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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year in Review


We are about to say goodbye to this year (not to mention, this decade) and usher in a new one. 

A fresh start.  A new beginning.

In 2010, I ran +/- 2,000 miles (I'm still trying to pin down a more exact number.  Cyndi's not really a detail person).

I started and finished 17 road races:  four 5K's, two 4 milers, one 5 miler, one 10K, two 10 milers, three half-marathons, one 16 miler, one 30K and two marathons.  I received age group awards in four of those races and set PR's (Personal Record) in four others. 

Not too shabby.

There's been some ups and downs, physically and emotionally, many of which have been talked about in this blog, but nothing I couldn't handle, even if I didn't quite realize it at the time.  Nothing is permanent.  Nothing lasts forever.

This too shall pass.  And it always does.

Yup.  It's been a very good year.

As we bring in a new 365 day segment, it's customary to make "New Year's Resolutions".  It's kind of like waiting until Monday to start a diet.  We decide that this particular January 1st will be the time when we finally decide to lose weight, start exercising, save more money, quit smoking, etc.  We put all our eggs in that proverbial basket, filled with hope and resolve.

I'm sure you've made more than one of these NYR's.  I know I have.

And, chances are, you haven't kept very many of them.  I know I haven't.

Remember, I work in the fitness industry by trade.  January 2nd, dozens of "would be fitness hopefuls" come to our facility in droves.  I call this time of year "tourist season".  They approach exercise with vim and vigor.  They come every day for the first week, or even two.  Then, gradually, you see them less and less.  All of a sudden, Valentine's Day is here and you don't see most of those new faces much, if at all.

I've observed this pattern every year for the past 16 years.
What's the problem, then?  How can we go into this endeavor filled with such optimism and positive expectation, only to crash and burn in a few weeks?

My personal experience with resolutions has taught me this:  anything that feels like work won't work.  If you approach change as something you SHOULD or HAVE to do instead of something you WANT to do, you set yourself up to fail.  Plain and simple.  I think we set these lofty goals for ourselves because we feel accountable to society at large for our behavior.  Sometimes, we impose these expectations on ourselves, but the motivation is the same:  approval.  From the time we were little, we have been conditioned to seek acceptance from our friends, family and peers.  We bought into the lie that what others think of us is more important than following our own instincts.

And that is why our resolutions go up in smoke.

We human beings are meant to be happy.  Granted, we sometimes forget this and can, at times, feel pretty awful.  But, even the hardcore masochist needs a reprieve from time to time.  We cannot punish ourselves indefinitely.  It's not our nature.  It's not what we're meant for.

Having learned this first hand, I have decided that there is only one New Year's Resolution I can be sure of keeping.

Not making any.

If I decide to learn a new skill, change my financial circumstances, or modify my behavior in any way, shape or form, well then, I'll just do it if, and only if, I want to.  I don't need to wait until the calendar tells me it's time.  If my desire and my intention match, taking inspired action is easy.  It just flows, effortlessly.

If it feels like work, it won't work.

Trust me on this one, friends.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's my birthday and I'll rant if I want to

December 21, 1971

That is the day I made my grand entrance into the world as we know it.

As you can see, that is four days before Christmas, which is a pretty big holiday around these parts.

I also happen to be blessed with an older brother.  Aren't we cute???

Guess when he was born?

Christmas Eve.

I think my parents had spring fever.

There is a lot one could complain about being born this time of year.  For one thing, you do get a lot of the "combination birthday/Christmas" presents.  The tree was always up by the time the 21st rolled around, so the typical tradition in my family was to select a gift from under the tree to open on your birthday.

It was almost like playing Russian Roulette.  Would I open a fun gift to play with or would I end up with socks and underwear again???

As a young child, I always wondered why everyone else got balloons, party hats, and noisemakers while I had pictures of a fat man in a red suit on my presents.  Plus, my brother had a birthday around this time too, remember?  Not only did I have to share my birthday with Christmas, I had to share it with HIM.

I was also born on the first day of winter.  The day I was born, everything else died.

Now THAT'S a cheerful thought.

But, I'm not bitter.

Well, not anymore.

You see, the older I get, the more I appreciate being born on the day I was.  Since it coincides with the holiday season, there is a certain "festive quality" my birthday has always had that might not be there had I been born during another month of the year.  There is an excitement; a certain electricity in the air.  And, I also happen to be blessed with many good friends who have gone out of their way to make my birthday stand out.  They have even given me gifts wrapped in birthday paper, just so I can feel even more loved and special.

And, I do.

Now, as an adult, I love having my and my brother's birthdays so close together.  It bonds us in a very unique way; like we have this big secret that no one else knows except us.  That's pretty sweet.

So, you can call it a Merry Birthday if you want to.  I'm okay with it.

Either way, I can't think of anything else to do but celebrate.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cyndi Does Dallas, Take Three

"All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again."

But, Leigh the physical therapist could get me in good enough condition to run 13.1 miles on December 5th.

And that's exactly what she did.

I made the trek with her and her hubby, Dave, to Dallas, TX.  She and I would do the 1/2 and he and his 70 year old dad would do the full (how COOL is that???).  Leigh was going back and forth about upgrading from the half to the full.  Having only a 13 mile long run under her belt almost four weeks prior, it seemed like a humorous idea.  On the outside, I was saying, "if you want to run the full, I'll do it with you.  Why not?", but on the inside, I was pleading, " the love of GOD!!!!"  

We arrived on Saturday, December 4th.  After many hours of travel, the first order of business (after securing a rental car, of course) was to find food.  They took me here:

We walked in and were greeted with a cheery, "Hi y'all!" from the hostess.  Hello, southern hospitality.

And this is what Cyndi Lou ordered:

Eggs from Hell
burrito filled with smoked chicken, scrambled eggs, and poblano peppers topped with mexicali sauce, avocado, and sour cream served with oven roasted potatoes

Why I thought this would be an ideal selection less than 24 hours before running a half-marathon, I can't say.  After all, this wasn't exactly "safe" runner food.  Maybe because I draw a line between "running" and "racing" a 1/2 marathon.  For some reason, I just threw caution to the wind.  

It was kind of yummy.  And how could you possibly resist the name???

After brunch, we made our way over to Fair Park for packet pick up and expo browsing.  It was like an act of Congress to find where exactly in Fair Park the marathon expo was.  This place was massive.  They even had these little trolley cars shuttling people around.  

Here.  Look for yourself:  

After many minutes of aimless wandering, and asking seemingly fit looking folks carrying running bags, we found where we needed to be.  The crowds, the lines.  It was craziness.  At one point, I was separated from my friends and was frantically texting Leigh to find out where they were.  

Everything really IS bigger in Texas.

But, I got what I came for:

And yes, we BOTH decided that staying with the half-marathon made the most sense.

This was the first time my name was on a race bib #.  Not only that, but it was my "formal" name.  I never go by Cynthia.  I still have flashbacks of hearing my mother screaming it when I was young, which usually meant that I was in trouble.  If the "Cynthia" was followed by "Ann", I was in BIG trouble.  And, God forbid, if she threw my last name in there, then it was Threatcon Delta for sure (little Air Force humor for you).

Leigh and Dave had some family stuff to attend to, so they dropped me off at the hotel.  We each booked rooms at the Fairmont, which was quite the swanky place.  Runners are used to sleeping in vans, for goodness sake.  Put us in a king size bed with feather pillows and, well, we just don't know what to do with ourselves.  I enjoyed a glass of wine at the hotel bar, watched some college football and headed upstairs for...ROOM SERVICE!  I've only had room service once before in my life and couldn't resist ordering it again.  As if it couldn't get any better, they were actually broadcasting the Boston Bruins Dallas, Texas.  It was the closest thing to being home.  

Speaking of being home, the pre-race forecast for Dallas was 34 degrees.  Yes, you heard me right.  I had flown from New Hampshire to Texas to run a race in early December and I still had to pack cold running weather gear.  

It couldn't BE more ironic.

My friends were going to be occupied for the night, so we swapped a few texts to firm up a meeting time and place pre-race.  Not only did our hotel have king beds and feather pillows, but it also had it's very own STARBUCKS.  Holla!  We decided to meet there at 6 a.m. to catch the first shuttle to the start line.  I got myself settled and into bed early.  I'm notorious for NOT sleeping well the night before a race, but these circumstances were slightly different.  It was 13.1 miles, as opposed to 26.2, and I really WAS approaching it as "just a training run".  I didn't want to make a big deal out of it because I didn't feel up to performing.  It was just a long run in a new place with friends.  That's it.

We met up the next morning, boarded the shuttle and headed to the start line.  The young man that I was sitting next to briefly engaged me in conversation.  Southerners are so friendly.

It went something like this:

YM:  So, are you running the race today?
Me:  Yes, I am.  Just the half.
YM: Just?
Me:  Well, compared to the full, it's just.
YM:  Oh.  
Me:  Are you running?
YM:  No, my brother is.  I'm just cheering him on.
Me:  That's nice.
YM:  So, what do you have to do to train for a race like this?  Do you run a lot?
Me:  Um yeah, something like that.

We arrived at our destination in the early morning dusk.  There was plenty of time to rendezvous with Dave's dad and stand in long porta-potty lines.  Thankfully, they also opened up one of the buildings in Fair Park so we didn't have to stand around in the cold (if you think we were a bit chilly, imagine how those Texans were getting on.  Dave's dad, Bruce, looked like he was dressed for a blizzard).  After hanging around inside for as long as we possibly could, we made our way towards the start.  Dave graciously offered to check our bags, so we only needed to find the portables and our corral (technically, it was Leigh's corral and I was there illegally...shhhh, don't tell anyone).

All of the races started at the same time, that is, you had marathoners, half-marathoners and relay racers in the same corrals.  It made for a very crowded and slightly delayed start.  I think it took us about 15 minutes to finally cross the line.  But, we did.

It was chilly and windy, particularly for the first couple of miles.  Right around the third mile, I felt stiffness and tension in my left knee.  Part of me thought about not mentioning it to Leigh, but then decided it would be a good idea to tell her.  Running with a physical therapist has its benefits.  She gave me cues on how to adjust my biomechanics, which helped some.  It never really intensified beyond mild discomfort after that.

About halfway through the half, I made a comment to her, something to the effect of, "so aren't you glad we aren't doing the full right about now???".  She was.  I was beyond glad.  I was ECSTATIC.  This run was about pure survival for me.  The last thing I would have wanted to do is suffer through a 26.2 mile race.  There is something to be said about "respecting the distance".

Once we were beyond the halfway mark, the miles began to tick away.  There was a good stretch of gradual uphill between miles 5-9, so we were ready for this to be over.  Once we hit mile 13, we picked up the pace in order to prevent the first place marathoner (no, that is not a typo) from beating us.  That was Leigh's idea.

Hey, it's the little victories that count.

Our chip time was a little over 2:03.  There were never any goals set or times to beat, so it was really irrelevant how long it took.  We were just both happy to be done.  I did feel relieved.  The knee was a little stiff, but nothing I couldn't handle.  They funneled all of us inside for mylar blankets, medals and finisher shirts, which was pretty cool.  

This race also had free beer to all the finishers.  Granted it was MGD 64, but it was free.  And it was beer.  


We caught up with Dave and his dad later on.  Both of them had a tougher than usual day on the course, but they made it.  We all finished our respective races, so there was nothing left to do but celebrate.  Lunch at Chipotle, followed by dinner at Gordon Biersch:

At this point, we were all pretty beat, so it was back to the hotel.  You know what they say:  early to bed, early to rise.  We had a 6:30 flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to catch in the morning, which meant leaving the hotel at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m.  

Once again, thank God for STARBUCKS.

And that's exactly what I did as I sipped my Grande Cafe Mocha while waiting to board the plane headed home.  I came, I saw, I survived the trip to Dallas.  I had some laughs with my friends and got another piece of hardware for the cabinet.  There were lots of positives to take out of the whole experience.  

Most importantly, though, there was a lesson to be learned.  And, I got the message loud and clear:  

Sign up for a marathon only because it's something you WANT to do, not because there is something you think you "have to prove".  Your intentions and desire need to match.  I thought that mine did, but they really didn't.  My head, or should I say ego, was all about it, but my heart just wasn't.  I broke my own rule, which was to give myself 30 days after a marathon before deciding whether or not to sign up for another one.  In the heat of the moment, I took this challenge on as a way to make up for not meeting my goal for the Atlantic City Marathon.  It's nice to do well in races, and it's even nicer when people notice.  But, you can't let it define you.    

Maybe that's why I had the knee issue.  My body just wouldn't let me self-destruct.  It stopped me since I didn't seem able to stop myself.  

Now, I understand.

Sure, there are plenty of people who can, and do, run two marathons several weeks apart.  But, they are who they are and I am who I am.  There is no one else like me.  And, since I am the only "me" there is, comparing myself to others is irrelevant and unproductive.  Instead, I'd rather unconditionally love and accept myself for who I am, no matter where I go, what I do, or what time I run.

I'd rather be better at life. 

And, you know what they say about life.

It's a MARATHON, not a sprint.




Friday, December 17, 2010

Cyndi Does Dallas, Take Two

When we last left our heroine (that's me), she had successfully bounced back from a week of inactivity and transitioned back into running again.

And she did that.  She even booked her airfare and hotel room for Dallas.

Things were business as usual.


Friday, November 5th.

Let's talk about that.  And, while we're at it, I'll stop referring to myself in the third person.

There was a 6 mile run on my schedule broken down as two miles easy and four miles between an 8:40-8:50 pace per mile.  Things were going like they normally do until the last mile.  I started feeling a sensation in my knee, almost like a mild stiffness.  I knew I was almost done, nor did I feel overly concerned about it, so I sucked it up and finished my run.  Afterwards, I stretched and foam rolled, thinking it would help the tweaky feeling.

Saturday, I ran five miles outside from my house.  That sensation was there again, this time a bit stronger.  I had the Larry Robinson 10 miler on the books for the next day.  I suppose I could have taken Saturday off, but I really wanted to be outside.  Moreover, I still wasn't convinced that there was "anything going on".

I did the 10 miler the next day with my pal, John (refer to the "You CAN teach an old dog new tricks" post).  And, I noticed it again.  A little more.  You see, there is one thing I have learned.  There are a lot of things in our life that we may not have much feeling around or, perhaps more accurately, don't want to see.  If you're not sure what to do about something, don't worry about it.  Just wait.  Ignore it some more.  It'll get bigger.

And, pretty soon, you'll know.

That's what happened.

I rested the day after the race, only because it jived with the schedule (I can be a slave to routine).  I picked up where I left off.  Six miles on Tuesday.  Eight miles on Wednesday.  High intensity 10 miler on Thursday.

It was there.  That feeling.  Just kept getting louder.

Ignore.  Ignore.  Ignore.  Not happening, not happening, not happening.

Sunday, December 5th loomed.  The friend I had planned on running it with decided to drop down from the full to the half marathon.  She didn't have the base mileage for the full and there was still time and space available to do this.  Suddenly, I had the perfect compromise.  I would register for the half-marathon as well.  The full marathon never sells out, my friend informed me.  However, the half has and was very close to closing registration.

So, that's what I did.  I gladly ponied up the $100 for the half-marathon and breathed a sigh of relief.

Things would be fine now.

Then, I ran 16 miles on Saturday.  And it was ridiculously hard.  My slow pace felt like my race pace.  Thankfully, my friend, Christina, was uber patient with me and didn't mind taking it easy.  My heart rate was through the roof.  Plus, we were experiencing unseasonal like warmth and I had way too many layers on.

On top of the leg being cranky, I hadn't slept well the night before at all.  My body was just tired.  But I  

Bigger and bigger and bigger.

The broken sleep pattern continued.

Just how many signals did I need?

Cyndi Lou's not stupid.  She's just stubborn.

And HOW.

I cross-trained the day after my long run.  That night was the Sunday night where I didn't sleep.  At ALL (refer to the "WIDE Awake...I'm WIDE Awake..." post).  Monday was complete rest.  I didn't run on Tuesday, either.  I was starting to get wise.

Or desperate.

By the time Wednesday came, I got my wake up call.  My six mile run, which should have been a walk in the park, was painful and slow.  I actually felt the need to stop a few times to stretch, hoping that would relieve the tension.  However, that was equivalent to putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

That ship has sailed, sister.

It was time to pack it in.

It was also time to call my physical therapist who, coincidentally, is the friend I planned on doing Dallas with.  My appointment for treatment was Friday, November 19th.  That left us with two weeks and two days to fix what was broken.  I was committed to the trip, emotionally and financially.  I was also losing my motivation.

Ever hear the expression, "it sounded like a good idea at the time?"

Yup.  That summed up my brilliant idea to do Dallas.  It lost it's luster in a hurry.  What started as a potentially challenging, yet fun, adventure was turning into an obligation.  I began to feel more like this was something I "had to" do instead of something I "wanted" to do.  Of course, my friend would have understood if I backed out.  I bet my husband would have been fine with it also.  Sure, I'd be out a few hundred bucks, but it's only money, right?  

The most important things in life aren't things, after all.

The problem wasn't with my friend.  Or my husband.

The problem was with me.  But, like everything else in life, you have to figure that out on your own.

Just wait, Cyndi Lou.

It'll get bigger.

And, pretty soon, you'll know.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cyndi Does Dallas, Take One's not that kind of story.

The day after I ran Atlantic City, I had the notion to run the Dallas White Rock Marathon on Sunday, December 5th.  My friend and her husband were registered for it and I thought it'd be fun to travel along with them.

Yes, I realize that was only one month and 18 days removed from marathon #6.

What can I say?  I wanted to get back at it.

Truly, I do not think my motives for taking on this task were pure.  It was more like my brain saying, "we can do better, Cyndi Lou...we can do better than 3:48 in Atlantic City...we can still try to improve our seeding at have until February 2011 to submit a faster time than your Vermont City BQ..."

My running brain equates to the bully that always shamed you into forking over your milk money.  Gets me every time.

So, I ran the idea by my running coach.  He's been in the biz for almost two decades, so nothing really phased him.  He basically told me that if I was motivated to run in the cold and dark that, yes, we could do it.

Then, the surgery happened.

And I was in the knee immobilizer for a week.

Wait, did I forget to tell you about the surgery???

Forgive the random storytelling.  Let me catch you up.

In August, I had gone to the dermatologist to have a sketchy looking mole on my left thigh looked at.  It was maybe the size of a pencil eraser...maybe a little bigger.  It had JUST started to change and struck fear into the hearts of my loved ones, who implored me to have it checked.  The doc examined it and agreed that, yes, it needed to be removed.  He numbed the area, shaved it right off in the office, checked my body for other potentially "suspicious looking" marks, and sent me on my way.

About a week later, one of his associates called to tell me that the biopsy reported my lesion as "severely atypical".  In other words, it was close to being a melanoma.  She told me it would be necessary to see a plastic surgeon, so they could remove a greater surface area, as a safety precaution.  I consulted with the "there's more to my practice than fake boobs" guy, explaining to him that I was running a marathon in October and hoped we could have the surgery after I ran the race.  He didn't think it was crucial enough to address beforehand, so we scheduled the procedure for three days after I ran AC.  In addition, he let me know I would need to wear a knee immobilizer for 7-10 days afterwards because the skin was very tight around the area he would be stitching.  Not to gross you out, but flexion/extension of the knee could pop the stitches.  Since I was going to be on the reverse taper anyway, I didn't think it would be a big, hairy deal.

On October 20th, I had the procedure.

I walked into the office like a perfectly normal person.  I had even done a "welcome back" five mile run with a friend of mine that morning.

Forty five minutes later, I walked out like I had just had reconstructive surgery on my left leg.

You should have seen the size of this knee immobilizer.

It went from the inside of my left thigh down to mid calf.  In addition, it was fitted with metal bars on the sides and the back to, you guessed it, keep me from bending my knee.  Because of this, I had to walk "peg leg", like I was dragging one.  You should have seen me trying to get in my car.  It took me five minutes to figure out how to hoist myself up and into the driver's seat without bending my left leg.

Try it sometime.  I won't like it.

Once I made it home, I had to also figure out how to EXIT the car without bending my leg.  It was like recreating the wheel, for crying out loud.  Quite frankly, it all seemed to be a bit excessive.  All of that for this:

"That" warranted wearing this cumbersome contraption.  ALL the time.

I could only remove it to shower.

I had to sleep with it on and everything.

But, I figured, eh, how bad could it be?

I could probably use a week off from running anyway.

Once I limped into the house, I got myself on the couch and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.  I had to be at work bright and early the next day, but since I had already gotten the entering and exiting of the automobile down, I figured it would be no big deal.

I work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday.

That's eight hours.

Eight hours of:

What happened???

What did you do to your leg???

Did you do that running???

OMG, did that happen at your MARATHON???

Compared to the endless barrage, getting in and out of the car was a piece of cake.

But, after telling the story to over 200 people, I figured the rest of the week I was sentenced to wear this thing wouldn't be so bad.

And I did fine with the "no running thing".



That was day four.  Day four of nothing.  No running, no spinning, no walking outdoors for active recovery after a long run.





Sunday morning, deciding I was well enough, I asked my husband if he would assist me in removing my own stitches.  Needless to say, my idea wasn't well received.  Horrified by my suggestion, he left the room, refusing to entertain the notion of playing doctor.  And here I thought all men loved to play doctor.

Goes to show you how much I know.

Later on that day, my best buds, John and Ted, came over for food, football and fun.  And to see how the cripple (me) was getting on.  They arrived fresh and sweaty from a 15 mile trail run and were all jacked up on endorphins.

I hated them.

Maybe I'm overstating it just a little bit.  I heart John and Ted.  But, at that moment, I was as green with envy as Kermit the Frog.  And if Cyndi can't have any fun, well, then, no one else should be able to play either.

Logically, I knew it was only a week.  Lots of people take a week off all the time.  It's not like I was never going to be able to run again.  I was just indulging in some good old fashioned self-pity.  That was the soup du jour for me and I was not about to turn that frown upside down.

Thankfully, John and Ted heart me back and didn't seem too put off by my sulking and moodiness.

Monday and Tuesday came before I knew it and I could see the finish line.  I was going to get the stitches out late Wednesday morning.  Tuesday afternoon, I decided to take the brace off.  I was sick and tired of wearing that big, bulky thing.  Besides, I thought I could use some practice in learning how to walk like a normal person again.

Boy, was I right.

For the first 2-3 hours after I removed the brace, I WAS WALKING EXACTLY THE SAME.  It was as if it was still on.  Note to self:  neuromuscular adaptation occurs in six days.

Got it.

The next day, I showed up for my appointment.  After waiting an hour to be seen (no, I'm not kidding), the doc looked at my leg and seemed to be pleased with his work.  The stitches came out easily.  The first words out of my mouth were:

"So, can I run now??"

He looked up at me, sighed, and said, "how about waiting until tomorrow?"


Truth be told, I was just so bleeping happy I could walk and engage in frivolous amounts of knee flexion and extension like everybody else.  I didn't really mind waiting until Thursday to run.  Besides, I had to go to work anyway.

Thursday came, and I got my butt back out for a run.  Nothing like "easing back" into it.  I ran 6.3 miles.  The next day, another 6.3.  And the day after that?  A nice 9 miler with my friend, Christina.

I was back to prepping for Dallas.  I figured I would just pick up where I left off.

Business as usual.  Right?

Not exactly.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I ran yesterday morning.  It's the first time in two weeks that I've sustained a running pace for a decent amount of time.  It doesn't feel like it did a month ago, but it feels better than it did a week ago.

I call that "progress".

I thought I'd give it another go this morning, so I laced 'em up and headed out.  After walking for 5-10 minutes, I started to run.  I went about twice as long as I did yesterday before inserting a walk break.  The good news is, the choice to do that was my brain talking, and not my body begging.  Once I started to run again, it felt fairly easy to transition from walk to run.

I call that "encouraging".

It's safe to say that the decrease in training and inclusion of alternative activities has done my body some good.  Through the gift of hindsight, I'm able to appreciate the decision to cut back.

But, what's more apparent to me is how running helps me to be the best person I can be.

This is only day two of running close to what I'm used to on an average day and I can already feel a spring in my step that hasn't been there much the past couple of weeks.  I'm more relaxed, patient, calm and friendly.  These are all very important personality traits to have, particularly when you work with the public like I do.  Who wants to be around a sour puss of a fitness instructor/trainer?

Certainly not ME.  And I was sorta kinda being one.  Let me tell you, it's not so good for business.

I did my absolute best to put a game face on and power through it.  However, I've never been very good at hiding my feelings.  I suppose that is a mixed blessing.  The good news is, I didn't get fired or flipped off by any of my clients during my running layoff.  So, I've got that going for me.

Right now, I'm feeling optimistic.  Most of all, I feel such appreciation for the gift of physical activity, specifically, running outdoors.  It's so easy to fall into the trap of taking things for granted.  Sometimes, we just get wrapped up in a bunch of little things and we stop paying attention.  We get caught up in "majoring in the minors" and, consequently, get further and further away from our true self.  We have all of these subtle "reminders" that come up, but we ignore them.  However, they just don't go away.  They get bigger and bigger until they manifest in such a way that you have no choice BUT to stand up and take notice.

Ergo my run two weeks ago.  The last half of it didn't feel so good.  But, that wasn't my first "warning".  There were many others, I'm sure.  Cyndi Lou was just too busy to notice.

Perhaps that's why these little lapses happen.  Once we come through it, we can feel appreciation for the contrast that caused us to learn and grow.  It gently reminds us to focus on what's really important and to celebrate life every day and in every way.  There is nothing like a moment of clarity to put everything in its proper perspective.    

We live and we learn.  We fall down, but we get back up.  And back in that saddle.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Part Two

I remember when it happened.

When I "fell in love" with running, that is.

Now, I couldn't tell you the exact day or month because, well, I'm just not a detail person.  I never have been.

But, I do recall the deliciousness of the EXPERIENCE itself.

I went out for one of my first "runs" in the great outdoors.  Again, I was still new at this and as fairweather as a runner can get.  So, you can imagine how nice of a day it had to have been for me to "brave the elements".

I was alone on this particular day; that much I can tell you.  I started the run from my house.  It was a bright, sunny day with clear blue skies.  I shuffled along, taking in the scenery while enjoying the beautiful weather.  It just felt better and better as I ran.  I don't know how fast I was going or how far I went, but I do know that I felt "IT" for the first time.

The Runner's High.

Truthfully, I thought it was a myth.  You know; just a little something that OCD, Type A Personalities made up just to make you feel like crap for being a couch potato.  And, may I say, I was no stranger to endorphins as I had been exercising on a regular basis for about a decade.  But this felt...different.  Being outside gave me a sense of freedom that no indoor workout could ever provide.  I felt connected to the earth in a way I had never experienced before.  I felt like it was just me and nature...if I may say, it almost felt like I was at one with The Universe.

It felt pretty freaking good.  I'm not exaggerating even a LITTLE.

I was a believer.  

Fast forward several years and close to 100 completed road races later, six of which are marathons, I can still remember that day.

I can sit and recall that memory like it happened last week.

It's what keeps me going day after day.

Am I going to sit here and say that every run feels like that?  Absolutely not!

2009 ING Hartford Marathon DNF, anyone?

However, the memory of that first joyous fix carries me through the extreme heat, cold and lonely miles.  It gives me the strength and courage to lace 'em up and get back at it, even when I have a string of "less than stellar" runs.  It reminds me that what I am doing transcends the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other.

It's like meditation in motion.  It involves my mind, body and spirit.

I feel empowered.



And invincible.

As I write this, I'm in the midst of a break from training.  For now, it's what my body needs to stay healthy.  So, I'm honoring it.

Has it been easy?  Not really.

I've had moments of sadness, apathy, anger and frustration.  But, those emotions are indicators.  They are useful and show me what I need to do in order to feel better.  I won't ignore them.

Instead, I'm going to reach for the best feeling thought I can find.

I'm doing other things to maintain my fitness.

I'm so grateful that I CAN do other things.

I have two arms and two legs that work.

Not everyone can say that.

I can say that.

Nothing lasts forever.

This won't either.

I am excited to get back on the roads again.

I will get back on the roads again.

Yes, indeed.

Once a runner, always a runner.

That's me.

Eight years and counting.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Part One meeeeeeeeeee.

I decided to start running eight years ago this month.

On the one hand, it feels like this has always been a part of my life.  Then, there are times where I still feel like I'm brand new at this.  Perhaps that's why I love the sport so much.  On the surface, running seems to be so mindless, so mundane, so...bleeping...REPETITIVE.  But, nothing can be further from the truth, at least in my experience.

It wasn't always like this, though.

In fact, I didn't even WANT to be a runner.

So, what made me change my mind?

First, I'll tell you about where I was before I started.

I used to be a cigarette smoker.  That's right, friends.  Not only did I smoke, I HATED exercise.  I grew up in a house with a compulsive dieter (Mom) and learned to associate exercise with punishment.  In other words, if you were a few lbs. up on the scale, you had to get on the treadmill or exercise bike while drastically reducing your calories in the hopes that your body would quickly return to "normal".  There was the cabbage soup diet, Fibre Trim tablets, and, let us not forget, the grapefruit diet (I get canker sores just THINKING about that one).  I played softball and basketball in grammar school, but pretty much abandoned athletics of any kind once I started middle school.  Instead, I focused on getting straight A's (don't let the blonde hair fool you).  I even competed in spelling bees and won trophies.

Oh yeah, and started smoking cigarettes at the tender age of 12.

After about eight years of puffing away, I decided I had enough of yellow fingers and the annual case of bronchitis.  I was dating a non-smoker at the time who, surprisingly, had put no pressure on me whatsoever to quit.  I decided it was time to see if I could let this go.  I had a couple of lapses here and there, particularly in the first couple of weeks.  They say that quitting smoking is as difficult as getting off of heroin.  Since I've never shot smack, I can't confirm or deny this theory.  However, I will tell you that I missed the hell out of my cigarettes, especially when I drank coffee or drove in my car.

It was hard.  But, I did it.

Lots of people who quit smoking end up gaining weight because they use food as a substitute.  I already had a shaky relationship with food, considering my history of dieting.  I didn't have an eating disorder, per se, but I definitely engaged in disordered eating.  It became clear that I needed to find a healthy alternative to the cigarettes that was non-caloric in nature.  My friend, Heather, had a great idea.

Aerobics classes.

Ugh.  Are you kidding me?  The music...the moves...the OUTFITS.  Please don't make me go, please don't make me go, please don'

Needless to say, I went.

She took me to a low impact aerobics class at an all women's gym.  As predicted, I felt like a fish out of water.  I did my best to follow along, but I didn't really get all that much out of it.  After class, she asked what I thought.  I told her that I'm sure it was fun for some people, but I didn't think it was for me.  Then she says, "well, there is this new thing out now called "step aerobics" (...which tells you how old I REALLY am....).  We can try that next time."  I didn't feel overly confident that I would change my mind, but I figured she'd just keep at me until I said yes.  This time, she even spent a little bit of time with me beforehand showing me how to do some of the moves.  Maybe I wouldn't like this one either, but at least I had an inkling of what to expect.

I took the class.  And...I...LOVED it.

I really, really, really did.  I became a devotee of step aerobics.  And yes, I wore those goofy outfits too.  I found one or two instructors that I really liked and did my best to rearrange my schedule JUST so I could attend their classes.  Not only did I like it, I discovered something else.

I was good at it.  And people noticed, particularly the staff/management at the gym.  They recruited me to teach, telling me if I passed the certification class, they would hire me.

About a year later, I did in fact "pass the class" and became certified to teach aerobics classes.  I began working there part-time, doing one or two classes a week.  My first couple of classes certainly WEREN'T pretty, but I eventually got the hang of it and became a pretty good instructor.  Not only was I doing step aerobics, but I was getting PAID to boot!

I was really on to something, here.

At the request of the staff, I learned how to teach low impact aerobics classes too, even though I didn't enjoy them as much as step.  Turns out I had a knack for teaching people stuff.  Who knew?  I branched out a little and auditioned to teach at other gyms in the area.  This fitness thing was becoming a fun, little hobby for me, and I wanted more.  In 1994, I became a certified personal trainer in addition to being a certified fitness instructor.  Now I could teach classes AND train clients one on one.

I learned how to teach cardio kickboxing, boot camp, muscle conditioning, and spinning classes, obtaining multiple certifications along the way.  As the years passed, the fitness industry evolved.  I did my best to keep up and remain current with all the trends that came along (with the exception of "the slide"...does ANYONE still have one of those???).

In addition to teaching group fitness classes, I discovered WEIGHTS.  I added 4-5 days of strength training per week into my schedule.  I loved being a gym rat.  It was my happy place.  I felt strong, fit and healthy for the first time in my life.  Since I quit smoking and started to exercise, I lost about 30 lbs. and began to develop a healthier relationship with food.  I learned more about nutrition and energy.  I learned about metabolism and how  to fuel my body properly.  Of course I still loved wine and ice cream.  But, I made peace with the occasional indulgences, knowing there is a place for them.

I began working at a health club near my house in 2001 as a group exercise director and trainer.  I became friendly with one of the instructors/employees there.  Her name was Jenn and she was a...runner.  Jenn and I would meet up at the gym occasionally to work out together.  She mentioned the idea of running to me a couple of times, but I always scoffed at the idea, telling her that I "hated" running.  However, she was like a dog with a bone.  She wasn't pushy about it, but she certainly wasn't changing the subject either.  Every "excuse" I could come up with as to why I couldn't or shouldn't, she had a counter as to why I could or should.  She even said she would help me pick out a pair of running shoes.

I ran out of excuses.

Finally, I gave in.  Much like I did with my friend, Heather, 10 years earlier, I said yes, knowing that unless I tried it, I'd never know if I was capable or not.  If I could quit smoking, I could do this too.

I figured I'd try the treadmill first, alternating intervals of walking and running.  Remember, it was November in New England.  I wasn't about to go outside in the...cold???  To run????  What are you, CRAZY???  Who does that?  Besides, I only had indoor workout gear, so this made the most sense.  After all, no one does step aerobics in their driveway, for Pete's sake.

I did the treadmill here and there during the fall and winter months.  I was proving to myself that I could do whatever I set my mind to, which was good.  But, this running thing?  Was it for me?

I still didn't know.

And, I didn't love it.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

WIDE Awake...I'm WIDE Awake...

I'm not sleeping.

This battle cry from the one and only Bono has been my mantra for the past few days.

Friday night (or was it Saturday morning???) I woke up and stared at the ceiling for a good, long while.  Saturday night was better.  Sunday was sleepless.  Completely sleepless.  I finally waved the flag at 2 a.m. and got out of bed to camp out on the couch.  I had to be at work by 6:30 a.m.  I kept doing the whole "sleep countdown" to myself:  If I fall asleep NOW, I can get 3 solid hours of sleep.  An hour later, it was:  If I fall asleep NOW and go to work in my pajamas, I can get 2.5.

On and on it went.

Why am I up?

I'll tell you why I'm NOT up.  It's certainly not because I'm an infomercial junkie.  Talk about advertising a plethora of useless stuff I couldn't possibly use or fit in my house.  There is a REASON they put those things on television between midnight and 6 a.m.  Because, with the exception of third shifters and nursing mothers, YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE ASLEEP, DAMMIT!!!

Since shut-eye eluded me on Sunday, which is a school night, conventional wisdom suggested using a sick day for Monday.  First of all, Mondays are challenging enough.  Couple one of those suckers with no sleep and I don't need to tell you what that can do to a person.  So, I let my fingers do the walking and left a voice mail in my finest sexy no sleep voice, letting my boss know I'd be out.

I spent the day in my Vicki's bathrobe, wrapped up in my favorite Patriots fleece blanket, watching daytime television, thanking the Big Guy upstairs that I was gainfully employed (however, it beats the crap out of twilight infomercials selling ab belts and eye cream).  You'd think that I would have crashed and crashed hard.  Nope.  I got caught up in reruns of The Jeffersons, Amen, Marcus Welby and Quincy.

Seriously.  This is what my life has come to, ladies and gentlemen.

Right around 3 p.m., when I finally couldn't stand myself anymore, I hopped in the shower, hoping the hot water would invigorate my senses a little bit.  Then, I ventured out to the store, in search of a sleep aid.  I figured since I barely slept during my unscheduled day off, having a night of deep sleep should be a slam dunk.


I wasn't about to take any chances.

So, I went out and got the big guns:  5 mg of melatonin.

Okay, so it's not Ambien, but I figured it's a start.  I didn't think I would need that much of a push since I was going on four days of broken sleep.  After dinner, I had a red wine/melatonin cocktail, got in comfy clothes and waited for the magic to happen.  I started feeling relaxed, so, at 9 p.m., I said goodnight to my husband and got into bed.  I'm guessing it took a good 15-20 minutes, but I did drift off.


1 a.m.

Eyes.  Wide.  OPEN.

Oh, Sleep, why hast thou forsaken me???

I tossed and turned and suffered through another couple of hours of infomercials and Spanish soap operas until, at last, my eyes began to burn.  I checked the time on my BlackBerry:  3:30 a.m.

If I fall asleep now....I can get one more hour before the alarm goes off.


At this point, I think the early mornings are stressing out my subconscious.  It only takes one or two nights of waking up to plant the seed that you just might not go back to sleep again.  And, if you work the early bird shift like I do, then you start to panic if you're awake too long...because you have no margin for error.  I can't just stay in bed until I feel rested.  I have a gym to open.  I have to think, eventually, my body is going to get ticked off at my overactive brain and just shut down.  But, until then, I suppose I could help it out, by not worrying.  It is what it is.  I don't know why I have been waking up.  Furthermore, I don't think I really need to know.  Just accepting it is this way for the time being is the best thing I can do.  Make peace with what is, Cyndi Lou.

So, at 4:30, I awoke to the sweet sounds of Elvis Costello, like I normally do.  I sat up in bed, rubbed my eyes and did the most logical thing I could think of.

I hit the snooze button.

Three times.

Finally, at the blessed hour of 4:45, I was able to get myself out of that bed.  And I went to work.

And proceeded to make a GINORMOUS pot of coffee.

Wide awake.  I'm wide awake...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

Three weeks after I ran Atlantic City, I ran my first race.

Well, not exactly.

Yes, it was a "race" and yes I "registered", but I wasn't planning to "race it".  My friend, John, was using the Larry Robinson 10 (final) miler in Andover as a base for a training run.  He has the Philadelphia Marathon on 11/21.  Last year, I ran this race as a training run and part of my taper for Philly, so when he invited me to come along, it just seemed fitting.  Total role reversal, eh?  John actually had a 16 miler on his calendar and I had 12-15 miles on mine.  Not only were we running different distances, we were also running different paces.  My Coach recommended 8:50-9:00 miles for the first 1/2 and 8:30-8:40 for the second 1/2.  He was going to be a bit speedier than me, so we opted to hang out beforehand and run the race separately.

Either I'm super early for races or I get totally lost trying to find them.  Since I did this race last year, experience was on my side.  I knew EXACTLY where I was going.  John arrived about 30 minutes after me.  Once we went to get his # and chip, we sat in his car to keep warm.  The temperature was only in the high 30's at this point and the skies were mostly cloudy.  And it was windy (what is it with me and wind, anyway????).  I decided not to "warm-up" for this race because, well, I wasn't racing.  I figured I could get myself between an 8:50-9:00 fairly easily out of the gate.  Plus the first mile is mostly downhill, so it wouldn't feel too hard.  This particular course runs a mile out into a four mile loop, which you run twice.  Then, you run that first mile back to the finish.  Double loops can be a drag, mentally, but since I wasn't racing (have I made that point abundantly clear enough yet?), it wasn't a big deal to me.

Besides, it could have been worse.  I could have been John.  He planned on running that four mile loop three times in a row.  Sorry, buddy.

We finally extricated ourselves from John's comfy, warm car, which was no easy task considering he has heated seats.  We allowed ourselves just enough time for a last bathroom stop before lining up at the start.  Thankfully, this race started and ended at Andover High School, so we had indoor plumbing.  Yes, it was a double loop course, but multiple bathrooms inside with relatively short lines is pretty awesome.  I guess we can call it a wash.

John and I waded our way through the pack and settled for somewhere in the middle because, for the gazillionth time, WE...WEREN'T...RACING.  We ended up standing next to someone in John's running club, so we chatted with her while frantically rubbing our arms and marching in place in the hopes of not freezing to death.  Some guy in front of me turned around and starts chatting me up like he knew me.  I decided to play along.  Sometimes, it's just easier that way.

Normally, when you are at races, you hear a countdown by the race director or the sound of the gun going off.  Not this time.  Not at this race.  All of a sudden, everyone just started running.  Obviously, the signal had to come from SOMEWHERE, but we never heard it.  We weren't THAT far back.  So, when in Rome...

We started running.

I wished John well and he took off.  I turned on my tunes while tuning into my GPS watch, reminding myself to keep it between 8:50-9:00, particularly for that first mile.  About five or six minutes in, I see John going by me giving the ol' thumbs up sign...which completely baffled me since he took off ahead of me.  (I would later find out that he had to keep stopping to tie his shoes, which was a comfort because I was convinced I was hallucinating).  I hit my first mile at an 8:50, which was about as textbook as you could get.  At this point, we turned right into the four mile loop, which is more uphill in the first couple miles.  However, what goes up must come down (unless you're running Mt. Washington) and I knew the reverse would be true for the last 1/2 of the loop.  I kept my pace pretty steady on my first trip (8:48, 8:48, 8:43 and 8:48).  At this point, I'd say I felt pretty comfortable.  Once I hit the five mile marker, I picked it up.  Miles 6 and 7 definitely were a challenge since I was pushing the pace on the hillier section, but I did well, running an 8:24 and a 8:25, respectively.  I had decided to push the envelope a bit more on the second half of the race ONLY if I felt good and strong enough.  It had only been three weeks since I ran the marathon, so my expectations were low.

I hit the 8th mile marker in 8:22 and I still felt strong, so I decided to push for the last two miles.  I shaved three seconds off in mile 9 and exited the loop for the final time, heading back to the finish.  This is where you pay for having a downhill first mile.  What goes down ALSO goes back up.  But, it was only a mile.  Just one more mile.

Chirp.  Lap 10 was an 8:12.  I was less than 200 meters from crossing the line and decided to sprint my way there.  I finished with an official time of 1:26:30.

Not bad for a training run.

I drank the rest of my gatorade and walked a bit before starting my cool-down.  I figured I'd go out for one or two miles easy and see how it felt.  After finishing my second mile, I ended up running into (not literally) John.  He had just finished 14 and had two miles left.  We ended up cooling down together, which was a pleasant surprise.  Neither one of us wavered from our training strategy.  We stuck to our plans and celebrated.  After the run, we high tailed it back inside the school (it hadn't warmed up much at ALL) for some food and water.  The race results were posted so, out of habit, we went over to take a look.

Not that it mattered, really.

Did I mention we weren't racing???

On my ride home, I realized I felt...good.  I felt good because not only did I stick to the plan that Coach gave me, but there were no regrets.  Both John and I talked about how we can get pretty competitive at times, which can work for or against you.  In his case, it didn't make sense to run a 10 miler at his 10 mile race pace when the ultimate goal was a PR at the Philadelphia Marathon in two weeks.  And me?  I was three weeks removed from completing my 6th marathon and wasn't prepared to be 100% at racing this distance.

And I was OKAY with it.  Really.

It felt good to be OKAY with where I was at that moment, instead of falling into the trap of comparing myself to others and whining about missed opportunities:  what ifs, maybes and if onlys.  You are who YOU are and you do what YOU can do.  We run with others, we compete, but, ultimately, it's about doing OUR best, no matter what anyone else is doing.  If you feel secure and strong enough within yourself, then you've already won.  Feeling confident and self-assured is worth more than any age group prize or PR.  Running this race the way that I did just reinforced that for me.  I didn't have anything to prove to anyone and I knew that.  Not only did I know it, I didn't care who else knew it either.  

It's good to know that.  It's good to feel that.  And it's good to believe it.

At least, that's what this old dog thinks.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Assuming, Agreeing and Asking

"When you assume, you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me"."
-- My Dad

I'm sure my father wasn't the originator of this popular phrase, but I heard it from him quite a bit growing up, so he gets all the credit.  I never really gave it much consideration; just always thought it was kind of funny.

Well, you know what?  The older I get, the smarter my parents get.

Have you noticed that too?  When you were just a young whippersnapper, wet behind the ears, I bet you thought you knew it all.  I know I did.  I often wondered, "how did I end up with such clueless parents???"

And then, one day, you wake up as an adult and you say, "wow, they were right about so many things."  Of course, I'm still not buying the whole "don't go outside with wet hair because you'll catch a cold" argument, but, for the most part, they were right on about stuff.

Case in point:  when you assume, you DO make an "ass" out of "u".

I experienced this personally last week.  I won't get into the gory details because, quite frankly, it's pretty embarrassing, now that I think of it.  But, let's just say that I constructed this elaborate scenario in my mind involving a couple of people in my personal life.  I took a little bit of what one person said, combined it with the actions of another person and mixed my own conclusion which could have been a recipe for disaster (pun intended).  In my mind, I was convinced that they were involved in something that EVERYONE knew about.  Except for me.  Because they were deliberately keeping it from me.  In other words, I was feeling left out.  Excluded.  And VERY sorry for myself.

I was so sure it was true...and that I was right!

Have you ever heard of "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz?  According to Wikipedia, "Ultimately, it is about finding one's own integrity, self-love, and peace by way of absolving oneself from responsibility for the woes of others."  The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  2. Don't Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don't Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.

Seems pretty simple, right?  And smart.

Here is an excerpt describing the third agreement:

The whole world of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally. Our whole dream of hell is based on that. ... Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering. ...

Which pretty much sums up, in a nutshell, what happened with me last week.  I told no one of my "assumption", save my husband.  To his credit, he said nothing in response to my paranoid ramblings.  He just listened.  Once it became apparent that I had conjured up the whole convoluted scenario, I told him so.  Once again, to his credit, he admitted it took every ounce of self-control he had at the time NOT to call me crazy. 

I was afraid.
I assumed.
I believed I was 100% correct.

Perhaps, I could have alleviated my suffering by asking the questions.  Truly, all of this could have been avoided it I just ASKED.  But, I was afraid.  What was I afraid of exactly?  Well, it could have been lots of things.  Maybe I was afraid of trusting?  Of being disappointed?  The good news is, I don't have to retrace my steps, reliving my entire childhood to find out where this behavior originated.  I could deal with it in the now.

Not only are there four agreements, but there are also four questions.  Byron Katie developed a concept simply titled "The Work":

"The Work is meditation. It’s about opening to your heart, not about trying to change your thoughts. Ask the questions, then go inside and wait for the deeper answers to surface." 

In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and your turnarounds. For example, your statement might be “[Name] doesn't listen to me.” Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought, take that statement and put it up against the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

Step 1 Is it true?

Step 2 Can you absolutely know that it's true?

Step 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? 

 Who would you be without the thought?

Katie describes a turnaround as "a
n opportunity to experience the opposite of what you originally believed"  and says they "are your prescription for happiness."  She goes on to say, "As I began living my turnarounds, I noticed that I was everything I called you. You were merely my projection. Now, instead of trying to change the world around me (this didn't work, but only for 43 years), I can put the thoughts on paper, investigate them, turn them around, and find that I am the very thing I thought you were. In the moment I see you as selfish, I am selfish (deciding how you should be). In the moment I see you as unkind, am unkind. If I believe you should stop waging war, am waging war on you in my mind."

Beats the heck out of assuming, doesn't it?

I didn't follow the process above to the letter, but examining the questions did make me think quite a bit about what I had created with my thoughts.  In my case, I decided that even though I FELT like I was right, I couldn't absolutely know it was true.  Because, as you know, I

As it turns out, I didn't have to ask the people I made the assumption about whether it was true or not.  Life showed me the answer once I went a little deeper within myself.  And now I know.  Chances are, I won't make that same assumption again.  Thanks, Don Miguel Ruiz.  Thanks, Byron Katie.

Most of all, thanks, Dad.

So, next time you believe something to be true, ask.

And then, do the work.  You just might surprise yourself.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A case of pot vs. kettle

I blog, therefore...I read other blogs.

It's good to see what other "bloggers" are up to.  There is one in particular that I enjoy reading on a regular basis.  The writing style appeals to me, as does the predominant topic (running).  When I come across something that I find interesting and entertaining, I'm compelled to share it with other people, so I do my fair share of forwarding.

Which is exactly what I did with one of this person's particular blog entries.  Since I didn't ask permission, I won't share the link or the author's name.  But, I can say the subject matter was about the Boston Marathon filling up in eight short hours.  The author, with a humorous twist, compared the difference between men's and women's qualifying times and explored the possibilities of expanding the size of the field or tightening up the standards so that it wouldn't be so "easy" to qualify.

Interesting.  And entertaining.

So, I copied and pasted the link into an email message and sent it on to other runner folks.  And I'm fairly certain that all the runner folks shared my opinion of the post being interesting and entertaining.

That is, except for one.

And it was a really BIG one.

(cue the dramatic musical intro)

"The story you are about to read is true.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent."

I received an email reply (rebuttal? refusal? retort?) from an older gentleman I'm associated with on a professional level. I didn't ask for his permission either, so I'll refer to him as BM (which doesn't stand for Boston Marathon or Bowel Movement, although I was tempted to draw a parallel).  BM was a pretty good runner back in his day, running marathons in around three hours.  Pretty great, if you ask me.  He still gets out there on a daily basis, but doesn't run 26.2's anymore.  He is still very much involved in the sport, however, by volunteering at events.  I'm also fairly certain that he reads and/or subscribes to every running periodical that's out there.

Which is why I included him on the forward.  How could someone like that NOT appreciate reading about the Boston Marathon?

Well, let me just say that "not appreciating" doesn't even begin to cover it.

He started off by saying he was sorry, but he totally disagreed with the article.  That in and of itself would have been fine because, let's face it, we're all different.  He went on to state that the Boston Athletic Association had basically stripped the Boston Marathon of it's "glamor and prestige" by opening up the qualifying times and accused today's runners of not training hard and only running fast enough to qualify.  Finally, he said that these "perrier and yogurt" runners only had to be fast on the computer in order to get in, which was not fair to the "real runners" who are qualified.

I guess real runners don't know how to use a computer.

I won't even say what he suggested they do with the charity runners.  Trust me, you don't want to know.

In closing, he asserted that this was "his opinion" and that he "stood by it."

After reading his email, I must say I was quite taken aback by the angry tone.  Obviously, this was a touchy subject for him.  However, he has the right to think whatever he wants and I responded to him saying, "that is what makes life so interesting.  We are all different and have different opinions and views."

I hit "send" and I was done with it.

But, alas, he was not.

When I saw him later on that day, he immediately brought up the subject of the article.  I assured him that he didn't need to apologize for disagreeing because, first of all, I didn't write the darn thing, and secondly, I had already read his email, which told me all that I needed to know about where he stood.  But, he just kept going.  And going.  And going.  It was like verbal diarrhea.  The more he talked, the angrier he got, it seemed.

Which STILL would have been fine.

Until he singled me out.

In the middle of his tirade, he challenged me to take all of my marathon finishing times and divide them by the number I had started.  He bet me that if I did that, I would get a time that didn't come CLOSE to qualifying me for Boston.  The icing on the cake was when he said, in order to do this correctly, I had to add my DNF at the 2009 Hartford Marathon too.

I felt like someone just kicked me in the abdomen.  All I did was send him a link to a blog post and this is what I get?  How did it come to this?  In a desperate attempt to end the conversation, I basically told him that all I had to say was it wasn't my fault that the BAA changed the qualifying times, allowing me to run a 3:45 or better.  And then, I did my best to disengage.

But, the damage had already been inflicted.

The next day, he tried to initiate a discussion about something I had printed out for him regarding the NYC marathon.  He approached me with it, all marked up and highlighted, with the intention to point out more of his rightness and even more of my wrongness.  I turned to him, put my hand up in the universal "STOP" symbol, and forcefully said, "Okay!  Okay, I get it!"  He stopped mid-sentence and retreated with his tail between his legs.

It was not a pretty sight.

Needless to say, he got a whole lot of the silent treatment from me for the remainder of the day.  I was fed up with his narrow minded, critical attitude and proceeded to vent to all who would listen.  I mean, really?  How DARE he???   Just who does he think he is anyway???

This went on for a couple of days.  I kept telling the story.  I kept beating the drum.  And I felt even worse as a result.  

I mean, I was the injured party in all of this, wasn't I?  He's obviously a miserable person to have said the things that he did.  His fault, his fault, his fault.

Then why am I the one that's feeling so crappy?

There were two phrases that popped into my head around this time:

"That which offends you, weakens you" and "Being right and being happy are not the same thing".

I began to realize that I didn't HAVE to take offense to what he said.  I am in control of my own emotions and thoughts, after all.  Here I was saying, "why me?" and blaming him for the way I felt.  Talk about giving your power away!  My own insecurity was the only thing that gave his words any truth.  If I really believed the best about myself and felt 100% comfortable with my own abilities, it wouldn't matter what he said.  I could continue to take it personally or I could choose to see it for what it was, cut myself some slack in the process and, simply, let it go.

BM thought he was right.  And I, in my righteous indignation, held the same assertion.  Clearly, neither one of us were happy in our rightness.  People who are happy don't try to knock other people down just so they can be "right".  Yes, he said things that anyone could construe as hurtful and insulting.  There is no arguing that point.  I was appalled and chose to fought back in order to justify my position.

But, doesn't intolerance of intolerance make you, well, intolerant too?

Hello Pot?  Meet Kettle.

It's not my job to change his mind.  But, it's my job to get my mind right.  In other words, I needed to mind my own business and get myself in alignment with who I wanted to be.  My work here was not to be judge, jury and executioner.  Instead, it is my duty to see past the angry words and opinions and to treat him with love and compassion.  It's my responsibility to see the best in people and to believe in their inherent goodness, even if they don't always show me that side of themselves.

So, you see, this was more about me than it was about him, which is why I chose to write about it.  This was my wake up call.  The Dalai Lama said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion."  I didn't need to agree with or understand why BM said the things he said.  I only had to be compassionate.  I can't control the uncontrollable.  He is going to be who he's going to be and that's all there is to it.  I don't need him to change in order for me to feel better.  I can either curse or bless the contrast that brought me to this understanding.  I can thank him for reminding me that I am the only one responsible for my happiness.

I will do that by forgiving, forgetting, letting go and moving on.

And taking him off of my email distribution list might help too.