Archive for April 2010

Sub 6

April 23, 2010

I hit a new PR yesterday— a 5:56 min/mile.  I suppose if I take a hard look at my training lately, I would have to admit that I have earned it.  It feels selfish and almost crazy to be this excited, but these days, with all the medical emergencies my family has been dealing with and the emotional strain it has placed on me, it’s a relief to have something to celebrate, even if I’m popping a metaphorical cork all by myself.  Part of me thinks it’s possible that my basic urge to run away and knowing that’s not a choice has been redirected.  Either way, I am bordering on shock and an embarrassing amount of pride in making this goal.

Running has been the one aspect of my life I have not neglected for the past weeks, but attaining my second goal has been on the back burner.  I have been aiming for a 6.5 min/mile, but not actively pursuing it.   There have been days I have run nice long loops, doing sprints here and there, and working through the worries that have made a prickly nest for themselves in my mind.  But there was something different about yesterday.

I warmed up by jogging alongside a neighbor who was taking her morning walk.  We chatted through the first song in my mix and when we had finished catching up, she waved me off.  The slow warm up paid off.  I picked up my pace easily, and decided to go for an 8 miler.  I let my quads do the work on the steep hill down to Pebble Beach, then as the road leveled off,   I ran softly in the sand.

I left the south end of town and took the long loop back along Marmion Way, not really paying much attention to the run, but moving along comfortably and at a good clip.  Belle and Sebastian’s lyrics had me in a groove.  “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” awakened in me the knowledge that no matter how hard things get, I’m in it for the long haul.  The inner strength that is propelling me through all the necessary obligations combined with a new strength I have been experiencing during my runs and that I’m chalking it up to all the P90-X explosive jumping on my cross-training days.

I pressed up the hill on Old Garden Road and headed downtown.  A sudden, strong urge to really run came over me.  Not to run at my regular pace, not to sprint with an end in plain sight, but the kind of run that’s a mixture of adrenaline, desire, and surrender.  An instinctive will to move as fast as I could.  So I let loose and pushed hard.  The result?  A mile in 5 minutes 56 seconds.  That’s high school fast!  10 mph!  It was wonderful to feel that kind of success on a day when I expected nothing more than the ordinary from myself.


Measuring Up

April 15, 2010

I love to know how far I run every day.  I also enjoy discovering that I have increased my speed.  It’s not really something I am able to guess, though.  Before my sister bought me the Nike+iPod last Christmas, I used  to burst into my house at the end of a run and head right to the computer to Google Maps and trace my route that day.  I had to remember every turn I took, and to find my pace, I had to keep track of the  minutes on my watch.  Not really a big deal, probably not all that accurate, but I always felt a certain satisfaction in knowing how my progress was coming along.  There were plenty of days when I spaced out on my run and could not remember what time I left my house.  There were even a few times,  (I hate to admit this) that I forgot the exact roads I chose and could only guess my distance.

I do know, because I wrote it down in a fitness journal, that my first run was about 2.5 miles, and that it took me about 32 minutes.  Because I measured and kept track, I have been able to see my progress. I now know that my time and speed have increased considerably.  I am now running at a speed of about 8 mph and have been able to run more than 13 miles in one run.  I also know that I have lost about 20 pounds since I began to run.  I wrote that down, too.   I fell in love with running and the calories burned one day at a time.

I didn’t start running to lose weight.  I did it to exhaust myself so that I could fall asleep at night— to keep the nightmares associated with my father-in-law’s death at bay.  It seemed important to write it all down— the running, the distance, the time, my weight— and so I was able to really see what happened.  After a few weeks, I decided to measure my hips and waist, and since then, my waist is only about an inch smaller, but I lost seven inches from my hips.  Although exercise was only about stress relief and trying to sleep better, it became a big enough focus in my life that I went back to school to become a personal trainer.  I feel better than I ever have before in my life!  I wanted to learn how to share that with other people.

Fitness rule for today:  measure and keep track.

This is another one of those double-meaning fitness rules.  The first aspect is about taking measurements at the start of a fitness and/or weight loss program.  Without taking specific measurements, like body weight, waist, hip, arm, calf, and thigh circumferences, body mass index, or any combination of these, it is impossible to measure and assess progress.  Sure, there might be a little bit more room in your pants after you have been watching what you eat and exercising, but knowing exactly how far you have come is an intrinsic reward that cannot be either matched or assumed without having a starting point to go by.  Saying “I lost 10 pounds!” or “My waist measure two inches less than it did a month ago!” feels much more concrete than “I think I may have lost some weight” or “I think I might need to wear a belt with these jeans.”

The other meaning is about measuring food to get a general idea of calorie consumption.  I attempted to explain measuring to one of my clients the other day.  She is pretty resistant to measuring anything.  I made an analogy to money.  When in a store,  let’s say what you want to buy an item that costs $15. You hand the clerk a hundred dollar bill.  The clerk gives you your change.  You count your change.  You want the right amount back.  $85 is a lot of money!  You also have more shopping to do, and you need to plan how you are going to spend what is left.  You need to make sure you have enough to get what you need.  (No, there are no credit cards in this analogy!)  Maybe if you had a couple of pennies coming back you might not be so careful, but when it comes to dollars, knowing what you have spent and what you have left to spend makes or breaks your shopping trip.

That’s how I think about calories.  I don’t believe in measuring everything consumed— in fact, I think of vegetables and fruits as pennies.  But unless you know whether you ate a serving of rice— that’s a 1/2 cup cooked— you just remember that you ate rice.  You could easily consume a double portion.  “So what”, says my client, who wants to lose twenty pounds.  “It’s whole grain.  It’s good for me.  I like it.”   It’s just like counting your change.   1 lb. is equal to 3500 calories.  If you want to lose that pound, you must create a deficit of 3500 calories.  Easily done— eat less or burn them.  A combination of each is most efficient.  But, you will never know how many calories you have “spent” unless you pay attention to them and figure out how many you have left over for later.

I don’t think anyone should go around every day of their life measuring each morsel they are going to pop into their mouth.   I do believe, though, that measuring cereal, rice, pasta, oils, and meat, fish or nuts for a few days will give a good general idea of what a serving actually looks like.  Seeing one cup of cereal in a bowl for a few days lets your eye get the idea.  Soon, pouring the right amount becomes second nature.  Everything we buy at the grocery store has a portion size and calorie count.  It’s a simple step.  Look at the package.  Pay attention to how much you eat.

There are all kinds of little tips for assessing amounts.  A palmful of nuts is a serving.  A piece of meat or fish the size of your palm is about one serving.  (3-4 ounces.)  A cup is about the size of a tennis ball.  2 tablespoons of peanut butter is about the size of a ping-pong ball.  After just a few days, you will be able to eyeball a serving and know how many calories are in that portion.  When you add up your calories and deduct the number you have burned during exercise, you can closely estimate how long it will take to lose a couple of pounds, or twenty.


April 13, 2010

The last time I posted,  I wrote about running a half-marathon distance.  Since then I have covered another 56 miles.  I would love to write today as always, describing the physical and beautiful visual experiences I have while running, but running for the past 11 days has had nothing to do with that usual pleasure.

Our family has been dealing with two medical crises.  My dad, who was in a rehab facility, finally went home last weekend, one week later than we expected.  He still requires a great deal of care and assistance.  My mom is his primary caregiver, but will have some help from visiting nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and a home health aid until Dad is truly back on his feet.

My husband’s mother has been in and out of the hospital twice, both times with a myriad of physical issues.  After her discharge today, she was transferred to a rehab facility close to us and home.  We are hopeful she will be there until she is stronger and is able to manage her own care a bit better, perhaps for a week or two.

The stress— of worrying about my own parents and supporting my mom as she tries to manage my dad’s health care and the trips to our local hospitals to visit and check on my mother-in-law— has taken a toll on my family and on me.  I’m one of those people who does what must be done to the best of my ability, but that does not make it easy.   I have let go of so much!  I know that none of it really matters in the long run, as long as everyone is clean and fed.   But there is cat hair everywhere, thanks to my two long-haired purring beasts and my vacuum lolling in the closet.  Beds are unchanged; the dust bunnies are rabid and biting.  The kitchen floor crunches under my bare feet.

We have been eating on the fly, with plenty of yucky hospital food and quick but healthful at-home meals.   My daughter turned 16 somewhere in there among all this, and I had to scramble to bake her the cherry pie she requested.  The four of us sat at the kitchen table— my husband, my son, my daughter and I, not feeling very celebratory yet trying to make the best of it— 16 is supposed to be sweet.  The pie was good.  Tart, a little sweet, reflecting us at the moment.

I have not been writing.  Even if I think about writing and consider giving it a go, I sit down and just can’t do it.  My head starts to spin with all that is going on in our lives.  I start to think about what our lives would be like without the people we love so much, and how much sadness is ahead for our family.   I cannot put the words together  to adequately express how I feel without bursting into tears and tossing my keyboard out the window.

The one thing I have kept doing for me is running.

Every morning after I throw the lunches together and take my daughter to school, I grab my gear and go.  There have been a couple of days I stayed in and did P90-X and strength training— jumping until I was breathless, then lifting the heaviest weights I can manage.  But mostly, it’s the running that is keeping me from falling apart.

Some mornings I actually pay attention to the music and the sun and the cool spring air.   Otherwise, I pile on the miles, and with each step I feel release.  My heart beats and my breath comes in long, deep pulls and the world seems to right itself, even if only for that hour or so that I run.  Moving myself mile by mile, I review all my mom has said about my dad’s health and her exhaustion and frustration in caring for him.  I think about all he cannot do for himself, and how hard it is for all of us that they live just far enough away to make frequent trips to help or even just to visit difficult.  As I feel the muscles in my legs flex and strain while I sprint up the biggest hills, I think about my mother-in-law and how afraid she is of every new condition she has been diagnosed with, and how alone  she is in the hospital without her husband by her side, as he was for almost 60 years.  And then I let it all go.  I let myself have just that one thing every day.  I fly down as many hills as my body can take, feeling the rush of air against my skin.  Buildings blur together as I race by.  I melt into the moment and stay there as long as I can.


April 2, 2010

I did it!  Today I ran a half-marathon distance.

It’s Friday, April 2.  I grudgingly rolled out of bed as soon as the alarm went off this morning, taking a turn at fetching the morning coffee.  Hubby had a turn staying warm and cozy.  I stumbled down the hall and made my way downstairs, careful to be quiet so our daughter could sleep in this morning.  No school.

When I frothed milk for our coffees, I also set up water glasses with chia seeds for our chia fresca (Chia fresca has turned out to be the perfect pre-run fuel.  Unlike kefir, cereal, or pretty much anything else, it does not slosh around in my stomach when I run. It sort of settles in there in its gel-like way, keeping me full and hydrated longer than any other pre-run fuel I have tried.  And, it’s not  goo (Gu) or weird colored stringy junk or otherwise un-food-like.  That’s a double plus as far as I’m concerned.)  I set the timer for 10 minutes and headed back upstairs to deliver the hubby’s coffee and crawl back into bed to drink mine.  I had a goal to make.


I  swill my chia fresca,  and layer on my running clothes.  Today is only my second day out this week.  Rain and family emergencies have kept me off the road, but I squeezed in 7.36 miles yesterday morning and the familiarity took me by surprise.  I felt so out of touch with my body and the sensation of the pavement underfoot that I wanted to make sure I still remembered how to run.

I stuff in my ear buds for the Nike+iPod, choose the “Runner’s Delight” playlist, take a deep breath, and go.  I decide on the long first loop which is a little over 6.5 miles.  I try to hold back on my pace.  It’s a gorgeous morning, cool but with a touch of spring warmth.  The air is damp and salty-fresh; the roads are quiet.

The big hill at the end of Marmion Way is not as daunting as usual, and I am able to keep up my speed as I round the corner onto South Street.  When I reach the fork, I up my pace on the easy downhill toward Penzance Road.  I approach Pebble Beach and notice how even more sand has washed away from the rocks exposed there.  The morning air is especially thick here in the south end of town.  My sunglasses blur with the mist and I have to wipe them on my fleece top to see as I head up the next hill.

I take Eden Road, then back to Marmion Way.  I check my time and it’s good.  I pass my house and keep going toward town.  I take Main Street to Beach Road, circle around for a mile or so, then loop back onto Main again.   I  take a right that leads to Broadway.  I’m not really tired yet, but take the hill slowly, checking where I stand in distance.  Just over 9 miles.  I know I can do it.  I turn onto Broadway and pass a young girl jogging with her dog.  I smile at her as I go by, then, with a sudden and completely unexpected surge of energy, sprint wildly down the slope heading directly into T Wharf.  I look both ways as I fly across the street and decide to go back up Mt. Pleasant and rerun the long Marmion loop.  The hill Sue and I always complain about is pretty easy this morning, even after that crazy sprint, and I try not to think about running another 4 miles, but focus on how good I feel this moment, how I think I could run forever.

A couple of trucks that have already passed me earlier in my run go by again.  They are people I know in town; they honk and wave and I wonder what they think about my crazy circling route today.  I notice my friend Danny wears a wide grin as he raises his hand to me and I can feel the reflection of that grin on my own face.

The second round is a tiny bit slower, but I don’t stop.  I pass my house once more and head back downtown.  This time I know I don’t have much farther to go, so I run up Bearskin Neck.  I use the round-about at the top and take in the scope of the sea—the absolute size of it,  the gentle waves, and the rich color of the water in the bright sunlight.  I count some of my blessings right now:  that both my father and my mother-in-law are getting better and will be coming home again soon, my good fortune at being able to live and run here in Rockport, and, that I’m going to make my goal.

I run back home filled with excitement and pride, letting myself enjoy the moment alone for a little while.  13.13 miles.  1’49” exactly, averaging 8:18 min/mi.  I stroll down the street for a brief cool-down, then, ready to share my news, I head home.  I raise my arms up high in a silent victory salute to my heart, my legs, my lungs,  and most of all, my head, then burst through the front door.  My hubby is in our office already at work.

“I did it!  I just ran 13.13 miles!”

He smiles his best smile at me, and is so proud that he grabs me in a congratulatory bear hug, ignoring my sweat-soaked body and clothes.  We both stand in the kitchen grinning like idiots until the burning oatmeal breaks the spell.