Thursday, December 31, 2009

Endings, Beginnings, and the Year Ahead

As 2009 winds down I am taking a bit of a break from my usual running schedule. Partly due to circumstance, wind, snow, and ice and limited access to a tread mill and partly just to give myself a respite before full training begins for the 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon.

I have no complaints and quite a few successes in terms of running this past year. I made my goal of a sub 4 hour marathon. I completed a smattering of 5k races over the summer, and managed to get my time under 24 minutes. I sustained no major injuries and recovered well from all of my various races.

I took some time in the past week to ice skate, practice some pretty intense yoga -- which opened me up and also reminded me how much running shape does not correlate to every sport shape. My endurance and aerobic capacity carry me through, but the next day(s) my under used muscles scream. It reminds me both to consider my limitations and to work on my well rounded-ness, something difficult to do during marathon training but certainly possible in small ways.

2010 brings new goals and challenges, challenges that are both exciting and fear inducing. I am dedicating this year to the spirit of trust, building up trust in myself, my abilities, in those I love, and more widely in the provisions of the universe.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year, that the year ahead is filled with love and a spirit of adventure, treasuring the journey as much as the destination. Peace.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Warmth from Within

Last night I went out on a solo run, I was in the mood to run outside despite the frigid temperature and early darkness, I wanted to do some distance without having to face the monotony of an hour on the treadmill. I dressed carefully, layering, adding a little extra to guard against the wind the chilled me to the bone on my bike ride home. I picked up my ipod which I haven't used in a while and found the battery dead. Dead. Just great! Well, I used to run all the time solo without it, so I decided to head off with only my thoughts to distract me.

I stepped out the door and it was indeed cold, yet those first few strides activated me. There is something thrilling about running in the dark and the cold, a sense of conquering and overcoming the elements. I decided on a route around my neighborhood, sticking with major roads for light and safety. I found myself craving a jaunt through Riverview as well, so I worked out a way to incorporate the park. After my initial climb up Brighton I got into a groove, I felt my blood flowing and warming my extremities, I felt the freedom of simply being and being on the run, without music or conversation. Moving myself through the silence of the dark.

My run last night reacquainted me with what I fell in love with about running in the first place. Heart pumping, legs stretching forward, the sky open above me, relatively few souls around, I felt connected to myself and my environment. Creating warmth from within, each stride a heart opener.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


In this season of training-less-ness I have taken to practicing yoga. Now, I am not exactly a stranger to yoga, I have taken the odd class or workshop, but I have always stopped short of committing to a regular practice. I found every excuse, money, patience, time, 'I need to be active, the pace of yoga is too slow' I would say, but really it came down to fear. Would I be able to keep up with the class? I lived with the anxiety of doing it wrong and the anxiety of needing help, adjustment. Better to just avoid it, eh? After all, it was not as if I was neglecting my physical health.

I am not quite sure what gave me that final push -- but I decided to go, to a class at the local Y. It was a hot summer day. It turned out the usual teacher was away on vacation, which was fortuitous -- she did not know I was a new student and I could blend in, any awkwardness disguised by the new situation all around. I arrived at class dry mouthed and nervous -- but I left the class with a renewed sense of calm and well being. As trite as it sounds, the very thing I was so resistant too was the very thing I needed.

Now, missing yoga sets my week into an unbalanced state. I am learning, slowly, and learning to work with my bodies quirks, appreciate my certain grace-less-ness, and with that and in that the strength of my body and my spirit. Letting go, piece by piece, of that sense of perfection, of worth in perfection, letting go of my facade and feeding that energy into my body into my practice. I still run fast, work on speed but yoga allows me to open and stretch myself, little by little, sometimes imperceptibly. I am learning that I need not fear the quiet and calm.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

You know that feeling when you take a big bite out of something, either out of not paying attention or a miss calculation of sorts you begin to chew and it's so uncomfortable and you have the option of either spitting out and trying again or committing and chewing for what seems like an eternity. The literal sensation of biting off more than you can chew is fairly unpleasant, which is what makes it such a good metaphor for taking too much on in any arena.

Running wise I am in a maintenance period -- I try to run four or five times a week without any specific emphasis on distance or speed. I've been biking to work almost every day and started a semi-regular yoga practice. I want to go into marathon training season strong, well rounded, and healthy, and so far I am on track to do just that.

So where does the overwhelm come in? Why the feeling of spit or commit?

I am making and going through some pretty major changes, the kind that touch every aspect of life and dredge up the yuck at the bottom of the pond, I was quite happy with it remaining dormant! Well, yes, not quite -- I feel good about where I am but it's hard and I have to take things day by day, hour by hour. I rely heavily on running and physical activity to get me through. When things start to feel overwhelming I focus on those things I can control and sometimes it just feels altogether too much. I am working on collecting recipes and mapping out a better nutrition program for training, and I find myself getting all tangled up and lost in the process -- I am learning a lot but I put so much pressure on myself -- I want everything to be perfect.

Just like in running, building gradually and staying relaxed are key, I am trying to keep things in perspective, but it's hard sometimes. When I'm out of my comfort zone I tend to stiffen, to speed up and this carries over into my emotional life as well. Slow and steady, one training run at a time, and little bites, this is what will get me through. Faith in the process.