My collection of running bibs is growing!

I think I may have a sugar problem. Not in the sense that I add sugar to everything; really, the only thing I add it to is coffee. But in the sense that I think I still eat a lot of sugar through other foods.

And I don’t know why I can’t change myself.

Here I am, running nine miles on occasion.

Actually that’s a lie. I ran nine miles twice. More often I run only four and five. But the point is: here I am, running! Burning calories out the wazoo! Sometimes when I do my long runs, the Nike app tells me I ran off 1000 calories.

And I’m impressed with that number! 1000 calories! Hot damn!

Yet the scale number has gone UP. UP, I say! WTF!?

But I know WTF. WTF is my diet. Which is not so bad, but also not closely watched.

And I don’t weigh myself with any regularity. My focus has been on miles and how many I can run. But I’ve noticed my clothes are definitely not getting looser, and in some instances they are getting tighter. So I stepped on the scale and fainted.

You see, I’m a vegetarian. I love my veggies, but I also love my pastas, and I love my marinara sauces that likely have too much sugar, and I REALLY love my chai lattes, and did you know milk has a lot of sugar?

(I’m slowly trying to ease into a vegan lifestyle because factory farming–even for dairy products like milk–is completely fucked up.)

(Also, drinking another animal’s milk? Gross. And yet here I am struggling to stop.)

And I’ll admit, I LOVE my ice cream. I’ve been eating it a lot this week–I don’t buy it, but others in the household do, and I probably eat it before they even have a chance to look at it.

I think I may be a bit of a binge eater in that way. I binge on music too. I’m currently listening to a song that I just discovered and I’ve replayed it approximately 12 17 times now. And I will eat chocolate ice cream until I’ve had my fill, which is usually much, much more than the recommended amount.

But why is changing so hard? That’s what aggravates me. How many Mondays have I decided to Make the Change, only to return to old habits by the end of the day?

And I’m about to start another Monday making that same pledge to change (as I finish my homemade chai latte).

I have another big race to start training for (though only slightly bigger than my last race–a 10 miler in early December). With such a specific timeframe, I always feel that’s a good time to try and change dietary habits, too. The idea is that I’ll be running, eating better, and will do so with a goal in mind and a deadline, so I don’t feel too overwhelmed by giving up my favorites, like chai lattes.

But it seems like I have no will power at times. And I have a very forgiving attitude of You Only Live Once so go ahead and eat four cups of ice cream!

However, I feel sluggish lately. And the clothes, they are too snug. So, I have to keep trying. And I will.

Bonus moments

I wept on my return drive to Illinois.

Specifically, I cried while leaving Newark, and making my way west through Columbus. I am sometimes so struck by grief at the passing moments, and the people who’ve passed; I often feel completely engulfed in mourning and joy, simultaneously. This world, this orb we walk upon is so damn extraordinary. It is weird and beautiful.

As Oliver Sacks recently wrote before leaving this world: “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

It is such a privilege, filled with elation and pain.

My mom. My mom, my mom, my mom.

She is my favorite person on this big ol’ planet. She and my father, both, but dad died nine years ago, so he lives with me in a different way.

She is a good listener and good conversationalist. The longer I live, the more I realize how rare are these traits. How often I’ve been with people who ask nary a question after I’ve asked them several. Conversations are hard to start that way. When I find people who are good listeners and good conversationalists, I hold on to them for dear life.

But mom. She’s a good listener and she remembers my stories. If I’ve mentioned a co-worker or a friend more than once, she will remember their names; she will remember my history with them; she will ask after them; if they were facing a particular dilemma that I told her about, she will ask how things worked out. She prays for us. For our guardian angels to keep us all safe.

Mom has cancer. She has been living with cancer since 2000. The first was breast cancer. A lumpectomy, followed by a partial mastectomy and a chemo called the Red Devil because it makes people so violently ill, and the cancer never returned. Four year laters, though, ovarian cancer showed up.

She found the cancer at a fairly early stage through a series of events that seem so random and arbitrary that it makes even a cynic like me wonder whether there is some divine power involved–but that story will be told another time.

For now, mom. Who has experienced chemo side effects that would have been fit punishments in Dante’s Inferno. It boggles my mind to see and hear some of the side effects she’s known in her life with cancer. It’s frightening how much the body can hurt.

But. She has been well as of late. Her tumor markers are rising slowly, but her maintenance chemo seems to be holding them within a reasonable level. And she feels okay. Even after chemo, she feels not so bad. She’s enjoying herself–in spite of her neuropathy, her constantly watering eyes, her leg cramps, her general achiness. When we get ready to go shopping, she pops some pain medication in anticipation that all the walking will make her sore. But, damn it, she is ALWAYS ready to go shopping.

And she enjoys herself. A song called “Honey, I’m Good” came on the radio when we were in the car. “This is the song I told you about!”she said while turning up the radio so I could hear it in the backseat. “Isn’t it catchy?” With its twangy country feel, I wasn’t impressed. “I think I hate it,” I said and she protested and told me to keep listening.

The next day it was just the two of us going shopping in the next city over. “You know, I can play that silly song you like whenever I want,” I said and she lit up and said she wanted to hear it.

On the way to the store we were too preoccupied with chatting, but on the way back she asked me to find the song. “Ugh,” I said while searching through Spotify, and she poo pooed my protest.

When the song came on, she started dancing in her seat. Moving her arms and head with the music, changing up her moves as necessary to fit the beat. And I laughed. Hysterically. If I had video, it would have gone viral. I laughed through the entire song. My sides ached from laughing. And she was totally earnest in her dancing, keeping it up until the song finished.

And this is my mom: so many surgical scars, numb feet, blackened fingernails, thinning chemo hair, yet still dancing. Still laughing.  Still making me laugh. Still shopping.

The Tibetan monk Thich Nhat Hanh had a stroke some months ago. His recovery has been challenging, but he accepts it with grace. A friend of his said that every moment he has with Thay now are bonus moments, and he’s just so grateful for them.

There have been many instances when I prepared for the worst regarding mom. There were scenarios that didn’t look like they’d get better. But then the did. She jokes that she has outlived her expiration date.

And I cry when I leave because I know a day will come when a bad scenario won’t get better. It will happen to us all, of course, but it feels more tangible when the person is going to the doctor regularly for news about her health. 

And I dread that day. Just the thought if it chokes me with grief.

Every time I leave her, I hope that we’ll have a chance for another fun visit where she is feeling pretty okay.

I am just so thankful for the bonus moments. They are precious and fleeting, and bring me such joy.

Wherein I love running

Though that’s not exactly accurate.

I love finishing a run. And often, for the first two miles or so, I love the act of running. I love the goal of distances and times, even when my times never seem to improve and the distances aren’t getting any easier.

I don’t want it to be easy. I just want to be better at it. I know the people I watch who run and make it look effortless are putting in more effort than I can imagine. Effort outside the act of running–they’re strength training, and cross training, and eating properly. 

That goes for all athletes, particularly the ones who excel at what the do. Whether they excel on the local stage, the national stage, or the world stage (all of which have different requirements for excellence). 

During the Final Four, NPR did a story on Lebron James and how he was playing in every game because many of his teammates were out on injuries. The reporters made the point that this was a difficult task to take on, playing in every single game for large segments of time. They talked about him barely able to keep his eyes open at times. His recovering days included time on a stationary bike (first thing in the morning) and dips in an ice bath. I imagine his muscles achey and sore. I think about the idea of recovery days still requiring a great deal of physical work.

I love running, and yet I can only get myself out of bed early on race days. Some people jump out of bed and hit the road at 5am in order to get the run in before work, but I’m too busy hitting snooze over and over.

I love running, but it’s not something I turn to as a way to unwind. It is an obligation; a promise to myself to keep moving, even if I’m tired after work. A promise to push myself more because life is short and I want to keep my body in motion.

I love running even though I see little to no change in the scale numbers. I’ve stopped looking at the scale these days. My only measurements are how far I can go and for how long.

I love running even though I will likely never win a race. The people who win races (even local races) are at a caliber beyond my reach, and I’m not meaning that to be a put down about myself. It’s as if there are people whose bodies are designed for running; people who have been running out of pleasure and fun since they were children. And so my goals are adjusted to beat my last time, or to run farther than I did last time. Those are the races I’m in, and they’re good enough for the time being.

Running is always a decision for me. It is not my default mode; it’s a mode I want to be in. Runner is a descriptor I want to claim for myself.

And though it’s mostly difficult, I love running.

(Next challenge: 15K in September)

Wherein I complete my first 10k race

It’s been a summer of training for my first 10K. Weekly group runs followed by solo runs on the days in between. And now summer is officially over because I just completed the race this morning. A summer of running to get to this morning.

The entire distance (6.2 miles) was more challenging than I thought it’d be considering I’ve run a few 5ks in my time. Six miles is still a difficult distance for me to hit on a regular basis. Four to five is my sweet spot. 

I also started interval running (see last post), and that method helped a lot. I think it will be necessary as I train for longer races.

But Race Day! I bought a head band that I though perfectly summed up my feelings about the whole thing:  

 And my right hamstring felt really tight yesterday–like, tight enough that I was altering my walk. So I bought a massage stick at a local sports store and used it the last night, and increased my stretching before bed. When I woke up, I felt GREAT (considering it was 6am).

The race took place at the fairgrounds and my husband dropped me off so I didn’t have to worry about parking.

Lots of people!  

 I submerged myself in the middle of the pack. I’m a realist like that.

Then we were off! I decided not to start my interval running until I was out of the fairgrounds and we could spread out a bit.

There were so many people ahead of me. In 5ks, I’m pretty good about staying in the middle of the pack, but it seems the farther the distance, the farther behind I fall in the pack. I tried to not dwell on that.

Finally, I turned my interval app on. And I’m running and running and running and running, and I think to myself, “surely four minutes has lapsed by now.” I pull out my iphone and see they have lapsed and I’m half a minute into my minute of rest! It seems sometime during my setup efforts, I turned the buzzer off the app and now it was running through the intervals without alerting me. So, I had to run with the damn phone in my hand, which I hate. (I like my hands free when I’m running.)

Then, I’m about fifteen or twenty minutes into the run and I see a police car coming toward us in the other lane. The roads are closed to traffic so I was a bit confused until I heard some cheering. The eventual winner of the race was already on his way back (with a police car leading the way). And the guy was killing it–practically sprinting his way to the finish line. It took him just over 30 minutes to run 6.2 miles–something like a 5 minutes 13 second pace. It was incredible to see–as were all the runners right behind him, though he was the clear leader. The winner is actually well known in this area. He’s the president of our running club and an all around running enthusiast and race winner.

Most of the rest of the race went as planned without a lot of difficulty. I stopped to save an earthworm that was crawling in the dirt on the road. I talked to my legs as necessary, letting them know this was the last time they’d have to run up this hill or that hill. (This course has a lot of intense hills.) At one point I thought to myself, “hmmm…I’m not so sure distance running is for me.” I finished strong (once I see the finish line, I can push myself to speed up a bit), and I completed the race in an hour and eight minutes. I was hoping to get closer to an hour, but now I have a goal to work toward.

Yes I did wear my medal all day.  
Then there was french toast and coffee, a shower, and a five hour nap where I slept like the dead.

And already the next race is close–a 15 K the third week of September!