Tuesday, April 15, 2014
I've been asked a lot, lately, why I recently decided to start running at 51 years of age. (Most of my friends are supportive - although I know one or two think I'm completely insane.) To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure. I played around with a few theories, but nothing seemed to get to the heart of the matter.
Gradually, though, I've come to realize that my "lightbulb" moment actually came almost two years ago. At that point, I was at the lowest of my lows. I'd had a TERRIBLE couple of years, I was very heavy, depressed, and just generally had lost myself. At that point, we decided to get a second dog as a companion for our first dog, Nia. Enter Rhian, a beautiful sable collie, but one who had some severe anxiety issues which we thought we could remedy with a loving home:
(Before you read on, don't worry - this story does have a happy ending.) Poor little Rhian did NOT adjust well to moving from the breeder's to our home. No matter how much love and attention we gave her, she had bonded inseparably with the breeder's husband; and she was never going to be happy away from him. We'd only had her a week when she slipped her collar and ran away, starting a heartbreaking three day search that ended successfully (thank heaven) an hour before the first snowfall of the winter. (It was the breeder's husband who was finally able to catch her, and she went back to live happily with them.)
Why is this story relevant to my running? Well, on the first evening that Rhian went missing, after we'd been searching for her for a few hours, our next door neighbours (Z and M and their entire extended family) came out to help us. At several points, Rhian was spotted, and we'd have to dive into the bushes with flashlights to try to catch her. On one of these occasions, M said to me, "Give me the flashlight, I'm faster than you." Just a handful of words, not at all said in malice, but they hit me like a ton of bricks.
Never in my life had anyone ever said, "I'm faster than you." For most of my life, it would have been inconceivable. I was the athlete. I was the kid who won every race. I swam like a knife cutting through water, I ran cross country and hurdles, I...had not done any of those things for a very long time. I had lost my identity. With those few words, I realized that I was no longer the person I had always seen myself as.
Those words stuck with me. They still do. Anyone who's a Formula One fan will remember Filipe Massa being told to move aside for his team mate and give up his chance to win the 2010 German Grand Prix with the words "Fernando is faster than you." Can you imagine the gut-wrenching disappointment he must have felt? His identity as a world-class racing driver must have just shattered that day.
That's how I felt, but I knew in my heart that she was right. I took stock and didn't like what I saw. I felt heavy and slow and old. So, I started to take action. I got serious about losing the weight (a work in progress still, but I have made some significant progress) and that made me feel less heavy and slow; but I still wanted more. I wanted to feel like myself again.
Then, tragedy struck, and I lost an uncle who was like a father to me. The worst of it was that I had allowed the miles and the years to come between me and all of my family back in the U.K. and the guilt was overpowering. I decided to go back home for the funeral, not really knowing what kind of a reception I would get. It turns out that it was the best decision I have EVER made. I found out that my family still loves me, and we've stayed closely in touch ever since. For the past year, I have been happier than I have been in decades; and I realize now that it's because that missing piece of my identity was put back in place.
(My cousin, his wife, and my DH and I at the Austin Grand Prix.)
This past year, a young cousin who I first met on that trip (and who I have come to adore) started running; and I realized that this was what I was missing - that feeling of being an athlete. So, a month ago (armed with a LOT of self-doubt about being too old to start this sort of thing) I started running again.
(My cousin and her friend after completing her first half marathon.)
At first (after the first, easy week) it was hard...REALLY hard...harder than I would admit. The -30 degree weather didn't help, and my body screamed at me after every run. I would come home and lie in front of the fire or put a heating pad on my thighs to dull the pain. I took Tylenol Night more than once to quiet my aching thighs and back and shoulders enough to sleep. ...but I kept going. I didn't stop; because, if I quit, I would lose my identity forever.
Now, it's a month later, and (although challenging, because I'm increasing my run to walk intervals every week) every run gets easier. I no longer ache and I'm feeling stronger all the time.
My coach told me last week that she was sure I could run a 10K in the fall. Now, I'm actually considering a half marathon in January (in Disney World - there's no way I would run that here in the dead of winter). Best of all, with every run, my confidence grows. I'm faster than most of the people in my running beginners clinic, so I don't feel "slow" anymore; and I've realized that I was NOT too "old" to start this, because I'm doing it.
I find I LOVE the feeling of discipline being "in training" gives me ("I have to be careful of what I eat today, because I'm running this evening." "I'd better get to bed at a reasonable time tonight, because I don't want to be over tired when I run tomorrow."), and I LOVE having set times when I must run with the group (no excuses, I have an obligation to be there for X o'clock). I'm starting to feel like...an athlete.
So, that's my story so far, and it seems to be all about having the courage to take the first step...the courage to see myself as I truly had become and to do something about it; the courage to pick up the phone and say, "I'm coming home"; and the courage to look my friends in the face and say, "I know I'm insane, but I'm running anyway." I didn't realize, two years ago, how "broken" I was; but I'm putting the pieces back. If this story helps one person feel like they can do whatever it takes to get back their identity, or maybe create a new one, I'll feel very blessed.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Today is a special day! After 3.5 months of daily walking (and, recently, running), I have completed my virtual walk from Heathrow Airport to my Auntie's house in Wales with a stop off at my cousin's in Liverpool - a total of 249 miles! It's been a lovely, nostalgic motivator; and I'm very glad I did it.
I started on December 29, 2013, and am feeling stronger and more motivated than ever as I finish on April 10, 2014. Last night, as I was jogging alongside my running group leader, I told her about my plans to run another 5K in September, after the one I'm signed up for in May. She told me that she thought I should be thinking about training for an autumn 10K instead. I was surprised, but she's confident that I could do it.
...and so, the adventure continues...I think I'll call my Aunt now and tell her to put the kettle on.
Monday, April 07, 2014
It was a good week as far as exercise this past week. From Sunday to Saturday (yes, I'm a day late with my blog, but it's been SO busy) I managed 22.04 miles.
That brings me right into my old back yard as far as my virtual walking tour. This week, I've passed Rhuddlan (where one of my favorite castles is) and St. Asaph (where my friends live that I stayed with last year) and Abergele (where one of my cousin's sons is working at the moment). I've just turned onto the Promenade in Colwyn Bay:
It's LOVELY to see the sea again! Everything looks the way it always has. I used to love to come to Colwyn Bay with my Auntie Claudia and Uncle Alwyn when I was little. I'm SO close to my Auntie Beryl's I can practically taste the fairy cakes and trifle already! ...and the best part of it is that, being virtual, they're completely calorie free!
My running clinic is coming along well (hence the good mileage this week). I just did my second day of 3 min running/1 min walking x 6 sets tonight and feel good. It was easier today than it was on Friday; although I still broke through the wall on Friday and completed it.
I bought a new phone app a couple of days ago called "Zombies, Run!" It's a story that you're supposed to listen to as you're training (either walking or running) and, every once in a while in the story, the zombies appear and you have to run for your life (i.e. increase your current speed by at least 20%). I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Overall, I'm pleased with this week. I did 14.5 miles, which is not huge compared with some previous weeks; but it was a very intense 14.5 miles. Rather than just putting on the steps/miles walking and doing the same exercise as I've been doing for months, I spent my exercise time running.
This week I did 10 sets of 1 min run/1 min walk intervals on Monday and Wednesday, and 8 sets of 2 min run/1 min walk intervals on Friday. This was a LOT harder than last week, and I felt I really needed the days off between running days. After each run, my thighs ached all night; but I don't mind. It means that I was properly challenging myself instead of just coasting. I was surprised to find that I wasn't wheezing and dying during these runs. Don't get me wrong, I was puffing a bit after every interval; but I never felt that "hot lungs" sensation that I remember from overdoing it in my youth.
So, on my virtual walk from Heathrow to my Auntie's house in Wales, I am now getting close to Holywell.
Everything looks SO familiar, now. We used to drive past Holywell every Sunday to go to visit my Nana in Liverpool. As I recall, Holywell was absolutely chronic as far as traffic jams every week.
It's funny - I'm really starting to feel excited about getting closer to home. (I should explain that my Auntie lives in the house that my parents and I lived in when I was little.) It's almost as if I really am getting physically close.
I think I'll try to do some extra cross training this week on my non-run days to boost up my mileage.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Well, I've had a lovely, active week this week. I ran with my running clinic on Monday, Wednesday, and this morning (although I hope I get credit for that run, as my FitBit battery was VERY low when I set it to recharge just now).
I've been SUPER careful about eating this week as well, and that's related to the running. Since having my gall bladder out years ago, I'm a bit nervous about getting out in the middle of a run to find that I desperately need "y lle chwech" (as my Welsh-speaking friends will understand). So, I've been eating very lightly all day before my evening runs and making sure to stop eating a good four hours before the run. That does wonders for eliminating late afternoon snacking, which had been a real issue for me over the past couple of weeks.
Anyway, I've done GREAT! Monday and Wednesday we did eight sets of walking 2 minutes and running 1 minute. Today, we did 10 sets of walking 1 minute and running one minute. It was a lot more challenging, but I managed it and was still able to carry on a conversation with the two girls I was running with.
I didn't have to worry about snow (as I did on Monday) or puddles (as I did on Wednesday), but this morning was quite cold (-4F or -20C). Most of my body was warm enough, but my thighs were FREEZING to the point of aching by the time we finished. I also discovered that it was no good putting my scarf over my nose, as that just channeled my warm breath up behind my sunglasses and fogged them up. So, I had to pull it down to just cover my mouth. I didn't get any frost bite in the end, so it all worked out.
Now, on to my virtual walk. This week I've left my cousin's house. (When I told my cousin that I'd made it to her house on Monday, my uncle and aunt said they'd celebrate and make me a nice roast - wish I could have actually been there to eat it!) Anyway, I have now left Liverpool and taken the ferry from the Pier Head over the River Mersey. Everything is SO familiar, now! I know all of the place names so well.
My 15.9 miles this week puts me at Willaston, just past half-way between Liverpool and Connah's Quay, and west of Ellesmere Port. We used to go the market at Ellesmere Port often. My Uncle Les (who passed away last year) was brilliant at haggling with the people there. He was also hilarious pretending to be a marketer - he had the patter down to a "T."
With all the exercise I'll be getting in the coming weeks with this running, I'll be at my Auntie's house in no time!
Almost forgot - Here's a pic of where I am. I have company! A nice man on a bike!
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