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lisa marie corley | greenville, sc

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A lonnnng year of whaps

Geesh. I’ve started this post over at least five times now. Apparently my drunken pixie-muse has passed out again, abandoning me. He’s visited quite a bit in the last few weeks, but he never stays long, and he comes at inopportune times — like when I’m driving to work or spending a non-laptop weekend with family or being pleasure-serviced by my naked houseboyman Miguel. OK that last one was just a dream but I certainly didn’t want to leave it to type on a damn computer.

So I’m just going to string together a series of potentially unrelated paragraphs, mmkay?

The OCD chatterdevils in my head want me to write some sort of transition post. They tell me that, since I only posted six times in 2009 and an uberpathetic *one* time in 2010, I probably need to address the “WTF?” questions bouncing in your heads. I keep arguing with them that they are being waaaay too presumptuous to assume these questions — not to mention readers — actually exist. But you know how OCD chatterdevils are.

Oh. You don’t?

Ahem.

Anyway, they tell me I should write some sort of summary of the time that’s passed, and, of course, it is essential that I put a positive spin on it (please imagine these words spoken in a sarcastic, snobbish, old-Southern-money drawl). Like a list of reasons why 2010 didn’t suck stinkyass butt. Or a description of things for which I am grateful. Or a list of new and exciting perversions I’ve nurtured. The post should be a perfect balance of pensive reflection, humor, optimism, and OF COURSE irreverence.

Let’s see if that happens.

Winter and spring rockalong pretty well
2010 started out FABulously. I was training with old runbud friends, out there in my VERY favorite running weather. There’s nothing like a healthy, pumpin’ heart 10 minutes into a 35-degree joggytrot. Lovelovelove freakinlove it. The group experienced some unfortunate interpersonal strife, but we came together on race day and completed Greenville’s Reedy River 10K in early March. Invigorating!

Something else cool was that I dug deeper into my social media obsession. You know I’m not happy unless obsessed, right? Luckily, my interest coincided with some initiatives at work, so I raised my hand high and became able to integrate the fun into my workdays. Have been feeling the buzz ever since. And buzzing the feel. Which is way more satisfying than copping a feel, at least when comparing longterm benefits.

Nursed a small tinge in my foot for awhile, but I kept in shape enough to continue regular running with friends, and went on a hardcore hike or three. Nature really sets me ‘right.’ Some people sit in church. I take deep breaths of fresh air. Ran another 5K race in May, and right after that started training for a half marathon. I didn’t really think I’d do well with that longer distance, but I gave myself permission to walk as much of the 13+ miles as necessary. About this time I also started an intensive strength training regimen, and in mid May, I bought a bike! Soooo excited to have a new type of challenge.

Whap, whap, whap, whap
Whap #1. Here’s where the year started to s u u u c k. Only a few weeks after getting my new bike, I crashed it twice on the same day during a 26-mile ride up the Swamp Rabbit Trail & back. I’m considering changing my story to a 26-mile trail ride at Paris Mountain, though…that is soooo much more impressive than accidents on a flat paved trail, don’t you think?

Hmmm. Yeah.

I thought I just had a deep bruise or two in my left upper arm and shoulder, but as the weeks and weeks went by and the pain didn’t get better, I made an appointment with my superfave orthopaedist for late July.

Whap #2. Overlapping all the other midyear whaps was an ongoing bunch o’family stuff that I won’t discuss in great detail now. Maybe later. The “stuff” was basically two-fold — my mom’s move from a two-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom apartment in an independent living facility… and my sister’s declining health. Planning, busywork, moving, and medical research and education blanketed nearly all of our free time during the summer.

Sadly, these were the last times the five of us would spend together.

Whap #3. Another ongoing annoyance was some weirdness in my own health. These topics are beyond dull — just a few getting-older issues which, while temporarily draining me of time and energy, I’ve since gotten under control. Mostly. I will warn you right now, though, that the constant ringing in my ears will — I repeat, WILL — drive me to insanity one day. Hoping to plan ahead so that I snap in some sort of interesting or entertaining way. I’m open to any ideas.

Whap #4. So. The evening before my scheduled orthopaedist appointment in July, my ankle mysteriously gave way during a run in the park. Something twisted and crunched and I went down, grinding my knees hard against asphalt and into lots of gravelly debris. Ouch. I limped pathetically to a nearby stump and sat there, blood streaming down my calves, while runbud-angel K rushed to get her car. Several bikers and runners stopped to check on me while I was waiting….I imagine I made a pretty distressing sight. :)

Diagnoses, healing, and settling in
The next day at the doctor’s office I made lots of jokes about old rickety women pretending they are still 25. They poked, prodded, and x-rayed all sorts of body parts and properly dressed my knee wounds. I left that day in a boot cast and with instructions to cease and desist physical activity until further notice. Within a couple weeks, I’d had an MRI, been diagnosed with a hard-to-heal tear in my shoulder, declined a recommendation to see a surgeon, and started what would turn out to be six months of physical therapy.

The sprained ankle healed relatively quickly, and the knees got OK eventually, but the shoulder….UGH. I honestly didn’t think I would ever be able to do some common movements again, much less any serious upper body work. But I had an awesome therapist, and I refused to quit, bygollydammit. I started getting optimistic early-Octoberish, and nowadays I’m noticing gains in strength and flexibility almost every week. I’ve kept it up even since “graduating” from my therapist’s care last month.

My mom got somewhat settled into her new place, absolutely fawning over the staff and facilities. We got everything out of the old apartment, unpacked into her new apartment, and began to help her get organized and truly settled in. We decided to take a bit of a break, though, so that my mom and sister could get some extended rest. Finally, my sister began to take steps toward managing her own health, seeing various sorts of specialists for advice and minor procedures. She, her son, and husband went on a nearly 4-week vacation to Florida. She returned in early October, happy to have had the time away, but utterly exhausted.

Should I mention here a brief li’l relationship o’my own? I don’t really want to, but those damn chatterdevils won’t leave me alone. I guess it’s significant because for a couple months or so it created some blissful moments during a time when I really needed some respite. It also catalyzed an epiphany or two — which is always, always, always a good thing.

An email to family, October 21
“Hi there, I hope everyone’s doing well. I have some news about my sister — please forward so everyone can keep her in their prayers.

“Dianna’s husband Ray woke up about 3am Tuesday morning to find her unable to breathe well. She’d had chest pains (mild) on Mon evening and had been out of breath a lot for several days. They called EMS, who took her to Laurens County Hospital who very quickly sent her to Self Regional (Greenwood) for congestive heart failure. They slated her to go to the heart cath lab Wed morning for angioplasty at 7am, but on the way there she had a seizure. They gave her medicine to alleviate that, but then she threw up a significant amount of what they called “coffee grounds,” i.e., dried blood. At that point they abandoned treating her heart condition temporarily to investigate the other stuff.

“It has been a roller coaster since then. Today she’s had a constantly upset stomach, pain, dizziness, and three seizures since the first one this morning. The doc has ordered an EEG and a CT scan to try and determine the cause of the seizures. They are adjusting meds and doing everything they can to stabilize her enough to even get her downstairs to do the CT. Friday they hope to do another diagnostic stomach scope.

“The heart attack appears to be the result of one partial blockage in the left side of her heart. I am still a little unsure about the details of this. At first Ray was told that the heart muscle damage was only 2 percent, but this afternoon the doc had another chat with him (I was in town running an errand…just my luck) and implied more damage to the left side of her heart than had been originally communicated.

“Today Dianna has mostly been asleep, but has woken up now and then. Not feeling good at ALL. At one point she asked me ‘What’s going on? I feel like I’m dying.’ It occurred to me that maybe people had been talking around her rather than to her and she might be really scared. I reassured her, and hoped she understood. She fell asleep very quickly before I could tell her any details. She is sleeping an extraordinary amount even though they aren’t giving her anything to specifically make her sleep. Her nurse seems perplexed at that, but did say she’d received a lot of the seizure-relieving medicine. They are watching her very closely and I’ve been impressed with the staff’s diligence.

“Mom is of course antsy, worried, and frustrated that she can’t be at the hospital. But she is receiving a lot of support from the staff and residents at her new independent-living home. I’m going to do my best to visit with her this week and weekend, but she keeps telling me she’d rather me be with Dianna.

“Ray and Johnny are tough troupers, although the worry and stress really got to them both this afternoon. We all know Dianna is a rock of strength and stubborness, but it is very hard to see her like this…..sigh…..

“Dianna is in the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit). They are not currently putting calls through to her room, though, and won’t until she is feeling well enough to receive them herself. I’m sure she’ll be there at least through the weekend….probably into next week. They haven’t even begun to treat the original heart problem yet.

“Thanks so much for forwarding to others in the family….as you know, Dianna believes in the power of prayer and I am sure she’ll feel everyone’s thoughts and well wishes around her.”

The next day
My sister died. We all knew she was very sick, but I’m at a loss to describe how completely shocked we were. I watched the doctor’s face closely as he told us, waiting for some sort of punch line or reassurance that “…she’ll have a tough recovery, but with time she’ll be herself again.” I couldn’t tear my gaze from his tired, sympathetic eyes as he did not speak these words. I wanted to urge him to go back in her hospital room and double check. I wanted to explain that he just doesn’t know how tenacious she is. It couldn’t be true.

Sigh….
I’m afraid I’ve dumped a whompin’ huge load o’bummer bricks on my naughty little monkeyblog, so I’m going to abandon the story there. For now, anyway. I considered not posting this self-centered chronology at all, but in the end I thought it might provide a better frame of reference for you devoted mm readers. (Ahhh, the presumptuous ego of my little chatterdevils surfaces again!)

You see, I’m not exactly the same person I was eight months ago. And I’m pretty eager to meet the person I’ll be eight months from now. 2011 is decidedly promising, full of good friends, family healing, healthy pursuits, and interesting insights.

Plus I have a brandnew, deep-redvelvet piece o’potential depravity in my fireplace room. Stay tuned.

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Hoping this isn’t a permanent state of affairs

Hi guys! Yep, it’s been a sparse 2009 in magicalmonkey land. I hope inspiration will kick in again, but for now I’ve needed to let some things go in my life to make room for other things.

Neverdones: retired
No more, y’all! It was a great series and really spurred me to tackle new things in my life, but eventually my neverdones — or, rather, writing about my neverdones — became just another pressure. And trust me, additional pressure is something I don’t need. :)

Another 5K
Yesterday I ran the GHS Swamp Rabbit 5K, my first race since November 2008 in which I busted the 30-minute barrier. An injury in January and flareups of a couple biomechanical issues have hampered my training this year…..which was reflected in this weekend’s disappointing 34:19 time. I had to walk three times! Auuuuugh!! I must get hardcore on my own ass again.

Immediate future
MUST get work under control. NEED to spend more time with family. WANT to hang with friends more often. WILL kick up my workouts a notch. Those are the goals that are at the top of the list now — yay, focus! :) I’ve finally signed up for and have learned to appreciate Facebook, so hop over there and look for me. The short-and-sweet blips are much more conducive to my schedule than blogging.

Later, ppl! Check back now and then in case I’ve had the time or inspiration to post.

Pushup challenge, phase 2

[12.25.08] Progress — bad. I don’t think I was ready for boy pushups. Will need another plan in the new year.

[12.5.08] Boy pushups are grim, man….they are MILES harder than girl pushups. If they were a color, they’d be a bleak, monotonous, dull gunmetal grey. Yuk. I hate them. I can’t do them correctly, either — my floor bud tells me I need to go down another two inches. Grrrrrrrmph. I’m still at it, though. If for no other reason than to say I’m still at it. But here’s something positive: While Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are dreaded pushup days, Tuesdays and Thursdays are now sunshine-happiness plank days. Yeah!

[11.26.08] I’m in the middle of Week 1, Level 2. My 12 pushups in the initial test actually earned my entrance to Level 3, but….yikes, that looks too hard! This morning I did the workout at home because of the Thanksgiving holiday, and for some reason it felt extra-hard — in fact, I couldn’t finish a couple of the sets. I’m wondering if the boy-pushup decision was a wise one. For about a year now, I’ve noticed an occasional, disconcerting “catch” in my right shoulder when doing some types of strength training moves. While this hasn’t happened yet with the boy pushups, I get an odd, on-the-verge feeling…..

[11.17.08] OK, here I go. After three months of following the program outlined at hundredpushups.com — and working up to 30+ girly-on-my-knees pushups — I’ve decided to start over. This time, though, I’m going to do them boy-military-style. I mean, what’s the point of ultimately being able to do 50 or 100 of the damn things if I have to include a disclaimer that I’m doing the EASY version? Nope. I’m going hard-core, baby. I only have one floor buddy left at work, but we’ve promised to keep each other on top of our goals. Today we did the initial test, and I made it to 12. I feel a little guilty that my form is not totally on point — I just can’t seem to make it ALL the way down to the floor — but I’m hoping the proper form will come in time.

Pushup challenge, phase 1

Have you been keeping half an eye on the narrow column to your left? I’ve been sharing my progress while attempting the challenge outlined at hundredpushups.com. A few fellow masochists and I were doing them at work.

Wellllll…..my floor buddies and I faded for awhile. This week, though, a couple of us started back up again, and I decided to change the rules a bit for me:
1. No more girly maneuvers. From now on, it’s the boy-on-my-toes military style, baby.
2. Fuck 100. I’m shooting for 50.

Soooo….this seems like the perfect time to archive my phase one notes in a regular ol’ blog post. It was fun!

[11.16.08] Sigh…our momentum at work has fizzled. In the beginning, we MADE time to do our pushups, but lately we’ve found excuse after excuse not to do them. On top of that, one of our core group has had to quit, per doctor’s order. I do have one happy note, though: last week in my Super Circuit class at the gym, we had to do pushups — I started out with the boy on-my-toes variety, and did 9 of them!

[11.7.08] Still busy. Still did no pushups. Grrr.

[11.1.08] It was freakishly busy at work last week…I ended up doing NO pushups at all. Zilch. Nothing. Nada, baby.

[10.19.08] Got to 28 in my fourth “official” girly-on-my-knees exhaustion test. Bet I could’ve eeked out another one or two, but I was feeling a little lazy this evening. Sunday IS a day of rest, after all…right?

[10.10.08] Today one of my cohorts challenged me to get off my knees and do boy pushups instead. I was a little curious to see how many I could do, so we both decided to do exhaustion tests — me on my toes and he with his feet elevated on a chair. I made it to 6, and he did 25.

[9.27.08] Performed a third exhaustion test just for giggles and grins, and got to 23 this time. Almost 1/4 of the way to 100! Before you become too impressed, though, let me remind you I’m doing the girly knee pushups. Oh — want to hear something funny? One day a couple weeks ago, an occasional pushup bud showed up in the middle of one of our sessions. “Hey, why didn’t you come get me?” she asked. She knew we were doing the workout because she’d heard me grunting. From ALL the way across the larrrrge office area. God only knows what other people thought when they heard it….ha!

[9.19.08] I’ve decided that this “six-week program” is impossible. Each week is divided into three levels, and I’d assumed you’d stay at the same level as you advance to each week. But no. I’ll be advancing only to the next level each week, not the next week. Six times three is 18 weeks. And that’s IF you don’t have to repeat or skip any weeks, like I’ve had to do. Ahhhhhh well…..I am still pluggin’ away with my pushup-buddy co-workers…. Not giving up!

[9.7.08] I won’t bore you with the tedium of my ridiculously bad luck since late August. I had to set aside the pushup program for a week, but am planning to get back on track tomorrow! I hope my floor buddies have kept it up — one of them has been on a tropical cruise, but was determined to get in her three workouts anyway.

[8.31.08] Made it to 15 in my second exhaustion test. This is going to get complicated, because, even though I’m embarking on my 3rd week of pushups tomorrow, I’ll still be in Week 2 of the program — 15 reps did earn my entrance to a more advanced level of Week 2, though. Hey, that’s progress! :)

[8.29.08] I don’t want to sound like I have a bad attitude. But seriously — there’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to do 100 consecutive pushups with only a 6-week plan. Maybe 6 months. Maybe. Please don’t think I’m bitter. I’m OK with being a puny girl-weakling….really, I am. I have other good qualities, right? I can still be a good person even if I suck at pushups, right? Well. I’m done with Week 2. The next step is to do another exhaustion test in a couple of days.

[8.22.08] We’re done with Week 1! Looks like we are going to have three peeps in the core group, and others are trying to join us as schedules allow. My floor buddies are doing very well, but I’m disappointed in my own performance. We do five sets of varying reps with rests in between, and on the last set you have a minimum but are supposed to do as many as you can. On Wednesday, it was ALL I could do to eek out the minimum….and today I had total muscle failure before completing the minimum. Grrrrr.

[8.18.08] Our end of the office was so a-buzz with pushup anticipation that two additional people joined us today. That made five of us down on the floor in front of our color copier, doing Day 1, Week 1. Cool, huh?

[8.15.08] Bahh! In my initial test, I couldn’t even do one standard good-form boy pushup. I had to do the knee version that is usually reserved for babies and brittle, elderly women. I made it to 10. Yay me.

Yep, another one

I ran another 5K yesterday morning. :)

“Yaaaawwwwwwn,” you say?

Yeah, I’m sorry. I know. Really. I empathize. You came to magicalmonkey hoping to find another one of my dirty little posts, and instead it’s more drivel about running. A consolation: if you didn’t log on last night or earlier today, you can scroll down (or click here) for yesterday’s mini post. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but does use the phrase ‘old man’s penis.’

Anyway.

At the start of THIS event, my little Shuffle was clipped to my shirt, happy to be in its proper race place. I was determined to break 32 minutes, and my plan was to use music to pace me through the race. Originally I’d selected 10 or 11 songs which would take me through an easy start, a gradual acceleration to a couple of fast songs near my pace limit, and then a gradual deceleration. But, after testing the mix during a short run last week, I’d decided it was too slow. So I nixed the easy start, reformulated the gradual acceleration so that it lasted longer and was not so gradual, built myself a slower-paced break, then sped it up again to the finish line.

I was ready, baby!

Some members of the running group had arranged to meet beforehand, so we lollygagged, chatted, warmed up, and pep-talked as we waited for the start time to arrive. I felt a warm-fuzzy for their supportiveness. A group really does help your motivation, even for a fairly dedicated loner-type like me. We moved toward the starting line.

As usual, I could barely contain my energy while waiting. I’d paired up with one of the faster members of our group, and we nudged a bit closer toward the front than was advised. I’d never started near the front, but she’d done it during our 5K two weeks ago.

“When the race starts, whatever you do….don’t look back,” she advised. “You’ll see nothing but a mob at your back.”

The horn sounded! Yay, let’s go!!

I didn’t turn the music on right away because in the beginning your pace is controlled by the crowd. After a minute or so, though, I cranked it up. A fun, fast little retro tune by Booker T and the MG’s started the party in my ears, and I sped up a bit. The next song was faster. The next song was faster than that. You get the picture.

I was actually OK through these acceleration songs, keeping a perkiness in my step. I liked that it was making me go faster than I normally would — come hell or high water, baby, I was NOT going to break stride!

Happily, my running buddy and I mostly stayed abreast. It was cool to run with someone — I’d never done that before in a race.

The culmination of those initial fast songs was the 159 beats-per-minute “Hey Ya!” by Outkast. By that point, I was beginning to get a little tired, feeling an urge to slow down….but there’s something about a driving beat which infuses a bit more life into your run. I picked it up. Shouting an apology to my running bud, I moved ahead of her.

Yep, for me, music and running go hand in hand. They feed each other.

The slower-paced break arrived, and I was grateful. I moved to the side out of the way of the faster pack, slowed slightly, and took deep breaths while managing a few quick shoulder shrugs and chest stretches. Man, I was tense! I made a conscious effort to relax my upper body and pay attention to form. When I get tired, I have a tendency to get sloppy.

After a minute or two, I decided I’d designed too much of a break with the slower songs. Not that I suddenly had a bunch of energy, mind you — I just had a mission to accomplish and needed to get in gear and damn DO it. So I forwarded through a few songs until I got to the second acceleration phase.

UGGGHHHHH. This was the part of the race that nearly killed me. I was managing to keep pace with the music, but my strides were considerably shorter and filled with more exertion. It was a freakin’ HUGE effort.

It was during this phase that my mind — my very own mind, residing inside my very own head — played quite a mean trick on me. You see, this race was being held in the same area, along many of the same trails and streets, in which we’d trained for nine weeks. Although we always varied our routes, we never failed to finish along the same path, coming to an exhausted stop at the picnic tables to chat and stretch.

Well, when the race took us along that path, and I could see the picnic tables in the distance…..I felt my body become physically relieved. “Ahhhhhhh,” my brain said to me, “just a few hundred more feet and you can stop. Look at those lovely, inviting picnic tables! You can sit down in a minute. Relax! It’s almost over.”

Pffffft. I immediately kicked my mind in its metaphorical, disloyal ass. I think the hardest moment of the race was to keep running PAST those picnic tables.

I thought for sure my running bud would’ve caught up with me by now, and I stole a backward glance or two, but never saw her. I wondered if she’d passed me already, and I just somehow missed her.

Shortly after those blasted picnic tables, I passed the one-mile-to-go marker and tried to brace myself for the last third of the race. I needed to go into a just-do-it machine mode, but all I really wanted to do was slow down and walk. I was vaguely aware that the course was doubling back on itself…..a hundred or so feet to my right, I could see the people in the race behind me running up a trail as I was running down a parallel trail. I was knocked out of my race reverie when I heard a loud “Wooooooooo, Lisaaaaa!!!” from the other side. I looked over and it was one of the guys from the running group.

Yay, a blast of an encouragement just when I needed it! I gratefully “Wooooooooo!!!”‘d him back.

My songs were still accelerating, and it wasn’t long before I reached the 160 beats-per-minute “Too Drunk to Fuck” by Nouvelle Vague. I’d timed it so that it could be my push to the finish, but I reached the song early since I’d skipped a few of the slower tunes. I tried to speed up to keep pace with the music — laughing as I did it, because that intoxicated little song never fails to give me a giggle — but it was just too fast for me at that point. I jumped backward to some of the more manageable songs in my first acceleration set.

I labored up a tiny, steep hill….turned a sharp corner….and there in the distance was the finish line!!

Ugh. But I didn’t care. I tried to conjure up the Type A, competitive Lisa, but she was taking a blissful, coma-like nap under a shade tree in the woods to my right. If it weren’t for the finish-line crowd up ahead — i.e., witnesses — I would’ve coasted to a stroll and nonchalantly crossed the finish line 15 minutes later. This always, always, always happens to me at the end of a hard run, whether it’s during a race or a training session. Everyone talks about that rush of adrenaline when they glimpse the finish line, but I’ve yet to experience it.

What DID help me, though, was catching sight of my run buddy out of the corner of my eye. She came up from behind me, shouting, “Come on!”

Now THAT, my friends, was cool. :) I increased my speed to keep pace with her. We were following a bend in the course which would spit us out very near the finish line. Almost done!!

UGH again. That blast of energy lasted all of five seconds. She left me as I slowed down again, gasping and ready to throw myself on the invitingly soft sideline grass.

Two things happened which kept me going. First, I heard our group’s head coach shout at me from among the bystanders — I couldn’t embarrass myself in front of a witness I actually know. And, second…….

I saw the clock.

I was not about to break 32 minutes.

I was about to break 30. Holy shit.

YAAAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I kept my eyes on the large LED numbers as I ran, struggling, and passed under the balloon archway as the time read 29:39.

Inside my head, I was jumping up and down and hollering at the top of my lungs, but outside I was gasping so hard I was afraid I might hyperventilate. Fearing that my heart rate would drop too fast if I lay down on the wet grass, I kept moving aimlessly inside the small runners’ corral. Through belabored breathing and a haze of fatigue, I saw my running bud…and then we saw another from the group….and another….we gravitated toward a back corner where I found a pole — a strong, friendly, obliging pole — to lean against.

Thirty or so minutes later, after dragging myself through the crowds and heading back toward my car, I was fine. Ready to get out there and start my day!

The aches and pains started to creep up on me that evening, and have continued through today. It’s not too bad, though…..so far, it’s nothing that a little stretching hasn’t been able to ease.

Hmmmm….I divine an ass massage in my future…..

Neverdone #9 :: Yeah, ahem….just call me "coach"

I’ve been holding back. Hiding information from you. Not talking about something big that’s been going on in my world for the last 9 weeks.

Remember the “couch-to-5K” running program I joined in the spring? Well, after it was done, the head coach approached me and asked if I’d like to be a volunteer coach for the next group that they were planning. This one would begin in August and culminate in the Spinx Runfest 5K on October 25th.

Good lord! I was quite flattered, but suspected that he’d been smoking some sort of hippie-grown, hallucinatory substance which made gasping, aching, out-of-shape old women appear athletic.

“Ummmmmm…..” I didn’t know what to say. Geesh, how do you tell someone you don’t know very well that he’s delusional?

“You remember me from the group, right?” I began tentatively. “I’m the one who sounds like she has emphysema when she runs. I missed a chunk of the training runs because my lower body tried to quit on me. I am just trying to figure this running thing out myself…I’m still learning. I’m not qualified to be a coach, for heaven’s sake.”

He was adamant that he was talking to the right person. “You stuck with it,” he said. “And your story will motivate others. You’ve come such a long way. Having gone through the program yourself, you can help others know what to expect. You’ll set a great example.”

I hesitated, hedged, questioned, and argued, but in the end I said yes. The biggest benefit I saw at the time was that it would keep me running….and accountable to my own workouts. I’d be one of three volunteers from the previous group to serve in a coaching role. (I’m gritting my teeth right now from the effort it’s taking to NOT put quotes around the word “coaching.”)

So — just like that, I was committed yet again to leave the house at the crack of freakin’ 7:30 every Saturday morning. I told myself I could be lazy on Sundays. There were also group runs Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and I was there for most of the Tuesday ones. I couldn’t bring myself to skip my core-strengthening Thursday evening pilates classes.

Running as a coach was different from running as a participant. I wanted each person in the group to feel special, so during the runs I’d go back and forth among the different participants to touch base and “whooo-hoo!” them. It was great! In the process, I built up my own endurance and speed since I would run back to check on the slower-paced members, then run forward to catch up with the others again. On those days that I didn’t feel like I got a good workout myself, I’d do an extra loop of intervals around the park after everyone else left.

As the weeks advanced, though, it became less about my own goals and more about the individuals in the group. It was SO cool to see their levels of fitness increase and the pride in themselves begin to soar. I remembered my own sense of empowerment when I first started to run and notice improvements, and it was heartening to see it happen in others — and to be a real part of their motivation.

This was an awesome group! About 50 people showed up for the very first run, and half of them were with us on this Thursday’s last training run (which is a great retention for this sort of thing, by the way). Their energy and enthusiasm has been contagious throughout the whole 9 weeks!

And how ELATED everyone was when they crossed the finish line this morning!!!! The fastest person in our group finished in just under 29 minutes, I think. She rocked! Most of us hung out at the finish line until everyone in our group completed the run…..and THEN we waited to cheer for our head coach as he finished the half-marathon. That’s over 13 miles! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to run that far. His race had started at 8am (our 5K started at 9am) and he finished sometime between 10:15 and 10:30, I think. Whew!

Me? The clock said 32 minutes and a few seconds or so when I crossed the finish line, which means my official chip time might be under 32. We’ll see when the results are posted online.

During the run, I kept it at a comfortable pace the entire time. I didn’t wear my iPod Shuffle — I’d heard that they would not be allowing music devices in this race. That bit of intel turned out to be false, but it was interesting to experiment with a no-music run. I got into a breathing/stride rhythm that propelled me quite nicely. I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery, but I have a vague impression that parts of it were pretty. I remember passing the Linky Stone children’s park with its fun statues and happy, kid-enticing climb-on-me things…. I remember newly paved trails painted with Swamp Rabbit Trail logos beneath my feet…. I remember looping around Mayberry Park and coming within 40 feet or so of a geocache for which I’d been FTF (first to find) a few years back.

For the most part, I didn’t pay much attention to my fellow runners, but I did watch for members of our group, being sure to emit an obnoxiously encouraging whoop when I saw someone.

There was one runner (a stranger — not one of “us”) who sounded like he was jamming on some bongos as he came up behind me. I glanced to my left as he ran beside me a few seconds, and he wasn’t playing the drums or carrying any noisemakers, but he was dressed a little strangely. Was he wearing a tie? I laughed out loud — as did several others around me — when he moved a little ahead so I could see better. He was wearing one of those long-sleeved tuxedo t-shirts and had five or six empty water bottles tied to his waist, which were noisily bumping the ground behind him. On the back of his shirt was pinned a handmade sign which read, “I’m getting married today.”

Haha!

It had been my intention to push harder at some point, but I lost track of where I was on the course, and I neared the finishing point long before I thought I should have. I did speed up a bit when I saw the clock in the distance, disappointed that it read 31 something. I’d wanted to get closer to 30.

What now? More races, baby! I’m going to do one in under 30 if it damn kills me. Many people in the group — myself included — are planning to continue meeting for the weekday and weekend runs, at least for awhile. Two weeks from today, there’s another 5K which we may run together.

In January, another running program will begin, and many in the group are excited about joining it. There is a rumor that this group will train for a 10K. Yike-a-zoids! That’ll put me back in the trenches with the non-coach gang, for sure. I think I’ll do it, maybe not to run a 10K (I don’t know if my lower body will be able to withstand the abuse) but to improve my 5K time.

As I write, it’s about 5 hours since I finished the race, and I’m NOT all “tore up” like I was after the Candlelight run. Maybe that’s a good sign.

I’m going to say it is, anyway.

(Wondering what a ‘neverdone’ is? Scroll down to check out the last post, or click here.)

Not quite neverdones

Way back in May, I mentioned a list I’ve been keeping on my laptop. It’s a list of neverdones that didn’t quite make official magicalmonkey status…things that seemed too contrived or too trivial or too….whatever.

What’s that? Do I hear a rumbling amongst you?

Yeah, OK. I’ll admit some of them which made the blog probably qualify as “trivial.” Pedicures and visits to oxygen bars are not exactly significant occurrences. And running has made the list so many times that it seems like ANY running topic should be off limits by now. I have no defense, really — only that I was in a mood to write when they happened. And it’s my blog. So there. :)

Well. Anyway, I figured that the 2008 half-way point was a good time to post the “lame neverdones” list so far. I’ll share more of them later if they seem interesting enough.

Size 6 jeans. It felt great last year when I fit into size 12 jeans for the first time in a couple of decades. Size 10 felt euphoric. Size 8 messed with my head a little — I never dreamed I’d be in a single-digit category again. Then size 6 rolled around, and….oh….my…..goodness! That is just so unbelievable it’s absurd. Technically, I’d never worn that size EVER, because the last time I wore jeans that small, I was buying the odd-number-sized clothes for juniors. But the bottom line for official neverdone status was that my ass was once the size it is now. Even though it was during junior high school.

Geocaching with kids. Ohhhhhhh wow! I promise you, geocaching with kids is not the same as geocaching. I am amused on SO many levels…..the questions, the stream-of-consciousness banter, the unfettered imagination, the absolute JOY of finding treasure! I’d wanted to post a blog entry containing nothing but the dialog, but I couldn’t remember it all. Maybe next time, I’ll take along a tape recorder and transcribe it for you. I didn’t count it as a neverdone because it just seemed like a closely-related subset of geocaching. I realize that running on the beach and running in a 5K are also subsets of running…..but…….eh.

Flash mob event / cache bingo. I attended my first geo-flash-mob-event this year and played a cool geo-game of cache bingo, but I didn’t count them as neverdones for the reason cited in the previous paragraph. Bingo was loads of fun, but the flash mob was not what I expected. That was partly my fault since I was running late, but it’s also the nature of that type of event. The whole thing was over by the time I smiled and said hi.

Beach trip philosophy. I took a weeklong all-female trip to the beach this year. I’ve done that many times before, but different this time was the overriding philosophy — do what YOU want. It was sort of assumed that you would be totally on your own the whole week — come and go as you please, sleep as long as you want, stay up as long as you want, go to the beach when and if you want, go into town when and if you want, partake in activities that you enjoy and do nothing that you don’t, and eat what and when you want. If your schedule or desires happened to coincide with someone else’s, you could do it together. Or not. No one’s feelings got hurt if you declined any sort of invitation to do something with the group, and when you did join in, everyone laughed and had a blast. Once in awhile I love to feed that anti-social part of me, and this trip hit the mark. Why didn’t it become an official neverdone? I think I just wasn’t in the mood to write about it. Too many other things were knocking around in my head at the time.

Relinquished hair control
. Never in my life have I said to a hair stylist, “Just do what you think is best.” I did last month, though. I’d heard so much about the talents of a friend’s sister that I completely trusted her judgement. I’m glad I did! This one didn’t become a neverdone because it seemed too….I don’t know…..vain, maybe?

Nose sweat. For the first time in memory, I worked out so hard that sweat dripped off the end of my nose. This amuses me, but I didn’t think it would amuse you. In fact, I suspected it would be just nasty and gross. So I spared you the blog post. I did share it with my spinning class instructor, though, since I figured she’d be proud to be the cause. Apparently she was proud, indeed, because during the next class she made me tell everyone about my fabulous little achievement.

Squid salad. Sounds nasty, but it’s not. It didn’t make the list because eating things I’ve never eaten before just seems like a piddly, stupid type of neverdone. Although, I promise you, that if I ever consume something like a bull penis, it WILL make the official list. Don’t watch for it, though. Seriously.

Ouch. How in the heck did I manage to grow up in the country and never get stung by a bee or a yellow jacket or a wasp or ANYthing? I did go outside quite a bit, I swear. Hung out in fields, by the creek, in the garden, and in the woods. Maybe I lived in a fairytale land where all the insects were nice. Like that bee movie where Tim Allen did the voiceover for the main character. I didn’t see the movie, actually, but in the previews it looked like all the bees were nice. And, on second thought, maybe it wasn’t Tim Allen….hmmmm. Well, anyway, yesterday I got stung by something — I think it was a yellow jacket — while jumping a teensy weensy creek to get to a geocache. It didn’t become a neverdone because it seemed so passive — it took no effort…I did nothing to earn it.

OK for a girl

Well, I’m done with the 5K training, at least until my lower body returns to normal. Last night was the run. I did it in 33:35, placing 373rd out of 618 female runners. My overall ranking, if I’ve done my math correctly, was 841 out of 1186 total runners.

Translation: I did OK….. for a girl.

The run itself didn’t *seem* as long as the one I’d done in May. I just didn’t think that one would EVER end, but last night, I was surprised to see the finish line as soon as I did. I even had a little energy left to speed up at the end. Go figure.

This was a freakin’ MOB compared to my previous race, which only had a little over 300 entrants. There were so many people in this one that I couldn’t even run initially. The horn sounded, and I took off at a fast….no, slow….jog…..no….um, make that a walk. People were eager to get going, and I felt the crowd pushing behind me. One woman about 10 feet to my right tripped over a rug in the road that had been placed to cover cables leading to the stage. I saw her land on all fours. I only got a glimpse of her beginning to get upright again before the crowd hid her from view. Geesh, I hope she didn’t get hurt.

After a couple minutes, it thinned out enough around me so that I had my own space and could set my own pace, so I started my fabulous Shuffle, which was set to begin with my all-time favorite running song — the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Higher Ground.” But even their pacing was too slow! Ya gotta love race adrenaline, huh?

So I ran at a faster pace than my first few songs, but not long after that, I was able to fall into my planned stride. Good. I’d designed the playlist to help ensure I wouldn’t run out of steam before the end.

There was never a moment during this run that there weren’t a lot of people around me. Some people passed me, but some people I passed. More folks stopped to walk than I’d noticed in the other 5K. There were two buff-looking military types ahead of me who were running together at my pace. Why in the world would they be going so slow? Hmmmm. Maybe they were saving themselves to sprint at the end. One sweaty athletic-looking man passed me going uphill, grunting hard and struggling to push his son in a baby carriage. The boy, who looked to be about 3 or 4, kept turning in his seat, laughing as he watched all the runners around him. The kid was obviously in heaven. He caught my eye for a second….was he laughing at me because his dad was kicking my ass, or was he just happy to be in the midst of it all?

I wasn’t expecting the traffic jam at the first water station. I wasn’t even expecting a water station….I thought maybe someone else had fallen and people were stopping to help. At one point, I admit that I had to walk for a bit. I think it was only 30-45 seconds, though. It was near the apex of a loooonnnnng gently-sloping hill.

I missed the time-shouter-person who must’ve been at the mile one mark, so I don’t know how my time was that first mile, but at mile two, a man shouted “21:10!” as I passed. Cool, better than the other 5K! I concentrated on keeping my strides long and perky. I think that previously, my end-time suffered because my strides grew shorter the longer I ran.

Running that last mile was tough. Humidity was high, so, even though I didn’t have any trouble breathing as some of my group buds later said, I was sweating like a ….. hmmmm, a cub scout at Neverland. Ugh. Yuk. I really need to find some sort of small clippable towel that I can attach to myself while running.

I daydreamed about running on the beach, and tried to imagine the sea breezes. It helped that the street lights cast shadows of me as I ran, reminding me of watching my shadow on the sand as I ran with the sun at my back. I lapsed into “I’m-a-machine” mode, and tried to hypnotize myself with the music, my breath, my pace. I must’ve been breathing like an emphysema patient — as I approached one man who’d paused to walk with his female run buddy, he turned to look at me over his shoulder. And……offered me his bottled water. Ha!! I smiled at him and declined, laughing to myself after I’d passed. Good lord! What in the world had he seen — and heard — coming toward him? Something upon which he obviously took pity.

And y’know what? At the finish line, I forgot to look at the clock! I had no idea how I did until shortly after 2am this morning when the preliminary results were posted on the race website.

And why, you ask, was I awake at 2am? Auuuuuuughhh! My lower body is TORE UP.

I am not a smart woman, y’all. If I were, I’d listen to my chiropractor, my orthopedist, and my own body — all of which tell me pretty emphatically, “Good freaking holy giant God, woman — take up another sport! You are not built for this high-impact INSANITY. You are going to permanently hurt yourself.”

Instead, I’m thinking about doing the Spinx 5K in October. Just to see how close I can get to 30 minutes.

My justification goes something like this (courtesy of Jack London in Jack London’s Tales of Adventure):

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

Today, though, I’m going to stifle myself into dry-rothood right in front of my TV, flat on my back with my legs in the air. I’ll be a meteor tomorrow.

Neverdone #4 :: Running on the beach

I imagined I’d post a few times during my weeklong visit to Sunset Beach, but ya know…..there always seemed to be something a little better to do. :) Right now I’m sitting at a cute little bagel shop on my way out of town, and I don’t want to leave. It’ll be good to get home for a lot of reasons, but I don’t want to leave!

I scored a couple neverdones this week….I’ll go ahead and tell you about the first one.

Official neverdone status
I have a text document in a tiny little corner of my hard drive entitled “Lame Neverdones.” In it I’ve been saving a list of things I’ve never done, but which don’t seem significant enough to rate official neverdone status. It’ll eventually be a post, so you guys will be able to read them all. At the beginning of this week, I’d added “running on the beach” to this list.

I mean, enough about running already….right? You guys have GOT to be tired of reading about it. I know you rolled your eyes when you read the post title. Don’t deny it.

BUT during my second-ever beach run — on Monday, my second full day at Sunset Beach — I decided it was so beautiful, so enjoyable, so wonderful that it deserves a place of honor on mm. You see, my recent obsession with exercise is all about that feeling I get afterward — the kicky endorphins, the ohhhhh-so-gooooood physical exhaustion. While I’m running, there’s an occasional “I’m-a-machine” moment which feels good, but mostly I’m just sweating and gasping and praying that there’ll be an anomalous time warp so that 30 minutes will seem like one.

I realized on Monday, though, that I was actually enjoying the run itself. What a bejesus-inducing surprise!

A little history
Before this past year, the only time in my life that I actually enjoyed running was during recess in grade school. I accidentally discovered that I was pretty fast one day when an obnoxious, grubby little boy named Robert chased me across a field with a wet, ugly toad wriggling in his fat, dirty fingers. I left him in my proverbial dust. After that — left mostly to our own devices with an old, deserted baseball field in our play area — I’d convince a few young classmates to run impromptu races. I usually won….but only if we were racing to the dugout. If the distance were any shorter, I wouldn’t have enough time to make up for my slow start. Any further, and I’d run out of steam before the end. I loved to go fast!!

In ensuing years, though, I forgot that I enjoyed running. More than that — I learned to hate it. In high school when I was on the basketball team, our running mostly consisted of those evil wind sprints that hold your lungs hostage, and you were NOT allowed to quit in order to catch your breath. Then there were those days when you had to run five laps every time you missed a basket. Then occasionally we had to do twenty laps around the gym right after practice. No reason, really. Just because.

After I graduated from high school and stopped playing team sports, I never thought about running again…..until last year when I was looking for efficient ways to burn fat.

Back to 2008
Anyway…..back to Monday when I actually enjoyed myself.

It wasn’t the obligatory C25K workout. I’d done 30 minutes, per the program, the day before with one of my beach buds. On Monday, I decided to just get out there alone and do whatever I felt like doing, my happy little Shuffle clipped to my tank top. I wound up playing a heart rate game — first slow and easy, then speed up to a medium pace, then slow and easy, then sprint, then slow and easy again. Etcetera. It was fun, fun! The view was extraordinary, the breeze ensured I never dripped with sweat, and I felt like a member of an elite club as I smiled and waved to the occasional fellow runner. And the cute little gray birds — sandpipers, maybe? — made me laugh. They chased the tide in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out, with tiny, superquick, determined legs, pecking at yummy bird-candy morsels in the shallow water.

As I neared Bird Island on the south end of the beach, the people became so scarce that it was easy to pretend there was no one else in the world. What a feeling! I decided to climb over the rocks at the end, and it was even MORE beautiful. Ahhhhhhhh! I went back with my camera the following day, but I don’t think I did the place justice. I’ll post more pictures later, but, for now, check out the photo above. That free-and-happy dude is approaching the tip of Bird Island.

I ran almost every day this week. Yesterday, I think, was better than Monday. I didn’t mess around with medium paces at all. I’d walk, then sprint….walk, sprint….walk, sprint…walk, sprint… I love to go fast!!

Bliss. We all should follow it. :)

Guess I should hit the road home now…..

Sigh.

Neverdone #3 :: 5K!

I did it, I did it, I did it!!

It wasn’t the run I’ve been training for — that one’s not until June — but on a whim this past week, I signed up to run a 5K on Friday evening. It was an easy commitment since a lot of coworkers were participating, my employer paid the entry fee, and the race director even hand-delivered an entry form to my office. It was written in the stars, man!

How did I justify the run with my falling-apart body, you ask? My Sunday and Tuesday training runs went pretty well, so of course I felt invincible again. And, hey, I figured I had to do my third training run of the week anyway…..I may as well pin a number on my shirt and run with a hundred or two others. I could always walk a bit of it if I petered out, or if something started to hurt.

Honestly, I was expecting to have to walk part of it. So in typical Lisa fashion, I made it a personal goal to NOT walk at all. Geesh, it’s boring to have realistic goals, don’t you think?

There was a bit of lag time between registration and the start of the race, so I stood around getting advice from the people who had run and/or walked this particular 5K in the past. One coworker touched my arm and laughed, “You are so cute! You’re really excited, aren’t you?”

Ha! I didn’t ask what I said or did to make her think that, but she was right….not the cute part, but the excited part. :) This would be a big neverdone for me — I’d never entered a race, not even during my lazily “athletic” days in high school.

They announced it was almost time to start, so the crowd converged. I said goodbye to my pre-race bud because she was walking and was supposed to stay at the back. I moved forward and found an empty little spot to stand where I could prep my Shuffle, which I’d brought to help me with pacing. All the songs are in order of beats per minute, so I found the section I’d been playing during my recent training runs. I queued the first song to “Unmarked Helicopters” by Soul Coughing. 128 bpm.

The horn sounded, and we were off. It was a slow little jog at first, but very quickly the speed picked up. It was incredibly difficult to run at the slooooooww pace I’d pre-determined with my first song….in fact, I just couldn’t do it. I had energy, I was ready to go, go, GO! Plus I felt a ton of pressure to keep up with the other runners around me. I kept forwarding my Shuffle to the next song, looking for something just a little faster.

Finally, I ran across an hour-long Podrunner mix I could live with, adjusting my speed down just a tad. I fell into stride with the beat. It still seemed slow, but, knowing I had to last awhile, I shoved that nagging peer pressure to the back of my brain.

At mile one, they called out “10:58!” when I passed.

I tried to distract myself from my tight leg muscles by watching the runners around me. There was a speed walker who glided nearby. Up ahead, there was a skinny bald guy with whom I was keeping pace. There were several women and teenagers who passed me, then later I passed them, then later they passed me again….we zigzagged like that almost the whole way. My self esteem fell backward a notch when a young woman jogged steadily past me, pushing a baby stroller.

At mile two, I heard “22:29!” shouted at me above the funky Podrunner medley. I was convinced I’d not be able to run another mile, but at the same time I was determined not to break stride with the song.

It was not easy. But, in a perfect example of mind over body, I did it. I ran — OK, jogged — past the large digital timer at the finish line just as it flashed “36:13.” Not great, but not shameful. And NOT ONCE did I walk!

At home about an hour later, parts of my lower body were throbbing in disconcerting ways. I stretched for quite a long time in front of the TV. An hour after that, most of the throbbing parts had decided to hurt. I mega-dosed some ibuprophen, took a loooooong hot shower, and went to bed.

I’m fine today!

So far, anyway.

Should I exorcize that devil?

Dammit, dammit, dammit! I may be forced to abandon my 5K training.

I actually started running about eight or nine months ago. I was taking it easy, following a standard Couch-to-5K program on the treadmill in my gym, even repeating weeks here and there as I felt I needed to. But then I started to have knee problems. I scaled back the running and did some research. I found that many people’s knee issues are improved by amping up core and general leg strength, so I concentrated on that for awhile. After a month or two, I started running again. It went great at first. Then I started to have feet problems. I stopped trying to improve my distance/time, and just maintained for awhile, hoping my feet were just protesting what they considered to be uncalled-for abuse. It seemed to work, but when I advanced to another week in the C25K plan, they got worse.

A LOT worse.

So I caved and went to an orthopedist specializing in sports injuries, and he sent me to a physical therapist and pedorthist. Turns out I have Morton’s neuroma in both feet. But a lot of people — I know they are out there, I googled them — run with that condition, so I stayed positive. After following treatments suggested by the smart people I paid, I started the gradual running thing again. Slowly but surely, I started to improve. Again.

I was doing so well that I joined a running group. Yay! I was very excited. You remember the post, right?

Then, during a run about three weeks ago, my hip started freaking out. It was a familiar feeling from the days before my current gym obsession. It began as a “presence” in the side of my lower back, but within ten minutes or so, it had turned into a disconcerting pain with every stride. Shit.

Still not willing to give up, I found a chiropractor with awesome experience treating athletes. He got me feeling better pretty quickly — I only had to miss about a week of running. I hit the group’s training schedule again, committed to catching up.

But within only a few days, the neuromas started plaguing me again. Fuck, and doublefuck.

So, on this beautiful Sunday, I sit on my butt-sucking blue couch, Powerbook in my lap, feet not exactly hurting but throbbing with a weird blend of numbness and electrical impulses. They feel better today, and I think I’ll go to the gym this afternoon and attempt a treadmill run. I’ve tried to maintain my fitness with high-intensity workouts on the elliptical and the spinning-class bikes, but it’s not the same…..at this point, I’ve missed so many runs that I’m afraid I won’t be able to catch up. I’m going to try, though. Again.

I’m very close to admitting defeat, however. I mean, geesh….if the universe whacks me THAT many times with a warning, perhaps I should listen.

Grrrrrrrrr. I’m pissed. I’ve grown to really like running — it boosts those happy endorphins like no other activity, and it makes me feel strong and healthy. But…..I suppose if it doesn’t work out for me to run hard, perhaps I can at least do one or two easier runs a week. That’d be better than nothing, which might be what I’d end up doing if I hurt myself trying to push through all my body’s failures.

And maybe I can view it as an opportunity to try something new. A few people I know keep encouraging me to take up cycling — my new chiropractor, especially. Spinning class has made me curious to tackle it in the “real world,” and I’ve even heard about an organization in Spartanburg that loans bikes for free. When one door closes, another one opens.

Hmmmm. A neverdone! My bike-riding has been limited to recreational, lazy outings. I’ve never tried to kick my own ass with it. Now if I can remember how to change gears….

But I’m ahead of myself. Maybe this afternoon will go well. Keep your fingers crossed.

Neverdone #2 :: Running with the devil

I can’t prove it. But after careful consideration of all the possibilities, I’ve concluded that I must be possessed by a sadistic devil.

Maybe it’s the ghost of someone who has recently passed away, someone I was mean to in my younger days. I was a pretty sweet kid until I hit my early teens….I wish I’d known back then that my rebellious, selfish little 13-year-old attitude might one day create some pretty dire consequences. Or maybe it’s someone I knew in college, back when I was so intent on pursuing my newfound freedoms that I didn’t notice I’d injured someone’s feelings quite badly. Or maybe it’s not personal after all….maybe it’s just a mischievous entity that came across my deviant, slothful soul completely at random.

How do I know I’m possessed?

It’s Saturday. The one morning of the week I cherish as my relaxation time. For a few tranquil hours, I sit on my blue couch while sipping freshly brewed coffee, cuddling with my cats, surfing aimlessly on my laptop, and watching TV shows I’d DVR’d throughout the week. If I feel particularly productive, I might blog some sort of nonsense. I protect this time. I decompress from the energies of the previous week. I “meditate” through mindless, stress-free, brain-resting, low-key activity.

But last week, I did something that will effectively end my blissful ritual throughout the entire springtime. It’ll force me out of my happy, comfortable home at a freakin’ obscene hour every single Saturday morning for the next 12 weeks. I will roll out of bed before 7am… slide into, ahem, *athletic* clothes… skulk, bleary-eyed, into my car… and drive 20 minutes across town to have someone chase me up and down the streets of Greenville at, I’m guessing, 5-7mph.

I signed up for a group running program.

I would never do this of my own free will. My weekends have always, always been about sleeping as late as possible and putting out only enough effort to get me through whatever idle amusements may strike my lazy-ass fancy. To get up and get dressed and leave the house before 8am when I don’t *have* to? Not possible! To go through all that in order to do something NOT gratifying in an immediately pleasure-inducing way?? I must be possessed!

I know the running is good for me. So perhaps I won’t seek an exorcist, allowing the devil to stay warm and snug within me. Maybe the vile little thing will create some other sort of havoc, too, to keep me entertained in the coming months. You know how I hate to be bored.

Hey, now I’ve got a devil AND a pixie! Awesome.

Anyway…..

This morning was our first run, in a cool, sprinkling rain which, by the time we were done, had my hands numb (why did I leave my gloves in the car?) and my hair soaked. To my surprise, I performed pretty well, but I’m not expecting that to last. Within a few weeks, I’m sure my cardiovascular system will suffer in ways I haven’t experienced since basketball practice in high school. But, if I’m successful in the program, it’ll lead to another neverdone — my first 5K!

We’ll see how it pans out.

( Don’t know what a ‘neverdone’ is? Click here >> * )

The chubby girl is dead

A couple weeks ago, I shared with my personal trainer that I was surprising myself with the progress I’d made on the Couch-to-5K run/walk program.

I’d been using the program as a guide for treadmill workouts there in the gym…..and had recently met a friend — who was also following the program on a treadmill in her gym — to do Week 2 in the real, honest-to-goodness outdoors. It took a little trial and error for us to get going at the same pace, and I discovered that I was running faster than she was. We compared notes, and it turned out that she’d advanced to Week 4 or 5 going at a jogging speed (4.5 mph), and I had stayed in Week 1 for many weeks, gradually increasing my running speed (5.8 – 6.8 mph).

That made me curious. So that afternoon, I went to the gym to experiment. Turns out I could do a slow jog for 5-10 minutes at a time. I went for 45 minutes on the treadmill that day, mostly jogging, slowing to a walk now and then when I felt like I needed to calm my heart rate. Cool.

Now…….back to the part where I was telling my trainer about it.

She peered at me. Asked a question or two. Then she announced that, in my next weekly session, I would run a mile around the indoor track while she timed me. A test.

Damn it to freakin’ hell. You know, my mouth doesn’t get me in trouble all THAT much, but when it does, I tend to pay dearly.

Of course I couldn’t refuse to do it — that would be admitting that I didn’t think I was capable — so I resigned myself to prepare for the ordeal as best I could. During the following week, I worked in two 1-mile treadmill jogs. At a pace that I found excruciatingly slow, I could actually do it. Wow! I could NOT believe it.

So. Last night was my test. I did the mile in 10 minutes, 33 seconds. I had to walk a few times since I went too fast in the beginning, but my trainer seemed to be pleased anyway. For the rest of the hour-long session, she put me through some familiar strength training stuff, but she also made me do some new things. I could tell when the new exercises were coming up, too, because I could hear her brain churning as an ever-so-slightly sadistic grin played on her lips.

Sadism, I’ve decided, is a characteristic shared by most trainers.

The most eyebrow-raising thing she made me do involved an 8-feet-tall structure of a device, from the top of which hung two heavy-duty black straps. Geesh, I’ll bet it would be comfortably at home in any space designed for extreme S&M activities. (Not that I would know for sure. I’m just guessing. You believe me…..don’t you?)

It was the last exercise, and the words that came out of her mouth chilled me to the deepest part of my largest bone: “You are no longer a weenie. You are a strong, capable woman….the chubby girl you used to be is gone. From now on, no more excuses.”

Gulp. How did I manage to fool her like that? I was only pretending. No excuses? I love excuses. I cherish excuses. I AM a weenie.

Will someone please hold me? I’m scared.

Stumbling + cool freeware = a better workout

Whoa! Today I snubbed errands, cleaning-the-house duties, and friends I’d planned to call. I forgot to eat. I ignored my cats. I spent my ENTIRE Saturday absorbed in one obsession-trance after another — Web surfing, cool Mac software, music, my iPod Shuffle, and working out.

OK, that last one’s a slight stretch, but it is involved, I promise.

It started with random Internet surfing while enjoying my morning coffee. Have you guys heard of StumbleUpon.com? It’s a browser plug-in that helps you find sites you might like. Well, I’m here to tell you…..it works. Since installing it on my laptop a couple weeks ago, I’ve wasted countless hours of blue-couch time. I’ve played fun little Flash games, watched hilarious videos, gotten inspired by artists of many types, been entertained by weird-freaky-crazy ideas and products, cruised some awesome shopping sites, and ran across some of the best reference collections I’ve ever seen. Good God, there’s not enough time in the universe to read it all! What am I going to do? How will I assimilate it all??

Anyway…..

This morning, StumbleUpon took me to a page describing Tangerine, a commercial Mac app that analyzes your iTunes library and assigns beats per minute (BPM) to each of your songs. This caught my attention. It helps my motivation in the gym to walk, cycle, and run in time to music. I’d found the free Podrunner mixes months ago — which I love — but I also kept trying to categorize my own songs by BPM. Trial and error was wearing on my patience. I figured there were probably software options to help, but I just never got around to looking for them.

Well, StumbleUpon dropped one of those options in my lap. I almost forked out the $25 immediately, but my inner cheapskate compelled me to search for a freeware equivalent. I found iTunes BPM Inspector and downloaded that puppy.

It’s not automatic like Tangerine, but it is very easy. You open iTunes and start playing your songs. For each song, you tap your mouse in time to the music, with your cursor poised above BPM Inspector’s little floating window. After 10 seconds or so, it recognizes the BPM, you click “set,” and it assigns the song a BPM value within iTunes.

What joy!!

I now have a PERFECT iTunes playlist for my hip little Shuffle. I’ve listed the songs in order of BPM — from about 98 to over 200. The slower songs I’ll use for warmups and cool-downs, the mid-speed songs I’ll use for treadmill walking and running, and the fast ones are for my alone-time with the spinning-class bikes.

The problem is that I’m only a fraction of the way through my iTunes library. But….. if I stay up all night…….

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