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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Do You Swear to Own Your Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

"If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?" -- Dogen

I read a really good article this week called "3 Easy Peasy Steps to Resolving Anger" by Farhana Dhalla (  Basically, she suggests to name it (anger is not the primary emotion...fear is the primary emotion and anger is how it presents itself.), be it (allowing yourself to be angry) and watch it (just observe).  This line in particular jumped out at me:

“The spiritual path is about being in truth and that means being in truth about your anger.”

Like the author, I can be "ocd" about being happy, present, and living in the now, because I don't want to be a sourpuss.  I mean, who really does?  Sure, there are lots of folks out there who are cantankerous, ornery and grumpy but I don't think they want to be.  They just are that way because they think they have no other option.

Well, this week, I have been a little, um, "off".  My "off" means short tempered, impatient, and overwhelmed (I know, I can hardly believe it either).  I have been letting the "to do list" get in the way of my daily quiet time, for one thing.  I was really diligent about getting my daily meditation streak going.  Yesterday, I realized that I hadn't "sat" since Friday.  That's four days of go, go, go without any time to relax and go inward.  

It was starting to show too.  I could tell.  

There are a number of things that I've allowed to "get under my skin" this week.  Instead of mentally beating myself up for being less than a loving, kind and boundlessly patient person, I decided to follow the advice of the author:  name it, be it and watch it.  The majority of my frustrations come from my work environment which can be "an opportunity for growth".  I work with +/- 800 engineers.  They are my customers.  I'm not sure if you know many engineers.  I've had 11 years to get acquainted with them.  Of course, it's never wise to stereotype, but my experience has shown me that the majority of them are so focused on their particular area of expertise, they tend to be imbalanced in other areas, such as, oh, let's see, manners, social graces, and common sense.  

Not all.  But most.  At least the ones I know.

There is "lunchtime runner guy" who stares.  He's nice enough, don't get me wrong.  But he stares.  I know he stares.  I have peripheral vision, you know.  I can see when someone is looking at me, even if I'm not making eye contact with them.  Sometimes, he'll try and make conversation with me, mostly about running.  But, most of the time, he just...stares.  Maybe he's just shy.  But, it ends up being creepy.  Then, we have "morning guy who will only say hello if I say it first".  I have tested this theory many times.  If I smile and say hello, he suddenly finds his voice.  However, if I don't speak, neither does he.  And finally, let's mention "mumble man".  He mumbles.  The Swedish Chef is more intelligible.  I'm serious, here.  And, to make matters worse, he talks to the back of  my head.  I know he's there, but he's not assertive enough to, first of all, address me by name or, secondly, speak in a pitch heard by species other than canine.  

Right about this time, I gently chided myself for my use of "nicknames".  Being witty and humorous is okay.  Sarcastic and hurtful really isn't, even if I think, at this moment in time, that it's witty and humorous.  

Just thought I'd throw that in.

I've spent enough time with all of these people though, so I know what they're trying to do and say.  I liken it to the mother of a toddler who is just beginning to speak.  Someone from the outside who doesn't spend much time with the child would think it's just gibberish, but mom is with the little tyke 24/7 and can decode the goo goo ga ga into real words.  I don't mean to call grown men toddlers, but you get the idea.

The expression "familiarity breeds contempt" comes to mind here.  Sometimes, the more you know someone, the more you start to find faults and dislike things about them.  That's kind of what is happening here.  However, I know it all starts with ME.  These are all opportunities for me to reframe, refocus, and turnaround so I can resolve these feelings and put them in the proper perspective.  Like the author said, fear is the primary emotion and anger is how it presents itself.  We fear what we don't understand.

And I'll say it again.  Sometimes, I don't understand them.  I'm a completely different personality.  I thrive in social situations.  I can make eye contact.  I have no issue initiating a conversation.  I can talk to anybody.

After I named it and allowed myself to be it, I watched it.

I saw someone who thought life would be a lot easier if everyone would just be more like me.

That declaration makes me feel just a wee bit sheepish.  And slightly embarrassed.  But, I can live with that.  And I don't feel so angry.  Now that I know what it is, I can focus myself into a better place.  I can accept myself for who I am, for the emotions I experience, and allow it all to be as it is.  Once I give myself permission to feel and to be, I can extend that same courtesy to other people.  I can allow them to be whoever and whatever they want to be, even if it's dramatically different from me.

I just need to name it, be it and watch it.

Ah.  Now that feels better.

"The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.  You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president.  You realize that you control your own destiny." -- Albert Ellis


Monday, August 22, 2011

Run Forrest, Run! Then, Walk. Then, Run Again. Wait...what????

As you know, I'm currently training for the Chicago Marathon which, at the time of this posting is 47 days from now. This is the time where you really begin to ramp up your training.  The long runs get, well, longer.  My longest runs to date were a three hour run I did alone on 7/31 (18.48 miles, to be exact) and an "almost 20 miler" with John on 8/14 (we covered 19.6 miles in 3:10).

I wanted to get as close to 20 miles on my long run yesterday as I could.  This time of year can be tricky for long runs because of the humidity and heat.  Getting out the door as early as possible is usually the best strategy, but that doesn't completely alleviate the effects of the dewpoint or temperature, particularly when you're running double digit mileage. gotta train.  The thought of running for a few hours alone on a summer morning has the potential to overwhelm a person, even if they have completed seven marathons already (that's me, by the way).  However, it has to be done.  I don't take marathons lightly, nor do I want to go into one without having done the necessary preparations. 

I had stumbled upon Jeff Galloway's "Walk Breaks?" article a couple of years back (  I had crashed and burned on a 16 mile run two years ago.  We had a very wet spring in 2009.  In fact, it rained almost every single day in the month of June.  So, the heat took a while to show up.  And, when it did, it completely kicked my well-toned butt.  It was one of the hardest long runs I had ever done and I was near tears because it took so much out of me.  So, the following week, I decided to put Galloway's method to the test.  I ran 18 miles with a couple of friends, utilizing a 4 minute run/1 minute walk ratio and averaged about 9:55/mi.  

It was exactly what I needed to put the sting of that frustrating 16 miler out of my mind and behind me.

My training has been going very well this time around.  I've been keeping my mileage between 55-60 for the past several weeks.  Plus, I've gotten myself out there in warm temperatures numerous times.  I haven't had any real "crash and burns" to speak of.  But, the thought of doing my first 20 in the heat, and alone to boot, was kinda messing with me a little, I admit.  Then, I remembered that 18 miler I had done two years ago and decided to give Galloway another go.

I stayed true to the 4/1 ratio for about 95% of the run.  There were one or two walk breaks that I eliminated or shortened, due to crossing busy intersections and just plain old zoning out, but I took them early and often, as suggested.  The problem is, most runners wait until they're so tired that they have little choice BUT to walk.  And, by then, it's almost impossible to get going again.  In this instance, it's important to be proactive. 

Mission accomplished.  I got my 20 miles in:  3:15:02: 

Going into this, I had hoped to keep the pace at about a 10:00/mi pace.  I figured, using this method, that would be a fair estimate.  Well, guess what?  I averaged a 9:45/mi pace EVEN WITH THE WALK BREAKS.  I ran 19.6 miles the Sunday before, continuously and it was only FOUR SECONDS PER MILE faster than my 20 miler.  By mentally breaking up the run into smaller segments, I actually ended up running a little faster.  My legs felt pretty strong throughout and I didn't even start plotting the end until about 2:30 into it.  I found I could keep on going because I "only had to run four more minutes...just four more minutes, Cyndi Lou..."

Will I do it this way every time I run long?  I wouldn't go that far.  Plus, I may not need to, particularly when the weather is more conducive to being out there for hours at a time.  But, it's a nice alternative to the norm.  I got my long run done, the distance I wanted, on a warm Sunday in August.  And I'm feeling pretty good today.  Aside from mild stiffness in my calves and heels (which is to be expected), I'm moving around very well.

Some runners think that walking during a training run is a sign of weakness.  At one point in time, I probably echoed a similar sentiment.  But, there is something to be said for conserving your energy and being as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.  Gutting out a 5K is one thing; suffering through a marathon is another thing entirely.

I'll run.  And, maybe, I'll walk.  But, I will run again. 

If it's good enough for Galloway, it's good enough for me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Free Form Friday

"Vary your training, your running partners, and your environment. Only your imagination limits the ways you can spice up your running routine." -- Bob Glover

It's been a really good running week:  6.15 miles with Paula on Tuesday, 7.05 miles at the track on Wednesday morning, 9.72 miles yesterday afternoon on the road alone and 6.67 miles this morning with Jeremy.  I have thoroughly enjoyed catching up with good friends while getting the miles in as well as putting in some quality time at the track.  It makes me feel like I'm really evolving as a runner when I can derive just as much pleasure from a solo run with no music as I can from pounding the pavement with my peeps.  

"It is hardly possible to build anything, if frustration, bitterness and a mood of helplessness prevail." --  Lech Walesa

I am always beating the drum of "don't sweat the small stuff" and "life is too short".  Well, sometimes, I forget who I am and revert back to who I was.  I allowed a little work issue to consume me earlier this week; to the point of where I felt anxious, upset, frustrated and stressed out.  Thankfully, I was supported by those with whom I work and wasn't judged for my short tempered outbursts.  Once I was able to process what I was feeling and look at the situation again once I felt better, I was able to let it go.  But, I had to get to "feeling better" first.  I had to make peace with what was going on and cut myself some slack before I could move on.  

"When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world." -- Rabbi Harold Kushner

It's easy to get caught up in the day to day business of living, isn't it?  Sometimes, we get a little too self-involved for our own good.  We put up walls instead of building bridges.  I know I must sound New Agey and Hallmark-y, but it's the truth.  There are times where I dismiss people who are trying to talk to me.  I don't make eye contact, I don't engage...because I'm too BUSY.  However, if I take a few moments to put myself in their shoes, it makes all the difference in the world.  How would I feel if I was being treated that way?  Once I ask the question, I become aware and, thus, emotionally available.  When you make the time to be kind to others, kindness comes flowing back to you.

"Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don't worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time." --Sara Paddison

Have you ever seen that email about reason, season and lifetime?  Basically, it talks about how some people come into your life for a specific REASON.  Usually, it's to meet a specific need you may have.  Then, there are those who stay a little longer, like for a SEASONThis would signify that it's time for you to learn or share.  It's usually profound and powerful, but not permanent.  Then, you have those who are with you for the long haul.  The LIFETIME ones (and I'm not talking about that uber depressing "television for women" channel).  They might not be there forever, physically, but what they bring to you is.  When these people come and go from your life, they occasionally do so against your wishes.  It's important to use their reason/season/lifetime presence in your to grow into the person you are meant to become.  Forgive them for "abandoning or disappointing" you.  Forgive yourself for forgetting what's truly important.  Letting go of attachments or expectations of anything else is a good place to start.  Everything can be for the greater good if you want it to be.

"The purpose of meditation is to get connected and to feel the bliss that is our true nature. When we commit to meditation as discipline, we stay connected and live in that bliss." -- Rich German
I have been interested in meditation off and on for quite a few years now.  My father started meditating twice a day back in the early 80's and, as far as I know, hasn't missed a day.  He's calm, relaxed and even as the day is long.  I've been experimenting with different meditation practices for the past couple of years.  Sometimes, I stick with it for weeks at a time; other times, I can barely manage to string together a few days.  Right now, I'm using a Guided Meditation CD that has four 15-minute meditations (general well-being, financial, physical and relationships).  I'm happy to say that I've sat quietly every day this week and listened to my chosen message while taking long, slow breaths in and out.  When I take the time for solitude, stillness and to just "be", I do feel connected and, dare I say it, kinda blissful.  Try it sometime.  You just might surprise yourself.

“Real life isn’t always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.”-- Sarah Ban Breathnach

Accentuate the positive.  Eliminate the negative.  Preposterous, you say?  It's easier than you think.  Continuing to beat the drum of the things you don't want or like will only bring an increased awareness, not to mention more evidence, of those things.  Instead, what else can you focus on?  What else can you think about?  Did you have a nice conversation with a friend that left you with a good feeling?  Well, dwell on that.  Or maybe, you found a $20 bill in a jacket you forgot about.  Celebrate your windfall.  The better it gets, the better it gets.  Accept what is and make peace with your current circumstances.  We all have to start somewhere.  Start with the small stuff.  Make it easy on yourself.  It just takes a little focus.  You're worth the effort.

In closing, I'll leave you with this final thought:

"One day at a time - this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone: and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering." -- Ida Scott Taylor, Author

Thursday, August 4, 2011

St. Anne's Lakes Race, Old Navy Shorts and the Lost Key That Wasn't

I wasn't sure I was going to blog about this experience because, quite frankly, it's a little embarrassing.

But, then again, that kind of thing never really stopped me before. 

So, here goes.

On Saturday, my friend, Matt (also known as OBH-Orange Beacon of Hope, so named because he always wears a bright orange singlet/tank at races and is usually in front of all of us.  So, we just fix our gaze on the "OBH" and we know we're having a good race), and I met up in Hampstead, NH for the 19th Annual St. Anne's Lakes Race.  He and I did this race together back in 2005.  I had run this course every year from 2003-2008, so I knew the course fairly well.  The race started at 9 a.m., so we decided to meet up between 7:45-8:00 a.m. to pick up our race bag/bib # and shirt.

I arrived at 7:45 a.m. sharp.  The race site is a mere 7.5 miles from my house, so it was easy to be on time.  Had I been training for an ultra, I could have run there and back while running the race inbetween, but I'm not that ambitious (yet).  Matt arrived about 15-20 minutes after me.  Once we got our numbers pinned on and race ready, we hit the portables followed by the road for a 1.5 mile warm-up.  As in previous years, we start at the finish line and jog the course in reverse, going .75/mi. out and .75/mi. back.  It's a good psychological boost because you get to practice running along most of the last mile.  This course features a fast, downhill start and a, well, "less fast" escalating uphill finish.  After we got sufficiently sweaty, I headed back to my car for my Sour Patch Kids. 

Sour Patch Kids, you say?

Yes.  Sour Patch Kids.  I like to put a couple in my mouth before I run or race, because it keeps it from getting dry.  They're sour and sweet and chewy and I JUST REALLY LIKE THEM, OKAY???? 

After I got what I came for, I hit the lock button on my remote and tucked it, with the ignition key, into the handy dandy/built-in key pocket that most running shorts are designed with.  I was sporting my new favorite Old Navy black and white shorts.  This was not the first time I had worn these on a training run OR at a race, so I knew the key/remote would fit in there.  Matt and I made our way to the starting line.  After about 10 minutes of pre-race announcements and the singing of the national anthem, the gun went off.

I used to do short races with my iPod all the time.  I thought I needed the loud, angry "Kill Your Mother/Kill Your Father" type music to motivate me to run my best and fastest.  I have decided to run my past two races "sans tunes" because I would like to focus more on my footstrike, breathing and environment.  That's not so easy to do when you have the likes of Anthrax and Slipknot blaring in your ears.  So, I went "UNPLUGGED" for this race.  I also didn't really have an "agenda" for this.  I figured anything between 37-40 minutes for the 5 miler would be somewhat respectable, since I hadn't raced this distance in quite some time (my PR on this course was 37:01).  Besides, I had a three hour run planned for the next day and I wanted to make sure I would be fresh enough for that.

I ended up seeing OBH before the Mile 3 Marker.  His hamstring was locking up on him, so he was running when he could and walking when he needed to.  I grabbed water after seeing him, contemplating the idea of hanging back with him.  But, I knew he wouldn't want that.  I also knew that, yes, it was part out of concern for him, but more out of avoiding the challenge of running fast.  I am still learning how to channel my inner speed demon who shies away from nothing and is uber fearless (I know she's in there).  After waffling back and forth about this from Mile 3 to about 3.5, I decided to stop looking at my watch and run at a hard pace, but one that I knew I could sustain for the remainder of the race.

And that's what I did.

It wasn't a PR, but it met my "respectable range" criteria:  39:10.

Here are the official race results:

Matt came in a minute or two after me.  We chatted with my friend, Adam, after the race, who came in about a minute or so before me.  I went on a cool-down run and headed back to the post-race area. 

Now THIS is when the story gets interesting.

I'm standing there talking to Adam and Matt when something tells me to reach for my key which...wasn't...there.

Gone Daddy Gone.  No key.  No remote.  The pocket was completely empty.

I attempted to keep the panic from rising in my voice as I shared this little tidbit with my two companions.  We looked around the general area and started to brainstorm, hoping to come up with where and when it got misplaced.  We even walked back part of the cool-down run I did, thinking maybe it popped out around there.  None of us spotted it.  We even asked the race director to announce the missing key before the awards ceremony just so people could be on the lookout for a black pontiac key w/remote. 

Both Adam and I placed in the top 3 of our respective age groups, which meant we'd be receiving trophies.  Since I couldn't get into my car anyway, we figured we'd hang around for a while.  Thankfully, I wasn't alone and had friends...friends with CELL PHONES.  These are the times I really love technology.  I am also glad that I had taken the time to commit my husband's digits to memory so I could get myself some help.  After swapping texts/calls with him and talking to my friends, it was decided that Matt would bring me home and my husband would meet us there with the spare key to my car. 

After Adam and I got our awards, Matt and I said our goodbyes and headed out.  He suggested we drive parts of the course to see if I could spot the key lying on the side of the road.  Sounded like a good idea to me, and he didn't seem to mind carting my a$$ around, so that's what we did.  No key anywhere in sight.  Then, he says, "what if I drive you back to where your car is parked?  We stopped there after the warm-up.  Maybe you dropped your key there or left a door unlocked?  You never know."  At this point, I had no other options or ideas, so I agreed.  We get to my car and I hopped out of his truck to walk over to the red car.  First, I tried the passenger door which, I KNEW, was locked.  Then, I bent down to peek underneath the car to see if the key fell under there.

It was at this point that I heard the "rattle".

The "rattle" is the sound made when the key and the remote sort of clang together. 

Perplexed, I stopped and looked down.  I put my hand underneath the elastic on the left hand side of my shorts and pulled it away from my skin. 

My key, complete with remote, fell to the ground.

I stood there, dumbstruck, for what felt like five minutes, but it was probably only a second or two.  I bent down to pick it up while simultaneously turning to look over my shoulder.  Matt was peeking out of his truck to see how I was doing.  I smiled sheepishly and held the key up in the air for him to see.

It was never lost. 
It was in my shorts near my, ahem, "private parts".

Don't ask me how it got from the inside key pocket to the other side of the built-in running shorts underwear.  Don't ask me how I couldn't tell or how I didn't get "poked".

Insert any blonde joke here that you'd like.  They'd all be appropriate and I certainly deserve it.

But, at least I can laugh at myself.  And believe me, I did.  I think the best part of it was calling my husband back to tell him he didn't have to meet me at the house  because I found my key.  He says, "Really?  That's great...where was it?"  I just kept saying, "I just...found it."

So the moral of the story is this:  the next time you put a key in your running shorts, just be aware that contents have a tendency to shift during flight.  But, if you buy your shorts at Old Navy like me, fear not.  They use REALLY good elastic.

“The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.” -- Douglas Engelbart