Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Running Lessons: Just Shut Up and Run

If you're a runner and you don't read Shut Up and Run yet, I'd suggest you start. Not only because Beth is hilarious (which she is) but because she often provides some incredibly useful advice. Last week, one of her posts really hit home. It was about some of the excuses people use to avoid running. I admit I've been guilty of using more than one in the past few months. Beth's post reminded me that running is supposed to feel hard sometimes - anything worth doing generally does. That's how we humans grow and learn - by challenging our minds, bodies and hearts to do things that are new and difficult.

Which isn't to say running always hurts. Very often, when I'm running with a friend or feeling particularly energetic, it doesn't hurt at all. It's a joy to feel my arms and legs moving, blood surging, heart pumping. But there are days when my legs feel like lead and my arms and shoulders ache and my calves get tight and all I want to do is sit on bench and weep.

Over the past 10 days, I've experienced both kinds of runs. On Sunday, David trekked to Bridgewater to run along the river with me and was so unrelentingly positive and encouraging that 12k went by in a flash and felt great. By contrast, when I ran Tuesday evening after a long day commuting to the city for work, my body was stiff and achey from too little activity and the run sucked.  Friday morning's run wasn't much better. It took a stern "shut up and run" to get me out the door.

This past Sunday, I tackled 14k on my own and I confess I was worried. Would it be another suffer-fest or would I to settle into a comfortable groove and enjoy it? Fortunately, even without David's good company, the run went well.  It helped that it was a stunningly beautiful day

- windless, sunny and cool - and that I was well-fueled and hydrated but I suspect the real magic was my attitude. I awoke that morning feeling deeply grateful for all the good things in my life - my husband, our beautiful homes, dear friends, loving family, a job I enjoy, the time and space to run - and that positive energy carried me until my cranky middle-aged body finally woke up. By the halfway point, I was really starting to enjoy myself. My body felt relaxed and strong, my eyes and heart were filled with the beauty surrounding me, and my mind was busy dreaming up plots for a new novel.  

Don't get me wrong, the run still took effort. I had to dig deep to run up hills and my right leg felt tight and sore by the time I arrived home but it felt much better than the 10k run I did two weeks before - an encouraging sign that my body is still able to run longer distances so long as I prepare properly.

In the coming week, I have three more runs planned and hope to do four runs per week into the fall. Rum Runners Relay in just around the corner (our team finally has a confirmed spot!) and I'm giving serious thought to trying a half marathon later in the fall so I need to train a lot more regularly than I have been.

The other bit of running news is that I've been asked to speak to another Running Room group about chi running. This is the fourth or fifth time I've been invited and it's nice that folks think I have something useful to say. On the other hand, I feel a bit of a fraud since I'm certainly not qualified to teach chi running - something I stress at the start of each presentation. My goal is simply to encourage people to think about their form and consider whether chi running might be for them.

That's the running update from here. I'll try to write more soon. In the meantime, happy running and writing, friends. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Running lessons: There's no shame in starting over

The good news is that I'm getting back into routines and slowly organizing my life again. There's still lots to do as I recover from the chaos of the past few months but the light is finally visible at the end of the tunnel.

The bad news is that the chaos left my training in tatters. As I mentioned in my last post, I've only run once or twice a week since the end of May - not enough to maintain the level of fitness I worked so hard to achieve last year - so running feels pretty tough at the moment. My long run on Sunday (a mere 10k) was embarrassingly slow and felt quite uncomfortable. Granted, the first 3kms were mostly uphill and I was tired after a busy week at work, but it's been a long time since running 10k felt so challenging - which was discouraging, to say the least.

Can it really be the case that I ran a full marathon and the "toughest race in eastern North America" last autumn, and am so hopelessly out of shape now? Apparently.

Which leaves me with a choice - either I give up on the idea of ever running distance again, or I take a hard look at my current condition, prepare a sensible training plan and get to work.

The choice should be easy. After all, I love running and know it's one of the best things I can do to stay physically and emotionally healthy. And yet...and, yet...there's a quiet voice just behind my left ear whispering that I'm too old to run, that perhaps it's time to accept the inevitable and forget about running long distances, that it's embarrassing to start over.

The last point particularly smarts because, truthfully, it is embarrassing. How did this happen?!? I intended to "run less" this year, but I never intended to let my fitness level drop so far.

My running buddy David emailed a few days ago to ask if I wanted to go running with him next weekend and I almost refused because he's in awesome shape these days and I know it'll be a struggle to keep up with him. But - dammit - running with David is one of my favourite things so I'm determined to try.

Between now and Sunday, I'll just keep reminding myself that there's no shame in starting over, that I should be proud of how far I've come in the 12 years since I started running, and that the last few months have been a chance for my body to recover so that I'm better able to train. At this stage, I just need to be patient and trust that, with a few months of consistent training, running will feel as easy and fluid as it once did.

Here's hoping anyway.

Happy running and writing, friends.

P.S. Husband and I spent much of last weekend attending the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, where we were introduced to several groups we'd not heard of before, including these guys, The Steel Wheels. If you ever have the chance to see and hear them, do! They put on one heck of a show.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lonely, lazy days

I managed to get myself out of bed this morning in time to go for a 5k run before work but I can't say it felt good. My body was achy and sore after so many weeks of relative inactivity. Don't get me wrong, I've been running occasionally (1-2 times per week), walking a fair bit and doing some gardening. But I've not done any serious training in nearly ten weeks and my body is feeling it. The next few weeks will be busy at home and at work but I need to find more time for running if I'm going to be ready for Rum Runners Relay on September 27th.

Unfortunately, everything's feeling harder these days because I'm missing Her Majesty so much. She was a huge part of my life. From the time I woke up in the morning until I crashed at night, she was there - demanding food and snuggles, lying on any clothes I dropped on the bed or in a chair, settling into my suitcase when she caught me packing, "talking" about whatever was on her mind. I see her shadow from the corner of my eye dozens of times a day, and some part of me still thinks she's in the country with Husband and will be home in a few days.

I know that letting go of people we love deeply is one of life's toughest challenges. I've dealt with many such losses over the past few years and it never seems to get easier. I may go weeks at a time thinking I'm finally over it when something happens to remind me of the person who's missing and the grief and pain come flooding back. The same is true when I remember that Ranee now lies buried in our garden in the box Husband built for her.

I've been struck this week by how some people totally understand how I feel about Ranee's death, while others have no clue whatsoever. For the latter, I suspect pets are just "things" - to be owned and enjoyed for so long as they're convenient. But that wasn't how I thought of Ranee. To me, she was a constant companion who loved unconditionally and always wanted to spend time with me, however grumpy or upset I might be. It isn't hyperbole to say that she tethered me to life on my darkest days - through the challenges of law school and my early legal career, the times when Husband and I were on the verge of separation, difficult moves, professional disappointments, family issues, and lost friendships. No one - not even Husband - has been the guardian of so many confidences. So - yes - I miss her. The house feels desperately empty without her small but mighty presence. I know it will get easier in the months ahead but I still feel weighed down by grief and loneliness whenever I think of her.

Fortunately, when I finally went running this morning, I was reminded that, although it's sometimes hard to get myself out the door, running is one of the best things for dealing with sadness. It reminds me that, despite everything, there's a big beautiful world out there - where birds sing, children laugh, and light bounces off the surface of the lake - and I'm fortunate to be fit and healthy enough to enjoy it. In time, I hope that it's my happy memories of lost friends I will recall rather than the grief of losing them.