Archive | September, 2013

Change of Season

26 Sep

We run repeats, get up at pre-dawn hours, create routes that are difficult, hilly, exhausting but necessary. We take care of our diet, watch our intake and output. We cross train and cross train some more. We rest … or something like it. All is planned and sacrificed  and measured for a goal: A time, a distance, a completion. But what happens when we reach that goal, surpass that distance, cross that finish line?

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It’s a question most runners never consider and one I’ve often never thought of until this weekend. I realized, after o-pining about the lack of days left on calendar, that the days to get up and run in the early morning splendor and set goals I can devote more time than usual on are numbered … the weather will be changing.

As previously noted, I am not one who does well with change, even good. For this FGR, I’ve has some other goals in mind: 1-Get rid of some jiggle (checkish); 2-Increase my endurance through different types of cross training (check); 3- RELAX (checkish); 4- RUN FOR FUN (triple check).

But what now?

Is it time for a break? Shall I, perhaps, join the mall walkers and avoid the snow. Maybe I’ll take up T’ai chi?

A Woman does tai chi.

A Woman does tai chi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NOT. A. CHANCE.

Mostly because not all of my goals were met. In this season, I’ve been up crazy hills, killing myself, my quads, my will, and reestablishing my faith in them all (although, I  must note, I never lost faith in a hill once). I’ve fallen hard on my face, but gotten back up and had some time to heal, but learned durning that time. Running is like life–you do the best you can at the time with what you know. Strive for more, plan for more, do more when you can.

But what about when you can only do less?

I’m not often superstitious, but I do adhere to the Farmer’s Almanac, and if it’s as true as it’s always been, we are in for a doozy of a winter, which got me thinking of winter training.

Fall_Run-16-36-59Firstly, let’s not deny how nice it will be for as long as it will be–running in the fall is all too short of an interlude in heaven’s foyer, and it’s best done in a group or pair. All too often I find myself getting lost in the scenery and forgetting I have a time or milage to keep. There are also lots of fun runs around this time that celebrate the change of season! Listed below are just a few of the fun and festive runs you could possibly sign up for with a group or as a single (and get ready to mingle):

October–Zombie Run! 

As listed on the website…

Zombie Run is a 5K obstacle fun run for the end of times. But you’re not just running against the clock you are running from flesh-eating, virus-spreading, bloody zombies.

Zombie Run is advanced training for the coming Zombie Apocalypse. Participants will use speed, agility, and their intact brains to overcome obstacles and avoid flesh-eating Zombies.

Basic Survival

Before the race, you will be given a flag belt These flags represent your health.

  • The zombies want to take your flags and maybe eat your brains.
  • If you lose all your health flags, you die. And the zombies win.

What you are up against:

  • Throughout the 5K obstacle race, there will be a series of man-made and natural obstacles for you to complete.
  • There will be zombies. Their job is to chase you and eat you — but mainly go after your health, in the form of your flag belt. Avoid the zombies to keep your health flags.
  • Use speed, strategy and your intact brains to make it to the FINISH LINE “alive” with at least ONE FLAG INTACT and the serum-giving plant.. If you finish with zero health flags, this means the zombies have successfully transformed you into the “undead”.

How you will do it:

  • There will be a start line, and a finish line, but what happens in between is up to you. There are multiple routes to reach the finish. Choose wisely, or your 5k might turn into a 10k.

http://zombierun.com/
UM, can you think of anything more fun? Me neither. I know so many people who have done and LOVED this run. It might be the best one to start with if you’ve never done one.

From October to November, there are tons of harvest and fall themed runs, just celebrating the changing colors of the leaves. Not kidding. Some courses just survey beautiful areas and give back to the parks services. Look online to see if you can support a park near you.

Turkey Trot/Thanksgiving 5k:

Seriously, what could be better? I love running like a champion and then stuffing my face with yummy Thanksgiving day amazingness. It also counteracts my guilt when I allow myself a piece of pie. Also, the proceeds usually go to a food bank, church, or organization to help the local community in need or feed the hungry. And the SWAG! The shirts are the best and super cute! Who doesn’t love a running turkey in sneakers or a pilgrim in sneakers (or really anything with sneakers)?

2012_TurkeyTrot_WhiteBG2_0 (See!)

But then winter, and the snow on the ground, and the ice and slickness … yarg. My joints ache, and I get sore, and I feel both fat and old–worst combo ever. How to prepare, yet again, for this inevitable change?

Active.com has provided even the novice runner with fail safe tips:

Set a Specific Goal: There is nothing more motivating than to train for a race or specific goal. You can plan to run a 5K, half marathon or reach a number of miles every month. You’ll have instant motivation in knowing you have to train for the race or hit your target mileage. Reward yourself when you reach your goals, then set another one.

Run With a Buddy or Group: Make your workouts safe and social. You’ll have a built in motivational source, a friend to chat with along the way and it is safer to run in numbers. Running with others (or pets) is a great way to beat the winter doldrums. If that’s not enough motivation, reward yourself with a fun race destination like Arizona, Florida or even Mexico.

Accessorize: Having the right apparel makes all the difference in the world. Layering is the key to avoiding over- or under-dressing. Consider wearing a layer that blocks the wind; pants, tights and top that wick the moisture away from your skin; and, for the coldest days, a mid-layer that fits more loosely—like fleece—that insulates and moves the moisture from your base layer away from your skin.

Your winter running wardrobe should include a running jacket, hat or headband, gloves, tights and a few long-sleeve shirts. Your body temperature increases as you run, so you don’t need many layers in most winter conditions.

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Remember that time Tom Coughlin thought he didn’t need winter weather gear … He froze.

Dress for 15 to 20 Degrees Warmer: Over-dressing is easy to do in winter running. Dressing for 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is will allow your body temperature to increase and reduce the risk of overheating and excessive sweat. You should feel chilled when you walk out the door. If you are toasty warm, remove a layer. Less is more.

Run During Light and Warmer Times of Day: If possible, run during daylight hours so you can absorb that needed sunshine we rarely get in the winter. You’ll get your miles in during the warmest time of day and come back with a smile on your face.

Be Seen: If you run when it is dark out, wear a reflective vest or flashing lights so you’re seen by traffic. In snowy weather, wear bright clothing. Run with identification or a runner’s I.D. in your shoe or pocket—just in case.

Hit the Treadmill: When the weather gets bone-chillingly cold and icy, hit the treadmill. Treadmill running is a great way to stay fit and you’ll get in quality miles without risking an injury from slipping on ice.    [I know, I hate it too, but they make a great point.]

Gear Up: Wear trail shoes or a traction device like Yak Trax. They will give you better traction and stability in the snow. I used these to tackle the Antarctica Marathon and they worked really well on the snow and ice.

Note: Avoid wearing the Yak Trax indoors or on roads without snow. They’re portable enough to keep them in your pocket until you hit the snow.

Stay Low: Shorten your running stride and keep your feet lower to the ground. You will run more efficiently and reduce the risk of slipping, falling or straining muscles. Choose to run on fresh snow rather than ice or packed snow. You will get better traction on fresh snow and reduce the chance for slipping. Watch out for snow-covered cracks and holes in the road.   [Who knew!!!!!!]

Take Extra Time To Warm Up: Your body will warm up more slowly in cold weather, especially if you run in the morning. Take at least five minutes to walk briskly before you start to run. It may take 10 to 15 minutes of running before you are completely warmed up and in your running tempo. Take a hot shower to pre-warm your muscles or put your clothes in the dryer on hot for a few minutes then head out for your run.

Hydrate: It is just as important to drink fluids in your winter runs as it is in the summer. Make sure to hydrate before, during and after your runs to avoid dehydration. Use warm fluids in your water bottle or tuck it under your jacket to avoid freezing.

Start into the Wind: Start your run into the wind so you have the wind at your back on your way home. You’ll avoid getting chilled by the wind after you’ve been sweating.

Keep it Fun: Mix up your route, run through the neighborhood holiday lights or run a holiday race. It will get you outside and enjoying winter rather than cursing it.  (http://beta.active.com/running/Articles/Winter-Running-Tips)

As much as I hate change, one thing I’ve learned is there’s nothing I can do to stop it, so it’s best for all involved to be best prepared for it and enjoy it. Here’s the the short days ahead, the days where we leave one building in the dark and return to the other in the dark, and run on sheets of ice like misfit children gliding across a deserted frozen pond at night. winterrunning
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Snap, crackle, pop …

17 Sep

No, its not your favorite kids cereal, crying out for help from drowning in a deep bath of lactose or non-lactose.  It’s my knees … having a discussion about how they’d like to leave.

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It all started six years ago. I was coming down the stairs, “OH, my … are those your knees making that sound?” I had honestly never really noticed the sound of light crunching, but it seemed it was loud enough for others to pick up.

“Yeah.  They make that sound when I go down stairs.”

“You better start taking some kind of supplement or something, or you’re not going to have knees left.”

And so, the fear struck me: What shall I do to save my knees! I was not about having any type of surgery and getting some sort of a bionic knee replacement. NO thank you.  But would that mean I would stop running? Absolutely not. I ‘d have to find and destroy all antagonizers of my knees and be sure to be as good to them as possible.

But I was only in my 20s … how did things get so bad so quickly?

As outlined on http://www.sharecare.com, there are few things you might be doing every day and not even realizing you could be doing damage:

1. How much weight are you carrying?

Your knees bear the brunt of your body weight, so it’s crucial that you maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Every extra pound you carry adds up to 3 pounds of pressure on your knee joints when you walk, and 10 pounds when you run. So, if your BMI is 25 or more, you may be compromising the health of your knees. In fact, obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for developing osteoarthritis because it speeds the breakdown of cartilage. Dropping extra weight — particularly body fat — may be the single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of developing a serious knee problem. In a study reviewed by the National Institutes of Health, overweight people who lost an average of 11 pounds cut their risk of osteoarthritis in half.

2. Are you exercising?

Regular exercise is essential to maintaining knee strength. Without it, your muscles weaken, leaving your joints without ample support and leaving your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and joints vulnerable to misalignment.

Your best bet is to choose activities with a low risk of knee injury. A knee injury can double the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Daily moderate exercise is much better for your joints than occasional strenuous exercise. Focus on low-impact activities that build stamina, strength, and flexibility, such as yoga, walking, biking, swimming, and weight lifting. These types of exercise can help enhance circulation, improve your range of motion, and build the muscles that surround the knee joints. One study revealed that a relatively small increase in quadriceps strength (20%–25%) can lead to a 20%–30% decrease in the chance of developing knee osteoarthritis. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.

Knee-Friendly Exercises

  • Water workouts provide low-impact resistance and add a strength-training aspect to aerobic exercises such as walking or jogging.
  • T’ai chi can help increase your range of motion, lengthen your muscles, and make your ligaments and tendons more resilient.
  • Isometric exercises and yoga strengthen core body muscles as well as leg muscles that support the knee.

3. Are you overusing some muscles and joints?

Staying active is one of the best things you can do to protect your knees, but you should avoid repetitive strain on muscles and joints. For example, repeatedly engaging in the same activity — whether for work, recreation, or exercise — may loosen tendons or damage cartilage and eventually lead to injuries and possibly even arthritis.

Determining if you are overusing a joint requires listening to your body. When you feel pain or discomfort during or after exercise, household chores, or other activities, don’t ignore it. Take a break and consider ceasing the activity altogether until you can perform it without pain. In the meantime, stay active by focusing on other activities that do not stress the injured joint. If the pain does not go away in 2 weeks, see your healthcare provider.

To help avoid overuse injuries, spend 5–10 minutes warming up before you exercise and another 5–10 minutes cooling down afterward.

4. Is your body properly aligned?

Just as driving a car when the wheels are out of alignment causes the tires to wear irregularly, the same principle holds true for your knees. If your body is not properly aligned, your muscles, joints, and ligaments take more strain than they are able to endure healthfully.

Here are some general principles of correct standing posture:

  • Your back is straight. Don’t slump forward at the shoulders or waist.
  • Your knees are slightly bent – they should not be locked.
  • Your abdominal muscles are tight – gently suck in your stomach.
  • Your head is centered over your body. Check yourself in the mirror from side to side.
  • Your weight is evenly distributed between your feet. Do not jut one hip out to the side.

A physical therapist can help you assess your biomechanics and teach you proper standing, sitting, walking, running, and lifting techniques that can help spare your joints from extra wear and tear.

5. Are you wearing the right shoes?

Shoes that cause your body weight to be unevenly distributed place extra stress on your knee joints. In addition to avoiding obviously uncomfortable or impractical shoes that can throw your stride off and stress your knees, you also should consider a visit to a specialty store if you have special anatomical considerations. As they say, nobody’s perfect. Flat or rigid arches, uneven leg length, and bowed legs are fairly common in the general population, and each can contribute to an awkward stride and put pressure on your knees. Consider purchasing at least one of your main pairs of shoes or sneakers at a specialty store where the staff can advise you on which shoes provide the appropriate support for your foot and body type. Before you go, consider a visit with a podiatrist. He or she can help diagnose any additional foot concerns, such as overpronation orsupination, and prescribe orthotic inserts that go into your shoes and correct your gait.

High-heeled shoes might add to the risk of osteoarthritis or other knee problems: A Harvard University study found that women who wear high heels have stress across the part of the knee where osteoarthritis usually develops.

So, from being overweight or from literally carrying too much weight, you can be doing damage! I felt a weight on my chest that began to sink. Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel like it’s almost better to just not do anything and revert back to 19th century ideals of lightly walking and lounging on fainting couches.
knees But aside from my pouting, I started to compile that serious seek-and-destory-knee-enmy list. Below was my preliminary list:

HIGH heels–

I have never really been a fan of the Stiletto, or in my case, the no-name, off brand, thin-healed but very tall and pointy shoe.  I’m short, and on occasion I liked to wear a pair for a moment. But I’m also fat with stubby legs, so I’ve found that particular kind of heal not super flattering.

Regardless, I took them out of my line-up for good. I went to platform wedges–something that evened out the amount of stress and weight distribution on my pronator from heel to toe.  Done.

Stairs–

Well, very few ways to get around these, but here’s my method–slow and low (like bar-b-q, except less satisfying). I refused to rush up or down, and pound any longer, pass me on the LEFT  people (seriously), I’m using the hand rail.

Weight–

I will NO LONGER make ONE trip from my car to the door with all my packages or grocery bags. I suppose I will have to depend on the kindness of strangers and make some nice, young, strapping man carry the heavier things, and I suppose I won’t be able to do weighted squats past 50lbs (darn).

Also, I had to drop about 10lbs stat to stay in the safe zone for BMI.

These were the things I believed I could control, but what about those I couldn’t, like wet floors, and black ice, and small children on sleds? How does one prepare for the end or degeneration of a body part? You don’t, you prepare for the preservation and concentrate on that alone for as long as possible.

To be honest, there were LOTS of sites with tons of warm and fuzzy tips on how to treat yourself best, but this guy … this guy on this site scared the bajesus out of me. ****Reader be WARNED, the page begins with a VERY GRAPHIC photo of  one the consequences of not taking care of your knees–surgery–but the tips were AMAZING!

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_repair/18_tips_for_bulletproof_knees

18 Tips for Bulletproof Knees (he wrote “bulletproof” for a reason people)– I’m going to list the ones I like below. Follow the link above for all 18:

1) Purchase some knee sleeves.

     And I thought “DUH” after reading this, protection is key.

3) Want healthy knees? Focus on ankle and hip mobility!

     Truth, truth, truth. A couple of years ago, when I was having hip issues, I read a Runner’s World article that listed ankle and knee exercises, and after routinely doing them … all better.

6) Get some balance in your training.

     It’s NOT just for old people.

7) Stop pain provoking activities!

     Dump the ex, stretch, pay your bills on time, call your mother (or stop?) … you get the idea.

12) Get your body in proper alignment!

     It’s NOT just for old people … or cars.

15) Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.

And the list goes on! This guy has years of experience and explains everything in detail and language anyone can understand. He provides pictures and tips that you can use right away and links to other sites for more research. Number 15 there gives me a great way to transition to my next point–diet and supplements.

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As for diet, like listed above, eating a diet that supports the body’s productions and regulations (i.e. an anti-inflammatory diet) is key to a long, happy life.  According to http://www.healtline.com, “Inflammation produces free radicals, the cell-damaging molecules that are formed in response to toxins and natural bodily processes. The synovium (the cushion between knee joints) is as prone to free radical damage as the skin, eyes, or any other body tissue. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals.” Therefore, eating a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent damage from occurring to the body tissue. In fact, “research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Clinical Rheumatology has shown that certain antioxidants may help prevent arthritis, slow its progression, and relieve pain. Being at a healthy weight is a critical component to managing Osteoarthritis of the knees.” (http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/osteoarthritis-diet#2)

Below are food suggested from the article to include in your diet:

  • tropical fruits like papaya, guava, and pineapple
  • citrus like oranges and grapefruit
  • cantaloupe
  • strawberries
  • kiwi
  • raspberries
  • cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale
  • bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • seafood like wild-caught salmon, cod, sardines, and shrimp
  • fortified milk
  • eggs
  • cruciferous veggies like kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, and chard
  • sweet potatoes
  • winter squash
  • cantaloupe
  • greens like Romaine lettuce and spinach
  • parsley
  • apricots
  • peppermint leaves
  • tomatoes
  • asparagus
  • salmon (wild, fresh or canned)
  • herring
  • mackerel (not king)
  • sardines
  • anchovies
  • rainbow trout
  • Pacific oysters
  • omega-3-fortified eggs
  • flaxseed (ground andoil)
  • walnuts
  • onions (red, yellow, white)
  • kale
  • leeks
  • cherry tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • blueberries
  • black currants
  • lingonberries
  • cocoa powder
  • green tea
  • apricots
  • apples (with skin)

They list spices and whatnot, but more importantly list the letter supplements and nutrients needed in each food. Worth the read.????????????????????????????????????????????????????

To review, there’s not much we can do to change our genetics. My grandfather had bad knees, my mom has bad knees, and I will have some issues to look out for, but there are many options with the advent of advance science and nutrition to prevent suffering like they did. If I LOVE to run (even on days when I don’t), why not attempt to make the time I have doing it as comfortable as possible?

Be kind to you, your joints, and the stairs … easy on the stairs. Find a nice man to carry you if possible…images

Get that woman a cup of coffee and she’s set for the day.

Other be-kind-to-your-knees websites:

http://beta.active.com/walking/articles/6-ways-to-keep-your-knees-pain-free

http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-01-2010/keep_your_knees_healthy.html

http://www.parade.com/health/slideshows/fitness/keep-your-knees-healthy.html#?slideindex=0

http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/osteoarthritis/articles/how_to_keep_your_knees_healthy.aspx

Passing on the left! (An episode chasing Tres Pony)

14 Sep

It was an amazing beautiful morning today. Seemingly, the Eastern seaboard of the United States has hit it’s stride with beautiful fall-like weather for at least the next three days, and although my intention was to do some cardio in the gym before  I went to my pilates class, the crisp inviting breeze of the morning called me to join basically everyone else outside. So I locked my valuables in the trunk outside the gym and figured on doing about 30 minutes of running.

The trail that cuts through the small, colonial like town my gym is nestled in rests on the shore of an inlet and winds through some amazingly expensive town homes. At this particular starting point, the trail narrows near the still used train tacks, where there happened to be a mini-Tour-de’-my town, so all runners were forced into single file.

cutcaster-photo-100892824-Lots-of-people-running-in-a-sports-game  This always gets awkward. For me, I always feel pressure to pick it up if I know the person behind me is obviously faster, or is very close to me. And this morning, this glorious day, there was just such a case. I’m pretty sure this woman was about 50, and very intense about using color as a motivator. She liked her hot orange and green. Running tank, running skirt, and the best worst-thing I’ve seen in a long time–maybe even two decades– the Tres Pony. For those of you not born after 1980, and those who did not grow up or participate in the 1990s , then you missed one whopper of a hair do. Pleas see the pictures below:

One of these (NOT so smooth)pferdeschwanz-2-420x540  +    three of these   Scrunchies  =Tres Pony lady

But wait, let me get to how I knew that …

So I was running, hard. Tres Pony was clearly seasoned and there to do some sort of time trial for the day. After the bikers passed I pulled to the right of the trail clearing the room for her to go. Another quarter of a mile, and still nothing. She was just hanging back some, not totally behind me, just some behind me. It was a bit off putting, but I kept up my pace and decided to cut  out off the trail to where it loops closer to the water so I could run down the blocks nearest the grand estates.

Then I heard it: Her. She was basically the secondary part of my ass, breathing hard within inches of me, just scraping by my right side. I can promise you, if she had touched me at all, this post would probably have been written from a correction center, because I immediately became pissed off–“WHAT THE %#$@!” 

Every single runner, in every single part of the world knows you pass on the LEFT. Always on the LEFT (if possible and it was SO possible). I gave her room to do what she wanted and she waited for the moment I wasn’t watching to just make it like the final break in the Olympic time trials and give me the buzz by. I’m not sure if it was the running endorphins, or the native New Yorker in me, or PMS, but I started to chase her … and she knew it.

pass_on_the_left_travel_on_the_right  Suddenly, I was a cheetah in the wild stalking her prey–a wild pony … Tres Pony. That messy, dry, straw like hair, barely being kept in three weak sections with three out of date hair restraints. She was no longer 12, so she had no place to wear a scrunchie … ever. I had to keep on her, I had to let her know I was there, I had to let her know I wasn’t about to be passed on the right, or–if nothing else was to be accomplished–I had to give her the number to my stylist.

After the buzz by, I think it was 30 seconds of me thinking “WHAT THE %#$@!”   and then, then Tres Pony upped the ante: She looked back. That Pony knew what she was doing! It wasn’t even like it WAS an accident. So I went from cheetah to crazy-lady-puma in 30 seconds and it was on for 6 blocks.

gaia30_05

She passed you on the right?

Thankfully, we were all up so early, there was NO need to worry (or stop) for traffic. I matched my same stalking pace for over 20 minutes solid.  It seemed people noticed, as I noticed people looking at me in a strange way–I couldn’t figure out their expressions until later reflecting on it–I must have looked serious … seriously pissed.

10 Blocks later, I started to slow. It was early, I hadn’t planned on doing this much milage or pace, I hadn’t eaten, and let’s face it, it’s hard chasing a Pony. Blocks 2-5 garnered looks from Tres Pony, the crossing of each one, she checked to see if FGR had still been able to keep up, thinking the bouncing potato to her lean stick couldn’t last this long each time, and each time she was wrong. I like that she stopped checking.

I stopped at block 11 and looked at my watch–35 minutes. I would really have to hustle if I would  have any chance of making it back to the gym and attend pilates class. With my hands on my knees, stretching my lower back, I let out a brief yawing fit of frustration. Tres Pony picked it up even more, but she never looked back.

Finally making my way back to the gym parking lot, I realized I exceeded my goal and that the usual and favorite pilates trainer was out, so I did some cool-down cardio, abs, and went home. It has been a while since I let someone get to me, and while Tres Pony wasn’t a physical threat or a personal threat, she became a proximity threat the worst of all for any runner. If you need competition or someone to show-up, ask a friend to run with you, get a trainer, or borrow someone’s small child, but don’t buzz by another runner for no good reason. It’s just not cool or good runner etiquette.

But, this may back up my off-topic theory– No one (not even my mother–sorry mom–) who wears a scrunchie is a sane and right minded individual.  There’s just always something about scrunchie wearers. I have never met an adult female who has worn one to be all together. My apologies if you are and you do, and congratulations for breaking my theory to pieces.

Be respectful and aware of those FGRs and other runners around you, or you might become their prey. And always pass on the left …

mitch-reardon-thompson-gazelle-fawn-being-eaten-by-lions-masai-mara-national-reserve-rift-valley-kenya  <–That guy passed on the right.

Running with Children.

6 Sep

Well, I’m old. 

Image

Someone should tell her those things will kill her.

Okay, maybe not officially, World Health Organization definition of 65 years and older to even start the cusp of old-old, but my body is no long what it once was.

And what my body once was was resilient. Oh, the days when it used to bounce back, and no, I’m not talking about the jiggle moving in waves around me; I’m talking days of recovery in place of weeks; hours of pain in place of days; minutes of exhaustion in place of hours. It seemed, as long as I was somewhat good to my body, the process of putting it to the task of exhaustive runs and trainings would be withstood for, well, ever, with little to no consequence. 

Image (What I think I look like running at all times)

Then, one surpasses the age of 25 and the preverbal “shit” starts to hit the “fan” in means of the processes of your body working like a functioning machine. I shall quote  China Achebe who quoted a line from Yeats: “Things fall apart.” It’s truth when you get old … like death and taxes. 

 

If you haven’t been an avid reader, then you haven’t noticed an almost 2 week lapse in posting last month. I took a self-imposed exile from all things running because of a consistent injury I kept aggravating. Rather than cross training, or tapering down my runs, I decided to just abstain all together and give my body the time it needed to heal … which was the most difficult part of training I’ve ever had to experience. 

Mentally, I needed a break as well. I had to stop myself from putting the FGR pressure on to write about what I was going through every minute. Most of it was boring and can be broken down to the following bulleted list:

  • I don’t want to gain weight
  • I’m so hungry all the time
  • I have to keep moving so I don’t lose endurance
  • I hope I’m not screwing all the progress I’ve made
  • I really want chocolate
  • NO alcohol … at all … for real
  • It’s such nice running weather
  • Are these pants tighter today
  • How much longer until I can run again
  • Repeat list above

A bit pathetic, but all me. This is some of what I worried about when I wasn’t running. I won’t bore you with all of it, but this grabbed the tops of my attention span. 

Hurray, I am now back in shape enough to run again, and wouldn’t you know it, I thought the greatest thing to do would be to run with the local Cross Country kids. Yep, I really thought that. “What a great idea” <— that actually went through my mind. Then I showed up for practice … 

 

We started the same way everyone does–stretching. As we were stretching, Coach was telling the kiddies about training tips, what was coming up in the following week, and how they would select captains. 

As part of conditioning, which was every other day (guess which day I showed up on), we did sit-ups and push-ups as well–hurray. Then there was the breakdown of time groups: 5 minute mile, 6 minute mile, 7 minute mile, 8 minute and everyone else. I could not even fathom the first group. I thought about the length of time it would take to warm something up in the microwave … say, an organic burrito. This would take about 5 minutes. So, I could make dinner OR I could run a mile. Crazy.

Image

Mmm, tastes like the mile.

 

I got in the last group close to the back, and started off with everyone else.  There’s something about teenagers that always makes me think I can be like them if I’m around them. Not like, wearing tights for pants, or twerking, or yoloing or what have you, but looking at the grace and gazelle like structure they have to their stride makes me believe that I can again achieve that cadence in run. 

This is an illusion of an unrealistic woman who is stuck in a fantasy of yesteryear. After clamping down a narrow path, we came the “rolling hills.”  WHY do people name  jagged, un-Godly, annoying, painful hills rolling hills? It’s not like they’re moving. We’re moving, or trying to, up and down them.

And so I went, at a mediocre pace, and a slower pace, and a frustrated pace, over tree stumps, and limbs, through tall grasses, and small boulders (or stones, whatever), down the dry ravine, up the side of the dry ravine, following the pre-placed arrows guiding me to and fro, and hopefully back from whence I came. 

Image I did like running across the bridges.

 

I felt okay, not too fat for a Fat Girl Running. The kids, although confused by my presence, never once questioned me and were happy to have someone older who liked to run around. I didn’t look like I could hold up for more than 5 minutes, but I did, and so they accepted me. Then, I found them in the forest …

I was just cursing the person who decided it was a great decision to put steps into the side of a hill that had the angle of a ladder when I saw two girls just barely running toward me. 

“Hey, school’s that way.”

“Oh, thank GOD. We got lost.”

“Turn around. See the arrows.”

“Yeah, but there are arrow here too”

“But they aren’t white. We started with white, so we should follow those … right?”

I wasn’t really sure, but neither were they, and they were tired. I could tell they had probably circled the area for a while. We made it down a narrow pass, and through a clearing toward one last, damn hill to the last stretch of flat land and the end. And do you know what happened? Can you even guess what happened? These spritely, svelte, adorable, twigs who could have beat me in the Shuttle Run in gym class without even trying started to WALK. All I could think was what?

“What? Keep going girls. We’re almost there, and you can’t be slower than the oldest person running.”

They laughed a breathy, hard laugh, and picked it up. Granted, their walk was my struggling jog, but I got those girls moving to the end. FGR-1 (minus 150 million cool points), skinny kids-1/2 point.

 

I have to say, I kind of impressed myself. While not many of us would ever want to go back to 17 and the intensity of feeling judged, and awkward, and uncomfortable, it was nice to go a time where all you had to do was show you had the same earnest interest and you were in. I ran my best, showed up at the end, stretched and went home. And though I shall be sore for far more days than they will, I will at least be able to self-medicate my pain with fun adult beverages and not have to stay up writing an essay on Yeats’ The Second Coming. I’m in the middle of one of my own. 

 

“Hey, thanks for helping us find the trail back to school.”

“No worries.”

“You coming to the next run?”

“Yolo.”

“What?”

” … Yes, I will (God I hope that sounds alike).”