just get this over with

These days, I’m doing better at knitting than I am at running. Or dieting. Or housework. I think I’d better stop now before I really start to depress myself.

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I had hoped for some free time this weekend, to do some things around the house and yard, to get my run in, and to try my hand at some homemade pizza dough. This free time never materialized. I had a sick headache for most of Saturday and spent the day on a rain-soaked soccer field watching a high school tournament – then Jax & I had to hustle over to a friend’s house to watch college football. We got in a little later than I normally would have, for the night before a long run, but I woke up Sunday without a headache and ready to run. Because I was on Jax’s side of town, I’d staked out my long run in a somewhat unfamiliar area. I’d picked the trail, I had my handheld water bottle, my running belt, my Audiobook…the location is really beautiful but about 2 miles into my run, I realized that I’d misjudged the trail surface. I’d sort of thought that it would be a fairly groomed trail, similar to those in my local metroparks or DNR parks, but this one got pretty rough.

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I stuck with it for almost 4 miles, thinking to myself that it was good training for the trail half-marathon that I signed up for in November (more on that later) but it quickly became evident that on that terrain, I wasn’t going to get in my miles. So on the next crossing, I diverted onto the road and did 5 on hard-packed dirt. It was late in the morning and the sun was getting hot. I stopped to refill my water bottle at the campground, with all the little old ladies waiting in line for the showers while their hubbies loaded up the RV’s (it really just sort of looked like a big parking lot with fire pits). I checked the map, and headed back. Unfortunately, in order to get back my car, I had to plunge back into the woods, and I finished up my last 3 running / walking on narrow, winding trails, some with exposed rocks and tree roots, switchbacks and boggy areas, some areas where the trail narrowed so much that I could barely see it.

All in all, 12.2 miles, all done more slowly than I’d like, but I got the miles in. Nothing went quite the way I wanted it to this weekend. My house still needs to be cleaned, no pizza dough, I didn’t get nearly enough lazy reclusive time to be a hermit, and all for kind of a shitty and disappointing long run. Life is all about choices. I know this is where a pro blogger would switch into chirping about how great it felt to finish and how worth it is always is, but this feeling always comes for me at the end of a training cycle – I get sick of getting miles in, having to run when I don’t want to, having to hit paces and block off hours of time for it when there are so many other things that I could be doing.

 

dieting.

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lunchtime run + meditation time at the botanical gardens; treasure the weather while it lasts.

So I’m back counting calories and steps with my trusty My Fitness Pal. I launched quite a diet & exercise offensive earlier this summer, in order to be able to wear a bikini on our vacation in North Carolina, but with several weeks of tracking, I really only lost about 3 lbs. I was relieved to give it up after vacation and go back to eating and drinking whatever I damn well felt like. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the 3 lbs coming back on, as well as a little extra.

I’ve always had a good metabolism and weight was never much of a worry for me until about the last year and a half. When I started running a lot in 2010, my body changed, became much leaner. Then, after several years, everything evened out  my body got used to all of that running and exercising, and adjusted accordingly. I’ve gone from, at my lowest, most unhealthy point, about 20 lbs under my ideal weight to about 10 lbs over that ideal weight since I turned 40.

Well, I thought to myself, training for my half ought to help this situation. Turns out it hasn’t.

Portion control, meal preparation and planning, and careful assessment of my nutritional mix plus daily exercise – that’s what works for me. I use Map My Run and My Fitness Pal to track my calories and plan my meals. I like seeing my daily food diary laid out so I can ensure that I am getting what I need – protein, whole grains, fruits & veggies, and enough water. Map My Run syncs with My Fitness Pal so when I log workouts, I see the calories come off my day, and I can make adjustments.

The problem with all of this is that food equals happiness and comfort and satisfaction for me. I don’t eat a lot of junk food. I don’t eat fast food more than once every couple of months, I don’t drink soda, I don’t eat bags of potato chips or cookies. But I do love cheese, and if I want to smash up an avocado and eat it on toast or with crackers, or mixed in pasta with red pepper flakes and pesto and olive oil, I want to be able to do that. I love red wine and pizza and bread, and after I run at lunchtime, I like wandering down to the cafeteria and having the chef whip me up a veggie and cheese quesadilla with a big handful of thick kettle chips. I like ice cream and pie a couple times a week. I feel like my mental issue is that I’m not a terrible eater – by and large I like healthy things, but I like them ALL THE TIME. In order to succeed in losing weight, I have to change my mindset from seeing food as self-love to seeing it as fuel, which is extremely dissatisfying.
But things must be done and so for the foreseeable future I will be packing lunch for myself (I don’t love processed food, but a Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine at lunch helps keep me on track – typically I only choose the vegetarian options, and actually a couple of them – these and these – are pretty good) and planning my meals on my little phone apps and trying to move more and drink more water and not turn into a shrieking harpy because I can’t have my Dove chocolate or large pour of cab sav.

labor day

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Although I generally hold a low opinion of humanity en masse, at times I can’t deny our basic sameness. It amazes me sometimes that the things that make me happy make so many other people happy, too; different backgrounds, values, personalities, cultures, and yet, this long weekend, we fought for elbow room in the same places to do the same things. We were drawn to blue sky and shimmering expanses of water. We were drawn to sunsets and the sight of the milky way over a cooling sand dune. We were drawn to shallow brown rivers warm under a bright sun.

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There’s some aspect of our humanity that is drawn to these things, that feeds off these sights and feelings and sounds, we’re similarly nourished by them even though we might not know why or even that we are; we just know we want to be close to them.
After this weekend, Up North will start to return to its off season. The crowds will dissipate and the hours of sunlight will decrease. The woods and the water will become cold and the seasonal businesses, the farm stands and ice cream parlors, will shutter for the long, drifted winter. I sat on the beach off Peterson Road and thought that it was almost unbelievable that in just a few short weeks, the hot sun will be gone. No more bright towels and dogs in the waves, toddlers with sand pails and adults drowsing under umbrellas – just a stretch of grey, icy shore under a slate grey sky, scoured by wind and snow. There’s something deeply satisfying about that cycle.

why i run

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this picture doesn’t have much to do with the substance of this post except that in about three weeks I will be running past these lakes and no doubt wishing i was dead.

I’m a little over three weeks out from my half and have a 10-miler under my belt. At this point in my training, I am sick of running and my 10-miler did not improve my outlook much. At mile 7, it was a struggle even to keep to an easy pace and Jax, who hasn’t run more than five miles in the last two years, finally got tired of my pace and glided ahead to smoke me by over a minute per mile.

While up north over Labor Day, we drove my race route and I remembered / noted the fact that the entire first half is uphill.  I will likely miss my long run this week, and will finish up my training with a 12-miler, followed by a 10-miler, then a taper. My paces are slower, my endurance is less, and it’s certain that this race will not be a PR. In fact, I honestly don’t know if I can ever come close to that magic number again. Every year, it gets harder to hit those marks.

Regardless, I am keeping a positive outlook. Coming back from my stress fracture has forced me to reframe my reasons for running and to try to focus on the silver linings rather than my deficiencies. Why do I run? I love being outside; I would never get out and see as much of the world if I didn’t run. I like the warm afterglow of accomplishment. I love events, the running community; I love strong legs and having time to myself, alone. I love the little victories where I improve. I will no doubt be incredibly disappointed in October if I can’t break 2 hours, but I am also trying to tell myself that it’s better to run and have room for improvement than not to run at all.

shine like glamour

So what have I been up to since we last talked? Let’s see, we went to a carnival with my brother and his family.

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There’s something about a small-town fair that really appeals to me. I think it reminds me of how exciting it was when we were kids – all the old small-town festivals and county and state fairs. In daylight, they look tired and cheap, but at night, especially to a kid, they glimmer and shine like glamour.

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My brother is always an excellent carnival companion, perhaps the best there is. He is prone to pointing out that when I am on a particularly frightening ride, I curse in a decibel lower than my regular voice. This observation always makes me laugh and think of Chris Farley of SNL dressed up like the Gap salesgirl. He makes me laugh so hard and so often that my abdomen aches the day after I am with them.

Miss L juked me twice this year. If she wants to go on a scary ride, I of course must accompany her. However, as I get older, the heights really bother me. This year, she was determined to go on the shock drop, where you are harnessed in and they lift you up up up 70 feet into the air. You are essentially sitting with your legs dangling, nothing between you and oblivion but a locking harness. Miss L ran up, sat down; I sat next to her and locked my harness in place. Once this was done, Miss L jumped out of the seat and said, “Nope. Changed my mind,” and scampered off to join my SIL, who was shrieking with laughter. “Well hell no am I doing this, then,” I thought, and tried my harness. Locked and loaded. No escape. And the ride began its ascent. Everyone thought that was quite hilarious.

She also thought she wanted to ride the Zipper, in which you are locked into a tiny revolving cage and spun up and around, over and over. I climbed in – she climbed in next to me – the cage door began to swing shut and she was out of there like a shot. Luckily, my brother climbed in next to me, and as the cage door locked and we began the ascent, he said conversationally, “Well, if there was some sort of catastrophic event down below, we’d really be screwed, locked in up here, wouldn’t we?” NOT HELPFUL.

We went back and my SIL had arranged a lovely little birthday party for Miss L. It’s always a fun tradition and one that I remember all year long.

The weather has turned a bit cooler and Labor Day, the last hurrah of summer, is almost upon us. The major road construction that has plagued us is over, and school starts next week. Still, true autumn feels a long way off still. My friend had a Lularoe pop-up party on Facebook and despite my caution toward such cultish things, I bought some leggings and a skirt and am excited to wear them with boots and sweaters, hopefully soon. I need cool weather, rain and incense, knits and candles and a fire in the woodstove.

 

loose ends

The house has been empty and quiet this week with Miss L spending time with her dad & his fam, so I’ve been a bit at loose ends. Weeks like this can be tough for me as it’s easy to fall into a morass of missing her / hoping I’m a good mum / feeling guilty for having alone time / feeling guilty about spending time with Jax & his kids without her / hoping she’s having a good time with people she really loves and who really love her but also hoping with a small selfish part of me that she misses ME too = a lot of conflicting feelings that I’m sure single mums will relate to. Suffice it to say, although I really couldn’t be luckier / happier / more blessed about our blended family situation – in which all adults are incredibly mature and genuinely kind and loving – I still have a LOT of personal issues of my own to work through. No surprise, as I know I am still a work in progress, but I am committed to trying to put my own feelings to one side to do the best I can for Miss L in every stage of her life. Roots and wings, as my own mom told me, roots and wings.

So, as I mentioned, I spent some time at Jax’s house, made dinner for his crew and got some major loving from Izzy.

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I did some running and have some more to do this weekend. I’m at the point in my training where I am seeing and feeling results – both good and bad. My times and endurance are better, but my legs feel crummy – “sprung”, as I call it. My calves, ankles, and shins are full of tight, red-hot wires that pull and twitch. Everything south of my knees aches. 8 miles tomorrow.

I finished “Wolf Lake”, a gloomy wintery mystery by John Verdon, and just started “Ink and Bone” by Lisa Unger. I have so many books going that I don’t know where I am at any given moment. “Ink and Bone” is my actual physical library book – for bedtime and “serious” reading. I’m listing to “Her Fearful Symmetry” on an audio disc borrowed from our paralegal, and “The Likeness” by Tana French on Audible while I run. In between – for cross training on the elliptical or sitting around unexpectedly waiting for someone – I have “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton on my old Kindle.

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At work, there is a kerfuffle over whether the town hall doors (where we keep the office supplies, refrigerators, microwaves, trash, etc) should remain open or closed. I actually heard a heated meeting about this in a conference room on the other side of my office wall. “We’ve been doing it this way for FOURTEEN YEARS!!!” “It’s a black and white issue to me.” “WHAT IF SOMEONE IS CARRYING HOT SOUP AND CAN’T OPEN THE DOOR?!”

I’m starting to get heirloom tomatoes and I’m watching “I Am Not Your Guru” about Tony Robbins. Tomorrow I get to pick up Miss L and we head directly to my brother’s house for our annual trip to the carnival. I love the creepy small town carnival. I always think I might see a ghost.

race recap: run for the hills

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No PR face

On Saturday morning, one of my gal pals and I did the local Run for the Hills 10k. This is a local race that benefits Special Olympics, and it’s sort of a summer tradition for me. I think this is the fourth year I’ve run either the 5k or the 10k. It’s not an especially scenic race route, unless you like looking at residential streets of varying degrees of socio-economic status, but it’s fun and usually a good indicator of how my summer running is going. Particularly as this is the third year I’ve trained for the October Sleeping Bear half-marathon and this 10k falls at a good place in that training schedule.

That being said, this is usually my most challenging event of the year. ‘Run for the Hills’ is not a misnomer – this is a very hilly route and at this time of year I can usually count on bright sunshine and hot, humid conditions. I woke up Saturday with a headache and a bit of an upset tummy due to – umm, let’s just say hormones and I might have considered scratching or dropping back to the 5k if my pal hadn’t been so excited to run. She has been determinedly training for it all summer, after an extended period off running, and I’d had to pep talk her a few times. I didn’t want to let her down. So at 8:30 we were lined up at the start, ready to roll.

My first mile went well – in training runs, I am a big baby about that first mile and usually consider it an extended warmup. At about the 1.3 mark, where the 10k and the 5k split off, I started feeling nauseous and overheated. I struggled with nausea for the rest of the race, and had to walk several times. I tried to wait until I hit a mile marker, then give myself a quick breather to recover. My goal was to keep every mile sub-10 with walking breaks included. However, I rallied slightly at mile 4 and was able to push through til the finish without a stop and with a much better pace. End result – 58:55 / 9:30 average. This is better than last year’s 59:17 but nowhere near my PR for this event, which I logged in 2013 with a 54 and change (2013 is the same year I PR’d my half-marathon, too).

I was really proud of my friend, who finished with a bright pink face that matched her shirt and an enormous smile – she’d come in slightly better than her target and was pleased with the race and her result. I can’t say I’m as pleased with my own self. I could have pushed myself harder and left more on the course. I probably could have shaved a minute off, if I’d been determined. But c’est la vie, the race is in the books and I look forward to the next.

During my historic half-marathon training cycles, my next event would be the Kensington Challenge, which used to be a 15k. Perfect next-step distance for my October half. However, in a perplexing change, the Kensington Challenge no longer has the 15k event – they’ve changed it to a half-marathon! This is disappointing. There are so many cool late-summer / fall half and full marathons that I’m not sure why they reasoned that this was the right strategy. Anyway, this means no more (planned) official events until my half.

On Sunday morning, at Jax’s house, we all watched the end of the Olympic men’s marathon, which was incredible. I was so disappointed for Meb, but so inspired by his undeterred enthusiasm and joy when they interviewed him at the end. And I don’t know how anyone could fail to be inspired by Kipchoge’s strong, focused performance. As for Galen Rupp – hmmmm. Pretty darn impressive that he medaled in only his second-ever marathon (!!) – but perhaps his reputation precedes him, for me?