Friday, September 23, 2011


I am going to suspend this blog until next summer when I start training for my 2nd marathon. Until then, I hope that those of you who have taken the time to read and comment here will follow my fitness posts on my main blog.

Update:  Life got a bit too busy for blogging this year. Never too busy for running. Priorities...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Did it. Do it better.

I am surprised. I thought that once the marathon was over, I would tick it off my list and find something new to obsess over. Instead my legs are itching because my sore ankle is keeping me from running this week.

My oldest son is proud as Punch (I am assuming this phrase is related to Punch of Punch & Judy fame?): "Now I have to do it next year, too." But one colleague has pointed out three times to other people that it looks like I am walking in the photos she saw. I have been  ruminating - a rather unpleasant pasttime - on and off the past days regarding her motives for pointing this out to anyone who mentions the run. Feeling a litte more "proud as Punch" myself each day, unfortunately. I keep looking around for a soft bat to beat her over the head with.

Funny how easily someone can burst your bubble with a smile and clever comment - how long it takes to reinflate an ego. I keep telling myself it is the itchiness from not running this week, a build-up of toxins, that is making me sensitive.

I have been thinking about how great it felt to cross the finish  line. How it wasn't like an exasperated, "Finally!", but just the end of an enjoyable run. My mantra for the day wasn't "Think of the finish line," but "Stay in the moment".

There has been talk at school of some people getting a team together to go to the NY marathon in 2013. But I will pass. As much as I love NY, the thought of running among a horde of people over asphalt and concrete sounds unpleasant. Not the kind of moments I would way to stay in.

Next year I will head back to Dorking. Maybe Lydia and Bjørn will go again, too. Maybe my oldest son will run. Maybe I can cut a half-hour off my time.

Who'd have thought I would have ever cared about that?

If anyone has any suggestions for beautiful marathons worth every moment of being mindful of, I'd love to hear them!

Fitness Friday Blog Hop

Monday, September 12, 2011

42K Full Marathon: Check!

Race Report
Bacchus Marathon
Dorking, England
September 11, 2010

It couldn't have been a more perfect choice had I put more thought into it. I impulsively signed up for the Bacchus Marathon because I figured a Dionysian- themed run was appropriate considering the amount of drama (and wine) in my life. It was also fancy dress, which I hoped would take some of the pressure off. How can you be cut-throat competitive when dressed like a fairy?

This was my first marathon - second race ever - so I have no idea if it is normal for people to exhale, "Well done" as they pass you. I admit at one point I wondered if it weren't a general comment regarding my marathon effort, but rather a genuine appreciation for the deftness with which I veered into holly bushes (careful not to snag my crinoline) to let them pass by. Either way, it made for pleasant exchanges - without exception, me being the one on the "Thank you" end of things. "Well done" exhaled the water strider whose feet didn't even appear to touch the mud-slathered stones I was so gingerly negotiating. He disappeared among the trees like a daddy long-leg. On the flat switch back that marked the final 1.5 mile stretch of the half marathon a woman with cerebral palsy, who'd started an hour behind me and now crossing paths with only 3 miles between us, exhaled, "Well done".

According to heart, not logic, her breath filled me with energy.

Between miles 5 and 10 I'd experienced debilitating gas pains, and fell behind a woman who'd been unwittingly pacing me. It was no doubt due to the English breakfast. Yogis know better than to eat mushrooms. My body felt heavy and the sun was shining much brighter than I am accustomed to. "There is no shame in doing the half and stopping at that. After all, half is an accomplishment. Maybe accomplishment enough". I'd been talking myself down. But seeing the flags at the half-marathon finish line, the start of the second lap for the few who take the whole trip, I felt strong - not exactly invincible, but optimistic. I cut 13 minutes off my personal best for the half distance and imagined that, even with a quick 2-minute trip to the port-o-potty, I could do the whole in well under 6 hours (a half hour shy of the time limit).

So, off again over the soft grass of the vineyards, among the rows of bowed vines, through the village with its leaning timber and brick cottages and uphill on the root-tangled paths and slick mud-churned pastures.

For most of the second lap I was on my own. I was aware that I was last, but at least inconspicuous in the landscape. And, honestly, it was a surprising chance to enjoy running, the kind of mindful running I do 5 days a week. I experienced several hours of unexpected beauty.

At mile 18 I caught up with a man who was struggling, tripping over the tufts of grass. I offered him the extra gel I had in the pocket of my camelbak, but he didn't like gels. He said they made his hands sticky. He got a bottle of water from a volunteer and offered me some. I'd mentioned that the nuun were great, but too sweet for my taste. I felt like I'd spent a good deal of my precious body fluids spitting sugar. At the bottom of the hill the man stopped to talk to a volunteer. I hoped he found a carbohydrate solution of some sort - one that wouldn't make his hands sticky.

I pushed on. Uphill. Sections of the climb were too slick for me to run and I walked - counting my strides as a way to remember this was a run, though not one worth breaking bones for. 48, 49 ... run. Stretches of the trail were like my morning route. I could hear the wind rushing to catch-up with me, then passing, "Well done". And the mourning doves almost comical with their continual melancholy song. I even saw a slow worm making her way over the path. Safely now, since the crowd had passed by long ago.

I figured I was the last person running by then. I thought about all the volunteers at the water/wine stations - how, but for me, they could have packed up and gone home to dinner. I was grateful for every one of their sincere shouts of "You´re doing great!" and I jogged by. Several women who asked me where my partners were (the two wearing similar costumes). "They ran the half and are waiting for me."

Mile 24.5 I heard a pop from my right ankle as my foot slipped over a smooth, wet stone. Mile 26.0 I felt the wind from a car passing by on the narrow slope toward the finish line. I laughed out loud at the thought of getting killed by a car less than 2 tenths of a mile from the finish line.

The finish line. The arranger of the event was there in his Superman costume. And my friends Bjørn and Lydia and half a dozen strangers hooting. I thought I would cry and thought about how weird that was, then about how weird it was that I was thinking about how weird it was instead of just crying.

Lydia hugged me tightly and without reservation. Hugged my sweaty, sticky marathon-run body, and she asked, "How does it feel? Do you feel like crying?"


It took me just over six hours, but I did it. I followed through and that is what matters.

... and the man with the sticky hands? He made it over the finish line in time, too.


Home now after two long taxi drives and a two-hour flight. The ankle that said pop is propped up on a bag of frozen stew vegetables. And I am enjoying a glass of wine.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

And... yep.

Priorities have a way of rearranging themselves under pressure.

Being back at work has been stressful and I think that it taxed my immune system. My achilles and then my shins caused problems. After last Saturday's 20K run, my feet swelled like the last month of pregnancy.

With stress levels high, I am not sure I can say that not running is resting. I fell off my consumerist fast and did a fair share of meaningless retail therapy.

Today the legs feel fine, but I feel that I have slipped into a kind of inertia. Husband can't make the England marathon trip with me - will be going alone.

Will be going!

Right now - for a run.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Running on Bad Days

Why is it my Achilles and shins always feel wonky the day after a massage? Didn't run on Friday and yesterday battled a fever and pounding headache. Unsure if it is stress or a virus of some sort. Any time I don't get to run I fear I have moved into a dangerous space - like being caught in the inner, vicious circle of a busy round-a-bout with a broken turn signal.

Being back at work is an adjustment. Having spent most of the summer alone with my thoughts, it is a kind of shock to my mental system: all these words and ideas intruding into an orderly space. I wonder if this isn't a little bit what it is like to struggle with autism? I am beyond edgy and, not having been able to run, I feel myself being wound tighter and tighter by every word I overhear on the train. Every word spoken directly to me causes me to pause in anticipation, to see if this is the one that will crack the lid I have on it all.

I woke to the sound of the rain this morning. Now, sitting at my desk, the hollow whistle of the wind between the wood of the window frame is kind of lulling. Not in a good way, though. It sort of flattens everything so that the past comes to the surface and all the colors blend into the kind of mud and slate grey that is a rainy day like this.

The birch tree is shaking like it is having a fit of some sort.
But it is doing it silently.

And sort of out of tact with the window-whistling.

So. Where does it come from on a day like this? Where do I find the catalyst that gets me to put my shoes on, pull on a raincoat and go running among the fitful birches?

Fitness Friday Blog Hop

Friday, August 12, 2011

Not Feeling It

Satisfaction, that is. Ain't got no.

It's back to work after the weekend and I can't figure out what I did with the summer. It has come and gone, that is obvious enough. The plums in the front yard are weighing down the branches and will be ready to pick by Monday. The buttercups are gone and there are just dried stalks left, snapping over the mossy grass in the fields where the sheep are all nearly grown.

The white swans are less hostile, but in some ways, the gray flock of juveniles is even more intimidating.

And I was supposed to end the summer with a finished libretto in my hands, a renovated kitchen and hall, and a strong body - one ready for the marathon (now just one month away).

Instead, my ankle is complaining, I'm slightly anemic and some of the aching has returned to my joints. I have a couple of hand-written pages of brainstorming in place of a finished libretto. And the house? The house, which was supposed to be nearly finished, is still in chaos. The hallway half-painted, the kitchen still with exposed electrical wires and a great hole in the wall where we tried to pry the old tiles down.

I want to run away and sit on a beach in the Mediterranean with a book and a drink. I want a vacation - now that it is over.

I am trying hard to stay in the moment. To revive my negativity fast, focus on the insanely busy year I had, and sort of break off my year in something besides seasonal chunks when I evaluate my accomplishments.

I haven't done sh*t for the last 7 weeks. I seriously cannot account for my time: television, social networks... I haven't learned to cook. I haven't planned an herb garden. I haven't come up with a viable plan for world peace or one for the utilization of the little slivers of soap that accumulate on the ledge of the bathroom sink.

While the world has turned and the sun bounced up and down on the horizon these long summer nights, I have squandered it: it being sun, summer, free time...

It's already 10:30 on Friday and I haven't yet run or swum. I haven't organized the basement or the office as I have sworn to myself to do every single day the last two weeks.

The plums are almost ripe!
After finishing yesterday's DM virtual 4M.
Finish line: my front yard.

(No I don't wear make-up when I run.)
Can I pack a summer of satisfaction into two days?

The sun is out today. I have the car, a clean bikini, unread books and a picnic basket.

Maybe I need to start packing.

What does "free time" mean to you?
Is it to be squandered or do you feel an obligation to fill it up with stuff you can point to as accomplishments, or evaluate in terms of productivity?

Fitness Friday Blog Hop

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heroes and Health IMHO

Last week, I ordered my cap to help fund the shark protection Diana Nyad needed. When it arrives I will wear it on my runs as a reminder of what it means to be strong and healthy.

Nyad had to leave the water after 29 hours - 31 hours short of her intended swim. No - She chose to leave the water.

Our culture is rife with role models who have pushed themselves to the brink - or over the brink - with heart attacks, anorexia, OCD exercising and the like. We boast about blackened toenails and dry heaves, and laugh at pictures of runners losing control of their bowels. Even the first marathon runner keeled over when he arrived at his destination and still we all think it was so cool we want to do it, too.

At 29 hours Nyad realized that, the way things were going for her in the water, it could no longer about completing the swim she envisioned. It could have been about pride and about "just doing it" -  if she were a lesser person.

But I believe that when "just doing it" risks damaging one's overall health, when competition (even with oneself) takes precedence over a celebration of human physical ability, it is no longer a reflection of a healthy human endeavor. Being willing to damage one's body for the sake of pride is not a reflection of a healthy human mind.

Obviously, I am not an elite athlete. I never even had a glimmer of an ambition in that regard. I swim slower than lava seeping onto the ocean floor and am terrified of fish. And my math skills are so bad that I can't participate in the upcoming swim meet even "for fun".

So you could, quite understandably, write off my remarks as justification for not pushing myself so hard I get dry heaves after my runs, or for my taking off 7 days of running last week to let my achilles un-swell and de-junk.

Even so, and whether she would like it or not, Diana Nyad is my fitness role model in more ways than one.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Run or Not To Run (or: My Glistening Achilles)

I have confidence in my massage therapist.

About ten years ago I fell down a flight of stairs and damaged a muscle in my back. I had spasms for weeks whenever I lay flat on my back. For a decade I have felt vulnerable, like a creature with an open wound.

A creeping - of what the doctor called bursitis - burned just around the edges of the wound, up over my shoulder and down my arm. Weekends of 18-hour stretches at my desk finally gave way to 5 am runs, and I finally gave in and let the massage therapist stick his needles into my wounded back.

There is no more creeping or burning. I no longer feel like a slug with an open hole.

I have confidence in my massage therapist... But.

Why is it that my Achilles tendons, that don't make much of themselves normally, always feel bizarre for a few days after he massages them?

On Wednesday he ran his finger and thumb along my tendon and asked if it didn't hurt: "Yeah, well, when you do that." He told me to be careful that it doesn't become a chronic problem.

I had scheduled a long run (29K) on Thursday, but put it off because my Achilles just felt "weird". A little odd and almost painful. Rest.

I didn't run on Friday either, because the Achilles of my right leg keeps making an awkward little spectacle of itself: not like an injury, but like a spoiled toddler who feels a need for attention. Like a toddler who got a lollipop from a stranger and now demands one at home.

I am looking at my training schedule this morning and wondering how hard to push. I am reading about how to diagnosis tendinitis, and something about the "glistening appearance" of the tendon - which isn't much help since I am not about to peel back the skin to expose the poor thing.

How high is my pain tolerance? Is this dull ache a sign that the toddler is about to snap, or just a little bit of theatrics? Would it help to run with an ankle bandage for support?

Advice requested... How do you gauge your pain and push quotients?

Fitness Friday Blog Hop

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

As Good A Time As Any

It isn't Wednesday or Friday. It isn't even the first of the month. But staring at the pile of clothing and ... things... in the basement, it is clear this is as good a time as any to begin my consumerist fast.

The pledge: I will not purchase anything for myself beyond food and hygiene products until January 2, 2012.

I would take it further if my children were grown and didn't have birthdays coming up.

This is not going to be easy since - at this moment - I am remembering that I am heading to New York in October. A theater ticket doesn't count, right? I mean, my battle here is with things, not experiences.

Oh, crap. What have I gotten myself into?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Under Pressure

My focus has tipped off balance because of these long runs. Yesterday I broke my own zen rule and ran "go go gadget girl" with an iPod. I was concerned that my mind would settle in a dark groove on the 26K route yesterday.

The truth is, even with the absurdity of Pierce Brosnan singing in my ears, my imagination did occasionally go to the horrors of last week's events. But maybe that is appropriate. The only sense in such things is the sense we impose on it. How we choose to use it as a guidepost in our own lives: consciously appreciating life.

Appreciating aching tendons and even someone singing off-key in your ear.

Despite it all - the children's voices, the midday heat, the buzz of the iPod - the birds sing, a deer appears the clearing and two foals come to take clover from the outstretched hands of ten year-old boys.

There is a lesson to be learned from their willingness to be vulnerable. A lesson to be learned from the hundreds of slugs who make their way over the gravel paths around the lake, from their soft bodies and the gaping mouths of their single lungs.

No, it's not pretty.

But it is integral to the beautiful whole.

Yesterday I ran three laps around the lake to avoid the territorial swans on the more scenic route. A lost cat hanging out near the golf course seemed overjoyed to see me when I passed the third time. She ran alongside me mewing, then crossed in front of me and nearly tripped me. A healthy tabby with a new collar but no tags. Photogenic little thing, and I figured I could hide her from my dog long enough to get a response from flyers in grocery stores.

I only ran about a kilometer with her purring in my arms before she decided she preferred prowling in the undergrowth to a passive journey with me.

I'll look for her tomorrow, but today is rest and recovery in my compression socks.

I'm often discouraged by all the touting of fitness products under the guise of chatty gossip. I am a compulsive consumer and have been trying hard to revamp my life without buying the revamp. I try to resist the temptation to let my running become another excuse for shopping. But I realized I already have three pair of airplane socks. I figure under pressure is under pressure regardless the packaging.

Do you make a conscious effort to keep your commitment to fitness separate from your consumerist desires/habits?
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Life. Happening -

Friday morning began wonderfully. Up early and out for a 26K run that went well. Still too slow a pace to make the marathon cut-off, but I ran the whole way and felt strong. I was careful to space out the gels (yuck, by the way).

The first part of the run had me fretting about precise times and distances: Do I give in and buy a Garmin? Why am I doing this anyway?

What about the shoes? Am I going to ruin my body entirely by going minimalist for my first marathon?

It was mainly about trying to make peace with the idea of coming in dead last. Being honest with myself about that. Can I really, honestly, deal with it?

I am a competitive person. I have always been one of the people to say that getting the best grade in the class isn't important, but knowing full well that I had a shot at that slot. I have always considered myself a "contender" in the endeavors I have taken up (or I have been blissfully ignorant that I wasn't). Am I being honest with myself or am I subconsciously harboring a fantasy that I have a superpower yet-to-be-revealed that will kick in on race day?

Then, almost on cue, I saw a deer in the clearing. The first since April. She didn't move. She watched me run by and then continued eating.

Why did I begin running again last year? A large part of it was the deer. Up early, seeing the flash of white tail in the fog in the mornings was a reward.

The doe was there to remind me. This is about health and peace of mind.

In March, when I made a real commitment to myself, the world was dark at 5 a.m., but every day a little lighter. I watched the reeds grow. I heard the birds returning.

In April, when the last of the snow had melted from the little hollow to reveal autumn's leaves - still bright orange - spring mimicked the fall, and I realized the fluidity of nature: the old doesn't immediately give way to the new. It is a matter of focus sometimes.

After 20 years of complaining about the cold and the rain, Friday I was celebrating the 15C morning and the light rain - with my jacket tied around my waist.

This year I decided to change my citizenship. The cells in my body have renew themselves, nearly three times over now, breathing this air. I continue to change fundamentally.

After the run Friday, I showered and biked downtown to meet three other American expatriates. We had a very long and pleasant lunch, after which I went directly to a store to purchase some Vivo barefoot shoes for work (one of the Americans showed me hers and told me where to find them). Then I picked up my second pair of Vibrams. (I have worn out a pair of running shoes!)

Then my oldest son called me. He was watching the news.

The day broke sharply in two.

Today I am reminding myself that, that doesn't mean one half of the day negates the other. Life and death... and life.

What keeps you running?
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Friday, July 22, 2011

A Moment of Silence

Yes. I ran this morning.

But no blogging today out of respect for the grieving families and frightened young people in Norway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 1

Mid-Week Charting

No fartslek yesterday.

My oldest came along with me. In fact, once the hail started hitting the windshield, I would would have turned back if he hadn't suggested we see what was happening at the beach.

K. along the beach.
It was beautiful there. At 8:30 p.m. the hail had left a rainbow inland, and the sun was starting to set over the water.

K. has agreed to come along with me to the beach once a week as a pacer. The sand slows him down, but I still have to push myself to keep up with him. But yesterday I didn't even try.

I have a strange, springy-twangy twinge along the sole of my left foot, and the sand had been packed hard as concrete by the hail.

Slow, easy, recovery pace. And since my normal pace is a normal runner's recovery pace, I mean slow.

Time to mistake sand-infused seaweed fronds for vipers, and - although my husband swears this is a photo of a dog's paw print - I still think it was a mountain lion sprung from one of my homesick hallucinations.

You can see how swollen my foot is.
Evening runs are not my thing. My body did sort of find a groove at around 5 kilometers, but I slept until 9:00 this morning. This summer is slipping from my control like a live fish.

It is now after noon and I am sitting here with my second espresso and the TV on in the background. There is a social network on three of the four tabs on my computer.

My summer "to do list" has been a vague charcoal sketch in the back of my mind that I have been almost afraid to look at. To commit to. And that's not the way to get things done. This isn't who "I am".

Because "I am": structured, discipline, productive... up at 5, down at 10:30; a veggie-squeezing, goal-oriented body-of-sunshine-and-happy-happy-joy-joy. So a third cup of coffee and pixelated accountability:
  1. De-clutter the basement
  2. De-clutter the kitchen
  3. Menu-planning
  4. Resume sleep schedule
  5. Detail plan the marathon training schedule
  6. Set off limited time for computer use
  7. Outline production schedule for HW libretto
  8. Begin editing Running Metaphor ms.
Now. Where did I put my happy helmet?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Joyfully, Not a Joiner

After hitting the wall this weekend, I have been crawling over the internet for some inspiration. I discovered that the Barefoot Runners Society has a Norwegian chapter whose introduction is in English, no doubt as a means to further serve its apparent purpose:

"You are also special. You are a tougher breed of barefooter*."

In my head, what follows next is a Tarzan yell and chest beating.

I haven't switched to minimalist shoes and barefoot beach runs to prove what a bad ass I am. I gave birth.


I am already a bad ass.

I run because I enjoy it. I enjoy running barefoot on the beach. But I enjoy running the lake trails without having to worry about cuts or infections or breaking my gritted teeth while struggling over stretches of sharp gravel.

Pete Larson has written a great plea for moderation in regard to the barefoot/minimalist debate. What puzzles me is how often the question of speed comes up in the shoe/no shoe debate. I could certainly jump higher with spring-loaded shoes. It doesn't mean my body wasn't designed to jump at all. We are designed to jump and run - and to do a million other physical activities. None to the exclusion of others, so compromise is part of the evolutionary equation. We aren't gazelle.

I have always thought it was amusing that some swimmers shave the hair off their bodies to glide through the water better. It helps them win races, I suppose. It makes them better swimmers. They move faster. But it doesn't make them better at swimming.

I am not a competitive runner. I think there is a difference between being a better runner and running better.

When I am looking for inspiration I need to hit the restart button. Why did I start running again in the first place?

Also from Larson's Runblogger, where he shows how his son joyfully runs with the technique he strives for:

The less I think about it, the more I enjoy it. Mindful running isn't about my technique.

How the marathon fits into this?

... Well... the less I think about it, the more I enjoy it.

(*update: I was walking around the lake today after my swim, and thinking about the horrible swans - how they are the only thing I have to fear here in Norway. No venomous spiders or snakes. No polar bears or alligators. The only thing barefoot runners in Norway need to watch out for is stinging nettle and rutting elk. Talk about a lot of bravado for nothing.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Wall

I hit it.  The Wall.

After running a mind-bogglingly slow 22K, I had to walk the final 4 home in pain from the waist down. Toes, arches, ankles, achilles, knees, hamstrings, gluts. My running mantra morphed into a decidedly unhelpful litany of four-letter interjections that began with "ouch" and ventured into asterisk territory.

I probably spent 3 of my almost 5 1/2 hours of running yesterday asking myself why I am doing this. What is the point?

I love running 6K each morning before the rest of the house gets up. It clears my mind of the clutter. It clears my muscles of the lymph. It makes me feel strong, capable and productive.

Yesterday I felt like a fraud. Runner? Healthy?

As I was lying in bed last night, unable to sleep, I noticed the pile of winter blankets was breathing. I wondered if I would die before I woke. If I was suffering from some silent, mysterious brain disease that made me experience running at a fair pace, while actually moving two strides forward, one stride back.

Clearly, I've too much Sci Fi in my life.

Why am I choosing to run with a GPS, to keep to a schedule someone has laid out for a race I have no intention of winning? For a chance to face the humiliation of coming in absolutely last (or worse, after the officials have packed up and started dancing)?

Maybe I need to keep in mind that a humbling situation need not be humiliating.
And what do I take with me from yesterday?

I ran the edges of three lakes and a stretch of seaside. I inhaled the scent of fresh tar, rotting seaweed and densely-petaled roses.

I burned one arm and two shins on nettle; startled a gathering of ragged-wooly sheep. I climbed over porous, black outcroppings, and smooth, gray boulders. I ran the path over the hill where the treeless, rocky terrain brings my mind back to the desert.

I saw a cormorant, perched on a dark rock capped with white bird shit.

Intermittent drops of cold rain.

And this morning? I am still alive.

Rest today, cross-train tomorrow and some fartslek on Tuesday.

I choose to continue the journey.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Little Too Attatched to the Sh*t

Yesterday my facebook status update was a complaint worded as an impersonal maxim:
"If you can't find the sh*t you need, you have too much sh*t." 

In reality, it was a heartfelt cry of frustration. I can't find my iPod.

I've downloaded some yoga audio tapes I want to try, but am sitting here wondering if I am actually sabotaging myself with all this clutter and these half-hearted commitments.

You know, the kind that siphon energy from the real commitments. Or the kind that are too much bother to pursue, but it is nice to tell yourself you are doing it: like reinstating a yoga practice or learning to cook healthy meals.

Yesterday I saw part of a television program about decluttering. It was actually (effectively) an advertisement for the container store.

Have too much sh*t? Buy more sh*t to help sort it. 

Help and inspiration on the internet? Buy this book to help you learn how to make do with less. 

In our house, it is not a joke when I say we might need to move because there isn't room for another bookshelf.

A few years ago, I went to Kyrgyzstan for a women writers' conference. I packed a weeks worth of clothes. Sight-seeing clothes, meeting clothes, out-to-dinner clothes. And the airline lost my luggage.

I managed the week on the t-shirt and capri pants I was wearing, and the one cotton dress, two pair of underwear and toothbrush I bought at the local market. I had a great time and didn't feel the least bit self-conscious or deprived. You'd think I would've have learned something.

In reality I wear the same single t-shirt and capri pants and dress most days now. Not because I have no other clothes, but because they are the only clothes I can find easily in the landslide of fabric in my basement. 

We renovated our kitchen last month. No, honestly, we are still in the process of renovating the kitchen. The new tiles aren't yet up. Neither are the moldings or baseboards. And there is a big hole in the wall near the refrigerator where the old tiles, when we pried them off, threatened to tear the entire weight-bearing wall with them.

The new kitchen has less cupboard and storage space. I still am not sure what to do with all the kitchen machines, pickle forks, cheese cutters and mystery doodads. But like my clothing issue, I keep eating the same three or four meals. None of them healthy. Because I can't be bothered to sort through the landslide of options.

My exercise routine works for me because it is simple. Put on the wicking clothing so I don't chafe and wriggle into my VFFs so I don't spring a leak, and go.

How do I simplify the rest of my life?

That is not a rhetorical question. But please don't say I have to buy something.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wanting to Be Better

It is a beautiful day today.

The kind of day that's not perfect - just a little too sharp a chill in the air, just a few too many people on the beach - but it reminds you that you are alive.

That things are in motion.

Even the fingerprints left by the tide will be gone and replaced by the next.

I am half-way through summer vacation and have been lazing in the mornings. My days starting too late and filled with too little. I can't have them back to try again.

But I can get up tomorrow. Make juice and dance, not faster, but with a little more attention.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Yesterday I ran a half-marathon distance.

Actually, I have been so focused on the training schedule for the marathon that a friend on Daily Mile had to point out the milestone for me.

I ran a half-marathon after a weekend of pushing myself in a kayak (in more ways than one). I ran a half-marathon with the uncomfortable burn of an infection brought on by sitting 18 hours in a wet wetsuit.

I ran a half-marathon without earphones or distractions.

Without the promise of external rewards or brag-bling.

Without injury, exhaustion or depression.

Did I mention I ran a half-marathon?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Don't Sit on the Screwdriver!

(or Part Two of The Kayak Report)

On the morning's first crossing to the island, my wool underwear soaked up enough sweat to make me think I would disappear into my own puddle of electrolytes - which sounds kind of sparkly and flamboyant, but really would have just smelled bad.

Long sleeve wool underwear, under a long sleeve wetsuit, under a life vest, with a plastic hat tucked into my collar, rubbing against my skin in the 60F sunshine... well, the predicted rain then would have been welcome. 

When one is that warm, one would think that tipping into the water wouldn't be difficult. Physically, of course, tipping a kayak is not a problem. A sneeze can do it. A good giggle.
Mentally, however, it is actually pretty difficult to convince yourself to willfully go from a warm, comfortable sitting position in the sun to a dark 55F wet place inhabited by stinging orange globs of pulsating jelly.

We moved a bit further from the shore where I had to dip a paddle into the water to prove to myself the water really wasn't black.

That didn't make things easier.

Counting down out loud does. A little. Weird how that works. Next time I can't get my butt up off the couch to do housework I am going to count down out loud.

I can now assist in recovery should my kayak buddy tip over. I can now survive cold, black water (kind of fearlessly, actually) and climb back into my own kayak with buddy-help. I can now beat myself black & blue and spin a kayak countless times around its central axis while trying to get back into my own kayak unassisted.

The rain they predicted did show up. Right after we had cooled down on shore, eaten our lunch (causing our blood to rush from our extremities into our stomachs) and changed into dry shirts.

It amounted to 5 minutes of fat drops. Our sunscreen effectively off, the sun reappeared.

More tipping and rescuing.

This time we had to try it with the screwdriver on.

At least that's what I heard the instructor say. And when you get back into the kayak, be careful not to sit on the screwdriver.

I guess, even after 20 years, I hear things incorrectly:

Spruttrekk versus skrutrekk(er).

This is one:

This is the other:
One keeps the water out of your kayak so you don't sink.  (It can also keep you prisoner in an over-turned kayak, if you aren't careful.)

The other doesn't help much when you're out in a kayak, and you might as well sit on it.

I am no cameraman. I thought I took a dozen pictures yesterday, but once home I found four photos and an 18-minute film I didn't know I took. So here are few minutes of my huffing and puffing, from the perspective of a camera hanging around my neck.

(And if you look closely at the blue and black "spruttrekk" towards the end of the film clip at 2:07 or so, you will see that they actually make very cute mini-hoop skirts!)

By the end of the day several people had commented on how "sporty" I was.

The thing is, in Norwegian, "sporty" doesn't mean anything like athletic. In fact, quite the opposite. It means you throw yourself - with gusto - into physical things you know you aren't going to do well. 

I take my compliments where I can get them.

And my strengths as well.

Okay. Time to get to work:




Still here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Paddling as Fast as I Can!

I don't run fast. I run so slowly, in fact, that I am concerned about finishing the September marathon before the cut-off time. (I am starting with some serious fartslek next week.)

Not only do I run slowly, I swim slowly. I splash and thrash around like an angry reptile, and move very slowly across the pool.

And today I learned that I also paddle slowly. Very slowly. Like, turtle-slow.

Wait. I actually have no idea if sea turtles are slow. I am slow like a desert tortoise paddling a kayak on a cold day.

And it wasn't even that cold. 

Day one of the two-day kayaking course today. On the water from 11 to 5, with a little lunch break: hopping up and down under a tree to keep warm while swallowing spinach soup and chewing on crisp bread. Chewing, because everything was damp. It rained off and on, steady but never a downpour.

The thing about rainy days here is that the sky so often is a perfect slate grey. It makes all the colors pop: the greens, the oranges, the purples. There was little to no wind, so the water was clear and it was easy to see that jellyfish season is right around the corner. We paddled close to land, as close as possible, and the jellyfish's orange tentacles moved slowly and elegantly with the ebb and flow. By next month the shores will be chocked with tentacles.

Five years ago the idea of being so close to the ocean terrified me. Kept me awake at night. But twice now I have been on trial dives and am getting used to the water. No, not water. I have no problem showering or swimming in a pool. It's the idea of what is down there in the water - under the rocks, under the sand, among the seaweed fronds. I only had a few moments of panic last night when I thought about having to practice tipping over.

Wetsuits help. Aqua shoes help. I didn't think about the jellyfish when I tipped into the 13C (55F) water. Again and again.

I am so glad I chose to not take the instructor's advice to ditch the wool underwear. I kept my wool undershirt. And I didn't freeze.

Which is kind of amazing, considering how slowly I was moving. (The instructor had to circle back for me, splashing and thrashing in the middle of the sound.)

Going back out tomorrow. It's going to rain. I'm going to take it slow.

Part Two

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Friday First

And how is this for irony? My first time participating in Fitness Friday & Fitness Fridays (Life... As I See It) & (Sparkles and Bugs), and here I sit shaking off the remnants of a summer flu - feeling decidedly unfit.

Paid my fees on Monday for the September marathon, and for a kayaking course this weekend only to come down with a fever after Tuesday's run. I've been spinning my wheels since. My training schedule is completely off-track and I am fighting the ridiculous, but insidious, thought that four days of illness will unravel a year of hard work.

That's how I stumbled on Life... As I See It.  Trying to find inspiration and a reminder that this is real life, not a project wrapped in parenthesis. A colleague of mine with MS said once that she has been sidelined for a few months due to an injury, but it was okay because she runs for life, not for any particular race. I'm trying to keep that in mind.

I figure this is as good a place as any to introduce myself since I don't have an about page on this blog. I am a writer and a teacher, most of the time in that order. I am a 45 year-old woman and not the kind who will make statements like I'm turning 29 (or 39) for the 6th or 16th time. I'm proud of (most of) what I have done with my life since I turned 29. I wouldn't disown those years any more than I would disown my two teenage boys.

In the last 16 years I have worked as a freelance writer, a massage therapist, a yoga instructor, a teacher and for a humanitarian organization. The latter, long enough to realize working against politics means eventually working with politics.

I have a vested interest in mental health issues and (reasonable) holistic approaches to life. I don't believe in magic: not magic-thinking, magic-words, magic-shoes etc.  I am trying to improve my nutrition and exercise habits without becoming an amateur scientist.

While stretched on the couch, next to an ever-growing pile of used tissues, I have been blog-jumping, looking for inspiration and role models. What disappointed me was the motivational imagery out there: twenty-somethings with Photoshopped skin. Or fifty-somethings with nips and tucks and more money than original bone structure.

Okay, yeah, I want to look "hot". (Obviously one gets too old to comfortably use the word "hot" before one gets too old to be vain). But even Cindy Crawford doesn't look like Cindy Crawford. I am looking for real women who have it all. And by that I don't mean personal trainers and professional stylists.

I mean women who have to face days on the couch with an ever-growing pile of snot rags, and no one to clean up after them, or help them dehydrate to the point of svelte before their next public appearance: women who are healthy role models for other real women.

You out there?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reversing through the Roundabout

I have never been one to stick my head in the sand. I have, however, been known to close my eyes and barrel through.

My worst character traits are things I have been fighting since I was a kid. When I was ten I was called out publicly at camp for having accused (without proof) boys of breaking into our teepee and stealing our candy. I still tend to jump to conclusions and make accusations to quickly.

When I was sixteen and asked in Driver's Ed. to reverse through a roundabout. I had never driven in reverse and never taken a roundabout driving forward. So I put it reverse, closed my eyes and stepped on the gas.

I have always been pretty lucky. And I still tend to close my eyes and hit the gas.

For the past week my husband has been laid up on the couch. Coughing, sniffing, moaning a little. I woke on Tuesday with a sore throat. But my marathon training schedule said it was the day for a 22 kilometer run. So on with the neoprene and lycra, and out the door.

I swallowed a lot of pride (along with a lot of mucus) 6 kilometers in. I turned and ran home and figured I could reschedule the long run for Thursday. Still closing my eyes: not sick, barrel through. Kept lunch date with a former student. 3, yes, three, glasses of wine with my avocado sandwich, brainstorming and gossip.

Home five hours later with a fever.

Husband is healthy and out of town,  so the couch was available. Good thing I rented a load of films yesterday. No yoga, no push-ups... no wine today.

Looking forward to tomorrow's run. (And I still think those boys took my SweeTarts.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fish on the Beach

Sounded heavenly. But yoga on the beach was not what it's cut out to be.

The sand was too hard.
The sand was too soft. 

And the quaint little shoreline smelled like rotting vegetables. 
Thursday, I will continue searching for a beach where the sand is just right.

And where the air smells like salt spray.

Anyone know of good audio guides for standing yoga sequences?

Doing Fish on this beach was kinda gross.

Still scraping the sticky sand off my neck.

Renaissance Woman

After Middle Age(s ic) comes Renaissance...

And cross-training.

Looking back, I wish I had taken a more holistic approach to life the last three years instead of pushing through ultra-marathon sessions at my desk.

Those weekends I went to the mountains to hammer out a thesis, denying Kiri the joys of lemming-chasing and myself long runs in the mist on soft trails, I was living a half-life and courting atrophy.

The wisdom gained from hindsight, certainly more valuable than my degrees.

I have been wondering how long it would be before I could call myself a runner and not feel like a fraud. Count that 74 runs. Today I need to forgo a run in order to do tomorrow's 12 miles on my marathon training schedule. I am itching and dying to get out there.

Instead - off to a secluded beach... with the yoga tape.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Garmin or Zen

When I recommitted to running in March, I decided to ditch my gadget girl ways and run without the heart monitor and mp3 player. Mindful running, I decided. Running to lose. But the gadget habit is difficult to shake.

I downloaded an app for my Desire HD so that I could keep track of the distances I run, so that I know I will be ready for the marathon in September. Problem is, it doesn't do very well in my pocket.

I started at one end of the beach and hit "start" before taking off. I tucked the phone into my pocket and ran to the far end of the beach and back. Then half and back again. I took out my phone and hit "stop". Seems I ran about 200 meters in over the course of an hour, according to my GPS.

Free app: not helpful.

So I am itching to buy a Garmin so I can keep track of my distances and my pace. I take my phone on my runs, just in case, and just to snap a quick picture now and then. Garmin watches may track speed and altitude and how far the moon. But they don't take photos or call ambulances.

Garmin or Zen? Today, it is all about learning how much the sand gives where the sea ebbs and how much it gives nearer the dunes. How much it gives and smells where it is nothing more than a thin layer over rotting seaweed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Driftwood and Sinking Steps

Today I drove out to the beach and ran there. Overestimated the wind chill there and over-dressed for the occasion.

I lack both the abs and the self-irony to opt for ditching the fleece to run in my light blue bra, so I suffered a little. But the water was cold each time the tide caught me, and the sand felt great on my feet.

I think I may make this a weekly habit - or find out which bus drives there on weekday mornings. I can deal with the spattering of wood, and even the sinking sand that covers the rotting seaweed on the south end.

I gave my greatest smile to a sour-looking woman whose face broke into sunshine.

Oh, God. I'm losing my bitchy edge.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Rams in the Paddock

The heron was still there today. I'm convinced she is brooding, and I'll bring binoculars one of these days. From a distance I recognized the white silhouette. Then she turned and spread her dark wings a little, as if to spite my presumed familiarity.

The white sheep have recently been shorn and look a little pathetic even in the sunshine. Or maybe they are just shamed by the newcomers - a large brown ram and three black & white creatures that look overdressed for the paddock.

I've been running in the Vibram 5 fingers since March and have been gradually increasing distance. My longest distance to date is 19 kilometers. Funny that it is today, on a short run of 9 kilometers that I felt an uncomfortable - and sharp - twinge under my left foot after I took off my shoe.

Tomorrow is cross-training day. I'm thinking sand would be a good idea. Beach combing anyone?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Sign

All this week I've seen a heron in the reeds. Since I have been losing a bit of steam, the sight of my totem helps.

I am not sure why I am blogging - what with the blogs I already have and the lack of time and attention I devote to them. Is there a community out here, separate from the mommy-runner and vegan blogs?

I figure I will commit for the length of my marathon-training period while I am recording my food and exercise. I will see if there is any energy left over to devote to recording my aches and frustrations, childish thrills and perverted ideas.


My Pace Gloves arrived in the mail, but are too big. Had to mail-order them and have to mail-order return them now. Crap. I was looking forward to a non-smelly option for my more public runs.

The Vibram Five Fingers are Fabulous, love the way they feel, the way they let me feel - hate the way they smell. Wore them into the shower yesterday and gave them a good shampoo. Still worried today that the stench would cause the cows to stampede.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Horse Mid-stream

I am in the middle of week three of a 12-week program of training for my first marathon; taking up running after a 20-year hiatus, and breathing life into my yoga practice after three years of sitting at my desk and rarely leaving the house; still pursuing a Renaissance education, one obsession at a time.

This is what it's all about.