I tend to link my self-worth with productivity. I'm not saying that's a good plan or I recommend it to everyone, I'm just saying, that's how things tend to work out over here. On a good day, that means I accomplish many things on varying plains of importance in my life: I write, I make photos, I coach clients, I cook, I do some administrative things for my business, I exercise, I look into Ginger's eyes in an authentic and heartfelt manner, I meditate, blah blah... you see where this is going. And, on a good day, all of this happens in a seamless fashion without a degree of anxiety or self criticality that feels, well, bitchy. On a bad day, things look like a view from a handbasket on my way to certain doom and a fiery demise of despair with panic and a side order of self-loathing. Not to be dramatic.
The bad days are marked by over-scheduling and unrealistic expectations of what a lady can wring out of an hour and what's actually necessary to feel good about my day. It was like that on Thursday. My day was insane and I knew it, but I thought, after MANY years of knowing this to be untrue, that I could do everything I planned and still feel awesome. Thankfully this version of being wrong provided me with some wonderful information I can pass along to fellow runners.
I spent the morning happily "in the tank". That's what my friend Tara Jane calls it when you get into your creative or work mode so hardcore, that you just become it. You ignore the phone, Facebook, your bladder, and even your belly. Which I did. So I thought, I'll just go to the salad bar (because I have no food prepped), and I'll eat as I hop on the train to my running starting point plan. I like to take the train to where I begin and home from where I end so I can relax and prepare for the run then treat myself to a ride home.
ANYHOOTS, as it turns out, it is actually NOT an urban myth that one should not eat before running. One gets cramps and painful discomfort in the side. I only made it one mile, didn't enjoy my lunch from scarfing, and then didn't enjoy my run either, THEN felt bad that I didn't reach my goals and still had to finish the day on that trajectory. I'll keep the rest of the gory details to myself.
In the win column, I have debunked a mythic suspicion as a truth, forgiven myself for missing the run, and put in two great days of training since. Plus, I now had the opportunity to let you know how my road test went. Which wasn't well. So there's that.
I am as slow as ever, again. I am not the woman who ran the marathon. A lot has happened and my body has aged and my life has shifted and my desires are different. The main part about finishing a marathon more than training even is that you have to WANT to. Well, I don't anymore. I did my 26.2 miles and so that was a nice check mark in the old Life Column. Now I will find new things to do. This is it. The Hood to Coast and I am through my first block of fear, lumbering around this beautiful town. I can go further than when I first began the marathon training and my mind is more aware of its own tricks and treachery. I took a familiar route and it was agonizingly slow, my limbs heavy and thick. But there my body was, exactly how it is today, willing to trot me around this beautiful city, by my beloved ballpark and up along the water. I had feared this return would leave me so sad, so disappointed in what I had become. But instead I felt grateful to still be moving in this body, just as it is, my triumphant return to the life of a sausage.
The last time I undertook a bizarre running challenge, finishing a marathon before I turned 40, I endured a pretty intense case of plantar fasciitis. That blew. I got cortisone shots in my heels like I was some kind of Cy Young winner trying to make it through the playoffs with an ailing elbow, not a regular pudgy Jewish lesbian just wanting to mark middle age with an epic sort of victory. The shots wore off just before the race and, well, sometimes, that's how life goes. I had to walk about four miles of the race and wasn't sure I'd be able to finish. It felt like there were tacks in my heels, each step featuring the sensation of a sick bully in grade school placing a silver menace below each footfall. I frankly have no idea how I finished the race, both through the foot pain but also just because THAT IS TOO LONG TO RUN.
So now I have this shoulder thing. And it's been going on a long time. I've done massage and acupuncture and chiropractic. I've even done my homework for the excrutiating exercises. I'm over it. Soon I'll be going to see a surgeon to see if I am a good candidate for a procedure where the team puts you under and then manually break up the scar tissue. This is followed up by about a month of physical therapy and then hopefully I'll have my pageant wave back. It's true that a lady could go the physical therapy route and just tough it out, but when my kind doctor tried to manually move my shoulder in the office, I actually thought I might throw up. It hurts that much. I'll take the lights out option, please.
I'm telling you this because I'm interested in letting you know that frankly, I have a lot of problems. I can't do any strength training right now, plus the last year has also seen some stressful and crushing blows in my personal life around illness (I'll get to this soon). I often, when things are difficult, take comfort in food. The marathon happened with about 15 more pounds than I'm carrying now and by the time I hit the Hood to Coast, I imagine about 25 more coming off. I spent the marathon rewarding myself with every pastry I could find, often several times a day. Which was lovely, but ultimately, not in my life goal of treating my body with care and respect. This time I have a new education in nutrition behind me, a successful coaching practice in full swing, and an enormous amount of support to help me do this differently: in health and in happiness.
And so first, this shoulder crap update. I'll keep you posted.
I'M NOT GOOD AT RUNNING. People think I'm being a little hard on myself or not giving myself credit, but I can assure you that giving myself credit is something I've made some progress at. So is accepting myself how I am and guess what? At this point I have watch so many exquisite runners, so many human who are really born to move in this particular way, and I, as it turns out, am quite a ways away from that particular set of gifts. And that's fine.
What I have going for me is that I don't stop. I go slow and it's awkward and unsightly and not really admirable in its form. (What form?) But I keep going. I'll go on and on. My legs get on the bus of Confucius who says, "It does not matter how slowly you go, only that you do not stop." And I like that about myself. It was a fabulous thing to learn because frankly, I thought I was lazy. For decades I thought that. But I was wrong. I can stick with a thing if my approach is kind, reasonable, honest. And sticking with a thing I'm terrible at has been one of the single most transformative things I've ever done.
But this is bullshit, man.
Since the marathon, I've moved my running mostly indoors to the gym. In fact, since my body was so screwed by that distance, I moved it onto the elliptical machine mostly to get my exercise. On vacations I'll hit the road and go outside to run still, but the process is so arduous and difficult. It's a very different feeling to be alone with the body then on an oiled machine with a constant stream of ESPN sports news in my ears. I run outside alone and quietly, no headphones or friends or running companions. Just me and my body, my chatty little brain on a hamster wheel and my daily anxieties pulling my shoulders up to my ears. But this week I decided to ease myself toward the treadmill more, build back some strength, and then move back out onto the road some. I set a goal and got started.
Sometimes my plans are kind of fakakta. I just pick something and begin there because it turns out that trying to find the perfect place to start often leaves me on a couch for years at a time. So I just pick a place. I picked 6 miles an hour. I thought I'd go for 10 minutes. Now, this is a pace I would describe as on the average team. The slower side of average actually. Not so notable. A ten minute mile. Now, like I told you, I'm not really average and I'd would work my long runs at about 12 minute miles. I just settled in and kept going. People can walk faster than I ran. But I didn't care. I just wanted to finish. But this time I thought since I only have to run 6 mile stretches and not some ungodly length of time, maybe I can try to be average. So I set the thingy to 6.0 and began. Also adding to my bad planning is that I did this after I had already been on the elliptical and two kinds of bikes for a combined total of 80 minutes, so I was already drenched when I arrived.
I lasted 6 minutes at 6.0. Not ten. Not 6 miles. Not an hour. 6 little minutes.
So. Here we go, people. I'm at the foot of Bullshit Mt. and I'm ready to rock this thing, one gawky minute at a time.
It referred to Mt. Hood, the big snowcapped beauty I would stare at when I lived in Portland 19 years ago. NINETEEN FRIGGIN YEARS!! I was just out of college, lost and found on the Rose City streets. Elliott Smith played secret solo shows in sad bars while his rock band Heatmiser rocked in clubs. Team Dresch began in a basement of a house called The Curse where only girls were allowed. Even the wonderful drummer, Scotty Plouf of Built to Spill, sitting in until they got Marci Marinez to play had to leave after the set. We did self defense exercises between bands and tugged our arm warmers up that we made from tube socks. The Space Room made the best Bloody Marys in town and I stayed up all night with my new dyke badge of honor and hefty lines of my new friend crystal meth. I had no idea then all the people we would lose, all the women I would love, and that I would ever really break up with my true love of defensiveness: cigarettes. Mt Hood watched over all of us, dragging our hearts around Smith's alphabet town, some lugging black tar heroin, some with the dirty speed on their back, an itchy monkey with a burn, and some just dying from the lack of light. But we'd all look up and trace the snow paths down the big rock, tears spilling down the sky in the distance, and we'd wonder, What Happens Next, World, and who can we tell about the pounding in our chests?
Next August I'll return to Oregon for this race. It's the world's biggest relay. 12 of us will arrive, some of us strangers, some old friends, some even siblings, with 2 vans, chests full of snacks, and 199 miles in front of us. Over the course of 36 hours, we will take turns running legs of approximately 6 miles each, 3 times over. That's 18 miles in 36 hours. That last leg will be a real bitch. At the end, through night and gravel and farmland and heat and more mountains and Portland, we'll all arrive together and look at the wide ocean, me looking at all that salt, back over and over 20 years. I will be 43 by then, my wild grey Leo mane tied up and bopping through the Oregon terrain: no cigarrettes, no crystal meth, no lunatic girlfriends, and with any luck at all, no excruciating pain this time round.
Come with me. I started training this week. It's hilarious already.