September 3, 2018: Snail’s Pace

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This morning, while out walking my dogs before my run, I noticed this snail along the side of the trail. His pace foreshadowed that of the run I would take.

I wanted to run today, as in I planned to run today, but when it came down to actually running, I didn’t really feel like it. Or maybe it was more that other things seemed more pressing–like cleaning my house or writing or napping. Whether any of those things will happen today remains to be seen, but I did run. I considered that more often than not, I’m glad I went even if initially I didn’t want to go, and that I might not get to run again until maybe as late as this Saturday, and so I ran. 2.69 miles in 30:03 for an 11:11/mile. That’s slow, even for me, but by the time I started, the heat index was already 91 degrees. Even still, I’d been running for 12 or 13 minutes before I felt sweat collecting on my upper lip, and almost 20 before the first bead of sweat broke free from my hairline and rolled down my right cheek. That’s about normal for me. I don’t start really sweating until I’ve been at it for a while, even if it’s really hot. A couple weeks ago, my husband and I went for an afternoon hike with some of our friends and their dogs at Pocahontas State Park–we went for an hour. Everyone else was wiping sweat from their brows. It dripped off their chins and down their backs. I had one little damp spot, the size of a half dollar, on my chest.

“How are you not sweating?” one of my friends asked. But I don’t know; I just don’t sweat much. I glisten a lot. And if I get hot enough, my face gets really red, and becomes grotesquely blotchy as I cool off. It’s very ugly when that happens.

A runner should maybe identify with a hare or a gazelle or a cheetah–but I’m a snail right now, edging along on the line between walking and running.

This morning before I ran, I ate a bowl of cereal with dried cherries, milk, and orange juice (which is what I always eat for breakfast every morning) and walked the dogs for a little over an hour. During our walk, I noticed a little snail on some leaves. A snail is the mascot for this journal, so I snapped a photo of him–and thought of him a few times during my run. I don’t care much right now about how fast I run. I just care that I run. A runner should maybe identify more with a hare or a gazelle or a cheetah–but I’m a snail right now, edging along on the line between walking and running. That’s okay. Some people would say I’m cutting myself too much slack, going too easy on myself, not training to my potential. They’re not wrong. That’s okay, too.

When I was really serious about running, in late college and early in my teaching career, my dad would sometimes try to put things into perspective for me. “You’re not a professional runner,” he’d say. I don’t remember how I felt about that, but I mostly ignored it. I remember it now, though. I’m not a professional runner. I’m a wife and a dog mom and a teacher and a writer and a daughter and a sister and a friend–and a recreational runner. And if running isn’t recreational, if I pressurize it fretting over time and distance, then–right now, at least–what’s the point? Running is a release–a treat, a haven. Not a job, not an obligation.

I’m not a professional runner. I’m a wife and a dog mom and a teacher and a writer and a daughter and a sister and a friend–and a recreational runner.

And so in my 30 minutes and three seconds, I admired the green trees against the blue, blue sky and I savored the shade and felt the warmth of the sun and took a photo of an antique car I sent to my husband and I felt happy to be outside and moving. That’s one of the best things about running–and about walking my dogs–both are accessible ways to spend time outside, exercising.

September 2, 2018: My Husband’s Birthday

On Sunday mornings when I attend church, if I don’t have plans after the service, I like to change into my running clothes and on my way home, stop at Pony Pasture to run along the James River in the woods. I’ve done this only a handful of times so far, so I’m still learning the trails, making each run there feel like an adventure and exploration. It’s stimulating to run new and beautiful territory, and to always be trying to navigate so as to not get too lost. And it’s exhilarating to realize, now and again, that I know where I am. And then, of course, there’s the fact of running in the woods, with birdsong and squirrel scurries and sunlight dappling the trail.

I didn’t go to church today, though, because I don’t feel comfortable leaving my dog for that long yet, and my husband is spending today–his birthday–driving to the Northern Neck, where we have a second home, to mow the lawn, water the plants, drop off some fencing, and bring home his mom’s power washer and my stand-up paddleboard (SUP).

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Our beach on the shores of the Potomac River where it meets the Chesapeake Bay in the Northern Neck–where I spent some time trying to achieve standing tree pose on a SUP yesterday.

Speaking of my SUP, I woke up just slightly sore this morning and couldn’t figure out why at first. Surely it wasn’t from yesterday’s little run. After a few minutes, I realized the likely cause: I paddleboarded yesterday. The paddleboarding itself probably didn’t contribute to much of the soreness; it was more likely the 15 or 20 minutes I spent trying to stand on one foot in an effort to achieve (or approximate) standing tree pose as the waves jostled my SUP. It didn’t go particularly well (but it was fun!). I imagine the constant effort of trying to stabilize myself, coupled with the frequent falling off of and climbing back onto the SUP is the true reason I feel like I worked out yesterday.

So this morning, while my husband drove to the Northern Neck, I jogged 2.37 miles in 25 minutes, for a pace of 10:34/mile. Slower than yesterday, I think, but also a bit farther–and for twelve of the 25 minutes, I was talking on the phone with my husband.

It’s fair to say that lately, I’m running much shorter distances at a much slower pace than ever before. There have been times in my life when I didn’t count a run if it weren’t at least 3 miles long. In fact, I remember one particularly funny call to my husband a few years ago:

“I’m on my  way home,” I’d told him, driving home from work.

“Good,” he’d said. “When will you be here?”

“Well,” I said, “I’m going to run eight miles before I come in, so with drive time, I guess maybe an hour and a half or so?”

“God I’m glad I’m not you,” he’d said.

 There have been times in my life when I didn’t count a run if it weren’t at least 3 miles long. There have also been times when I couldn’t imagine running a 10-minute mile. It seemed physically impossible to run that slowly. But for now at least, short and slow is what works for me–what keeps me running.

There have also been times when I couldn’t imagine running a 10-minute mile. It seemed physically impossible to run that slowly. But for now at least, short and slow is what works for me–what keeps me running. And I have to say, it’s easier to fit a 25- or 30-minute run into my schedule than a 60- or 90-minute run. I’m not saying there won’t be a time for that again in my life someday, but with work and writing and dogs and VOWA and BQS and JRW, it’s not right now. Besides, whether I’ve run two miles or 10, I still get to come home, let my dogs out, fill a glass with water or chocolate milk, and sit on the back deck steps watching my dogs perform reconnaissance in the backyard while I savor the gradual slowing of my breath and the warm trickle of sweat down my back, legs, or chest, followed by stretching in front of a favorite TV show and either sun bathing (I’m already sweaty, anyway) or a shower.

Besides, whether I’ve run two miles or 10, I still get to come home, let my dogs out, fill a glass with water or chocolate milk, and sit on the back deck steps watching my dogs perform reconnaissance in the backyard while I savor the gradual slowing of my breath.

September 1, 2018: A Running Start

This morning I ran just over 2 miles in just over 20 minutes. It was sunny and humid and the air smelled sweet and warm like hay drying golden in the sun. This morning’s was my first run since August 23. My dog’s issues and a tweaked back have kept me from running the last week or so, but both my dog and my back are doing better, so I was able to go today–not that it was easy. I got up at 5:45, fed the dogs, ate breakfast, and took the dogs for a walk. Ninety-five percent of the time, what I really want to do after breakfast and our walk, is go back to bed. Rarely do I have the luxury of doing so, and even when I can afford the luxury, I rarely allow myself to take advantage of it. Today, the temptation to go back to bed was strong, but I haven’t been able to run for so long, and I knew I’d be glad I went–if I could just get myself to go. I can’t tell what causes me to succumb to temptation in one case, and overcome it in another, but in this case, I overcame it. And that’s good. It’s the first of the month, and I like to get a running start.

I can’t tell what causes me to succumb to temptation in one case, and overcome it in another, but today, I overcame it.

As I was running, I thought about last night. We ate dinner at our friends’ house, and at one point, someone complimented the article I recently wrote about my friend, who then asked if I had made any progress on my novel.

“It’s gonna be so good,” another friend added. And for a few seconds, everyone lauded my work-in-progress–and I felt reinvigorated to work on it. I felt encouraged and supported and believed in. I had a cheering squad. As I ran through the neighborhood, the feelings of enthusiasm and confidence rekindled in my chest as I relived them in my memory, it occurred to me that writing a novel is not that unlike running a half marathon (I’ve run five); it’s nice to have cheerleaders to spur you on. The most recent half I ran, I didn’t have anyone there. I lost steam around mile 9, and had a terrible time–in terms of my actual finish and in terms of my experience. I actually haven’t run a half since.

At the end of my run today, I came across my neighbors with their dogs, a hound mix, a German Shepherd mix, and a pit mix. I stopped, and we chatted while I pet the panting dogs, one of whom–the German Shepherd mix–rolled over on the asphalt so I could rub her belly.

As I ran through the neighborhood, the feelings of enthusiasm and confidence rekindled in my chest as I relived them in my memory, it occurred to me that writing a novel is not that unlike running a half marathon (I’ve run five); it’s nice to have cheerleaders to spur you on.

Earlier in the morning, while I was walking my own two dogs, we came across one of my other neighbors, who I met years ago on a 10k training team organized by our local YMCA. Sometimes, when I am driving to work in the morning, he’ll be out for his morning run. Whenever he sees me driving by, he stops and turns toward the road and bows with a flourish, and I honk my horn. This morning, he stopped, and quickly caught his breath so we could catch up for a few minutes. He usually closes our sidewalk chats with something like, “Thanks for making my day, okay?,” which always warms my heart. But today, as he turned to continue his run, he said, “Love you.”

He usually closes our sidewalk chats with something like, “Thanks for making my day, okay?,” which always warms my heart. But today, as he turned to continue his run, he said, “Love you.”

Sitting on my couch tonight, writing this, I like to picture all my neighbors (and their dogs) in their houses–we’re all doing our own individual things, going  about our own individual routines, living our own individual lives–but we’re all connected by the roads between our houses, only steps away, and our paths will cross again, next time we hit the pavement for a walk or a run.

 

 

 

 

August 23, 2018: Evening Run

I took an evening run today. Evening is one of my favorite times of day to run, but rarely does my adult life allow for evening runs. In college, I ran in the evening fairly regularly, which might be the reason I enjoy it–it’s nostalgic. I remember many a run early in my running “career,” still learning my way around East Lansing, trying to beat not my PR (because I don’t even think I knew what that stood for back then), but nightfall. I didn’t exactly know where I was or how to get home–but I wanted to be home before dark, so I’d just keep running.

About five minutes or so into my run, I got a call on my cell phone (I always carry it with me) from a number in Petersburg. I usually won’t pick up for numbers I don’t know, but I had to vague notion I did know this number, so I answered. It was the assistant principal from the school where I teach, giving me a heads up about changes the state is making for verified credits and advanced diplomas. I ran along for about eight minutes talking to him on speaker phone. After that, I was free again to pay attention to the golden light on the oak trees and pine needles, the cloudless blue sky, the sweet smell in the fresh air. In the winter, the golden hour arrives around 4 or 5 o’clock, but right now, in late August, it’s more like 7 or 8 o’clock.

I ran into my neighbor and her Alaska husky, Donner. My neighbor invited us (the dogs and me) to walk with them. I told her one of my dogs isn’t well, but as soon as he’s back to normal, we’d love that.

Today I ran 2.5 miles in almost 26 minutes. There have been times in my life when I would barely have counted that as a warm-up. There have been times in my life when running even one mile was a success. So right now, I’m somewhere in between. I’m just running because I like it. Because it makes me feel good. And alive.

That’s the reason for my evening run–one of my dogs’ condition. He needs to go outside every 30 to 60 minutes, so I don’t feel right about leaving the house for anything until my husband gets home from work to help me care for him. To say I’m distressed about this is an understatement.

A few blocks after encountering my first neighbor with her dog, about 24 minutes into my run, I came across another neighbor and her black standard poodle, Tori. I’d just passed from a state of breathlessness into a sort of runner’s high, so my drive to keep running was strong, but I didn’t want to be away from home long and I wanted to chat with my neighbor, so at 25 minutes I slowed to a walk and walked with her and her dog to their house. A few hundred feet after bidding them farewell, I ran another block, walked a short cool down, and went home, refreshed and invigorated. It was gorgeous weather–warm sun, cool air, slight breeze, low humidity.

It was likely the weather that contributed to my slightly faster-than-usual pace–2.5 miles in 25:42, or 10:16/mile. I know that’s not fast, but it’s faster than I’ve run lately.

I’ve never been a fast runner–or at least, not as fast as I look like I should be, or maybe as I should’ve been for my age, weight, and height. At one point, I was fast-ish, and I have my share of trophies and metals in a display case upstairs to show for it. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been even fast-ish. I only look like I’d be fast.

I look like a lot of things I’m not–or so I’m told. A volleyball player. A dancer. A basketball player (that I at least used to be). A model. A fast runner.

I’m also often told I resemble someone somebody knows–a cousin or neighbor or childhood friend. This baffles me, because I am over six feet tall and really pretty skinny. I just can’t believe there are that many women walking around who match that description. But maybe one tall, skinny person reminds people of all the other tall, skinny people they’ve ever known, regardless of a lack of any other shared traits.

I look like a lot of things I’m not–or so I’m told. A volleyball player. A dancer. A basketball player (that I at least used to be). A model. A fast runner.

So today I ran 2.5 miles in almost 26 minutes. There have been times in my life when I barely would’ve counted that as a warm-up. There have been times in my life when running even one mile was a success. So right now, I’m somewhere in between. I’m not training for anything–it’s been a long time since my last race (maybe going on two years). I’m just running because I like it. Because it makes me feel good. And alive.

In fact, I walk my dogs and run so often that strangers approach me at the grocery store (usually there, but other places, too), tell me they’re my neighbors and they’ve seen me running or walking my dogs. Most recently, I went to Food Lion at 7:00 a.m., still in the clothes I’d slept in–I hadn’t even brushed my teeth yet–to get a tub of yogurt for the dogs’ froyo, and the cashier told me he thought I lived in his neighborhood; he’s seen me run by his house a few times.

Once, in college, at a Halloween party I attended dressed as a pirate, some fellow revelers introduced themselves. “We know you!” they said. “You’re always out there running.” So, even in cognito, I am recognized.