Apr 5, 2017


There's lots more to write on this later (when it's not 6:30 AM and time to get ready for the day), but I want to share right now the good feeling of a plan well-executed.

The last (almost) year since starting heart rate training has taught me a lot about what running success can look like. Our coach hammers into us that, for the most part, pace truly doesn't matter in heart-rate training. It's more about execution of the plan. As someone with a history of digging in and gutting it out, and giving it ALL, it has been a pretty big mind shift to step back a little and focus on giving the RIGHT amount at the RIGHT times, and not emptying the tank every. single. time.

So today I went out on time and executed the plan. I didn't overdo it, as that would put my delicate core and glutes at risk. They're getting stronger, but I really do need to watch it a little. I did intervals, but they're not the all-out kind I did when I was 15. They're controlled, sustainable, and just right for the day. And I DID them. And then I settled back down for a controlled cool-down, where I wanted to stop and walk, but I kept going to keep the mental toughness. The parts that had a heart-rate range, I kept within the range. The parts that had a pace goal, I kept the pace goal. I nailed that workout.

It's not that the plan is that spectacular, or difficult, or anything. It's more that it is growth for me to be able to follow it well. I was not fast, but that wasn't the goal today anyway. I was solid and strong, and it felt great.

In conclusion, you may be well-versed in making a plan and executing it, and I applaud you. You may be more like me where plans can be hit-or-miss, or you might be anti-plan. That's cool, you do you.

But I hope you find something today where you feel like you NAILED it, because that's a great feeling...

Mar 27, 2017

Skerrib's Health(ier) Eating Update...

Well kids, here we are and it is late March already. The equinox was a week ago, but since New England tends to be a late bloomer we had a snowstorm instead of, like, leaf buds on trees or something equally spring-ish in nature.

I've been keeping up with my new healthier eating habits, and working with Ellie, so I figured it was time for an update (in bullet form):

-The gluten/corn/uncultured dairy experiment ended with little fanfare. I made the torte, and it turns out I make a killer torte. If you are into the dark, rich, chocolatey things in life, I can wholeheartedly recommend this recipe. My family is not so much into those things. On one hand--more torte for meeeee!!! On the other hand, it also turns out I am capable of consuming SEVERAL pieces of rich, chocolatey torte, and that is why I now have three quarters of half a torte living in my freezer. 

-I didn't have a protocol for reintroducing the above items into my diet, and--surprisingly--for the most part I didn't feel an extreme need to do so. I have noticed no ill effects if I'm out with the family and decide to have some pizza, or a burger complete with bun. But if I decide to have ALL the pizza AND a burger complete with bun, I do feel vaguely cruddy and notice some extra fatigue for a day or two. Is it a real thing, or psychosomatic? No idea, but it seems like a nice little parameter to help me stay in moderation.

-Corn is dead to me.

-I told Ellie she's ruined a few of my guilty pleasures for me, in that my tastes have changed and some of the things I used to LOVE are now so-so or even kind of gross. Her exact reply was "SorryNotSorry." And I have to say I'm not really sorry either. Anything I really, really miss...I can eat. But for the first time ever (and I do mean EVER), my cravings are greatly reduced from the usual, and I kind of don't want to mess with that, because they were getting to some crazy places, those cravings.

-Speaking of cravings, a word (or two) on sugar. If I had a propensity toward alcohol as I do sugar, I'd have hit rock bottom long ago. It's tricky, because while I knew I needed to be eating WAY less sugar, I was also afraid of having to cut it out completely. Yes--afraid. So I knew going in that I could not tame that beast on my own. The key factor has been having a plan with a positive emphasis, by which I mean instead of the negative-sounding "don't eat the sugar," it's a more positive "when you have the cravings, eat such-and-such." This is where the super-dark chocolate and mug cake come into play. It would be inaccurate to say that I don't have cravings. Every afternoon I look forward to my treat, and to be honest I am a little mean about it if people are sticking their fingers in my cake and whatnot.

-But the interesting part is that now when I want something sweet, there are WAY fewer foods that sound appetizing, and it takes WAY less for me to feel like I've had enough. That sounds really virtuous of me, as if I suddenly developed moderation, but the truth is I've had a couple of run-ins with sweets (e.g. too much of the above torte) that left me feeling cruddy, which led to the epiphany that, for all its uses as a pantry ingredient, sugar does not have my best interests at heart. So while I have not cut it out completely, I will always need to be very careful with it. Very careful.

-Pants goals are coming along nicely, and I am seeing a general (and gradual) downward trend in my weight. NOT THAT I'M KEEPING TRACK OF NUMBERS, ELLIE.

-My skin is clearing, and at my haircut a week ago, my person (stylist? cosmetologist? hair-cutter?) commented on how much my hair had grown since my last appt. Collagen, baby!

-I'm starting to have weird, random, healthy thoughts, like the other day when I was making some eggs and threw some spinach in on a whim. Because a) I actually had some on hand, and b) I've had enough practice now that I knew how to make it taste really good. This was not true of me even 3 months ago.

-I don't mean that corn is necessarily dead to me forever, just that I'm currently neither eating nor craving it. I'll probably have a few ears' worth this summer, and maybe allow some cornstarch for thickening sauces. And you know, powdered sugar for...stuff. I have a little soul searching to do in this area.

-I said the last time that I wasn't keeping a food journal. I've decided that I want to start, because I want to keep track of the times I deviate from the plan and any effects I notice. I've gotten as far as printing off the journal templates, which I will begin promptly. Tomorrow.

-I make really tasty food, and when you can make healthy food really tasty, it is much more pleasant to consume. The biggest challenge I'm running into right now is time; I mean, to me it is worth the time it takes to make delicious healthy food, but in the long-term I'm going to have to find some shortcuts and greater overall efficiency, because it is still a lot of work and I'm not sure how sustainable that level of work is. To be fair, some of it is that I'm trying all sorts of new recipes so really it's me throwing myself a learning curve there. So it's an ongoing process, trying new things but remembering to double-back to the familiar in the interest of speed and not being in the kitchen ALL the time. All to say, it's something I'm keeping an eye on...kind of like the sugar.

In conclusion, things are going very well, and are still very much a work-in-progress. Also, my bedtime alarm just rang so I need to close and get my beauty rest so I can maximize all these amazing nutritional benefits.

Also-also, I am past the point in the evening where I can solidly trust my thoughts, so best for us all if I quit while I'm ahead.

You're welcome...

Feb 9, 2017

Skerrib's Guide to Health(ier) Eating...

OK kids, big things going on here at the Skerrib house. Yuuuge things. New Years resolution-type things. Really fantastic.

I've been working with a dietitian for a couple weeks now. I know a good amount about healthy eating, and I've made some gradual changes over the last year, and I have a good sense of our family philosophy on food, but I needed some guidance on implementing things and handling my particular quirks and insatiable need for treats. So it was time, because I've got goals. Really good, amazing goals. Speed goals. Getting-older goals. Skin goals. Pants goals.

Well, it turns out Ellie has all sorts of advice to match people's quirks and issues. Seriously, you could play "Try to Stump Ellie," and I bet she'd have at least a little familiarity with whatever challenge you throw at her. I first heard her on a podcast thru my online running community, so I was fairly prepared for what I'd be getting into. Not that it's easy and automatic; nay, I dare say it's even a little bit of hard work. But I knew it was coming, so it hasn't been too much of a shock to my delicate sensibilities (and no, she hasn't turned me into a raging vegan, Mom).

Based on our first Skype session, I have a daily plan and I'm supposed to be keeping a food journal, but I haven't done that. I mean, I'm following the plan pretty darn closely, but the only things I'm logging are observations and questions to ask at the next appointment. And so far most of the observations are in my head, so I am presenting them here for posterity and the betterment of all humanity--

1) I have cut out gluten, corn, and uncultured dairy for 3 weeks as a trial to sleuth out food sensitivities. This definitely requires a little more pre-planning on snacks and meals, but it's not as tragic as I thought it would be. I don't know what's next in the process, but at least for now it's temporary, and temporary things can be endured.

2) The kids are intrigued and very supportive of my food elimination experiments. The Cat Daddy is nervous--I think he is hearing "This Family Is Going Gluten-Free!" because he keeps concernedly proclaiming "Our Family Is Not Going Gluten Free!!" WE are not going gluten-free...but I am finding some seriously delicious-looking recipes for chocolate tortes (when dairy is back in...when dairy is back in...).

3) Speaking of tortes, the upside of all these food elimination trends is that there are heaps and heaps of recipes and suggestions out there (hello, Pinterest). In overhead-camera-video format, to make you think they take two seconds. But as long as I remember about editing, and real-life cooking time, I can keep it in perspective.

4) 85% dark chocolate tasted like the bitter rants of curmudgeons at first but now, a week or two in, I think it's growing on me.

4b) I need to pay attention to the time of day when I consume 85% dark chocolate, lest it affect my sleep.

5) Every new recipe I've tried has been doable, but has needed at least a little bit of tweaking first.

6) I'm really on the fence about chickpea cookies. I mean, after a couple tries and some tweaks I think I do like them, but never will they ever be passed off as a suitable substitute for classic chocolate chip cookies made with wheat flour.

7) Nettle tea smells like a hay barn. After a week or two, I have found I kind of like drinking a hay barn.

8) Collagen does best dissolved in warm/hot water. Collagen dissolved in cold water makes me think of drinking sheep hooves. It's not even made from sheep hooves--at least I don't think it is--but that's what I think of.

9) Coconut water kefir makes me think of drinking sea monkeys. Sea monkeys in my belly, populating my gut with more good sea monkeys than I have cells in my entire body.

10) I don't even know what to make of ginseng with royal jelly, but the teeny little straw and teeny little bottle are so cute it doesn't bother me.

11) I'm a decent home cook of delicious, whole, nourishing foods. Seriously, I make some killer rice bowls and chopped salads these days. The downside is that it does take time to do this. Not a ridiculous amount of time, mind you. But enough that I notice the investment of effort and time it takes, mostly in the planning and weekend-prep.

12) The goal is that I cook the same stuff for the whole family. The reality is that with some meals I serve MOST of the same stuff to everyone and change up a couple things for myself. But very few of my meals have been something completely different from everyone else's. I can live with this.

13) I might have accused Ellie of sorcery because as I told her, I'm already noticing some improvements. Not ALL the improvements; I mean, it would be dangerous to do all that in a week's time. But enough that I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining things.

14) As with much in life, the difficulty is less about specific foods and more about changing habits and mindset. Except for the vegetables. Ellie swears a boatload of vegetables is key, and snap peas keep me awake in meetings, so I'm on board with that.

15) Gluten-free chocolate mug cake FOR THE WIN.

15b) Chocolate mug cake must also be consumed before 5 pm for sleep reasons.

In conclusion, you cannot make me turn cauliflower into mashed potatoes or pizza crust, but I'm well on my way with the vegetable train and occasional visits to Whole Paycheck.

Now if you will excuse me, it's time for my mug cake and cup of hay barn tea...

Dec 6, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: Marathon...

Have I talked yet about how I ran a marathon? I know I mentioned I was going to, but I don't think I've completed a post about it.

Here's the nitty gritty: I did it. I ran a friggin' marathon before the age of 40. With 11 months to spare, as a matter of fact.  It was a beautiful autumn day, and I was well-trained, and I was ready, and I did it.

Plenty of things went right. Most of the things went right, in fact. A few things went wrong, but in the weeks before my race, someone in my training group said something about running the race you are given, meaning no matter what goes right or wrong, being present and running that race, doing what you can with how that day goes, good or bad.

It was good advice, and it really helped me--when I showed up with a cold, and then my heart rate strap went all wonky and my race plan went out the window--to focus on what I was able to do, what my options were, and to choose wisely.

Beyond that, there is both so much and so little to say about it. I mean, I was out there for just shy of 6 hours, and since I don't run with headphones that is a lot of time to think about a lot of things. SO MANY THINGS. This I was prepared for.

The thing I was not prepared for was the recovery time. I'm not talking about the physical recovery time--that was par for the course, if by "par for the course" you mean I had a hard time walking for a couple days and then felt fine for the remainder of the mandatory 2-week rest.

No, the part I'm talking about is where you have two weeks of work travel starting the day after the marathon, plus a gig with a chick band in between the two weeks of work travel, all of which you think will be a good break in routine, and it mostly is, except for the part where all of it is such a good break in routine that you then return to the hot mess that is your life, which is now two weeks behind, and you just ran your first marathon and even with the best training, running 26.2 miles just plain takes a lot out of you, and it takes a few weeks to sort things out bit by bit, and by 6 weeks out you're finally pretty sure you are going to be OK, and won't have to see the doc about adjusting your meds, and will even want to run more than 30 minutes at a time. Eventually.

That's the part I wasn't prepared for.

But I imagine it's that way for anyone's first anything, you know? There are SO MANY ways things could go, SO MANY ways to be thrown into disequilibrium, that it is impossible to be prepared until after that first time, because then you have some idea how you will respond to it.

Back in college my educational methods instructor (Dr Betz Frederick) said that people learn best in a constant state of disequilibrium--which she also demonstrated to us with a semester's worth of disequilibrium. I'm not sure I agree with the constant part--if your disequilibrium is too constant that's called chaos and there is science about how too much chaos es no bueno. I assume Dr Frederick was referring to a constant state of disequilibrium for a definite and not-excessive period of time. I also suspect that maybe Dr Frederick had a teensy bit of madness to her method.

That said, I do think it is valuable to get thrown into disequilibrium occasionally, either by choice or by circumstance (personally I prefer by choice), because you really do come out of it with new viewpoints, not the least of which is "Holy smokes, what WAS that?!?"

When I was having babies, they compared labor and delivery to running a marathon. And when I was training for a marathon, they compared it to having a baby. And it's funny, when I was having babies the consolation was that it was one hard day and then you got a baby, and with the marathon the consolation was that it was one hard day and then you got a NAP. So I guess my timing has been serendipitous all around, because at this point in life what I really wanted was the NAP.

I do plan to run another marathon, but most likely not until 2018. There's so much else I want to do, and when I do the next one, as in all things, I want to devote the proper time to it so I can be as awesome as possible. But in this next year--I have a half-marathon goal or two I'd like to chase.  Heh heh--chase.

In conclusion, it's worth putting in the work to do hard things, and in a life of literal and figurative marathons, a well-earned nap relieves many stresses.

Go and do likewise...

Nov 17, 2016

The Littler One's Foot-Freezing Adventure...

The Littler One knows I like to tell stories, so he demanded that I gave me permission to write about his adventure today.

It started with a wart on his foot this summer. We were at the doctor's for his checkup anyway, so we asked her about it. She said we could bring him in to have it frozen off, but we might want to try over-the-counter options first. I had used similar things in the past for a plantar wart, so I thought "Great! Piece of cake!"

It was a little trickier than eating cake. My children are very fortunate to be healthy as horses overall, so they balk at things like going to the doctor or doing any sort of treatment beyond fever medicine.** And the wart medicine stung, so the Littler One was not at all into that which, depending on the day, could be really prohibitive as far as getting the medicine onto his foot-wart. So it was kind of an off-and-on sort of deal, which isn't the best protocol for wart medicine to begin with. And on top of that, the wart grew. So this week we headed back to escalate the concern and have the little bugger frozen off.

I've had moles cut out, but I've never had anything frozen off. This may seem like a disadvantage, but I decided to stay deliberately ignorant, rather than do some research and risk freaking him out ahead of time (completely the right decision).

Well, here's what is involved. Basically they are creating a tiny, local bit of frostbite to kill the wart virus. The technician sprays the wart with liquid nitrogen for a few seconds to freeze it, then waits a minute or so. Then he sprays it again and waits again. Then he sprays it a third time and tells you to come back in 2 weeks for more of the same. He described the sensation as "cold and sharp."

The Littler One was extremely bummed out about the "sharp" portion of the sensation. He did not want to proceed after the first few seconds, but I persuaded him by holding him in a giant, nurturing, and firm bear hug on my lap. The tech and I also pulled out all the distraction and bribery techniques, which were enough to get us all through the rest of the procedure.

The Littler One is my kid with the strongest feelings, so he was acutely aware of how his foot was doing at any moment. It bothered him for a while, but once we got to gymnastics he was able to join his friends with no trouble.

I told him I was proud of him for doing a hard thing, and taking care of himself so the wart would go away and stop aggravating him. I went easy on him when he snuck ice cream from the freezer, and let him play with all 4 colors of the Floam I'd been hiding for occasions like these, and by the end of the evening we were back to driving each other absolutely bonkers... <3

**ASIDE on the medicine: By the way, the kids say medicine tastes really good these days. I don't know what to think about this--back in my day our medicine was sort-of-flavored but still tasted gross. So guess what? We took the gross medicine because we didn't know any differently. Now? They balk at the slightest hints of bitterness. Tiny E doesn't want to take Benadryl because it's GWOSS. I'm all "Sweetie, your face is all swelled up; this will help you get better," and she's all "Nope, GWOSS." I feel like maybe she doesn't understand the function and purpose of medicine. Thanks for nothing, artificial sweeteners! End Rant**

Nov 11, 2016

Poppin' Fresh...

So, the Pillsbury pop cans.

I remember growing up, my parents would peel the paper and then whack the can on the counter to make it pop. When I was old enough to open them, I found that the pop startled me a little, so every time I opened them I would get a little freaked out in anticipation. Whack! Pop? Nope. Whack-POP-Aaah! There it is.

Somewhere along the way I started getting the self-popping ones. I don't actually know if they changed the packaging in some way, or if they were always supposed to be self-popping, but either way, my anxiety was relieved ever-so-slightly. I'd still wince a little when peeling back the paper, but it was tempered by knowing that the deed would be done by the time the paper was off.

Except, of course, when the paper was peeled and the can was still shut. UGH. Then, the instructions said, you were supposed to stick a spoon at the seam to make it pop. Like, put your hands on the spoon and put them right in the vicinity of that sneak-popping can and make it sneak-pop. On purpose. Madness!!

It was worth it, though. Worth it for licking the icing off the little lid while you waited for the rolls to bake, and worth it to smell the squishy dough as you rolled it into the little crescent shapes.

Now I'm older. The baton continues to pass among the generations, and my kids are learning about the pop cans. I tell them "My parents made these rolls for me, and now I'm making them for you," and I let them lick the icing container, and even call dibs on the middle cinnamon roll. Sometimes.

And it dawns on me that the rolls don't self-pop anymore. I peel the paper, and there are printed instructions to press a spoon at the seam until the can pops open. Have they always been there?

Regardless, I'm not putting my dainty fingers near that sneak-pop seam, spoon or not. My counter is sturdy and sufficient for making the can pop, so I give it a whack or two.

But I don't wince anymore, and the pop no longer startles me. I don't know what happened; why I am no longer anxious about the sneak-pop. Maybe Pillsbury figured out the psychology to the least-startling method for opening their pop cans. Or maybe some wrinkle in my own journey has smoothed, and my zebra-self now understands that the sneak-pop is not a threat. Who knows.

All I know is that cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs are a winning breakfast at our house, and that I can eat a pop can cinnamon roll in 2 large bites.

You're welcome...

Nov 6, 2016

A Little Extra Autumn Slumber...

I had a moment today, driving to church and noticing the morning. We had rain overnight, and the sun was peeking its way through the clearing clouds, lighting up the leaves (or at least what is left of them).  I was struck by the beauty of it, remembering how green and full the trees and bushes were just several weeks ago, and knowing how stark and bare and brown they soon will be.

I love the seasons for precisely this. These moments where I'm awake and alert to the beauty, and I'm thankful to be amidst it...but having experienced enough seasons to know that every moment won't be that way; that even perhaps very few moments will feel that way. But also knowing that they will be there again, eventually.

Then driving into church (which meets in a school) I saw folks parking the equipment trailer, carrying things inside to set up for the morning, working together. I was struck by the beauty of being part of a group. A year now we've been at this church. We are putting down roots and feeling stronger and stable among them. I couldn't believe my good fortune to be in this place, in this season, and with these friends.

I thought to myself "What on earth has come over me? Are Jesus and I having a moment here?"

I mean, maybe we were having a moment, Jesus and I. I try to notice small gifts like these, to practice gratitude and whatnot. But the thought that crossed my mind shortly thereafter was remembering that this morning was my favorite of the year, and what that meant: it was the morning that Daylight Saving Time goes dormant until the spring and we set the clocks back an hour, recovering the time we lost in the spring. This year I had the incredible fortune of children who slept in and I actually got my extra hour of sleep. A little sleep goes a long way toward a positive mood and outlook.

I feel like I should have some sort of deeper truth behind this, something more profound than "Hey everyone, I got some extra sleep and appreciated the beauty of nature this morning. You should try that sometime." But I decided I don't really care all that much whether it was a Word from the Lord or the extra zzz's; after all, reality was probably some combination of all factors involved. And the truth is, there are gifted people out there who find wonderful and unique ways to express things, but in the end I think we are all humans experiencing what humans have experienced for years now. Not much is new under that beautiful autumn sun.

But really, you should've seen those leaves...

Oct 1, 2016

Two Weeks Out In the Rain...

Good morning, everyone.

I'm poking my head up above the beautiful mess for a moment to share some perspectives I found this morning. As a result, I present to you a list of pros and cons of today's long run, versus the predicted conditions of my race in two weeks:

--Today it was raining. There were moments of pleasant drizzle, but they were interspersed between heavy showers and cats & dogs.  It is not expected to be raining in two weeks.

--At about two miles in I gave myself permission to say what I was really thinking: "This is the worst run EVER." In hindsight I'm not sure I would say it's my worst run EVER, but I really don't get along with the rain when I'm running, so it's up there. So running a bajillionty hours in two weeks will not be my worst run EVER.

--It rained through the night, so the gutters were pretty well filled by this morning. So I was doing a little traffic-dodging, as well as sloshing through some substantial puddles. There will be traffic control at my race in two weeks, so I will (likely) not have to run in sloshy gutters.

--I pulled my hood up over my hat, which helped delay some of the soaking, but it turns out also made for a lot of head noise from the swishing of my windbreaker. Toward the end when things actually did let up a little, I pulled my hood down and found the outside to be much more peaceful than I had been experiencing it, simply because the swishing was out of my ear. My race in two weeks will most likely be the opposite of peaceful, but there will be no swishing in my ear.

--Today was rainy and miserable, but there was no lightning to compromise safety, so I got out and did it. If I can go out on purpose and do what I know is going to be a miserable run, I will have no trouble running in nicer conditions for a bajillionty hours in two weeks.

--Today there were certain, um, biological truths and realities that really are no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but add an extra layer of planning and thinking, and a teensy shot of ibuprofen. These realities will not be true of me in two weeks. My race, and all of life, will be rainbows and unicorns in two weeks.

--Back in that moment where I admitted what I was really thinking about this run, I double-checked my minimum and maximum goal times, and I'd already met the minimum. So by the time I turned around and made it home I hadn't hit the max, but had far exceeded the min. I got what I needed and I'm ready to run a bajillionty hours in two weeks.

In conclusion, I don't recommend running in the rain when it's below 80 degrees. That's not to say you should never do it, but you need to be aware of the possibility that its only gift to you might be the stark contrast with all that is good in your life and the wish to hollow out a large tree and hunker down like the rabbits and squirrels.

Which of course is its own special gift, but it's not the sort of thing you wish on people, is what I'm saying...

Jul 14, 2016

Calling All Benevolent Subversives...

Like probably mostly everyone else, I've been mulling over the recent violent events in the US. I noticed folks tend to lighten the language when talking about it; see how I didn't say "shootings?" At first I was annoyed by this because it feels like folks are trying to dance around the topic, or be more PC, or something.

But the more I think about it, I've decided I like the more generalized terms because the core issue isn't the shootings. 15 years ago the weapon was airplanes flown into buildings, and every time something violent happens, it's less about that specific vehicle, and more about what is behind it.

I could go super-general and pin down one or two things that are behind all acts of violence, but I wonder if that's simplifying it too much. I've come to believe we all have this part of our hearts that, for many of us in civilized society, is easy to put aside because we have been among polite company. We generally have shelter, food, some place to belong, and a sense of overall safety, where all we really worry about is the everyday sorts of risks, like car crashes, super-bacteria, and all the freak-accidents that could happen in any given moment.

What I mean is, if it all hit the fan and we were all immediately forced into a survival situation like Falling Skies or some such post-apocalyptic scenario, the rules would change, and so would our responses. I'm not so sure we are all as "civilized" as we like to portray, and when violence is committed, I think one trigger is that someone's fundamental safety is so threatened, that their fear takes over and rational thought goes out the window.

There's lots more to say about that, but I would be rambling.

So THEN, we have the responses of the masses; the 'civilized' ones who are rightfully shocked and horrified at the hurt and harm done. There are calls on all the sides. "You MUST do this and that, or you are part of the problem." "You matter/we matter/they matter." "They matter more," "No, we ALL matter more," and OPINIONS flying around all overhead like slinging arrows, all with a nugget of truth but little space to unpack and sit with them, and roll the nuggets in our hands, and let them sink in because "MY NUGGET IS BETTER THAN YOUR NUGGET!!"

I think that's the more socially-acceptable response; certainly it's better than killing people. But I think it's rooted in the same fear, and the same shock at the fundamental safety feeling threatened. There are things to be learned, but yelling them isn't conducive to learning them (they proved that in schools a while back).  I'm not talking about protests--there's a time and place, and I wonder if right now a few solid (and peaceful, please) protests wouldn't help a little. What I mean is, as I'm exploring different stories and points of view, yelling that I'm doing it wrong makes me cower and take cover, rather than reach out and learn something.

So you guys, I'm sticking my head up to tell you my little steps. The things I'm doing.

I'm a praying person, so I'm praying a lot. Praying for those hurt and harmed, and for the families who have to find a new life without loved ones. For those who feel so fundamentally threatened that they feel no other choice than to hurt and harm. For leaders trying to "fix" things, and little idea how to go about it. For those looking on and feeling powerless. For all the sinners and saints in need of a savior (of which I am one).

I'm smiling at people. Like, pretty much everyone. Like a dumb fool. I'm making a little extra effort to really see people around me, and to confront the little prejudiced fears inside myself that say "we're different so we probably wouldn't be friends" (which is nonsense--I've seen it in my very own life for years). If a smile seems like too much, I nod and look into their eyes (or slightly above their head--I have eye contact challenges) as we cross paths.

I'm taking notice. I'm looking and listening where I can, to the honest and brutal and beautiful stories of those around me. Everyone has stories to tell; a funny moment, a struggle, a tie to the events at hand.

I'm talking to my kids about it. We talk about what makes people hurt others. We talk about how to get to know people who are different from us. How we can be kind, even when we are disagreeing or even angry with someone (and of course raising them to be competent individuals who are NOT sociopaths).

You guys, little teeny steps. Like someone drops a pencil in my reach so I grab it for them. A soda bottle is rolling across the ground, so I pick it up to throw away later. A person alongside me on the running path wants to hear about my kids and talk about her grandchildren, so I run and talk with her for a mile (and I don't even have to make eye contact). Just little kindnesses. Nothing even too far outside my comfort zone. Little ways to be kind.

I think sometimes we think we need to rise up and do the powerful thing, and I believe some people are here to do just that. But I think too, maybe sometimes the most powerful thing any one person can have is the quiet strength to do whatever their thing is. To use whatever their powers are for good.

That's all I have to say today. Carry on, friends...

Jun 18, 2016

I Run With My Heart...

Through the years when folks have talked about "witnessing" at church, one of the big questions is how to talk about Jesus without making it awkward and/or sales-y. And one of the more preferable (to me) answers is that you get excited talking about things and people you love, so treat talking about Jesus in a similar way.**

I like that approach for a lot of reasons. First, I'm not going to try to get you to be besties with my besties, or sell you all the things I love, but I might tell you why I'm so excited about them. No pressure; but we're getting to know each other, so you might as well know what I'm into. And maybe you'll want to experience them too, or maybe not, but it's not really my job to force you into anything. That would be weird.

And I do love Jesus. Like, a lot. I have some stories to tell about him, which I'll share in good time. And if you want to talk about him with me, please let me know, because I can talk your ear off about him til the cows come home.

But instead of Jesus, today I'm going to talk about running...

The reason I'm so excited about running these days is that I started a new marathon training program. That's right, it's time for me to check my "full marathon before age 40" goal off the bucket list (with a year to spare).

I'm excited because I've done two half marathons now, with decent results. I know I'm capable of training to go the full distance, and with proper care and feeding, my butt-issues have been under good control.

But I've been nervous because I remember how I felt at the end of my first half, and I couldn't imagine how I'd feel running two entire half marathons in a row. Also, I've hit a bit of a rut this spring. Last fall I met some new friends to run with on the weekends and my mile pace started getting quicker, but after the long, dark winter it felt like a slog to just maintain what I'd already been doing.

I decided I needed a change. I looked up plans online and found an 8-week half-marathon plan just in time for the race I wanted to run in Maine. I was excited to move up from a beginner to intermediate category and add some speed work. I figured that would be the ticket to bump me out of my rut. And I did well for the first half, but then my SI joint started giving me fits. And not little fits, either; more like a single, giant tantrum. It was rough.

So I had to rein in the training and deal with my SI instead. It took a few weeks, but soon I was on the mend. I had to adjust expectations on my race and go more conservatively than I'd originally planned. Apparently I'm not ready for "balls-to-the-wall" training or racing. But race day came and went, and I completed the race none the worse for wear...and 5 minutes faster than a year ago!

Well in the midst of all this stuff, I listened to a podcast episode of Another Mother Runner focusing on heart rate training. I've always poo-poo'd HRT as too technical for my tastes, but by the end of the episode I had done a 180 and decided that I'm in the right time and place to train for my marathon by heart rate.

Now before this I hadn't looked into heart rate training much, and I still haven't. The big reason I decided to actually drop money on a training plan is that it comes with a coach, whom I spoke with on the phone before committing.

That's right, I made an actual phone call to a complete stranger for this nonsense. I told you I was excited.

The reason the phone call is significant is that while some folks might try to motivate you to go HARDER and try for the more INTENSE paths, she actually talked me down to the less difficult choice. I might as well tell you that my secret desire (haven't decided whether it's a feasible goal yet) is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, so my original aim was to do the OUTSTANDING plan (this is its actual name). But I spoke with Coach MK to see if there were any factors I wasn't considering, which would be good reason to instead sign up for the INCREDIBLE plan (also its actual name). And it turned out she had like 5 solid reasons for me to stick to INCREDIBLE. So for now, Boston will remain a sort of nebulous "maybe someday" goal, because I have a lot of work to do before I consider it (I knew having kids and butt-issues would require a lot of rebuilding, but both have taken even more out of me than I thought).

SO, down to brass tacks. The whole deal with training by heart rate is that you build your aerobic base to make your body more efficient and able to go faster. And the way you build your aerobic base is by running slow and controlled. You run slow and controlled, and you recover better, and it makes you less prone to injury over the long term, and oh-by-the-way you get faster.

It sounds crazy and depending on what you read, the Internet may or may not agree. All this stuff involves science and math, and you can really dig deep and get all esoteric about it (and also go crazy trying to sift through the junk to get to the good stuff), but the beauty of having a coach is that she has done all that stuff for me, and all I have to do is follow the plan.

It did involve adding technology to the mix, namely a heart rate monitor. You can buy a heart rate watch and strap...OR in this age of smart phones you can buy just a strap and link to any number of apps. I went with the latter mostly because I'm cheap, and I'm part hippie, so the less I have to spend the more I feel like I'm being a "pure" runner, or some such thing. My phone app doesn't have some of the features a watch comes with (like an alarm when you go over your target), but so far my frugality has won out over convenience.

That said, I'm only a week in so I hesitate to make any large-scale declarations at this point. But here's what I can tell you from my first week--

  • This is an entire mind shift for me. Completely different focus, plan, everything. It's good to have new things to think about.
  • Running slow is its own exercise in discipline. I have to be a lot more mindful about it.
  • I'm tired and ready to be done at the end of a run, but I'm not thrashed for the rest of the day.
  • Sugar cravings are down this week, as are episodes of being "rungry."
  • After a few tries it is getting easier to maintain heart rate pace.
  • As time goes on I'll get faster, but for now my pace has gotten slower by about 3 minutes per mile (also, I'm not supposed to focus on pace), and it varies a LOT more depending on slope, wind, etc.
  • On Free Run day I did my "regular" easy-ish pace and was surprised at how WIPED OUT I felt afterward. Coach MK said, "Haha, you thought those were endorphins. ;)"
  • I love running all the more this week. Have I mentioned how much I love it????
In conclusion, the week hasn't been entirely rainbows and unicorns (my back and butt gave me some small fits for other reasons), but running-wise it has been a great start. I like to quote high-school-aged Dean Karnazes and say that I run with my heart, but in this case I'm actually running with my heart (rate).

Carry on, you poetic noble land mermaids...  

**Sidenote: the less preferable (to me) approaches include deliberately and relentlessly steering  every conversation toward trying to get people to kneel and say a prayer, knocking on strangers' doors, being "bolder," and/or hitting people with Bibles. Somewhere, somehow they have probably worked, or at least appeared so...but they are not for me. I mean, unless you want to kneel and say a prayer.  HAPPY TO HELP!