Posted tagged ‘training’

Stress, Boxing and Granola

May 31, 2015

There is nothing quite like hitting when it comes to stress relief.  Between work and my personal life, there are days when I feel as though I might self-combust with all of the energy built up from teaching group fitness classes, working with clients in physical and emotional pain and then, of course, my own emotional junk that seems to pile up as I ignore my own feelings while I am thinking about everyone else. Although an extra workout is probably the last thing I need, wrapping my hands, slipping into my 16 ounce gloves and throwing jabs, crosses, hooks and upper cuts brings the sort of relief that leaves me soaked in sweat, limp with exhaustion and free from every single thought that burdens me.

The drive to Peabody is long. The traffic is heavy as I sit in my tiny convertible waiting for the last couple of traffic lights to turn green. Finally, I am in the dirt parking lot of the boxing studio. Throwing the gear shift into park, I leap from my seat, gym bag in hand, and take the three flights of stairs to the gym two at a time.

I burst through the door and John, the owner of Dullea’s boxing gym and also the trainer, greets me with a broad smile and a bear hug. “Where you been?” I confess to working too much and he shakes his head. “You gotta make time! We miss you!” And I feel as though I have come home. I make my way to the back of the gym and drop my stuff beside a heavy bag. There are men and women already putting on their wraps, standing around, chatting. I see my friend Leah and her husband Dave. I see Eric and Chris. Jen comes in, looking like she has been training hard and ready for more. The room begins to fill up, but today it looks like the class will be small enough that I will not have to share a bag with anyone. Good.

I chat with Leah. She talks to me about running, one of our shared passions. She used the training plan I wrote for her to not only run a half marathon, but to become a runner like me—that is, she runs almost every day, cannot get enough of it, and well, is addicted to the feeling that comes with logging mile after mile. It’s that peaceful clarity and elation that makes us both want to run and run and run until there is nothing left but the movement of body, the breath and the stillness of the mind. Moving meditation.

We talk about the vast quantities we both eat to fuel all of our workouts. I tell her about my favorite “second supper”. Home made nuts and seeds granola mixed with crunchy almond butter and dusted with raw cacao is better than ice cream—it’s creamy,  it’s not cold, it’s satisfying and packed with nutritious calories. As we prepare for tonight’s workout, she asks if the recipe for my granola is on my blog. I feel a rush of guilt and neglect. I have not been writing.  Better get on it.

The bell sounds and we start with jogging in place, jacks and push ups. We move into plyometric squat jacks and I get that awesome sense of floating every time I squat low, then explode up into a star shape, arms and legs open wide, hovering in the air before landing lightly and returning to a deep squat. We do about 50 push ups, about 40 squat jacks, all woven into running in place, knees high, sweat pouring and puddling on the soft mats underfoot.

Drills start and I throw jabs, crosses and hooks. First in the air, then on the bag, each punch releases anger, fear, pain and stress. Each blow to the bag jars every inch of my body. Because I have not hit in a while, my hands begin to ache, then hurt outright. I don’t care. I hit and hit, free-style on the bag. Jab. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hook. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hay maker. My shoulders clench. I have to stop and wipe sweat from my eyes.

We hit the mats for core work, then flip over for about 50 Japanese push ups (which are really Hindu push ups.)

I do them all, grunting and pushing myself until I think I am going to break. Off the floor again, we start shadow boxing, then a couple more three and five minute rounds of free style on the bag. I stop bothering to think about combinations and just start throwing hooks, one after another, until I cannot lift my arms.

We spar for two rounds and my friend Danny holds the pads while John calls out the combos. I barely make it through the round. I hold for Danny and I can tell that he is going easy on me. I want him to hit hard and egg him on. “Come on! You can hit harder than that! Let’s go!” He finally lets loose for the 30 second drill and I fight to take his punches. The bell rings and we are done.

We finish with core on the floor. John bellows “Iron Cross!” and we do an isometric iron cross pyramid, which means we hold it for 10, 20, 30 seconds, then 60, 30, 20 and 10. On the floor, on the back. Head two inches off the floor. Arms wide to the sides and legs together, all two inches off the floor. I look around and from what I can see, I am one of the few still holding the pose at the end. I feel strong. I feel good. I stand, unwind the long wraps from my hands and head toward the door, both drained and exhilarated. There really is nothing like hitting. I am myself once again.

Now, the recipe for my friend Leah:

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Nuts and Seeds Granola

Ingredients:

1 c rolled oats, gluten free if you are allergic to gluten

1/2 c raw coconut butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 c each raw walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans, cashews and any other raw nuts preferred

1/4 c raw sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

1/4 c maple syrup

3 T chia seeds

3 T raw hemp seeds

1/2 t cinnamon (optional)

1 T raw cacao powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Place sheet in center of oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, or until nuts and seeds turn golden.

Remove sheet from oven and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder (if using) and transfer to glass containers. This keeps for up to six months, if it lasts that long!

Add some dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries and/or apricots before serving if desired. I don’t bake any dried fruit with the granola, as dried fruit gets too hard in a slow oven, and I don’t mix it into the finished granola, because it adds too much moisture. I like granola crisp and crunchy.

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Second supper: Mix 1/4 c raw, crunchy almond butter into 1/2 c nuts and seeds granola. Stir in a generous spoonful raw cacao powder and some dried fruit. Yum!

 

 

Spring City Run

March 21, 2014

Howie and I hit the pavement together early this morning.  I have driven to Somerville to run on my day off—a small concession to be able to train with my friend.  Howie starts to sweat almost immediately and I am envious of the water dripping from his hair and face. It’s much colder than I anticipated, and I find myself shivering as we start off and for the first few miles.  Although I wear gloves, my fingers are an ugly blue-yellow from the cold.

Howie leads me from his house through a labyrinth of sides streets.  We run through Porter Square, Harvard Square, Central Square and Inman Square.  He cuts through parking lots and down driveways like rivers whose mouths narrowly spill onto more tiny roads.  He points out the many places he has lived in Cambridge and tells me the story behind each lovely old house—the trees he planted, the skylights he put in to let in the light he so loves in his living space.  As he talks while we run, I find myself grateful for his friendship and understanding of the world. We are both in the same place in a lot of ways, but right now mostly we share being a bit stuck in our respective areas of creativity.  It is good to talk to him, and even better to listen to his thoughts about life and where we stand in it.

The sidewalks are upthrust and askew with frost heaves in a lot of places; brick and pavement reach sharp edges up to trip me.  I pay extra-close attention so that I don’t fall.  I jump over a lot of the big bumps, exhilarated by the cold air and the joy of running with my friend.  We run close together on the narrow paths, sometimes turning ourselves out onto the streets, the thought unspoken that it might be safer as long as we don’t get run over.

We pass some runners, others pass us as we press against the cold, fresh spring wind.  We run along the Charles River for a while, keeping to the soft dirt paths, that softness protecting our joints, ligaments and tendons.  Crews are out rowing on the river and we watch them as we run by.  Running here today gets me thinking about the long runs we did last summer, miles and miles and miles along the river in the heat. I  already anticipate with excitement more of the same coming soon.

I breathe in the smells of the city—car exhaust, oil, the slightly funky smell of the Charles River, a thousand different food smells from all of the restaurants we pass.  The mingled scents bring on a slew of memories of other times, but I keep them to myself today, wanting only to enjoy the quiet sound of our sneakers touching the pavement or dirt, and the sound of our breathing as we run in step along the route.

We cross streets without waiting for the lights to change and sometimes far from the crosswalks, even Memorial Drive.  I let Howie assess the safety factor in that today; I feel like he will take better care of me that I will myself.  As we approach a small intersection near Inman Square, a car stalls as the light turns green.  Without even looking to each other, we both scoot behind the car, indicating to the driver that we will push her out of the way.  I take the left and Howie takes the right and it is easy for us to move the little gray sedan out of the intersection and up the road.  The driver steers her car into a parking spot along the side of the road and gets out to tell us she can call AAA.  We wave and run on.  When we reach Central Square, we cut around the back of the busiest street.  A delivery man spills his cart of milk, eggs and sour cream on the sidewalk.  Once again, we stop together and immediately begin to help, grabbing cartons that have not ruptured.  The delivery man takes one look at us and says, “Hey!  You guys are getting your exercise.  Keep going.  Don’t interrupt your run to do this.  I got it!”  His face breaks into a warm smile as we ask if he really doesn’t need help.  “No, no.  You two go on.  Have a good run!”

By the time we are finished, we have logged close to nine miles.  I am still cold, but feeling pleased.  Pleased with our distance, the camaraderie  we share for running and also for stopping to do the things we both know are the right things to do.  Mostly, though, I am pleased that I have Howie for a running partner and a friend.

26.2

December 29, 2013
Here I am, still standing after my first official marathon.

Here I am, still standing after my first official marathon.

It’s a clear, cool, sunny day in October.  I am in Hartford CT, as ready as I am ever going to be for my first official marathon.  I stand in line to pee one more time, although I know damn right well this will not be the last, and pray that there are lots of chances to go again on the route. I also pray that there will not be lines like this one, which is ridiculously long.  I notice there are tons of people not dressed to run but waiting to go and I wish that there were separate bathrooms for the runners.  I am nervous.  Not nervous about the race, but about reaching the start line on time.  I have just a few minutes left before the race begins and my support team, Bill, stands steadfast and strong beside me, knowing just how itchy I am to run.

I carry a water bottle in my right hand.  It’s the kind of bottle that has a strap so that my hand does not have to do any actual work while I run.  I am dressed in my favorite capri running bottoms and a soft, comfy long sleeved tech shirt.  On my feet I wear the oldest sneakers I own—Nike Free 3.  The pair I was planning to wear became saturated on my final long training run and changed shape so much that they are unfit for running.  These sneakers are worn on the bottom to the point where I can almost see my socks through the soles under the balls of my feet, and my toes poke out of the tops like tiny, sharp gophers in a prairie.  They fit, though, and I feel great.  I could do this barefoot.  I think.

I finally pee and we hustle over to the starting line.  I am so late that I am at the very end of the runners waiting for the start gun.  I don’t care at all; in fact I am happy to be at the end.  That means I will be able to pass lots of other runners at the beginning, which always pumps me up, even though it’s not really a competitive feeling.  It’s more of a personal challenge. I don’t care who wins or how I place.  I just want to finish.  And finish running.  26.2 miles is a long distance to run.  I am prepared.  Bill takes a couple of pre-race photos and I smile for him, and for me.  This is it.

The race begins and I find my pace early on.  The route takes us through the city for a few miles, then out into the suburbs.  I run easy, listening to my favorite playlist.  As I cross the bridge that leaves the city and leads to the bulk of the distance, I see Bill.  He is leaning precariously over the rail of the bridge, phone in hand, ready to capture the image of me on this day where one of my dreams is coming true.  I work my way over from the middle of the street so that I am almost close enough to touch his hand as I run past.  I can feel the smile spread over my face as I see his; he takes the photo as I run by him and then I am on my own.  Through the race, I periodically think of him, and how he must have hustled to reach the bridge from the start line to watch me run by.

About seven or eight miles in, a man runs up beside me and asks if he might join me for a while.  He tells me I have been his pacer for the past couple of miles, and that he chose me because I am the only runner in sight who is not breathing heavily or panting.  His name is Brian.  I smile and agree to the company, as he is smiling sweetly and seems to be at my level of fitness.  We talk and talk while we run, and I learn that he is married, has three children, and loves to run as much as I do.  I learn that this is his first marathon, too.  He asks how I know how to pace myself, and I tell him that it is easy to keep going if you run at a pace where it is easy to talk.  And so we do.

We run over the tracker that proves we have completed the 15 mile marker distance, and loop around for the last part of the race.  We drink at some of the stops; we pee at others.  Some little girl hands me a banana and my gratitude is immense—I cannot stomach gels or GU packs, or any of that special race food that is handed out freely during long races.  I hold the banana for a couple of miles, then eat the whole thing, tossing the skin into a wooded area we pass.  My new running friend Brian is getting tired, and I encourage him to keep going.  We both know that running with someone else can be salvation if the running gets tough.  I remind him that if we slow our pace a bit, we will still be able to finish in four hours, which is a pretty good time to finish.

Then, at mile 20, something happens to me.  I feel a sharp muscle spasm in my low back on the left, and my IT band on the right squeezes up tight.  My right knee feels like it is going to collapse.

“Brian.  I have to stop and stretch.  You go ahead.  I’ll catch up with you.”

“Are you kidding?  I’ll stop and stretch, too.  I’ll wait for you.”

“You don’t have to.  I’m okay.  I want you to finish.”

I know he sees the pain on my face, the wincing as I try to run again.

“I am going to finish.  With you.  You got me through all of the parts that were hard for me.  Now I am going to get you through this.”

I feel tears spring to my eyes, knowing this stranger who has become my friend while running a marathon means exactly what he says.  So I allow it.  I stop and stretch every quarter-mile or so.  The pain in my back is excruciating, making me sick to my stomach.  Because there is someone with me, I am able to keep going.  We pass the candy station that is just a couple of miles from the finish line.  I cannot imagine eating candy at this point; Brian, too , passes on the stop and we run on, steady and slow.

I can hear the finish line crowd and music, see the gate we will run through, my heart soars and at last, we cross the finish.  I turn and hug my new friend, feeling a gratitude that makes my heart swell with a love that exists only among those who experience this kind of camaraderie.  And then Bill is beside me, gathering me into his arms, congratulating me, hugging me, and Brian’s family is there, his children grinning proudly at their dad, whisking him off for photos and congratulations.  A volunteer hands me a Mylar blanket which I take and them shed immediately as the pain in my back intensifies.   Someone else hands me a bag with snacks and a medal for finishing.  Bill helps me to the side and off the finish line area and I try to bend over to remove my sneakers.  I cannot, so he kneels down to help me.  We walk—or Bill walks and I hobble—past the food tents and drink tents and trinkets—directly to the massage tent.  I am afraid someone is going to stuff me into an ambulance, but I hobble directly to the front of the line.

“How long is the wait to see someone?  I have a terrible muscle spasm and I don’t think I can wait long.”

The woman behind the make-shift desk looks at me for a few seconds, assessing me.

“Come in right now.  Come in, honey.”

And then I am in a chair with an icepack on my back.  Bill paces around outside the tent. I know he is worried, but he will have to wait.  Soon, someone comes to get me and brings me to a massage table.  The masseuse is a young man, and as he listens to me telling him what is wrong, I can sense apprehension in his approach.  I allow him to work on my back for a little while, and soon realize there will be nothing he can do to help me today.  I wince as I roll off the table and stagger to my feet.

“Thank you.  Thank you so much.  I am sure this will feel better soon.”

I exit the tent and find Bill, who is still pacing around.  The concern on his face makes me glad I am not near a mirror.

We head back to the hotel, me gingerly putting one foot in front of the other, leaning heavily on Bill’s arm.  At some point, he wraps his arm right around me and I rest as much of my weight on him as I can without actually letting him carry me.  We take breaks from walking and I stretch a bit.  I am grateful for the longish walk back to the hotel, knowing that if I stop moving, my muscles will seize up even more and I will be defeated by my own body after making my goal.

A couple of hours later, after a long hot shower, four or five ibuprofen and more stretching, I find myself at a table in a restaurant, eating house special miso soup with mushrooms and rolls of vegan sushi.  Plates of vegetables and noodles crowd the table in the corner and I eat and eat and eat until my belly is full.  We walk together back to the car and I fall into the front seat, spent from the run, the dinner, the excitement and the success.  I did it!

Campus Run

May 4, 2013

The Twin Lights Half Marathon is tomorrow and I will not be running it.  I am at UMass Amherst with my husband for his 40th (or thereabouts) reunion with his mates from way back.  Although I am supposed to be training for a marathon in October, this weekend is out of bounds for training.  That being said…

After a night of eating, drinking, and some other stuff I am not going to mention here, I managed to haul my dehydrated self out of bed by eight o’clock this morning, throw back some kombucha and about a gallon of water, and get dressed in running gear.  The campus at UMass is ginormous, spring-green, and nicely paved all around. My start and end point:  the UMass Campus Hotel.  MH says it looks like a waffle iron.  I beg to differ.

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It took a mile or so to clear my head and remind my legs that I run.  I started easy, then picked up the pace as I passed dorms, science buildings, some very young runners, and a lot of construction sites.  I logged seven miles in a little over an hour, not bad considering last night’s behavioral slips.  I circled the campus a couple of times, took a few short detours through residential areas, and worked on reconciling myself with the anxiety I feel that stems from struggling with meeting and hanging out with a lot of strangers who share a serious history and know each other well.  Everyone has been nice to me, but it’s just a little weird.  It makes me wonder if I have ever done this to MH.  Probably.  He is just way more chilled than I am about this kind of stuff.  He’s a Type B.  Me?  Definitely a Type A.  Which is why I brought running gear and got up and out this morning.

There are two more days of fun planned, including a dinner tonight.  MH has built a video slide show from old slides and photographs from “back in the day” adventures from Wheeler dorm.  He has spent countless hours scanning slides and pictures, adding a soundtrack of music from the early seventies, back when I was still a little girl.  The music I know.  The adventures depicted in the slide show?  Not so much.  There may be more drinking.  Okay.  There will be more drinking.  And tomorrow, there will be more running.  Wish me luck!

The Twin Lights Half Marathon 2012

May 16, 2012

I find myself shivering this morning, despite the rising temperature.  A thousand runners mill around me.  I stand in the warm embrace of my husband, the best cheerleader and support team anyone could ever hope for.  He lets me wear his fleece sweatshirt over my warm-up jacket, but my legs shake and are covered with goosebumps despite the extra layers.  The ten minute signal has been given and the runners press closer together.  I slip out of the two extra layers, handing them over.  I take a final sip from my water bottle and hand that over, too.  A last hug and kiss and he eases his way to the sidelines.  I stand alone in the crowd, ready.

The emcee chatters away on the microphone, then plays a tape of “The Star Spangled Banner”.  The runners around me put their hands over their hearts.  I watch them and listen to the words, willing it to be over so we can run.  Finally, the music changes.  “I Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas blasts over the loudspeakers.  The announcer tells us to get ready.  There is no countdown, just a “GO!” and we’re off.  Although the we have been standing close together, we are able to run right from the start.  The runners spread apart quickly.  I forget all of my goals and just go.  I pick off one runner after another, passing with ease, seeking out the empty spaces through which I can slip.  The first mile is easy.

By the second mile, I am regretting my breakfast.  I chose to eat before the race, giving myself a good three hour window to start to digest.  The chai oatmeal sits like lead in my belly.  I feel no cramps, but rather a deep, uncomfortable pain that hurts more with each stride.  I suck it up and press on, wishing I had not read any of the advice from Runner’s World about what to eat.  I note my first lesson of the race:  stick with the banana for breakfast. I glance at my wristwatch at the mile three marker and see that I am under 24 minutes, much, much faster than I should be running.  I slow down.

I look for my children as I pass the foot of my street.  Neither one is there to cheer me on, but a couple of my neighbors are on the sidelines and call my name, waving, clapping, shouting encouragements—“Go Elizabeth!  Looking great!  You can do it!”—and I feel better.  Maybe my family will be there on the return loop.

We run through the downtown area of Rockport, up Main Street, and then along Beach Road.  I see a teacher I know from the high school who flashes me a wide smile and gives me the thumbs-up sign.  I wave and keep going.  I see at least six other people I usually pass on my regular morning run and each of them waves to me and calls out.  The support makes this mile easy.

We turn onto Granite Street and I chug up the hill, jumping up onto the sidewalk where no one else has chosen to run.  As I crest the hill, already tired and thirsty, I see my friend Charlene on my side of the road.  She’s waiting for me, standing under a tree, and as I approach, she reaches under the jacket she is holding and passes me a water bottle.  She has even thought to remove the cap and my heart swells with gratitude.  As I take sips and the refreshing water coats my parched lips and throat, I am filled with love—love for my friend who has remembered this day and come to cheer for me and give me exactly what I need, love for running, love for the beauty of the day.  The sun is bright,and the air  is warm and heavy with the scent of lilacs.  I can taste the salt of the sea with every breath.

As I continue along Granite Street, I see the woman who works at our local health food store, waving from her yard.  I wave back.  I see my friend Anthony outside his stonework shop and call to him.  He raises his head, immediately finds me in the group of runners, and calls out to me, “Go, go, go!  You got it!”  Again, I and filled with gratitude for the people in my life who are cheering for me today, and every day.

The route has been changed from last year and instead of turning onto Phillip’s Ave., we continue up the grueling hill on Granite Street.  We finally turn onto Curtis Street and I realize I am more than halfway through the race.  My legs are tired.  I can feel my quads protesting as I force myself up a sharp, short hill. I am lonesome, too.  This is the first long race I have run without a partner runner.  We turn again, then once more and are back on Granite Street.  Again I see Charlene, again on my side of the road.  A strange man calls my name and I see Charlene’s little girl Sarah standing with him and more children.  They wave and cheer.  Charlene’s husband is a few paces beyond them.  He holds his camera, the big lens aimed directly at me.  I give him my best sweaty movie star smile and wave.  I cannot wipe the grin off of my face as I let my legs carry me down the long hill back to Beach Road.

We retrace our steps most of the way down Main Street, running against the one-way traffic, then turn right onto School Street, the left onto Broadway.  We turn right onto Mount Pleasant Street and I realize I will have to run up the worst hill in town.  I plow on, wondering if either one of my children with be out looking for me.  I stop thinking about them as my muscles begin to protest the steep angle I am forcing them to overtake.  Although I have been taking advantage of each water stop, guzzling Gatorade, water, and more Gatorade, I know I am dehydrated.  The temperature is rising, rising.  My lips are cracked and I can taste blood.  I keep running, willing myself to take this hill as the biggest challenge of this race.

Sue, my running partner, makes me run this hill with her every time we go out together.  It starts off steep, then takes for damn ever to crest.  Up, up, up.  It’s Rockport’s Heartbreak Hill.  It is not breaking my heart.  Instead, it’s breaking my will.  I press on.  Runner after runner passes me.  I note the lesson here:  there is no conditioning for running other than running.  I cross-trained like crazy during the plantar fasciitis, but although my cardio fitness is excellent, perhaps better than ever, the lack of miles I usually log week after week has made a difference in my ability to easily run distance.  I tell myself I can finish.  I tell myself I am going back to running the way I did before the injury.  I take a careful mental note of this lesson.

I actually stop to drink three cups at the next water station, but jump right back in to the race.  Now, there are runners who are walking.  There are runners who are sitting.  There are runners who are down on the side of the road, medics attending them.  I send good thoughts their way.  I keep running.

And so to the last three miles.  My legs are made of lead.  My mouth is filled with cotton.  From the 13 mile marker to the finish, it is 10 miles to cover that last tenth mile.  I cross the finish line and see my husband standing in the crowd, the video camera in one hand, my warmup jacket in the other.  I go right up to the camera and say, “Do not let me run while recovering from an injury ever again!”  And then I smile into the camera.  “I DID IT!”

Time: 2:00:33.  Best lessons: maintain an excellent cheering squad and support team.  And keep running!

Ready for Race Day

May 7, 2012

It’s Monday morning and I head out for an easy five mile run.  The sun shines warm and bright on me, and on the tiny new leaves on the trees.   The full moon has pulled the low tide farther out than usual and I can see dozens of seaweed-covered granite boulders poking their heads up on the shore of Back Beach.  As I run, I make my plan for this week.  I will back off on the miles, ice my heel and arch, refrain from any crazy plyometric sessions, and ease up on strength training—in other words, rest a bit so that I can run the Twin Lights Half Marathon this coming Saturday and finish strong.

Today is the third day in a row for running.  There is a part of me that still doesn’t trust myself to run the distance.  While I rest, I plan to spend some time adjusting my attitude.  I am going to get in my own head and boss myself around.  I am going to muzzle  the chattering monkeys.  And then, I am going to let go of everything and be present each minute of the race.  I like the plan.

The monkeys are already backing off this morning.  Each stride is relaxed.  My breath comes easy—I can sing along to Girl Talk, The Black Eyed Peas, and Foster the People.  I run along Granite Street and close my eyes for a moment to fully appreciate the scent of the hedge of flowering lilac bushes along the sidewalk.  The sweet pungent blooms bow gently over my head and I think of my Nana and how she loved lilacs, magnolias, and lilies of the valley.  This feeling of being in the moment, with good memories tagging along, takes me to the place that makes running magical for me.  I am not thinking about the race.  I am not thinking about my foot, whether it is hurting or not.  I am not thinking.   I am just being.

I make sure to cut my loop short so I stay within my self-imposed five mile limit.  I curve around Phillip’s Ave. and turn right instead of left, easing down the steep hill toward the ocean and the old Tool Company.  The water, visible to the left of the building,  glistens and sparkles in the early morning light.  The clean smells of ocean, low tide and flowers are the core of my awareness.  As I turn back onto Granite Street, I run past a few walkers.  A car horn sounds and I see the hand of someone I must know but don’t recognize wave to me from their window.  I raise my hand back, but don’t even look to see who it is.

I take the big hill slowly, not pushing, but when I come to the long, easy slope that heads back to town, I speed up, letting my body go as it wishes.  My legs feel long, long, long today and I can feel myself flying.  My feet barely have time to make contact before they pick up to stride again.  I sprint down Broadway, cross Mount Pleasant, then slow down to a dog-trot as I turn onto Atlantic.  A small sadness sets in, as I know I will be backing off the rest of the week.  That was it, the last real run.  I will take a couple more short jaunts, but otherwise stick to the plan.  I’m ready.

Trial Run

April 25, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am three miles in.  My mind is playing the new, annoying game of “Can I Really Run This Far?” that has kept me from attempting to run long enough to prove I will be able to complete the Twin Lights Half Marathon in May.  The air is cool; the sun bright and warm.  The ocean is a rich, deep blue and calm.  Small waves lap the shoreline as I pass Front Beach, Back Beach, and Andrew’s Point.  My foot is feeling pretty good these days, the plantar fasciitis is slowly going away.  The insurance company has approved enough visits for physical therapy so that I can have the full ten treatments of cold laser therapy and it is working.  I am walking without a limp.  I am running, as my physical therapist tells me, with near-perfect bio-mechanics.

Today my goal is to run 11 miles in under two hours, although I have told my husband not come looking for me unless I am gone for more that two and a half.  I want to be left alone to win the game and toss it out for good.  Today’s run will decide whether or not to withdraw my entry for the race. I run up Phillips’ Ave., the hill long and slow.  I take my time, not pushing too hard because, after all, I have not run longer that six and a half miles in quite some time, maybe two months or more.  My mileage has dropped from 45-50 miles per week to under 25.  I have been cross-training like crazy, though.  Kickboxing, boxing, cycling, core and strength training at the gym two or three times each week have kept me in good shape.  I am trembling a bit on the inside despite it all, wondering if I have lost my distance mojo.

The chattering monkey in my head makes me wonder if I should turn left at the top of Phillip’s and head back.  I wrench myself to the right and cross the road, heading for Halibut Point instead.  I focus on my music, my breath, the sunlight bathing my face.  And suddenly I am there, running through the park as if I have been doing it all along these past weeks.  My legs are strong.  They carry me along the dirt trails and down to the Bay View path, then up and out along the fresh new mulch path back to the road.  I head back toward town, my stride easy, no longer wondering if I will be able to complete today’s goal.  I chug up the steep hill by my house and keep going.  I take Marmion Way the long way around and turn left onto South Street.  When I reach Eden Road, I cross and loop back around.  From this point, all I have to do is run straight home and I will be done for the day.

I glance at my watch as I approach my house.  1:42′.  I cannot keep the grin from spreading across my face as I climb the back steps.  I think about the way it feels to be surrounded by runners—listening to their breathing mix with mine, their footsteps pounding out a rhythm that gives me a beat to move faster and faster as we surge through 13.1 miles to the finish line.  I will not withdraw.  The game of “Can I Really Run This Far” has just been exchanged for “I Know I Can Do This”.  I will run the half marathon.  I will run strong and I will finish.