Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vacation from running

In the spirit of viewing obstacles as opportunities rather than obstructions, I've decided to enjoy rather than lament my vacation from running (because vacation sounds better than mandatory hiatus). So this past weekend, I finally worked up the nerve to get in the pool at the gym and try aqua jogging, sweated my ass off at Bikram Yoga, and went for a bike ride on the canal path. I had no idea what I was doing. I'm embarrassingly bad at all those activities, but I had a lot of fun trying new things and generally making a fool of myself.

Aqua jogging is like running in slow motion or through jello, but far more refreshing and less sweaty. I never took swimming lessons so technically I don't know how to swim, but I've always liked being in the water. And if I can't run on land, then I will run at sea (er, in a pool). At some point I may even buy goggles and attempt swimming.

Bikram Yoga was offering a 3 month unlimited pass for $100, which is a huge savings considering one class normally costs $20. I'm guessing the summer months are typically slow since the idea of sitting in a 105 degree room when it's 90 degrees outside is less than appealing. I'm aiming for 2 classes a week for the next 3 months and hoping that it will make me stronger and more flexible.

I have a hybrid bike that has been sitting in the garage collecting dust for a while. Biking is not my favorite, probably because there are too many gears to choose from and I am perpetually in the wrong one. I usually feel like I'm pedaling fast but not going anywhere. But I'll keep trying and maybe I'll get the hang of it eventually. In the meantime, at least the old people speeding past me can have a good laugh at my expense.

I also went to the library to get new books and spent some time relaxing in my hammock swing, reading and drinking cold beverages.

I am starting to feel more optimistic, like I have options, that I am down but maybe not yet out.

Lyric of the moment: "I told you about all those fears, and away they did run. You sure must be strong. And you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun..."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lockport Caves

Yesterday we went to Lockport Caves, a man-made tunnel built in the 1850's that used surplus water from the Eric Canal to provide hydraulic energy to power three factories. The tour guide told us the tunnel was blasted from solid rock, in basketball-sized increments and they hired kids, nicknamed "blast monkeys," to light the fuses on the explosives, then run back out of the caves before the blast (you know, because where better for a kid to spend his formative years than a tunnel full of explosives, rubble and the potential to develop black lung).

It's advertised as an underground boat ride so I thought the boat ride part would be longer, but it was mostly a walking tour with a 15 minute boat ride at the end. It was still a neat mini-adventure and Lockport is only an hour and a half drive from Rochester. Walking through one of the old water pipes to get to the cave was cool. And the boat ride reminded me of going to Penn's Cave as a kid. I'd like to go back there sometime.

Lyric of the moment: "But I don't tend to worry 'bout the things that other people say. And I'm learning that I wouldn't want it any other way..."

We're on a boat, for some reason looking like drunken sailors.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A life of awesome sauce and free high fives

A few days ago, I read an interview with Deepak Chopra and Oprah and one part stuck in my head. Deepak was talking about his time at a monastery in Thailand where they walked barefoot and he said "My head monk asked how it was walking. I said it hurt without shoes. And he said, 'It hurts on the foot that's down, but the one that's up feels really good—so focus on that one.'"

Sometimes it's a lot easier to focus on the things that hurt, the things that aren't going the way I want them to, but what's the point of that when there are so many good things I could be noticing instead? It's probably impossible to notice every single thing that happens. I think my brain would explode from overstimulation. Or something like that. And if I get to choose which things I pay attention to, I'd prefer the awesome sauce over the bummers.

List of body parts that feel good today: eyes, ears, mouth, teeth, tongue, nose, brain, fingers, arms, elbows, toes, knees, stomach, lady parts, left ankle, butt, neck, hair (ok, that one is probably cheating since hair can't feel pain, but it makes this list slightly longer than that of the body parts that hurt today, so I'm considering it a sign of progress).

Other things that are good: Bug was in the shop with transmission problems (which I wouldn't have known had I not been away over the weekend, leaving Bug in my parents' garage, where they noticed he was leaking fluid). The repair bill was $429. At first glance, that seems like a negative event. Except that it led to me walking home from and to work, which reminded me how pleasant of a walk it is, almost meditative somehow. While walking I had two realizations. 1) If an unfamiliar dog or cat crossed my path, I'd think nothing of petting him/her, but if an unfamiliar person crossed my path, I'd think it extremely weird to pet him/her. Why is it more natural to touch a stranger of another species than a stranger of the same species? Why do I have such odd thoughts sometimes? 2) I remember when $429 would have seemed like a lot of money. If I've gotten to the point where such a car repair bill is no big deal and I don't have to worry about it at all, I must be very lucky indeed. And my boss practically chased me down the street, trying to give me a ride home and offering to let me borrow his other car. Like I said, lucky. Plus, on my way to pick up Bug, I walked past a dude on a bench who said "Hey, free high fives," gave me a high five, then said "Yeah that's right." So there's that.

I guess nothing that happens to me is inherently bad. It's my interpretation or judgment of the situation that assigns it a value of goodness/badness. So I can judge everything in a positive light, or maybe even get to the point where I won't judge it at all.

When Bug needs repair I don't get upset or discouraged like I do when I need repair. I just think, he's old, these things happen, it will get fixed and everything will be fine. And I suppose the same is true for me. Bug and I aren't going to break any land-speed records or win any beauty pageants, but most of the time we get where we want to go. And the rest of the time we get lost and end up somewhere even better.

Lyric of the moment: "And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones...And if you're still bleeding, you're the lucky ones...And if you're in love, then you are the lucky one..."

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Jen divided against itself cannot stand

Dear Jen,

We know you're upset about what happened in the Poconos, but get over it. If running 22 miles instead of 26.2 is the worst thing that happens to you, your life is pretty freaking good. And we're upset too. For over a month we've been trying to tell you that something's wrong, that we're injured and need rest, but you wouldn't alter your race schedule. We kept trying to get your attention - the posterior tibial tendon pain, mad blisters from that stupid tape you put on our feet, even some chest pain as a last resort - but it took you 22 miles to realize that you were just injuring yourself more for no reason. It's only one race, one day. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and take the long view. If you want to keep running well into old age, you have to let go of individual workouts and races and focus on getting and staying healthy.

Maybe you should stick to fall marathons since you always fall apart at the spring ones. What? Too soon? Seriously though, you have to chill out. We do the best we can to do everything you ask of us, but you never give us any credit. You don't take care of us. You call us fat and ugly and lazy. We were looking forward to going on the zip line but you didn't take us because you didn't think you deserved it. In the car on the way home you actually asked Mike if he still loved you and, even worse, you half expected him to say no. If anyone else was as mean to us as you are, we'd never speak to them again. This isn't working. It's not us, it's you. And since neither of us can live without the other, we have a few demands:

1. Feed us high quality fuel at regular intervals. We don't know why none of the health care professionals you've been to have mentioned this, but look up which foods reduce inflammation and promote healing and eat those. Cut way back on sugar. It increases inflammation.

2. Stop being so hard on us and saying mean things about us. You can relax and accept us the way we are. It doesn't mean you'll end up sitting on the couch eating Cheetos all day. You can let yourself live without letting yourself go.

3. Take some time off. For real this time. Take us to yoga and spinning. Stop whining about how you're too fat for a bathing suit and get in the pool. We've always liked the water. If you don't know how to do something, ask. You'll learn. We'll run again when we're ready, whenever that is. Don't stress about it.

4. Stop getting so upset when things don't turn out the way you wanted. If you can't do what you love right now, then love what you can do. Everything happens for a reason and you're right where you're supposed to be, so enjoy it. Or something like that. We're not in charge of that stuff, we're just a bunch of cells.

For better or for worse, til death do us part,
Your body

Lyric of the moment: "I won't run, I won't fly, I will never make it by without you..."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The bionic man and the fearless flying baby

My dad had hip resurfacing surgery yesterday. The surgeon (whose name is Dr. Drinkwater - is that great or what? My dad said he'd rather be operated on by Dr. Drinkwater than Dr. Drinkbeer) said his old hip was in bad shape and he should feel much better with his new metal joints. They can only do one side at a time and have to wait at least six months in between, so he will have another surgery next year to fix the other hip. Then he will be like the bionic man!

It's weird to think about my parents getting older. It seems like they've been the same age as long as I've known them, which obviously isn't true. When I was 5 years old, my dad was 30. Now I'm the one who's 30 and my life is very different than his was at this age. 

We went to visit my dad in the hospital and were sitting around in his room talking and telling stories. My parents told the story of how when I was a baby I used to climb out of my crib and throw myself on the floor. Apparently it happened all the time. They had to put pillows on the floor around the crib so I didn't get hurt. Of all the stories of my childhood, this one is my favorite. It's just so weird and inexplicable. I mean, what kind of baby does that? At best, an imprudent one, at worst, a not-so-intelligent one. What was I thinking? Where was I trying to go? I don't remember being that young, but I like to think that I was a fearless flying baby in search of adventure.

But something happens as we get older. We're not so fearless anymore, and it's a shame. Maybe it's because we become more cognizant of the fragility of our bones and our lives. Maybe it's because we get hurt and become more cautious as a way of avoiding further pain. But don't we also realize that is the times we are most fearless that get us to all the places most worth going, even if we suffer a scrapped knee or a bruised ego along the way?

I've changed a lot since my crib-escaping days, but I hope that fearless flying spirit is still in there somewhere.

Lyric of the moment: "It's always darkest before the dawn..."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flat feet follies

I have flat feet. As a kid I thought this was really cool because my feet made the best footprints. Evidently it's not so cool anymore because the sports medicine doc said my flat feet are causing the tendinitis in my ankle. No one had a good answer as to why it only affected one leg or why this problem has only surfaced now, after 15 years of running on my flat feet. The doctor recommended custom orthotics to correct my wayward arches. I don't think my feet are going to like being bossed around by some fancy pants inserts, but if it will make the tendons happy, I'll give it a try. The orthotics won't be ready in time for the Poconos marathon, but the trainer showed me how to tape up my feet, which will supposedly offer more support and inhibit any further damage. I'm planning on doing a test run this weekend with my taped up feet to see how it feels. The first order of business is to keep on icing and resting my leg to cure the existing inflammation, then the tape/orthotics take over to prevent a recurrence.

It would be nice if there was some overlap between the things I'm good at and the things I enjoy. I was pretty good at school and chemistry, but I didn't take much pleasure in either of them. Running is one of the few things I'm actually passionate about, but I'm not much good at it. And it seems I'm built all wrong for it too. I wouldn't care so much about the not being good at it part if I could just get back to running without hurting myself. Sure, getting stronger and faster would be nice, but all I really want is to keep running for as long as possible.

It's time to let go of any goals (read: foolish hopes) for the Poconos race. I don't know what's going to happen and I'm guessing it won't be good, so all I can do is run and enjoy it. I found a zipline adventure place that's close to our hotel, so I'm totally getting in on that awesomeness. I'm going to think of it, not as a race, but as a fun weekend getaway in which I also happen to run for a long time with a bunch of other people. When I put it that way -  running! zipline! exploring new places with new people! - I'm starting to get very excited about Poconos weekend.

Lyric of the moment: "It was the hope of all we might have been that fills me with the hope to wish impossible things..." (I would much prefer it to orthotics, but sadly The Cure is not the cure for everything.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Is it ever going to be enough?

When I go in a store like Anthropologie, I fall in love with almost every item of clothing, but I never buy anything there. It's too expensive, their sizing is inconsistent at best and nothing seems to fit me right. When I go to a thrift or secondhand store, I have to wade through a lot of hilariously hideous garments but usually find a few winners, and I don't try anything on until after I buy and wash it, but 90% of the time my purchases fit perfectly. There is probably a lesson in there somewhere.

Sometimes I worry I'll never be satisfied with myself. Every time I achieve something, 10 new goals appear in its place, 10 more ways in which I want to be better, in which I am not yet enough. There is no way I can ever win this game and I only end up making myself miserable for no reason, but I can't let it go. And I don't know why. It's hard to reconcile my desire to improve with my seemingly incompatible desire to be in the moment, happy with things the way they are.

Change is inevitable and I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with wanting to become a better person. Maybe it's more about my attitude towards change than the change itself. If I approach self-improvement from a place of inadequacy, from the belief that I won't be an acceptable person until I look a certain way or achieve certain things, then I will never be enough and I will never be happy. It's a futile and disheartening quest. But if I approach self-improvement from a place of abundance, from the belief that there is beauty and light in everything, I can then embrace change with an open heart and allow myself to evolve, not as punishment for what I am not, but in celebration of what I am.

There must be a way to accept myself as I am while still changing and growing in a positive direction. I haven't figured out how to do so, but I know (or at least I'm pretty sure) it's possible. And if I learned anything from G.I. Joe it's that knowing is half the battle. (They never said what the other half is, but I'm guessing it's doing, and doing is definitely the harder part.)

So much of life is not what happens to you, but your attitude towards it. That probably explains why I have more luck at thrift stores than overpriced mall stores. When I walk into Anthropologie, I immediately feel like I'm not rich, stylish or pretty enough for their clothes. So it should be no surprise that it's hard to feel good about myself there. I've already put myself in the mindset that I'm not good enough. When I walk into a secondhand store, I feel like I'm on a treasure hunt. I'm relaxed and enjoying myself. I'm not distracted by the prices, so I take the time to ask myself, do I really love this piece? And I only buy it if the answer is yes. Not surprisingly, I tend to end up with clothes that I feel comfortable in and excited about wearing.

I'm not sure how to translate this into other areas of my life, but I have to try. I'm not seeking corporeal perfection, I just want a body and a life I feel comfortable in and excited about wearing.

Lyric of the moment: "There's joy not far from here, right? I know there is. This isn't everything you are..."

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Pain Terminator and new levels of ridiculousness

So there I was, staring at my leg, in utter exasperation, pleading "Use your words. Just tell me what to do to make you better." And that was when I knew I had reached a new level of ridiculousness. I've been trying everything I can think of to fix whatever is going on with my right ankle. I got a massage. I went to acupuncture. I bought the Chinese topical analgesic the acupuncturist recommended (I think it's basically Icy Hot but it's called Pain Terminator, which is a much better name. And really, how could I not try something called Pain Terminator?) I've been stretching and icing and forcing myself to hit the elliptical and the bike instead of the pavement. I bought new running shoes. I made an appointment with a sports medicine doctor for next week. At this point, if he tells me to stand on my head while juggling bananas, I will do that too. Well, I will attempt to do it then end up on the floor covered in bananas. And then probably eat one of said bananas.

Sometimes it feels better and other times my ankle is all "Hey, remember me? I'm being weird again. You'll never solve the mystery of what is wrong with me. Mwuahahaha." It's the evil laughter that hurts the most.

I'm debating whether to run tomorrow or go to spin class. I'd like to do one more long run before the marathon but I also want to be 100% healthy at the starting line. Hopefully the Pain Terminator will work its magic and I'll wake up tomorrow feeling like a million bucks. Bonus for waking up with a million bucks, but I'm hoping for the feeling more than the currency. Definitely not the animal. How creepy would it be to wake up and see a million deer staring at you? Shudder.

Lyric of the moment: "Skeleton we have been friends for years. And you have seen me through some trials and tribulations and some tears. But everybody thinks I'm weird. And I should have known that it wouldn't be long, until you, you've got me standing in an awkward position. With unwanted attention and a need for explanation. And it's not that I'm letting go of you. But I don't know what to do..."