A Lesson in Humility: My first DNS Race

I had trained two months for this race: The Rockdale Ramblin’ Run 10k.

Tuesdays and Thursdays I arose and trained 5:30- 6:30 a.m.

DNS is runner code for “Do Not Start”– or forfeit. Since 2015 when I began racing, I had never missed one. This was unlucky #14.

And the morning of, my body said no. Need overcame will. Shot pride.

At 6:15 a.m. April 29, my alarm went off. Our team was meeting at 7:15 to stretch– the race began at 8 a.m.

But literally, I couldn’t even get out of bed. Sometimes I have random eye pain and it flared up that morning– I couldn’t see, let alone drive. I put my prescription eye ointment in, applied a cold wet washcloth, texted my trainer and a friend who was going to cheer me on that I wasn’t going, and went back to bed.

But I had also been desperately trying to fight off a cold since Weds– I even called off work Thursday. I had the works– sore throat, majorly runny nose, coughing. And the weather forecast was cold, windy and most likely rainy. I also have a suppressed immune system– so it takes me longer to get over being sick. It wasn’t worth it to miss another day of work just to for pride’s sake.

I slept till 11:30 a.m. and felt rested. But also kinda devastated. Especially since it’s the last year for this particular race, which is historic and has earned the nickname “The Toughest 10k in the Midwest” because of several steep hills. Plus, I just wanted to be there with my friends. We had so much fun doing the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago in March– and I had crushed it!

Also, it was going to be my first race with people cheering me on! I’ve been wanting that a long time.

I had promised myself I would go and try– at least up the first hill, where my friend Marlene would be cheering me on since she lives directly on the route, and I had asked for her support. And if I couldn’t, I wanted to be there to cheer on support my friends were were racing. I felt like I had let down my teammates, though running is a solitary sport. I have friends now through the training and also two local running clubs I’ve joined.

But most of all, I hated feeling weak and out of control of my body. I was convinced if I rested, I could summon the strength to power through. But truthfully, I burned myself out training so hard.

I had begun going to bed early and waking up early. About halfway through I just stayed up as normal and was barely getting 4-5 hours the days I trained. All I did for two months was run, work, sleep, and beat myself up about not running if I missed it. I didn’t really see my friends.

I thought my runner friends would judge me. But none of them did– they were actually very supportive. They wrote on my wall that they were sorry I couldn’t race, but there were other races. That I should just get better and rest.

I also realized I couldn’t expect myself to perform on their level when these awesome people have been racing for years and are a higher level of fitness. Most of them race nearly every weekend– if not twice! They do halfs and marathons. They can do 10 miles easy.

I’ve been racing two years but am only now getting “serious” about running. I’m starting to care about my times and train for specific pace goals. Learning about nutrition, stretching.

I’ve spent the past few weeks coming to terms with what changes I need to make so that this doesn’t happen –hopefully– again. I need to be realistic about my goals.

I decided to cancel my plans for the Solider Field 10 Mile I had been hoping to do for months–I just can’t add that mileage confidently in three weeks. My body needs more time to adjust, and that’s okay. Two people invited me to do a half-marathon this fall but I’m going to table that, although it’s a huge compliment!

I’ve decided that to make this loss right with myself, I will run the course anyway– just so I can say I ran the route. I love the event hoodie that came with the packet, but I feel like a liar wearing it. I have the course map and some friends who have run the race a few years. I’m going to use that route for training to get myself comfortable with the 10k distance and hill work. I will do it alone too until I can run it hopefully without the map.

And then I will pin on my race bib and run my best time, and maybe ask my friend to cheer me on again. I forgive myself but I can still learn from the experience and take on the challenge!

I’m still a little stuffy) but my throat is clear and no cough. I’ve been on two run since yesterday– 8 miles!

I may be slower to learn, but I’m not quitter! I have a 5k in Rockdale next weekend– so I’ll be running in the same neighborhood with some hills, even if it’s half the distance. That makes me feel better.

As runners often say: “It’s just a hill. Get over it.”

Running Though the Bad

I’m in a bit of a snit with running lately.

Truly, I have no idea why. My guess is that as I’ve become more aware to the running community, I’m feeling intimidated.

I joined a bunch of running groups on facebook and added several members of the two local running clubs of which I’m now a member. At first seeing everyone post their daily miles and races was exciting, but being inundated with paces in the 6-8 minute range has caused me to compare myself.

There’s that envy again! Now Lent is over, but I still struggle with it.

Suddenly, the activity that inspired me and was starting to feel natural got harder. I’ve fallen back with my pace– my confidence took a major dive with it. I’m feeling stuck.

However, there are also awesome benefits. For the first time ever, I (kinda!) knew some people running the Boston Marathon. Seeing their bib numbers and progress posted was exciting. And if these are the individuals in my running clubs, aren’t I lucky? I’m bound to learn and absorb SOME of their skill and running mojo.

If you want to be great, surround yourself with greatness. These people genuinely LOVE running– they run early, in all kinds of weather. Some race nearly every week. They look fit– like runners. They know their pace and seem RELAXED while running– they are able to go on long group runs and even have conversations while running. They travel to Boston just to support other club members– that kind of devotion is impressive. They know who they are — runners– and they’ve built a comfortable life and group of friends around it.

I want that!

I’m in the process of doing the same. I just have remind myself that I can’t compare my beginning to the established routines and athletic excellence that took years to develop.

And I have to be more forgiving of myself and the humility of my body’s limits.

As much as I aspire to it– I’m not Haruki Murakami. I can’t magically up my mileage whenever I feel like it and run endlessly, without walk breaks. He was born with some genetic predisposition to running that is truly a gift.

The rest of us have to earn all those skills and miles under duress.

But I know that I have the heart of a runner, even if my legs and my lungs fight me.

Because I’m reading books about it, signing up for races months in advance, and making major lifestyle changes to better enable myself to perform at a higher level. I’m foregoing other purchases, thinking, “I could put that toward a race fee.” The next thing I fantasize about buying is a new pair of running shoes– mine are starting to feel flat.

Because although right now trying to improve and acclimate myself to this sport honestly sucks, I’m thinking long-term.

Growing pains are awkward, but that’s all these are. Pains of transition.

I can’t wait till my next race– this weekend. It’ll be my first 10k– in an arboretum.

No one I know is doing this race, and I love that. I’ll be free.

No pressure. I’m just going to enjoy myself, push my pace, and look at the trees.

 

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.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Pike: A Couple with Equal Challenge and Parity

Just watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the original MOVIE.

Way superior to the series, although I love what Joss did with it. I watched all seven seasons.

Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry are great in these roles– probably my favorites of them both. Not to mention David Arquette, Paul Ruebens, Hilary Swank and Donald Sutherland– and young Ricki Lake, Seth Greene and Ben Affleck as extras!

It’s infinitely quotable.

But really, I like this movie because the relationship between Buffy and Pike is one of two equals. She leads a very superficial life until she is recruited by Merrick as “The Chosen One.” She resists her calling, but finally accepts it– partially because Pike believes in her and is the supportive partner she needs to feel confident.

Pike’s strong rebellious streak enflames her own. He changes her, from a girl to a woman. And I don’t mean sexually– in the movie they have a chaste relationship. The most you see is a slow dance and a few kisses at the end. I mean that he is masculine enough for her to feel safe becoming vulnerable– and consequentially owning her feminine power of intuition. She can own her emotions– whereas with everyone else, she hides behind a mask of apathy or frozen anger.

Buffy may be “The Chosen One,”– The Slayer– but she’s still  a human woman. She’s still insecure, not sure that she is ready to take on such a responsibility. She doesn’t believe in her own power. With her school friends, she was the leader. Her boyfriend thought she was hot, but they had a pretty vacuous relationship that faltered once she began to realize that other things were more important than cheerleading and dance committee– like saving people’s lives. It was a huge sacrifice–and one she didn’t want to make. But eventually she realizes it’s her destiny and that she is the only one with the power to help her friends and stop what’s happening.

Her boyfriend Jeffrey and the other boys at school had mainly just drooled over her– they didn’t care about who she was or care about much of anything, other than basketball.

When Buffy begins slaying and starts to change, everyone is frightened by her. They don’t want to know what’s going on with her, or how they can help. They just are uncomfortable with her new awareness, because that would force them to question themselves– which they are too vapid to care about doing. They’re more comfortable with ignorance.

But when she meets Pike, he is intrigued by her mystery. He wants to find out who she is, how she can be so powerful.  And he’s drawn to her power, rather than threatened. He wants to fight by her side– but trusts her instincts. When she wants to give up, he challenges her and is the only one who cares enough to tell her the truth. He doesn’t give up on a relationship with her, but is patient until she is comfortable with it.

They are transformed by each other. They become better people, for each other.

That’s the thing about love: it’s transformative. It makes you a better person. It forces you to grow and become the person you need to be– it elevates you.

Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually.

Buffy is fierce and unapologetic. When a male friend at school  passes her in the hallway,  he grabs her ass and says, “Got to get some.” Buffy body slams to the ground, then into a locker. He stammers apologies– visibly shaking. “Don’t grab me, OK?” is all Buffy says. Jeffrey, her boyfriend, tries to comfort her– but she shoves him off and says, “I can take care of myself.” He feels completely emasculated, and they drift farther apart.

As the Slayer, Buffy is now constantly hunting and killing vampires. Her instincts are now for defense. No one knows how to act around her. And they honestly don’t much care. They merely distance themselves from her, and Buffy retreats into isolation.

Except she does open up to Pike. Because he understands what she is going through.  Pike allows her to set the pace of the relationship– backing off when she needs– but always there, always ready to welcome her back or help her in any way he can.

And that’s what your true partner does– they meet you as an equal. They challenge. But most of all, they aren’t too proud to meet you halfway and compromise to meet the needs of your relationship. They vow to change WITH you, and accept you for all your quirks, past, and insecurities.

This year I’ve opened my heart to God in a new way. And slowly, my heart is opening more.

Patience is the key to my heart. Patience, and being a steadfast man who follows through on what he says.

The more I trust myself, the more I’m open to possibility.

Getting past the shame of using the “v-word” : AKA VAGINA!!

Here it is.  Read it and say it with me, “vagina.”

C’mon, you can do it!

My column about- yup– vaginas:

http://heraldnews.suntimes.com/opinions/13402964-474/getting-past-the-shame-of-using-the-v-word.html

To add some context:

Here is what Reps. Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum actually SAID, according to CNN.

For more information, check out Vaginas Take Over the Capitol on fb,  see for yourself  the glory of the V-Day team’s performance in Michigan,  a video of the V-Day team’s performance, THIS.  Or sign a petition in support of Rep. Lisa Brown

Also, for word count I wasn’t able to get in our Big Three, the Chief Vaginas — but here they are:

Executive Creative Director, Dulcinea Hawkworth; Assistant Director, Michael Sansone; Assistant Producer, Nicole Rousonelos.