of you have stayed– it was incredible.

Truthfully, writing became something stressful for me because I was battling depression and anxiety. I didn’t feel I had anything of value to say, and was full of self-doubt. I didn’t like the vulnerability, and the permanence. At this time, I don’t want to say much about that journey. Maybe in the future, but for now, I’m keeping it close to the vest. Suffice to say, the last six months I’ve been working hard to break patterns of negative thinking and become more grounded and pro-active.

And the results are tangible.

I’m getting compliments lately, from people who hadn’t seen me since then and notice right away that I look “different.” Calmer. Happier.

“You can see it in your face,” they say.

I’m doing better at work, after taking some necessary time off.

One co-worker told me, “You’ve altered. You’ve figured some things out in life.”

I worried about who was reading this blog from my past, and needed some distance. Now it doesn’t bother me as much– it’s still something I’ll need to adjust to, piece meal. But I’m feeling more confident now.

I actually tried to delete the archives, and successfully did erase many of my posts. But I couldn’t finish– it was actually painful. I wish I hadn’t deleted those posts now, because even if they’re sporadic and not organized by a particular theme, they are reflections of me. I judged myself because I thought these posts weren’t intellectual or creative enough, too simple and not more artistic or even journalistic.

But sometimes writing the plain truth is all that you need.

I know that I’m better, because I believe in myself again.

Taking charge of my emotional and mental health is the best thing I’ve done for myself. I had no choice– I broke down. I didn’t enjoy anything anymore, I was barely eating. I had read about the physical symptoms of depression, but for the first time, they were all happening to me. I even hated getting out of bed. I was anxious at work.

But on facebook I looked happy– because that’s what I’ve always done, covered it up. Put on a smile.

So I stopped pretending I was fine. I detached a bit and focused on myself. I went to counseling. I got the meds I needed. And it’s working.

And I’m glad to be open about it– because when you need the attention, your body will let you know one way or another. You can only avoid a problem for so long. It’s all connected– we can’t function by ignoring our emotional lives and expect to be healthy and successful in other areas.

I’m still ambivalent about my writing– that’s a lifetime journey. I’m not sure where it’ll lead me. But it’s the constant in my life, published or not. I’ve been journaling in the interim, and know now that it’s something I’ll do all my life.

Read. Journal. Write. And sometimes, blog.

Not a Quitter Anymore

My biggest regret is that I’ve defined myself by my flaws, and abandoned things I liked doing because it got hard or I failed.

I’ve quit a lot of things.

This stupid Pantene commercial made me cry, and realize that I’ve given myself the easy way out about a lot of things: my hearing, my math disability, or whatever is blocking me at the moment. Rather than persevere, I just quit.

I’ve let my hearing-loss get in my way– but this little girl didn’t. She inspires me.

I loved dance and had good rhythm, but was slow to learn choreography and couldn’t keep up with my class. I quit after second grade.

I began to learn piano in third grade, but was annoyed I couldn’t naturally play with both hands at once. And because of my severe hearing-loss, I had to work much harder to listen to my teacher, concentrate on my playing, and hear the chords. I quit.

I was a great swimmer and diver,  learning to swim when I was six and then taking swimming and diving lessons when my Dad got a membership to a great country club when we moved to Illinois in second grade. I was especially good at diving, and wasn’t afraid of the high dive.

But in fourth grade, I saw a boy I liked flip backwards off a diving board at a neighor’s  Fourth of July party. I was next behind him, and wanted to show off. I miscalculated, and wasn’t far out enough– instead I hit my head on the edge and got quite a nasty goose egg for a bit. i was fine, but traumatized. I was afraid to do any of the dives I had learned. I stopped going on the high dive. I quit.

I was great at gymnastics, built perfectly for it.  I’m petite, with that same square build. It makes me me aerodynamic and able to run fast and hard for a short distance to spring on the vault. My friends and I used to watch gymnastics on TV and practice routines on each other’s front lawns. We learned to do a lot of tumbling on our own. I started taking lessons, and began at level three for the floor and vault exercises.  I remember how sore I was after my classes, and how much I loved the fact that I be in perpetual motion with my entire body. I wasn’t chasing after a ball– I was DOING something. It was a terrific rush.

But I was only strong on the vault and floor, with no training at all on the balance beam or uneven bars. I got sick and missed three classes, and when I returned they were doing evaluations. I had weak arms, and still do. Rather than submit to start over and learn the basics on the uneven bars and balance beam, I quit. That’s one of my biggest regrets– who knows what kind of gymnast I could have been?

(Years later, I took a few private lessons, trying to learn to do a back hand-spring. My instructor was great, but I couldn’t afford to keep up the lessons. She told me I had a “powerful run,” and seemed like a natural.)

I attended cheerleading camps in junior high, and excelled at jumps, basket tosses,  and had a strong voice. But I never tried out at school, because none of the other girls in my grade thought it was cool in fifth or sixth grade. I think I started to try out in seventh grade, but felt sick the first day of try-outs and didn’t do too good. I didn’t come back for the second day. I had great tumbling skills, loved to jump around, and could yell loud.

In high school, I didn’t try out for cheerleading because I hadn’t done it in junior high.  Also, I thought the girls doing it were snots!

Freshman year of high school, a friend tricked me into joining cross-country. I was terrible. I got winded easily, couldn’t keep up with the others, and would be two blocks behind everyone else during practices when we ran through neighborhoods. My coach had me run four laps around or campus quad alone instead, because everyone was annoyed.  I would get lost at meets, or run out of breath and have to stop. I’d come in dead last if I finished at all. Once I had to be driven back to the finish line because I didn’t pay attention to the course tour and had a panic attack when I got lost.

At my first opportunity, I tried out for a play. It was “The Miracle Worker,” and I got cast to share the part of Helen Keller. I ratted up my hair, smudged dirt on my face, made my eyebrows straggly. I was short enough to look like a child– only 4’11,” and half-deaf myself. I won the part, sharing it with a senior. I would play the younger version of Helen. I was ecstatic, and quit cross-country.

THAT, I don’t regret. I loved being on stage, and HATED running. So I quit, and only ran first semester.

I love theatre but have difficulty with memorization– and it’s not my passion. I enjoy being in the ensemble, but don’t want the pressure of a lead role. Some day I may return to community theatre and dabble a bit, but right now my work schedule makes this impossible.

I still hate running. I don’t ever see myself being a “runner.” But it’s something I think could help me feel better, sleep better. I’m going to get out and start running a bit, and just see what happens.

But there are things I DO want to learn.

I want to save up and some day, I want to learn piano again. And learn to play with both hands.

I want to take voice lessons, and learn how to control my singing. I have a strong voice, but no idea what I’m singing or how to control it. I’d like to know what my actual “range” is– I know I’m an alto. I just imitate tones I hear, and would like to grow and learn to hold notes, project, and maybe stretch my range if possible.

I want to take a foreign language again– in college, I took Latin. But since I haven’t used it, it’s gone. Maybe I could take it again, or try something similar but more useful, like German. Something I could speak, and something I could actually hear and pronounce.

I want to learn how to do that damn back hand-spring! I will never have enough money or time to do all these– but I’ll spend my life trying.

I’m not going to be a quitter anymore. I want to finish some things I abandoned, and take on some new challenges.

The only thing I’ve consistently done throughout my life is write. And I even quit that for awhile, but now I’m taking it up again.

So many times, I’ve wanted to quit blogging. But I’ve kept this going a year and a half now. And I love it. It’s my freedom. My release.

Helen Keller has always been a personal hero of mine, since I identify with her severe hearing loss. And look at her– she couldn’t see, OR hear. And rather than give into a world of isolation and hateful silence, she blossomed and became an icon.

Helen Keller learned to read, speak out loud. Even write. She wrote books. She delivered speeches, and got over her insecurities about her voice– I’m sure she had them.

I almost wanted to quit my column because I was getting so burned out on it. I’m not going to let that happen.

I’ll work harder, write smarter.

I’m going to be someone who overcomes.